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Starcraft 2 Beta Preview - New Protoss Mechanics and Gameplay
Starcraft 2, in addition to having better graphics and new units, also includes fundamental gameplay upgrades for all three races. The new primary mechanic that Protoss have originates from the Nexus, which now generates energy, like caster units. The Nexus only has one spell, but it is the incredibly powerful Chronoshift. Chronoshift can be cast on any finished building, including the Nexus itself, and provides a huge speed boost to production, whether it be to research, upgrades or units. This allows Protoss to keep up with the quick-building Zerg and versatile Terrans, and helps Protoss players produce units incredibly quickly to respond to threats. Intelligent use of Chronoshift will clearly play a part in competitive Starcraft II matches and separate the good players from the bad.
The Nexus can also, when a Fleet Beacon has been built, summon a powerful unit - the Mothership, which has a strong attack and two powerful spells, Mass Recall (much like the Arbiter's spell Recall from Starcraft) which summons units to its location, and Vortex, a large area spell that removes units from play. The Mothership also naturally cloaks all units in the area, allowing it to hide an entire army.
Gateways can now be upgraded to Warp Gates, which have only a cooldown, and may warp units in anywhere a Pylon is producing a power field - a powerful ability with many applications and an upgrade that is almost essential to being competitive as Protoss.
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Starcraft 2 Beta Preview - New Protoss Units - Ground
Much of the Protoss ground army has been changed by the events of the Starcraft expansion, Brood War, which saw the destruction of the Protoss homeworld, Aiur, by the Zerg. Some units are similar - the Zealot remains a backbone of the Protoss army, though now they can be upgraded with a charge ability that helps them close with the enemy quickly - but many are different. Gone are the iconic Dragoons, replaced partly by the Stalker, a quick ranged unit that can attack air and ground, and can be upgraded with Blink, a versatile ability that allows them to warp from place to place.
In addition to this, in SCII the Protoss now can employ the powerful Immortal, a tough ranged unit with a powerful attack and shields that resist high damage strikes - making them the perfect counter to strong, high-damage enemies like Siege Tanks and Ultralisks. A new physically weak but essential support unit, the Sentry, provides force fields that can wall off the battlefield, a Guardian Shield that protects against ranged attacks, and Hallucinated units to deceive the enemy.
Last but certainly not least is the powerful Colossus, a mighty machine of war that stands tall above the battlefield and has a powerful, long range AoE ground attack that is devastating to massed enemies. The Colossus is strong against ground units, but vulnerable to attacks from air-to-air units like Vikings and Corrupters and even ground-to-air defenses like Missile Turrets. It is also not as resilient as the Immortal, making protecting it with a balanced army important if it is to be effective in battle.
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New Protoss Units - Air
The Protoss do not boast as many new air units as ground - though fans will be pleased to see that the Carrier remains a powerful component of the Protoss fleet - but there are some fascinating strategic opportunities for those that have been included. The first new unit is the Phoenix, an air to air fighter that is strongest against light units like the Mutalisk, with an interesting ability - the power to lift ground units up so they may be targeted by air-to-air attacks. Though this ability requires some micromanagement, it is very powerful against small numbers of enemy units and casters - lifting an Infestor or a High Templar and focusing them down with your air units can change the face of a battle.
Another unique unit that has been added is the Warp Prism, which fills the role of a shuttle, being able to carry units across the battlefield, with a new unique function - it can deploy and serve as a temporary Pylon, which means a wily Protoss player can build photon cannons in its field or warp units in with Warp Gates as long as it remains operational.
The final air unit added to the Protoss arsenal is the Void Ray - an expensive but very powerful unit with an attack that gets more powerful as it remains focused on an enemy. At first the Void Ray is fairly unimpressive, but if it manages to charge up its attack, it can destroy even the most powerful unit in seconds, making it extremely effective against capital ships and buildings, and dangerous to ignore.
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Protoss in Starcraft 2 - Impressions
Protoss in the original Starcraft had a ground army that was strong but not particularly diverse and an air force that was undefeatable with Scouts and Corsairs. That air dominance is largely gone, traded for an extremely strong ground army with diversity of units and strategies. High Templar and Dark Templar have returned, and combined with Immortals and Collosi, are capable of defeating even far larger ground armies - however, Protoss are very vulnerable to air attacks, especially early ones, since the Stalker is more versatile than powerful. The Protoss maintain the same army composition - strong, expensive units - that they possessed in the first Starcraft, but with a different focus and with many new strategies to explore.