Sacrifice: Pyro Mission 3
For this level, Pyro provides...
700 Mana, 2 souls
The Firefist is a shockingly good melee unit. It's surprisingly resistant to melee attacks (40%), slightly resistant to ranged attacks (10%), and critically it has a gimmick of its damage actually going up as its health goes down. It already hits quite hard as per Pyro units, but a nearly-dead Firefist can one-shot some surprising units. It holds up poorly as firepower continues to rise and it becomes ever more likely that your Firefists will be more or less instantly killed rather than steadily worn down, but when Firefists first hit the field they're one of the best units around, and they aren't bad even later in the game.
The fact that their damage goes up as their HP goes down does make it slightly complicated to decide whether you should heal them or not, particularly in the throes of combat. Healing them keeps them in the fight longer, of course, but it also actively reduces their damage. Sometimes, a poorly-timed heal can cost you a fight when Firefists are involved!
Overall, though, Firefists are surprisingly straightforward to use. They're basically just generically good a melee combatant, with decent speed, great damage, and tolerable durability. The fact that they're severely resistant to melee also means that flying units are the primary counter to them -ranged ground units are usually weak to melee and other melee units will be so blunted that they'll just end up pushing the Firefist's damage up. This makes them one of the more broadly useful melee units, putting them head-and-shoulders above a lot of other melee units who are more narrow in their utility, even before considering that being melee is inherently disadvantageous.
Rings of Fire
Rings of Fire sets an effect on a target unit that does decent damage over time and noticeably slows the target down. Like most such effects, it's blocked by shield spells, so even though wizards are by far the ideal target for the slowing effect you won't get much opportunity to use it on them.
The damage isn't actually that high, but it is high enough that unlike eg Slime Rings of Fire can actually kill a decent portion of weaker units on its own and can be useful as 'filler' between lobbing your more seriously damaging spells. Just don't be thinking of it as a serious damage-over-time attacking spell -it's easy to assume that's what it's meant to do, but the slowing is really its primary point.
I'm a little puzzled it isn't named something like 'chains of fire', between the icon's graphic and the fact that it slows the target down. I spent a fairly long chunk of time entirely unaware it slowed targets down, thinking it really was all about the damage, because the name doesn't hint at it, the visuals aren't intuitive on the topic, and it's not like Zyzyx bothers to explain your new non-unit spells.
The mission is mechanically straightforward and easy. Grakkus is, as I've covered before, hilariously durable, and it's even more noticeable when you're this low-level, but it's a 2v1 in your favor and Grakkus doesn't have any particular tricks of up his sleeve. As such, you and Sorcha will slaughter him effortlessly. Tactics? Strategy? Tips? You don't need 'em. Heck, I've previously gone exploring on this mission out of curiosity and ended up with Sorcha pushing Grakkus all the way to his Altar by herself, just not quite able to secure the Desecration.
The Boon from this mission is also kinda dumb. The way you get it is that when you get the choice to either threaten Grakkus or focus on how we can be allies, you pick the allying one. That's it. It's one of the more heavy-handed examples of the game using mechanics to bluntly signal the dev's values; if you play nice, the game rewards you with a Boon. If you don't, the game quietly fails to give you anything. It's basically one step removed from how some missions just give you a Boon for completing them, and it's entirely possible you'll never even realize the game is shoving its morals in your face. For one thing, the 'play nice' scenario is potentially amusing, where the other choice is completely boring -even if you play the game repeatedly, you may pick 'threaten Grakkus' once and then never again because it was boring and never make a connection with the fact that you didn't get a Boon that one time.
Narratively, I loathe this mission. On the one hand, it's the first time the game has given the player a real reason to think Pyro is genuinely a pretty terrible person; Firefists are enslaved Trolls. Not only that, but a feature of Sacrifice is that, like in Blizzard's RTSes, if you click on a unit a bunch of times in a row they'll eventually start spitting out extra lines. In most unit's cases, these lines are meant to be funny, often being outright pop culture references. (Hellmouths make Buffy the Vampire Slayer references, for example) In the Firefist's case, its extra lines make it clear that Firefists are brainwashed Trolls, where said brainwashing somehow punishes them with pain if they try too hard to remember being a Troll and whatnot. So not only did Pyro kidnap a bunch of children, not only did he put them to work as slaves, but he used some kind of horrid shenanigans to make them not even know what they once were or that they're slaves.
So hooray, the game isn't wanting us to hate Pyro while giving us no actual reason to hate him.
But then we have the issue of this failed negotiation, where the game railroads you into the negotiation failing. If you threaten Grakkus, negotiation fails. Sure, okay. If you don't threaten him, you get what happens in the video, of the Firefists wandering around and eventually one of them tries to murder a Trogg and Grakkus interprets the whole thing as some kind of planned treachery and negotiations fail. Eldred doesn't rebuke the Firefist or call it back. He doesn't apologize or try to explain. The plot is just blatantly railroading things so James and Pyro don't ally with no regard for whether it makes any sense. Certainly, we're in the early portion of the campaign where all missions are canon and it's just a question of which ones Eldred did, but really? The game could've kept the focus on the whole 'you enslaved a bunch of Trolls and now you want to gift them to us when Persephone will hate that?' thing. I mean, come on, what Pyro did to the Trolls is heinous! But no, apparently Grakkus/James doesn't really care about that.
And I'm almost certain it's meant to be a karmic failure. After all, Firefists are obsessed with fighting things and all because Pyro made them that way. In some sense Pyro brought this on himself.
But Grakkus' response to the situation is ridiculous and the final layer of what is the part where trying to play nice leads to James giving you a Boon while saying he knows you didn't intend to screw up negotiations. If he knows that, why didn't the alliance go through? If James knows that, then he knows the Firefist wasn't some kind of plan by Pyro meant to assassinate a random Trogg, but rather was a Firefist going off and doing its own thing for its own reasons. And James is the one in charge of his faction!
The whole thing is just infuriating and unnecessary and one more example of Sacrifice contorting itself in an attempt to villainize Pyro. While, again, ignoring the genuinely horrible thing he did that doesn't require the plot break itself to use as 'holy crap Pyro is kind of horribly awful'.
See you next Pyro mission...