Mask of Arcadius: Seraphim
Arguably your most unique combat unit, able to push damage on targets from shockingly far away with no susceptibility to the usual protections against long-range firepower of shields and flak.
The Seraphim is a big deal, and probably your most important attacker after the Sunrider itself in terms of your overall strategy hinging heavily on how you choose to burn its Energy. It's also just about player-unique: you'll once fight enemies with equivalent ability to push damage at long range through shields and flak, and only once. Acquiring the Seraphim in no small part marks the point at which the player has enough game-changer advantages over the AI for combat to start really being interesting.
30 Energy per tile of movement.
Again, just as awkward to move as the Sunrider.
Like a number of other units, you might want to get the Seraphim to 120 Energy. In its case, though, this is purely because the way the math works out 120 Energy is a good intersection with cost reductions on its attack, not because of any rigid cost effects or the like. In fact, if you're pushing it to 120 Energy, this is probably because you're trying to get the Seraphim able to double-shoot.
The Seraphim isn't as fragile as the Phoenix is, but it tends to more urgently need some HP upgrades, if only because it's a lot more useful than the Phoenix is. Having the Phoenix go down is annoying. Having the Seraphim go down is usually disastrous.
In conjunction with the fact that the Seraphim is generally best used to secure kills, causing it to draw fire, it's really important to get its durability up to the point it can survive at least the occasional lucky shot.
Like with the Bianca, 4 Armor isn't really enough to protect against even Assault weaponry. Fortunately, while the Seraphim tends to draw more fire than the Bianca it usually doesn't have to worry about Assault weaponry due to how you'll be using it. Missiles and, if your Shields aren't up to 90% for whatever reason, Lasers are what tend to bring the Seraphim down. Don't let it out of your Flak bubble, don't let it out of your Shield bubble, and be ready to repair it if you get unlucky anyway.
No Flak rating.
Same Evasion as the support units. A good formation will often end up placing the Seraphim behind your support units, so in real terms the Seraphim tends to evade shots a little bit more often than they do.
Energy: 100, Damage: 300x1, Aim: 150
Yes, that's right. 100 Energy. All of your default Energy. And it has reduced damage compared to the Sunrider!
In exchange, the Seraphim has a shocking 150 base Aim. The Seraphim is a sniper, and the enemy has no defense against it except to be very far away, since Kinetics don't care about Shields or Flak. Since most modifications to Aim -eg upgrades and All Forward- are percentile, the Seraphim doesn't really have competition. The Seraphim is thus one of your most important units, able to take out key targets that lurk in defensive fields, ripping through their heads with no regard for the protection they thought they had.
It's easy to think the Seraphim should be brought to bear against capital ships, and while it can contribute usefully against them, you'll soon have better tools for that. The Seraphim's primary use is actually for one-shotting some of the middling durability units; PACT missile boats, PACT missile Ryders, and eventually PACT Support Ryders.
It's important to get a few Damage upgrades ASAP. You need it doing 380-ish damage base, counting on All Forward to push it over the edge into one-shotting the 400 HP, lightly armored PACT missile Ryders and missile boats. Otherwise the Seraphim will severely underperform. Aim upgrades are less important, though you'll want at least a few just because the first few are cheap.
Energy upgrades are not worth pursuing unless you're either going to push the cost down far enough the Seraphim can move and shoot in a turn or go whole hog and get it able to fire twice in a turn. Either way, you'll optimally also be putting some money into maximum Energy -it costs less to push the Kinetic cost down to under 80 and max Energy up to 110 than it does to push Energy cost down below 70 or maximum Energy up to 130.
Energy: 100. Increases the Seraphim's Aim and Damage by 100% for 3 turns. Inflicts 100 damage to the Seraphim on use.
Awaken is bad.
There are situations Awaken is useful in, but the damage boost isn't the reason to be eyeballing it. The Aim boost is what makes Awaken potentially amazing, allowing you to pick off extremely distant targets from complete safety.
But it's honestly not worth considering unless you go through the effort of getting the Seraphim able to fire twice in a single turn. With that up, suddenly an Awaken can allow the Seraphim to snipe two problematic Ryders from quite far away each turn for two turns, which can genuinely be a huge advantage if timed well.
And even then, you need to remember that boosts don't stack. Bigger ones overwrite smaller ones. Putting up All Forward and then using Awaken in the same turn means that the Seraphim has high damage and amazing range for two turns, and then has two turns of sub-standard damage compared to just leaving it benefiting from All Forward. It also means that the doubled numbers isn't quite as amazing as it sounds; you're comparing 120% to 200%, not 100% to 200%, when deciding whether Awaken's boosts are worth taking. Damage-wise, that's more like a 70% increase than a 100% increase. Significant, but it's easy to see the Seraphim doing a little over half a target's HP in damage, decide that means you should restart the mission and Awaken, only for it to turn out it now shaves the target down to 10% HP, not the outright kill you thought it would provide.
This horribly undermines the math. The base math is already a bit dubious, honestly, as you're sacrificing a turn of damage (100%) to gain two turns of doubled damage (400%), which sounds pretty big but is actually fairly small. (Over three turns, you're talking 300% vs 400%) Taking into account All Forward is going to be your default, you're sacrificing 120% to get two turns of 200% (So now the math if 360% vs 400%, a tiny boost), and then either you re-Awaken or you do without (If you Awaken the same turn you applied All Forward, you outright end up behind) or you have to have the Liberty and Bianca boost the Seraphim, all of which are poor deals.
This is a big part of why the Aim boost is the main part that's significant; the utility in striking extremely far is not something where I can crunch some numbers and tell you sticking out All Forward is provably better than Awakening, and in the late game in particular enemy hacker units can create situations where you desperately want the ability to fire way out into the distance to cut a problem short. The math on the damage would need a longer duration on Awaken or a more significant bonus -tripled damage instead of doubled would work- for the damage to be the appealing part of Awaken. And that's all ignoring that Awaken outright costs the Seraphim HP to use!
I imagine Awaken is a bit more useful if you've got reinforcement timing memorized and/or are using a guide, so you can have the Seraphim Awaken on a turn that would've been basically dead anyway right before a reinforcement wave is going to arrive, but for natural play Awaken is mostly a way of trying to deal with hackers in the late game.
The Seraphim is the first big reason Gravity is useful. By default, the Seraphim cannot move and shoot in the same turn, nor move and Awaken, and the process of achieving either/both is so expensive that if you're going to go that direction you might as well go the extra mile and push for the Seraphim being able to fire twice in a turn. And at that point you still don't want it burning Energy on a move! Having the Bianca drag the Seraphim forward with the fleet is really useful.
Since the Seraphim is unique in its ability to simply make key enemies disappear from under dense protection, with only the Sunrider abusing teleport being at all comparable, this is a really big deal. You want the Seraphim able to contribute as much as possible as often as possible. Period.
Oddly, the Seraphim is actually my favorite of the game's units on a design level. It's designed to do one thing, and it does that one thing well. Even Awaken being kinda not that great is a relatively minor strike against its design -I'd be more bothered if spamming Awaken was an ideal strategy, honestly. That said, I've always found it a bit mystifying that Awaken didn't have its HP cost be in place of an Energy cost, instead of in addition.
Next time, we check out the Paladin.