StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm is not a light weight expansion. With it, comes a whole host of new units and changes. I’m here, today, to help guide you through them.
Despite its name, Heart of the Swarm is largely a Protoss expansion, seeing as how they got the most changes of all the races in multiplayer. The first new unit that you’ll have access to of the new Protoss units, is the Mothership Core.
Buildable at the Nexus once you’ve constructed a Cybernetics Core, the Mothership Core is a flying caster unit that can attack ground units. Don’t fret, though – even though its one of the earliest flying units in the game, its low damage and restricted capacity of one unit on the field at a time, limits its awesomeness.
Try to think of it as a hero unit from other RTS games like Warcraft 3 or Dawn of War 2. You’ll want to keep it alive, and will probably be skittering it in and out of combat to cast spells. If you keep it alive long enough, you’ll be able to upgrade it to a full on Mothership Core, which is kind of like leveling… kind of.
As for its spells, the Mothership Core boasts a broad range of capabilities that are exactly what the Protoss have been needing for their early game. The most straight forward of all its spells is Time Warp, which casts a field that slows anyone inside it by 50%. The field itself stays on the field for 30 seconds, and the moment a unit gets out of it, they’re no longer slowed. While the 30 second duration may seem over kill, it allows an early Mothership Core to cause a lot of economic damage to someone, by setting the field on your opponents mineral field.
As for combat applications, the Time Warp perfectly compliments heavy zealot use, or stalker micro. Since Stalkers out range everything in the early game, you can use the Time Warp to make it much easier to hit and run with the Stalker. The Time Warp also doubles as a way for Zealots to get into range before they get their Charge upgrade.
The Mothership Core gets one of the Motherships’ abilities, Mass Recall, which enables the Protoss to be a lot more aggressive in the early stages of the game. To compliment the Mass Recall ability to teleport the Mothership Core and any surrounding units to a Nexus of your choice, the Mothership Core also has the ability to turn any Nexus into a Photon Cannon. The applications of these abilities are endless and will probably result in a total shift of Protoss play, which is exactly what was needed.
Next up for the Protoss, is another air unit, the Oracle; which is also a flying caster unit that can only attack ground units, with a twist, of course. The Oracle does massive damage to light targets, but to balance this, it has a short attack range of 4 and requires an ability active to actually use the attack; which will, of course, drain large amounts of energy per second. You can deploy an Oracle immediately after building a Stargate, which enables it to be used as an early form of economy air harass.
Get one of these out early enough, and your opponents may not have what it takes to shut it down. Just a few seconds on a mineral line, and the Oracle can wrack up a stupidly large amount of kills. Combine this back attack with an all out assault on someones expansion or front gate, and you can leave your opponent without any workers.
If you use this economic disparity between you and your opponent, and manage to keep your Oracle(s) alive, they’ll be able to perfectly support the next new unit the Protoss gets, the Tempest. Seeing as how Tempests have an attack range that’s longer than their sight range, you can use the Oracles’ ability Revelation, to “tag” enemy structures and units.
Tagged units can be seen for the next 60 seconds, and the AoE of the ability is pretty big. Its very easy to sit at the perfect vantage point and snipe with the Tempest. Another nice component of the Oracle, is its ability to activate Envision, which for an energy cost, will allow the Oracle to see cloaked and burrowed units. While that may seem to step on the shoes of the Observer, consider that, because you’re spending so much Vespene Gas on Air tech, it’s really nice to not have to spend unnecessary economy and time, trying to get an Observer out on the field in a timely manner.
While not a new unit, I feel its important to mention that the Void Ray, another air unit for the Protoss, has gotten some extensive changes to it. The Void Ray no longer deals bonus damage to Massive units, nor does it have a “wind up” mechanic. Instead, it now deals bonus damage to Armored units, while also having an activatable skill with a cooldown, that gives the Void Ray even more bonus damage to Armored units. To replace the Void Ray’s Massive damage specialty, the new unit, Tempest, now does bonus damage to Massive air units like the Battlecruiser.
As you can may have noticed, Toss has gotten a whole lot of new air options to spice up their life. I just love how they all work together. Oracles create economic disparity while they save up energy for Revelation until the Tempests come out; which then provides much needed vision.
The Mothership Core gives the slow Tempests a get out of jail free card to teleport them back to base. Phoenix and Void Rays remain specialists that absolutely destroy Light and Armored units, respectively.
Unfortunately, and perhaps quite ironically, the swarm did not receive the same level of attention in this expansion. The Zerg got a few quality of life changes, like the Hydralisk move speed upgrade and Mutalisks regenerating health at a faster rate. More noticeable, though, is their two new units, the Swarm Host and the Viper.
Swarm Hosts are available the moment you put down an Infestation Pit, which is in the mid game. They have an interesting mechanic that is very similar to the Brood Lords. When they burrow in the ground, Swarm Hosts produce Locust, which are ranged ground units that have a half life of 15 seconds, 25 when upgraded. With a handful of Swarm Hosts burrowed outside of someones base, you can deploy an endless, expendable army to chip away at someones defenses.
Properly backed up with Hydras and a reserve of Zerglings, and you have an army that can deal with a diverse array of compositions.
Vipers are a unit that are slightly more difficult to use. They are a flying caster (starting to see a trend, here?) who can not attack in any capacity. Instead, they have a few really niche abilities that haven’t quite found their use, given that Vipers come out late in the game.
Their signature skill is Abduct, which is a relatively long range grappling hook that drags a targeted unit to the Viper. Use this against highly valuable units that are (generally) in short supply, and you can easily assassinate the crutch of your opponents army, by dragging them into your swarm.
Their second ability, Blinding Cloud, is a hidden gem that I haven’t really seen used properly, but I feel that it has great potential. What it does, is reduce ranged attacks to melee range, for anything that is in the cloud.
Unfortunately, as powerful as that sounds, the radius of the cloud is fairly small, making it relatively difficult to apply to an effective degree. Place it on siege tanks, however, and they’ll be rendered ineffective, and forced to redeploy and move elsewhere.
Last, but certainly not least, is the race that I have grown to loathe; the Terrans. They get two new units in this expansion, both of which are causing a lot of grief. The first of which, is the Hellbat, a mecha transformation of the Hellion. They are a unit that Blizzard has publically said they’re keeping a close eye on, and every patch seems to nerf them in some way.
The problem arises that they’re dirt cheap, have a lot of health, deal a lot of AoE damage (especially to light units) and are both mechanical and biological, without being Armored. As such, they can be repaired by SCVs and healed by Medivacs, creating a hyper durable, extremely powerful, super cheap unit that can’t be hard countered in a composition. As such, anytime you spend trying to kill them, is time and resources you could have spent killing squishy marines.
While certainly more manageable, Widow Mines are easily the most annoying unit in the game. Built dirt cheap from the default factory, at 75 Minerals, 25 Vespene Gas a pop, they can burrow into the ground, rendering them invisible, while they wait for unsuspecting trespassers.
When someone gets within range of a Widow Mine’s missile launcher, be it ground or air, the Widow Mine fires a Seeker Missile that deals 125 damage +35 to shields, while dealing 40 damage in a radius around the main target.
There is a long, 40 second cool down timer in between each missile, which between that, and the 2 population cost per Widow Mine, keeps the thing in check. Oh, and it can’t attack buildings, either. So if you were thinking about building nothing but Widow Mines, stop it.
Just stop it.