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- "Commanding troops requires both strength and audacity."
- —Jiralhanae Chieftain's mantra
Chieftain, also known as Alpha, is a position within the Jiralhanae race. It is one of the highest positions in the Jiralhanae hierarchy both in social aspects and in military rank within the Covenant.
Chieftains primarily serve as military commanders. They are leaders of groups of the half-a-dozen or more Jiralhanae as well as several lower caste species within a "pack." In Jiralhanae society, Chieftains are subordinate only to War Chieftains and the Chieftain of the Jiralhanae himself. Apart from pack leadership position, the Jiralhanae Chieftains are also spiritual leaders, giving sermons to their packs. Maccabeus, while Chieftain of the Rapid Conversion, would lead his pack in religious sermons, like the Progression of the Ages and blessing pack meals.
Several Jiralhanae Chieftains would eventually join Merg Vol's Covenant after the Human-Covenant War. These Jiralhanae would fight on behalf of the group during the Battle of Draetheus V in 2554. In 2557, several Chieftains would serve in Jul 'Mdama's Covenant during the Battle of Installation 03.
The Chieftain of the Jiralhanae, Tartarus was killed by Thel 'Vadam, his Sangheili allies, and Sergeant Major Avery Johnson on Installation 05. He wielded a powerful ancient and unique gravity hammer, the Fist of Rukt. Preceding him was his uncle Maccabeus, the previous wielder of the Fist of Rukt. Maccabeus's death was at his young nephew's hands, as is the tradition within the Jiralhanae culture: a fight to the death over the Chieftain position within the pack. The same can be said for all Jiralhanae Chieftains, unless the previous Chieftain fell in battle; however contestants may have had to fight to the death for the position if this was the case, so the situation would have stayed the same regardless.
In Halo 3, Jiralhanae Chieftains are clad in ornate red and black armor, instantly recognizable by a large headdress. While it cannot take as much damage as the bronze, gold-colored armor worn by War Chieftains, it allows greater speed and mobility. Their power armor cannot be stuck by plasma grenades, spike grenades, or needler projectiles. However, their armor can be stuck by firebombs and unarmored parts like the Chieftains' weapons, hands, and feet can be stuck by spike and plasma grenades.
Unlike the power armor worn by Jiralhanae of lesser ranks, a Chieftain's armor does not fall apart once the shields are disabled. Additionally, their heavy helmets protect them from headshots, and it requires a handful of shots to the head from a precision weapon to knock off their helmet and leave them vulnerable to a fatal headshot.
A Jiralhanae Chieftain's shields are stronger than those of a standard Jiralhanae, but, oddly, are slightly weaker than a Jiralhanae Captain's. On any difficulty it only takes one beam rifle or sniper rifle shot to disable their shields, while Jiralhanae Captains require two shots on Heroic or Legendary to bring their shields down. On Heroic, a Chieftain's shield can be brought down with twelve assault rifle bullets or eight plasma rifle bolts. However, even unshielded, a Jiralhanae Chieftain has extremely high durability and can survive incredible high amounts of damage; on Heroic, it takes forty-three assault rifle bullets, five particle beam rifle shots, or five direct hits from a Brute shot to kill an unshielded Chieftain, whereas any other Jiralhanae rank dies after only one beam rifle shot or one to two Brute shot grenades once their shields are disabled. This makes the durability of Chieftains much closer to that of the Jiralhanae of Halo 2 than any other Jiralhanae unit in Halo 3. Additionally, their power armor grants Chieftains exceptionally high resistance to energy weaponry; even unshielded, a Jiralhanae Chieftain can withstand more than two hundred plasma rifle bolts before falling, while most standard Jiralhanae die after only a little over a dozen plasma rifle bolts once their shields are gone.
The Jiralhanae Chieftain's primary armament is the gravity hammer, although they are also known to use Type-33 fuel rod guns, Type-52 plasma launchers, and Type-52 plasma cannons. Jiralhanae Chieftains are the only enemy, aside from the occasional Flood and Sangheili General, who use these weapons. On all level modes, they carry and almost always use the invincibility power-up. It is also possible for them to carry a regenerator, flare, or power drain. On their left arm, the armor is thicker to deliver bone-crushing melee attacks should they need to perform one without their gravity hammer.
Jiralhanae Chieftains will be closely guarded by two or more Jiralhanae Bodyguards as well as high numbers of Jiralhanae of other ranks, only leaving the security of the pack when they feel it is tactically sound or simply when they thirst for blood. Chieftains generally hang back and allow their entourage of Jiralhanae to do the fighting, generally only charging forward to attack with their gravity hammers after several of their Jralhanae pack subordinates have been slain.
If they run for you, turn and run as fast as you can. More often than not, unless you've managed to kill them within the first few seconds, they will activate their invincibility if they are carrying one and you will not be able to kill them until it wears off. Chieftains can close distances quickly, and will not hesitate to smack anything out of their path. Though less durable than the more ornate War Chieftains, they are far faster and much deadlier in close combat, and they still boast extremely powerful shields and armor.
- Jiralhanae Chieftains, as fitting their "commander" role, have incredible physical strength and agility - far more so than their lesser brethren. Avoid going into melee combat with a Chieftain. However, if you do get yourself in the situation, do not try to melee him or he will quickly deliver a direct blow with the gravity hammer, which is a one-hit-kill even on Normal difficulty. Run away as quickly as possible once you see him trying to get close enough to melee you. Shoot him enough times with one of your weapons, until his Power Armor breaks, then try to shoot his helmet/headdress off so that you can score a headshot.
- Another way, though difficult, is to circle around the back of the Chieftain, wait for them to do his backwards melee attack, and again circle round them while their still turning round to where you used to be. This gives you ample time for an assassination. Believe it or not, this is the best way to kill them: their swing animations are incredibly predictable during Halo 3, and this extends to all hammer-wielding Jiralhanae. Note: assassinations ignore invincibility, making this tactic even more useful.
- One of the best ways to kill a Chieftain is to charge at them from a distance. They will begin to leap at you; use the time when they are crouching down to leap to get up close to them. When they leap, if done correctly, they over the player's head, giving him or her enough time to perform an assassination.
- A hammer-wielding Chieftain will often utilize the Invincibility power-up while charging at you if you're firing and back-pedaling at the same time. However, if the player is able to kill the Chieftain before he activates it, the player can use the Invincibility to great gain.
- Even when Chieftains utilize the invincibility power-up, an assassination will still kill them.
- A good way to kill Chieftains is to use Cloaking and assassinate them. This way you are unharmed, and you can also pick up their Invincibility, since they did not have time to activate it. However, you should be careful not to alert any of the surrounding Jiralhanae. If they know that you are there, even if they cannot see you, the Chieftain will sometimes be able to sense where you are even if you are cloaked and will turn around in your direction, although he does not attack. This will make it harder to get behind him and if you touch him, he will hit you and you will temporarily lose your cloaking, allowing the rest of the Jiralhanae to see and attack you.
- Probably the easiest way to kill a Chieftain is to use a Spartan Laser on him. This will kill the Jiralhanae instantly, allowing you to pick up his invincibility and, if you want, his gravity hammer. It is easier to do this as soon as you see them while they are taunting and growling at you, for on higher difficulties, they will activate their invincibility as the laser hits them, rendering the shot wasted. In Halo 3, this can only be done on the level the Covenant, as it is the only Halo 3 level where you are given a Spartan Laser.
- Although you cannot stick Chieftains, if you are a good shot you can stick the Chieftain's weapon, which usually is the gravity hammer. It's quite difficult, but it will kill him immediately. (This does not work on Legendary difficulty.)
- When facing a charging Chieftain, jump up as they try to hit you with their hammer and the blow from the hammer will push you away from the Jiralhanae, giving you more time to damage him and ultimately kill him as well as recharge your shields. Make sure you're not on an edge or the blast from the hammer could knock you over the edge, killing you.
- Incendiary Grenades are a good way to kill a Chieftain, although on Legendary, this is not a guaranteed one hit kill, as he can easily activate his Invincibility and negate the effects of your grenade.
- If the Chieftain is alone, you may attempt to lure him into a close range fight and melee him before sidestepping. The Chieftains are surprisingly slow to recover after a melee/hammer attempt, so you can kill them with multiple melee hits by edging around him/jumping over him every time he attempts to melee/hammer you. This is quite risky, however, and is not recommended on higher difficulties.
- Another good way to kill a Chieftain is to dual-wield spikers, as Chieftains seem to have a vulnerability to the spikes. Enough spikes will also slow down the Chieftain, occasionally stopping the Chieftain's charge and if you pump enough into him, he will eventually go down. Same with plasma rifles.
- When a Chieftain swings their gravity hammer at you, you can perform a 'gravity jump.' While not an actual move incorporated into the game, this involves jumping moments before the hammer hits, so that you ride the shock wave, usually to a place far away from the chieftain. Skilled players may utilize this to get out of an explosive's blast range, or to get head shots from above.
- In Halo: Reach, Chieftain armor can be stuck with plasma grenades. However, their reasonably strong shields and high unshielded durability mean that they can usually survive a stick attempt.
- The sniper rifle is devastating against Chieftains in Halo: Reach. Two head shots will kill any Chieftain on Easy, Normal and Heroic difficulties.
- Unlike energy sword-equipped Sangheili, who will generally make a beeline for their target without evading enemy fire, Jiralhanae Chieftains will jink back and forth as they charge, making them much more difficult to head shot or stick then their Sangheili counterparts. This is compensated for because of their slower speed and the comparative ease of dodging the slower hammer strike compared with a sword swing.
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- During the early development of Halo 3, a Jiralhanae Chieftain was seen wielding an energy sword. This was probably taken out due to the fact that Jiralhanae prefer their own gravity hammers, and because the energy sword is an Sangheili-exclusive weapon (and the Jiralhanae dislike the Sangheili).
- All Jiralhanae Chieftains are voiced by John DiMaggio in both Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST.
- If a Chieftain is transformed into a Flood combat form in Halo 3, his armor will become that of a Jiralhanae Minor. This is because the game engine does not have any code to transform the Chieftain into a "Chieftain" combat form. This can be easily observed in the Citadel during the level The Covenant, where the Flood temporarily ally with the Master Chief and the Arbiter to attack the remaining Covenant forces. Another good place to see an infected Chieftain is on the level Halo, because an infected Chieftain is in a Flood dispersal pod.
- In Halo 3: The Official Strategy Guide, there is a mistake on the last page, where there is a War Chieftain wielding a gravity hammer. There are also images of an ordinary Jiralhanae Chieftain wielding a plasma turret and a fuel rod gun.
- In the Halo 3 level Sierra 117, a Chieftain is seen hanging onto the side of a Phantom in the clearing with a crashed Pelican down the cliff. Oddly, this Chieftain can be stuck with plasma grenades, but shows no reaction to them, and is completely immune to the blast.
A Jiralhanae Chieftain standing near a War Chieftain.
A Jiralhanae Chieftain illuminated by VISR.
A Jirlhanae Chieftain action figure from McFarlane Toys.
A Jiralhanae Chieftain fighting against Sarah Palmer.
Chieftain concept art for Halo 4's Prologue entry.
A Jiralhanae Chieftain—possibly an Army Commander—overseeing the massacre of Sangheili Councilors on Installation 05.
List of appearances