As of early 2023 this guide is no longer updated. It has been low traffic lately and takes a lot of thought process to maintain. With IS#2 winding down, it has out lived it's usefulness. Please see the main guide or the specific operator pages for up to date grades. If you have come here looking for information on IS#3, look elsewhere. Although the information here should still be largely accurate for IS#2, it has NOT been updated for IS#3!
Hello and welcome to TacticalBreakfast's long awaited update to the mastery guide for the Integrated Strategies #2, aka IS#2 or "the roguelike mode."
A few words before we dive in...
First, this guide is an advanced guide. It is not meant to be an introduction to the mode. If you have no idea what I'm talking about I suggest you read up on the mode in other guides more suited to that purpose. I'll discuss some basics here that are particularly relevant to how units are graded, but just know that isn't the point of the guide.
Second, you're not likely to find any earth shattering revelations in here that aren't already available in the original guide. Certainly there are some differences, or I wouldn't be writing this, but they tend to be the subtle sort, full of nuance. Meta units are still meta, weak units are still weak, and ultimately the roguelike stages play the same as a normal stage.
Last, a note on SPOILERS. It's impossible to write a guide on the mode that is completely spoiler-free. There will be notes and allusions here. It's unavoidable if it is to be useful. However, there are no story spoilers here and I, for the most part, avoid going too specific on mechanics. If you want the most pure experience possible, stop reading now (and probably avoid all other guides too...) but for the most part this guide should be sufficiently spoiler-free for most people.
A small bookkeeping note, it will take a couple of weeks to update the main guide and the operator pages, but it will happen. The writeups will be slightly different than here since they have to seamlessly integrate all three grade types, but there won't be any new information.
So all that said, let's dive in!
Q: What is the roguelike mode? What is IS#2?
A: If you're asking this question, this guide probably isn't for you. The guide discusses the Mastery priority options for going further in the mode, which is a pretty advanced topic. Masteries aren't something you should worry about until the mid-game at the earliest. That isn't to say you shouldn't try the mode if you're early in the game. You very much should! It is fun and rewarding even if you're in the early game. It's just that this guide focuses specifically on topics for later game progression with respect to the mode.
For reference "IS" stands for Integrated Strategies and is the formal in-game name of the mode. IS#1 was Ceobe's Fungimist. IS#2 is the next iteration, Crimson Solitaire. The terms "roguelike" and "IS#2" are used interchangeably. If you are already familiar with Ceobe's Fungimist, Crimson Solitaire is essentially the same thing with a fresh coat of paint.
Q: When will IS#2 be released?
A: As I write this, it has not been officially announced so we do not know with any certainty. Schedule predictions are beyond the scope of this guide, but given we are roughly 6 months behind CN, most people expect IS#2 in early to mid-July.
Q: I'm worried about the mode. It sounds difficult. How much preparation do I need to do?
A: A lot less than you think. Unlike last time, the mode is permanent. The themes will rotate eventually, and with it the rewards ladder, but that rotation will take six months or more. You have lots of time to attempt it and experiment. But importantly, the main ladder rewards aren't locked behind completion. Certainly the mode is difficult, but you aren't locked out of much at all if you can't complete it day one, week one, or even after several months. Plus, as said, most of what's good in the main game is good here, so your overall game progression is still tightly tied to your roguelike progression. So don't panic and don't waste your resources panic-investing!
Q: Should I use this guide as a roguelike tier list?
A: No... well, kind of. More so than the original guide anyway. My grading philosophy is much the same here as it is in the original guide. That is to say, it doesn't just reflect meta strength (though it is a major factor), but also the value mastery has to that particular unit. Normally this means my grades make a fairly poor tier list. However, a lot of that grading basis comes from the fact that both story and CC can be done in multiple attempts at low or no cost. In other words, efficient completion is less important. That isn't nearly as true in the roguelike. Although the rewards can mostly be grinded out without actually finishing the mode, few will be satisfied with that. Attempts are more consuming too. Although free in terms of resources, a full run can take an hour or more of real time. Simply put, more people will care about meta efficiency here, which is reflected in the grades to a greater extent than for Story or Advanced modes.
Reflecting all that, the order here is first by class but then by what I generally see as the order of value (for example, why Myrtle is at the top of the Vanguard list), though note that this is not a strict tier list either. Many roughly equal units are simply ordered in the order I had them written down.
Q: What is the "relic meta" you occasionally refer to? What does it mean when you say an operator "works well with common relics"?
A: These are references to the most powerful relics in this iteration of the roguelike which increase ASPD. It's often used facetiously because they're strong enough that hard mode can often be cleared with only a couple good units, and since there are multiple versions, they are relatively common too. Certainly they are not the only way to beat the mode, and much of the ire of them comes from people relying too much on them, but still, their prevalence is reflected in many grades here.
There are other relics with powerful effects that can carry an entire run on their own too, though keep in mind this is not a relic guide. Most do not affect Operator grades though, as it is very difficult to plan around specific relics and few have the outrageous impact of the ASPD relics.
Q: What 3★s and 4★s should I raise in preparation?
A: Honestly, I don't want to answer this question. That's not really the point of this guide and since the mode is permanent, "preparation" is not required in the same way it was when the original roguelike ran! That said though, this will be something a lot of people are interested in, so begrudgingly I will give my opinion on the best options in each category. I highly suggest that everyone raise Myrtle and the 3★s in the top category.
3★ Best: Ansel, Kroos, Midnight, Orchid, Spot, Steward, Fang
3★ Alright: Cardigan, Hibiscus, Lava, Vanilla, Plume
3★ Don't bother: Adnachiel, Catapult, Beagle, Popukar
Note with the 4★s, this does not necessarily mean they need to be E2 M3. Most 4★s work just fine at high E1 SL7. DO NOT feel compelled to invest a ton of resources in maxing out all of these units.
4★ Must Raise: Myrtle
4★ Strong Options: Jaye*, May, Click, Cutter**, Arene**, Ethan, Gravel, Beanstalk, Podenco
4★ Maybe Consider: Deepcolor***, Gummy, Haze, Vermeil, Perfumer, Sussurro, Pinecone, Pudding***, Shirayuki, Utage, Vigna
4★ Luxury Options: Courier, Cuora, Estelle, Dur-nar, Ambriel, Mousse, Roberta
*Jaye is a very strong operator in this mode, but he is still not mandatory and many people will still prefer not to raise him for his base skill. I would personally suggest raising him, but that is a contentious opinion.
**The biggest drawback to Cutter and Arene are that they are Guards. If you have a lot of the stronger Guards (Surtr, Thorns, SilverAsh, Nearl the Radiant Knight, etc) already you might find less use out of these two simply because Guard tickets are so valuable. See other questions below for more on this topic. This is less true for May despite the same heaviness of the class, since Snipers don't tend to be the 'carry' as much so she makes a better compliment early on.
***Unlike the other 4★ options, Deepcolor needs her module (and thus her E2) to be worth picking. Check the Summoner discussion questions below. Although not mandatory for Pudding, her module is a massive upgrade as well.
Q: What about 5★s?
A: That topic has a lot of nuance and would be a lengthy article on its own. Generally the 5★s cost too much to raise to do specifically for mode preparation. And given their higher Hope cost, most are stuck being alternatives to missing 6★s instead.
That said, the absolute best 5★s to consider are: Ptilopsis, Silence, Warfarin, Projekt Red, Specter, Lappland, Bibeak, Shamare, April, La Pluma, Tequila, Mulberry, and Honeyberry.
Of course, there are a number of others to consider based on your team, which is largely discussed in the rankings.
Q: What's the deal with Sniper / Guard Operator So-and-So's grade? I thought So-and-So was really good.
A: The thing with Guards and Snipers is that they are really dense classes. There are tons of really good Guards and Snipers, which means some good units have a tough time standing out. Take Broca for example. Broca is an amazing unit with strong DPS, range, and Arts damage. Yet there are so many of the most meta units ahead of him (Surtr, Thorns, Mountain, SilverAsh, Specter, La Pluma, just to name a few) that he becomes a tough pick when your tickets are limited. The same is true for Snipers, but the glut of picks is less of a problem among the other classes where there tends to only be 2-3 top picks that not everyone may have.
For comparison, as I write this, there are 43 Guards and 34 Snipers in the game on CN, while no other class breaks 30 and most are closer to 20.
Q: What's the deal with Vanguard grades? Why are most of them so low?
A: There's a few reasons. For one, they just aren't needed in vast quantities in the mode like they are in other modes. There's only two stages that have reduced DP generation, so the typical Flagpipe Vanguard-ball becomes extreme overkill. For two, the mode limits your resources in many regards, including recruits and team slots. This typically means you want the best bang for your buck as well as being efficient with your team roles. For three, Myrtle, who everyone has, is just too good at all of the above while being cheap and also providing healing support. You would be totally fine in the game-mode only ever taking Myrtle for Vanguards, so any other Vanguards have to have some really good utility to stand out. As it is, only Bagpipe does that with her tremendous damage, bulk, and talent. The others just don't have the value.
Of course none of that is to say they're bad. Stronger fighters like Saga and Flametail can still shine here, and Saileach is a strong pick herself in a vacuum. However they are luxuries in the mode and as a matter of investment priority, you're better off investing elsewhere, much more so than in other game modes.
Q: Why don't more 5★s have good grades? I thought they got a cost reduction?
A: They did, but it's not really enough. The problem is the mode tends to be very top heavy and you often have very limited team size and tile selection. The 6★s just have such a massive impact and do so under better constraints, so team building usually becomes a matter of saving Hope for the best units while filling in the gap with far cheaper units, a role better served by the strong 3 and 4★s. There just aren't a ton of 5★s that really fit well, nor do they tend to be strong enough to carry the role the 6★s fill.
For example, could Platinum and Blue Poison cover the same role as Exusiai alone? The Hope cost is the same, after all. However the 5★ combo requires two tickets (plus promotions), two team spots, two deploy slots, and two tiles. It becomes a better strategy to just take Kroos or May to hold over for Exusiai instead.
Except for a handful of 5★s who have powerful niches, there just isn't a lot of reason to take them outside of personal desire, free recruits, or Hope constraints mid-run, which are difficult to plan for unless you're a whale or a long established player. Of course, not everyone has Exusiai, so Platinum and Blue Poison are still graded and have important masteries. But the 5★ issues do suppress their value relative to other game modes.
Q: Why don't Summoners (Scene specifically) have higher grades? I thought they were really good?
A: I say this as someone who specifically raised an S2M3 Scene in preparation for the original mode: Summoners are quite overrated here. Of course, they are viable to use and lots of people are still fans of them. However they fall off quickly on the latter floors, and the early floors are easy enough that they don't require dedicated units to complete. Even with the reduced 5★ cost, Scene ends up mostly a wasted slot / Hope by the third floor.
Q: In that case, why did Deepcolor make your 4★ list above when she was unused in the first iteration?
A: Because of her module. It gives her enough summons that she can now effectively do what Scene did for a fraction of the cost. She is still not a 'must pick' like Scene was hyped up to be last time, but she is solid enough to be noted, and the lower Hope cost makes her less of a long term hindrance.
Q: Who are units or banners ahead of us I should look to for help in the mode?
A: Note this answer was originally written in early May. It has been updated in late June. The banners ahead will have changed if you're reading this at a later date. Also be aware that the best option for you will largely depend on what you lack or are having difficulty with.
Ling is a monster in the mode (as she is in most content). Her summons have such high stats she is the exception to the above Summoner discussion and can damn near solo the mode on her own. She also shares the banner with Blacknight who is also quite solid here. Alter Kroos is also quite good in the mode and probably the best 5★ Marksman option if you don't have Archetto or Exusiai (though is a luxury if you already have someone else raised).
Goldenglow is also a monster in the mode, giving a very competitive (and oftentimes better) alternative to Eyja. GG works amazingly well with several of the more powerful relics and can obliterate runs all on her own.
Fiametta is another great DPS choice, largely thanks to her S2 working really well with various relics. Her Talent can be a hindrance though, but her damage is tough to beat. In addition, Kazemaru on the same banner can be a solid addition in the Specialist slot (though she is nowhere near as strong).
Horn is a great option thanks to her class. There aren’t a lot of good Defender picks and she brings really strong damage that can be taken with an otherwise dead ticket.
Irene is decent enough, though competition at Guard is crowded. Specter the Unchained is unfortunately a really poor unit overall, though she does maintain some value in being pickable at Specialist. Lumen seems to be the real winner from the event though. I think the hype is over-stated a bit due to Hope cost but he brings a massive HPS while removing the stun effect that the elemental damage in the mode has. He’s usually a better solution to it than the Wandering Medics are.
Q: I've seen references to a "top picks" chart. What is that and where does it come from?
A: Hypergryph has been tracking pick rates and publishes the top 3 in each class on their website. Unfortunately you need a verified CN account to view it, but screencaps are fairly common. Though there was some variation early on, the top picks quickly stabilized and now only shift when a new meta unit comes into the game. You can find the chart below. The image is from January with the only changes since coming from the addition of Goldenglow and Ling.
Do note that the rankings here might not necessarily reflect overall strength. There is a factor of popularity and ownership involved (there's no way Gnosis ever ranks higher than Suzuran, for example) and it also reflects cost effectiveness (why many 3★s are on the list).
It's unclear if global will get the same information on release.
Q: Will you be updating this article with new grades / corrections, or only the main guide?
A: Typically I don't update articles since traffic tends to be pretty low after release. However I expect that to be quite different in this case, so I plan to keep both this and the main guide up to date for the foreseeable future. That may change at some point, but I'll put a big banner at the top when I do make that decision.
Also keep in mind that the verbiage of the writeups may vary slightly between this and the main guide. I don't want the main guide to get too dense and a lot of what is put here, so that this guide can stand on its own, would be repetitive if I just copy/pasted it in. The information should be fundamentally the same though.
Q: Should I raise Shalem for the mode?
A: You can if you want and he outputs some decent DPS, but there's lots of options to fill that role. Even with his mode specific buff he ends up being usable but nothing too special, so he is a luxury option.
Q: Any general advice for the mode?
A: Failure is part of the mode. Don't expect to succeed on the first go. Or the second. Or even the tenth or more. Keep in mind this is a roguelike mode, and failure and learning is part of the process with it. It's meant to be hard, and keeping that in mind can avoid some frustration. The mode isn't going anywhere this time so there really isn't any need to rush. Take a break if you have to, and remember you get rewards even if you fail so your time isn’t wasted.
While I normally encourage creative play and raising your favorites, if you're a newer player, stick with the meta. Trying to get too creative early on can get really frustrating.
Build for the end. The first three floors are really not that hard once you get used to the mode (e.g. understand the maps and what units to build towards). The hardest parts are the end, so it's best to build up for that without overpreparing for the early or middle parts.
Although I do suggest not over-preparing the "3★ Best" listed above will be very helpful to have as they're a significant upgrade over the free Reserve Operators.
Last, and most important, don't forget to have fun. The mode can be frustrating at times, so if you stop having fun, just take a break.
The Grading System
The main guide, linked on the banner below, has a longer discussion on the differences between modes. However I've trimmed it here for brevity since this article is focused on a specific mode. The grades themselves have been updated for these new changes and the descriptions are updated here.
S - These Masteries are the cream of the crop. They are Masteries that everyone with the unit should do and give a high priority to. Units with S tier Masteries get an outsized value from them, either because the skill is incredibly powerful or because it changes how the unit is used. For the roguelike mode, S-tier grades are reserved for the best skills in the most meta of units (whereas meta value is not necessarily a requirement in other mode grades).
A - These Masteries are powerful Skills that most players who have the unit should do. These are among the most powerful Masteries in the game, but less overtly overpowered than the S-tier Masteries.
B - These Masteries are reasonably powerful and worthy of consideration, but have a factor which hold them back. The impact may be relatively small for the cost, the unit may not be especially powerful already, the unit may not fit well into the meta, or there may be a better version available, among other examples.
C - These Masteries are strong enough to be noted, but should only be done by the most end game of players with nothing else to do. There's value in them, but most players will have something better to be doing.
Breakpoint - Not a true grade, but a designator given to an M1 that gives an unusually large benefit. In most cases, these should be prioritized immediately after the E2, thanks to their low cost and high value. Note that there are many M2 and M3 breakpoints but they are not considered breakpoints for this purpose as the cost is much more expensive. Also note that some breakpoints on valueless skills are excluded as well.
NG or None - Not a true grade, but these are sometimes used for Skills which are noteworthy but not worth Mastery. Either the skill or unit is not worth using, or the Mastery has very poor Mastery gains. NG stands for "No Grade".
Please remember all rankings here are considered independent of E2 priority, but do consider overall unit strength. And most importantly, these grades should be treated as guidelines rather than absolute requirements.
As discussed above, Vanguards are a somewhat awkward class of units where they are often super powerful as a collective group in other modes, but very limited in the roguelike mode. If you only invested in Myrtle and Bagpipe, you'd be totally covered, with everyone else being a luxury.
Myrtle is the single best Vanguard pick. She covers all you need from Vanguards in the mode at a low Hope cost and can even provide emergency healing coverage with her S2. Mastery on her S2 is still a luxury, but given the low cost and her pervasiveness in the mode, it's worth considering more than it normally is.
As in most other modes, Bagpipe is the best 6★ Vanguard pick still, though in this case it's a bit less about her Talent and more about her raw, low-cost, helidroppable damage and bulk. Stick with her S3 still which has a far bigger impact, though her S2 can be useful, especially with certain relics.
As noted already, Vanguards are quite a weak class, but the Tacticians can hold a lot of appeal. Blacknight is a very flexible option in that she can provide early hold, DP gen, and stall that lasts into the late game. She is not a 'must take' but she is a very appealing alternative if you're sick of Myrtle. If you do plan to regularly use her, you will likely want to Master both of her skills, though prioritize S2 which plays to her niche more.
Beanstalk provides an interesting option at the Vanguard slot since she is both inexpensive and can provide a renewable blocker. Myrtle is still generally better since she's cheap enough to take a carry Guard along with her, but if you're sick of Myrtle then Beanstalk can definitely be a viable alternative. As in other modes, mastery could go either way. I tend to favor S2 for its bigger impact and better gains. She works pretty well at SL 7 though, so both tend towards being luxuries.
Although Saileach brings more utility than Myrtle does, she isn't anywhere near as cost effective, which limits her value compared to other modes. S3 is still her best skill, but S2 can be a really good support skill as well. Unfortunately it just costs too much to really pursue for most players. Don’t bother with her S1 for this mode.
Elysium suffers from the 5★ cost and the fact Myrtle is so cheap, but he is still a pretty good option thanks to his S2 debuff. He's probably not worth the Hope cost a lot of the time versus other options, but if you find yourself with a glut of Vanguard tickets he is a solid enough option. Unlike other modes, S1 doesn't have any value here as there just aren't a lot of scenarios it's necessary in.
Saga is a solid fighter with strong DPS and some flexible support. She is a competitive choice with Flametail if you intend on taking a Pioneer 6★ Vanguard. However that role is not a very strong one in the mode, and Saga still has issues of minimal gains for the mastery cost. I typically favor her S3, though in this case I think her S2 is the better option since it gives her more consistency.
Flametail is a competitive pick to Saga, favoring sustain and consistency over her, while maintaining strong DPS. However the low value of the 6★ Pioneer Vanguards keeps her value relatively low in the mode. S3 mastery is very important for her effective usage. The RNG nature of it hurts her value though. Her Dodge chance is high enough to not be a problem in most game modes, but in a one-and-done roguelike mode, even a slim chance of RNG failure can be more trouble than it's worth.
Like the other 6★ Pioneer Vanguards, Siege just costs too much for the impact she brings. She is still perfectly usable with her bulk however. Stick with her S2, though if you plan to use Siege consider her S3 as well. Unfortunately, since it doesn't produce DP, it comes in a distant third after Saga and Flametail, so mastery investment here is a definite luxury.
Texas does not have anywhere near the value she does in the main game. Her Stun is still useful, especially if you have Bagpipe as well, but as a 5★, she just doesn't have a competitive cost. Her cycle time is too long, her stats are too weak, and she doesn't bring ancillary value that's especially useful in the mode. It's worth noting though there is a combination of relics that lets her infinitely use S2, though that is a really fringe scenario since it requires 3 specific relics.
Guards are the heaviest class of units, with a bulk of the meta falling here. Some careful nuance is required with Guards and investment will depend on your team. Keep in mind that in most runs you'll be lucky to get 3 Guard tickets, so investing in a ton of them doesn't make as much sense as it may seem, even if the units themselves are strong.
Perhaps a little controversially, in my opinion, SA is the best pick in the mode, even above Thorns, Surtr, and Ch'alter. He brings so much to the table across his damage and range on a melee unit, plus his Talents and redeployability, that he is tough to top. It's not graded here, but if you have resources burning a hole in your pocket you could consider his S2M3, which occasionally comes in handy on a few of the stages and has very sizable mastery gains.
Nearl the Radiant Knight
Deployment slots can be in short supply on some runs, giving immense value to her S2. And while her S3 isn't quite as strong as Surtr's (and is a bit harder to use), she stays on the field with a better cycle time, making alter Nearl a very strong and flexible pick. Her other typical comparison to Kal'tsit is less relevant here since Kal'tsit's value is heavily influenced by the normally less valuable Medic tickets.
Irene is a strong Guard ticket start if you're sick of Thorns thanks to her high damage and burst. She can solidly carry early stages while remaining relevant as high end DPS into the later ones, something not many of the Guards can do. Her high SP costs can be troublesome though, and will sometimes cause you to leak. S3 will be her primary skill and the only one particularly worth Mastery. Her other skills just don't have the level of impact to justify the costs.
Remember when Pallas came out there was a debate about her value as a cornerstone, especially with S1M3? Regular readers of mine will know I felt pretty negative about her. Those who were positive on her get to rub it in a little here (though only a bit). Pallas has a strong self sustain and utility, but more importantly, gets some really ridiculous damage with the right relics on her S1M3. She still isn't a must raise, and if you don't roll the right relics she can be very underwhelming, but in the right conditions she can stand with the rest at the top. Don't bother with her other Skills unless you specifically want to. Her value in the mode is entirely in abusing her S1.
Specter is probably the biggest gainer from the 5★ cost reduction, considering she should probably be a 6★ anyway. She is very strong as a carry unit with her sustain and area damage, plus she has an unbeatable and valuable niche with her invulnerability. However her invulnerability has limited use against the main bosses which lowers her use a bit, especially if your team is on the stronger side already.
Don't have Thorns or Mountain? No problem, La Pluma is nearly as strong and costs less Hope to boot. Both of her skills have a really strong mastery here with interval reduction on S2 and SP reduction on S1 that works really well with relics. But if you have those 6★ cornerstones, she can have difficulty finding a useful niche.
Her already valuable S1M3 has quite a bit more value in IS#2 for two reasons. For one, as with many similar skills, it works really well with various common relics. But also if you're intending to regularly use La Pluma as your carry Guard over other options, you will definitely want the flexibility her S1 brings over S2, and mastery is a huge benefit to its usage.
I think Lappland has a ton of value in the mode and is only hurt by how common Guards are. Her Silence only has a few places in the mode that are really useful, but her damage (multi-target and at range!) is immense at a lower Hope cost than the 6★s and she plays very well with many of the relics. Mastery is especially valuable here since she's attack recovery.
Bibeak doesn't have strong damage and there's a ton of competition among Guards. However she can be incredibly powerful with effectively a Stun lock with a good number of different relics. Even without relics she is a pretty decent option with valuable masteries, given her reusable, short cooldown Stun.
Guard Ch'en is pretty significantly better in this mode than she is in other modes where her meta value has fallen through the floor. Her Skills all play really well with various relics so she can actually make a viable option. However her alter form is one of the best units in the game, including this mode, and there's a ton of options who work even better with said relics, so the investment here is still a pretty tough sell.
Her Module upgrades add quite a bit of value and removes some of her reliance on certain relics which can make Ch'en a very competitive investment / pick.
We're now down into the "cost effective" options and Cutter might be the single best "cost effective" option among the Guards. While she doesn't have the sustain of other cornerstone options, she does have the damage that can hang with the best of them, plus the flexibility to cover air. With certain relics she can really be a low-cost 4★ monster. Though like many other Guards on this list, there's some stiff competition out there limiting her potential.
Tequila has very strong ground-based melee damage, which is really valuable and not many can do. However there's a lot of competition here for Guard slots and as I noted in the original writeup on him, his mastery gains are fairly muted. He also can't really take effective advantage of certain SP relics like the other Guards can either, which really hurts his value.
Broca would be rated a lot better were there not so many good options at the role. He has very strong damage and range and valuable masteries. But he has no self sustain and there's just so many good options at the role that not many people will find a lot of value here.
Amiya’s Guard form has some really solid damage attached to it with some team support and can be taken with a relatively weaker Caster ticket. It’s enough to make her a potential pick though she doesn't do too much in the relic meta. Favor S1 for this mode which will give her some much needed consistency, though S2 will be plenty useful in some spots still.
* Note that these skills are graded assuming this unit has the DRE-X Module level 3. If you do NOT plan to get this unit's upgraded DRE-X Module, treat the priority of these skills significantly lower.
Skadi's Module upgrades represent a massive to her kit and one that gives her a very legitimate niche as a hard hitting and long lasting Fast-Redeploy. That can be very valuable with certain relics, but the high investment cost and the general strength of the Guard ticket still makes it a pretty fringe option.
Arene can have good value if you lack Thorns or Lappland, but the gap between them is bigger here than it is in other modes since he doesn't play with relics as well as those two. You would often be better off taking Cutter if you needed a cheap option at the Guard slot.
Strong helidrop damage (with no wind up) has value, especially at a low 4★ cost, plus she can flex into a lane holding role. However there's so much competition for Guard tickets that she'll struggle to make it on a lot of teams, and her low 4★ stats can make her alternative lane-holding uses treacherous.
Defenders are one of the weakest classes of units in the roguelike. A lot of the stages center around gimmicks rather than brute force blocking, which really hurts what most of them are best at. Outside of Saria and Mudrock (and a little bit of Blemishine / Nearl / Gummy), most don't have a lot of value in the mode.
Saria is a very strong unit with three very strong skills, but that can be daunting from a cost perspective, especially on a Support unit. Despite her value, be sure you focus on your core DPS before diving in too deeply with her. Saria works really well at SL 7 / S1M1 still so don’t take these grades as an indication you have to blow the bank on her!
Before the mode, there's been a lot of discussion (including in my own updates) on what value S2M3 still had. Well, if you're a fan, rejoice, because the roguelike is Saria's S2M3's triumphant return. Saria is a great pick here because she brings a ton of utility that lasts in all phases of the mode. She is by far the best M9 candidate here with each skill bringing a different and valuable niche.
Mudrock is the other top roguelike defender pick and the one with stronger and more important masteries. She can solo-hold a lot of lanes here with S2 and is usually the best option for doing so. And even when she can't, she brings tremendous DPS utility with her S3.
A later addition to the party, Horn is one of the rare meta defining Defender picks and provides a unique advantage over the other two with her damage and flexible range. She is a monster who can bring the best of both worlds on an otherwise frequently dead ticket. Her S3 is still her primary skill, as it is in the rest of the game, since it provides a tremendous burst. However her S1 is not far behind and you will at least want to get the breakpoint at S1M1 for reduced SP cost. The consistency it provides is extremely valuable and it works amazingly well with certain relics thanks to its high attack multiplier. Less valuable, but still very worthy, is her S2. The ammo aspect can be valuable to have, but her S3 is usually the best nuke choice and an M9 is a very expensive proposition, so you'll likely be fine without it if resources are thin.
If only Blemishine could heal herself with S3 she would be a top pick. Alas, that one fact limits her quite a bit. She is still very valuable though, with really valuable masteries that bring a decent amount of power. With her S3 she is a tremendous frontline fighter, while S2 lets her solo-hold some lanes (albeit not as effectively as Mudrock).
Although it’s ungraded here, if you intend to make regular use of Blemishine, you’ll also want to consider her S1, which strikes a balance between the drawbacks of her other two skills.
As in the normal modes, Gummy isn't quite as good as the other Healing Defenders since she burns her heals unnecessarily (especially true given some of the stage conditions here). Still, as a 4★, she is an extremely cost-effective option. Her S1M3 is a big upgrade if you are planning to use her.
Nearl is a strong Defender option as most Healing Defenders tend to be. However, since she can't be used alongside her alter form, the fact Saria is so immensely better, and the fact Gummy is more cost effective, she's still not too great of investment for the mode.
Not a terribly strong pick thanks to her archetype, but she's a good enough fighter to hold her own still. Unfortunately most of the enemies she'd like to 1v1 in mech form aren't effectively blockable, and she doesn't hold much value outside of that duelist role. Still, she can be a decent enough pick given the general weakness of the Defender class.
Hoshiguma & Nian
There is a precipitous drop in Defender value after Blemishine. Frontline tanking just doesn't have a lot of value in the mode with most of the toughest enemies not even blockable to begin with. As a matter of value, you're better off taking a Healing Defender, or someone cheap yet still effective, and saving the Hope for better DPS. Even under the assumption you plan to use them, though, mastery value is still limited for the gains it brings.
Despite her strength in the normal game, she has very limited value here since there aren't really as many places (or nearly as much need) to abuse her Talent, which is already frequently replicated by some of the better relics. She's a solid enough Defender on her own, but you're probably better off sticking to cheaper options. She is only listed here because her strength in other modes will lead to some questions about her absence otherwise.
Specialists are an interesting set of units. It's a pretty top-heavy group, but there's also a lot of variety with some surprisingly good options.
I suppose it makes sense that Phantom would be the highest picked 6★ Specialist in his own event. But it isn't just hometown advantage that keeps him popular. FRDs are exceptionally versatile, which is a huge advantage in the mode, and Phantom brings a ton of damage on his S2 with his clone to boot. However, note that because his S2 operates on stacks, he doesn't get as much out of the most common Specialist relics as Projekt Red does, so she can show him up in many scenarios at a lower cost. As in other modes, be sure to go all the way to M3 which is where almost all of the gains are.
His S3, while still useful to have available, can be treated with much lower priority than other game modes. S2 is the go to skill here with few places for S3 to shine, and the RNG is unpalatable in the mode. Prioritize resources elsewhere.
A lot of people have noted constantly since his release how ridiculous of a unit Jaye is, especially for his rarity. Well, in this mode where you have to consider Hope cost as well, he's even more ridiculous. What isn't to like? He has strong damage, sustain for anyone around him, and all in a fast-redeploy package. His S1 has value too since there's lots of exploding spiders, though it's mostly unnecessary. It's usually better to just tank and heal it with his S2 and there's few other applicable places for the Silence.
Red gets a bit of a revival here thanks to the roguelike. Among all of the fast redeploys, she works best with the various relics available. She can dole out some really impressive damage on her S1, and thanks to her Talent, can do it in some really dangerous situations. Plus she has her added Stun bomb utility, though keep in mind her Stun scales in steps with mastery so M3 can seem pretty expensive for the gain.
Gravel is a really good bait trap, but that role isn't too useful here in comparison to the other modes. She's still a strong option to consider given there's a good chance you already have her raised, but mastery is a luxury, even more so than it is in the story mode. Not to mention you probably won't want to spend the Hope to E2 her anyway.
Would you believe me if I said Mizuki was the second best 6★ Specialist in the mode? Though many people favor his S1 in other modes, his S2 is the key skill here as it gets absolutely ridiculous with a good number of different Relics. Oftentimes he can reach 100% uptime bind along with strong damage. Don't overrate that though as he is still pretty lackluster outside of those ASPD Relics and Ethan can do similar things at a much lower investment cost.
Want all the advantages of Mizuki but don't want to dedicate that many resources for a unit that is subpar elsewhere in the game? Well great news, Ethan does basically the same thing with the same advantages but costs a third of what Mizuki does. He's also available to everyone, making him one of the more viable 4★ options in the mode.
Kazemaru is a pretty appealing option for the roguelike, though one with a fairly limited ceiling. She is rare amongst specialists in being an effective 2-block fighter with some damage utility, self sustain (kinda), and no drawbacks (like with Merchants). Considering that Specialists tend to be, well... specialized, being a reliable and renewable blocker to use on the ticket is actually pretty valuable. Both of her skills will have value in this role, but side with her S2 and leave S1 for a matter of personal desire. Her S1 is a good skill as well, but harder to use reliably in the mode, and the Mastery cost is rather expensive for what it is.
Lee isn't terribly strong in IS. Certainly his S3 niche can trivialize some stages and his S2 can output some decent damage. But in other situations his S3 is more of a hindrance and his S2 damage can be replicated elsewhere easily enough. His CC reflect is only useful in a handful of stages too, which tends to be better solved by other means (such as a cheaper Wandering Medic). When considering Hope and investment costs, going with Jaye (if any) instead tends to make more sense, so invest with caution here.
Specter the Unchained
* Note that these skills are graded assuming the unit has module level 3 (module levels will be released with the Lingering Echoes patch in December). If you do NOT plan to get this unit's upgraded module(s), treat the priority of these skills significantly lower. See the write up below for more details.
As in the base game-mode, Specter is a fairly underpowered unit without her modules. She does find some use in the Roguelike mode thanks to her class, however. There aren't many Specialists who can work as stand-ins for the Guard role, and even in her pre-module state, Specter the Unchained can usually fill that role. Regardless though, you will still want one of her module upgrades if you intend to use her, or you're better off spending your Hope elsewhere.
The best configuration for the mode is DRE-X (her first one that comes out with Lingering Echoes) along with S2. This setup allows her to work as a self-refreshing laneholder that can lock down even serious threats, thanks to her improved doll and invulnerability cycle time. Her other module, DRE-Y, along with S3 can be a viable DPS, but it's generally best left to the main game where it combos better with the AH tribal that can be harder to assemble in the mode. It's usable, but you'll just get a lot more use out of DRE-X and S2 instead, so treat S3 Masteries as a secondary concern for IS#2.
Despite the weakness of Shifters in this mode, Gladiia holds her value still since she can act as a pseudo-Guard with some healthy self sustain without using an all-too-valuable Guard ticket. If you plan to regularly use Gladiia here, favor her S2 more than normal as it gives her some much needed consistency, though her S3 will still probably be the more valuable skill overall. Don’t bother with her S1 here. The short cycle shifts don’t have much purpose here.
Like Gladiia, Weedy can be a daunting and high investment unit to use in situations where there’s usually just a better, more straightforward solution. Still, Weedy is a very versatile and potentially powerful unit here. Just approach her with quite a bit of caution if you’re newer. If you do plan to use her, her S3M3 is very important as it is her main source of damage and the improved push force at M3 is a big upgrade. Don’t bother with her S1 here. The short cycle shifts don’t have much purpose here.
The Shifters other than the 6★s really don't have a lot of value in the mode. There just isn't a lot of room for them to shine. Even with the force relic, which there is only one of and is in the rarest group, most of the most dangerous enemies can't be Shifted at all. If any of them still maintain value in the mode it might be Cliffheart, who still has her True Damage and Stun, but there's so many good other Specialists that it just isn't worth it here.
Aak is a poor pick in the mode. His main value is in buffing which isn't really a major thing in this mode, and worse, he often requires special setup with other subpar picks like Shining and Nian to make it work. Still though, he does have some value as a DPS unit still since there aren't any 'must pick' Specialists. His S1M3 can nicely fill in some gaps from otherwise crowded classes.
Although trappers won't appeal to everyone, Robin can be a very strong asset. She can completely neutralize charger stages on her own, with the pinball stage being one of the harder ones out there. She isn't the strongest Specialist top to bottom, and Mastery isn't even necessary for where she's useful, but she can still be a valuable option to have.
I've always been a bigger fan of Mr. Nothing than most people, so perhaps take this grade with a grain of salt. Although he lacks Jaye's sustain, he does have a very strong DPS already that gets pretty absurd with a number of relics. Although the first run that I fail because I couldn't roll the right effect will probably result in me removing him from the guide….
Manticore just isn't as good as Ethan or Mizuki due to the fact that increasing her attack speed doesn't make her Slow any better. She still has value in her permanent Slow, but her ceiling doesn't expand nearly as high as the other Ambushers. She isn't that great as a DPS unit either since increased attack speed on her S2 means her Talent will never trigger.
Snipers are the second most populous class of units, but unlike Guards, the gap between the best and the middle is quite a bit smaller. This leads to a lot of viable, and thus graded, units. I would greatly encourage more careful planning when it comes to the Snipers. Because tickets are limited, it can be easy to invest in an option that seems useful yet you may never get the chance to use. You will be better served by not over-investing in too many Snipers despite there being quite a lot of good options.
Ch'en the Holungday
There aren't a lot of super-high-DEF enemies in the mode, which really lets Exu shine here. The ASPD relics have a really ridiculous effect on her and she can end up deleting most waves in very short order, plus she has the lowest DP cost and start-up time of the top tier DPS units. S3M3 is very important to that end.
I've never been a fan of her S2 and it's never been graded in the guide before. You just give up too much damage for the control utility. However in the roguelike you usually don't have any room for error, and as long as the damage is sufficient, S2 can be a more appealing option rather than fussing about cycle times. It isn't a 'must do' mastery but it is an appealing secondary Skill as a lot of the best units tend to have.
Long playing a distant second fiddle to Exusiai, Archetto heavily closes that gap in the roguelike mode. Her offensive recovery Skills play very very well with the ASPD meta relics as well as several others, plus she gets quite a bit more utility across both Skills than Exu does. Exu still edges her out on damage, but Archetto is still a top tier pick in the mode.
As in the regular mode, masteries are quite important for Archetto on both skills. If you have Exu, neither is a must do, but if you don't (or simply would rather use Archetto), both are extremely important, though I give a slight favor to S2 due to its interaction with a different subset of relics.
Fia is a popular pick in the mode due to how good her S2 becomes with various relics, most predominantly the ASPD relics. Few operators can reach her consistent burst potential with the right relic setup which gives her one of the highest ceilings available. Though she isn't without her drawbacks either due to her high cost and health drain.
Her S3 Masteries should be considered a luxury for the purposes of this mode. Although it will be useful in places, a large majority of her value here comes from her S2 instead and the Mastery gains on S3 are pretty poor in addition to being very costly.
Schwarz is a very solid pick in the roguelike. Despite her reputation as a boss killer, she is much more flexible than that. Her rapid cycle time makes her a fantastic general purpose DPS that can take on harder targets than most other snipers. If you plan to use Schwarz, her S2M3 is an excellent addition as it gives her more flexibility on some stages where her S3 range is a liability.
Ash suffers quite a bit in the mode from the fact she just doesn't work well with relics and the big bosses are not Stunnable. She is still an excellent elite killer, but falls to a pretty distant third compared to Archetto and Exusiai since she lacks any sort of consistency which is more important for the role here.
April is the best 5★ Sniper option on a team of full 6★s. She brings a valuable utility to the table that the higher rarity options can't cover. She's one of the few 5★ Snipers that justifies the higher cost, supposing the better 6★ options are available. As in other modes though, she is a high investment option that not everyone will be able to justify the cost for.
If you can tolerate her voice, May is the best non-6★ sniper that covers the "main DPS" role. Of course, she is not as good as the 6★ options, but she provides an unholy combination of damage, crowd control, good synergy with relics, and low cost, both material and Hope. Even if you have the good 6★ options she can be a tremendous asset, covering much more ground as an early game holdover than 3★ Kroos (who is also a common early pick).
S2 is typically the best option, though in the roguelike mode specifically, consider also doing S1M3. S1 ends up working much better with several relics, turning her into an unstoppable 4★ machine-gun-nanoda. Just... maybe play with the volume down.
June Blue Poison
I noted in the FAQ that 5★s still had a cost issue and that really comes out in the 5★ Snipers. They fit in awkwardly, just being not as good as the 6★ options while still being quite costly. There's little reason to raise any of them if you have good 6★ Sniper choices. However, if you don't, then the 5★s can start to look appealing, and Blue Poison is the best selection of the bunch. Her Skills work best with the common relics, letting her output competitive damage, and her multi-target is a valuable asset, especially early.
There's been the expansive debate of which skill is better on BP since the launch of the game. Normally I strongly favor S2, though for this mode specifically I would favor S1. It works immensely well with the best relics, though if you're using BP as your main Sniper DPS, you'll want to do the M6.
Kroos the Keen Glint
Alter Kroos is an appealing option thanks to the various relics of the mode. There aren't many high DEF enemies to begin with, which is the biggest threat to Kroos with her lack of an attack modifier. But add on to that plentiful relics that help with ASPD, ATK, and nerfing enemy DEF and you get a pretty powerful AA Sniper option that can easily excel in many runs. But she does have one very significant knock against her which is that she can't be used with her 3★ version who is a very common early no-Hope pick. Also, Blue Poison is generally the better non-6★ AA option for the mode still, if that option is available to you.
GreyThroat is close to BP and KTKG as the best 5★ Sniper DPS option. You don't need all of them, but she is just as good as an alternative. Unlike BP though, I favor S2M3 here for GreyThroat. Since it's attack recovery, it really doesn't lose anything to the best relics like BP’s S2 does. Her S1M3 loses a lot of value here due to being auto-recovery where that is normally a benefit.
Rosa is a strong unit with some strong DPS and utility, but there aren’t a tremendous amount of places to really take advantage of what she’s best at. Consider her S2 if you plan to use her, which is the better DPS skill if there aren’t heavy units to really take advantage of. That's generally a waifu pick still though with so many other strong sniper options available.
Her inability to hit drones is a massive disadvantage here. There's a lot of drones in the mode and you have to spend a Sniper selection to take her, which doubles the problem of drone coverage. And even worse, most of the bosses can't (or shouldn't) be blocked. She still does alright damage and her pillars are useful elsewhere, but the mode is just not well set up for what Rosmontis does.
W is a little rough here. Her Skills don't really work well with the common relics. Even Meteorite can end up doing significantly more damage thanks to that. Certainly she's still plenty usable and her masteries are important for that, but given the overall strength of the Sniper class, W is a tough pick.
Fartooth has a near identical usage to Schwarz but doesn't do as much damage and has a troublesome targeting priority. There also aren't many places for her to take meaningful advantage of her range. She can be a competitive boss / elite killer if you don't have Schwarz or other similar damage, but just isn't as strong compared to them. Given that Schwarz isn't a necessary pick herself, that makes Fartooth a pretty tough sell.
I really wouldn't suggest Platinum for this mode. Even aside from the 5★ issues noted above, the ASPD relics work counter to her talent. The advantages she tends to bring don't really shine here that well either, with only the extra range being a notable asset. Although still a really good story unit, your resources are probably better spent elsewhere. Though to be clear she is still perfectly serviceable if she is your best option available outside of May.
Meteorite can be a surprisingly competitive option. Her S1 plays really well with the ASPD meta. Still though, she is quite expensive to raise in a very crowded class of units. In normal play I tend to favor her S2, and it’s still an option if you plan to regularly use her, but S1 is the reason to potentially pick her in this mode.
I'm not the biggest fan of Pinecone personally. Her short range and need to babysit the skill are pretty annoying. However she does still have very strong AoE damage at a low cost. If you can stomach spamming her S1 every few seconds for an entire run, she can be a nice option.
If you've been playing the game for a while, you'll probably be aware that Casters are already a very top heavy group even outside of the roguelike mode, with only a few worth discussing. This mode makes that gulf in power even more apparent.
Goldenglow is the new top dog (hehehe) in the Caster group. She gets that crown largely because she brings both strong consistency and strong peak performance, a combo no other Caster can really do. And those reasons derive mainly from her S3. The shorter cycle makes it more generally viable than other top Caster burst skills like Volcano. Her drone burst makes her peak performance with the ASPD relics far higher, and on top of that she gets global range and RES ignore as well which makes her not just the best Caster picks, but one of the top picks period in the mode.
S2 would be the next option if you wanted a secondary Mastery for her, but specifically for this mode you'll only be using S2 before you find her E2 promotion, so Mastery is a luxury, though it is very useful elsewhere in the game and alternatives on top tier units are never bad.
Eyja was the queen of Casters before Goldenglow, but even after Goldenglow, Eyja is still a top pick with only Ifrit and Passenger (with a specific relic) giving her legitimate competition for the second spot. Her S2 covers the early game while her S3 holds her value as things get harder. She is among the best units for the mode and worthy of investment as such.
Passenger has a bit of a reputation coming into the mode. To be clear, I mean a positive one! Quite the change from his release reception. With his module he is already a respectable choice, but there is a specific relic that if you get along with Passenger, basically guarantees a win. Be careful about overreacting to that though, as it is not a group of relics but rather a specific one, which means the scenario is quite rare. Still though, he is the second best caster choice even without the relic, with very high burst and his module making his crowd control pretty decent. The fact you can pick-up an instant-win relic halfway through the run is just the cherry on the sundae.
Click is a tremendous unit in this mode and by far the best low rarity option. She provides solid DPS in a low cost package with a good dose of crowd control too. Given the weakness of the class, she can be a very valuable asset to many teams in what otherwise might be a dead ticket spot.
Although not as good as Click, Pudding is decent enough to give a solid justification for the cost among the weak class of units. She isn't anywhere near the 'must raise' that Click is, but can be another option if you're looking for something inexpensive to round out the team.
Ceobe has some respectable power. As in the main game, she has a higher ST DPS than either Eyja or Ifrit. However there aren't a ton of super-high-DEF enemies for her to really feast on, and once Goldenglow comes to the game, her already niche viability drops significantly as GG is better in most scenarios. Her mastery is quite important for her usage, so don't neglect it if you plan to use her. That value is reflected in the grade, though her overall value in the mode is not quite a matching S-tier.
Dusk just doesn't do enough to justify the cost. In the story mode her S1 can be competitive to Eyja’s S2 in DPS, but the drawbacks stand out more here and her burst skill isn’t anywhere near as good. Her S1 is the best option here and just barely makes her usable, but the cheaper DP cost Eyja fills the same role while giving better late game options.
Carnelian is probably not worth taking. The high 6★ Hope cost is a lot and her drawbacks are significant. If you think I'm being harsh, know that my grade here is quite a bit more favorable than most tier-lists coming out of CN. The ranged tank role is just not that useful in the mode and she brings no value in the majority of time when she's not attacking at all.
I think Beeswax is probably the stronger pick over Carnelian, assuming you can pick up the damage elsewhere. Her pillar is really useful in spots and her self sustain is quite a bit better while not costing nearly as much. Still though, she isn’t the strongest of picks overall.
A passable option if you lack better. Amiya is actually a pretty strong caster at E2 and the True Damage with extra range is always nice to have, though its general applicability in this mode leaves a little bit to be desired. The main reason to take Amiya as a pick is that she counts as both a Guard and a Caster, and you'll mostly be using her as a Guard, so focus on those Masteries first.
Ebenholz is a tougher pick in IS#2. His kit is already relatively weak, but he doesn't work too well with any particular relic nor fill in any particular niche. He is usable though, and you'll likely want both skills Mastered if you're attempting that. S3 plays to his niche more, but S2 is plenty strong and will be better in a lot of maps.
A reasonable alternative if you don't have anyone better thanks to her remarkably high DPS for the rarity, however she brings no utility and the gap to the 6★s is a steep one so she isn't necessarily recommended either. Generally the less expensive Click will remain the better option for IS.
I’m only putting this here so no one asks in the comments if I forgot her. I did not forget.
As I discussed in the FAQ, I'm not really a big fan of Summoners (other than Ling) in the context of IS and that's reflected in the grades here. If you did want to use one, I would suggest Deepcolor (or Ling). But more to the point, this results in a really thin class of units with only a few worth special consideration.
Ling is tied for the strongest starter option you can take (along with Thorns). She is a nearly complete package starting out and can solo damn near the entire run with some practice, allowing you to focus your resources on building out for the final few stages. To that end, her S3 is the biggest priority since most stages are ground based, but you'll need to do S2 as well to have her be completely reliable in that role since many stages have an air focus.
It's worth noting that because Ling is most commonly taken as a starter, she is very easy to take on supports, so investment in your own could be considered a luxury if IS is your only purpose in raising her.
Also keep in mind that some relics do not affect Summons. That's not typically a big problem for the massively overpowered Ling though, but it's something to be aware of.
Skadi the Corrupting Heart
Skadi is one of the most powerful picks in the mode and that's almost entirely thanks to her S2. It elevates everyone up significantly, which is very valuable given the nature of the mode where selection is often limited. It also practically eliminates the need for a Medic in many cases, giving double value that few other units have.
Her S3 doesn't have anywhere near the value it does in other modes. Though still powerful, buff comps are not as common in the mode, and using the skill requires additional support units which eliminates a lot of the value Skadi brings. Consider it a luxury if you're looking to prioritize resources.
Suzuran is the second best Supporter pick in most cases, but the value declines dramatically after Skadi. Suzuran's S3 can save the toughest parts of a run, giving strong healing, Fragile that works on everyone, and strong stall. Like in the other modes though, the gains can seem a little low for the cost and she usually works fine at lower mastery levels. Don’t bother with her S2. Although a decent skill, DPS isn’t the reason to take Suzuran and Angelina better fills that role in the class.
Gnosis is a competitive alternative to Suzuran in the Supporter role, though he tends to come up a little short from her in most runs. While he tends to be far stronger in the lead up stages thanks to his good damage and more consistent and reliable crowd-control, all of the bosses are Freeze-immune which greatly hurts his viability. This leaves Suzuran as the preferred pick for Fragile most of the time, as she is often brought almost exclusively to help with the bosses rather than the regular stages Gnosis is better for. Gnosis is still a very competitive alternative though, especially compared to Angelina instead of Suzuran, and don't forget that Chill can effect bosses even if the Freeze can't which still brings value.
Angelina isn't as strong as she was in the previous IS, though that's largely because of the proliferation of powerful Arts damage since then and has nothing to do with her own merits as a unit. She is still a perfectly solid DPS unit with great utility in a thin class.
If you plan to use Angelina, then pursuing S2M3 can be an excellent option, even though it's a skill I typically suggest not spending resources on for most players. Her role as main DPS with S3 has fallen quite a bit, so the utility and stall S2 brings can be a great addition, and the cycle time improvements on mastery are valuable.
Our little war criminal is one of the stronger 4★ options in the mode. Though the weakness of Supporters does help her value, she does very solid damage and her lasting Snare and Silence utility can be a tremendous asset against a variety of common and frustrating enemies. Mastery gives solid upgrades to her damage and cycle. Although not a must-raise, she is definitely worth considering, especially if you don't have the few better 6★ Supporters.
In IS#1, Scene was hyped up quite a bit. I'll confess, I bought in too. And certainly, she was the best Summoner option at the time. The fact she could refresh her summons while making them more combat capable made her much easier to use and let her carry the first several floors. However, the first floors aren't that difficult and her summons fall off quickly in viability on the latter floors.
That role is still viable, so she's still graded well here, though I'm not a fan. Especially this time because Deepcolor's module makes her an equal alternative at a much lower cost.
Deepcolor got one of the best modules in the game. Her main flaw was an inability to refresh or recover her summons, but the increased total her module gives her makes that a non-issue on shorter stages. She can now fill the same role Scene did in the previous roguelike at a far lower cost. I still would not necessarily suggest it, but if you wanted to go the Summoner route, Deepcolor is the best option when considering cost.
Her S1M3 has a lot of value in this role. It gives a pretty big increase to the summons’ combat power and sustainability. Although she has a lot of them now with her module, losing too many can still be a problem. Given the low cost and the fact she needs E2 already for her module, S1M3 is very valuable.
If you plan to use Deepcolor, consider her S2M3 as well. Although her main value comes from her summons in S1, her S2 can provide some valuable team support later in the run and has really big gains.
Shamare has very strong masteries since they greatly increase the cycle time of her doll, especially with the commonly picked Ptilopsis. This can be a tremendous asset given the ATK debuff that can be deployed anywhere as well as the DEF debuff. Though there aren't a ton of high DEF enemies, the favor towards rapid fire Skills can make that debuff quite valuable still.
Pramanix doesn't have anywhere near the value of Shamare when compared to other modes. The RES debuff isn't a big need here, nor is the bit of extra DEF debuff. Given that, her shorter range and worse cycle time make her an inferior pick to Shamare for the role, and even if you don't have Shamare, she's generally not worth the investment or Hope.
The lack of grades on Magallan will probably be surprising to many. However the short of it is that Magallan has very little value in this mode to players who need advice from a guide like this. Her summons can't block and deploy slots are exceptionally valuable which leaves her in a very bad spot compared to the other Summoners, and 6★ mastery is very expensive. Prioritize resources elsewhere unless you know what you're doing.
Although her summons can block, she is much harder to use than Scene. She just won't be worth it for a majority of players. Like Magallan, only invest here if you know what you're doing.
Medics are a fairly thin class. Although most runs will require at least one Medic of some kind, there's a pretty clear delineation of who is best at the role at a given time. And from a mastery specific perspective, even less of them require that level of investment to get there.
Unsurprisingly, Kal'tsit is very good in the mode and she's largely the exception to the above note about Medics. Her usage and justification follow much the same path as the base guide, with the note that her S2M3 has more value here than it otherwise might in story instances. However, do be aware that her high total DP cost and the fact most relics do not interact with Monst3r (relics don’t affect summons unless they specifically say they do) means her ceiling is a little limited compared to other top carry units.
Mulberry & Honeyberry
I've discussed at length the comparison between the two Berries at length in other updates, so I'll avoid repeating myself here. In short though, Mulberry is the stronger regular Medic while Honeyberry is the stronger environmental Medic. There is abundant environmental damage here in the mode, which makes either useful, but given its nature I favor Mulberry. Though her environmental healing is lower, it's sufficient for the mode, while the regular damage is far more dangerous. Covering both with one unit is ideal. Whichever you choose though, masteries are very important for them both, though be aware Mulberry's S2M3 has almost extremely low value and should be skipped by most people.
Since the primary elemental damage source in IS#2 is stun, Lumen is a very appealing medic option since he provides much higher healing than either of the Berries do. It's usually enough that he even justifies the higher Hope cost. Be wary though, as that role gets reversed come IS#3. Lumen is a very strong option, but you'll get more lifetime mileage out of investing in Honeyberry or Mulberry first. For the purposes of IS, stick with his S3. There just aren't any situations where the faster windup of his other skills is necessary. You'll get more value by eating the S3 windup for his massive healing.
Ptilopsis is the second most picked medic in the mode after Kal'tsit and for good reason. Her Talent is generally useful and her burst healing is insanely high. However as in the other modes, mastery remains unnecessary overkill in most situations. She is well more than sufficient at SL 7.
For pure healing, you may want to consider Silence instead in this mode as the flexibility her drone brings is tremendous, but Silence isn’t rated for masteries here as they are entirely unnecessary and Warfarin is much more flexible still. So that said…
Warfarin is the next best ST medic in terms of power (sorry Shining). Taking her can have value in her flexibility both as a buffer and a very strong healer. Her talent too is incredibly valuable, especially early on as a way to feed SP to your carry, while still holding value late into the run. However, note that Sussurro can cover the healing aspect just as well at a lower cost, so Warfarin's S1M3 can be considered more of a luxury, especially if you aren't comfortable with her use as a buffer.
Nightingale's niche is super duper strong, perhaps making her the most broken unit in the game by some philosophies. However, there currently isn't any scenario where she can really abuse that niche in the mode. Of course there is still plenty of arts damage, so NG is still quite valuable, and she is especially good against the second end boss, but she doesn't really need mastery to be effective there, nor is she required to clear it, and otherwise Ptilopsis or even Perfumer tends to be the better choice in the rest of the stages. She's still a decent choice though based purely on the fact she's an AoE healer and her cages.
Although not nearly as strong as Ptilopsis, she's still a very good AoE healer and her global heal is quite good in the mode. It can cover side lanes that need only minor assistance and cover everyone in the red fog stages, not to mention her lower Hope cost for a support oriented role.
Shining just isn't worth taking in this mode. She costs far too much in Hope cost and doesn't bring much over Sussurro, Silence, Warfarin, or one of the Berries.
Silence is an honorable mention here. Her drone makes her a really useful pick which I felt was worth mentioning given how the rest of the guide goes. However both her E2 and her Masteries are among the worst in the game, so a modest E1 is more than sufficient.