TLDR: In LoV the game has become more spell casting focused all round but especially in the late game and I find that noticeably less fun to watch and play. What is your favorite era of SC II and why?
I was watching the Maru vs Serral semifinal from last year. I've actually watched all the 3 games/series between the two of them including the Team Serral vs Team Maru game between them now. Purportedly the two top players of their respective races currently. Serral has come out on top in 2/3 of those encounters but Maru 3-0'd him in the only series that was best of 5.
I really enjoy watching Serral in general because ZvT has always been my favorite match up to watch while I dislike mirror matches. Serral's style is very fun to watch. Before that I liked watching Life, and before that IdrA. Even though I never played as Zerg on the ladder I personally find their gameplay the most compelling to watch. It's always like a movie about the alien swarm slowing overrunning the defenders or being broken and beaten back. For me TvZ or PvZ are the ones with the most cinematic/story quality to me.
But at the end of the first match of this series I just watched I came to a realization.
As much as I enjoyed some of these modern matches I actually liked the ones I watched from WoL and HotS noticeably more in general. If it wasn't for how compelling Serral's or some other top player's like Maru's play was I probably wouldn't be so interested. I also enjoyed playing the older meta more and I find the reason I liked older SC II meta better is also the same reason I liked watching older SC II games more.
Most of it is down to late game spell casting focused armies; but also the general focus on spell casting and 'activated' unit abilities in general as the game in LoV. I don't only find this less fun to play but less fun to watch.
I really loved games where the the Terran Meta was much more Marine/Medivac mobility poking and prodding from all angles at once with Mech coming later in support. It used to be the dominant Terran style back in WoL and HotS and it made for the best games to watch vs Zerg for sure. The back a forth battles of mobility and position over long games of marine/medivac/ siege tank armies against the Zerg swarm trying to engulf the map was fun.
There was a particular series I remember from like 2014 or 2015 that encapsulated it perfectly. I want to say it was a game Life played against some very high level Terran but I haven't been able to find it recently. I think part of the reason I do like watching Serral so much is it seems like his preferred units are non spell casting early/midgame units like ling, banling, roach, Hydra. He doesn't go for the major Zerg spell casters like Infestor or Viper unless he needs to in response to the late game army a Terran or Protoss is building. Some of the games I have seen Serral lose seem to come from him switching to those late game units too late as he tries to use his preferred units to swarm. I think it's a big part of why I like watching his games; even though he is considered a macro zerg Serral often seems to like to make the match get stuck in the mid game in a way since he tries to apply enough pressure to keep his opponent at lower tech stage so he doesn't have to rush there himself.
Now in the modern meta it seems more than ever late game 'dream' army comps are all spell caster type units. For example at the end of first game of the series Maru had an army of basically lots of Ravens, lots of Ghosts, and that was mostly it. I was pretty stunned to see how powerful an army of almost nothing but Ghosts and Ravens was.
He had some token siege tanks to help him turtle. He would send Banshees to harass eco from early on and kept doing so the entire game and later sent ghosts with nukes also. But the meat of Maru's army vs army engagements was the Raven's with all their spell casting and the Ghosts there to EMP and mass Snipe value targets. Likewise to be fair I have seen Serral in other games have an army of basically only Infestors, Vipers, Broodlords. But I just find these mass spell caster vs spell cast fights so much less fun. It's less about positioning based fights that you see play out very clearly and instead and just about who clicked faster and suddenly it is done as soon as the spells land. The two players at this stage also become extremely cautious about what engagement they take with these spell casters so the game often bogs down with the two armies start each other down and dancing around with run by and harass attack being all the actions for long minutes as they each try and get the perfect engagement. And then the engagements are these short underwhelming spell caster focused ones… bleh…
Don't get me wrong; that always happened in SC late games to some extent that players would become cautious sometimes but the new late game meta of armies of mostly spell casters seems to have exacerbated it a very noticeable amount.
I actually don't know if I prefer HotS or WoL more. Maybe HotS was the right balance of spell casting if WoL was too vanilla about it and LoV has gone too far for me. It might be though I would just enjoy WoL meta more with spell casting minimized; not sure. I'd take a return to either meta at this point; sans the HotS swarm host meta which I hated.
For me spell casting not only makes for less exiting battles and drawn out games to watch but it is just a type of micro the game doesn't need in the current excess it has imo. Spell casting has come to the point it feels as much an arcade game or something as much as it does an RTS and that is a big negative for me. WHo care how good your eco macro, strategy, positioning, unit micro, everything else was; the other guy just has a unit that lets him point and click and get the result he wants. In some ways I think it detracts from certain strategic aspects of the game.
And I think there is already enough value in mircoing units in their is movement and positioning/splitting and what not you don't need every unit in the army to need its abilities casted/activated. It feels like overkill to me these days. At this point it feels unmanageable to play for anyone who isn't a pro to mirco your army and be tabbing your different abilities of 3 different types of units while mircoing the engagement all in the space of 2 seconds. I'm sure it help separate the men from the boys at the highest level of play but it doesn't make for good gameplay for the 99%. And it is actually much less interesting to watch since battles between pros will come down to one side just casting a few a abilities 1/4th of a second faster after they danced for positioning for an engagement for 10 mins and then the fight is suddenly over.
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