Protoss vs Protoss has gone through many changes in Legacy of the Void, but the metagame right now is not as enjoyable as it used to be. The photon overcharge nerf in the last patch, which doubled its cost, has skewed the favor towards the harassing player against the defending player slightly more than what should be considered healthy in a mirror matchup. Namely, the stargate route has become so hard to deal with that rather than relying on stalkers and overcharge for defense, players prefer to play stargate themselves. Otherwise Protoss vs Protoss is my favorite match-up and in my opinion - the best designed mirror match-up. It feels slightly disappointing to watch mass phoenix vs mass phoenix when this match-up has so much more to offer.
A few weeks have gone by now for pro-players to adjust to the new patch and try to figure out means of counter-play, and although everything is not figured out yet, I'm fairly certain that there are improvements that can be made.
In the past I’ve worked alongside Theo on similar movements such as the carrier health nerf and the warp prism/disruptor cancellation mechanic only with the intent of improving PvP - both changes which are now live in the game. There are other examples similar to these that show that Blizzard is willing to discuss and test suggestions given to them - which is wonderful.
I thought about possible changes to improve this match-up, and I believe this is the best “next step” that also wouldn't affect the non-mirror match-ups.
My proposed change is as follows:
- changed from Light to Armored.
Phoenix wars usually happen when both players are opening with stargate. The stargate opener generally comes out ahead against non-stargate openers, but we don't see it all the time because you run the risk of opening oracle against phoenix or phoenix against non-oracle openers. Secondly, a phoenix vs phoenix battle itself is not as enjoyable to play or to watch as a spectator.
Oracles having armored tag would likely balance the power between the stargate route and the non-stargate routes. For example: instead of needing three stalkers per mineral line in early game, you could perhaps get away with two (stalkers have ten base damage and fourteen damage to armored).
Such a change would also reduce the amount of randomness in the match-up. Running oracles against a phoenix opener wouldn't be as punishing as you could kill just a few more probes before losing it. Similarly playing against oracle with non-stargate openers wouldn't feel like such an uphill battle.
It’s important to have somewhat evenly powerful strategies in a game to let players themselves choose what style they want to use. There is too much emphasis on the “triangle of counters” with oracle, phoenix and ground right now.
As far as the other match-ups go oracle being armored or light is completely irrelevant against Zerg and almost entirely irrelevant against Terran apart from the viking, ghost, thor and cyclone (once it's upgraded) interaction.
- Phoenix wars wouldn't happen as often as it does now
- The randomness in build orders would decrease
- The other match-ups are not affected
I’ve gone around gathering other protoss players thoughts and this is what they had to say about the proposed change and where Protoss vs Protoss is at right now as a whole.
Click a pro's photo to see their opinion.
Phoenix war is the worst kind of PvP, feels extremely random and most of the time ends in 1 party taking a huge risk and it either paying off or not. There seems to be very little skill involved. Phoenix war normally happens when both players feel like they are committed to their stargate play(fast expand by opening oracle into phoenix). I also feel like oracle is a bit too strong of an opener in general and seems to beat any other opener that isn't a phoenix opener. Well the change is good, it sounds amazing. Like honestly.
Personally i feel like the problem with Fenix war is not necessarily the Fenix war itself but that we are forced to go there without any other options a lot of the time because the Oracle is just such a good opener since it takes a lot of shots from stalkers to kill it because of the Light armor. If it was armored It would give more options in the PVP matchup that would stabilize the matchup which has been in chaos ever since the photon overcharge nerf which i think everyone can agree has been nothing but terrible when it comes to PvP.
I think PvP is kinda random on the maps where you have access to a free base such as orbital shipyard and dusk towers. We end up very often in phoenix versus phoenix situations which are very random. So i haven't seen this change in action yet but I believe it could be a very good change for the matchup as a whole, we would have less randomness and more variety, which would be much appreciated. It's very likely that blink opener would become a lot more popular, Make stalkers great again !
Changing the unit type of the oracle from light to armored would be a good for the matchup. It would allow you to have more diverse openers and not be forced stargate every game. For example, if you open with robo you could more easily defend an expansion, while your opponent is stargate allinning by having less stalkers to deal with oracles in each mineral line, your defense at the front is stronger.
Also a good change because it doesn't change other matchups.
While I do agree with the stargate over non-stargate advantage, I don't think we need to change the oracle to armored. I think it's possible to deflect the oracle damage without taking any losses with good scouting and unit positioning, but there's not much you can do to punish your opponent. While I hate the phoenix vs phoenix wars and I find them unpredictable and very random I think it's up to players who try to stack phoenixes and then the awkward war happens no matter if the oracle is armored or light. I think it would be a change to the way build orders work but I am not sure if it's a good or bad way.
When Morrow first told me a few weeks back that he was thinking about changing Oracles from Light to Armored to make Stalkers perform better versus Phoenixes, I liked the idea. But after some time of thought, it came to my attention that there are many other positive aspects of the change despite the primary reason mentioned above alone is enough to justify the change.
I really enjoy how Blizzard with the 50 energy Photon Overcharge change managed to promote more aggression in PvP. Expanding was relatively easy before, and it was very common to see “Nexus First.” However, a small problem was the increment in Oracle strength which I believe has exposed the matchup to instability in build orders and gameplay – to some this might be referred to as “coin flip or randomness.”
After conversing on the subject with Morrow, we decided to test Phoenix-versus-Phoenix a bit. As you know, units in Starcraft II have a built-in attack delay. While this does not have a great impact in general, it means a lot to Phoenix-vs-Phoenix as they can move and shoot. Disengaging a fight can be very difficult. If you open a unit test map yourself and test with 3 Phoenixes versus each other doing exactly the same thing, you will notice the inconsistency with their attacks.
This does not mean that Phoenix-vs-Phoenix cannot be enjoyable, but I think it should be and remain a “third-wheel-strategy”, just like it was throughout Heart of the Swarm, and nobody really raised any critical concerns about their place then. This is because Stalkers can perform well versus Phoenixes, but it is harder versus Oracles – we must not make Phoenixes a preferred counter to Oracle instead of Stalkers.
As said, Photon Overcharge was at 25 energy, but even then Oracles were flourishing at an acceptable level. Would Stalkers dealing 14 instead of 10 damage replace the 25 energy Photon Overcharge as defense versus Oracles? This I cannot say for certain, but I think it would be close, and I guess it would be worse than the old Overcharge – but still better than now.
So while Oracles will perform worse versus Stalkers, their Armored tag would allow them to perform better versus Phoenixes. A fair compensation. It is likely you will escape with your Oracle completely from a single Phoenix to get back to safety, and on some maps you might even be lucky to escape two Phoenixes to some extent.
And if that is not enough – by allowing Stalkers to perform better versus Oracles, we will also reduce the amount of Phoenix-vs-Phoenix play and of course Stargate-vs-Stargate play in general. I would argue this is a good thing as Phoenixes do seem to produce more volatile gameplay where micro is more limited due to the move-and-shoot mechanic.
Now, I do love Phoenixes for their unique mobility, but due to the difficulties of them playing against each other in mirror, I would argue that it is important that you can always equally or more so prefer Stalkers over Phoenixes as a counter to Oracle, because the moment you feel that it is better to use Phoenixes versus Oracles, you will run into an escalation of Phoenix versus Phoenix wars.
First I want to point out what MorroW said again, while an oracle change from light to armored might seems inconsequential since it will pretty much only affect PvP and not change balance in any way, I believe it would be a good design change to make PvP a less volatile match-up.
As it stands right now, especially with the nerf of photon overcharge, PvP is not strictly rock paper scissor, oracle is gonna be strong against pretty much everything that isn't phoenix (may it be robo expand, DT or some blink build), but first we have to understand why is that and why it is different than from Heart of the Swarm.
A little PvP 101 lesson, oracle gives you a lot of tools:
- You pretty much have vision of everything your opponent is doing, it is really hard (obviously possible but it really shouldn't) to hide something from an oracle player, as such, trying to do timing attacks or tricky play is really hard.
- You can take a third base really easily, while your opponent cannot punish it. This is because while your opponent is moving out, he must leave his mothership core at home + 3 stalkers to defend 2 base (and even more if he tries to take a third behind it !). Attacking vs an oracle player is extremely all-in and should never really work.
- There is a lot of very good Adept/oracle opening that can really exploit anybody trying to not play phoenix, but since Walling is pretty common these days I'm gonna ignore this aspect of the unit for now, since it's not consistent at all.
This is one of the thing that changed from Heart of the Swarm, the pylon canon based defense is way stronger than the nexus canon based defense in that situation. It is so strong that it allows carrier play style to be viable in PvP ! With a 120 build time! Another thing that's different from Hots is that oracle is a critical part of the disruptor mid-game that you always want to get, while in Hots it was just a quality of life tool that wasn't critical.
The maps also play a big factor in the oracle vs stalker interaction, making it very different:
- Lerilak Crest : This is in my opinion one of the worst oracle maps. There is not dead space behind the mineral line and you can set-up pylon/stalker at the edge of your main base to see the oracle coming super easily, the oracle can also only really come from one direction in the natural. I find this map really good for robo play since it's easy to not take damage from stargate play
- Ruins of Serras : Polar opposite of Lerilak, this map is oracle heaven. This is actually really insane, the amount of dead space behind every mineral line make it that you can still do continuous damage even if you opponent has 3 to 5 stalkers. I really often make 2 oracle on that map, your opponent cannot defend everything at once, if he is a bit too much to the left side of the mineral line, you can go to the right and kill 4 probe in 3 second and move out, because the map allows you to come from that angle. With the way revelation works too, this is actually 100% consistent and you can do it every game with great success.
These were the two extreme examples of the current map pool, every other map goes from goodish (prion/dusk) to meh (ulrena/orbital) for oracle.
Right now, the best way to play vs oracle is just to straight up macro, fast third, and go into a macro game. I believe if the two players plays perfectly the game is even, but the problem is that an even game is the best case scenario for the non oracle player, whereas it's the worst case scenario for the oracle player. For the same level of play, the oracle player will usually always be ahead vs every build that's not phoenix.
“What would change with an armored oracle?”
It's pretty straightforward, atm you need 16 shots to kill an oracle, post patch you would need 12.
The oracle would still be a very strong tool to safely take an expansion and scout your opponent, but it wouldn't be this unit that requires so much resources to defend if you ever wanna move out or that can kill you straight away if you have one less stalker than required. I still believe than the oracle would be very much still be in use in PvP, but we would see a lot more of robo and blink and Dt openings. This is a good change.
I think the change is good, right now PvP Stargate vs Stargate is way too luck based, skillless, and gimmicky. I agree with what everyone has written so far (he was linked some responses). I don't really have any other insight besides what you guys have written (referring to MorroW, Dns, Harstem, Drogo).
The Math: The significant change would be 12 compared to 16 volleys to kill an oracle per stalker. This means it would be 6 compared to 8 volleys per two stalkers. If we have 3 stalkers with the change it would only take 4 volleys. The way the game is played now currently with 3 stalkers it takes 6 volleys.
How I feel the change hopes to alter PvP for non stargate player:
- player can play more aggressive
- player can take easier third
- will support more probes earlier on
- can tech more easily
I am not sure if this change would be significant enough due to the role oracle plays.
- It forces photon overcharge regardless
- It can force more stalker warp ins at times you would prefer not to
You still need stalkers per each mineral line if oracle is used properly.
The stargate player can still transition into phoenix while keeping other protoss defensive
Personal Feelings: I do not enjoy phoenix at all in pvp so I am all for any suggested change to help benefit the gateway army player.
My conclusion: This change would definitely give the defending player faster tech/third base, however I am not sure how significant it would be due the many strengths which phoenix are accompanied with and for the power of photon overcharge. Overall I believe the change is worth testing and I would definitely push for it.
Thanks for reading our thoughts about the mirror match-up and a special thanks to all the pros who gave their opinion. Please share what you think about the state of Protoss vs Protoss and what you think about my change to the oracle.