What role does Stock play now that Unit Queue has been reduced?
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Stock does not currently feel to me like it serves a particularly large function now that the Unit Queue size has been reduced to start the game.
Before, Stock already felt like it was in a weird place - you mostly ignored it unless something went really wrong, in which case running out of stock forced you to stop all your other production to "catch back up", making it extremely difficult to win the game. It was kind of a gut-check that made it difficult to vomit out hordes of T1 units as a stalling tactic but otherwise just contributed to a snowball effect if you ran out.
With the reduced queue size (especially with regards to cheap T1 units) Stock feels even more ignorable than it ever was before. It seems to live in the same niche where you maybe click it once per game unless you are falling far behind, but due to the natural checks imposed by the queue timer it doesn't even really seem to be the limiting factor preventing someone from spewing out loads of cheap units.
It's not that stock doesn't matter - it clearly does at specific points in the game, insomuch as you have to occasionally pay attention to it and click a button in lieu of another button to get a bit more. But as a primary resource type it's significantly less important than the others, and feels redundant with a number of other factors that already limit army production:
- If my strat is to spew out loads of T1 units that are rapidly dying, it's already clogging up my queue and also feeding XP to my opponent without stock making things even harder
- If I've fallen behind and had an expensive army wiped, I'm not able to rebuild "good" units anyway, since I have no scrap. Needing stock just makes it take slightly longer to get back the scrap I'd need to compete
- If I'm trying to rapidly recover bulk from a loss, the queue limits me more than stock. I can research upgrades to reduce this effect but even in the very lategame it's still pronounced and the opponent can get a large lead in the time it takes me to rebuild
- If I'm an inexperienced player and ignore my stock by ignoring creep camps, I can get screwed at a crucial time by being unable to make an army when I need it. This is unlikely to happen to a more experienced player, however, so it's mostly just punishing to newbies
- If I'm ahead, even just slightly ahead, stock has no bearing on my game at all (this in particular seems really weird for a primary resource)
Again, it's not that stock isn't doing things. It absolutely factors into every game - but in a very minor way that doesn't feel differentiated from the other systems that are already in place, at least with the current pacing. It seems to be used more as a "glue currency", or as a safeguard to keep the lategame from being a big slog between expendable armies, and maybe it does such a good job at this that it's invaluable in its current form. But I also wonder if in each of the bullet points above, you could stress the underlying system SLIGHTLY more to achieve almost the same effect.
For example, maybe if hero levels were slightly more valuable, throwing away armies would naturally be a losing strategy even without stock limitations. Or maybe if central creep camps spawned slightly faster in the lategame, the limitations provided by the queue timer would be enough to punish someone for losing an army due to naturally lagging behind in the resource fight.
I'm not sure what the end-goal is with stock, but above all I would like to feel like it mattered in every game, even the ones where I am winning.