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Fire Emblem: Heroes - A Beginner's Guide

Updated on April 3, 2017

Introduction

Hey there! During the course of this article, I will be giving an overview of Fire Emblem: Heroes for the benefit of players new to the game. General information and tips and tricks will be listed so that you can start your journey off on the right foot. Without further ado, let's get started!

What's a Gacha Game?

For those of you reading who have never played a gacha game before, the name is derived from "gachapon", which are basically vending machines (popular in Japan) that spit out toys and other collectibles when used. Much like a gachapon, gacha games gate the acquisition of characters and/or items behind random pools (generally called banners in most games) that the player must "pull" from. In Puzzle and Dragons, for example, the banners are literal dragon-shaped machines with a lever (so, as a player, you're literally pulling from a machine for new units). While certain units will be featured (giving the player a better chance of pulling them), there is rarely (if ever) a guaranteed chance to pull a particular unit. Cue certain subsets of people (termed whales by mobile game developers and mobile game communities alike) that spend inordinately large amounts of money to spin the wheel for their favorites.

What is Fire Emblem: Heroes?

Fire Emblem: Heroes is Nintendo's first foray into "gacha"-based mobile gaming. It features an original story involving two kingdoms (Askr, who are the good guys, and Emblia, who are the bad guys) and a different way of getting new heroes for your army. Basically, instead of talking to certain enemies in battle with specific characters of your army, you spend Orbs to summon them out of randomized banners (hence, the gacha element). Like most gacha games, the story is more of an excuse than a reason to actually play the game. However, series veterans may be happy to know that the core of Fire Emblem gameplay is preserved (albeit simplified by the removal of hit rates/critical rates, evasion, and terrain bonuses). Is it good as a mainline Fire Emblem game? Perhaps not. But, it's definitely pretty good for a mobile game.

A picture of my castle in Fire Emblem: Heroes. You can see my Orb count at the upper-right corner of the screenshot.
A picture of my castle in Fire Emblem: Heroes. You can see my Orb count at the upper-right corner of the screenshot. | Source

What are Orbs?

Orbs are the in-game currency for Fire Emblem: Heroes. They can be acquired in several ways:

For free:

  • You will be given an Orb for clearing Story or Paralogue battles for the first time.
  • Every Sunday, you will get a free Orb as a reward for logging in on that day.
  • Certain quests will award you Orbs on completion.

By paying: This doesn't really bear any additional explanation, save for the warning that chasing specific units can become really expensive. I'm a F2P (free to play) player, as I'm not a fan of the gacha method of microtransactions (it's a bit predatory, to be honest). Also, I don't really have a lot of disposable income nowadays, but that's neither here nor there. Anyway, if you decide to buy Orbs with money, please spend responsibly. On that note, see the table below and you'll notice a weird quirk in the pricing structure for Orb bundles.

Cost per Orb (in USD) Breakdown

Number of Orbs Purchased
Total Cost for Bundle
Cost per Orb
3
$1.99
~ $0.6633
10
$5.99
$0.5990
23
$12.99
~ $0.5648
35
$19.99
~ $0.5711
48
$26.99
~ $0.5623
75
$39.99
$0.5332
140
$74.99
~ $0.5357
A table listing each of the possible Orb bundles that can be purchased and the cost per Orb of each one (in United States Dollars). Value outliers are bolded.

Basically, the $19.99 and $74.99 Orb bundles are overpriced! Granted, it's not by much, but it's something to keep in mind. For sure. Anyway, let us continue. It's time for the most important question of this entire article!

To Reroll or Not To Reroll?

If you're going to play any gacha game for a fair amount of time, you need to bear the section question in mind. Rerolling is the act of deleting your game data and starting a new account so that you can use the in-game currency you start with in an attempt to get a better starting pull on one of the banners. Most players try for at least one five-star hero while others don't stop until they get at least two five-stars. There are strong arguments for both sides of the question, so let me break it down.

Reasons Why You Should Reroll

  • There is an appreciable gap between the overall stats and skills of a five-star hero and a four-star hero, to say nothing of the gap between five-stars and three-stars.
  • Random gacha is random. The only time you can control (for lack of a better term) your summon results in Fire Emblem: Heroes is the very first time you pull. Got a bad result from your first batch of five? You can reroll and try again. Naturally, if you have already been playing for a while, you won't want to throw away your hard-earned heroes. At that point, you may end up blowing dozens of orbs to get that one hero you want (although it's bound to happen at some point unless you literally only ever reroll and never actually play the game).
  • While you can increase the star rating of a hero (via Unlock Potential) in the Advanced Growth section of the Allies tab, it costs 20,000(!) feathers to increase a four-star hero to five-stars. If you scroll back up to the screenshot I uploaded earlier in this article, you'll note that I'm not there yet. The only (as of the time of this writing) way to get a reasonable amount of feathers is to participate in the Arena. Naturally, having higher star heroes will help you hit the 3,000 point mark for the maximum Offense reward of 1,600 feathers a week. Basically, the more five-stars you can get up front, the less five-stars you need to get in the immediate future.

Reasons Why You Shouldn't Reroll

  • If you have a slow Internet connection, it can take a while to delete and subsequently redownload the game to try again.
  • Power creep is a thing in most games and is ever so prevalent in gacha games. Basically, as the game matures, we can expect to see ever stronger heroes be released. Whether this strength manifests as better skills, stats, both, or neither, will remain to be seen. However, it's entirely possible that, six months from now, top-tier staples such as Takumi and Hector may be brought down a few rungs in terms of their power level compared to the power level of other newer top-tier heroes. In other words, there's always someone better around the corner, so you shouldn't stress about not getting the best on Day 1.
  • It's, frankly, a bit unfun. Granted, this one is more my opinion than strict fact. My idea of fun in any game is not redownloading game data 5, 10, or even 20 times just to get a good initial pull. Barring extreme cases of bad luck, a poor first few pulls are always one great pull away from being negated.

So, to reroll, or not to reroll? I will leave that up to you. However, you may save yourself no small measure of grief if you do. If you do decide to reroll, make sure you don't associate your game file to a Nintendo account until you've gotten the initial roll you want to keep (even more importantly, do not redeem the 10 free Orbs from My Nintendo until you're 100% sure you're keeping that account as it is a one-time deal). Later in this article, I will link to a tier list that will show you the best units in the game as of the time you read this. After all, if you're going to reroll, you should probably aim for S-Rank Heroes.

Upgrade Your Castle

Now then, you completed the in-game tutorial and perhaps summoned some heroes to help out Alfonse, Sharena, and Anna. You're understandably going to be tempted to pull for Heroes every time you have Orbs to do so (more on that later). However, you should also consider the state of your castle as well. There is a small button with a castle graphic and a plus sign below your Orbs and Feathers count in the Home Menu. Clicking on it will take you to a screen where you can spend Orbs to increase the status of your castle. You can upgrade your castle five times (for 1, 2, 5, 8, and 10 Orbs respectively) and each tier gives you an extra 20% experience in battles. It is a great investment considering how much experience you'll need to get your Heroes to the maximum of Level 40. It will save you a crazy amount of Stamina in the long run and that's always a good thing.

Stamina?

Yes. Fire Emblem: Heroes uses a Stamina system that limits how long you can play in a single session. As of now, the maximum possible Stamina is 50 and each battle you participate in costs a certain amount, with higher level battles costing more of the precious resource. Stamina regenerates at the rate of 1 per 5 minutes (12/hour). Once you run out, you have only two choices:

  1. Wait until you get some regenerate some Stamina.
  2. Use a Stamina Potion or an Orb (you can only use the latter if you have no Stamina Potions left) to regain 50 Stamina instantly.

You can get one Stamina Potion for free by logging in every Friday as a login reward and quests offer the ability to get a few more. Besides that, I don't particularly recommend spending Orbs just to get Stamina back. Orbs are better spent on your castle or on summoning new Heroes.

You can see the Weapon Triangle in the lower-right corner of this screenshot.
You can see the Weapon Triangle in the lower-right corner of this screenshot. | Source

Combat in the World of Fire Emblem: Heroes

As mentioned near the start of the article, combat in this game is simplified compared to the mainline games that have been released over the years (most recently, Awakening and Fates for the 3DS; a cursory search on this very site should reveal the many articles I wrote for the former a few years ago). Thus, it is entirely possible to predict exactly how a certain skirmish between two units will play out (no pesky dodges ruining the math). How? Well, you need only figure out the things that can affect a given unit's damage. Here's a table listing most of the important ones.

Factors Affecting Unit Damage in Fire Emblem: Heroes

Factor
Notes
Basic damage is equal to an attacker's Attack stat minus the defender's Defense or Resistance.
Tome, dragonstone, and staff users target a defender's Resistance. Every other type of weapon targets a defender's Defense.
A Hero's Speed Stat is 5 or more points higher than their target's.
The Hero attacks twice. When attacking, they attack once before the enemy can counter and then once after the counter. When defending, they attack twice in a row after the enemy's attack lands.
Weapon Type Advantage: Red beats Green which beats Blue which beats Red. Colorless units are neutral. Raven tomes grant their user WTA against colorless units.
A Hero's effective Attack stat is increased by 20% when they have WTA.
Weapon Type Disadvantage: Flip the above factor around. Blue loses to Green which loses to Red which loses to Blue.
A Hero's effective Attack stat is decreased by 20% when they have WTD.
Effective Weapons: Bows are effective against flyers. Wolf Tomes are effective against cavalry. Hammers and Armorslayers beat armored units.
A Hero's effective Attack is increased by 50% when attacking a unit weak to their weapon.
Gem/Jewel Weapons and the Triangle Adept passive ability: They boost both the offensive and defensive portions of the weapon triangle.
For example, Sully's effective Attack stat while equipped with a Sapphire Lance is increased by 40% against Red units. Green enemies have their Attack against Sully increased by 40%.
Brave Weapons: Allows a unit to attack twice in a row, regardless of Speed. This only applies when the Brave user is attacking.
The Brave effect stacks with the "Speed double" effect, meaning that a Brave user with five or more Speed over their enemy will attack four times, twice before the counter, and twice after the counter. Deadly.
A table listing various factors that influence damage in Fire Emblem: Heroes.

Well then, to apply some of the above information, let me lay out an example. I took the stats of one of my heroes in battle and the stats of one of the enemy fliers. See the screenshot below.

Stat blocks for Cecilia, one of my heroes, and an enemy Axe Flier.
Stat blocks for Cecilia, one of my heroes, and an enemy Axe Flier. | Source

Well then, given the information presented in the screenshot, can you figure out how much damage Cecilia will do to the Axe Flier? Cecilia is a green tome user, which means that her attacks target Resistance. Gronnraven gives Weapon Type Advantage against colorless units, and green units have WTA against blue units, but the Axe Flier is green. Her low Speed means that she only attacks the Axe Flier once. However, since tomes attack at 2 Range, the Axe Flier will be unable to counter. Similarly, she will not be able to counter the Axe Flier when it decides to attack her on its next turn. With all that established, feel free to take a few seconds to crunch the math. I'll wait. In the meantime, have a table for attack ranges based on weapon type.

Attack Ranges Based on Weapon Type

Range
Weapon Types
1
Dragonstone, Sword, Axe, Spear
2
Staff, Tome, Bow
A table listing attack ranges in Fire Emblem: Heroes based on weapon type. Note that no weapons have 1-2 range in this game.

Done? Okay, here it is.

39 (Cecilia's ATK) - 25 (enemy RES) = 14 damage.

That's not a whole lot. It would be better to use a hero that can attack the Axe Flier's 15 Defense instead. Anyway, how much would the Axe Flier do on their own turn?

35 (enemy ATK) - 23 (Cecilia's DEF) = 12 damage.

However, since the Axe Flier has five or more Speed (a whopping 14 more, to be precise) than Cecilia, it attacks twice. Cecilia can't counter so the Axe Flier's two hits are consecutive, for a total of 24 damage.

Before I wrap up this section, here's another helpful table showing the number of spaces each type of unit can move in Fire Emblem: Heroes.

Movement Ranges by Unit Type

Movement Range
Unit Types With This Movement Range
Other Notes
1
Armored units (Hector, Effie, etc.)
Cannot enter water or lava tiles.
2
Infantry (Sharena, Alfonse, Anna, etc.), Fliers (Florina, Narcian, etc.), Dragons (Fae, Female Corrin, Tiki, etc.)
Fliers can pass through all terrain except walls. Non-fliers can only move into a forest tile on their first movement point of a given turn. Non-fliers cannot enter water or lava tiles.
3
Cavalry (Cain, Abel, etc.)
Cavalry cannot enter forests, water, or lava tiles.
A table listing the movement ranges of different types of units in Fire Emblem: Heroes.

Summoning Heroes

A big part of Fire Emblem: Heroes is pulling on banners to get new heroes to cover weaknesses in your army. Or, perhaps, pulling just to get your favorite characters. Nothing wrong with that. Nostalgia is a big part of most gacha games based on established IPs, after all. Anyway, here is how summoning works in Fire Emblem: Heroes:

  1. You choose the banner you wish to roll on, if applicable. As of the time of this writing, there's only one banner up, but there can be two as well.
  2. You pay five Orbs to press the Summon button, which will reveal five orbs of different colors. The Hero contained within a given orb will be of the same color as its associated orb.
  3. After selecting one of the orbs, you will be given the Hero contained in it and given an option to cancel out of the screen or pay more orbs to open one of the four remaining options.

That brings up a logical question. Should you open five orbs in one go or just open some and cancel out? There are merits to both approaches.

Tier Lists in Fire Emblem: Heroes

Fire Emblem: Heroes, like pretty much every other gacha game ever, has tier lists created and maintained by players in the community. Tier lists help newer players see which heroes are better than others, based on several criteria that are ultimately summarized as a letter ranking (typically going S, A, B, C, D, in descending order of overall hero usefulness). As of the time of this writing, Hector, Takumi, and Asura are three of the highest-ranked Heroes in the game. As you can imagine, there are many lists, but I'm quite partial to the one at: https://feheroes.wiki/Tier_List

Just keep in mind that all tier lists are works of opinion, so don't feel like you need to take their word as gospel. However, they serve as a great starting point for your own team ideas.

Advantages to Opening Five Orbs at Once

  1. The cost to open the second through fourth orbs of a given pull is 4 instead of 5. The fifth pull costs only 3! This means that a 5-pull costs 20 Orbs. Pulling five orbs one at a time would cost you 25 Orbs.
  2. Your chance to pull a five-star unit goes up by 0.5% for every 5-pull you empty out and fail to get a five-star.
  3. Since it is cheaper overall to open multiple orbs in one pull, this option is better when you want to increase your pool of Heroes with no regard to their color or type.


Advantages of Opening Less than Five Orbs at a Time

  1. You can disregard certain colors of orbs, based on your current pool of Heroes.
  2. It is cheaper overall to open orbs of a certain color if you are chasing a Hero in that color than it is to open all five.
  3. For the above reasons, this option is better if you are going for specific Heroes.

I personally always do full pulls, but it can be better to be selective. It all depends on your goals for your army.

Of Boons and Banes

If you have summoned enough heroes, you may have pulled a duplicate (termed dupe within the community) or two of some of the more common Heroes (Virion and Stahl come to mind, at least in my personal experience). if you decided to check them, chances are that you noticed that their stats are not identical. As it turns out, each hero that you summon will have a bonus (boon) to one stat which is offset by a penalty (bane). For example, let me show you my Cecilia once again.

Cecilia's stats at four stars and Level 40.
Cecilia's stats at four stars and Level 40. | Source

Unfortunately, there is currently no in-game way to see what boon and bane a particular hero has, so you'll need to use a calculator to figure it out. I personally like this one: https://fireemblem.gamepress.gg/fire-emblem-heroes-iv-calculator

Off-topic note: The stat calculator is termed an IV calculator in honor of the Pokémon concept of the same name, which increases a Pokémon's base stats by a number on a scale of 0 to 31. That said, boons/banes in Fire Emblem: Heroes are more similar to Natures than IVs in Pokémon.

It's important to note that, due to the pseudo-random nature of level ups in Fire Emblem: Heroes, you can only determine a given hero's boon and bane at Levels 1 and 40. So, what happens if you accidentally level up a hero before checking their boon/bane? Well, you can do the following:

  1. For any of your heroes that are at least Level 20, go to the Unlock Potential button in the Allies tab of the main menu.
  2. Tap that hero in your army list and then click on "Next".
  3. You will then be able to see what their stats will be at their next star rating and Level 1. (Careful not to tap Confirm if you have the Feathers to perform the upgrade).
  4. Take those stats and plug them into the linked calculator for the appropriate star rating.

Note: As you may have already inferred, you'll have to max out a five-star hero's level to figure out their boon/bane if you missed doing so at Level 1 thanks to the fact that the maximum star rating is currently five stars.

Screenshot of the Unlock Potential menu for Cecilia.
Screenshot of the Unlock Potential menu for Cecilia. | Source

So, if I were to plug in Cecilia's five-star stats as shown in the screenshot above into the IV calculator right now, it would show her as having 2 banes (Attack and Speed) and only 1 boon (Defense), which is impossible (at least according to what the community has discovered about the stat system so far). What gives? Well, as it turns out, Cecilia gets some bonus Attack stat points through her Attack passive skill (it's the one in the A slot). Four-star Cecilia can get Attack +2, but five-star Cecilia can learn Attack +3. The calculator assumes you have Attack +3, which throws off the math. Adding 1 to our Attack stat within the calculator fixes the issue. Here's a screenshot.

My Cecilia's expected stats at five-stars Level 40 based on her derived boon and bane (-SPD / +DEF)
My Cecilia's expected stats at five-stars Level 40 based on her derived boon and bane (-SPD / +DEF) | Source

Some Arena Tidbits

Well, this article is almost done, but I have a few more things to talk about first. Chief among these is the Arena, which is the closest thing Fire Emblem: Heroes has to a PvP (player vs player) mode. You set up a team of heroes and then choose one of three opposing teams to face off against, based on the average difficulty you are willing to challenge. Beginner teams have a lower average level than your own while Advanced teams are the opposite. Intermediate, as you can imagine, are at roughly your own average level. Everyone should strive to hit the 3000 point mark in the Offense category, as that will reward you 1600 Feathers at the end of the season (each Arena season runs for roughly a week). Once you have one or two good heroes at Level 40, this should be easily attainable. Here are some other Arena tidbits for your reading pleasure.

  • Your first team slot is the one used in Arena Defenses. You'll want to make sure that team can counter the current meta. Thankfully, you need only score more than 250 points once in a successful Defense to secure the highest Feather reward for that category in a given season (it's not streak-based like Offense).
  • Speaking of Offense, you'll want to have a well-balanced selection of units. As of the time of this writing, red heroes dominate the summon pool, so it would be good to have at least one blue hero to exploit the fact that most players will run teams that are red-heavy.
  • Your Offense score in any given week of the Arena is based on your best streak of up to 7 consecutive wins. Sometimes it's better to go after an easier team if the tougher ones are showing a leader hero that counters one or more heroes of your own team.
  • Every Arena Season has featured heroes. If you have at least one of the featured heroes in your team, you get a score multiplier of 2x. Thus, you should always try to use a featured hero as long as it doesn't result in crippling your arena team too severely.

What I recommend, however, is getting and using Olivia. If you haven't managed to summon her, she is also available through the Hero Battle rotation in the Special Maps portion of the Battle menu; depending on when you read this, it could be a few days until her map shows up. Having done that, you can raise her to three-stars and then teach her Dance, which allows her to pass her own turn to an adjacent ally. More importantly, you'll want to keep her level as low as possible unless you're gunning for the high ranks. Why?

  1. Your potential point gains for an Offense victory are based on the stat total of your team and your opponent's. Having a low level hero lowers your stat total, which hurts your total obtainable score.
  2. However, since you face opposing teams with average levels in your general ballpark, you also lower the relative challenge by having one or more "duds" to drag down your average level,
  3. Which brings me to the relevant point: A Level 1 Olivia dances just as well as a Level 40 Olivia. You hurt your chances of winning in the Arena when you have an underleveled unit, but Olivia (and Asura, incidentally, if you manage to summon her) can just pass her otherwise underwhelming turn to one of your other units actually suited to fight at your current stat level.

It goes without saying that you'll need to eventually field a full team of Level 40s if you intend to rank high, but that's something that not everybody will bother doing. it's all about what you want to do within the game, after all.

An Assortment of Other Tips and Tricks

Well, it's about time to wrap this one up! Before that, however, I'm going to list some more tips and tricks that will help you out in Fire Emblem: Heroes.

  • If you long press an enemy unit during battle, they will become highlighted and their threat range will be displayed in red. This is great for keeping a close eye on a particularly dangerous enemy.
  • Walls are impassable to all units, even fliers. You can use 2 Range units to pummel units behind a wall, who are then forced to find an alternate route to reach you. Bonus points if your attacker is a healer with Gravity or Leo with Brynhildr, as those reduce the defender's movement range to 1 for their next turn.
  • The AI loves to secure kills. So, all else considered equal, they will KO a character when their attack would do the deed. Failing that, they will seek to exploit favorable weapon typings and dodge unfavorable typings whenever possible. Knowing these facts, you can anticipate their movements and maneuver your own forces accordingly.
  • Enemy units in higher floors of the Training Tower are cheaters. Generic enemies will have abnormally high stats and enemy heroes can even have skills they won't possess if you summon them! Be super careful in the Lunatic floors and check all enemies (which you can do by tapping them) to see what they're packing.
  • The various "KO X amount of enemies with Y hero" quests are gacha bait. As of now, they only seem to award 20 Greater Badges of one color. While nice and all, it's not worth summoning just to get the heroes to complete those quests, as you can also earn those badges through higher levels of the Training Tower. So, don't let yourself get pressured!
  • Think ahead! The AI in Fire Emblem: Heroes can be deceptively clever at times. They like to do things like move an Axe Fighter forward while they have a Blue Mage one or two steps behind, just waiting to punish your prospective red unit for going for the obvious kill.
  • On a similar note to above, don't overestimate the weapon triangle either. Weapon Type Advantage means surprisingly little when the supposedly disadvantaged enemy has a high amount of Attack and is aiming at your lower defensive stat. One example is Lilina, who can have 56 Attack (with Attack boon). Sure, she loses 11 Attack to WTD against blue units, but 45 Attack can still threaten a surprising amount of them.
  • All units obtained through Hero Battles and Great Hero Battles have neutral stats. That is to say, they have no boons or banes. Alfonse, Sharena, and Anna, being the main characters and free for everyone, act in the same way. The few free heroes you get during the tutorial? Also neutrals.
  • The opposite is true of summoned heroes. All summoned heroes (as of now, at least) will have a boon and a bane.

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Conclusion

Well then, it's time to conclude this rather lengthy article. Feel free to leave feedback, thoughts, and concerns in the comments section! I may not answer them all, but I do typically read them.

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

Man, how I have missed saying that.

- Winterfate

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