Back in the Saddle is the second mission in the Heart of
the Swarm campaign. In this guide, you will find text and video walkthroughs for brutal mode as well as all of
the achievements available in this mission.
Despite being a starter mission, this initially is one of the more challenging missions in Heart of the Swarm,
particularly the first time you participate in the Archangel boss battle.
Back in the Saddle Achievements and Bonus Levels
There are no bonus levels available to Kerrigan in this mission. There are however 4 achievements:
Back in the Saddle: Unlocked by completing all mission objectives in the Back in the Saddle
mission (any difficulty).
Full Throttle: Unlocked by not allowing the any of the tram engines to be destroyed during the
flight phase of this mission (any difficulty). If you are having trouble with this, retry on casual mode, as there
is no difficulty attached to this achievement.
Brutal Legend: This is unlocked by not taking any damage to the Archangel (Normal difficulty or
higher). This is definitely the most challenging non-Mastery achievement (i.e. hard mode) in Heart of the Swarm. A
separate section and video guide can be found below to help with this particular achievement.
Nick of Time: Unlocked by getting through the timed portion of the Back in the Saddle mission
with more than 40 seconds on the timer (Hard difficulty or higher). There are three total gates that need to be
cleared in the 40 seconds. This is actually easier than Brutal Legend in my opinion - strategy and video discussed
Brutal Legend Achievement Guide
As mentioned, Brutal Legend is a relatively difficult achievement, so I wanted to give players an easy way to
beat this mission.
There are a few tips you can use to make this achievement easier. First, and most importantly, save your game
right before the Archangel fight. This way if you mess up, you can load from that save point, and not have to clear
through the entire mission just to get to the Archangel. This alone makes this achievement much easier.
Secondly, the achievement is easier to unlock on normal mode. You end up facing less enemies during the air
phases, so be sure to work on this achievement on Normal mode rather than Hard or Brutal. Finally, know that if you
take damage to the dropped units during the air phase, that is okay, you just cannot be hit by the Archangel if you
want to unlock Brutal Legend. Now that you have that information, we can discuss the actual strategy of the fight.
There are 5 phases to the Archangel fight:
Phase 1 - This phase begins with Kerrigan and a handful of Marines facing the Archangel. Be
sure to use Kinetic Blast as often as you can during this phase. I recommend standing just behind and to the right
of the Marines. The Archangel seems to fire from left to right (your left, not its left), so you can avoid damage
here just by staying on the right. Two Kinetic Blasts will send the fight into Phase 2.
Phase 2 - In Phase 2, the Archangel flies into the air for a little while. Red lines appear
across the ground which indicate an area that is about to be bombed. Do not stand near the red lines. Additionally,
a few Medivacs will come in and drop off enemy units. Use Crushing Grip to stun them so Kerrigan can take them out
with auto attacks. Use Kinetic Blast on tougher targets like Ghosts. Grab the Restorative Charges to restore
Phase 3 - In Phase 3, the Archangel lands on the southwestern edge of the platform and starts a
missile attack. Red circles appear on the ground where the Archangel is about to fire missiles. I find it easiest
to move left to right across the screen, as you typically can outrun the Archangel's attacks very easy as it
typically will focus on the area you just left if you are constantly moving.
If you get unlucky (common during the first few seconds of the fight) and the red circles appear all around you,
note that there should be small spaces in between a few of the circles that you can safely go to in order to avoid
damage. The explosion radius does not go beyond the red circle and Kerrigan is a very small unit, so you can stand
in the tiniest of spaces and avoid damage here.
Do not attack the Archangel with auto-attack during this phase. Simply use Kinetic Blast when it is off cooldown
and dodge the missile attacks otherwise.
Phase 4 -Phase 4 is just like Phase 2, with one notable exception: when this phase ends, the
Archangel lands in the middle of the room and sends out a high-damage shockwave. As a result, during Phase 4, you
always want to be on the outskirts of the room. Do not get near the center or you will get hit with this shockwave
and you will not get the Brutal Legend achievement. Remember that it is okay if you take damage to the Marines and
other regular units - do not run from them if you think it will result in you getting hit by the shockwave.
Phase 5 - The Archangel sits in the center of the room and fires out a cone of missiles.
However, it cannot rotate very quickly, so you just have to run around it in a circle without stopping. Once it
stops to fire, drop a Kinetic Blast. A few of those and the fight ends.
Brutal Legend Video Guide
Here is the video guide showing how to complete Brutal Legend achievement. You can see the 5 phases listed above
in action in this video.
Nick of Time Achievement Guide
Nick of Time is unlocked by getting through the 3 gates with 41+ seconds remaining on the timer each time. The
trick to this mission is using Kinetic Blast to break through the Debris in the last gate and to kill everything
along the way. Do not try to run past enemy units. At the same time, do not try to save Kerrigan's energy. There
are plenty of Restorative Charges that you can grab to get her energy back.
Here is a video guide to help you with this achievement:
Full Throttle Achievement Guide
Full Throttle is unlocked by not letting any tram engines get destroyed in the Back in the Saddle mission. I put
together a video guide for players who need help with this achievement, though it is very easy as there is no
difficulty associated with it. If you are struggling with it, just repeat the mission on casual mode and you will
find it much easier to protect all the tram engines:
Back in the Saddle Brutal Mode Guide
Beating Nick of Time on brutal mode for most players just comes down to three particular challenges: the tram
ride, the timer countdown, and the Archangel fight. The rest of the mission is a breeze if you use Kerrigan's
Fortunately, each one of these aspects of the fight needs to be mastered to unlock the achievements associated
with this mission. In particular:
If you can unlock Nick of Time, just repeat the mission on brutal mode but take your time when going
through each gate. You will have extra time compared to the Nick of Time achievement. Make sure you kill all
enemy units - do not try to run past them.
If you can unlock Brutal Legend, you should have no problem against the Archangel on brutal mode. It is the
same exact fight except I believe the Archangel gains 1500 HP. It just lasts a little longer. You can even take
some damage during the fight and make it up by grabbing the restorative charges if you are not going for the
The most difficult portion of Back in the Saddle on brutal mode may actually be the tram ride. Just
remember that it is okay if you lose a few tram engines - you just cannot lose them all. Use Kinetic Blast to
take down Medivacs before they can unload troops. Constantly grab the restorative charges to restore Kerrigan's
energy. If you are really having trouble with this part of the mission, you may want to consider sacrificing
the 2 Northern engines. They are hard to defend. If you do this, then the computer will have to concentrate
their forces on the middle 2 engines and the southern 2 engines, resulting in far less ground for Kerrigan and
Raynor to cover and defend.
Brutal Mode Back in the Saddle Video Guide
This video guide should help players struggling with this particular mission on brutal mode: