If you watch the GSL, you’ve probably heard Artosis talk about how people are “addicted to 1 hotkey”. In the days when Wings of Liberty was in beta, almost all players, including many professional players, were using only one control group for their entire army. We’ve reached the point in the development of Starcraft 2 that the majority of professional players use at least two control groups for their army; one for their primary spell caster, and one for the rest of their units. There are a few issues with using one control group. One is that units will group together making them vulnerable to area of effect abilities. Another is that harassment and spellcasting units cannot be used quickly and efficiently. In Heart of the Swarm, there is a significant increase in area of effect abilities, harassment, and spellcasting that will ultimately lead to the use of more control groups.
Concerning Area of Effect
Attacks and abilities that have an area of effect become more powerful and more cost effective the more clumped up the enemy forces are. In HotS there is more potential for these attacks and abilities than ever before:
- Time Warp slows all units in an area of effect.
- The Ultralisk now does more damage to non-armored units.
- The Widow Mine and the Hellbat are both powerful new splash damage units.
- Siege Mode and Seeker Missile no longer require an upgrade.
- Seeker Missile now cost 75 energy, instead of 125.
- Burrow has also been moved to Hatchery tech creating opportunities for earlier burrowed Banelings.
The more spellcasters in a control group, the slower the reaction time will be for casting spells. This is due to the fact that only one command card can be shown at a time, forcing the player to “tab” through each subgroup until they reach the one they are looking for. Almost all of the new HotS units would greatly benefit from having a dedicated control group:
- Widow Mine
- Mothership Core
- Swarm Host
In order to harass efficiently, the harassing units must have their own control group. Otherwise, switching back and forth between the main army and the harassing units is much slower. Like area of effect and spellcasting, harass units have also gotten a game-wide buff in HotS:
- The Oracle has some overlap in that it is both a spellcaster and a harass unit.
- The Phoenix has received a range buff which is making a huge difference in professional games already.
- Void Rays are now more effective against spore crawlers and other armored targets.
- The Reaper is faster and heals outside of combat.
- The Medivac speed boost makes terran drops more effective.
- The Mutalisk is faster and has a higher rate of health regeneration.
These are exciting times for the Starcraft community. As a result of these changes, the skill ceiling is going to be higher. We’re going to see more active play, more precise control, and more control groups. For spectators this means more exciting games. For players this means a larger gap between the best players in the world and everyone else. For you, it may mean that its time to try putting those Swarm Hosts in their own control group. It will seem uncomfortable at first, but once you learn how to do it, you’ll never look back.