StarCraft II's first patch - how does it play?

Rich McCormick

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StarCraft II's first major patch since its launch has arrived, and it's tweaked a few things. I've spent many an evening with the game since patchification and now feel qualified to weigh in on the changes, having already lost days to the vanilla version. Polite note: those of you unfamiliar with StarCraft's intense multiplayer, please be mindful that the addition of five seconds to a unit's build-time is a game-changer; those of you who play regularly, WTF THEY NERFED THE SIEGE TANK!?

The Terrans bore the brunt of the switchups – as they do the most vocal criticism from fans currently. With careful mech/bioball play and early enough expansion, the Terrans go from being the race best adapted to any situation to potentially the most powerful late-game force (particularly against the Zerg (and particularly if you ask IdrA )). The newly fiddled Terran force is - on space-paper - mildly weaker and less speedy to the field. But it's not just the space-cowboys that have changed. As we discussed before , the Protoss have also had their attack blunted somewhat, increasing Zealot build and unit warp-in times. The Zerg were fiddled less so – the little-used Ultralisk losing his cute little anti-structure headbutt. But what does this mean on the all important ladders to each of the races?

Terran

Not much yet. I consistently play Terran, and made a point of using Siege Tanks as much as possible in recent matches. They've been squished in attack stakes, their previous 50 damage reduced to a piddling 35. “Ack!”, thought I pre-patch, “this plays havoc with my favourite doom-drop tactic!” - that is, Medivac-transporting a tank or two to a spot overlooking an enemy's supply line and letting rip. But because the tank retains its weighty splash damage, and successful tank use demands infantry (or mech) backup, there's always someone around to whittle off the extra hit points. I found the tactic still delightfully viable. That said, in battlefield tests I was able to run a group of ten or so marines inside a tank's firing arc before they were burst like meaty sacks - I couldn't do that before. The lesson: support your tanks with troops. But you were doing that anyway, right?

Battlecruisers have had two damage shaved from their ground attacks, but the game is typically so messy by the stage the capital ships hit the field that the decrease in killosity is hard to judge – particularly when the hard counter to Battlecruisers tend to be air units. The ponderous ships are still best used as support units to another force, and still retain their monumental Yamato cannon - a flat 300 damage when it fires.

It's the increases to Reaper and Bunker build lengths that stand as the most intriguing points, to be judged in replays and pro matches. High level games regularly revolve around careful jamming of Reapers into well-placed Bunkers in super-early stages. For the time extension to be an issue, you'll need to be using both as offensive weapons – building a bunker on or outside a foe's base and using the range increase it bestows to launch attacks. The five-second window that both build-times have been boosted by could see a drop-off in their pro-level usage. Speculation for now, but keep an eye on Korea for the latest gambits.

Protoss

Halle-shitting-lujah, the five-second increase to their build time means no more Zealot rushes. Perhaps an overstatement, but my tests show going from dealing with one every third Protoss opponent to none for days is a relaxing change of pace. Zealots are lethal to Terrans should they beat down the wall early-game – those five seconds give valuable breathing time to park your first marine behind cover, get repairing, and pop his space-elf head off. Zerg, too, benefit from that extra time – more than enough to squelch out a few Zerglings and overwhelm the blade-handed Zealots before they cause irreparable damage to the resource line.

Warp-gates have been less of an issue for me – purely because any proxy setups will have been scouted by the time the Protoss researches the technology, but it makes calling in instant reinforcements trickier for a Protoss in peril. I finished a game yesterday with a marginal force against a Protoss foe, destroying a warp-gate powering pylon miliseconds before a host of Stalkers popped into existence. Five seconds shorter, and I'd have been lasered into a fine mist. For me and my Terran chums, a good thing. Protoss players, your thoughts?

Zerg

The Ultralisk is traditionally so late game that if one is on the field, the opponent either has anti-ground fliers, or has had their face in the dirt for a long time. Either way, all the decrease in stats (the bug-elephant now does five less damage to armoured opponents) means is a slightly longer time spent mopping up.

Other changes

A litany of changes to the powerful editor should make it even more powerful – when your other games' editors make phenomenons like Defence of the Ancients, you can see why Blizzard want to push this functionality.

Most importantly though, over all this talk of build times and minus five damages - research icons have been coloured in. This is the real story at the heart of the patch, and we've included a selection of the prettiest below.

It's beaaautiful.

Look! The stim-pack is all green! Ever wondered what colour the Marauder's concussive shells are? THEY'RE SILVER WITH SOME ORANGE BEHIND THEM! You can't wonder any more!

How are you finding the patch? Did you also physically squee with delight when you saw the combat shield upgrade was now coloured in grey? Are you a child like me?

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