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Quit the Stat Race

Posted by Rengor1997 | July 02 2020

This is the first post in a series by Rengor1997 that will talk about various concepts regarding the meta of Fire Emblem: Three Houses.

When looking at Three Houses' enemies on Maddening, one could think that stacking your own stats until you match the enemy's is the only valid move - engaging in a stats race. However, Three Houses offers many ways to circumvent stats entirely, either via not needing them for your unit's role, using the promotion to go up to class bases, having abilities or gambits augment your stats, or abusing Combat Arts that do damage even with bad stats. In this post we'll look at the different ways to make Maddening more than a simple statfest.

Combat isn't everything.

Some units simply don't need good stats to function. Take Linhardt as an example - does he care about any stat other than Magic to boost his healing and spell (Warp) range? Does it matter how bad his Speed and HP are compared to the enemy's if he's never going to enter combat? This obviously requires good positioning; being aware of how the battlefield looks like is one of the best skills to pick up while playing Fire Emblem as a whole. Units can contribute meaningfully without being good at fighting; healing, dancing, warping, etc. are all extremely valuable tools to have that allow your combat units to be more effective. The game is extremely deterministic so use it to your advantage.

Abuse the class system.

Just like in Fire Emblem Echoes, classes have their own stat minimums that they'll always give a unit to for free if they're below. Notable examples are the Armored Knight's base 12 Defense at the intermediate stage, and the advanced classes having significant bases for the point of the game (for example, all physical advanced classes have base 17 Strength). It's a good baseline boost to build off of, one that will most likely last you the whole game. As such, a unit's level should be treated as the primary stat to raise - not for the sake of level up stat gains, but for the sake of reaching promotion requirements.

Abilities matter a lot.

Three Houses features a lot of abilities (it's impossible to talk about all of them), but some of them are standouts that are worth covering. Death Blow, Fiendish Blow, and Darting Blow all boost relevant battle stats by 6, enabling units to reach KOing thresholds. Hit +20 and Uncanny Blow boost your reliability, which you really want against Maddening's dodgey enemies. Strength +2 seems like a weak boost, but it still pushes your thresholds and is especially valuable for gauntlet users. These abilities can be easily acquired through mastering their respective classes, and are accessible to every single unit in the game (except Darting Blow, which is gender-locked). Also worth pointing out are the Vantage/Wrath abilities. Only Dimitri has the full Battalion Wrath + Battalion Vantage combo, but for a more accessible alternative a unit can use Vantage (master Mercenary) and Battalion Wrath (raise Authority rank for some units) with proper battalion HP setup to critblick hordes of enemies without taking a single hit. Retribution can be even be used for maximum effectiveness. This strategy requires caution but has excellent payoffs.

Battalions and gambits are overpowered.

Gambits are a great new way to compensate for lackluster stats - either via stunlocking enemies or via supportive gambits. Impregnable Wall turns any unit into an impenetrable tank for a turn, which means even overwhelmingly powerful enemies can't do anything to them. Blessing guarantees survival of a hit when above 1 HP. Combine this with a Guard Adjutant, which always prevents death from follow-up attacks, and you literally cannot die from a round of combat, unless you get quadrupled and OHKO'd. Stride allows you to engage enemy groups without exposing yourself first. In terms of offensive gambits, while the enemy may have higher charm, remember that the gambit hit rate formula has a floor, so with enough gambit boosts and Hit +20 you can get reliable hit rates even against enemies with insane charm stats. Battalions also give you important combat stats - ones like Leicester Mercenaries and Cichol Wyvern Co. give amazing stat bonuses.

Combat Arts can define entire builds.

Combat Arts like Tempest Lance and Smash really help you out early game, but I want to focus on the Combat Arts that constitute as entire offensive styles. These would be Hunter's Volley, Fierce Iron Fist, Swift Strikes, and Point-Blank Volley. These Combat Arts automatically strike multiple times before the enemy can counter, allowing you to eliminate them before any danger comes to your unit. They essentially remove the need for a good Speed stat on the player phase, since no matter how slow the unit is they will always be able to hit multiple times. Swift Strikes is excellent in particular, since two of the users of it (Ferdinand and Seteth) bear the Crest of Cichol, which gets two rolls when using Swift Strikes. Then we have arts like Frozen Lance and Lightning Axe for magical units, which allows them to use a high might weapon coupled with the Combat Art damage boost to OHKO enemies from the magical end of the spectrum rather than with spells, allowing you to utilize effective weaponry. Lastly we have Vengeance, which directly converts HP lost to damage dealt, reaching such absurd damage values that it OHKOs most enemies in the game even at base.

Use your good weapons.

Hoarding is a Pitfall™, and so is not using powerful weapons. Hero's Relics are extremely powerful E rank weapons that are repaired with Umbral Steel, which is exceedingly common in the game. They should be used and abused to good effect and when they run out, you can simply repair it. This also goes for Brave weapons which are great for killing before retaliation or Killer weapons for critblicking enemies. There are also a ton of powerful Sacred weapons like the Spear of Assal - imagine a 42 might attack with a Brave effect thanks to Swift Strikes. Not many enemies that are weak to it can survive that.

In conclusion, Three Houses is about a lot more than sheer stats and growths. Ability learnsets and skill boons are just as much of a factor into a unit's viability, if not more. And lastly, don't be afraid to experiment - sometimes the weirdest of ideas end up as the best of them. A notable example being Dark Mage Seteth to combat the 103 avoid of the Death Knight in a certain lategame chapter, just due to the Heartseeker ability. Look out for any possible advantage you may gain and don't be afraid to try using them.

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