IMP: Yes, Leadership. Also took Negotiator and Long throw (?). Doubling the range of thrown explosives or flashbangs along with making the AP for doing so…uhh…like…2 AP? 1 AP to throw a knife is amazing.
Livewire: Like others have gone into at length, her stats aren’t at the highest for combat, but almost at the top for mechanics and wisdom, some training she can be pretty good at just about anything. Also for any hacking node that gives out intel, her PDA gives you an extra item, and she can reveal all enemies on the map if you have intel on the area. AND having scoundrel means she can give you extra rewards. Give her a sniper rifle and grab the perk for raising morale when you deal over 50 damage, your teams morale will never dip below 2, giving you extra AP to play around with.
Kalyna: She’s just fun to have around. Highest leadership stat for her price of any merc for awhile, but low Wisdom means her gains in stats are terrible, along with poor base stats. Decentish Sniper but I had Livewire take over her job.
Dr Q: Great medic, unique ability to just knock an enemy out for a round. He’s melee focused, which is…kinda not great for a medic to be next to enemies when you might need healing instead. Was replaced.
Blood: HOLY CRAP Blood is just insane. Don’t even bother giving him a gun, just stab people to death. Unique ability to advance AND throw knives, 1 AP for him to throw a knife the first time, great base stats. I only wish he had decent explosives skill to take advantage of his throwing related perks. Pop a smoke grenade and watch him go to town on enemies that can only graze him. Also: Infinite throwing knives. My MVP for all of my games.
The Swap outs:
Fox: Replaced Dr Q. She can be built to have insane amounts of movement, and I have her more as a close/medium range fighter, so she can still Overwatch and fight from a bit of a safer location than Dr Q. Middling Marksmanship holds her back but good Wisdom means it can be fixed.
Grizzly: Had him replace Kalyna. Give this guy a machine gun and watch him go to town, great stats for leaning into this area (Besides low Dexterity) means he can hunker down and mow through enemies without batting an eye. If you’re using a MG that has Cumbersome his unique skill basically lets him fire it off without any accuracy penalty. Getting him perks in the Strength and Health trees make him stand out from the rest.
Problem with explosives:
My explosives experts took me a bit to find which one I gravitated towards more.
Red was my first pick, he’s actually cheaper than Fidel on a two week contract (His price is listed higher because he has a high medical insurance), Have at Ye! is situationally great skill, causing him to respond to enemy gunfire by throwing a GRENADE at them. He doesn’t really talk too much from what I found though, so I eventually tried to replace him.
Fidel has the ability to launch two grenades at once, is a bit more talkative, has the Psycho trait for dialogue/quest solutions, and seems to be built better as a shotgunner/breacher. But he’s finicky as hell. Lose out with him for the entire game if you don’t let him kill enough people. More of a headache than most.
Barry: Who I settled on. Relatively rare in the fact that he’s actually a nice guy? Pretty rare in the explosives expert department. Although a bit slow to produce more, he has unique grenades that are pretty powerful, and explode in a cone. You ambush enemies with these and watch 7-8 of them get gibbed in ONE grenade. Also possesses high Wisdom, which you will want to put to use training him, his base stats are nothing really noteworthy.
So current main team:
For those counting this is a merc without a salary (IMP), four recruits, and one who is one tier higher. Even with the extra costs from them gaining levels, a really cheap party. One mine that has a high loyalty will usually pay for them.