Heart of the Swarm is hitting full beta mode, and with it we are now getting a good look at the new design for the game. It’s too soon to tell where the metagame will be, but we can take a guess where multiplayer is set to go with the new units. Each week, I will invite you to take a closer look at a new unit in the Heart of the Swarm beta and keep you up to date on the changes as the Starcraft 2 development team tweaks the balance.
Our first review is perhaps the first you’ll see on the field in a match with a Protoss: the Mothership Core. The future of the Mothership in Starcraft 2 was tenuous for a large time of pre-beta. However, as the only viable answer for PvZ endgame and the only hero unit in multiplayer, many fans dissented against removing it. Instead of taking the ultimate ship off of the playing field, Blizzard made it even more critical to the Protoss strategy.
The Mothership Core will easily be a staple in any early game Protoss play, whether or not they plan on summoning the full unit. The Mothership Core is built in just 30 seconds, with only 100 minerals and 50 gas, and does not count against unit totals. Additionally, its only prerequisite is a Gateway, which means the first 50 gas of the game can be placed on the Mothership while the Gateway works on its first Zealot. Mothership Cores also power up Nexuses (or any energy-using unit) through the ability Energize. With Energize, you can gain an early probe lead or develop a stronger early game army and establish your edge.
Defending against early game rushes also becomes a bit easier with the new unit. Mothership Cores retain the slow movement speed of their completed form, and cannot be used to chase enemies. However, they can be conveniently placed at choke points or on top of any Nexus. If your expansion feels a little too early and undefended, the Mothership Core can stand watch and activate its Purifier Cannon (nods to the original Mothership design) to attack any enemy units for twenty seconds – more than long enough to get in a couple of rounds of Warp-ins. Should the opponent decide to focus a Nexus you did not expect to be under pressure, 25 energy teleports the core to any location, and another 75 will stop any units daring enough to stay there. With 350 shields and health base, the Mothership Core will not drop to any early aggression, and is easily reconstructible if it does.
Early and mid game aggressive tactics are also enhanced by this casting unit. An early attack from your army can cripple your opponent. Too often as Protoss an early aggressive attack results in a game-ending all in due to the superior speed of early game Marines and Zerglings. With Mass Recall available but a few minutes into the game, small armies can far more easily snipe workers, bases, and key structures without resorting to ending the game. Additionally, a well-prepared Protoss can use Mass Recall to respond to a counter attack more effectively than ever before, bringing multiple warp-ins’ worth of units to defend at an instant. Protoss can risk being out of position and stop early expansions without game-killing repercussions from a well-timed response.
The Mothership Core, while a staple to the new build for Protoss, is not an end-all be-all defensive structure. As a caster, it can only perform so many duties in a period of time, and is not well suited for defending multiple attacks at once. Even with full energy, the Mothership Core cannot Mass Recall in one location, Teleport to another, and then use the Purifier Cannon to defend a second base. Additionally, one cannot have a Mothership Core and a Mothership simultaneously. After making the decision to develop the Core into the Mothership, the unit loses its signature Mass Recall ability. The Mothership now creates its own mobile warping zone for new Gateway units instead, and provides the late game aggressive advantage that the Core or a Warp Pylon cannot.
Despite its lack of value without transforming into the Mothership in late game, the Mothership Core will be a key addition to the performance of any Protoss play. By summoning a Mothership Core, the player has the opportunity to macro up, defend their base, and fight aggressively in the early game, keeping the opponent on the back foot and guessing what will happen next. Be prepared for modified build orders as a result of this unit when Heart of the Swarm releases.