XCOM 2 Analysis: Guerrilla Tactics School

The Guerrilla Tactics School is basically the Officer Training School from the previous game. It's where you increase squad sizes and purchase a bunch of gimmicky secondary benefits of highly variable utility, with soldier rank requirements to get everything.

Overall, it's a lot better and more interesting than the Officer Training School, though. For one thing, it has an additional functionality that replaces the New Guy upgrade: the Guerrilla Tactics School has a slot you can put Rookies into, where you pick one of the four core classes and after 5 (10 on Legendary) days they promote to that class, no need for combat or having to worry about randomly-assigned roles not lining up with what you want. Though keep in mind you can't use them while they're training, so if you've got only a handful of soldiers ready to go and can't afford to purchase more you might want to hold off until you have more people combat-ready.

Also note that tearing down the Guerrilla Tactics School will take away all of the bonuses you've purchased from it. However tempting it might be to rip it out once you've bought everything, don't.


Squad Size I
Cost: 50 Supplies (100 on Legendary)
Requires: A soldier at or above Sergeant.
Maximum squad size is increased by one slot.

An essential upgrade, of course, and the primary reason to get the GTS up early.

The rank requirement is unlikely to be relevant, even if you build the GTS right away. Regardless of difficulty, you'll usually have a soldier hit Sergeant before the GTS gets finished, unless you assigned an Engineer to rush the GTS. Which... you generally shouldn't. You're better off having the Engineer dig toward exposed power coils.

Occasionally you'll have the GTS finish and still need a mission to get someone ranked up enough for Squad Size I, but not often.


Squad Size II
Cost: 75 Supplies (150 on Legendary)
Requires: A soldier at or above Captain.
Maximum squad size is increased by one slot.

Note that you can actually purchase Squad Size II before Squad Size I if you, say, take long enough to build the GTS that you already have a Captain when it's completed.

However, this doesn't skip you to a full squad of 6. It really is that each upgrade is just +1 to squad size.

Slightly less essential than the first upgrade, but still very important.

Notably, where on other difficulties the Captain requirement is a bit token, on Legendary you can easily spend a pretty lengthy chunk of the game sitting at a max squad size of 5. Higher difficulties make leveling take longer, and the effect is more pronounced at higher ranks; a Rookie will make the jump to Squaddie after one mission still, but getting from one higher rank to the next can take a long time.

Furthermore, Legendary drastically spikes how much time it takes to recover from injuries: on lower difficulties, it's not unusual for a soldier who takes a hit but survives to be ready to go before another mission is foisted upon you. On Legendary, they may well be out of action for 42 days, ie 4+ missions just looking at the ones that you have to do as they show up like Guerrilla Ops and Retaliation missions. In turn, if your Lieutenants just keep taking hits... this can easily delay access to Squad Size II by weeks to months.

As such, in the base game you may wish to make an effort to pay attention to who is your most experienced soldier and take extra care to prevent them in particular from being injured so you can get Squad Size II online faster.

In War of the Chosen you should instead pay attention for an opportunity to use a Covert Op to forcibly promote one of your first Lieutenants to Captain, since the force-promotion effect doesn't care about actual experience values. If you do this, you'll usually have Squad Size II online in a perfectly reasonable timeframe.


Hunter's Instincts
Cost: 75 Supplies (200 on Legendary)
Requires: Ranger at or above Captain.
Ranger flanking shots gain +3 damage, and Slash gains +15 to crit chance. (War of the Chosen: +1 damage on flanks and +10 to Slash crit chance)

As I've noted previously, this is one of the essential purchases in the base game, effectively advancing your Ranger's primary weapon by more than a technology tier anytime you can arrange a flank, which really isn't that hard, especially since a Captain Ranger by definition has had the opportunity to take Run And Gun.

War of the Chosen makes it a lower priority purchase thanks to the drop in damage, but +1 damage is still one of the more unambiguously nice things to have, and the crit boost is a nice bonus.


Deadshot
Cost: 75 Supplies (200 on Legendary)
Requires: Sharpshooter at or above Captain.
Sharpshooters have +10 to crit chance.

Yawn.

Easy to justify purchasing below Legendary, due to 75 Supplies being an easy cost to bear on those difficulties, but on Legendary you should probably put it off until you're reaching the point where you literally have more Supplies than you know what to do with.


Biggest Booms
Cost: 75 Supplies (200 on Legendary)
Requires: Grenadier at or above Captain.
Grenades launched by the Grenadier can now get critical hits. The specific numbers are a 20% chance of +2 damage.

On lower difficulties, Biggest Booms is unreliable but very nice to grab early. You can't count on it, but it's possible to get it early enough that a random +2 damage is actually quite likely to reduce how many unit-turns you need to spend on getting rid of enemies.

On Legendary Biggest Booms is another purchase you should probably put off for ages, particularly in the base game where it's not possible to use Covert Ops to accelerate a Grenadier's promotion unnaturally. The cost is too high for how erratic the benefit is, and on Legendary it normally takes so long to get a Grenadier Captain that +2 damage is rarely a decisive boost anyway.


Cool Under Pressure
Cost: 75 Supplies (200 on Legendary)
Requires: Specialist at or above Captain.
Specialist reaction shots are now able to crit, and get +10 to Aim. (Before reaction modifiers)

Since Cool Under Pressure's Aim bonus is applied before reaction modifiers, it's not quite as high a boost as it seems, with the exception that it does apply during Overwatch ambushes where the reaction fire accuracy penalty doesn't apply and so you get a full +10 there.

Cool Under Pressure is worth making a modest sacrifice elsewhere -delaying purchasing something else, that is- to get up fairly early, particularly if you're diligent about arranging for the squad to catch pods wandering into vision with Overwatch shots. I'll be getting into this later, but due to how XCOM 2 handles crit rolls, the 40% crit boost from firing on a target in the open is actually more reliable a boost in damage the less accurate the shot actually is, which means Cool Under Pressure unlocking crits on Overwatch fire is a more reliable benefit than you would intuitively expect looking at the numbers.

At minimum, if you're going to leverage the synergy between Guardian and Threat Assessment you should make sure to buy Cool Under Pressure no later than your first Major Specialist.

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The following 6 purchases only exist in the base game. Most of them can still be acquired as Continent Bonuses and/or Resistance Orders in War of the Chosen, though this can't be counted on in any given run.


Vulture
Cost: 75 Supplies (100 on Legendary)
Requirement: Nothing beyond the GTS.
Anytime an enemy drops timed loot, there will be an additional item in the drop.

You really ought to get Vulture as soon as it's remotely reasonable to buy it. In the absolute worst case, it will literally pay for itself via you selling timed loot you don't care about, and it won't take that long to do so either.

Personally, I don't think Vulture being a guaranteed GTS purchase is good for the game, so I'm glad it got shuffled off elsewhere by War of the Chosen. It just doesn't mesh with the GTS design in any purposeful way, beyond making it even more true than it already was that in the base game you should probably build the GTS right away.


Wetwork
Cost: 125 Supplies (150 on Legendary)
Requirement: A soldier at or above Sergeant.
Kills are worth 25% more experience.

Like Vulture, you should get Wetwork as soon as it's remotely feasible.

Also like Vulture, I don't think it's good for the game design for it to be a GTS purchase, as all it does is further emphasize you should get the GTS up immediately. War of the Chosen breaking it up into a couple of Resistance Orders (With a different name) is still a little off, but a much better design than this.


Lightning Strike
Cost: 100 Supplies (125 on Legendary)
Requirements: A soldier at or above Sergeant.
In the first two turns of a mission, the squad gets +3 Mobility if they are Concealed.

Something to be careful of is that Lightning Strike makes reckless advances more likely to stumble into a detection radius. So long as you're not Dashing blindly on a regular basis it shouldn't be an issue on most of your soldiers, but when combined with other Mobility enhancers it's really easy to have even a half-move stumble into a detection radius if you insist on consistently taking advantage of your full movement speed.

Design-wise, Lightning Strike is a bit awkward. I could see a few different ways for very similar ideas to be good, interesting GTS purchases, but as-is I think Lightning Strike ends up creating an awkward pressure on the design space of the game and that's about it. If Lightning Strike was simply 'Concealed soldiers have +3 Mobility', it would've in part served to make scouting Rangers a bit more viable. If it was a permanent Mobility boost, period, this could serve as part of making the player more resistant to casualties by putting an important statistical improvement behind a squad-wide upgrade. (Whereas if, say, soldiers all gained 3 Mobility over the course of leveling, this would mean losing experienced soldiers would be taking away important tactical options)

This particular format, though, just makes it so timed missions where the squad is Concealed (ie all Guerilla Ops and a few other mission types) are in an awkward position if they want to make the timer threatening: do they set the time so the timing is tight if you have Lightning Strike, and so risk the player being unable to realistically complete an early such mission through no fault of their own? Or do they set the time so that the timing is tight if you don't have Lightning Strike, and so make it so that the vast majority of the time the player has a little more leeway than is really intended?

I very much approve of War of the Chosen shuffling this off to be a Resistance Order. It's still awkward, but vastly less so.


Integrated Warfare
Cost: 150 Supplies (200 on Legendary)
Requirements: A soldier at or above Lieutenant.
PCS bonuses are improved, either gaining +1 to their effect or increasing their bonus by 25%.

The in-game description is that PCS bonuses are' significantly' improved, which is... kinda true if you look very specifically at the lowest-tier versions of the PCSes that normally provide +1? As it does double the bonus of those PCSes.

For the most part, though, it's a fairly minor improvement, which is particularly disappointing since PCSes are already pretty limited in their effects.

Part of the issue is how PCSes are designed. Soldiers take their PCSes with them to the grave, meaning Integrated Warfare doesn't serve to make your forces more resistant to casualties from that direction; that is, if your A team loses five of its members who all had Superior PCSes, you don't get to pull them out and put them into a backup squad.

On the flipside, PCS quality pretty much automatically rises as you go into the game: toward the start of a run, the Black Market will only offer basic-tier PCSes, and PCSes in timed loot drops will usually be basic with the occasional Advanced. After a few months, the Black Market will only offer Superior PCSes and enemies that drop PCSes will almost always drop Superior ones as well; there's not really any difference between the current system and imagining an XCOM 2 where PCSes had a fourth tier but Integrated Warfare didn't exist. The player would have a bit more Supplies to go around, mostly.

As such, I'm once again thankful that War of the Chosen shuffles this off to be a Resistance Order/Continent Bonus. (It can be either in a given run, but not both at once) I think it probably should've also had its effects increased, but oh well, War of the Chosen was really ambitious, so it's amazing it came out as well as it did.


Vengeance
Cost: 100 Supplies (125 on Legendary)
Requirements: A soldier at or above Lieutenant.
If a soldier dies or goes into Bleeding Out mode, the squad gains random stat bonuses for 2 turns.

Vengeance is terrible. The stat bonuses are minor in addition to randomized per member, last very briefly, and are restricted to stats like Aim, Will, and Mobility: you're not going to see a vengeful squad member gain damage or Armor, for example.

You might as well buy it eventually, but I don't even get why it's in the game at all.

War of the Chosen shuffling it off to be a Resistance Order is one case where it's actually probably a downgrade on the design level. Vengeance is pointless in its existence, but you might as well buy it just in case in the base game. In War of the Chosen, taking it means committing a Resistance Order slot, and it's extremely rare that you'll find yourself in a position where Vengeance has no better competition to shunt it aside.


Stay With Me
Cost: 150 Supplies (175 on Legendary)
Requirements: A soldier at or above Major.
Doubles the effective Will of your soldiers for calculating their chance of going into Bleeding Out mode when they should've died.

Bleeding Out instead of dying is a percentage chance based on Will. Without Stay With Me, you get 1% chance for each point of Will past 50, with the game additionally hard-capping your chance at 50%. With Stay With Me, your chance is 2% for each point of Will past 50, and the hard cap is removed, meaning a soldier with 100 Will is guaranteed to survive the first lethal hit in a mission if you have Stay With Me, and conversely anyone with 50 or less Will is always dead no matter what.

At least, this is how it all works in the base game. I'd be surprised if it wasn't modified in War of the Chosen, given that War of the Chosen doesn't have it assumed your Colonels will all have 100 or very nearly 100 Will, and my own play experience in fact demands some kind of change was made, because I've had soldiers with sub-50 Will go into Bleed Out mode. Unfortunately, I don't know what the War of the Chosen mechanics for Bleeding Out are, as I've not found a clear allusion to it while digging around in the code and I've not found evidence of the wider internet bothering to figure it out.

In any event, Stay With Me... actually makes sense? It's a GTS skill that makes you more resistant to casualties by virtue of making it so elite soldiers don't die when they're killed, and it only comes online at the point in which you have sufficiently elite troops for it to more or less guarantee their survival. That's all sensible design. I'd have probably gone with a different set of mechanics, both for thematic reasons and for game design reasons (Sustain doesn't look so amazing when your Colonels basically get a slightly worse version of Sustain as an incidental free-for-them-personally upgrade), but whatever.

In turn, I have somewhat mixed feelings about War of the Chosen shuffling it off elsewhere. Especially because it feels like War of the Chosen just kind of gave up on the GTS, but not so far as to outright get rid of the facility itself.

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The following three skills only exist in War of the Chosen.


Reaper Infiltration
Cost: 75 Supplies (200 on Legendary)
Requires: Reaper at or above Captain.
Reapers gain +25 to their Hack rating, and security towers are completely unable to break Shadow.

No, Reaper Infiltration doesn't allow Reapers to hack security towers.

Reaper Infiltration is worth purchasing, but I tend to rate it as a low priority. If I've got other things to spend my Supplies on, I'll buy those things first. Being able to ignore security towers is useful, and the bonus Hack... isn't actively a negative?

Honestly, I don't really get why Reapers get a Hack boost. Hacking an actual objective will always break Shadow, so you don't normally want your Reaper performing the hack. They don't have innate access to an Item slot, so they can't necessarily equip the Skulljack, and anyway using the Skulljack will automatically break Shadow since by definition you're adjacent to someone, so you don't normally want to give them a Skulljack anyway. So... why a Hack boost? I'd argue they're literally the last class that would appreciate a Hack boost!


Parkour
Cost: 75 Supplies (200 on Legendary)
Requires: Skirmisher at or above Captain.
The first time a Skirmisher performs any kind of action in a turn, they have a 5% chance of being granted an additional action point. This can give them a second turn if they use up all their action points on their first move.

Horribly unreliable, but a Skirmisher will almost always be able to put the free action point to use somehow or another, so worth grabbing regardless. Probably as a bit of a low priority, sure, but it's not actually bad.

I'd have preferred something not based in RNG, but oh well. Parkour could be better-designed, but it's not actually awful, so whatever.


Mentally Awake
Cost: 75 Supplies (200 on Legendary)
Requires: Templar at or above Captain.
Templar begin missions at Focus Level 1.

+1 Mobility, +10 Dodge, +1 damage, immediate access to most Focus-using abilities? Nice!

One of the better GTS class skills, and very distinctive and interesting. Always get it if you're using Templar at all, as soon you can reasonably afford it.

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In the base game, the GTS is one of your highest-priority facilities, between its many permanent and general upgrades and the ability to get Rookies up and running without them dragging the team down in a mission.

In War of the Chosen, it tends to be displaced by the Resistance Ring as one of your first priority facilities. Its functionality at getting Rookies up and running is essentially covered by the ability to send Rookies on Covert Ops, as Rookies on Covert Ops are doing something beyond gaining a level and outside gimmick runs controlling what your class distribution is isn't terribly important. Meanwhile, it's lost almost all its essential, general upgrades; only the squad size expansion upgrades aren't benefits restricted to a single class. These are important, but for improving squad effectiveness getting the Resistance Ring up to recruit Resistance soldiers and improve your soldiers through levels, free stats, Breakthroughs, etc can fill a similar utility. Furthermore, the first squad size expansion upgrade is the only GTS upgrade in War of the Chosen that can be acquired prior to a soldier reaching Captain, and on higher difficulties it can take a surprising amount of time to get a soldier to Captain, making an early GTS of limited use -especially on Legendary, where the class-specific upgrades are too Supply-intensive to justify always buying them as soon as possible.

As noted earlier, I also feel like War of the Chosen basically gave up on the GTS as a facility. I think design-wise it probably would've made more sense to just fold it in with the new Training Center facility... or get rid of it entirely and rethink how to handle the global class skills, but War of the Chosen is already ridiculously ambitious. Expecting even more ambitious things from it is just ridiculous.

The GTS is overall better-designed than the Officer Training School was, but still doesn't seem to grasp that the main obvious utility for such a concept is to offload some of X-COM's level-derived progression somewhere external to individual soldiers, so that losing elite soldiers doesn't so readily turn into a death spiral. This is one of the more disappointing elements of XCOM 2's design, to be honest.

Ah well.

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Next time, we loop back to the Sharpshooter, to discuss how War of the Chosen has impacted the value of their abilities.

See you then.

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