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Situation Report: Heart of the Swarm Balance

Situation Report: Heart of the Swarm Balance

The Heart of the Swarm beta has come to an end and we’d like to thank you for making a huge difference and helping us address numerous issues. We’re very pleased with the level of participation and enthusiasm you brought to the beta test, and we appreciate all of the detailed feedback you’ve provided. We hope to continue hearing from you long after the game goes live. In this update, we’d like to share our thoughts on the current state of balance for Heart of the Swarm.

To begin with, we’re not seeing any glaring issues right now for any matchup from Bronze through Master leagues, and our adjusted ratings for each league are actually showing that balance has steadily approached 50% over the course of the beta. Additionally, the top 30 for GM league is currently made up of 7 Zerg, 13 Terran, and 10 Protoss players, and the win/loss ratios for Heart of the Swarm tournament matches thus far have been solid for each race.

We feel the game’s balance is in a good place as we head into release, but that doesn’t mean we think it’s absolutely perfect. We’re always on the lookout for changes in how the game is played, and we track the community’s concerns as they come up so that we can adjust our views accordingly. We realize that just like with Wings of Liberty, not every player is going to take the game seriously until it goes live, and we’ll have to continue to tune Heart of the Swarm after release. While we’ll be keeping a close eye on concerns that some of you have with units such as the Hydralisk and Oracle, we don’t want to rush potentially drastic changes before we’ve had a chance to see how the game develops. We feel that players still need time to really master HotS, and we need more high-level tournaments to take place in order to gauge these concerns as accurately as possible.

With that said, we'd like to address a couple of strategies that seem to frequently inspire debate among the community:

Medivacs with Ignite Afterburners are too strong.

When we first introduced this change, we mentioned how we think certain strategies are really awesome to see as a viewer, and this is a perfect example. Back in Wings, Medivac drops were all we were seeing at the pro level, but their use has greatly diminished over time as players learned to react and deal with them better.

Our general thinking on new units and abilities is that using them will always be learned faster than defending against them for obvious reasons. Because we’re already seeing some players defend against the new Medivacs extremely well, we definitely want to wait on this feedback to really make sure that it is in fact overpowered before making a change. 

The strength of Protoss air, especially against Zerg.

We do somewhat agree that Protoss air, in combination with splash damage units, might be difficult for Zerg to deal with during no-rush 15 minute games in which both sides take an equal number of bases. However, we are not seeing signs of this in pro games. We do see Protoss players attempting this strategy often, but the success rate doesn’t seem high enough for us to deem it overpowered.

The main reason why we feel this way is that it’s difficult for Protoss to keep up in economy while executing this strategy. In pro level tournament games, we’ve seen this army composition countered in many different ways, and we’re pretty sure that even pros haven’t quite developed an optimal counter-strategy for dealing with Protoss air compositions.

We will definitely be keeping a close eye on where this strategy ends up, but right now our stance on air Protoss is that it’s really powerful, but we’re not seeing signs of it being broken to the point that Zerg has no chance against it.

Please remember that none of this is final, and we are still willing to make changes going forward. We’re constantly playing the game with all three races, watching as many tournaments and high-level streams as possible, analyzing community and pro feedback, and meeting on a daily basis just to discuss what we’re seeing. The game is changing rapidly at the moment because players are generally still in the learning phase for Heart of the Swarm, and our thoughts on a particular topic might change completely depending on how the game evolves. Please take everything we’ve said with that in mind, and we hope to continue working with our community to make StarCraft II as awesome as possible.

Thank you once again for all of the engaging discussions and constructive feedback during the beta. Your help has been, and continues to be, invaluable to us. We hope to see all of you on the Heart of the Swarm ladder come March 12.

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