XCOM 2 Chosen Analysis: The Warlock

"Heretics! Come forth, see the face of your ruin!"

As always, let's start with the abilities that are consistent across tiers;

Chosen Mental Strength
The Warlock is immune to Disorientation, Stun, Panic, and Mind Control.

The only semi-new implication compared to the other Chosen is that, like Avatars, being immune to Mind Control sidesteps the design headache that is Mind Controlling Mind Controllers. So that's nice.

Disruptor Rifle
In the unlikely event that the Warlock disdains to pull the trigger of his rifle... it doesn't actually automatically crit on psionically adept units.

Yeah, I'm not sure why this is the case. Not that it particularly matters, admittedly, but it's still weird, enough so I feel the need to draw attention to it even though it's a lack of a special quality, not having a noteworthy ability It's especially striking as the Chosen actually have dialogue that specifically responds to the Psi Operative class! This is unusual -only SPARKs, Reapers, Skirmishers, and Templar have the Chosen specifically respond to them outside Psi Operatives. Put another way, the Psi Operative is the only class that's not an X-COM outsider or SPARK that they respond to; they have dialogue for reacting to Sword usage, but not for reacting to Rangers per se.

And yes this includes that Dominating a Sectoid or the like and giving him the opportunity to shoot it won't result in an automatic crit.

Anyway, just as the Assassin and Hunter use the player range profiles that match their weapons, so too does the Warlock. As Rifles actually have their profile change/slightly improve as tiers go up, the Warlock's typical accuracy rises ever-so-slightly the first two times he Trains.

Not that he uses his Rifle much, but hey, it very slightly matters when he does.

Mind Scorch
The Warlock targets one soldier to Daze, which can chain onto nearby soldiers within roughly 4 tiles. This is a Psi vs Will check with a +75 bonus to hit, rolling separately for each victim. Has a 2 turn cooldown.

For an idea of the chaining behavior, look to Volt's bounce logic: Mind Scorch operates on exactly the same logic.

The chaining itself is defined by the Warlock's tier: in his first tier, it doesn't chain. In his second tier, it will jump to a second victim if one is in reach. In his third tier it will jump to a third victim if one is in reach of the second victim. And of course in his final tier it will jump to a fourth victim if one is in reach of the third victim.

You could be forgiven for just thinking it was a randomized number of targets or something, though. Jumping once is pretty normal, but unless you're prone to heavily clumping your squad it's not terribly unusual for it to fail to chain more than once -even when your soldiers are positioned so it could chain to four total, the Warlock won't select an initial target to maximize victims, and the chaining effect won't select its bounces to maximize victims. It's also not allowed to 'wrap' through itself, so it's entirely possible for the Warlock to target a soldier who is in chain distance of everybody else in your squad, but then it bounces to the one soldier who is only in range of that first soldier and so Mind Scorch ends up with only two victims.

So it's really easy to overlook that the number of targets is dictated very reliably by his tier.

Interestingly, Mind Scorch's actual coding is that the Warlock has Focus like a Templar, and Mind Scorch's bounces are defined by his Focus Level, exactly as per Volt. He just doesn't spend Focus on anything (Or gain Focus in combat, for that matter), and has his initial Focus set by his tier, up to a maximum of 4 Focus. This is all his Focus does, though; he doesn't get Dodge or Mobility out of it like Templar do, and none of his other abilities runs off it. Surprisingly, even his graphics don't use it -that is, as the Warlock tiers up, his arms increasingly crackle with psionic power like a Templar, but this isn't invisibly caused by his hidden Focus Level, it's just how his baseline graphics are set up.

As I pointed out in the Chosen overall intro, the Warlock doesn't 'see' immunities from eg an equipped Mind Shield when it comes to deciding who to target with Mind Scorch. As such, equipping Mind Shields on everyone is a way to make the Warlock intermittently waste his turn entirely.

That said, do note that he isn't similarly derpy when it comes to SPARKs, and further note that immunity to Daze won't block Mind Scorch chaining -that is, if you have one soldier equipped with a Mind Shield, and the Warlock tries to fry their brain, they won't end up Dazed, but anybody close by is at risk of Mind Scorch jumping to them and Dazing them. So you do have to be pretty thorough in passing out Mind Shields if you want this to be reliable protection; you can't just identify the soldier with the lowest Will in the squad and give them a Mind Shield on the idea the Warlock will target them as a waste of a turn, except maybe during his first tier. Or you could try to keep said soldier separated from the squad, I suppose, but honestly, just passing out more Mind Shields is probably easier.

Anyway, Mind Scorch is the Warlock's primary means of inflicting Daze; where the Assassin and the Hunter each have one single-target Daze and one mass Daze, the Warlock instead has Mind Scorch start out as his single-target Daze and as he tiers up it becomes his mass Daze; his other Daze tool is radically different and not a standard part of his arsenal. This has the unusual result that he's unusually easy to fend off Daze attempts early in a run -he can't abruptly Daze 4 out of 5 soldiers- but in the late game puts a lot more Daze-based pressure on you in more extended engagements, since at tier 4 he can Daze 4 people every other turn! The Hunter gets to mass-Daze once per encounter, while Harbor Wave has a longer cooldown on the Assassin and she's nowhere near as aggressive about using it as the Warlock is about spamming Mind Scorch.

It's also a hazard that feeds back on itself some, in that him spamming Daze discourages spreading out too much -you don't want to let him Extract Knowledge or Kidnap someone, after all- yet the clumping that results from clearing Dazes and/or being positioned to readily clear Dazes makes it easy to get mass-Dazed by Mind Scorch, a problem not really present with Harbor Wave or Concussion Grenade. Extended fights with the Warlock can thus be disproportionately rough, as he limits the squad's action points while intermittently summoning reinforcements, not to mention the possibility of regular pods wandering into the fight.

I find it appropriate that in turn Solace Psi Operatives are one of the best things to have on hand when dealing with the Warlock, as a single Solace soldier can very reliably clear everybody caught in a Mind Scorch by simply walking broadly nearby, and can passively protect against it by just keeping people clustered around the Psi Operative. This is technically true of the Assassin and Hunter as well, but their mass Daze tools incorporate knockback, and in Harbor Wave's case Solace won't necessarily save the day if the issue is your squad getting strung out in a line such that Harbor Wave can catch everyone; the Psi Operative might not be able to help everyone, depending on how terrain worked out and all. More importantly, my point is that a Solace Psi Operative is a strong counter to the Warlock, where the Assassin and Hunter will spend a lot of time threatening you with tools that don't care about Solace or barely care.

On the note of Solace and the Warlock, one of the more interesting elements of War of the Chosen is that it seems to have decided that psionic energy has a fundamental maddening quality. It's never stated outright, but assorted dialogue and visuals heavily imply it: the Hunter will wonder to himself why psionic energy seems to drive people totally mad, fingering the Warlock and the Templar as specific examples, some of the Warlock's Mind Scorch lines (And its internal skill description!) imply that all he's actually doing is opening his own mind to his victims as opposed to doing anything directed with the energy, and the visuals for the Warlock using Mind Scorch really seem to be just him having psionic energy boil forth and he vaguely hurls it at someone. This is also consistent with how Insanity on Psi Operatives is one of their low-end skills, as well as Sectoids having a messy-looking process for using psionic energy and having access to a rebranded Insanity in the form of Mindspin.

The game gives itself some wiggle room, mind. There are multiple powerful psionic beings in the setting that could be insane, but are not clearly so, up to and including that it's ambiguous whether the Ethereals are meant to be as horrible as they are as a product of their immense psionic powers or if they're in complete control of their psionic abilities and just naturally that horrible. Psi Operatives aren't presented as lunatics, contrasting with the 'wild-trained' Templar being taken as a bit unhinged by eg Volk and Bradford, but that's also ambiguous. Future games have room to decide whether significant psionic power inevitably results in madness, or if it can be tempered by skill, or if it can be reduced in its effect by shunting the power into technology (As Psi Operatives partially do), or whatever.

But it's still interesting the game went in this direction. It's not like 'psionic powers go together with insanity' is actually a new concept, but it's a fairly significant divergence from the Gollop games, where psionic powers are handled as a tool like any other. Like, yes, mind control is very socially problematic and all, but the Gollop games treat psionic powers as something with no side effects on the user: Ethereals in that universe were shriveled-up because they were so taken with their abilities they'd allowed their bodies to atrophy, not because psionic energy innately had a deleterious effect on muscle mass or something. They were an exaggerated version of the 'couch potato' phenomenon, where lack of physical exercise leads to health problems and can be caused by conveniences meaning exercise isn't an unavoidable necessity for unrelated reasons. (That is, humans need exercise period, for good health, but if your life circumstances demand more than the minimum for other reasons you don't need to set aside 'exercise time') War of the Chosen turning psionic energies into a powerful yet dangerous material is a significant divergence, and one with a lot of gameplay and narrative potential.

This all being part of why I find it appropriate Solace is so strongly protective against the Warlock; less for mechanical reasons and more because of the implied narrative bits where the Warlock is psionically terrorizing your people and Solace is psionically sheltering people. It makes Solace's name feel rather more on point than it sounded in the base game!

Mind Control
Attempts to Mind Control a target soldier for 3 turns as a Psi vs Will check, with a +75 bonus to success rate. Has no limit on how many soldiers can be controlled at once. Has a 2 turn cooldown.

Yes, the Warlock can just Mind Control people with no weird qualifiers like Mindspin has, while being able to show up from almost the beginning of the game. And he's immune to stuff like Flashbangs, so it's a lot harder to break the Mind Control than when a Sectoid manages it. Indeed, as Chosen are immune to Stasis, that's one of your more generally amazing tools removed; you can Stasis the target to minimize the harm caused by the Mind Control, but it won't actually break the Mind Control. The Frost Bomb is one option for breaking the Mind Control, even though he'll immediately defrost with no penalty when his turn rolls around, and Psi Operatives can still help via Solace. Less reliable is trying to get him to trigger Spectral Army, since he does put himself into Stasis for that and so break his own Mind Control.

Bondmates of at least Bond Level 2 can also clear the Mind Control, and this is one of your best tools for such since it can be acquired early with a little luck and a willingness to prioritize the Training Center, Stand By Me isn't limited by charges, and it's protective against Daze as well so it's worth bringing Level 2 Bondmates in to Warlock encounters anyway. Just remember that Bladestorm/Retribution can make that hazardous to your soldiers' health -or even get them killed without an opportunity for Stand By Me to clear the Mind Control- so don't only rely on Bondmates. Maybe don't rely on them at all if your teams are consistently made heavily of Bladestormers.

Anyway, the Warlock strongly prefers to Mind Scorch over Mind Control, but if Mind Scorch is on cooldown and he's not low on HP, he heavily prefers to Mind Control. Like Mind Scorch, this is useless against soldiers wearing Mind Shields and the Warlock can't tell, so passing out Mind Shields to the entire squad is devastating to the Warlock's ability to threaten the squad once they've made contact with him, because he will regularly waste multiple turns in a row, alternating Mind Scorches and Mind Controls.

Mind, this ability to trivialize the Warlock takes a bit to come online; fighting him at the beginning of the game, you may well be unable to Autopsy Sectoids, and you certainly don't have the Sectoid corpses needed to outfit everyone even f you got a really early Scientist and can spare the Supplies per se. So if the Warlock is your first Chosen, you will have to engage with the Warlock as an actual threat, not just pass out Mind Shields and laugh at him. And even into the midgame it can take a bit, depending on your luck with Sectoid distribution and whether you go for Psi Operatives. (Since the Advanced Psi Amp requires Sectoid corpses)

Of course, Mind Control is also blocked by Solace; Mind Scorch isn't the only reason why I say Solace is a strong counter to the Warlock. Who needs Mind Shields all across the team when one Psi Operative will do the job, freeing up Item slots all-around? (Of course, this takes even longer than Mind Shields to get online...)

Overall, the Warlock is uniquely threatening with his Mind Control, simply because he's very durable at any stage of the game and many tools for interrupting Mind Control don't work on him. As such, while it's actually realistic to resist his Mind Control, unlike an Avatar's, his Mind Control tends to be more problematic in practice; it's only if you Skulljack a Codex bizarrely early an Avatar is liable to be more of a problem in this regard. Take his Mind Control seriously!

Note that while his Mind Control lasts 3 turns, as usual the controlled unit doesn't actually get an immediate turn, and so a given Mind Control will only get two turns of actions out of the controlled unit. Also note that the Warlock can't Mind Control units you've Mind Controlled and won't waste time trying -this is typical, but still worth mentioning, in that if you scout ahead with Dominated units the Warlock is disproportionately likely to simply shoot them, as this immunity is one he does 'see', much like SPARKs.

In a different game I might complain about the characterization aspect to this, but in this case I'm just nodding along and going 'that seems like something the Warlock would do'.

Also note that, unusually, the Mind Controlled unit will actually go after the Warlock, making this one of the only ways for a Chosen to act before a non-Lost hostile.

Interestingly, the Warlock will refuse to Mind Control a Dazed unit. This isn't, like, important, but it is interesting. It's also one of the few ways he's liable to end up shooting a soldier; if he Mind Scorches, then next turn can't reach the affected soldier(s) to Extract Knowledge/Kidnap, and has no Mind Control targets in range, he may elect to shoot a Dazed soldier! So don't treat Dazed soldiers as 100% safe from damage when it's the Warlock inflicting it.

Teleport Ally
The Warlock teleports an ally in line of sight to another location in line of sight. This costs one action point and doesn't necessarily end the turn, but can only be used once per turn.

He mostly tries to teleport his allies into flanking positions on your troops. This is less threatening than it might first sound since Chosen always go after all the regular ADVENT/Alien units, and so you normally have the opportunity to respond. Comedically, he can teleport things you might not expect him to be able to teleport, like Burrowed Chryssalids and Turrets!

This actually doesn't have an icon in-game, and in fact if you use something like Yet Another F1 Mod it won't even show up in his ability list, bizarrely. I'm borrowing Codex Teleportation's icon as a result.

Overall, Teleport Ally is an interesting idea, but not terribly impactful the vast majority of the time, due almost entirely to the turn order issue. It would actually be pretty threatening if the Warlock went first in the enemy turn, but as-is it's only really Turrets and technically Mind Controlled units where it can be substantive -and in the case of Mind Controlled units, they're generally already in a great position to easily flank people, making that potential pretty limited. Especially since Mind Controlled units are pretty obsessive about moving; even teleporting a Sharpshooter to a high ground flanking position is liable to result in the Sharpshooter hopping down and firing their Pistol instead of immediately firing their Sniper Rifle, thus wasting the Teleport Ally.

A crucial detail holding Teleport Ally back is that the Warlock won't target members of inactive pods. I don't actually disapprove of this, overall, but it does limit it a fair amount, especially in conjunction with how missions/maps tend to get set up and how the Warlock moves about; it's technically possible for you to activate a Turret, then move out of its range, and then the Warlock teleports it back into range, but it's extremely unlikely to actually happen, even if you make a habit of activating Turrets and then skirting around them. If he was at least willing to target inactive Turrets in specific, it wouldn't be entirely unusual for him to grab a Turret out of your sight and dump it into range, which would matter and be cool, but as-is... it barely matters.

Indeed, it's so limited I honestly don't have anything to really say about its gameplay implications. You might think it encourages the Warlock to hold still more than the other Chosen, but the fact is the Warlock is really prone to just standing still if he's in well-positioned High Cover, and actively pursues such High Cover; if he's using Teleport Ally, he was probably intending to hold still regardless!

Though do note that when I say he can teleport Burrowed Chryssalids, this includes the one-member-'pods' that Burrow at the start of the mission; internally, they're never considered to be an inactive pod at all!

Oddly, even though the Warlock is the only Chosen to have this ability, all three Chosen will visibly teleport in the cannon during a Chosen Avenger Assault. Admittedly they can all summon reinforcements, so it's not that weird, but it is a little weird, especially since the Chosen attacking the Avenger is presented as an ambush and the cannon is set on a truck; it would be perfectly functional to imply that Knowledge capping represents sufficient insider information to know where you're going to be on some date and prep an ambush conventionally. I dunno, maybe the devs were just going for 'cool factor'?...

Spectral Zombies
The Warlock summons a tier-dependent number of Spectral Zombies. 3 turn cooldown. The Spectral Zombies spawn in the immediate vicinity of your troops, and immediately take a one-action point move. They have 65 Aim on their melee attack on Rookie and Regular and 75 Aim on Commander and Legendary, but this rarely crops up. Instead, Spectral Zombies will invariably walk toward one of your soldiers and one of them will arm themselves to detonate. If killed after arming themselves, they explode for 3-4 damage with 2 Shred (25% chance to roll the +1 damage) in a 3-tile-out area. If left alone, they will manually detonate themselves for the same result as a move-and-detonate action. Spectral Zombies technically have a 3-turn duration, but this will almost never come up in real play because if you don't kill them they'll probably blow themselves up first. Briefly reveals the Warlock when used.

Note that when initially summoned, exactly one Spectral Zombie will arm itself for detonation, if any of them survived. The game doesn't pre-assign the role: if you kill 3 Spectral Zombies out of a batch of four he summoned, the remaining one will always arm itself, not the 25% of the time you'd expect if the role was assigned at generation.

Also note that the Warlock can only use Spectral Zombies before he's 'activated'. Once he's spotted the squad and given his speech, it's no longer a part of his arsenal. Conversely, until he activates he will be 100% predictable about summoning Spectral Zombies every three turns starting the turn after he spawns in; unlike the Hunter's Tracking Shot, Spectral Zombies doesn't require a line of fire or anything, so its cooldown is the only thing preventing him from spamming it every turn, and he'll never forget to use it, nor deliberately put it off in favor of Dashing toward the squad.

Internally, this is labelled 'corress'. I'm not sure what that's about. My best guess is it's a smushed-together combo-word, like it's 'corrupt' smushed together with 'resurrect', but I'm honestly not sure.

Spectral Zombies themselves don't use Cover/are Hardened, and are immune to all damage over time effects and mental effects. As such, they're easy to hit, but Experimental gear and Flamethrowers are not very helpful in putting them down, and you shouldn't expect to crit.

More surprising is that they actually have proper pod activation mechanics, more or less. This usually doesn't matter, as the Warlock is pretty good about summoning them in sight of the squad, but sometimes he'll summon them inside a building or otherwise outside your squad's vision, and in that case they'll just... sit there, not moving, until they time out or spot your squad. None of them will arm themselves, either, not even at initial summoning!

I'm pretty baffled by this, as literally every other variation on troops spawning mid-mission has them activate on arrival, aside specifically the Chosen themselves having non-standard active/inactive behavior. This includes that the Warlock has another personal summoning ability, and it doesn't share this oddity!

Spectral Zombies themselves share a visual style with Templar Ghosts, only where the Templar generates a purple fog version of theirself, the Warlock is generating a purple fog Zombie -they recycle animations and some audio from Psi Zombies/the previous game's Chryssalid-caused Zombies. It actually looks pretty cool, and I especially like how they have a visible 'core' in their chest region that glows more when they set themselves up for exploding.

Anyway, mechanically, you should be trying to catch Spectral Zombies with Overwatch. You might intuitively expect Bladestorm/Retribution to be helpful here, and... it can be, but Spectral Zombies are actually pretty prone to stopping 2-3 tiles away from whoever they're interested in blowing up on. Usually if you get a Bladestorm trigger, what is happening is that a Spectral Zombie passed by your Bladestormer on its way to its intended victim, completely coincidentally. This is especially blatant if you give them the opportunity to manually detonate theirself, as a Spectral Zombie doing so will almost always initiate the detonation 2-3 tiles away from their target if going after a lone soldier.

Of course, they actually endeavor to catch groups of soldiers like any enemy with an area-of-effect tool, but it's entirely possible to have your squad spread enough they can't do that, at which point you'll see them flagrantly target a specific soldier and almost always stop 2-3 tiles away, not directly adjacent. So don't think your Katana Bladestormer renders the squad immune to Spectral Zombies.

So yeah, Overwatch is essential if you want to minimize the threat they present. This actually puts a lot more direct pressure on your squad than Tracking Shot does, as you have to allocate action points (And ammo, generally speaking) to terminating the Spectral Zombies, where Tracking Shot doesn't necessarily impact your squad at all if you were going to move the target anyway.

Notably, Spectral Zombies tend to spawn fairly close to the squad, which creates some unusual incentives in relation to Overwatch. Normally, a Ranger's Overwatch is unlikely to be more than a waste of ammo, and Sharpshooters trying to actually hit enemies with their Overwatch should endeavor to Overwatch with their Sniper Rifle rather than their Pistol, as normally Overwatching outside an Overwatch ambush is going to be triggering on enemies at the edge of their range. By a similar token it's often dubious to set Skirmishers into Overwatch at all, as it'll usually miss, and their ability to reliably convert action points into shots means any action points spent on reloading directly reduces their damage output.

With Spectral Zombies, though, Rangers and Skirmishers are actually surprisingly reliable at catching them with Overwatch, and Sharpshooters should go into Pistol Overwatch because the Sniper Rifle's chance to hit will usually be noticeably worse.

Of course, this then comes with the note that you need to keep in mind the possibility of a standard pod strolling in and triggering your Overwatch, as such an event will always happen before the Warlock gets a chance to throw Spectral Zombies at you. This is a case where Reapers scouting ahead is really useful, making it a lot easier to avoid your Overwatch prep being aimed at the wrong situation for what actually happens. It's also one of the clearer examples of this being very specifically a Reaper duty and not something you can hypothetically do with standard Concealment, as Spectral Zombies are extremely prone to revealing soldiers in standard Concealment. Most of the time I'm saying 'use a Reaper for so-and-so', you actually can use a Ranger, or a Specialist/Sharpshooter/Grenadier who rolled Phantom as a bonus skill, it's just a lot easier to screw up than with a Reaper. In this case, though, a non-Reaper is at ludicrously high risk of uncontrollably triggering a pod you were trying to avoid activating while you dealt with the incoming Spectral Zombies.

Mind, every once in a great while this will happen with a Reaper as well, but it's much rarer, and keeping them modestly separated from the squad can make it close to impossible to happen.

Anyway, the ideal goal is to eradicate every Spectral Zombie the very moment they spawn, as their self-arming behavior kicks in once they're done moving post-spawn. That is, if you kill them all with reaction fire as they first spawn, they won't get the chance to become a bomb. While it's pretty easy to move people away and kill the armed Spectral Zombie on your turn, it carries risks; it can force you to move someone from a good position you wanted to keep them in, or force a soldier to not maximize their action point efficiency (ie a Specialist not getting to Medical Protocol/Aid Protocol/Scanning Protocol followed by a shot, a Skirmisher having to give up an attack because their Grapple is on cooldown or no good points are available, a SPARK intending to Overdrive wasting an action point on pure movement...), more or less force you to blow up Cover you wanted to keep using, and create further problems in assorted specific mission types, such as unavoidably blowing up crates in a Supply Raid or getting a VIP killed in a Neutralize VIP mission.

Notably, the Spectral Zombie explosion can damage vehicles so they'll explode in a turn, so even if the Spectral Zombie itself isn't in reach of anything important it can still cause problems. The VIP might be out of the explosion's range, but the car they're standing next to is not, and so killing the Spectral Zombie will cause the car to detonate next turn and kill the VIP. Whoops!

Indeed, one of the most frustrating elements to Spectral Zombies is that if you get the new type of Retaliation mission, and the Warlock shows up, it's possible to have him summon Spectral Zombies, one arm itself right on top of some of your people, and then the militia promptly shoot the bomb Spectral Zombie, causing it to explode on your soldiers with absolutely no opportunity for you to affect this scenario. The individual decisions that lead to this possibility are honestly all reasonable, but it's still incredibly unpleasant to experience this final intersection, and if War of the Chosen hadn't been rushed I'd hope they'd have ironed out this problem.

Thankfully, it's a rare scenario, as it requires a combination of factors all line up just so, but it's particularly frustrating to have happen in the early game (Since Spectral Rupture is huge damage for early-game soldiers, and then doesn't go up to offset the rising durability of your soldiers as they level and you unlock better armor), and between the mechanic where your next 'random' mission will be placed so a newly-met Chosen gets to jump you and the mechanic where your first Retaliation mission is always your first encounter with a Chosen if you don't have Lost And Abandoned turned on, it's disproportionately likely to happen in the early game. Fortunately, a Retaliation mission's type isn't 'locked in' until it's actually generated; if you're willing to reload, it's not guaranteed you'll get the same Retaliation type.

Notably, objectives centered around objects aren't nearly so much of  a concern, due to a couple of quirks intersecting; the first of these quirks is that Spectral Zombie can only be used if the Warlock hasn't 'activated' yet. Thus, encountering him will disable Spectral Zombies, saving you from having to worry about bombs setting themselves next to the objective.

Second, almost all VIP missions designate the 'objective zone' as the evac zone. This is important, as the Warlock is very prone to lingering at the objectize zone forever instead of pursuing your squad; as such, when Neutralizing or Extracting a VIP, he's liable to still be spamming Spectral Zombies when you're near the VIP, leading to a Spectral Zombie arming itself in range of the VIP or an explosive near the VIP.

By contrast, with Guerrilla Ops, the objective zone is generally right on top of the objective: if you can see the objective, generally you've either found the Warlock or he'll pop out of the fog on his turn, and either way he won't be summoning Spectral Zombies on top of the objective. So it's pretty unlikely you'll end up in a position where killing a Spectral Zombie will blow up the console/chest/whatever, in such cases.

Outside this admittedly very unpleasant set of edge cases, I actually like Spectral Zombies as an ability a lot. It gives Overwatch a new niche, and compared to the Overwatch ambush mechanic it's less convoluted, more intuitive, and crucially isn't something of a trap. It also makes the Warlock being on the map at all oppressive in a way the other Chosen don't manage to match, simply because the 'action point tax' and need to plan around paying said 'tax' periodically is a consistent pressure that slows the squad down even if perfect play prevents anybody from being in danger.

In conjunction with the Chosen only stopping mission timers once spotted and the Warlock's willingness to pace near the objective zone forever, the Warlock spawning into a mission can lead to a strong pressure to hurry closer to the objective so you don't fail the mission due to the timer, and preferably get the objective accomplished under his nose instead of dealing with him and then handling the objective.

I actually quite enjoy the effect this has on timed missions, though I suspect most learning players dread the Warlock jumping them in a timed mission; if you're already struggling to move quickly enough, the Warlock's behavior can easily take you from getting objectives done just under the wire to outright failing them.

On missions with time pressure that isn't based on a timer, it's less great of design; the Warlock can be pretty punishing in Retaliation missions and Protect The Device missions, no real qualifiers, nothing interesting attached. And in missions with no time pressure at all, it's a bit awkward all-around, usually adding tedium to the mission without really pressuring or endangering the squad; you basically have to have a pod patrol into your squad on the same turn the Warlock is going to summon Spectral Zombies for it to be liable to be a problem in such missions. If you brought a Reaper and have memorized the cooldown on Spectral Zombies, this is generally trivial to avoid...

Still, on the whole I actually quite like Spectral Zombie, and consider it the gold standard for Chosen putting pressure on the player before they actually reach your squad; I really wish Tracking Shot was a bit more like Spectral Zombie, basically. I waffle a bit more on whether I'd rather the Assassin harried your squad before contact or not, but if she did, I'd want her to do so in a manner alike to Spectral Zombie. (Minus the jank, of course)

Spectral Army
If the Warlock is running low on HP, he may Stasis himself and summon a number of Spectral Lancers. This costs one action point and has a 3 turn cooldown. The Spectral Lancers have a Mobility of 12 on Rookie and Regular vs 15 on Commander and Legendary, with their other stats being based on both the difficulty and the Warlock's current tier. The Warlock also summons more of them at higher tiers. The Spectral Lancers always Daze with their melee attack on a successful hit. The Warlock's self-imposed Stasis ends either when all the Spectral Lancers are dead or when the 3-turn duration on the Spectral Lancers ends.

Mechanically, this is pretty weird and largely un-threatening unless the Warlock happens to have rolled the Regeneration Strength or the mission is one with time pressure that isn't based on a timer. It feels like it was premised under the idea of the Warlock having innate regeneration, or regenerating while in Stasis, or something. In practice you just kill the Spectral Lancers and then attack the Warlock, since taking out all the Spectral Lancers forces him out of Stasis.

Indeed, it can actually be a mercy if the Warlock has managed to Mind Control someone when you had no means of clearing it, because just like normal Stasis breaks Mind Control the Warlock going into Stasis as part of Spectral Army will break his Mind Control. And since his victims always move after he does, this can lead to him Mind Controlling someone and the only consequence is that you don't get to have them do anything for one turn. As such, if you can't clear the Mind Control directly, you should try to pile damage onto the Warlock if at all possible; even if you don't manage to kill him, knocking him to the edge may still save your squad from having holes punched in it by your own soldier.

A surprising further mercy is that if you kill the last Spectral Lancer during the Warlock's turn (eg via Overwatch), the Warlock won't get to act that turn, even if it's a turn he didn't do anything. (That is, this tidbit is not restricted to the turn he used Spectral Army)

More problematic and extremely unusual is that the Warlock's preference when using Spectral Army is to retreat. That is, if he's intending to Spectral Army on a given turn, he'll usually spend his first action point walking away from your Squad, usually ending his turn completely out of your squad's sight, and usually in High Cover, where normally enemies are aggressive about advancing on your squad no matter what they're doing. 

Also note that where Spectral Zombies have to see your squad to 'activate', Spectral Lancers do not. This is important, as while they tend to generate near the squad, the game is perfectly happy to have them spawn out of sight and end their initial move without having ever been spotted by your squad. This is especially important at higher tiers; Spectral Zombies all consistently spawn fairly close together, so even if you don't see a given one you'll still know roughly where the remaining ones are if you spot any of them. Spectral Lancers spawn all over the place, with little correlation between individual Lancer locations; one might spawn right in the middle of your squad and scurry to Cover behind the squad, while its two buddies are hiding inside a building a dozen tiles in front of your squad! They'll all spawn near your squad, but the primary extent to which they'll be near each other is that your squad is generally not widely spread out.

If your squad is spread out more than a screen, you can see some pretty widely-spaced Spectral Lancers!

Notably, the game does not move the camera to the Spectral Lancers as they generate. It sticks right on top of the Warlock until after he's Stasised himself. As such, it's really easy to end up with Spectral Lancers in hiding spots, and you just have to guess where they are.

Or you could use Scanning Protocol, I suppose. That's another new reason to consider it, though one that won't crop up very often. If you're certain the Warlock will show up in a mission and aren't confident in your ability to avoid him using Spectral Army, maybe bring a Specialist and buy Scanning Protocol on them if they don't have it already.

Spectral Lancers, it should be noted, are Cover-using enemies, unlike Spectral Zombies. In practice this tends to be to their detriment, as they're usually pretty easy to flank and thus get a big crit boost against, but when they happen to spawn into a hidden location it's not unusual for them to be getting High Cover out of it, at which point you may struggle to dig them out. 

Spectral Lancers are also another obvious casualty of War of the Chosen being rushed; the fact that they recycle the general Spectral Zombie/Templar Ghost visual approach makes sense, but the fact that they flagrantly use the Stun Lancer body/animation set is almost certainly not what the devs would have done if they'd had more time to polish it -specifically in the sense that Spectral Lancers spend a lot of animation premised on carrying a giant gun, but as far as I'm aware won't actually fire it. (Though their gun does internally have stats, so theoretically they should be able to fire it) A more polished version would likely have adjusted them to solely run around with their spectral stun rod, or possibly have created a whole new visual base/animation set with no connection to Stun Lancers at all.

The part where Spectral Lancers inflict Daze on hit is in a bit of a strange place, as it's usually not a real issue. A Spectral Lancer hits someone, then you walk someone next to the victim and clear the Daze, and now probably both soldiers have a clear shot on the Spectral Lancer; not terribly threatening. The loss of an action point often doesn't meaningfully limit the hit soldier, for one.

Nonetheless, if someone ends up Dazed and you're not in a good position to clear it (eg they Grappled out of easy reach of the rest of the squad and then got poked), or you thoughtlessly kill all the Spectral Lancers before clearing it, this can result in the Warlock dashing in and Extracting Knowledge/Kidnapping the individual, taking the Warlock from on the ropes to having won the encounter! So you shouldn't treat Spectral Lancers as a non-threat, even though a lot of the time they really won't accomplish much of anything.

A nice touch: the Warlock's pulling animation actually correlates to the arrival of the individual Spectral Lancers, including that at higher training tiers he pulls once for each Spectral Lancer. It's a surprising bit of attention to detail, the kind I (inexplicably) rarely see in big-budget 3D titles with custom animations for everything.

It's also a bit unfortunate he only rarely summons them close enough to himself that you can see the connection in action...

Visually/narratively, Spectral Army is interesting for how it points pretty directly to what I've talked about before of the Void being a specific place, a place tied up in all this psionic stuff. Even more interesting is that the Warlock's dialogue pretty directly indicates he is -at minimum, that he wants you to believe he is- actually pulling the souls-or-some-such of fallen ADVENT troops from the Void and giving them enough form to fight again. This is part of that Void-as-hell-dimension stuff I've talked about before, where apparently the dead leave a psionic imprint or something in the Void, such that it has at least partial conceptual overlap with an afterlife.

Details beyond that are a bit difficult to guess at given how Spectral Lancers are an obvious victim of War of the Chosen being rushed; for example, it's weird and dubious that Spectral Lancers use their stun rod (It even audibly crackles) but not their gun, but while pop culture often does do nonsensical things like let ghosts spawn with swords or bows but arbitrarily not guns, is that what's happening here? Or would a more polished version of the game have given us a more coherent model?

On a different note, it's worth explicitly pointing out that Spectral Army is basically a conceptual parallel to Sustain, just reframed into a boss enemy context; self-Stasising when on the brink of death. Just the Warlock summons minions as part of the process, and doesn't obnoxiously do it reflexively on a lethal hit, but has to enter the protection manually. It's pretty cool, and I'm glad the Warlock didn't just mindlessly steal Sustain; games setting up player-entity-parallel enemies often fail to fully consider how key player capabilities fit to their context. The Warlock having Sustain per se would be annoying, but not really do anything of substance the way player soldiers Sustaining matters. Him having Spectral Army, though it's not perfect, works a lot better.

The Warlock can freely travel any number of Z-levels without effort as part of a normal move action.

Surprisingly, the Warlock is the most aggressive Chosen about actually abusing this to reach high ground. This isn't hugely threatening given his enormous reluctance to actually fire his rifle and thus get actual benefit from his height advantage -you basically have to have a SPARK for it to be liable to come up- but it does have a few implications.

First of all, it means smashing his Cover is less consistent in its accessibility compared to the other Chosen, as a lot of high ground Cover is positioned so a unit in the Cover will drop into new Cover from the same direction if the ground they're on is smashed. You may actually be upgrading his Cover by blowing him up, if he's in Low Cover and drops into High Cover.

Conversely, it does mean you can often get fall damage in by blowing him up, something that only occasionally crops up with the Hunter and virtually never with the Assassin.

It also actually means he's a little bit easier to target with a Rocket, on average, than his fellow Chosen, because complicated terrain that blocks shots to areas on your own Z-level often leave a pretty clear line of fire to high ground. Given all the issues with displacing Rockets in your arsenal, this is a lot less narrow than it might first sound.

It also has the side effect of meaning it tends to be difficult to get the high ground on him yourself. As such, it tends to be harder to get high accuracy against him than just looking at his Defense would suggest. This tends to become particularly noticeable once you've got Grapple access, since that can let you get high ground shots on most enemies effortlessly, often even flanking them, but against the Warlock you'll only rarely get that opportunity.


Much like the Assassin, the Warlock actually has coded-up-but-unused content... but where the Assassin has one unused ability with full voice acting, the Warlock has two.

The first of these is 'Corrupt', which turns a Civilian into a Psi Zombie. As in, a live civilian, not a dead one, and yes, a regular Psi Zombie just like Sectoids and Gatekeepers can make. That could've been interesting in the context of city center missions, showing the Warlock is casually willing to murder uninvolved humans to gangpress them for battle. In Retaliation missions, it would depend a bit on what else the design did, in the sense that it would be janky for the Warlock to be the only Chosen willing to readily kill the civilians you're supposed to protect, and it would also be janky if he was willing to do that on top of the standard one-kill-per-turn inactive pods do. Other map types either don't do civilians normally or only erratically... overall, it's probably not a huge deal this didn't make it into the game, simply because it would be pretty regular for it to not come up at all. I kind of doubt that's why it isn't used in the final release, but still.

The second is Possess, which causes a targeted ADVENT soldier to gain access to Stasis and Inspire. I'm a bit more sad about this going; on a narrative level it would've been nice to have psionic powers being channeled through other minds (This is strangely rare of a concept in pop culture, even though the general framework of psychic powers seems like it would make it a very natural possibility), and on a gameplay level it would've been nice to have a bit more interplay between the Chosen and their minions. In the final product, while Chosen can summon reinforcements, they don't really coordinate or cooperate except in the broad sense of agreeing your forces need to die. There's some possibly-intentional tidbits like how regular enemies tend to not attack Dazed units, and therefore tend to not sabotage Chosen attempts to Extract Knowledge and Kidnap your forces, but there's not really clear cooperation. Notably, Chosen Strengths don't have 'leadership' variants -they don't get Strengths that benefit allies passively or the like.

Stasis is also a surprisingly threatening ability, and Inspire could open up some interesting possibilities if the AI was even vaguely intelligent about it, so it would be a notable ability set to be passing out.

Alas, it seems to have been cut for being incomplete, nothing more.

HP: 12/15/25/30
Armor: 0/0/1/2
Defense: 0/0/0/5
Dodge: 0/0/5/10
Aim: 65/65/75/75
Mobility: 12/12/15/15 (8/16 on Rookie/Regular, 10/20 on Commander/Legendary)
Damage: 2-4 (+2)
Shred: 0
Crit Chance: 0/0/10%/10%
Will: 50
Psi: 40

Spectral Lancers have 65 Aim, 4/4/4/6 HP based on difficulty, and do 3-4 (+2) damage at this tier. Spectral Zombies have 4/4/4/5 HP based on difficulty, and do 3-6 (+2) with their melee attack at this tier. Spectral Zombies and Spectral Lancers are summoned 1 at a time.

This is arguably the Warlock's peak in danger, due entirely to it necessarily being fought early in a run; you can't have Solace, or Mind Shields, with Integrated DLC you'll be initially fighting him without SPARKs or the Frost Bomb, you won't have Stand By Me online... your squad size is also at its smallest, all of which means Mind Control is not something you can protect against preemptively nor cure trivially while its ability to cut your firepower is at its greatest. If he gets a Mind Control off, your only options are to kill him, to injure him so much he hopefully uses Spectral Army, or to leave someone Dazed and pray he Extracts Knowledge and leaves the squad alone. Problem: if he's Mind Controlling, probably nobody is currently Dazed in the first place, so you have to suffer at least a turn of the Mind Controlled soldier attacking your forces!

Notably, his love of High Cover is at its greatest likelihood of being a problem early in a run as well, as your squad's tools for smashing Cover will be weak, your squad's ability to bypass his Cover will be extremely limited (No Hail of Bullets, very possibly no Blademaster on your Rangers, very possibly no Templar at all...), and if he's your first encounter in particular (ie fought in your very first Retaliation mission) he'll tend to either lean up against something indestructible or hide behind one of the surprisingly durable High Cover trees. 

On higher difficulties, he's also got an Armor advantage over his fellow Chosen, when Shred on your team is weak, limited, and easy to end up needing to spend elsewhere; needing to reserve 2 Frag Grenades to Shred him up on Legendary can be painful. It's entirely possible you'll either not be able to hold onto the grenades because you desperately need them to deal with regular enemies, or the process of trying to reserve grenades for him causes you trouble against said regular enemies, in a way that simply isn't true later in a run.

Indeed, the Warlock is the Chosen I'm most prone to giving up and letting him Extract Knowledge in an early fight or two, simply so he won't wipe the squad and cause a mission failure. In that first Retaliation mission, I usually only have a squad of 4 still, and it's way too easy for him to take four fit soldiers and turn them into two dead soldiers, one Bleeding Out soldier, and one Mind Controlled soldier. Or if he ultimately Extracts Knowledge in spite of my valiant attempt to drive him off, then probably I have dead soldiers and nothing to show for it over just giving up and letting him Extract Knowledge.

This depends on things like his Strengths and Weaknesses vs my squad, of course; if he's got Shellshocked and I brought a Grenadier, I can probably force a kill on him readily enough. Brittle+Adversary: Templar similarly makes it easy to take him out if I actually brought my Templar. Conversely, something like Immune to Melee (Where I started with Templar), or Blast Shield and Regeneration (Where I started with Reapers) can create a situation where the RNG needs to be improbably generous for me to take him out without losses/take him out at all.

But for a learning player getting a feel for a difficulty they haven't tried, who lucked into the Warlock early? Don't be afraid to let him Extract Knowledge if you're worried you can't take him. It's less terrible than him killing people.

That said, at this tier he does put little pressure on you with Psi Zombie, and it's usually trivial to interrupt Spectral Army in one turn with action points still to spare for actually attacking the Warlock, so just saying this is usually the hardest tier is slightly misleading.

HP: 18/20/35/40
Armor: 0/0/2/3
Defense: 0/0/0/5
Dodge: 0/0/0/5
Aim: 70/70/75/75
Mobility: 12/12/15/15 (8/16 on Rookie/Regular, 10/20 on Commander/Legendary)
Damage: 3-5 (+3)
Shred: 0
Crit Chance: 0/0/10%/10%
Will: 50
Psi: 45

Spectral Lancers have 70 Aim, 6/6/6/8 HP based on difficulty, and do 4-5 (+2) damage at this tier. Spectral Zombies have 5/5/5/6 HP based on difficulty, and do 4-7 (+2) damage with their melee attack at this tier. Spectral Zombies and Spectral Lancers are summoned 2 at a time.

It's worth pointing out here that Spectral Zombie progression is a bit weird in practice, because Spectral Zombies, though they have a melee attack that scales with their tier, I have literally never seen them use their conventional melee attack; as far as I'm aware, they only actually go for the self-destruct... which doesn't scale, including that only the one Spectral Zombie will arm itself for free no matter how many actually spawned. As such, unless you're completely ignoring the Spectral Zombies and just letting them blow up on your squad, the primary capacity in which they scale is how much bullet sponging they do.

This is a pretty notable scaling in threat, mind, especially on timed missions where you can't be infinitely patient about Overwatching and reloading and so on, but it still means Spectral Zombie doesn't scale in direct danger the way you might intuitively expect. 

Overall, this is basically the Warlock's low point in most runs. It's actually feasible to have assorted counter-tools like Mind Shields, Stand By Me, and maybe even Solace Psi Operatives in play, your squad size may well be maxed already, and he's just not scaled up much. Picking up magnetic weaponry also makes it a lot more practical to actually kill him quickly, or at least do so much damage he turns to Spectral Army, and you should have at least some magnetic weapons online in time for this. Furthermore, your individual soldiers haven't picked up enough power for Mind Control to reach its peak potential; it's later in a run you might whoops let him get a Katana-wielding Colonel Ranger and find you have to choose between killing the Ranger or unavoidably losing multiple people to just the Ranger types of disasters.

You should still take him seriously even at this tier, mind, but it honestly tends to be less menacing than your earliest encounters with his first tier. For runs that don't start with the Warlock, they may never find him that bad, in fact.

HP: 25/30/40/50
Armor: 0/1/3/4
Defense: 0/0/5/10
Dodge: 0/0/5/5
Aim: 75/75/80/80
Mobility: 12/12/15/15 (8/16 on Rookie/Regular, 10/20 on Commander/Legendary)
Damage: 4-6 (+3)
Shred: 0
Crit Chance: 0/0/10%/10%
Will: 50
Psi: 50

Spectral Lancers have 75 Aim, 8/8/8/10 HP based on difficulty, and do 5-6 (+3) damage at this tier. Spectral Zombies have 6/6/6/8 HP based on difficulty, and do 5-8 (+2) damage with their melee attack at this tier. Spectral Zombies and Spectral Lancers are summoned 3 at a time.

Summoning 3 Spectral Zombies at a time is a surprising increase in action point pressure on the squad, and the slight boost to Spectral Zombie HP is notable as well; having all six soldiers in Overwatch can easily let one or two through anyway, especially up on Legendary where even your stronger magnetic weapons will only occasionally roll high enough to one-shot them. As such, where in the first two tiers diligently-timed Overwatch usage would usually only let Spectral Zombies through if a pod wandered in and absorbed the shots first, starting from here you should basically assume you'll need to actually fire on them within your turn. Among other points, this means you'll have to regularly scramble out of reach of a Spectral Zombie that'll blow up when killed, as well as pay attention to possible chains of explosions. (ie don't take Cover against a vehicle near the armed Spectral Zombie)

The Spectral Lancer spike is similarly larger than you might intuit, though overall less so. If you're getting flanks it won't be unusual to only need one soldier turn per Spectral Lancer, but you generally can't count on such, and ending up burning 5 soldier turns on clearing out the Spectral Lancers is entirely possible and leaves you with just one person to actually attack the Warlock. You might actually want to plan around the idea of leaving one alive and dealing with it next turn so you can actually pile damage onto the Warlock. Or try to arrange to kill the last Spectral Lancer with reaction fire of some sort, since that'll skip the Warlock's turn and won't involve someone probably being injured and Dazed.

Mind Scorch hitting up to three people is also starting to get into oppressive territory, though if you're concerned you absolutely have access to Mind Shields by now, and probably Stand By Me, and probably Solace if you pursued psionics in the first place. You don't really need these, but it's getting more legitimately useful to pass out just a few (eg pass them out to the three soldiers you're most wanting full action points on), instead of specifically cheesing him by giving everyone Mind Shields.

Overall, this tends to be less threatening than his first tier, but more threatening than his second tier, as his scaling elements are pulling ahead of your own upgrades and whatnot, basically.

Ready For Anything
HP: 30/35/55/65
Armor: 2/3/4/5
Defense: 0/5/10/15
Dodge: 0/0/5/10
Aim: 80/80/85/85
Mobility: 12/12/15/15 (8/16 on Rookie/Regular, 10/20 on Commander/Legendary)
Damage: 6-8 (+4)
Shred: 0
Crit Chance: 0/0/10%/10%
Will: 50
Psi: 60

Spectral Lancers have 80 Aim, 12/12/12/14 HP based on difficulty  and do 6-7 (+4) damage at this tier. Spectral Zombies have 8/8/8/10 HP based on difficulty, and do 7-10 (+2) damage with their melee attack at this tier. Spectral Zombies and Spectral Lancers are summoned 4 at time.

Yes, his armor turns golden at this point.

Actually, in general the Warlock is the most blatant about updating his graphic as he tiers up. For a long time I had no idea the Assassin and Hunter had more than two graphics, as they only experience relatively small, subtle changes until their fourth tier, where the Assassin picks up the rebreather and the Hunter gains gold highlighting that stands out against his otherwise-dark outfit. The Warlock's armor gets increasingly complete as he tiers up, with his helmet in particular starting as just the weird disconnected bits that have no obvious way to stay on the way they do that are all you see in the pre-rendered cinematics, and increasingly converging together into, you know, an actual helmet. He similarly picks up dramatic shoulderpads, and his armor actually changes color repeatedly, in addition to energy increasingly crackling up and down his arms.

I'm curious why the Warlock in particular has so much more obvious a visual progression than his fellow Chosen.

In any event, at this tier the Warlock finally puts a lot of pressure on the squad throughout the mission; before you've made contact he'll be summoning four Spectral Zombies periodically, which is a lot of HP to chew through, especially up on Legendary where even beam-tier weaponry doesn't reliably kill them in one hit. After you've made contact, Mind Scorch can Daze 2/3rds of your squad, and he gets to toss it out every other turn! If you're not cheesing him with Mind Shields/Solace/Stand By Me, you can regularly find yourself with multiple soldiers effectively missing entire turns because once they were woken up they had to run to wake up other soldiers, and so on. Depending on how your squad was organized, your only two non-Dazed soldiers may have both needed to spend an action point on waking people up, leaving you with few, if any, spare action points to maneuver toward clean shots on the Warlock and all.

Similarly, by now you really ought to have multiple Majors-to-Colonels with third-tier gear, and high-level soldiers with end-game gear are hugely more lethal than they are durable; a Mind Controlled soldier is dangerously likely to be able to kill multiple soldiers in a single turn if you let them act, and while I don't know the full range of Mind Controlled AI potential, I do know they understand how to use Heavy Weapons and special shooting actions like Rapid Fire. (They don't understand Salvo that I can tell, so they could certainly be more dangerous) A Squaddie or a Corporal is primarily threatening to their fellow Squaddies-to-Corporals by virtue of being positioned to make accurate flanking shots, and eg a Sharpshooter running into the open and firing a Conventional Pistol on someone can't kill a healthy Squaddie even if they both crit and high roll. A Colonel is far, far deadlier than that.

Of course, if you're struggling that much with the Warlock by now, you really have no one but yourself to blame. You've had in-game months to unlock Mind Shields and buy six of them, and the Warlock can't meaningfully catch you off guard by now; just don't forget to pay attention to who controls a territory, and pass out Mind Shields if you're not sure whether the Warlock can jump you or not.

Indeed, for this tier I really feel like the Warlock was basically balanced around the expectation of Mind Shields/Solace/Stand By Me/SPARKs being in play. On timed missions, he's actually surprisingly threatening through just Spectral Zombie spam, and his Mind Scorch spam is surprisingly oppressive in conjunction with the fact that he's usually going to be summoning something more threatening than Troopers; he'll have a summoning Strength at this tier, period, and it will only occasionally be General. Having to burn action points on curing people and on clearing out the summons -or active pods stumbling into the fight- can easily leave you with little to spare on the Warlock himself, which then gives him more opportunities for Mind Scorch, Mind Control, summoning minions, opportunities for other pods to stumble on the fight... as he's fond of stopping at the edge of your squad's vision in High Cover and just lingering there indefinitely, it's entirely possible for you to end up struggling to even get people in reach to attack him, especially if your squad ended up strung out while fighting other pods and the Warlock was unexpectedly aggressive in his movement. 

This of course can be further exacerbated by Strengths, not to mention terrain; some maps have indestructible High Cover locations, denying you the option of just blowing up his Cover. Blast Shield takes away a lot of accuracy-bypassing tools for dumping damage on him anyway. Immune to Melee may cripple your squad's ability to get in damage on him, if the squad fighting him happens to be unusually heavy on melee attackers. Planewalker can mean you smash his Cover but in response he just teleports into new Cover. And so on and so forth.

This is true at every tier, of course, but at this tier he has 5 such Strengths to stack, so it's a lot more likely for any given run to find his Strengths are creating trouble than down at tier 1 where he's only got two Strengths and is outright forbidden from having Planewalker or a summoning Strength.

It's also worth pointing out the change in context, in terms of regular enemies and so on; early in a run, committing Mind Shields to the entire team to neuter the Warlock in particular is disproportionately effective. He only ever displaces one pod, and overall regular enemies rise in threat level more than Chosen do; for example, on Legendary, comparing tier 1 to tier 4, the Warlock's HP has gone up by a bit more than double and his Armor has gone up 2 points, whereas regular enemies started with basic ADVENT Officers and Sectoids leading pods (7 or 10 HP, no Armor) and at the end you're looking at Sectopods and Gatekeepers as pod leaders. (40 HP and 6 Armor, or 30 HP and 7 Armor -not to mention a pile of Defense for Gatekeepers, and immunities on both) A Sectopod is more than five times the durability of a basic ADVENT Officer, and a Gatekeeper more than three times!

Okay, but Bluescreen Rounds exists, so one can argue that this isn't really a very accurate comparison. So how about Legendary Andromedons for our end-game regular pod leader? 21 HP, 4 Armor, multiple immunities, no weaknesses initially, and when killed leaves behind another 21 HP in its Shell! Even if we ignore the Shell (Which isn't unfair, much of the time), that's still more than three times the durability of an Officer and more than twice the durability of a Sectoid, not to mention the lethality advantage...

... anyway, point being, in that first Retaliation mission, what's happening below Legendary is that there's four regular enemies on the map (Plus a Faceless lying in wait), plus the Warlock and anything he summons, and he's the toughest and most threatening individual enemy on the map, with only the Faceless coming close to his durability. If you somehow get a bunch of Mind Shields out in time for this encounter (Extremely unlikely, but not actually impossible), thus neutering him, the fact that this isn't super-helpful with the rest of the enemies on the map is probably not costing you that badly.

Whereas late in a non-Legendary run, where a standard mission has four pods of three members apiece, and the individual members are considerably tougher and more dangerous, committing a bunch of Item slots to fighting the Warlock in particular can be seriously cutting into your ability to effectively fight these actually-quite-dangerous regular enemies, where you need to be able to effectively fight at least nine of then, and eg a Sectopod is not clearly less durable than he is in his final tier.

As such, while I'm talking in terms of 'cheesing' the fourth-tier Warlock with Mind Shield spam or Solace, I don't really feel it's cheesy at all. With Solace, it's a hard-earned reward for having bothered to unlock and train up Psi Operatives at all, and with Mind Shields thoughtless application can lead to you stomping the Warlock and then advancing half a screen only to realize your squad is poorly-equipped to handle the Sectopod that was patiently waiting just out of sight. Whoops!

I actually quite like this whole dynamic, actually, and it's a bit sad the game's tuning is such that you don't really have reason to see the fourth-tier Chosen terribly often; they take forever to reach this point, and it's entirely possible to permanently clear out all three Chosen without any of them reaching tier 4. Even on Legendary, where their Hunt Covert Op chains take so much longer, they still take so long to reach their fourth tier it's entirely possible to clear them all out without any of them getting to it.


On a different note, it might seem odd that the Warlock's Psi scales so poorly -only 20 points going from first tier to fourth tier- but remember, soldier Will doesn't steadily rise with levels. If you don't take advantage of Focus PCSes and/or use Will-boosting Covert Ops, your Colonels will be only 5 points ahead of your Rookies! As such, 20 points is actually plenty good -his Mind Control will, at this tier, have up to a 95% chance of success against your lowest-Will soldiers, as opposed to the 70% that was the best he could see at the beginning of the game. (And only if you brought a truly atrocious Rookie along...)

I personally would've had him gain 40 Psi across his ranks, but still, this is more meaningful than you might intuit.


I've touched on this some before, but there's a lot of evidence the Warlock was intended to be a Templar parallel, up to and including making use of Focus. His conspicuous psionic gauntlets that get a lot of focus in the cinemas he shows up in directly parallel Templar relying on gauntlets as their core means of attack, he actively has Focus internally even though the player can't see this, his use of Mind Control involves channeling power from his gauntlets into his head before throwing it at his target... The Warlock ends up kinda functioning as a Psi Operative parallel, including that the Disruptor Rifle can be used by them, but it can also be used by Specialists and Rangers, and the Warlock is conspicuously lacking a Psi Amp, even though XCOM 2 is perfectly happy to give psionic enemies Psi Amps.

Similarly, his Archive file directly alludes to the idea of him being able to raise the dead, somewhat consistent with Corrupt's existence, and paralleling the Ghost ability on Templar. In the final game he's clearly meant to be calling forth psionic ghosts or some such when using Spectral Zombie and Spectral Army, but the game makes no effort to suggest anyone in-universe interprets his Spectral units as the dead arisen, making the Archive allusion a bit confusing in the final product.

Visually, as he tiers up he directly parallels Templar Focus visuals, with his tier 1 self not having anything conspicuous going on unless he's actively in the middle of using a psionic power, while by tier 4 he continuously has electric-looking purple-and-dark-colored stuff crackling all along his limbs at all times, much like a Templar at Focus Level 3.

This oddness isn't actually unique, except in how blatant it is; I've talked before about how the game draws a lot of parallels between Reapers and Sharpshooters, up to and including providing the Sharpshooter's Squaddie skill of Squadsight as a bonus skill for Reapers. That's completely unique, with Squaddie skills otherwise being sacrosanct, and lines up with characters explicitly talking up Reapers in relation to Sharpshooters, the two classes sharing the same uniquely good Aim gains from leveling, etc. In turn, this connects to the Hunter -while War of the Chosen doesn't use it for much, the heavy hints that the Hunter is a Reaper the Ethereals abducted and converted draw that connection most bluntly, where the Hunter is narratively a Hunter but mechanically behaves much more like a Sharpshooter and his gear can be used by Sharpshooters.

Then there's the Assassin and the Skirmishers. In mechanical and linguistic terms, the Assassin blatantly parallels Rangers in the same way the Hunter parallels Sharpshooters: she has the ability to enter a form of Concealment mid-mission, she wields a Shotgun and Sword (That your Rangers can use), Bending Rend is a clear variation on Implacable, she literally has Rapid Fire, and while it was cut from the final product even Bladestorm was intended to be part of her arsenal. The Skirmisher parallel is the easiest to miss, but still very present; they have a Short range primary weapon, a melee attacking secondary weapon (Which shares the same side effects progression and Autopsy-based unlocks as Swords), can actually literally unlock a form of Slash and Bladestorm (Albeit with a different name), and then they actually have strong thematic parallels to the Assassin; the Assassin is literally a vat baby inculcated from day one with total obedience to the Ethereals who doesn't actually fully agree with them. This matches pretty exactly to Skirmishers, given ADVENT troops are also vat babies inculcated from day one with total obedience to the Ethereals, and Skirmishers are just ADVENT troops who got the opportunity to act on their disagreement with Ethereal methodology and so on.

This is all interesting in and of itself, but it's also a big part of why I believe there was intended to be a fourth Resistance faction led by Julian, and a fourth Chosen who was Grenadier-like; in addition to some of the tenuous secondary evidence I've pointed out before, it would help complete this circle of parallels. SPARKs have a notable aspect of being a Grenadier hybridized with a Specialist, and it's easy to imagine something like a cyborg Chosen running around with a giant Cannon-esque gun and either their own Grenade Launcher variant or a robotic assistant -a Gremlin- that you'd get to loot. It would also have been a natural opportunity to rebalance SPARKs, who are the class that most desperately needed such.

This involves a DLC stepping on another DLC's toes, admittedly, but as-is War of the Chosen doesn't completely disentangle itself from Shen's Last Gift and Alien Hunters, with tweaked Ruler Reaction rules, the 'Integrated DLC' option to mildly change Shen's Last Gift content and radically change Alien Hunters' behavior, SPARKs getting slightly higher Aim and access to Weapon Attachments... Enemy Within similarly altered how Enemy Unknown's Slingshot DLC behaved. And War of the Chosen's biggest failing is being ambitious beyond its ability to deliver; hypothesizing it was being even more absurdly ambitious is a lot less of a stretch than it would be for many other DLC/expansions/etc.

I'm actually a little surprised no mod has taken this approach to rebalancing SPARKs, in fact. There's a mod that opens up the option for other modders to set up fully functional additional Resistance factions, so some of the groundwork is already there, and has been for a while.

It's too bad we'll probably never get a clear answer on all this cut content stuff, though.

Moving on...

The Warlock is arguably the most important of the Chosen for showing just how terrible the Ethereals are, though it's less obvious than the Assassin and Hunter's contributions -the Warlock is the only Chosen we don't see or hear about the Ethereals heaping abuse upon outside the specific case of the surviving two Chosen being punished once you've permanently taken out your first Chosen.

The crux of the matter is a continuation of the abusive parent dynamic; the Assassin was the kid who always does exactly what the parents say to do but gets blamed when it doesn't work out how the parents imagined it would, the Hunter is the sullen teenager who resents their parents being horrible but feels powerless to fight back or escape, while the Warlock is the kid who has fully internalized the values their parents hold... and not the values said parents purport to hold.

That is, the Ethereals say -and possibly even believe- that they are attempting to make the universe a better place, and are coming from a place of kindness, compassion, empathy, but we can see that them ruling the Earth has decimated the human population and their regime continues to secretly murder people at a prodigious pace, produced a brutal global police state running on propaganda and violence, casually and secretly produced an entire slave caste whose very minds are not their own, and their response to the existence of humans not liking what the Ethereals are selling is to send strike forces to murder entire camps of people whose only crime sure seems to be 'doesn't want to live inside a city center'. 

The Warlock then serves to baldly illustrate that this dissonance is not -as I've suggested fits a little too well in the base game- the Ethereals genuinely trying to do right by Earth while middle management implements their directives in a manner contrary to their intentions, but rather is that the Ethereals are genuinely that awful. The Ethereals may even believe their own claims about high-minded idealism, but if so said belief is pretty delusional.

The bluntest example of this is...

... this moment.

I've alluded to this a few times, but in the overall intro cinema for the Chosen, where we see the three of them getting new orders from the Angelus Ethereal, the Hunter makes a snarky remark ("Thought you were the strongest," muttered after the Angelus Ethereal says a bad thing happened "... while our strongest stood idly by"), and after a brief pause in the conversation, the Angelus Ethereal engages the psionic torture beam, punishing the Hunter for daring to point out their inconsistent positioning. The above shot of the Warlock grinning to himself is the Warlock watching the Hunter be tortured -a man he always characterizes as his brother, and who committed at worst an act of mild disrespect.

In and of itself, the Warlock's sadistic grin doesn't have to say a lot about the Ethereals; one could argue the Angelus Ethereal didn't notice, and would've rebuked the Warlock if she had. Indeed, when I first saw this cinema, I took the primary point of the cinema focusing on the Warlock here to be establishing the Warlock's Evil Cred.

But then we wrap back to the cinema, much later, after you've taken a Chosen out of action forever. The cinema where the Angelus Ethereal insists she ('We', actually; I'm unsure if this is meant to be a royal We or a suggestion she's speaking for the Ethereals as a collective here) feels such loss... and then proceeds to torture-beam the surviving Chosen because her mindscans reveal they feel rather different things.

While the exact limits of this capability are unclear, this is certainly establishing that the Angelus Ethereal has clear insight into the emotional state of the Chosen without any visible effort, likely basically passively -she doesn't need to visibly, intrusively riffle through their brains and interpret the info inside them to arrive at this conclusion, her psychic empathy just knows.

In turn, this rather suggests that the Angelus Ethereal was fully aware of the Warlock enjoying seeing his brother tortured, and had no issue with this; for all that the Angelus Ethereal talks a lot about compassion and empathy, she's not only willing to utilize torture but doesn't even try to pretend to have an issue with the enjoyment of such. (There's a reason I've theorized Ethereals may be literally feeding psionically on suffering!) This immediately suggests that the Warlock's overall personality and mannerisms are tacitly approved by the Ethereals; they may not be metaphorically patting him on the head for conforming to their values, but they're certainly not punishing him for falling outside them, and given things like the psionic empathy... that suggests cruelty in the sense pf enjoying the process of hurting people is something they have no problem with.

Notably, outside the post-death cinema, we never get clear evidence that the Warlock gets negative reactions from the Ethereals at all. The Assassin is explicitly in eternal atonement, hunting the Skirmishers as penance, and the Hunter is very open about the fact that the Ethereals don't like him -even aside the moment where he gets hit with a torture beam for mouthing off. The closest to a suggestion the Warlock isn't in good standing with the Ethereals is the Assassin's Archive file implying the Ethereals consider both the Hunter and the Warlock failed designs.

Even that case is not only ambiguous in general, but notably it's focused on the conversion process; the Ethereals are iterating their process for producing Chosen, like they're products, and the Warlock's process was apparently somehow undesirable in the end. There's not actually a suggestion there that the Warlock, as a person, is considered a failure.

Put another way, the game never explicitly says the Warlock is in good standing with the Ethereals, but it never clearly says he isn't, and with what we see of the Ethereals, it seems unlikely positive reinforcement is a thing they do at all; the lack of a negative is, in this case, likely the closest to a positive we'll get.

That by itself is very telling, honestly, but this is me providing the grounding to note that the Warlock's statements and actions are, of the Chosen, likely things the Ethereals tacitly endorse. (By a failure to punish them)

And the Warlock is breathtakingly awful.

"The loss of these subordinates... is as meaningless to me... as it is to you."

"My power cannot be compared to these lower forms of life!"

"They were created for this very purpose. In that respect, they are fulfilled."

These are some of the Warlock's lines for when you kill an enemy. He quite explicitly doesn't care about their deaths, implicitly frames them as having been made to die for the Ethereals, and makes it clear he literally feels they are lesser beings, of less value and deserving less respect than himself. It's also just a small sampling of him saying horrid things; he has a lot of ugly things to say. Pretty much the only beings he ever cleanly says nice things about are himself and the Ethereals, who he exalts as gods -and it's worth pointing out that the Skirmishers refer to the Ethereals as 'false gods'. While I've complained about how unclear it is whether ADVENT Priests are actually promulgating some manner of religion, it's actually pretty clear the Ethereals are enforcing a religion, and it's one that literally exalts them as divinities to be worshipped and never questioned.

(It should be noted that a sampling of pure text doesn't really capture the full picture; it's not just what the Warlock says, it's how he says it, and how this contrasts with the Hunter and Assassin. Similarly, part of how the Warlock stands out is how consistent he is in being awful; one of the Hunter's lines when you kill a unit is, "If ADVENT were any good, they wouldn't need me," which isn't particularly less mean than some of the things the Warlock has to say, but the Hunter can also say in such a situation, "Hey, why don't you try picking on someone your own size?" which is an oddly protective sentiment being directed toward the Ethereal minions... and the Warlock doesn't have any comparable lines; he's mean to his troops basically 100% of the time)

And the Chosen all have special remarks for when you kill a Priest; the Warlock gets enraged, and the Hunter and Assassin both allude to the fact that the Warlock wouldn't like you killing Priests. So there's pretty heavily implied to be a connection there, and one that reiterates that the Warlock -and the Ethereals- prioritize things like 'respecting the Ethereals as absolute authorities' over things like 'not treating people as disposable meatshields'.

This is all really great in general, a huge improvement in successfully illustrating that the Ethereals are horrid people no matter what they may claim, and notably does a lot to improve the end portion of the game in particular; instead of it being ambiguous how truthful and accurate the Angelus Ethereal's insistence of good intentions is, the only murky thing is the largely-irrelevant question of whether the Ethereals believe their own garbage. The Warlock has spent hours drilling into your head that the Ethereals use nice-sounding language -words like 'compassion'- but doesn't in any meaningful sense hold to such values.

Indeed, generally when the Warlock uses such language, it's euphemistic for terrible things. I especially like one of his lines about expecting his minions to, "bring mercy... to the godless". It's pretty obvious in context that he means 'kill all unbelievers', itself consistent with how, when you invade his Stronghold, he insists that the Ethereals "love for your race shines through", in the form of "even now they plead with me to show compassion" -culminating, as I've said before, in an assertion that he'll let your soldiers die quickly...

... not to mention consistent with the Angelus Ethereal describing the Chosen as their children, and then breaking out torture beams disturbingly readily on said children.

I actually personally find the Hunter more entertaining, but the Warlock's dialogue is much more essential for clearly illustrating exactly what the Ethereal values really are, and exactly how horrible they are.


Here's the Warlock's Archive file reproduced in full:


"Of the three Chosen created by the Elders, the Warlock is said to be the oldest, the first of their attempts at harnessing the latent Psionic potential of humanity. Unflinchingly loyal, the Warlock believes himself to be the true favored child of the Elders and tolerates little in the way of disobedience or disrespect toward his masters. In battle, he is a champion of Psionic power, wielding it with a degree of confidence not seen outside of the Elders themselves. He has taken a particular interest in the Templar faction, as they attempt to reclaim the power of humanity that he himself expects to harness as his reward for serving the Elders."



"...child exhibits exceptional Psionic tendencies, initial recovery team suffering 94% casualties during first encounter despite limited engagement. Use of mechanized units allowed for extraction from original discovery point in sector 11. Encampment and all known observers purged per standard doctrine."


"Now eight weeks into the initial therapy treatment prescribed by my superiors, the boy, noted as subject "O," has grown increasingly unstable to the point of near hysteria when faced what can only be described as "visions" derived from his tremendous Psionic sensitivity. While I personally have no inclination towards questioning the will of the Elders, the introduction of this new genetic material has only accelerated the subject's march toward a condition of irreversible psychosis."


"WITNESS_L2: I wasn't in the lab at the time, but I heard Dr. Havertan tried to interrupt subject O's scheduled therapy and the entire building went up. By the time I got there, the whole clinic was flooded with Psionic energy, I couldn't even get close. I can only speculate, but I have to guess the doctor must have tried to break the infusion cycle. Whatever he did, something changed in there...I saw "O" inside, free from the chamber... but he wasn't trying to escape. He was just standing there... laughing. I haven't seen anything that happy in a long time."


"We know the one you speak of, we refer to is as the "Warlock," and it has haunted us for some time now. It is a being of unmatched Psionic power, perhaps near to that of the Elders themselves. They have absconded with much of the Earth's life force, and it would serve us all well to see it returned. Eyewitness accounts and collected intel to follow. -GEIST"


"We all felt its presence long before we ever saw it. Where it moves, there is a great disruption in the flow of energy, the Earth below us feels it as well. At first we believed it to be just another alien, albeit a powerful one at that. But then it began to speak from the distance as if it stood just before us. It called out to us in the Elders' name, and warned us that our time here was nearing its end. Once it fell silent, we moved away as quickly as possible, not knowing what to think."


"...it was if he stepped out of the Void itself, suddenly it was just there with us, declaring our ways an affront to the Elders. I have never felt a power like it before..."

"I saw it raise the dead! Some of theirs, and some of ours! His power transcends our world!"

"He is the Elders' most loyal zealot, a fanatic to match even the most devoted followers of Geist himself."

"It knows more about us than any other alien we've encountered. It speaks to us as if we were old acquaintances. Another trick of the Elders no doubt."

"We have heard rumors of others like him, but we have never seen him travel with any sort of companions. He seems to show disdain even for those others who share the same master."

Again, any grammar weirdness and the like is in the actual file, including such blatant jank as using both 'it' and 'he' to refer to the Warlock in the same sentence, and quotation marks being applied inconsistently to "Warlock" and subject "O".

Admittedly, probably most players don't even look into the Archives in War of the Chosen, but this still strikes me as another example of War of the Chosen having been blatantly rushed.

The Warlock's backstory is interesting to me, particularly in conjunction with a specific element of his dialogue; that he has a very consistent tendency to emphasize his power, when characters with mental abilities will usually have a story attempt to impress upon you how good at thinking they are. That is, a psychic character who is supposed to be very effective will usually get descriptors like 'cunning', or 'clever', or 'intelligent', sometimes to the point of absurdity, where the plot inanely insists on characterizing their use of telekinesis as impressively smart even in scenes that are illustrating how powerful their telekinesis is and not actually showing off intelligence.

This actually makes a lot of sense for the Warlock to be doing, though, as he's an atypical example of a common horror trope: the psychic kid who awakens to their power, is too powerful, and it ruins their life and the lives of a lot of people around them. (Usually in the rather visceral form of directly killing a lot of people, though in the Warlock's case the people he killed were clear hostiles, and the loss of people likely close to him was done by others as part of securing him... but still, close enough)

'Atypical', because usually such characters get consigned to one of two fates; a Good End, where they eventually achieve enough control over their psychic powers they can pass for normal...

... or a Bad End, where they never mature, either in the literal sense of dying without reaching adulthood, or in the more metaphorical or psychological sense of physically reaching adulthood while still trapped in the same mentality they had as a child. (And then probably getting killed by someone anyway, just with a physically-adult body)

The Warlock, meanwhile, got picked up by people who already know what's what for psionic powers, and they made him more like them and taught him to better use his powers... but, going by his dialogue, he still can't really contain or substantially control his powers. It's just now he's attached to an organization that's fine with him tearing people apart with his mind on an uncontrolled whim, so long as it's not anyone important.

Conveniently, in said organization the only important people around can be resurrected or can defend themselves just fine. (The Chosen and the Ethereals)

There's several bits that fit to this very well. While a player isn't normally supposed to ever see Mind Scorch's description, it nonetheless has one, and said description describes the ability as the Warlock sharing his 'madness' with his unfortunate victim. He's throwing your soldiers into a Daze not by deliberately manipulating them psionically, but simply because exposure to his screwed-up mind is inherently harmful! Which also jives with other stuff I've pointed out in terms of psionic energy being treated as a caustic material.

Similarly, Mind Scorch involves a lot of effects rippling every which way as he builds it up, which fits nicely to the idea it's not really a controlled, focused action, but rather is him spraying psionic energy all over the place, with just enough direction to actually probably hit someone. Indeed, all his animations can be taken as fairly wasteful of psionic energy, which is strikingly unique of an issue to him -Sectoids seem to struggle to precisely control the energy, but I wouldn't say they look like they're wasting any of it, for example.

This is all pretty interesting to me as an unusual twist on a familiar pop culture archetype, and it's a little frustrating how the crucial clue to recognizing this is hidden in an Archives file probably most people have no idea exists.

The 'power' thing is also interesting in part because it's actually very easy to connect to the Uber Ethereal's speeches in the Temple Ship, where the Uber Ethereal persistently basically goes 'these people were psionically weak, so they're worthless'. I'm not sure this is an intentional connection being drawn, but it makes intuitive sense to imagine that the Ethereals are broadly dismissive of the value of non-psionic or weakly-psionic individuals, in a 'they are sub-Ethereal lifeforms that don't deserve respect' sort of way, and the Warlock is just expressing this same notion explicitly and broadly, instead of pretending it's a more focused statement. ie the Ethereals say 'those weak in the Gift are worthless.... to us for this specific purpose, not making any statements about their broader value as people', while the Warlock says the same thing but minus all the qualifiers that make the sentiment sound less awful.

Which, if it was on the dev team's mind at all and will be held to in later games, is yet another thing helping firmly establish that the Ethereals are, in fact, terrible people, not just people we happen to be in conflict with.

Also interesting is the Warlock's death; among other points, he...

... turns to stone as part of it.

The other Chosen don't do this, or anything like this. They're bleeding and otherwise beat up, they collapse, and it's assumed they're dead. (Well, and the Assassin commits seppuku, but that doesn't change my actual point) The Warlock is the only Chosen to have something so overtly weird happen as part of dying, and it's another one of those bits of XCOM 2 and especially War of the Chosen embracing psionic powers being wizard magic.

I'm not entirely sure what it's meant to represent, but still, it's notable.

Also interesting is what he says. When you first break his sarcophagus, the Warlock has his one and only complete freak-out, ranting about how he can't hear the Ethereals in his head anymore -suggesting the sarcophagus in part acts as a control mechanism, letting the Ethereals influence the Chosen at all times, yikes- and calling your forces 'demons' and declaring he'll destroy you for 'this outrage', sounding completely unhinged. This is pretty striking, as while the Warlock gets angry pretty readily, most of the time he seems to be basically in control of himself. This is the only time he's this emotionally raw.

Even more interesting is that once you kill him for the final time, he starts talking about how the Ethereals are all around him, "they are everywhere". I originally took this as a rushing-induced inconsistency -that just a minute back he was shrieking about how he can't hear the Ethereals, and suddenly he's talking about being able to hear them so clearly- but in conjunction with War of the Chosen heavily indicating that the Void is at least partially like an afterlife and the indications that the Ethereals actually come from the Void... I suspect the Warlock is supposed to be hearing the Ethereal voices so clearly precisely because he's in the middle of dying.

Either that or he's supposed to be experiencing a regular near-death-experience involving hallucinating their voices. I wouldn't actually be shocked if later XCOM materials explicitly ran with such a scenario, honestly.

But the 'their voices are clear because he's psionically sensitive and dying' is certainly the more narratively interesting scenario.

On a more trivial note, it's interesting to me how aged the Warlock looks.

Yes, he's broadly characterized as the oldest Chosen, and the backstories indicate this is literally true in the sense that he's been a Chosen longest of the three, but it's not actually clear whether he's supposed to be older than the Hunter in terms of 'years alive', and even if he is it's certainly clear he's not particularly old; we don't get exact numbers, but he was a child when he was found, and he was found by ADVENT forces apparently attacking a resistance camp or something similar. Even if I assume 'child' means he was 14 years old and not six or less, and also assume this was extremely early post-invasion, that would, what, put him in his thirties? The condition of his facial skin and the whiteness of his hair calls to mind someone who either aged gracefully into their 70s or someone who aged not-so-gracefully into their 50s, not whatever his actual age is.

I'm curious what drove this particular decision. In conjunction with the suggestions that psionic power is caustic, and the Warlock having been strongly psionic for, apparently, most or all of his life, it's easy to imagine he's basically been prematurely aged by the stuff. That would be particularly interesting in conjunction with the Ethereals suffering muscle degeneration -it would make a lot of sense to tie these together and say the Ethereals are falling apart not due to an infectious disease or the like, but because their obsession with psionic energies is actually destroying their bodies. 

I'm not, like, convinced all this is the intent, but I do have to wonder if this -or anything thought out similarly- was on the team's mind, or if this is more in the same class of decision as Cool Factor.


Next time, we wrap up the Chosen-related talk with an aside: (more) Chosen cut content!

See you then.


  1. Really enjoyed this, thanks. One reason why the warlock might be a failure as a design is that he is not reproducible. He is made from some very psionicly powerful child, and they are presumably quite rare.

    1. Good point! If the Chosen are meant to ultimately be something closer to mass-produced, yeah, requiring a strongly psionic kid as the base would be a major flaw, without being an indictment of the Warlock's performance.

    2. Another option might be the "failure" is the point you bring up about his age; it's possible that accelerated aging is a side effect of whatever they did to make the Warlock, and they fixed that in subsequent Chosen. If the warlock is suffering from some of the same physical degeneration problems as the Ethereals, then he can still be a terrifyingly potent psychic and dangerous threat, while still being an experiment they have no interest in repeating.

      Typo: Harbor Wace

    3. Also a good point!

      And fixed the typo, thanks.

  2. Again great work ! Was hoping you made some analysis on the chosen as well so I could read up on their moves etc. Assassin down 2 more to go

  3. A fun note about Teleport Ally is that, short on aliens or ADVENT, he can teleport an inactive VIP near to your squad! (For example, the underground rescue mission, or the one where you rescue them/their mates from lost cities).

    I’ve only seen him do it once (on said underground mission) so it’s nothing to plan around but it leaves a chance for him to basically just waste a turn. Besides, it’s really funny to watch,

    1. Oh wow. I've not had that happen, but I believe it -the game pretty obviously treats neutrals as enemies for a few purposes, after all.


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