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October 30, 2017

Concept - The United Earth Directorate

I didn't expect I would ever write a commander concept, but the idea of the United Earth Directorate (UED) always felt intriguing; zerg and terran forces that work together as well as a powerful fleet on its long way to subjugate the Koprulu Sector. When I tried to put my thoughts together, I found two things: firstly, it's quite fun to look at all aspects a commander should have and tie my ideas for them together. Secondly, there are a lot more things to consider than I had anticipated. This will be a lengthy post.

I don't think Blizzard would implement this UED concept or even consider it as a commander. I approach this as a fun exercise on commander design. From the start, there are already a few issues with this concept - most of the UED Expeditionary Fleet was destroyed at the end of Brood War. Also, Blizzard might already have different plans or are working on a commander focused on terran air units, which is a part of this concept.

It would be an understatement to say that there is room for improvement. Plenty of ideas, both large and small, could improve upon this design greatly. I have added notes under proposed units and abilities that explain the ideas behind them. The note itself is often more important than the suggested unit, ability or any attached numbers. All number values are guesses of what could work, and the emphasis is not on them.

Special thanks to Aron for suggestions and editing.

Commander Highlights

  • Combines the aggressive zerg playstyle with that of the air-focused terran
  • Battlecruisers are produced by SCVs and each can be upgraded separately
  • Ultralisks with nukes, Valkyries and the Gorgon
  • Defilers with a spreading Plague and Dark Swarm
  • New base defense structures

List of Abbreviations
AA      Anti-air
AoE   Area of Effect
BC     (Tactical) Battlecruiser
BW    Starcraft: Brood War
HP     Hit Points
Macro    Macro-management
Micro     Micro-management
PDD       Point-defense drone
RTS       Real-time strategy
UED       The United Earth Directorate

1. Introduction

1.1. History

The United Earth Directorate (UED) is the government of Earth.[1] After they become aware of the Protoss and Zerg presence in the Koprulu Sector, the ruling council assembled the UED Expeditionary Fleet and sent it off to deal with the rogue terran colonies, capture the Zerg and pacify the Protoss.[2] The fleet was commanded by Admiral Gerard DuGalle with Vice Admiral Alexei Stukov as his second.[2][3] The UED Expeditionary Fleet arrived in the Koprulu Sector after the Great War in 2500. It scored several victories against their enemies, took over Braxis and the Dylarian Shipyards, as well as destroyed the Dominion Armada led by General Edmund Duke and claimed the Psi Disrupter from Tarsonis.[4] Korhal, the capital planet of the Terran Dominion, fell shortly afterwards to the UED.

Their next victory came on the planet Char. With the use of the Psi Disrupter, the Expeditionary Fleet successfully captured the Second Overmind.[5] In their Black Flag Project[6] they used powerful psychics and drugs to gain control of it, using it to control several zerg broods.[7] UED Slave Broods bolstered the UED forces, and their ultimate purpose was to pacify the Protoss in the sector.[8] The UED Science Corps were in charge of controlling the Overmind and conducting experiments on the Zerg.[9]

Captured Overmind (Project Black Flag, Char, 2500)[6]

But their success didn't last. An alliance was formed between the Queen of Blades, Fenix's Protoss, Raynor's Raiders and what was left of the Dominion forces. This alliance managed to destroy the Psi Disrupter before Kerrigan betrayed her allies and killed Fenix. With the help of Zeratul, Kerrigan managed to kill the Second Overmind.[10] The Expeditionary Fleet was later defeated above Char by Kerrigan's broods. When all hope was lost, Admiral DuGalle committed suicide as the remnant of his fleet was pursued and destroyed by the Zerg. No ship ever made it back to Earth.[11]

There are still remnants of the UED forces in the Koprulu sector.[12] They keep a low profile and hide, such as on the volcanic planet Abaddon.[13] Another group of goliath pilots formed the Spartan Company and later joined Raynor's Raiders as mercenaries.[14] Lt. Morales served in the Expeditionary Fleet, took part in the Black Flag operation and after the war joined Dominion forces.[15]

Important branches of the UED Expeditionary Fleet

            Atlas Wing - ground forces
            Cronus Wing - aerospace operations (white color scheme)[16]
            UED Science Corps - scientific wing[9]
                      UED Slave Broods - zerg broods controlled through the Overmind

1.2. Theme
UED logo
The major theme for this commander is the combination of zerg and terran forces working together. Zerg are part of the UED Slave Broods. Terran forces belong to both the UED Science Corps and the Cronus Wing of the UED Expeditionary Fleet.

Zerg forces dominate the ground with their aggression, mechanical enhancements and no regards to their own losses. They sacrifice their own health to deal even more damage to enemies. Their losses drive them into ever-deeper frenzy. The visual side can take inspiration from the Heroes of the Storm maps: Warhead Junction[17] and Braxis Holdout[18].

Terran forces do not fight directly on the ground - instead they keep to their fortifications and ships. In the sky, the might of the Expeditionary Fleet still reigns supreme. Battlecruisers and Valkyries are iconic units of the Fleet.

1.3. Design direction

Co-op commander aspects
There are several aspects to co-op commanders that I find important to their design. I tried to keep these in mind when writing this UED concept. I will list them here, but I went over each of them in another post.

  1. Theme
  2. Fun gameplay for all skill levels
  3. Tools for every situation
  4. Diverse gameplay
  5. Interactions between commanders
  6. Role in mutations

Design direction
This will be a more standard type of commander, focusing on army control, macro and strong calldowns. In this way it could be somewhat similar to Raynor. However, I made macro a little more forgiving. The commander doesn't have one single defining core mechanic such as Stukov with his timed infested or Dehaka's hero leveling. I could have gone with some extreme mechanic like semi-autonomous zerg hatcheries or timed units going berserk. But for the purposes of this exercise, sticking closely to the standard design lets me focus on things which are relevant to other commanders.

The focus is on two main playstyles, Zerg focusing on ground and Terran on air. But the true goal is a commander flexible enough to let players combine these two styles together. In a somewhat similar way to how Karax can use cannons as a stepping stone for his Carrier build, or how Raynor's mech and bio can work together. Different combinations of ground, air and defensive styles should be viable.

2. Units and compositions

First, let's look at units. Later we will look at compositions and how all units fit together and form various compositions. I added notes behind each unit or ability, describing my thoughts behind it. Resource costs of units are written in the "minerals/gas/supply" format. The numbers I don't list for units and abilities are either the same as in multiplayer/Co-op or should be adjusted based on testing and what feels right. I will often call units by their multiplayer name. The commander has six units and three upgraded variants for Tactical Battlecruisers, which is inline with the number of units for other commanders.

Commander passive ability: Biomaterials: All friendly units regenerate health equivalent to 1% of their maximum HP per second.

Notes: This synergizes well with Enrage mechanics and provides sustainability for air units. It also helps allies that would otherwise be without healing (Artanis, Vorazun, Alarak, Fenix). The rate is half of Black Death mutator, and so it provides sufficient healing, but is not game-breaking. I didn't go with fixed HP/s, as it would be either too good for zerglings or too weak for big units.

2.1. Zerg

Although I will use images of basic units, all zerg and terran units require models appropriate to the theme. Some inspiration can be taken from the Heroes of the Storm starcraft-themed maps.

Weaponized Zerg (Heroes of the Storm, Braxis Holdout)[18]

Ability: Enrage
  • Units temporarily gain +75% attack speed and +20% movement speed. When the Enrage has ended and units are out ofenrage combat, they are slowed by 20% and lose health equivalent to 50% of their maximum life over 10s.
  • Health loss cannot kill the unit, but it will keep it at 1 HP.
  • Duration: 15s, Cooldown: 60s
  • Available for Alpha Zerglings, Type-B Hydralisks and Destroyer Ultralisks

Notes: The goal of this ability is to give players more decisions about when to push and when to pull back, or whether to use it at all. Also, it fits the theme of aggressive zerg without any regards to their own losses. It synergizes with Biomaterials, as units regenerate their lost health during the downtime between fights.

Alpha Zergling                                    zergling
  • Damage: 7
  • Upgrade: Metabolic Boost
  • Upgrade: Pheromone Sack: Upon death friendly biological units in 5 range gain +10% damage for 20s, stacks 5 times.
  • Upgrade: Shredding Claws
  • Upgrade: Neosteel Implants: +25 HP
  • Ability: Enrage

Notes: Alpha Zerglings are important damage dealers for the zerg ground forces and are crucial in gaining control of the early game. Pheromone Sack reflects the theme of an expendable army and adds synergy with other commanders. Players can combo it with the Consume ability to get benefits before the engagement or for units in the backline. Neosteel Implants reduce their weakness to enemy AoE damage.

Destroyer Ultralisk                            ultralisk
  • Cost: 250/125/8
  • 400 HP
  • Upgrade: Deadly Reach: Increase size of the attack AoE by 50%
  • Per unit upgrade: Explosive Payload (50/100)
    • Shortly after death, trigger a nuclear explosion.
    • No friendly fire and it can be manually detonated.
  • Ability: Enrage

Notes: This ultralisk is cheaper, but takes up more supply and is less tanky. This is to encourage aggression and discourage building up a deathball. Explosive Payload should add a visible nuclear warning sign to the model. It goes well with the theme and provides opportunities for micro. Manual detonation could be instant when triggered manually to reward players for doing so. The cost of Explosive Payload is more gas-heavy, because it competes for an anti-air role.

Type-B Hydralisk                                   
  • Cost: 100/30/2
  • 90 HP
  • 10 Damage, range 6
  • Passive: Virulent Spines
    • Units hit by Hydralisks spawn broodlings when they die.
    • The amount of broodlings depends on the unit's supply (e.g., one per Zergling and four per Thor).
  • Upgrade: Barbed Spines: +5 damage against biological
  • Ability: Enrage

Notes: Type-B Hydralisks play a supportive role. They are not the core unit or the main damage dealer. Hydralisks provide mobile anti-air capabilities and some backbone to the army. Mass Hydralisk is not meant to be viable on harder difficulties. On brutal difficulty they should be used in combination with Dark Swarm in order to deal with air threats. Virulent Spines let Hydralisk support in another way than with pure damage. Broodlings soak some damage for the rest of the army, they are thematic and have good synergy with Artanis and Karax. Grooved Spines makes Hydralisks more specialized to fight against biological targets, including hybrids.

  • Cost: 50/200/2
  • 150 HP, 1 armor
  • Ability: Dark Swarm (100 energy)
    • Ground units under the Dark Swarm don't take damage from ranged attacks.
    • Units are still susceptible to melee attacks, AoE and spells.

Notes: Dark Swarm works the same as in BW. It has great synergy with all zerg ground, but it can also be used to support static defense or help an ally.

  • Ability: Plague (150 energy)
    • Enemy units hit by the Plague (AoE) keep losing health until they reach 1 HP (~10 DPS). Shields are not affected.
    • Mission objetives take limited damage.
    • Plague has a chance to spread to unaffected units nearby.
    • Affected units are revealed.
    • Upgrade: Violent Progression: Units affected by Plague explode on death, dealing damage in small radius (damage equivalent to ~10% unit's maximum HP)

Notes: This Plague is a little different from the BW variant and has two roles. Firstly, it can weaken enemy defenses given enough time. That's where the spreading aspect comes into play. Combining it with the Deep Burrow ability to attack far-off defenses could be a good option. Secondly, Violent Progression makes sure that Plague is useful in an actual fight, since against attack waves there won't be always enough time for Plague to be useful. Damage scaled to the unit's maximum HP is more balanced across various enemy compositions.

  • Ability: Consume
    • Deals 60 damage to targeted player or enemy biological unit.
    • Restores 150 energy.

  • Ability: Deep Burrow
    • Burrow to any point on the map. Vision is not required.
    • Cooldown ~15s

Notes: Deep Burrow makes Defilers more mobile and ensures they can keep up with the main army or aid the ally. It makes it possible to get to distant regions and Plague defenders there. Good mobility abilities are generally very rewarding to use.

2.2. Terran

Ability: Tactical Jump
  • Unit can teleport anywhere on the map.
  • Cooldown ~60s
  • Researched in Armory (50/50)
  • Available to Valkyries and BCs

Notes: Tactical Jump provides additional mobility for terran forces. It lets them reinforce better, pull back when taking damage or defend sudden enemy attacks. Research should be cheap and fast, as it's a fun ability and it shouldn't be kept unlocked for long.


  • Cost: 250/175/3
  • Damage 8x8, range 7
  • 350 HP, 2 armor
  • Upgrade: Avalanche Missiles: +2 attack range
  • Upgrade: Corrosive Warheads: Reduces enemy armor by 1 each volley, stacks.
  • Ability: Tactical Jump

Notes: Brood War iconic anti-air unit that was first shown as a part of the UED's arsenal. It should fulfill its role well, with effectiveness rivaling Abathur's Devourers. At good price it should provide solid AA for ground zerg compositions or to complement BCs. It needs a good range to stay safe and good HP to survive enemy AoEs such as Parasitic Bomb. Corrosive Warheads offset their low damage per hit and add synergy with other commanders, BCs and Hydralisks. It's similar to Devourer's Corrosive Acid, but with significantly larger AoE. Also, it fit thematically as UED did a lot of research on zerg and Devourers.

Tactical Battlecruiser                       
  • Cost: 300/250/6
  • Range 7
  • Can fire while moving
  • Ability: Tactical Jump
  • Ability: Upgrade Weapons Systems: (100/100)
    • Upgrades BC with advanced weapons systems.
    • BC can have only one weapons system.
    • There are three weapons systems:

    • Minotaur weapons system
      • Ability: Bombing Charge
        • Charge forward and deal ~150 damage to all ground units on the way. 
        • All units hit are knocked back a little and have their movement and attack speed reduced by -25% for 10s.
        • Cooldown ~60s

      • Gains 150 HP, 1 armor
      • Gains PDD passive ability
      • Slight increase in movement speed or acceleration

Notes: This is the option for direct combat head to head. It's anti-ground focused and it might be a good option to combine them with few Valkyries. The Bombing Charge is similar to the charge of Pirate Ship.[19] The change in speed or acceleration is for BCs to be more maneuverable and to push them in front of the fleet. This is so the fleet don't look like a big blob of air units. BCs will separate themselves naturally, furthermore models and basic weapon effects are different for each weapon system. These BCs support the fleet with their increased health and PDD ability. Cooldown on the main abilities should be long enough, so there is a decision whether to use them and players shouldn't feel that they have to spam all abilities each fight.

    • Zeus weapons system
      • Ability: Skyfire
        • Fire a ball of volatile energy from the BC in the chosen direction (~speed 5)
        • After the ball touches any enemy unit or structure, there is a short delay and it explodes dealing AoE damage.
        • Few Chain Lightings spring from the center of explosion.
        • ~2 touch radius, ~3 radius AoE
        • Damage ~100 to both air and ground, +100 vs massive
        • Delay ~0.5s, Cooldown ~60s

      • Changes basic weapon to BW style laser batteries with similar DPS, but higher damage.

      • Ability: Aegis Shield (autocast)
        • Small Defensive Matrix for units under attack
        • Duration ~5s, short cooldown
        • Absorbs fixed amount of damage
        • Very small audiovisual effect to avoid clutter

Notes: This weapon system is a good option for any situation. Skyfire is similar to the Arcane Orb from Diablo or to the Disruptor shot, that is currently being tested in the multiplayer. The goal is that players can learn to - maximize damage against multiple targets, hit moving enemies or attack from sides to strike important targets. The short delay is there to prevent mindless spam - two Skyfires in quick succession will explode on the same first units. Chain Lightings are there to provide some guaranteed damage and because it would look good. Skyfire should feel fun to cast and to try to hit as many enemies as possible. Originally I thought about a beam going straight from the BC or about targeting similar to Nova's airstrike. But the current version might work better. Basic weapons are changed to differentiate it visually. Aegis Shield is on autocast only and has short duration to not add any more micro required. It supports the fleet and is a great help to Alpha Zerglings or any ally.

    • Artemis weapons system
      • Ability: Helios Beam
        • Channel a powerful beam that can target a location or a unit. When the target is changed, the beam moves at a fixed speed, chasing the new target.
        • ~50 DPS, ~3 radius AoE, ~16 range
        • ~2s for DPS to go from zero to maximum
        • Can be targeted into the fog of war. Hits both air and ground.
        • BC can't move while channeling.
        • When a-moved, BC will go to the range of basic weapons and attack with basic weapons and the Helios Beam.
        • Cooldown for switching target ~2s

      • Changes basic weapons the rockets, similar DPS, +2 range
      • Gains +4 sight range

Notes: This is the siege option. The Helios Beam can be used to siege enemy bases or to set up inferno for incoming attack waves. The damage could potentially be scaled to the centre of AoE, to provide better DPS against single target. There is some autocast, so when the BCs are a-moved, it doesn't require micro. Nevertheless, thanks to the charge-up and the ability to target a location, micro can make it more effective. Rockets for basic weapons make these BCs more distinguishable and +2 range pushes them to the back of the fleet. Sight range provides additional utility in the fleet.

BCs are the bread and butter of the air fleet. The concept of upgrading each unit separately is not new to real-time strategy.[20][21] Each weapons system excels at certain situation, but it's still advantageous to combine them. Passive bonuses such as PDD, Aegis Shield and increased sight range support the fleet and ground forces. But these passive bonuses aren't so strong that players are forced to mix them. The goal is to let players choose the combination that fits the best with their situation and playstyle.

When designing the weapons systems I had several goals:
  • add interesting abilities with different uses
  • Add passive abilities that supports the army, but aren't overly strong
  • Split up "the blob of air units" by
    • changes to speed, acceleration or range
    • changes to basic weapons so different BC types look distinct
    • slightly different models for each weapons system

For ease of use, when three types of BCs are selected, all abilities appear on the command card. That should make micro a bit easier. If there is still a problem, cooldowns for abilities can be made longer and abilities proportionally more effective. That would drive down the required number of "clicks" necessary to make each BC feel significant.

2.3. Turrets

Usually, static defense is an afterthought and not an important part of the commander's arsenal. All commanders have turrets for direct engagements, so let's instead add turrets that fulfill more supportive roles. These are meant to complement already standing defenses and add additional gameplay options.

Disruption Engine                                   
  • Reduces enemy unit movement speed and attack speed by 25%
  • Range 10
  • Cost: 150/0

Missile Turret                                           
  • The same old Missile Turret

Psi Tower                                                    
  • Cost: 100/300
  • 500 HP, low attack priority

  • Ability: Mind Control (autocast, default ON)
    • Permanently take control of the targeted enemy unit
    • Range ~12
    • Energy cost differs based on the target
    • Hybrids are instead feared for 5s

Notes: Mind Control is an extremely fun and interesting spell. The power is offset by the tower's high gas cost. Autocast is ON and can be disabled to save energy for right time and right targets. Energy cost depends on the target, so it's not useful only against the biggest units.
Artillery Turret                                        
  • Cost: 300/0
  • autoattack range ~20
  • There is a significant delay between shooting and the projectile hitting (~1s). Projectile hits the location where the target was when the shot was fired, dealing AoE damage. 
  • Projectiles have a small spread in where they hit, even if targeting the same target.
  • 20 damage, ~4 radius AoE scaled, ground only

  • Passive: Concussive Shells
    • Enemies struck suffer from 33% miss chance and can't use abilities for 4s
  • Passive: Bombardment
    • Artillery can fire anywhere on the map where Scanner Sweep is active
  • Ability: Target Fire
    • Artillery will constantly fire at targeted location
    • Required to be in range of basic attack, vision is not required

Notes: Concussive Shells makes it so this turret is used in combination with other static defence and units, not as a primary damage dealer. They are not meant to kill enemy waves by themselves. Bombardment makes the Artillery Turret more useful for offense, and in late game it can be quite powerful. Target Fire lets players set up deadly zones against enemies, and with proper timing it can negate the long travel time of projectiles. High mineral cost is to avoid too much synergy with Orbital Commands. But it's a still a good option when going gas heavy builds such as with Tactical Battlecruisers or in the lategame.

2.4. Compositions

Now let's see where units are supposed to fit and what their roles are. In practice, this is more of an iterative process. One can't decide on compositions before making any units, and can't make all units before deciding how they fit together. There are a few things to look at when considering compositions.

2.4.1. Anti-ground capability
The ability to deal enough damage to ground targets is essential to any composition. On the image below are shown all units and turrets for this commander. In this case their opacity represents how well they fulfill anti-ground role. These diagrams can help to better visualize roles for units, while I describe my intentions for their roles.

The main sources of anti-ground offense are Ultralisks, Zerglings and BCs. Hydralisks and Defilers are good for support, but they alone are not enough. The same thing could be said for static defense.

2.4.2. Anti-air capability
Anti-air (AA) capabilities are often what decide the viability of compositions. Vorazun's Dark Templar have to be supported by either Corsairs or Stalkers. Meanwhile, Artanis' and Fenix's robo/gateway builds suffer greatly from a lack of solid AA.

Here we have three main options: Valkyries, BCs or Hydralisk/Defiler. While turrets provide AA support for bases. Hydralisks can do well against early air, but they alone can't deal with all late game air threats unless they are combined with Defilers. Alternatively, going for Valkyries as an AA should be a good option for zerg ground. BCs are only halfway there, as they are more anti-ground focused and might need AA support from Valkyries. Valkyries should synergize well with BCs, as they can stay safely behind them and remove enemy armor with their Corrosive Warheads.

2.4.3. Balancing of resources
In order to enable players to get a solid hold on the early game, basic zerg ground forces shouldn't cost a significant amount of gas. While a mineral-heavy army alone is enough for the early game, vespene gas is required to build a strong late game army. Where you invest gas determines the composition.

The main gas sinks are air units, Defilers and Explosive Payloads on Ultralisks. Zergling/Ultralisk/Hydralisk composition should be fairly cheap on gas, as it serves as a stepping stone from which to branch into other compositions. The player chooses to add Explosive Payloads, Valkyries, Defilers or Tactical Battlecruisers to it. Even a combination with Psi Towers is possible.

Supply cost
Supply is another resource. It was my intention to make zerg ground, especially Ultralisk and Hydralisk, somewhat supply inefficient. On the upside Ultralisks become cheaper and easier to get, while Hydralisks gain a supportive ability. That is in order to bring zerg ground closer to Zagara's playstyle. Higher supply cost for units has a similar effect as her 100 supply cap. Psi Tower and Artillery Turret have no supply cost, and so they are ideal for when the player reaches the supply cap. 

2.4.4. Resulting compositions

    • Ling/Ultra/Hydra + Defiler
    • Ling/Ultra/Hydra + Valkyrie
    • Ling/Ultra + Defiler/Valkyrie
    • Ling/Ultra/Hydra + Psi Tower
    • Ling/Ultra/Hydra + BC
    • Ling/Turret + BC

These are roughly the compositions I intended, but all compositions in-between should be somewhat viable too. And there are plenty of small ways in which players can alter these, such as by adjusting the number of Hydralisks, Explosive Payloads, which turrets to use and so on.

3. Top bar powers

This commander has no hero unit, and while zerglings are good for the early game, strong unit calldowns with good mobility would allow the player to smoothly transition into later stages of the game. Good examples are Raynor and Stukov, commanders without hero units and whose unit calldowns make transitioning from the early game painless. On the other side we have commanders like Artanis or Swann who without hero units or strong unit calldowns struggle more in the early game.

So my intention is to have two unit calldowns with good mobility and some AA capability. Naturally one will have to be zerg and one terran to keep the theme and symmetry. I have added one additional top bar ability, which could turn out to be interesting.

3.1. Deep One

  • Cooldown ~300s
  • Duration 60s
  • Lurker-inspired calldown
  • Weapons: Subterranean Spines, 60 dmg

  • Ability: Unstable Ground (cooldown ~30s)
    • Ground becomes unstable under the targeted location (radius ~2).
    • Enemy units are slowed and a timer appears on them as they begin to sink.
    • If a unit stays in the affected region until its timer runs out, it sinks underground.
    • Enemy buildings takes 1000 damage instead.

  • Ability: Far Reach (autocast, cooldown ~5s)
    • A tentacle reaches from the ground, grabbing an enemy air unit and holding it on the ground for 15s.
    • Enemy unit can only be attacked by attacks and spells that hit ground.
    • Enemy unit can't attack, except Nemesis hybrids.

  • Ability: Burrow/Unburrow
  • Ability: Jump (cooldown ~5s)
    • Jumps over cliffs and long distance (~10)

Notes: The Unstable Ground serves as an AoE anti-ground spell. For the enemy units to sink, they need to stay in the affected location for long enough time. And so it's important to place the ability well and engage enemy units there. The Far Reach ability adds some potential for AA while adding synergy with ground units. The Jump makes the calldown more mobile.

3.2. DSS Zephyrus       

  • Gorgon-class Battlecruiser
  • 15 damage x 15 Laser Batteries
  • Range 8
  • Cooldown ~360s
  • Duration 60s

  • Ability: Siege Mode 
    • Zephyrus enters siege mode - focusing all firepower to enemies in the targeted location
    • Several laser batteries can now fire at one target 
    • ~12 range

  • Ability: Hyperjump (cooldown ~20s)
  • Passive Ability: Shockwave: The Gorgon leaves the warp with such force that a shockwave is released. The shockwave causes enemy weapons to malfunction - reduces range of enemy weapons to 1 for 15s, and drains energy from enemies in a wide radius ~10. 

Notes: The Zephyrus is equipped with numerous laser batteries, each one fires at its own separate target even while the ship is moving. Siege mode lets the Zephyrus focus all weapons against few targets, siege enemy bases and focus objectives. Targeting is similar to Liberator's Defender Mode, and the ship can't fire on targets outside of the circle. Shockwave temporarily hinders enemy units and structures, and so it's a good idea to coordinate with your army. Shockwave is released when the Zephyrus is called and after every Hyperjump.

3.3. GZ-2 Gas Mines      

  • Costs up to 600 minerals
  • Cooldown ~300s
  • An airship flies over the battlefield and drops GZ-2 Gas Mines in it's path ( ~5 x 10 area).
  • When an enemy unit gets close to a mine, the mine releases a cloud of anesthetic gas - putting all nearby enemy units to sleep for 15s.
  • Any damage to the sleeping units interrupts their sleep.
  • Mines are not detected and targeted by enemy units.

Notes: This ability features a hybrid cooldown such as that we can already see on Nova's respawn. Players can either wait out the full cooldown and get it for free, or use it earlier and pay accordingly. This type of a cooldown adds choices and players are encouraged to use the ability more. The sleep mechanic is currently not present in Starcraft 2 Co-op. Potential uses are both defensive and offensive - delaying or splitting enemy waves, easier breaching enemy strongholds or delaying Propagators. The calldown has to be used carefully and strategically. 

4. Base management

4.1. Upgrades

In my other post, I argued against upgrades that serve no purpose and are overly expensive. In this case I don't mean attack and armor upgrades, but underperforming research options. This commander's upgrades should be relatively cheap or there should be a mastery that reduce their cost. Reducing research time is not necessary, as that simply results in more resources spent earlier on and diminishes the sense of progression as the match goes on, since you'd just research everything in the beginning.

Most passive abilities should be without any research. Adding one or two units to compositions should be encouraged and not burdened too heavily by the entry-cost of upgrades.

Attack upgrades for ground zerg units should be merged into one, to encourage integration of Hydralisks into the army. Armor on terran units could be potentially shared with zerg. That would depend on how much player is already investing into other upgrades. Testing would be required to better determine how weapon and armor upgrades should be handled.

4.2. Production

Zerg production
Zerg units are produced from Holding Pens. A Holding Pen starts to fill when it's finished. It can store a certain number of each unit type, for example 10 Zerglings, 3 Hydralisks, 1 Ultralisk and 1 Defiler. When the player pays for units, they are immediately released and the Holding Pen proceeds to fill up again. Immediate reinforcements goes hand in hand with the aggressive theme and keeps the commander on par with Zagara's, Raynor's and Artanis' production.

Terran production
Valkyries and Tactical Battlecruisers are produced from the Assembly Dock. The Assembly Dock is a cheap production structure that can be built quickly, but it can't build units on its own - SCVs are required for production. Up to five SCVs can work on each Assembly Dock. SCVs working in docks behave like Swann's SCVs helping with building constructions. They can be selected, killed and when the production is finished, they become idle. Each SCV speeds up production by the same amount. This is to provide easily scalable production for air units. Also, with cheap upgrades and production, we can have BCs that hit the early game quickly. However, it will not be easy to max out on them because of their higher cost. The power curve is different from other commanders, with whom you have to spend a lot of resources to get all production and upgrades going.

Notes: Originally I intended SCVs to build BCs by themselves. But it would be taxing on the player's multitasking to select SCVs and order them to build every single BC separately. These Assembly Docks serve as cheap buildings that focus this production and players can hotkey them. That eases the multitasking, but players should still manage their SCVs.

4.3. Buildings

All buildings for this commander are terran-made and so there is no creep produced. Ground zerg units still gain benefits from creep, and so it's another point in which an ally can be beneficial.

    Orbital Command
  • Upgraded from Command Center
  • Ability: Scanner Sweep 
  • Passive Ability: Reactor 
    • Command Center or Orbital Command can produce 2 SCVs at once
  • Ability: Supply Drop
    • Drops new a Supply Depot on the targeted location 

Notes: Supply Drop adds more leeway for player's macro. Player has to choose between Scanner Sweep and Supply Drop. Scanner Sweep adds reliable detection and synergizes with the Artillery Turret. Reactor speeds up economy and helps to produce SCVs required to build BCs.


           Supply Depot



            Holding Pen
  • Cost: 150 minerals
  • 1000 HP, 1 armor
  • Production structure for zerg units
  • Contains upgrades for Zerglings and Hydralisks

           Engineering Bay
  • Contains upgrades for zerg units and turrets
  • Unlocks Missile Turret and Disruption Engine

          Research Facility
  • Unlocks Ultralisks, Defilers and Psi Towers
  • Contains research for Ultralisks and Defilers

   Assembly Dock
  • Cost: 50 minerals
  • Produces Valkyries and Tactical Battlecruisers
  • Requires SCVs for production, 5 SCVS can work on one dock
  • Each SCV increases production rate by the same amount
  • Blocks ground movement only partially

  • Contains upgrades for terran units
  • Unlocks Artillery Turret

            Fusion Core
  • Unlocks Tactical Battlecruisers
  • Contains upgrades for Tactical Battlecruisers (if any)

5. Progression

Leveling progression
Unlocks follow the same pattern as with other commanders - players progressively unlock more of the kit, and by level 15, players have the whole package of the commander. Levels are used to introduce players to various units, abilities and other mechanics. Important unlocks like Enrage and Biomaterials should be introduced early and close to each other.
The following list could work. It's alternating new unit and ability unlocks with upgrades to current units. The last upgrade is a passive because player might stop playing commander at level 15. If there was a unit or an ability unlocked, he wouldn't get to use it. Changing all Command Centres to Orbital Commands for free could be an option. It would make macro easier and change how the commander plays in the early game, which is interesting. 

  1. Enrage and Biomaterials
  2. Deep One
  3. Zergling upgrade cache
  4. Defiler
  5. Hydralisk upgrade cache
  6. DSS Zephyrus
  7. Minotaur weapons system
  8. Defiler and Ultralisk upgrade cache
  9. Improved GZ-2 Gas Mines
  10. Zeus weapons system
  11. Valkyrie upgrade cache
  12. Artemis weapons system
  13. Zephyrus' Shockwave
  14. Static defense upgrade cache
  15. Passive ability

Masteries should provide interesting choices and further encourage different ways to play the commander. Their impact on gameplay should be noticeable. And we should stay away from "hidden powers"[22] - that is, effects that have significant strengths but without any impact on how the commander plays.

Good examples are starting energy for Karax and Vorazun, energy regeneration for Kerrigan or Stukov's infested infantry duration. What we should avoid are masteries such as Alarak's mech attack speed or Nova's unit attack speed. While those might be good masteries to choose, they don't change how players play or how the game feels.

Some options for masteries to consider (no particular order):

  • Reduced cost of Explosive Payload up to -66%
  • Plague damage (over time and on death) up to +100%
  • Reduced cost for upgrades up to -66%
  • Increase range on static defense up to +5
  • Reduced cooldowns for top bar powers (separate)

6. Closing Thoughts

This commander design is not perfect by any means, but I think there some good ideas in it and it has been an interesting exercise. Let's look at some questions.

  • Potential issues that could come up and other shortcomings?
    • It might feel there are too many units and abilities. -- Optionally, one BC weapons system could be removed and weapons systems could be made more simple. Psi Tower is a little redundant and could be improved or removed.
    • The Deep One requires too much control. -- I think making burrow/unburrow to use smartcast would help. The Unstable Ground could be on autocast or limited around the Deep One.
    • It's too hard to control BCs. -- Their abilities' cooldowns could be increased and the ability power increased. That makes for less "clicks" required.
    • Lack of static defense for direct engagemts could prove frustrating for players in certain situations. -- An upgrade that would make Missile Turrets attack ground with lower effectivness might be interesting.
    • GZ-2 Gas Mines are too complicated. -- The concept could be simplified - one mine or one rocket that spreads the gas. But the current concept is pretty flexible.

  • Is the commander unique enough?
    • Ground compositions play similarly to Zagara, but there are differences. Micro involved in controlling the army is different and the player has further options for transitioning into the late game. Air compositions might be similar to Artanis/Karax/Fenix air builds, but these BCs should prove to be quite distinct from Tempests and Carriers.

  • Is it fun to play?
    • My goal was to combine fast-paced gameplay of ground zerg with the more defensive terran gameplay, while leaving doors open to mixing all unit compositions. The commander is complex enough that players won't get bored with it, and they should be able to find their favorite ways to play. Skill floor should be sufficiently low, and there are enough opportunities for micro and army control.

  • Which units provide opportunities for micro?
    • Defilers
    • Ultralisks with Explosive Payload
    • Zerglings and Hydras with Enrage & Biomaterial regeneration dynamic
    • Tactical Battlecruisers
    • Psi Tower and Artillery Turret
    • DSS Zephyrus and Deep One calldowns

  • What are some synergies with other commanders?
    • Good synergy with Artanis/Karax because of Zerglings and Broodlings with Guardian Shell/Unity Barrier
    • With any zerg commander that provides creep
    • Swann provides additional vespene gas for any tech
    • Biomaterials provide regeneration to allies (especially to Artanis, Vorazun, Alarak and Fenix)
    • Supportive static defense (especially paired with Swann and Karax)
    • Dark Swarm can help any ally with ground forces
    • Alpha Zergling Pheromone Sack helps any biological units with short range

7. References

[2] Underwood, Peter, Chris Metzen and Bill Roper. StarCraft: Brood War (Manual). Irvine, Calif.: Blizzard Entertainment, 1998.
[5] StarCraft: Brood War. Mission: To Chain the Beast (in English). 1998.
[7] StarCraft: Brood War. Cinematic: UED Victory Report (in English). 1998.
[10] StarCraft: Brood War. Mission: To Slay the Beast (in English). 1998.
[11] StarCraft: Brood War. Cinematic: Epilogue (in English). 1998.
[12] Blizzard Entertainment staff. 2008-04-16. The Story so Far... Part 2: The Brood War. Blizzard Entertainment. Accessed 2008-04-16
[13] Kenyon, Nate. (September 27, 2011). StarCraft: Ghost: Spectres. Simon & Schuster (Pocket Star). ISBN 978-1439-10938-0.
[Battlecruiser] StarCraft: Remastered, comic interlude before First Strike. Accessed on 2017-08-15.

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