BW is often touted as the holy grail of RTS games which any other game from the genre strives to be like. It's often looked at as a game with incredible depth and with each unit having incredible potency in the hands of the pros. You'll read a lot about SC2 and how this isn't true, barring a few units. The Colossus, for instance, is a unit which is nearly universally hated and is seen as a huge problem to the gameplay of SC2. Compare this to the Reaver which was incredibly exciting and the fans are left wondering 'what went wrong here?'.
This blog is concerned with illustrating that HotS is going to bring a lot more BW-esque elements into the game and actually the various new units (with some exceptions) increase the depth of each unit.
Firstly, some examples from BW.
We all love this little guy, but why do we hold such an affinity for him? In PvP, in large battles Reavers serve very much a Colossus-type role in that they deal big splash damage and that you want to protect them as best you can. Sure, they're not massable like Colossus but that is due to AI glitches which limit their effectiveness past 6 reavers. But we don't love the reaver for this, we love it for it's micro and it's interaction with the shuttle - and let's face it, we're not going to get that back with the Colossus.
But let's really analyze the entertainment value of the Reaver. The Reaver represents 'potential damage' in that it might be able to do a ton of damage, or it might be useless, depending on how each player plays. If a reaver drop comes in and tries to harass a Terrans worker line - if the Terran doesn't pull his workers and glitch the scarab, he's going to take heavy losses. And if he can't shut the reaver down with marines (or turrets) he's going to have a headache in his main.
The point which I'm getting at is that there is a micro dynamic between the Reaver user and the Reaver defender where each side has an opportunity to do something to either increase or decrease the reaver's effectiveness.
The opportunity for the opponent to react indirectly increases the skill cap of the reaver.
Spider mines and Zealots
Zealots represent an incredibly boring unit. They are a melee unit with lots of HP and no special abilities (besides a speed upgrade). But when combined with spider mines suddenly there is a new hidden ability for Zealots - dragging mines around. This indirectly increases the skillcap of the zealot because you need to master how to drag spider mines around to help you break tank lines. This was so important that eventually Terrans would kill their own spider mines as they pushed forward to prevent dragging from being so effective.
Again, the unit interaction between the zealot and spider mine indirectly increased the skill cap of the zealot.
Lurkers and Marines
Marines, essentially, are no different from their SC2 counterpart. Albeit, they have less health and they have ground based medics rather than medivac support. Normally marines get shredded by Lurkers, but with good control marines can trade semi-effectively with them. By splitting to avoid the lurker spines, splash damage is minimised (not unlike marines vs banelings in SC2) and hence increasing the effectiveness of marines.
The lurker indirectly increases the skill cap of the marine by introducing a new skill (marine splitting) which must be mastered.
What about HotS?
Okay, hopefully you get where I'm going with this. Units in a vacuum have a skill cap, but when interacting against other unit the skill cap can increase. In SC2 we have some good examples of that (marines vs banelings, mutas vs thors) and we have some examples of catastrophic failures (forcefield, fungal). However, HotS is actually introducing a ton of new units which increase the skillcap of some of the most hated spells and units.
The Colossus vs the Viper/Swarm Host
The Colossus is going to have its skillcap raised come HotS. It's interaction with Swarm Hosts and Vipers is something to really look forward to.
1) vs Swarm Host.
There are a lot of strong early game swarm host builds in HotS right now. Fact is, they're good. And without some kind of splash (like a Colossus) chances are your base is going to be whittled away in no time. Colossi have enough range to start making dents in Host lines and introduce an interesting Observer/Colossus vs Host/Corruptor(or muta) battle. This is because if you aimlessly try to attack with your whole army chances are you will lose a lot, and then the next waves of locusts will simply finish you off. You need to be picking things off with Colossus (and observers) and Colossus (and observers) need to be protected by stalkers without wandering in range of locusts.
This dynamic is incredibly exciting and beats the BW lurker contain for entertainment value anyday (fuck lurker contains, seriously, they're so boring). Swarms of locusts force engagement, and that Colossus/Host dance that ensues adds a lot of entertainment value to the game.
2) vs Vipers
Abduct could be seen as a really anti-micro spell. You grab and unit, you kill the unit. But that's an incredibly simplistic analysis. That's like saying that Psionic Storm in BW vs hydras was as simple as "you storm the hydra, you kill the hydra" - nope. Abduct forces late game protoss to use more than one hotkey (oh the horror!). Keeping Colossus grouped with everything else is a sure way to get your colossus grabbed and killed. Hence, they need to be kept in a separate hotkey and kept at a distance until Vipers can be mitigated either via feedback or Stalkers. Conversely, Zergs are desperately trying to grab those key units - and given the opportunity they can with abduct.
The tension around whether or not Zergs will be able to abduct Colossus will be a central point of (I suspect slightly less standard) hydra/ling/viper battles. Keeping your Colossus at a distance, but still being able to make them effective so hydras don't steamroll you will be an art and something that will make the Colossus a more difficult unit to use.
This dynamic, in particular, makes me really excited for how it indirectly increases the Colossus skill cap.
Fungal Growth vs Phase Shield
Fungal growth in WoL was stupid. Once fungaled, units should die unless your opponent makes a mistake. It doesn't take a genius to realize that is bad gameplay. But it did take Grubby to introduce the phase shield as an interesting counter to fungal. Basically, casting phase shield will stop fungal growth (and can even prevent it in the first place for a limited time). One would think that this means that mass phase shield will be standard and render infestors obsolete. Not quite so.
Oracles are expensive, phase shield costs a lot of mana, so in a normal game there is an incredibly small window for phase shield to be very effective. This is by no means a bad thing, that small window should be all you need to mitigate fungal. This indirectly increases the skillcap of fungal growth by forcing more intelligent use of the spell, but also phase shield has a high skillcap because of the small window of use. This results in a dynamic which the best pros will be able to utilize to their advantage every time to outplay people.
While the balance is still being fine tuned, this potential conflict is definitely something to be watching.
To the future...
There are a bunch of abilities and units which still don't have everything figured out. Forcefields, for instance, still have no answer from either race (personally I would love to see an ability on the reaper to deal with this). The Tempest is a unit which has potential to be interesting, but is currently priced at a point where we can't discover its potential use. Battle hellions don't really seem to be adding much at the moment, but again it's difficult to properly assess this given the changes they are undergoing.
HotS represents a great opportunity to indirectly increase skill caps. The Zerg additions have all done this in one way or another. And as a result, the Colossus from WoL is no where near as interesting as the Colossus from HotS. We should be pushing for the other additions to HotS to add new micro elements to other units (in particular, the problematic units from WoL) rather than focusing on units in a vacuum.
P.S. I realise this is nothing new for a lot of you, but there are a lot of posts in HotS and elsewhere which made me think that this post was necessary.