War of the Chosen Class Analysis: Ranger

The Ranger has some actual balance tweaks instead of just contextual changes, though they're also pretty notably impacted by context changes as well. The biggest thing they suffer from is that their (dubious) Concealment specialty has been essentially displaced by Reapers being much better at that specialization, and their melee specialty has the Templar treading on their toes; this means Rangers are the class most prone to being pushed out by other classes that do their jobs. Not helping is that the skills they have that Templar and Reapers don't trod on are almost all in the general Training Center pool; a Ranger's access to Run And Gun can be pushed aside in a given run by Grenadiers or Specialists rolling Run And Gun as a bonus skill, for example. This was somewhat true in the base game, but the Resistance classes didn't exist to beat the Ranger at their specialties and the Training Center overhaul makes it a lot more common for Ranger skills to get passed out to other soldiers.

The main thing they have going for them in this regard is that Rapid Fire is extra-pricey for other classes. And Rapid Fire was nerfed by War of the Chosen, so that's somewhat cold comfort.

Also not helping is that Rangers are unusually level-dependent. A Squaddie Ranger has to worry  about missing with their Slashes, is behind on Slash damage to an extent equal to how much damage upgrading Swords/the Hunter's Axe from Conventional to Beam-tier provides, is a lot less able to Slash safely... by contrast, while a Squaddie Grenadier doesn't perform as well as a Colonel Grenadier, they can still pull their weight decently well in the mid to late-game; Volatile Mix isn't an equivalent boost to Advanced Grenade Launcher+Advanced Explosives/Plasma Grenades, for example. Since War of the Chosen makes it impractical to aggressively level a core squad the way you could in the base game, Rangers performing poorly at lower levels impacts a run for a much longer period of time.

Rangers are still worth using overall, particularly after you've gotten the Assassin's gear, but Rangers are only slightly ahead of SPARKs and Psi Operatives when it comes to War of the Chosen hurting their case relative to other classes.

This is probably for the best, but I'll get into that more later.


Squaddie
+3 Aim
+1 HP

Slash
The Ranger may perform a move-and-melee attack using their melee weapon.

Slash remains Slash. War of the Chosen hasn't done anything to seriously overhaul melee combat; it's not like Rangers have picked up a whole different class of melee weapon or something. The main points of note are that Slash is more midgame-onward relevant due to Hunter's Instincts having been nerfed, and that Slash is less reliably worth using since it's usually a bad choice against Lost and Chosen can outright roll immunity to melee.

There's also the Katana, I guess, but that's more a mid-late game thing, and its impact on Slash pe se is relatively limited. Not non-existent or anything, but somewhat narrow in actually mattering.


Corporal
+3 Aim
+1 HP
+5 Hack

Phantom
This soldier starts every mission in Concealment, and the rest of the squad being revealed does not break this soldier's Concealment.

Phantom was already a dubious pick, as I covered before, but it's an even harder sell in War of the Chosen since a Reaper gets all its benefits built right into their base capabilities while being way, way better at scouting and contributing while Concealed. A Phantom Ranger is basically just a backup option. A really, really bad backup option.

The main thing it has in its favor is the combination of the High Alert Dark Event and the Fatigue system, with a secondary point of how Alien Rulers are overhauled by Integrated DLC being on. High Alert denies your squad Concealment, Fatigue means you can't actually count on bringing a Reaper into every mission, and Alien Rulers being predictably encountered means you can actually plan around ambushing them on the first encounter. Put these all together and combine them with the Avatar Project putting time pressure on you and the result is you may find you wish to buy Phantom because you need to hit an Avatar Project facility, it has an Alien Ruler, and you can't wait for your Reaper(s) to recover.

Alternatively, you can simply be playing with Grim Horizon on. In that case High Alert rolling permanently denies you squad Concealment, and Fatigue still means you can't actually count on bringing a Reaper into every mission. A Ranger is a vastly worse scout than a Reaper, but better to have someone to scout ahead without necessarily activating pods on a timed mission than to have no one.

Also, though its minor, Phantom does benefit from the Training Center overhaul, in that it can be worth buying it at a later date to give you an additional Shadowstrike-on-gunfire trigger in missions with no squad Concealment. Which may mean all of them, if you got High Alert in a Grim Horizon run.

On a different note, I mentioned in the base game that inactive pods don't make use of Cover, and that was actually a simplification that's accurate enough for base-game purposes. In actuality, enemies have three states: 'red alert', which is an active pod, 'green alert', which is where they walk slowly and don't use Cover, and 'yellow alert', in which the pod is not actually activated but is aware there's something to fight nearby. Yellow alert pods run from point to point, make use of Cover if they happen to be standing adjacent to it (Though they won't seek out Cover until actually activated), and normally have a vague idea of where your squad is (Through having heard combat, seen allies injured, or spotted a corpse) and attempt to move toward your forces.

I say 'normally' because in missions where you're protecting an object the enemy is trying to destroy, all pods start in yellow alert, but they don't know know where your squad is. This is actually the main way you're liable to see yellow alert behavior in the base game, since specializing in Concealment with Rangers has such poor returns.

In War of the Chosen, the power of Shadow means you're a lot more likely to have to concern yourself with the distinction between yellow alert and green alert. Don't line up shots on inactive pod members on the assumption they're not in Cover. Fortunately, if you're not glossing right past this stuff the game signals it pretty hard; green alert enemies stand the same whether they're next to Cover or not, where yellow alert enemies will pop into Cover animations if next to Cover, yellow alert enemies display appropriate Cover shield icons at all times where green alert enemies don't display Cover shields at all, and of course if you select a target for shooting the game will explicitly inform you of how much Defense, if any, the target is currently getting out of Cover. Pay attention to this stuff!

Blademaster
Melee attacks have +10 Aim and +2 Damage.

Aim stops mattering to melee once you've got the Katana, but you still want the damage boost from Blademaster so whatever.

Blademaster is as it always has been: critical to Rangers Swording things well. As their Concealment non-existent-niche has been taken over completely by Reapers, this is even more true -sure, Templar are also melee and have advantages like Momentum and an inability to miss, but Rangers aren't completely pushed out of relevance for melee competency by Templar. It might seem that way in the early game, but at higher levels Rangers have several crucial advantages, such as getting to combine moving after a melee attack with immunity to one following attack. Also noteworthy is they have guaranteed access to Reaper and Bladestorm where Templar have to luck into them, and that their weapons are generally quicker to be unlocked and thus purchased, giving them  decisive damage advantage until the late game...

... at which point the Katana makes it so they auto-hit as well, do more damage, and almost completely ignore Armor.

Also, you can get Sword Breakthroughs and not Gauntlet Breakthroughs. As melee weapons only gain one point of damage per upgrade, a Breaktrhough is exactly equivalent to being a full tech ahead, and thus some runs will be noticeably slanted toward Rangers handling melee duties.


Sergeant
+3 Aim
+1 HP

Shadowstrike
If the soldier's position is unknown to the enemy before initiating an attack, their attacks have +25 to Aim and crit chance.

No more having to pick between Shadowstrike and Shadowstep! Just pick one on level-up and then buy the other through the Training Center!

This is good, since the Ranger's melee utility is the main thing they have going for them now that Reapers are around.

In the late game Shadowstrike loses some luster since the Katana doesn't care about Aim boosting, so for Rangers you pick up as rewards or buy at a high level you may wish to skip Shadowstrike, assuming you don't care about it applying to Overwatch ambushes etc. The crit boost is still pretty good, admittedly, but the Katana also indirectly encourages not triggering Shadowstrike's melee conditions. Why duck into the shadows and hope for a crit if you can stop next to an enemy to ensure Bladestorm kills them?

Of course, the potential to spend excess Ability Points on Phantom and Conceal means you may still want it regardless for shooting purposes, particularly if you lucked into a Savant or got a Genius and then raised their Combat Intelligence to Savant, so it's not completely irrelevant, but it's actually much more worth considering not taking it than in the base game.

Shadowstep
Reaction fire does not activate against this soldier.

Again: no more having to choose! That does a lot to give Shadowstep worth.

One thing worth noting is that if one of the Chosen gets their version of Ever Vigilant, Shadowstep becomes a lot more useful. This is particularly true of the Assassin, since she prefers to melee a target and then duck out of sight of your squad, demanding someone walk right into her Overwatch in the process of finding her. You can instead have a Reaper spot for some manner of indirect attack, but hey, maybe your Reaper is out of position, or you didn't bring your Reaper into this mission, or your Grenadier is out of grenades, or whatever. Having the ability to come charging around the corner and Slash away that Overwatch with no chance of being shot can be literally a life-saver.


Lieutenant
+2 Aim
+1 HP
+1 Strength

Conceal
Once per mission, the soldier may enter Concealment at will. This does not cost an action.

Conceal isn't hit as badly by the existence of Reapers as Phantom is, but it's still overall less appealing than in the base game.

That said, the Training Center overhaul means you can treat it as spending some Ability points to trigger Shadowstrike. As Conceal can be activated even if you're inside an enemy's detection radius (You just need to not be flanked), this can be used to do stuff like Run And Gun up close to an Archon or Gatekeeper, Conceal, and then Rapid Fire with a huge Aim and crit boost, uncaring of their innate Defense. And sure, Gatekeepers have tons of Armor, but if your Ranger happened to roll Shredder and hey maybe also Holo Targeting this can actually be a great way to open a fight with a Gatekeeper. Or maybe you had someone else Shred and Holo Target beforehand. Whatever.

I personally rarely bother, and even more rarely use it for its actual intended purpose, but it's still in a better position than in the previous game, design-wise.

Run And Gun
Immediately provides an additional action point, which cannot be spent on movement. 3 turn cooldown.

The primary thing to keep in mind is that Hunter's Instincts has been weakened, making Run And Gun's utility at forcing flanking shots much less powerful.

On the other hand, it's a great skill in the context of the Bonds system, allowing a Ranger to move, trigger Run And Gun, pass an action off via Teamwork to give their Bondmate another turn, and still fire. Or if they have Advanced Teamwork, to give their Bondmate two extra turns while still taking a shot of their own!

So basically Run And Gun is actually more useful than ever, you just use it somewhat differently from the base game.


Captain
+2 Aim
+5 Hack

Implacable
Once per turn, landing a kill during your turn provides a single action point. This action point can only be spent on movement.

Hooray for being able to combine it with Bladestorm!

This is important partly just because they're both great skills for melee Rangers, but it's also important because Implacable can actually synergize fairly well with Bladestorm. Being able to land a kill and then stop adjacent to a weakened enemy so that anything they do provokes a Bladestorm is a nifty combination that can save you from a bad situation where you pulled too many enemies at once. In conjunction with Untouchable, you're not even necessarily putting your Ranger in real danger by doing so! And thanks to the Katana, this can be a sure way to finish off a target in the late game.

Implacable is better than ever, in short.

Bladestorm
Enemies moving adjacent to the Ranger provoke melee 'reaction fire', as do enemies that perform any kind of action adjacent to the Ranger. Bladestorm can only activate once per turn on a given enemy, however.

Bladestorm has a few different notable considerations in War of the Chosen.

First is the Lost. Being large numbers of individually weak melee-only attackers, Bladestorm is quite strongly effective against them. If Lost are going to be a concern, it's worth considering bringing a Bladestorm Ranger to get in free damage on Lost. As Lost will frequently get close enough to trigger Bladestorm but fail to be ready to attack themselves in a given turn, the probability of missing a few times in there isn't a huge problem. Just keep an eye out for Lost Dashers, since they can move fast enough to attack your soldiers in a single action; preferably prioritize shooting them before other Lost. (I mean, that's true in general, but it goes double if you want to use Bladestorm to thin the herd)

Second is the introduction of Purifiers, and more specifically that they're included in airdrop reinforcements. As they have a 50% chance of exploding on death, setting up a Bladestorm trap is much riskier; in War of the Chosen, you probably shouldn't do it by default. The primary exception to this is that if your Ranger also has Untouchable and has landed a kill during your turn, while there's no active enemies and you're confident you're not going to activate any enemies. In that rather specific scenario it's almost completely safe to set up your Ranger to catch reinforcements; it's still possible that the airdrop will include two Purifiers, but this is extraordinarily rare and even if it happens they'd need to both explode and specifically do so in reach of the Ranger. If literally everyone in the world took my advice this would inevitably backfire on a few people, but for most purposes this is close enough to completely safe.

Third is the Assassin's Katana ensuring all melee strikes will always hit no matter what. Once you've got a hold of it, this makes Bladestorm 100% reliable, making it completely safe to build plans like 'melee this enemy, on the idea that the Bladestorm will kill them during the enemy turn'. Or 'these Chryssalids have all been weakened enough Bladestorm will kill them, and my Bladestorm Ranger is the only one they can reach'. Obviously this isn't completely true if you bring multiple Rangers (That is: the other Rangers won't have the Katana), and stops being true if you lose the Katana, but still, the Katana is a bit of a gamechanger for Bladestorm.

Conversely, Bladestorm now has to suffer from the fact that Spectres have Lightning Reflexes and the Chosen can roll immunity to reaction fire, as Bladestorm does, in fact, count for both of these purposes. Bladestorm is thus not a way to stop a Shadowbind, and can end up severely reduced in its utility in Chosen fights. The Chosen Assassin getting Shadowstep in particular can be inconvenient, since it means you can't try to use your Bladestorm Ranger's presence as a means to punish her tendency toward melee attacking.

The biggest change, though, is that it's no longer impossible to combine it with Implacable, which was by far its most frustrating limitation in the base game since Implacable is excellent for letting Rangers finish off targets that are in the open or have no useful adjacent Cover without leaving themselves completely exposed. Being able to combine that utility with Bladestorm, instead of pick one or the other, is a fairly significant boon to melee Rangers. They even synergize! Land a kill on one target, then Implacable-move next to another target: two melee attacks for the price of one!


Major
+1 Aim
+1 HP

Deep Cover
If the soldier did not attack in a turn, they automatically Hunker Down when their team's turn ends.

Deep Cover is notably boosted in relevance by the Training Center overhaul, since it's no longer 'but why would I take this when I could take Untouchable'.

It's still pretty difficult to justify taking it, mind, as Rangers rarely have cause to meet the condition for activation in a situation it actually matters in, but this is still an improvement over 'literally never'.

It'd help if there were more skills in the bonus skill pool that aren't a direct attack or premised around making direct attacks. Then it would at least be possible to end up with a Ranger who has a bunch of bonus skills focused away from actually attacking to make Deep Cover potentially a worthwhile pick. As is, it's basically just Guardian+Covering Fire+Aim that might bias you toward Deep Cover. I'm not sure I'd bother even then, either.

Untouchable
If the soldier lands a kill, during the next enemy turn the first time the soldier should have taken damage from enemy action they won't, even if it's an action that is normally incapable of missing such as a grenade.

Aside from no longer making Deep Cover basically impossible to justify taking, Untouchable isn't changed particularly by War of the Chosen. It's an important part of what makes Implacable+Bladestorm such an appealing combo, but that's about it.

It's still a great skill you should default to taking on level-up.


Colonel
+1 Aim
+1 HP
+1 Strength
+5 Hack

Rapid Fire
Fires two shots with the soldier's primary weapon, both of which occur at -15 to Aim. 5 turn cooldown.

The Training Center overhaul does a surprising amount to shoot Rapid Fire up in relevance, thanks to Reaper-the-skill already encouraging you to have your last action be a shooting action; even if you're going with a pure melee Ranger build, you want Rapid Fire just to maximize Reaper's effectiveness.

On the other hand, War of the Chosen sneakily gave it a massive cooldown for some reason, making it a lot less powerful a payoff. I'm not sure why. The Aim penalty already gives it some actual limits, and with the introduction of the Templar the Ranger's melee game utility is no longer their dominantly unique niche. If anything, War of the Chosen really ought to have emphasized the Ranger's gunplay game more, or made an effort to emphasize their versatility. That is, since Templar have a gun, but it's terrible and should rarely be used outside of Lost missions unless they roll specific bonus skills, and all their other ranged options spend Focus, they come pretty close to being a dedicated melee unit, where Rangers have a solid melee game and a solid ranged game, and that gives them a clear space to occupy that doesn't so strongly risk overlapping in a problematic way with Templar.

The cooldown being introduced is particularly puzzling since it's not like it's the only way it was nerfed. Hunter's Instincts being less strong means spammed Rapid Fire isn't as insanely strong as in the base game, and for non-Ranger classes getting Rapid Fire is a privilege you pay extra for now. The only benefit I see to the cooldown being added is making it so that Chain Shot has something over it, and I'm skeptical the cooldown advantage Chain Shot has is decisive.

Reaper
An activated skill which consumes no action points. After activation, the Ranger's very next Slash in the turn is guaranteed to hit. Furthermore, if that Slash kills its target, the Ranger is granted an action point. From there, Slash's accuracy behavior returns to normal, but each Slash in the turn that kills its target will still grant the Ranger an action point. Conversely, each such successful kill (Including the first one) lowers the Ranger's Slash damage by 1 for the rest of the turn. 4 turn cooldown.

Reaper benefits a lot from War of the Chosen trending toward maps having more enemies and having larger individual pods, most blatantly Lost missions where Reaper can be worth considering to avoid ammo crunch issues. The Chosen all having innate summoning is a further boost to its utility, since you ideally clean those guys up immediately and then re-focus on the Chosen and Reaper helps achieve exactly that.

Reaper also benefits a fair amount from the Katana, even if the Katana renders the initial hit being guaranteed an irrelevant advantage. It means lightly-to-moderately Armored targets are a lot easier to finish off as part of a Reaper chain without specifically needing to burn resources on mass Shred first, it means you don't have to worry about a Dodge breaking your streak unexpectedly, and of course the Katana hits even harder than the Fusion Axe so Reaper streaks can be started sooner and take longer to hit seriously poor damage. Breakthroughs also benefit Reaper a decent amount, since more damage means more opportunity to initiate Reaper streaks and longer streaks.

And of course the Training Center overhaul means you can combine it with Rapid Fire to end on a high note once you're out of things to Slash, as previously noted.

So hey let's return to the 'leaked' experience mechanic to cover the new classes.

Rookie: 4 deaths=1 kill credit
Ranger: 4 deaths=1 kill credit
Sharpshooter: 5 deaths=1 kill credit
Grenadier: 5 deaths=1 kill credit
Specialist: 3 deaths=1 kill credit
Psi Operative: 3 deaths=1 kill credit. Each kill is worth 3 'psi credits'.
SPARK: 4 deaths=1 kill credit
Skirmisher: 4 deaths=1 kill credit
Reaper: 4 deaths=1 kill credit
Templar: 4 deaths=1 kill credit

Yeah, the Resistance classes all just use the default of 4. I feel like Reapers really ought to have used the Specialist approach -until they get Silent Killer, it's a serious pain to give them opportunities to secure kills of their own, and even with Silent Killer they tend to grab fewer kills per mission than most classes.

I do find it irritating, as an aside, that War of the Chosen added a class/faction named Reaper and then didn't bother to rename this Ranger skill. It's an unnecessary linguistic hurdle. It could certainly be worse, as in this case it's generally contextually obvious which Reaper you're referring to, but it's really not a thing that should've happened regardless. 

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Okay, I said I'm ignoring the Guerrilla Tactics School skills for these posts, but the Ranger is an exception. Here's why:


Hunter's Instincts
Ranger flanking shots gain +1 damage, and Slash gains +10 to crit chance.

Notice that this is weaker than in the base game.

This is good, because +3 damage on Hunter's Instincts was completely ridiculous. +1 damage still rewards you for pursuing crits, but not so dramatically as to risk melee not being worth the bother or let the Ranger sit an entire tier of main weapon behind the rest of your squad while still hitting harder than everyone else, which was the base-game situation with Hunter's Instincts.

Hunter's Instincts is still one of the higher-value GTS skills, mind, as a reliable extra point of damage on flanks for some Supplies is a pretty good deal. Not as reliably decisive as in the base game, but relevant.

I'm not sure why they also nerfed the melee crit chance. If they'd gotten rid of it entirely I'd be confused by that too but assume there was a purpose to it I just wasn't seeing, but getting rid of a whole 5 points of crit chance is... uhhh?

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Where the Sharpshooter was pretty notably boosted by War of the Chosen, the Ranger is more of a mixed bag, trending toward nerfing inasmuch as the power curve of the game has risen overall and they didn't get pulled upward as much as eg the Sharpshooter.

This is probably completely justified, to be honest. I'm dubious on some of the specific changes -the Rapid Fire cooldown just mystifies me- but the Ranger is by far the most consistently competent and powerful class in the base game outside maybe a maxed-out Psi Operative. Indeed, my experience with monoclass runs found that a mono-Ranger run was easier than a normal, mixed-class run! That's a pretty clear sign that Rangers needed something done with them, and they're the only class I experienced this with, so they're also the only class that really merited nerfing, in general.

I do think War of the Chosen went too far in dragging down the Ranger in part by virtue of also having two Resistance classes taking over the Ranger's ostensible niches, but I certainly understand where the team was coming from.

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Next time, we cover how War of the Chosen has impacted the Grenadier.

See you then.

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