Chimera Squad Enemy Analysis: Sacred Coil Guardian

HP: 7/7/8/8 (+2/+4)
Armor: 1
Aim: 75/75/80/80 (+2/+5)
Mobility: 10
Damage: 3-4 (+1/+1)
Will: 50 (+10/+20)
Initiative: 70

The point of Armor honestly confuses me. Is it meant to represent the protection of their energy shield? But Cherub doesn't get an innate point of Armor even though his outfit looks more obviously protective and he has his own energy shield...

Alert actions: Move, Hunker Down, Energy Shield.

Guardians are by far the most notable Alert enemy in the game, being arguably less of a problem when Aggressive than when Alert. If you see an Alert Guardian, it's basically always going to be your best target for tools that can negate Alert actions, because Energy Shield really is just that high-impact, and Guardians strongly prefer it over other Alert actions.

So let's talk about Energy Shield, instead of starting with passives the way I prefer.

Energy Shield
Turn-ending Action: All allies within a 6 tile radius, the Guardian included, gain 3 ablative HP that lasts for 3 turns, or until the Guardian dies. 1 charge, 5 turn global cooldown.

This of course is literally the Shieldbearer's ability from XCOM 2, including that Bluescreen Rounds and Shock Grenades bypass and wipe the shield on hit targets. (Conveniently, Sacred Coil is heavy on robot units, so you may well have brought one or both of those just for dealing with the robots and so incidentally benefit against Guardians) The primary difference of importance in practice is that Breach mechanics exist, and specifically that Alert Guardians are allowed to trigger Energy Shield as their Alert action. As Guardians are actually very durable, it's very difficult to prevent an Alert Guardian from using Energy Shield by attempting to kill them, and if there's two Alert Guardians you basically have to use an effect like Levitation to cancel one of them; it's just not reasonable to output the damage necessary to down two Guardians within the Breach Phase.

Fortunately, Guardian Energy Shields are easier to prevent than Shieldbearer Energy Shields were in XCOM 2, as Disorientation and being on fire both block Guardians from using it, where Shieldbearers would ignore all that and put the shield up anyway. This is one of the few cases where Shelter's Dazzle is actually significantly notable, since his primary target is reliably Disoriented, and if you have Dragon Rounds then just shooting a Guardian can be enough to put a stop to these shenanigans. This latter point comes with the big qualifier that Dragon Rounds are locked behind completing the Sacred Coil Investigation, but if you have lucked into Dragon Rounds from a mission reward they can be a big boon against Guardians. (In spite of being useless against the various robots) It's also very relevant to the endgame, as Guardians show up there too and so unless you hit Sacred Coil last you actually can reliably have fire tools.

One surprising and unpleasant mechanics interaction is that Patchwork's electric attacks getting bonus damage against robots only applies if the non-bonus damage gets past the shield to deliver at least one point of damage to the robot. This doesn't impact the initial target of Chaining Jolt any, since it does 1 more damage than Energy Shield provides in ablative HP, but if you were expecting a bounce to cleanly finish off a 1 HP robot that's been shielded: surprise! Nope! Since Patchwork is so good against Sacred Coil forces overall and thus appealing to bring against them, it's really easy to stumble into this and be unpleasantly surprised by a robot surviving that you were sure would not.

Anyway, Energy Shield is shockingly impactful given its raw shield HP amount is 3 points and that doesn't really sound like a lot. Chimera Squad's damage and HP is both lower than in XCOM 2 and fairly tightly-tuned in general, where 3 HP is very often the difference between a target going down after 2 shots vs requiring a 3rd shot, and when a Guardian has applied such an effect to a half-dozen units that can suddenly mean you need 6 extra shooting actions to work through the group!

Of course, just taking out the Guardian cancels out the shield, same as with Shieldbearers in XCOM 2, but the Timeline system does a shocking amount to make that an unhappy answer. In XCOM 2, if a Shieldbearer got their shield up, what would often happen is this just resulted in an order-of-operations mini-puzzle, where your squad has the firepower to take out every active enemy so long as you apply it correctly, and all that's changed is you need to make sure the Shieldbearer goes down before you start breaking out the grenades and whatnot. In conjunction with the higher overall firepower in XCOM 2, it was entirely possible a Shieldbearer getting Energy Shield up either didn't matter at all (Your Ranger crit them for noticeably more than their max HP, and Energy Shield didn't save them) or just meant allotting a single extra soldier action to actually finishing off the Shieldbearer before playing out the rest of your turn, which could potentially be a very minor cost. (eg you have your Skirmisher spend one of their action points, or you have a Ranger or Templar start a Reaper chain on the Shieldbearer)

Whereas in Chimera Squad, normally you respond to an enemy getting its turn by ignoring it. It's been shoved to the end of the Timeline, and you really should be focusing on the threats that will act sooner... and then Guardians are one of a handful of exceptions, where simply ignoring them isn't an option. Ignoring a Guardian means repeatedly slamming right into the Energy Shield on all its compatriots, thus maximizing the value of the Guardian having gotten a turn! But conversely, focusing on the Guardian generally means not preventing the actions of one or two enemies who are soon to act -this is often a bit of a no-win situation, where you really want to stop eg an Andromedon from getting a turn, but you don't quite have the firepower to down it thanks to Energy Shield, and of course spending agent actions on the Guardian to remove the Energy Shield means not spending agent actions on preventing the Andromedon's turn, and so either way: checkmate, the Guardian has ensured the Andromedon gets its next turn.

This is all particularly consistent of a hurdle if you lean hard into raw damage as your solution to Encounters. With options like Verge's Stupor, you can work around the problem to some extent, and in Encounters with no time pressure, or fairly light time pressure, buying time in this way is generally fine for minimizing the problem of Energy Shield going up... of course, in Encounters where the time pressure is fairly intense, deferring the problem like this is much less effective a solution. This is a big problem in one of the Encounters in Take Down Sacred Coil, for example, where there's Guardians present, a lot of tough enemies, and reinforcements will stream in infinitely until you shut them off; stalling is just making things worse in that case.

So actually even a team that has utility effects can often struggle if you're not specifically using them to prevent Energy Shield from going up in the first place. Guardians are nasty like that; they're one of the enemies most prone to significantly spiking the difficulty of an Encounter, even though in a personal, immediate sense they're really not that dangerous.

Basically, you just ideally don't let them get Energy Shield up at all; it's really painful to work around once it is up.

Also, it should be pointed out that Energy Shield doesn't get Act modifiers. This is yet another way in which Sacred Coil tends to be rougher if hit early than if hit late; for example, at the beginning of a run most of your agents can low-roll for 3 damage and so lose their turn entirely to Energy Shield, whereas something like Cherub firing his fully upgraded Pistol while carrying Venom Rounds is (if he hits) a guaranteed minimum of 7 damage before the target next acts; he's not even losing 50% of his damage to Energy Shield! With that scenario it's plausible the numbers might line up so the Energy Shield doesn't matter in real terms, where you shoot a target twice and would've needed both shots regardless.

Mind, Energy Shield is still very significant most of the time even when hitting Sacred Coil last, but it's less of a swing in the situation than if hitting them first.

If you are hitting Sacred Coil first, consider purchasing a Flashbang or two and putting them on whoever you prefer to place early in the Timeline. I'm pretty down on Flashbangs in Chimera Squad overall, but preempting Energy Shield is valuable enough to be worth burning an Item slot or two on an otherwise-lackluster Item, and you're basically guaranteed to not have access to ways to inflict Burn. Honestly, even late in a run this might be worth doing; Energy Shield really is a big pain.

AI Pistol
Passive: Primary weapon is buggy and has an inconsistent response to ammo drain effects.

Not that you're generally concerned by a Guardian's Pistol usage, overall, but the bugginess with AI Pistols does (erratically) contribute to Guardians being a nuisance.

Turn-ending action: A move-and-melee attack that does 3-4 damage to the target, ignoring Armor and knocking them Unconscious if it reduces their HP to zero.

Yes, just like Praetorians, Guardians have Bash. This is actually true of all shield-carrying enemies in Chimera Squad, and also true of all of them is that the AI is extraordinarily reluctant to use Bash; I've personally never seen a Guardian use Bash outside of me making one do it while Puppeteered.

Mind, I also try really hard to not give them turns; it's entirely possible I've just been too diligent about that for a Guardian to be alive, able to act, and in conditions it would want to Bash in, where the condition isn't actually particularly weird or anything.

Riot Guard
Turn ending action: The Guardian gains 1 point of Armor, is considered to be in Low Cover even when flanked, and acts as Low Cover to adjacent allies. Effect ends the first time damage is sustained.

Just like with Praetorians, this is literally Cherub's passive effect, only the Guardian has to activate it manually. I actually am not completely certain Guardians are aware of the option being in their list; I've personally never seen them use it, even when it would make some degree of sense.

But just like I said with Praetorians, Shrike's Bruisers also have this form of Riot Guard and I spent over two years convinced they were completely unwilling to use it until suddenly I had two of them use it in the same Round, so it's entirely possible Guardians are also willing to use Riot Guard and I've just never quite had it happen as yet. It's not like I let them get turns very often...

To be honest, I hope Guardians just plain aren't willing to use Riot Guard; it would be too consistently a waste of their turn, and it would be particularly wonky if a Guardian could decide to use Riot Guard in place of deploying their very powerful Energy Shield.


Aesthetically, Guardians are basically Commandos, but swapping in a pistol and an energy shield that has the Sacred Coil icon in place of the rifle. Their animation for putting up Energy Shield is in turn them playing out the Shieldbearer animation of punching the ground, only Guardians slam their energy shield into the ground, which looks... very awkward in motion.

The Shieldbearer's Energy Shield animation was always a bit strange, and this inherits the weirdness, with the additional layer that Cherub's Kinetic Shield animation is completely different and looks much less janky. I'm genuinely confused as to why Guardians don't use the Kinetic Shield animation. They hit multiple targets where Cherub shields one target, admittedly, but it's not like the Kinetic Shield animation is designed so it only makes visual sense as a single-target animation.

That said, I've been over most of this visual oddness in prior posts, so I won't belabor it here.

One other aesthetic detail I should point out, though, is that the Guardian's energy shield visibly (and audibly) breaks when they're downed, leaving nothing behind. I suspect this is primarily just to avoid having a giant rectangular object ragdolling about, honestly, as it very conspicuously happens to the regular riot shield carried by Shrike Bruisers, but I have wondered if any narrative context was meaningfully thought up, like that these energy shields are some 'hard hologram' tech or something.

Narratively, Guardians are never directly addressed, though the connection to ADVENT Shieldbearers is obvious enough. It's pretty strange if you scrutinize it further, though, since Shieldbearers seemed to have a significant amount of their suit's design devoted to making the shielding tech work; Guardians are the Sacred Coil footsoldier I always find most jarring to be in a skintight bodysuit, as it really seems like even a stripped-down version of the Shieldbearer suit would demand bulky, obvious technology to achieve minimum functionality.

So that's all weird and a bit unfortunate.


Next time, we move on to the Mec.

See you then.


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