Let’s discuss balance.

starcraft 6 - Let's discuss balance.

Using the latest balance discussion generated from the Global Finals as pretext I wrote my take on what are the current issues with the Zerg race. Please don't get agitated this is just a conversation thread, not a whine post, thank you.

Is there a balance issue?

There is a strong sentiment Zerg have an advantage over the other two races in the latest game patch. How can we know if this is true though? If we take a look at the dreaded numbers of Aligulac we can see some interesting statistics:

  • The basic
    balance - Let's discuss balance.

    balance report shows a slight advantage of the Zerg race (51% in ZvT and 55% in ZvP). These numbers do not constitute a balance issue in any case as the margin is very slim.
  • In the same report we can see the performance difference skyrocketing at +64 for Zerg players lately, meaning that they exceed the formula's expectations.

  • Another useful statistic is the overview of 2019 that shows a record leading race in Zerg by 20%. The current pattern has persisted for almost the whole year (bar the fresh builds Terrans presented with the last big balance change at the start of the year) with Zerg being head and shoulders above the rest of the field.

However, numbers and statistics without context can be misleading and lead to false conclusions. The last two world champions
Serral and
Rogue two of the most decorated and skilled players to ever grace the game have gone on record stating the balance favors their own race.

It is clear there can never be a consensus on balance and who is more ahead than the others, however the above evidence suggest Zerg players are favored in the current meta.

The core issues

Zerg gameplay is based on fast expanding and worker advantage. It is standard that Zerg players create a worker lead in the early game, leading to a stronger economy and eventually mass unit production. This feature is by design, so it's natural Terran and Protoss players create strategies that aim to disrupt that economic advantage by killing workers. There are two issues, however, that occur:

  • Strategies aiming to disrupt the enemy's gameplan depend on the element of surprise, both in the timing aspect of the attack as well as the nature of the attack. The cheaper overlord speed research has enabled Zerg players to consistently and easily keep an eye on all the technology researched by their opponents as well as their build orders. On top of that patrolling Zerglings, Overlords and most importantly Creep spread enable the Zerg to know exactly how and when they are going to get attacked.

  • If the opponent decides to play passive, the economic advantage previously created by the Zergs' worker lead will enable them to create a larger bank of resources. By design, an economic advantage should be balanced by less cost efficient units. Zerg however possess the most supply efficient unit in the game, the Baneling, and the best units in attrition wars, the Swarm Host and the Infestor, as well as the best anti ground siege unit in the Brood Lord.

In short, the Zerg gameplay involves the best economy, the most cost efficient fighting units and powerful scouting that safeguards the whole endeavor.

Added constistency

Even with this gameplan in mind in a game as volatile as Starcraft you can get derailed very easily by your opponent. This is where Zerg shine due to their comeback mechanics and robustness. The worker lead makes worker losses less effective and the quick expansion rate makes losing a base not as fatal as the other races. Queens offer multipurpose defense, while dedicated anti ground or anti air static defenses can be relocated to maximize their efficiency. Creep speed bonus makes defending multiple bases easier with a single force.

Additionally the inject mechanism brings two more advantages. Worker loses can be replenished faster than the other races leading to a lot less downtime in resource gathering. The other is tech switches are more devastating as they do not need additional production infrastructure and can blindside the opponent more easily.

Snowball mechanics

Swarm Hosts are a very discussed unit throughout the years due to it's win more nature. If the first wave of locust isn't negated it generates an perfectly efficient trade (if we can even call it trade since Zerg don't lose any resources) and creates a vicious cycle that the opponent has a very difficult time getting out of.

Nydus Worms create an instant portal between the Zerg's main base and either the opponent's base or an area close by. This unit discards any notion of defender's and terrain advantage with minimal cost. What's more it is a fairly risk free strategy as the loading, unloading times enables very fast teleportation in and out of action.

Final remark

In my opinion there should be a very thorough examination of the current balance and adjust the game as necessary. PvT, for instance, was in a very bad state as of recently, but step by step it has been more balanced because a lot of changes were focused in this matchup. Similarly I believe Zerg should be reworked in some aspects in order to benefit the whole scene and create more enjoyable Starcraft content.

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