Chimera Squad Enemy Analysis: Sacred Coil Ronin

HP: 9 (+2/+4)
Dodge: 25
Aim: 85/85/90/90 (+2/+5)
Mobility: 12
Damage: 2-4 (+1/+2)
Will: 80 (+10/+20)
Initiative: 70

As an aside before I start, I failed somewhere over 20 Puppeteer attempts in a row on various Ronin in pursuit of screenshots even though the chance of success was ostensibly 50%; I'm not sure if I was just amazingly unlucky or if something janky underlies this. I didn't have this problem with any other units with high enough Will to produce 50% on Puppeteer's success chance, so if it is more meaningful than chance, it's something about Ronin in particular.

Most likely it was just a really bizarre RNG streak, but still.

Alert Actions: Melee Stance.

Like other dedicated melee enemies, you will never see an Aggressive Ronin. Unlike those other dedicated melee enemies, they actually do something if Alert!

As far as I'm aware Ronin will only ever use Melee Stance while Alert. It's possible there's some specific situation I never ran into -maybe Disorienting them would cause them to move instead, or something- but it's pretty clearly meant to be the only thing they do while Alert.

I'll be covering Melee Stance later, though, both because I've covered it with the Progeny Brute and because there's other bits to the Ronin I really should cover first.

Lightning Reflexes
Passive: The Ronin automatically dodges the first reaction fire effect they trigger, each and every turn.

Due to Chimera Squad's turn mechanics, for most purposes it's accurate to think of this as complete immunity to reaction fire, as the 'charge' on Lightning Reflexes is reset each time the Ronin gets a turn. The Ronin has to trigger at least two reaction fire effects within a single turn to have any chance of taking damage from reaction fire. Even effects like Voltaic Arc that you might not be thinking of as reaction fire and which you probably intuitively assume can't miss will still be dodged! As such, you should basically never bother to aim Overwatch at a Ronin deliberately.

Indeed, it's even more protective than that description sounds, in that for example it will block Voltaic Arc during Patchwork's turn.

I'm honestly not a fan of Lightning Reflexes being on an enemy in the context of Chimera Squad's Timeline mechanics. Most of the time, if the player is setting up Overwatch at all, it's one agent setting up Overwatch on a single enemy that will be acting soon; the primary exception is when setting up for reinforcements, where the player might guess right on where the enemies will show up when covering a single entrance with multiple Overwatch cones. Outside reinforcements, though, the player is simply not going to set up multiple Overwatches to catch a single enemy action. As such, Lightning Reflexes largely functions as Shadowstep's complete immunity to Overwatch fire, but more obnoxious because the Ronin will outright eat the Overwatch fire and thus block it from potentially hitting some other enemy, all while it's not immediately obvious to a player that it is Overwatch immunity. There's only a handful of edge cases -like the Breach modifier that puts every agent using it on Overwatch- where it isn't simply straight immunity.

This gets even more frustrating in the context of Tempo Surge, which grants Ronin extra turns, where a player can easily have multiple Overwatch attempts get eaten in a single Round by a single Ronin, but Lightning Reflexes is just fundamentally janky in the Timeline system. It would've needed reworked mechanics -or for Overwatch to work differently, I suppose- to not be wonky and unintuitive.

It's especially frustrating that Ronin have Lightning Reflexes given they also have...

Bending Reed
Passive: Each Slash action provides the Ronin an action point that can only be spent on movement.

Oddly, Bending Reed doesn't actually have an icon in-game, and in fact won't show up as an ability at all if you use the F1 mod to take a look at Ronin. I only call it Bending Reed because a text popup of that name occurs when the effect triggers.

Regardless, Bending Reed makes Lightning Reflexes much more pertinent in its jank than it might otherwise be, as Ronin will in fact endeavor to move to positions that break line of fire entirely if possible. Not every map has the terrain conditions necessary for this to be possible, but when fighting Ronin on a map where such is possible it can create situations where theoretically the best answer would be to set up Overwatch fire to catch the Ronin as it came out... except Lightning Reflexes takes that option away.

Which is frustrating, because I want to like Chimera Squad making Bending Reed a standard capability on a standard melee enemy (Where in War of the Chosen it was only found on the Chosen Assassin at base, and Stun Lancers could have it but only temporarily from a Dark Event), as it resolves one of the janky aspects of melee enemies in Firaxis XCOM games where they're basically suicide attackers, by letting them duck back to a safe position after a hit. But in conjunction with Lightning Reflexes, in the context of the Timeline system?... it's incredibly frustrating.

I do hope XCOM 3 doesn't take the wrong lesson from this; passing out Bending Reed as a more standard capability on dedicated melee enemies could be a great thing for the design, just so long as this particular confluence of behaviors isn't replicated.

Rooting Slash
Turn ending action: The Ronin performs a melee attack on the target and Roots the victim on a successful hit. Triggers Bending Reed. +20 Aim.

I've said before that Ronin are basically Better Zephyr...

Rending Slash
Turn ending action: The Ronin performs a melee attack on the target and Ruptures the victim on a successful hit, causing all following attacks to do 2 more damage to the victim for the remainder of the mission. Triggers Bending Reed. +20 Aim.

... and this decision set...

Disarming Slash
Turn ending action: The Ronin performs a melee attack on the target and drains all ammo from the victim's weapon on a successful hit. Triggers Bending Reed. +20 Aim.

... is a big part of why.

Zephyr has a similar trio of random effects, and arguably a better one given she has a Stun instead of a Root. Rupture vs Disorientation is more take-it-or-leave it, but still, the key point here is that Ronin get to choose which effect they want to inflict.

In AI hands this is basically a technicality, as the AI very clearly picks among the Slashes completely at random, up to and including that they'll do stuff like waste Rooting or Disarming Slash on Zephyr even though Rending Slash is the only one whose side effect works on her, but when you Puppeteer a Ronin it lets you use these effects strategically, such as Rooting a Ronin, Chryssalid, Purifier, or Andromedon Shell to neuter it, or using Disarming Slash on an enemy in an attempt to provoke it into burning its entire turn on fleeing to a non-flanked position and reloading. I really don't get why Zephyr wasn't designed similarly; the UI clutter would be a little awkward, and you'd have to change her effect list since Stun is just plain better than the other possible consequences, but these would be minor trades that would make Zephyr much more interesting to use, not to mention make her less underwhelming of an agent.


While Ronin in AI hands do pick their effect at random and so can waste the effect, this is a much more minor issue than you might assume. Zephyr is the only agent who has passive immunity to any of these effects, and you can't pass out immunity to any of these effects via gear; the only other 'immunities' on agents are the ability to shrug off Disarming Slash via a free reload. (Whether via an Auto-Loader, or by Blueblood completing his final Training) And that 'immunity' comes with the caveat that if an agent ends up Disoriented or on fire (Reminder that Sacred Coil Purifiers are all about fire), they can't reload their weapon and so it can still end up a problem to have their ammo drained!

As such, while a Ronin is somewhat unlikely to pick the most problematic thing to inflict, it's actually pretty likely they cause trouble with whatever they end up doing. They might Root someone you weren't intending to move anyway, but most of the time whatever they inflict is a problem.

Notably, since Ronin have high base Aim, throw an extra 20 Aim onto these attacks, and are melee attackers, they simply don't miss under normal conditions; 105% base accuracy that ignores Cover is their absolute minimum, so without using one of the handful of tools that directly provides Defense, they're not missing. And up to 15 points of Defense won't help any, depending on your difficulty and Investigation order. Most enemy Aim is high enough you should plan as if they'll hit, because that's often the more probable outcome, but Ronin are the only enemy in the game where they will hit turn after turn. This is probably the most subtle way Ronin are big threats; with every other enemy, if they keep getting turns and making attacks, the expectation is that somewhere in there they'll whiff, easing the pressure on you, and probably most players internalize this as an expectation from experience. Then when a Ronin gets 10 turns in a row without ever missing, it's easy to assume you just got unlucky; that it could've missed, should've missed by odds, and just happened to not do so. Nope! They don't miss!

Also, I should point out that Rending Slash is another example of Sacred Coil having a danger component that doesn't scale into later Acts. Rupture adding +2 damage to all hits is a much bigger spike in danger if it's happening in the first Investigation than if it's happening in the third Investigation, especially if Shred takes away the expected point of Armor from Mastercrafted Armor. An Act 1 Ronin who Rending Slashes will be going from 2-4 damage to 4-6 damage, doubling their minimum damage and raising their maximum damage by 50%. An Act 3 Ronin doing the same into a target with no Armor is going from 4-6 damage to 6-8 damage, meaning a 50% increase in minimum damage and a 33% increase in maximum damage. Much less dramatic.

Melee Stance
Turn ending action: The Ronin makes a free melee hit on the first hostile to pass next to them. This is an Overwatch effect, and ends early if the Ronin takes damage.

Something I'm unsure of: Melee Stance may also benefit from the +20 Aim that the Slashes all get. I've personally never seen a Ronin's Melee Stance strike miss without some Aim penalty, Defense booster, or miss-forcing special ability being involved... but my runs mostly hit Sacred Coil second or third, and third more often than second, not to mention I only did one run that was on a low enough difficulty for them to not have base 90 Aim. So in my most of my runs they'd have a 92% or 95% to hit if Melee Stance doesn't have the +20 Aim bonus, and I didn't exactly make a habit of walking people into the strike zone. So it's very plausible that Melee Stance doesn't have this bonus and I just never had a 5-8% chance event happen is all.

In any event, Melee Stance is primarily relevant via it being the Ronin's Alert action. A Ronin who can't Slash anyone with a proper turn will sometimes elect to move and then use Melee Stance, but this is a rare event (Most maps that Sacred Coil missions use are small enough the Ronin's 12 Mobility is perfectly adequate for getting to melee on their first turn), and sometimes a Ronin with no target in reach will just spend both action points on movement instead, further reducing how often you'll see Melee Stance used past the Breach Phase.

Melee Stance on the Ronin is thus even more of a 'kind of whatever' effect than it is on the Progeny Brute. It'll occasionally be an actual problem by virtue of punishing leveraging a melee attack (eg on Axiom), or by virtue of a Ronin happening to be placed next to a High Cover doorway such that you can walk through and flank them but only if you're okay with the agent taking a hit on the way in, but a lot of the time it simply won't matter because you'll never get that close, or only do so after they've already taken their turn and so ended Melee Stance.

Also, I should explicitly point out that even though a Ronin's directed melee attacks always inflict a side effect (Outside the scenario of the target being immune to the selected side effect), Melee Stance never inflicts a side effect. So you don't need to worry about getting Rooted by a Melee Stance strike, or anything of the sort.

Tempo Surge
Free Action: The Ronin adds 2 extra turns, the first placed 2 slots later and the second placed 4 slots later. This doesn't affect the placement of their standard next turn on the Timeline. 4 turn cooldown, 1 turn global cooldown.

Tempo Surge is straightforwardly an extremely powerful ability; more turns means more done in the same amount of time, and that's basically impossible to not be great in most any game. That Tempo Surge is attached to one of Sacred Coil's most dangerous units is... kind of nuts! The Ronin's base damage of 2-4 looks downright sad when compared to, say, a Gray Phoenix Praetorian doing 4-5 damage with their Pistol... until you account for the fact that a Ronin getting a turn is actually a Ronin getting three attacks in that Round, resulting in an outrageous 6-12 damage... and that's assuming the Ronin doesn't open with Rending Slash, as in that scenario the damage rises to 10-16. Reminder that the toughest agents end the game with 15 HP. They also have a point of Armor from Mastercrafted Armor, admittedly, but this is a first Investigation Ronin; a Ronin with the third Act bonuses who is running into that point of Armor is instead hitting for 9-15 damage if they don't open with Rending Slash, and 13-19 if they do open with Rending Slash!

Basically, if you have somebody in reach of a Ronin when its turn comes around and can't interfere with its following turns, that agent can unavoidably go down if the AI decides it wants them dead. You can stack defensive benefits to reach the point that their damage is more manageable, but for one thing it's very unlikely you'll manage to get high enough defenses across the whole squad, which on smaller maps means a Ronin probably can still elect to down someone if they get a turn at all. Notably, Ronin don't seem to have any AI shackles in this regard, and in fact they're quite prone to just stacking all their turns onto one agent until that agent goes down, even if the positions are such that they could spread the damage around from the position they keep Bending Reeding to. (I've literally seen a Ronin repeatedly dash past other agents to keep focusing the agent they first hit, for example)

As Ronin are a surprisingly durable unit, it's also fairly difficult to simply take out a given Ronin before it gets a chance to act. 9 HP is largely outside the ability of a single agent with unupgraded weaponry to take out in a single turn, and so too is 13 HP difficult for an agent to take out in one turn even with fully upgraded weapons. The latter scenario is more doable, but still a tall enough order it will often involve RNG risks or burning limited resources (eg a grenade) to make happen.

On the plus side, Disorientation and Burn both prevent a Ronin from performing Tempo Surge, which does a lot to make them a less oppressive threat. On the minus side, Burn requires luck to actually get a hold of in time to fight Ronin since beating Sacred Coil is how you unlock production of Dragon Rounds and Incendiary Grenades, and Disorientation isn't a status you have many ways to apply, and most sources of it can only be used once per mission. (eg Dazzle on Shelter, Flashbang Grenades on anyone) Warm Welcome on Blueblood is the only reusable source of Disorientation available to the player! Hard disables like Stun and Root are arguably more accessible for shutting down Ronin, weirdly enough.

Overall, I'm honestly kind of baffled by Tempo Surge. Chimera Squad messes around with turns pretty readily, but largely correctly assesses that effects that grant additional turns are very powerful, usually placing severe limits on them. Tempo Surge granting two extra turns per use, while being completely free to use, is quite far outside the game's usual approach to effects that grant extra turns; Tempo Surge would be pretty oppressive if it granted just one extra turn, honestly, and I'm weirded out it didn't do that. I think maybe the devs figured the spacing on the bonus turns would give the player the opportunity to react and so reduce how oppressive it is, as it is in fact the case that by default you'll get an agent turn between each Ronin turn...

... but it's still additional enemy actions being taken, where attention on the Ronin is often going to mean attention not being put on other enemies, leaving those other enemies free to do their things. Turn manipulation can also create situations where it simply isn't true, and notably Sacred Coil has Mecs with their Pin Down ability; it is absolutely possible to have a Ronin and a Mec occupying the same 'gap' between agents and then the Mec uses Pin Down on the agent that will act next so that suddenly there's 5 or so enemy turns occurring before your next agent's turn, only one of which is the Mec that just used the Pin Down. The potential for this situation is in fact a big part of why I feel Sacred Coil is the roughest Investigation to take on first; when hitting them last, the player is almost guaranteed  to have tools like Motile Inducers that can potentially prevent this nightmare scenario from occurring (By virtue of disabling or downing most or all the enemies in question immediately), and even by the second Investigation the player is reasonably likely to be able to more or less cope. Sacred Coil as the first Investigation having this happen? Team Up is very possibly all you have to try to mitigate this when it's present.

It's also unusually nasty on the level that you have to proactively spot the possibility before it gets started. If you realize this whole thing can happen by virtue of the chain of events starting to play out in front of you, it's too late to do anything about it! Chimera Squad is usually much more supportive of reactive play than this; proactive play is better than reactive play, but normally by a modest margin, whereas this situation has 'reactive' vs 'proactive' be potentially the difference between 'the squad wipes' and 'your squad takes more or less no damage in the Encounter'.

You might hope the cooldowns would help limit the problem, but they don't. The 4-turn local cooldown is such that a Ronin can in fact use Tempo Surge again the instant their next turn that wasn't provided by Tempo Surge comes along, while the 1-turn global cooldown is... honestly confusing to me for why it's a thing at all? I've never seen two Ronin placed close enough for it to matter, even with turn manipulation. I'd normally guess that it's a 1-Round cooldown, but I've absolutely seen two Ronin use Tempo Surge in the same Round, so that can't be so. Whatever the case, the global cooldown doesn't really matter, while the local cooldown just means Ronin can't use Tempo Surge inside their Tempo Surge turns.

Overall, Ronin are one of the most oppressively dangerous enemies in the game, shockingly so for a dedicated melee enemy, which in prior games have largely been low-threat. Tempo Surge isn't the only reason why this is so, as stripping Ronin of Bending Reed, the side effects of the Slashes, and Lightning Reflexes would make them a much more manageable threat, but Tempo Surge is certainly the biggest part.

That it is also makes its counters particularly notable; Patchwork's Stasis and Torque's Bind are very valuable against Ronin because they can eat the extra turns 'for free'. (Where Tempo Surge effectively makes Ronin resist most disables because they get more turns per round and so work through the duration faster than you can apply them with one agent) I actually consider Torque a very solid agent for fighting Sacred Coil in spite of her issues fighting robots purely because she's so helpful against Ronin!


Aesthetically and narratively, Ronin confused me at first glance, but after thinking on the info the game gives I suspect there is a reasonably coherent model here, just... one that I don't think the game explicates any part of, and where certain obvious elements can easily pull the player's attention to other conclusions.

The animation is probably the clearest example of this, in that Ronin are very obviously using Templar animations as their base, and it's easy to guess that this is because the Templar animation set is the only existing animation set that works for a dedicated melee attacker with a human frame, and in turn easy to basically write off the implications of their aesthetic as purely a byproduct of this point. After all, wouldn't it make more realistic sense for Sacred Coil's melee units to be Stun Lancers in Sacred Coil-appropriate outfits?

And, well, I do suspect the animation point was the starting point for the devs handling of the Ronin, but at this point I'm pretty sure they actually did give a fair amount of thought into justifying it, and then the game just... doesn't lay out that reasoning anywhere that I'm aware.

The summarized version is that it looks to me like Ronin are, in fact, supposed to be Stun Lancers, but that they've taken their stun rods and partially disassembled them or some such and attached the central element to the back of their gloves. The attack animations of Ronin conspicuously have a red electrical sort of effect, akin to the Stun Lancer's stun rod crackling with red electricity-looking effects, and while their list of side effects is new and technically not random, it conspicuously is still three different effects and when under AI control (Which is the default) it functionally is random, so in normal play they function very alike to Stun Lancers.

The fact that Ronin are specifically one of the most elite Sacred Coil units also actually makes narrative sense to connect to Stun Lancers, even though Stun Lancers were one of the earliest enemies in XCOM 2. Sacred Coil is first and foremost the hybrid/ADVENT loyalists faction, and we were told in XCOM 2 that Stun Lancers are actually built stronger than eg Troopers, which itself fit with their higher HP and Mobility, and we didn't hear about any other ADVENT hybrids having a biological basis to be stronger units; for example, Shieldbearers were defined by their suit, not their body. So it makes a lot of sense for the Stun Lancer hybrids to be the toughest of the Sacred Coil forces once equipment is reduced as a factor. (By which I mean all Sacred Coil forces have a similar bodysuit; they don't seem to have access to a lot of the ADVENT equipment like the ADVENT armors) And in turn it makes sense that they'd prefer to stick to what's familiar for them, which in their case is 'run up to people and take them out with my melee gear'.

Their name is also notably suggestive, albeit rendered somewhat ambiguous by the fact that Chimera Squad never acknowledges enemy class names. That is, I could actually see Ronin calling themselves that, as a ronin is a masterless samurai, with one of the ways this occurs being the death of the samurai's master; I could see some Stun Lancer happening to get enough context on the term to feel it fits, donning it now that the Ethereals are dead, and other Stun Lancers ending up taking the name in the wake of this first fellow... but it's equally possible that in-universe nobody calls these people Ronin, or that it's meant to be a term Chimera Squad or city 31's police use. Regardless, it at least suggests the devs thought it was an appropriate term on some level, so the point I'm making here holds up okay whatever the exact context here is.

The bit of art I lead this segment with also provides a pretty obvious in-universe motivation for why Stun Lancers might've reworked their stun rods into glove-attached gear instead of being a giant stick; making it easier to hide their weapon. While it's easy to forget because gameplay doesn't particularly reflect this, Sacred Coil is supposed to be essentially a gang that needs to spend a lot of time incognito. Even if Sacred Coil forces want to make it clear that a given hit was performed by Sacred Coil in specific, they'd still want to be able to reach the location unnoticed; a Ronin in a heavy coat could potentially pull the mask back and hide the gloves (Store them inside the coat somehow, for example, or perhaps the zappy bits are supposed to be retractable such that they could literally just shove their hands in their pockets) and look like a regular citizen who just doesn't want to get rained on, and then once they got where they were going they'd just take off the coat, pull the mask over their face, and don the gloves, and suddenly they're combat-ready. The stun rod being a very long stick would make it pretty unwieldy to hide...

... and incidentally, this potentially also explains the Sacred Coil bodysuits in a more general sense. A uniform that can be hidden under regular clothing would be useful for all Sacred Coil hybrids, whereas ADVENT body armor is way too bulky to hide in a similar manner. This would also fit with how the bodysuits appear to be pretty flexible; they look to be floppy, not stiff, something you could easily fold up and put into a backpack or the like. If the bodysuits actually provide a meaningful level of protection, it could be practical on that level as well. The game itself doesn't directly suggest such a thing, but it's worth pointing out that eg Thralls are clearly wearing some kind of body armor, and aren't mechanic-ed as much tougher than Commandos; there's an argument that the art and gameplay intersection strongly implies the bodysuits a meaningful level of protection.

That's all more strained of speculation, mind, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Sacred Coil's overall aesthetic was picked without thinking about the in-universe logic particularly.

That said, Chimera Squad is sufficiently prone to this kind of 'it makes sense but is never explicitly spelled out anywhere' sort of thing I'm more inclined to give Chimera Squad the benefit of the doubt than I would with a lot of games.

Which is a nice experience, honestly.


Next time, we move on to the final regular Sacred Coil unit, the Andromedon.

See you then.


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