Chimera Squad Enemy Analysis: Gray Phoenix Adder
Aim: 75/75/80/80 (+2/+5)
Damage: 2-4 (+1/+2. Crits add +1)
Will: 50 (+10/+20)
Alert Actions: Hasten.
I don't believe I've ever seen an Adder reposition or Hunker Down, but once again it is possible my experience is just RNG lining up right. They certainly really strongly prefer Hasten, at minimum.
So let's talk about Hasten.
???: +1 Mobility, +40 Dodge, 2 turn duration, 3 turn cooldown.
I've listed the action type as a bunch of question marks because I'm pretty sure Hasten isn't a proper action at all. It doesn't show up if you take control of an Adder with Puppeteer, and I don't think I've ever seen an Adder perform it manually post-Breach. The name Hasten is from the config files: within gameplay all that's announced is the stat boosts. No icon when it pops up, either; even using the F1 mod to look at an Adder, Hasten just uses the standard shooting icon.
In any event, Hasten's effects are sufficiently mild/easy to work around that Adders are pretty easy to justify ignoring if they're Alert. The point of Mobility often literally does not matter, while the 40 Dodge can be bypassed via so many otherwise-useful options you can easily render it irrelevant without even actually meaning to. Notably, Adder HP is sufficiently low that it's really easy for them to end up in Subdue range, even if an attack does Graze them, and of course Subdue (Including Zephyr and Cherub's special melee actions) can't Graze.
So generally it's not worth prioritizing Alert Adders -to the point I prefer targeting Surprised enemies if Adders are the only non-Surprised enemies in the Encounter. Better to maximize my odds of landing hits than to try to stop a usually-irrelevant stat bonus from kicking in.
Passive: The Adder cannot be Poisoned, and will not take damage from certain Poison-based attacks.
Passive: The Adder cannot be Poisoned, and will not take damage from certain Poison-based attacks.
This is of course standard on all Vipers -including civilian Vipers!- and so Torque's Poison contributions are less reliably useful during the Gray Phoenix Investigation than during the Progeny Investigation; I've already pointed this out, but Gray Phoenix has the highest concentration of Viper enemies, with in fact only one Viper type in the entire game not being part of Gray Phoenix.
It's worth explicitly noting that it really is almost purely Torque being affected by Gray Phoenix's Vipers being immune to Poison. Venom Rounds and Gas Grenades are locked behind completing Gray Phoenix's Investigation, after all; you can potentially loot one (or both) before that point, but it's very much not expected, so for most runs Torque's Poison contributions are all that's being affected. (Okay, Verge's Puppeteer also makes it relevant. But it is mostly Torque)
In the case of Adders in particular, the immunity is pretty meaningful if you are using Torque, especially if you hit Gray Phoenix first; Adders in High Cover would be great targets for Toxic Greeting if they weren't immune, as they'd reliably die (If hitting Gray Phoenix first, or second while not on the highest difficulty) before getting to act between the initial damage and the Poison damage, and same for using Poison Spit on them. So the fact that they are immune has a pretty noticeable impact on your options relative to if they weren't. (Unless playing on the highest difficulty and not hitting Gray Phoenix first, anyway)
If you're not using Torque, though, it's very close to completely irrelevant.
Turn-ending action: A move-and-melee attack that uses base Aim, does 2 (+2/+3) damage, ignores 5 points of Armor, and has a 50% chance to Poison the target. A successful hit will trigger Hasten, unless the Adder is already benefiting from Hasten.
I should note that it's possible that the 3-turn cooldown on Hasten is what prevents Hasten from triggering off of Quickbite rather than the question of whether Hasten is currently active. I suspect not, but arranging to test this point is... inconvenient.
Anyway, I'm genuinely unsure what prompts Adders to use Quickbite, in the sense that I know they're willing to use it in relatively normal conditions but I have no idea if it's just low odds they'll decide to use it or if they make a vaguely intelligent judgment call that I've just never identified a pattern to. I suspect it's just the low odds scenario as I've seen them use it on targets in Low Cover and yet also ignore it to shoot at nearby targets in High Cover, so they're probably not coded to specifically break it out in cases where shooting has worse odds of hitting or the like, but... very much uncertain.
In any event, Quickbite is notably uneven in its danger level. If Gray Phoenix is your first Investigation, it's quite likely to be a bit of a waste of the Adder's turn; if it hits but doesn't Poison (Whether by flubbing its 50% chance or because its target was immune), then it's as strong as a low-roll hit from their firearm, which is underwhelming. In later Investigations, though, Quickbite gets more of a damage boost than just shooting your agents, and it's eventually guaranteed your entire squad will have at least 1 point of Armor; an Act 3 Quickbite into an agent with 2 points of Armor is 5 damage (Plus potentially Poison damage) vs just shooting that same agent being 2-4 damage!
An unfortunate component of the unevenness is the ongoing pattern in these games of the AI not 'seeing' immunities. If Adders just keep randomly deciding Torque is their best Quickbite target, assuring the Poison's irrelevance, then Quickbite will be noticeably less of a concern than if they keep targeting agents who aren't immune to Poison. I'm not entirely sure what a good solution to this point would be, but it's awkward.
Regardless, the point is that Quickbite is unusually variable; a lot of enemy abilities can be broadly dismissed as 'terrible and irrelevant' or classed as 'key thing that makes this enemy a priority target' and have such a simple rubric be basically always accurate. Doing the same to Quickbite is liable to get a player subtly (Or not so subtly) in trouble, whether by ignoring Adders as a low threat (And then getting caught off guard by them doing a ton of damage to an agent who has 3 Armor) or by prioritizing them more than they deserve in context. (eg focusing on them even though your entire team has immunity to Poison and you don't even have Armor on anyone yet, allowing more relevant threats freedom to act)
A sub-component of this variability is the part where Quickbite is a melee attack; on some maps, it can be essentially irrelevant because Adders are just never in range to perform a bite, while other maps are so close-quarters it's more or less impossible to have even a single agent outside Quickbite range. It's easy to do a few larger maps in a row and kind of forget Quickbite is relevant... or to be a first-time player and genuinely not know about Quickbite and be caught off guard when a smaller map leads to Adders breaking out their special ability, having probably concluded they didn't have anything other than Hasten from them not doing anything else multiple maps in a row. Whoops!
Also, Quickbite's name is basically the only indication it's tied to Hasten. If you Puppeteer an Adder, the in-game description won't mention the Hasten effect. In conjunction with Quickbite silently failing to trigger Hasten if Hasten is already active, it's easy to go a long time with no idea that Quickbite can trigger Hasten. I got ten runs into the game before figuring out the connection exists! And I was actively looking for this kind of thing because I had these posts in mind throughout essentially all my Chimera Squad play!
Overall, Adders are functional enough as a basic Gray Phoenix unit that can be encountered right away in decent numbers without being overwhelming; they are in fact usually much less of a threat than Legionnaires. ('Usually' because Quickbite can be a very nasty surprise in the right conditions)
Aesthetically, Adders are interesting in that while the yellow-scaled cobra-hooded look XCOM 2 used as the only Viper look (Aside the Alien Hunters-exclusive Viper King and Neonate Vipers) is still the 'default' look in Chimera Squad, in the sense that civilian Vipers all use it, Torque has a different coloration but the same body type, etc, it's now the case that Vipers are shown to come in a notably wider range of body types and colorations.
This is mildly interesting in its own right -Chimera Squad's Sectoids aren't particularly variable in appearance, and while its Mutons get varying coloration their build is pretty much fixed- but especially notable for the part where this does not extend to variability in gender; several Muton and hybrid enemy types will be randomly assigned a gender for purposes of their voice clips, but Vipers are uniformly female. The Alien Hunters DLC already pretty heavily implied that yes, Vipers don't have males hidden somewhere off-planet or the like, but Chimera Squad's context is much firmer that yeah, Viper males probably don't occur naturally, full stop.
Part of why this is interesting is that Chimera Squad doesn't make a big deal out of it; it's just a background fact that's clearly true but also clearly not anything the game feels the need to draw the audience's attention to. Usually when fiction has an all-female culture/ethnic group/alien species, it's the first (and often only) thing the story wants to draw the audience's attention to, and typically gets played up as the most centrally important facet of said people, where you can't get through half a scene without the story trying to shove it in the audience's face. (Even if the story definitely already did so 5 minutes ago in a different scene)
This really shouldn't be a thing I feel the need to point out about a literal alien species, but having seen pop culture consistently treat 'all-female group' as The Most Important And Interesting Quality Of Literal Aliens for 25+ years, I feel compelled to do so anyway. By a similar token, it's nice that Chimera Squad doesn't try to tell us a bunch of cringe-y elements about Viper societal trends and just presents them 'naturally'; all-female groups in pop culture often get weird stuff attached to them like the narrative informing us that they're 'strictly matriarchal' (Which... yes? Of course? Why do you feel the need to explicitly say this?...) or otherwise mishandling the topic in contextually bizarre ways that are pretty clearly 'this is a poorly-considered allegory for real-world feminist groups' or the like. Chimera Squad not doing any of this nonsense is nice.
I do hope XCOM 3 continues this trend.
But returning to aesthetics a bit more broadly; a detail I suspect a lot of players miss is that Adders have armor on their tails! Indeed, in general they're visually fairly heavily armored (In spite of mechanically not getting Armor), and I kind of suspect a lot of players misread their design. It's easy to overlook that their vest continues right up their head and leaves only their face exposed, misinterpreting the upper portion of this clothing as just a natural part of their body. It's similarly easy to overlook that they have gloves of some kind that go up to their elbow and looks to be some kind of light armor; all this stuff blends a bit into their scale color, and then their weapon is halfway between their scales and their armor in color so it's easy to misread their profile in any number of ways, such as not registering their gloves because you interpret the color splotch you're seeing on-screen as just more of their weapon.
It's too bad because I actually really love the blue-and-yellow aesthetic on its own merits, but in conjunction with the similar shades of blue-to-black used for their clothing their design is easily misunderstood. They're unfortunately also one of the enemy types that never gets represented in the 2D art sequences; a still shot of an Adder up close would potentially substantially ablate the issue of their model being easily misunderstood.
(It also doesn't help that the blue-to-gray color scheme is something Chimera Squad is fond of in office spaces and more 'tech-y' environments; Adders often blend a fair amount into their environment, as seen in the screenshot I used on this post, making it even easier to misunderstand their design)
There's also a bit of uncertainty here I should point out; are Adders supposed to lack the 'hood'? I started out assuming 'yes', and spent over a year continuing to assume it, but I didn't realize their vest was going up over their neck. It's entirely possible they're supposed to have the 'hood' and it's just compressed down by their clothing. So Chimera Squad is possibly not implying as wide a range of body types on Vipers as I'd first assumed...
... but it's impossible to be sure. They certainly seem at least svelter than the other Vipers of the game.
Next time, we move on to the other Gray Phoenix Viper, the Python.
See you then.