Fire Emblem: Awakening - Donnel, the Best Unit?

Updated on April 13, 2016


This hub is going to talk about Donnel, a lonely villager met early during your playthrough in Fire Emblem: Awakening. Many people simply discard him as a possible unit because of his terrible base stats. However, like many other cases in the Fire Emblem series, sometimes less is more, much more.

During the course of this hub, I will give an overview of Donnel, his base stats, his base growths, as well as many other crucial pieces of information necessary for bringing out the potential of your resident villager.

So, start reading and see why Donnel may be the best unit of Fire Emblem: Awakening.


So, who is Donnel exactly?

Well, Donnel is a villager in a quiet farming village who lives with his mother. Chrom's army can go to the village at any time after the events of the third chapter and, due to the nature of Donnel himself, you may want to go as soon as possible. See, Donnel is the living image of a growth character. Growth characters in Fire Emblem have terrible to bad base stats but spectacular growths. So, it would behoove you to get Donnel before he is essentially impossible to level up.

Where can I get Donnel?

Paralogue 1, at any time after the end of the third chapter, as mentioned above. You will need to level up Donnel at least once during the course of the chapter he appears in, or he will remain in the farm with his mother after the mission ends. As you will quickly see when I post Donnel's base stats, it's easier said than done. In fact, Lunatic difficulty players say it is nearly impossible to pull off (increased enemy stats and all that).

Why should I use Donnel?

He has the most ridiculous growths in the entire game. Period. He gets up to 29 free levels to play with, since Villager is (unofficially) a Tier 0 class. Most classes are Tier 1 and can promote to Tier 2 upon reaching level 10 and using a Master Seal. Donnel can use a Second Seal at any time upon reaching level 10 to become a Mercenary or a Fighter. Since both of the aforementioned classes can then promote to a number of Tier 2 classes, Donnel has a lot of free levels to exploit. Also (and I speak from Hard difficulty experience here) Donnel seems to get bonus experience while he is a Villager.

Why can't I use a Second Seal on Donnel at Level 30?

No one said you couldn't. However, the longer you wait to promote Donnel, the longer the time that he spends as a lance user (neither of his possible Tier 1 classes can use lances, so it's a waste of weapon training). In addition, Villager has terrible stat caps, so you may hit several of the caps before reaching Level 30 and then your remaining levels will be lackluster anyway.

If that weren't enough, here's yet another fact to consider: Lance users seem to reach nearly pandemic proportions in Fire Emblem: Awakening, and Villagers use Lances. All of this adds up to a verdict of: Meh.

Class change Donnel out of Villager as soon as possible and you'll come out ahead for it.

Donnel Stat Information At A Glance

Base Stats
Stat Growths (Villager)
Stat Growths (Mercenary/Hero)
Stat Growths (Fighter/Warrior)
Stat Growths (Bow Knight)
Base stats are expressed in absolute numbers. Stat growths are expressed as percentages. [Source: Serenes Forest]

Now, you're probably looking at that table and wondering why in the world I'm singing praises about Donnel. Well, he has a beautiful little skill called Aptitude that increases all of his stat growths by 20%! So, go back to that table and add 20 to every growth you see. Substantially better, isn't it?

The best part is that he can pass on Aptitude to his child if you build a support with a female character to S. (A lot of players seem to like Nowi/Donnel)

Here's another table listing Donnel's possible skill gains as he levels up in his various possible classes.

Donnel Skill Information at a Glance

Skill Name
Learned At Level
Skill Description
Class That Learns Skill
Adds 20% to all growth rates during Level Ups
Hit and Avoid +15 when user's Level is lower than the enemy
Attack does not reduce weapon usage (Chance = Luck*2)
Hit rate and Avoid +10 during the enemy's Turn
HP +5
Maximum HP +5
Critical +5
Rally Strength
Strength +4 to all allies within a 3 tile radius for one Turn
Returns damage when attacked by an adjacent enemy
Rally Skill
Skill +4 to all allies within a 3 tile radius for one Turn
Bow Knight
Hit and Avoid +50 when the enemy is equipped with a Bow
Bow Knight
Recover HP equal to half the damage dealt to the enemy (Chance = Skill)
Hit and Avoid +50 when the enemy is equipped with an Axe
The possible skills that Donnel can learn in each of his allowed classes. Source: [Serenes Forest]

As you can see, Donnel has a very healthy list of skills that he can get, depending on what class path you choose for him.

Now, I'm going to dedicate the next section for those of you who are debating what to turn Donnel into and when to do so as well.

Efficiency vs Practicality

Basically, Donnel is the Joker of your deck of cards. With just a small amount of luck, Donnel will easily be in the top five of your army's best units. Of course, perhaps the most important question is: Do I class change Donnel into a Mercenary or a Fighter?

Well, it depends whether you are looking for efficiency or practicality:


A quick look at the skills table above will reveal that Mercenaries get a cool skill called Armsthrift. Basically you have a chance to not consume a weapon use on attack equal to twice of your Luck stat. Since Donnel has a ridiculous amount of Luck, this skill will be especially efficient on him. Basically, if you're looking for efficiency in stat usage, then Donnel should definitely be a Mercenary.


Now, if you want to be practical, take a hard look at your current army. If you're playing on Casual (or haven't lost anyone at Classic), then your army up to the 13th chapter or so is only going to consist of three axe users. On the other hand, everyone and their mother seems to be able to use swords, even if only as a secondary weapon type. So, in practical terms, Donnel probably serves your army better as a Fighter.

Of course, Donnel is going to have so many stat points (even if you class change first thing at Villager level 10) that it doesn't matter what you make him in those terms. So, at the end of the day, it's up to you.

Tips and Tricks for using Donnel

  • You have no choice but to baby Donnel in his first levels. At Hard difficulty, you'll need to whittle enemies down to about 5 HP in his introductory chapter if you want him to secure kills. Don't forget that he needs to gain at least one level in that chapter if you want to recruit him.
  • I personally like to bring Frederick along when Donnel is in his level infancy so he can contribute his +4 Defense on Pair Up. The extra strength will also help in securing kills as well.
  • Once Donnel reaches the level he can class change, he will probably have enough Defense and HP to tank some attacks. In fact, if your Donnel turns out anything like my Donnel, he will probably have more Defense than most of the rest of your army by Level 12 or so.
  • Don't forget to wait until Level 15 for the first class change if you want Donnel to have Underdog. Personally, I didn't wait, as it's decent, but situational. Most of your stats are going to reach their tier 1 caps even if you class change at 10 anyway, so the only real reason to wait is if you want Underdog so badly.
  • The decision for what Donnel should become in Tier 2 will again depend on whether you want to be efficient or practical. Both Mercenaries and Fighters can become Heroes, but only Mercenaries can become Bow Knights. Likewise, only Fighters can become Warriors. If you have a Mercenary Donnel, you really can't go wrong with either selection, as they'll both add a new weapon type that isn't called Swords. If you have a Fighter Donnel, I'd recommend going the way of the Warrior, for practical purposes (axe and bow users seem to be in low supply for a large part of the early game for some reason).
  • Donnel's high Defense growths allow him to choke points and restrict enemy flow while taking little to no damage. Just beware Mages if you haven't been blessed with great Resistance levels.


In conclusion, Donnel is perhaps one of the best units in Fire Emblem: Awakening since his growths are extremely above average. He can pass on his excellent growths to his child, so there's that extra bit of power as well.

Just remember that Donnel, for all of his perks, is still only a single unit. Feel free to not use him if you can't be bothered to baby him. However, if you need a solid axe or sword user (and later possibly bow user) there are few better choices than Donnel (at least until post-game).

Until the next time, take care and have fun! ;)


Questions & Answers


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      • profile image

        blazing420sword 14 months ago

        I would like Donny a lot more if you could take the damn pot off of his head.

      • profile image

        Someone 19 months ago

        In lunatic, Donnel is often used to pass down the Pegasus knight line to noire. (And the skill aptitude) This turns noire from a decent unit into a great unit, who can get gale force, aptitude and life taker (through Tharja, although Donnel doesn't need to be her father.) In normal or hard, Donnel being the father of Kjelle or nah are both great choices. In my opinion nah is slightly better. And considering nah is a very good mother to Morgan, Donnel makes a great grandfather to Morgan. (A much better grandfather than father.) Morgan can inherit the manakete class and aptitude. This is possibly the most insanely overpowered Morgan you can achieve in the game.

      • profile image

        Anonymous 2 years ago

        the anonymous person a bit above me seems to be confused what he said was in fact correct he did not state that it raises caps by 20% he said that it raises the probability of the stat increasing by 20% so you trying to call him out was completely irrelevant

      • profile image

        aaqr 2 years ago

        What is Better for Donnel ?

        Bowbreaker or Counter

      • profile image

        Anonymous 3 years ago

        "Well, he has a beautiful little skill called Aptitude that increases all of his stat growths by 20%! So, go back to that table and add 20 to every growth you see. Substantially better, isn't it?"

        False. the skill reads "Adds 20% to each stat's odds of increasing at level up." This means that he will reach max stats faster, not that his max stats are 20% higher.

        "He gets up to 29 free levels to play with, since Villager is (unofficially) a Tier 0 class."

        This is mostly irrelevant since every character can use second seal or master seal (depending on their current class) to "start over" on their current class, keeping all of their current stats and simply starting from level 1 again.

        Donnel is an amazing character because he scales so quickly, but please actually do your research before writing something like this.

      • profile image

        Manuel 3 years ago

        this article is on point Donnel is a beast no joke if you don't use him you have basically wasted a away an amazing character to level up.

      • profile image

        The Lunatic Guy 4 years ago

        On Lunatic Mode is perfectly possible to recruit Donnel, easily. There's an Archer on the top left side of the map, alongside two chests. If you pair Donnel with a mounted unit (Stahl, Sully, or Frederick; not Sumia, because she's vulnerable to Bows), switch to the mounted unit and end your turn adjacent to the Archer (but not attacking him), the Archer will move to the only square he can to attack your unit. That means next Player Phase you can move adjacent to this Archer, boxing him (Archers cannot attack adjacent units, and he will have nowhere else to go) and allowing you to unpair Donnel (so he doesn't get Pair Up bonuses to Str) and start whacking away until he gets a Level Up.

        However, on Lunatic, he's only useful for passing Aptitude to his child (and, if the child is female, he can pass the Pegasus Knight tree, allowing a female unit that doesn't have access to Galeforce to grab it). Donnel!Nah is somewhat popular, but I think Kjelle!Nah is better, simply because she can get Luna + Aptitude as inherited skills without much effort, then go something like Knight 10 - Mercenary 10 - Pegasus Knight 10 - Dark Flyer 15 for a skill set of Aptitude, Luna, Armsthrift, Galeforce, and one spare slot for something like a -faire skill or Limit Breaker. You can giver her a max forged Brave weapon and she'll own everything. Go team Kjelle!

      • profile image

        KGKummer 4 years ago

        Shit ... Well I dun fudged up he died in my Hard mode play through so I was unable to add him to my team. So I'll never get to have one of the most OP characters in this run.

      • profile image

        Mari 4 years ago

        going to marry mine with sully!

      • profile image

        Jimmy Mousy 4 years ago

        Really nice and useful info, i think we all know that most of the "baby" classes are meant to be so powerful if you take the time to lvl up them, like in Sacred Stones (Amelia as a General+boots was goddamn amazing, Ross as berserker so godly, and Ewan as Summoner/Shaman kick ass)

        Like many people i married Donnel with Nowi, cuz why not, Manakete with sick growths? yes please!, plus A-rank Support its kinda hard to beat that

      • Souther29 profile image

        Olly 4 years ago from London, UK

        It's funny when I first did the Donnel sidequest in the back of my mind seeing how weak he was I wanted to really make him strong and actually he is pretty much the strongest character in my party now. Quite rewarding as I had to babysit him a lot in the early stages but was definitely worth it - getting him together with Panne was also pretty funny!

      • profile image

        lpp 5 years ago

        omg,i didn't get donnel ;(

      • profile image

        me 5 years ago

        Donnel is definitely the best character in the game. For me he has 48 luck and a useful little skill called armsthrift. For those of you who don't know it makes him not use a use of his weapon and the activation chance is Luck times 2. So he has a 96 percent chance not to use a use when he attacks. Essentially, I can just get him to go around whacking people with hammerne. Of course I don't really do that, I usually give him a killer axe and some sort of awesome ranged weapon. (He's a hero with basically everything maxed) So definitely make him a mercenary to get armsthrift and have fun massacring your enemies at no cost!

      • profile image

        random-dude 5 years ago

        Food for thought: Wouldn't a smithed weapon be quite helpful for donnel in the beginning?

        I also found glass lances to be quite helpful for him.

      • Winterfate profile image

        Darrin Perez 5 years ago from Puerto Rico

        When you class change a unit into a class that uses a new weapon type (as the case of Donnel when he promotes to either of his possible classes) that weapon gets an E Rank. As a Mercenary, Donnel gets an E Rank in Swords and can only use Bronze Swords.

        Had you class changed him to Fighter, he would've gotten an E Rank in Axes.

        So, you'll need to use Bronze weapons for a while to get him to higher ranks so he can equip the better stuff.

      • profile image

        David Hunt 5 years ago

        I have just class changed Donnel to a Mercenary and now he doesn't seem to want to carry any weapons. Bought a sword as that what it says Mercenaries use be he will not attack with it? Any ideas?

      • profile image

        max 5 years ago

        i think donnell makes a better warrior(well i haven't tried hero) but he is like a killing machine nobody can beat him!

      • profile image

        Freakquency 5 years ago

        I could have sworn I submitted a reply earlier! (I intended to at least)

        Thank you for the quick yet thorough reply. I think I finally have a good understanding of "effective levels" in this game especially after your clarification. I'm a long time gamer but this is the first Fire Emblem game I've really played. I'm enjoying every minute! Your hub pages have been a great resource for information on the Awakening characters, thanks again!

      • Winterfate profile image

        Darrin Perez 5 years ago from Puerto Rico

        Hello there Freakquency! The only thing affected by frequent/excessive class changing is experience gains. When Donnel changes from Mercenary to Fighter, you might see his stats change slightly, but that's due to the difference in base stats between the two classes. However, rest assured that there's no long-lasting negative effects for class changing.

        Just keep in mind that Donnel's effective level will keep going up as you class change, and will make it harder for him to gain levels. In your example:

        Going Villager 15 gives Donnel an effective level of 3 or 4 (let's say 3), if I recall correctly (the effective level of a unit is halved when you class change using a Second Seal, and halved again if the base class was Villager). So, a Level 1 Mercenary Donnel is actually Level 3, for purposes of experience gains. Then, when you class change a Level 10 Mercenary Donnel, his effective level will become 5+3. So, Donnel will be a Level 1 Fighter whose effective level is 8.

        Basically, this works to prevent players from excessively grinding characters (not that it matters much in the long run anyway).

        In other words, go for it. :)

      • profile image

        Freakquency 5 years ago

        Great posts Winterfate, I'm really gaining a lot of knowledge fast just from going through your hub pages. I do have a question I think you could offer some insight on though..

        Is it plausible to go :

        Villager 15 (For underdog)

        Mercenary 10 (To pick up both skills)

        Fighter 20

        Warrior 20

        Those Merc skills are very attractive to have as an option but I wonder if this would be detrimental in any way to Donnel's stat growth (as long as I can still cap I don't mind but I'm still not 100% on how that all works), your thoughts Winterfate?

      • Winterfate profile image

        Darrin Perez 5 years ago from Puerto Rico

        Thank you very much for reading and for the praise Rock and Bryn Jones! It is much appreciated! :)

      • profile image

        Jake 5 years ago

        I'm going to suggest that Donnel goes to hero, assuming you're not going to reclass him. The hero's skill, sol, allows him to replenish HP just by attacking.

      • profile image

        Bryn Jones 5 years ago

        Thank you so much. I really love these, they're filled with great info and they're a great read.

      • profile image

        Rock 5 years ago

        OMG! Many good tips,helped a lot. Thank you

      • Winterfate profile image

        Darrin Perez 5 years ago from Puerto Rico

        Thanks for reading zerolocked! Glad I could help! :)

      • profile image

        zerolocked 5 years ago

        Nice read, helped with leveling him.


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