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What makes a Fire Emblem Unit GOOD or BAD?

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It honestly depends on your preference on what stats you like to focus on such as a Swordmaster with high skill and speed,  but low defenses and mediocre attack or a warrior with the opposite it depends on how you like to play

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How little resources they cost to be effective. Of course what defines "effective" depends on the game.

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For me a real good Fe unit in general needs...

  • Good growths in the right areas (Myrmidons focusing on Str and Spd / Knights focusing on Str, HP, and Def)
  • Decent / Solid base stats (especially for pre-promotes)
  • Good availability (especially for non-promotes)
  • Pre-promotes should have decent weapon ranks (though it's a plus for non-promotes)

But at the end of the day, it really just depends on the game and your own personal preference. I find that it is more important to just use units that you like.

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How much effort is needed to make something good is probably the best metric.  

Like, you need a ton of effort for Sophia, but none for Perceval.  Perceval is therefore a significantly better unit.  Now, those two are extreme examples and it's more like a spectrum.  And there are other factors, such as:  

  • Movement: Armors tend to be automatically worse than a similar unit because they take longer to get places, and cavs/fliers automatically better.  ESPECIALLY fliers since they ignore terrain.
  • weaponry available: Cavs having multiple weapons bumps them up often.  Archers being 2 range locked hinders them.  Base weapon ranks are also a factor here.
  • Which stats are better in a given game: In FE11, for instance, Defense is much more important than in say, FE7.    

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Correlates between how easy is it to make them good and what they actually do

 

For example, Leif from FE4 isn't as easy to get off as like.... most Children, but Rescue Staff is completely overpowered so it singlehandedly justifies putting your EXP on him and catapults him all the way into Seliph-tier. Had Leif in FE4 did not have Rescue Staff he would kinda suck, Same with Lachesis who is even harder to gets off than Leif, but doing so gives you Rescue Staff which leads into MOAR RESCUE STAFF. And as established before Rescue Staff is broken so she becomes good.

 

Now for a reverse example, theres guys like Donnel in Awakening, who really isn't too hard to raise, but Awakening is a game where a character who can solo everything really isn't any special so he sucked as a result. You can honestly say this for vast majority of Awakening at Lunatic onwards due to the absurd level of trash they had with guys like Stahl/Sully/Virion. In contrast, Ricken is pretty good because he's a Rescue Staff and rescue staff is broken. Miriel can become Sorc so she's a level ahead of the other starter characters.

 

So its a very case by case basis but theres a certain level where ease of use and quality of contribution correlates which ended up giving the full image of the unit. This is why, for example Jagen units and Healers tend to be pretty good, because regardless of input they WILL do something of use most of the time. 

Edited by JSND Alter Dragon Boner

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Technically it's impossible to give a certain answer because it depends on the player's preferences and how they define a "good" or "bad" unit.
 

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...is nobody going to mention anything the video actually SAID?

While it is true that I do think there is a degree of personal preference, there are certain benchmarks for unit quality.

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I mean, It's all dependant on the person IMO (good combat capabilities are nice, but, art, personality, uniqueness, etc. factor in as well)

If I had to say, atleast from a mechanics standpoint, good units should bring something to the table that's different from the rest of the units, like the dragons and dancer units in pre-awakening games (don't think dancers should've gained combat capabilities,  but whatevs). Heck, I love to use Gonzales in FE6 for the sole reason of he is the only playable brigand I know of in all the FEs I've played. Is he useful? Not always. Is it fun as heck to use? Absolutely. Same goes for a lot of the fliers early on in most of the games, as sometimes they're the only fliers you have for a majority of the game.

.....

Crit monkeys are also nice.

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In general, what makes a unit good or bad is different on a case-by-case basis, but there are some constants - bases, for one. Utility is another metric. Other than those, there's other factors like weapons (more to the point, what can you use, and are you locked to a specific weapon type), class (in general, mounted units tend to be better off than foot units), and the game in question plays a role in this as well; high defense doesn't really mean much in FE7 due to terrain being abundant and enemies being weak, but I'd consider it much more important in Fates or Shadow Dragon because evade isn't as reliable a defense compared to the GBA games. Personally, I tend to avoid units with really low luck because crits are really really bad to be on the receiving end of, as they can potentially result in an instant loss, but that's also dependent on the game; it probably wouldn't mean much in FE7, but in, say, Fates or Radiant Dawn, or even Awakening to some extent, I'd consider it a dealbreaker due to either boosted crit enemies being common (Radiant Dawn), skills (Awakening), or an altered crit evade formula (Fates); there's a REASON why I REFUSE to entertain the thought of having my avatars have a luck flaw in the former and the latter in particular. I also tend to avoid axe infantry like the plague since most infantry axe units are of rather low quality (Rinkah, Arthur, Charlotte, Gonzales, etc.).

Edited by Levant Mir Celestia

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I think Blazingknight has learned quite a bit over the years. Good for him.

In general, these are what I use to determine on what is and is not a good unit.

  • Class
  • Bases (ESPECIALLY Weapon Rank)
  • Avaliability
  • The game in question

I think some games are quite harder to determine because of multiple factors. For example: in Conquest, Charlotte isn't that great of a combat unit, but as a berserker she gives insane pair up bonuses; in Radiant Dawn, Fiona is in one of the best classes yet her bases are abysmal; in Binding Blade, Bors has great availability but his class holds him back. I don't think things are super black and white, but I do think if a character has multiple things going on for them, then they tend to better more often than not. Sometimes something as small as a personal weapon make or break a unit. 

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I am a firm believer that "good" and "bad" are subjective words by nature, especially when it comes to video games.
It's in my opinion utterly pointless to try and prove that certain units are "ObJeCTiVEly" (read that in the most annoying voice you can imagine) better than others when people have different preferences anyway. Like most people here have already said: Playstyle plays a HUGE part in what makes a unit good or bad for certain people. Some may like mounted units for their high movement range and fast map clearing capabilities, while others may have a more slow / defensive approach to things and don't have that much use for Cavaliers and the like.

When it comes to me, I usually have a very hard time to seperate unit from character, so you'll rarely (if ever) see me using characters I dislike even if they are good units. The opposite also holds true: If I see a character I like, but I don't find anything useful about them that another character I'm already using can do and do better than them, I'll usually bench them just as quickly. 
What is most important to me and one thing some characters people consider as "good" fail to do for me for reasons beyond my understanding (probably just me being literal shit at the game) is their ability to actually hit stuff. I prefer my strong attacks to actually land, which is why I can definitely see and agree to Levant's dislike any infantry axe user. I am the same way. Using Boyd in PoR was a literal nightmare, his RD incarnation wasn't much better and any infantry axe user I've used since has had trouble hitting stuff. Provided hat they can actually use them, I prefer Wyvern Riders / Lords as my axe users, and even then, I have trouble making piece with those that only have shaky at best hit rates (hello, RD!Jill and Camilla!). RNG is your worst enemy in Fire Emblem. There's no point in goading it further.  
I also judge units by what they are supposed to do in their base class. There is no point in dragging a Knight around if said Knight can't tank crap (Meg, Draug), and there is also no point in using a Myrmidon that can't dispatch faster enemies (Edward, Hinata), to name two examples.
But at the same time, you won't see me complaining when a Myrmidon / Swordmaster doesn't withstand 50 or so hits, while at the same time, you won't ever see me expecting an Archer to ever stand a chance against close range attackers on enemy phase.

By that virtue, I have a less than favourable opinion on most horseback units, Cavaliers especially, as they are usually jack of trades, masters of none and thus are outclassed in every area pretty much every time. They don't withstand physical hits like Knights, they don't tank magic like healers and mages, they don't kill things as quickly and reliably as Myrmidons or Mercenaries can, they don't double (usually, anyway) and, most importantly, they are utterly useless on any map that packs a lot of terrain like forests, mountains or deserts, rendering their one stand-out feature - their high movement - utterly pointless. If the game has a desert map, then chances are I won't bring my Paladin, meaning they lose out on an entire chapter's worth of experience. Add any map with a lot of mountains, swamps or forest to traverse and I'll find my horseback units falling behind really, really quickly, especially due to the fact that there are two classes that can do their job so much better without being hindered by terrain at all, namely the Pegasus Knights and the always powerful Wyvern Riders.
Most characters that are horse bound from the get-go are also usually the most boring, annoying and / or generic characters as well, so that certainly doesn't help matters at all. 
The only exception to this is the Troubadour class, as they can stay in the back and heal, but even then, they usually have really balanced stats (unless their name is Elise) and don't heal as much as most dedicated Clerics will. Taking ranged staves into consideration also makes the Troubadour's higher movement a moot point, as well as them suffering from all the same terrain problems every other horseback unit has.

With the introduction of various horse-killing weapons and especially the prevalence and effectiveness of the Ridersbane / Beastslayer lance in most modern Fire Emblem games has further sullied the already shaky position of any horse unit in my army. And that's not even talking about the Beastslayer skill, which completely ruins any chance a Cavalier could have of ever getting into my team (luckily, this really only applies to Conquest)

I do have to add that - in all fairness - I am a very defensive player by nature, so the advantage of higher movement hasn't clicked with me as much as with others, since I prefer to move my characters as one (or two, depending on the map) cohesive unit(s) so that they can cover each others' blind spots, luring enemies in one by one instead of sending one fast moving unit into an onslaught of foes and wait for that unit to thin their numbers so the others can advance.
Also, I always felt sorry for the horses and, as someone who dearly loves animals of all kinds, I consider all those horseback riding competions like horse racing and those horse shows and horse jumping to be nothing but glorified animal abuse, so maybe that clouds my opinion on these kinds of units.

I'm also more than willing to sit through a painful starting phase with the unit if the promise of them eventually (that means soon-ish, as in, I give them two or three maps / levels at most to prove themselves) becoming good is there (PoR!Illyana, Hana, Mozu, most Ests) and if I like the character enough to actually bother. If not, then welcome to the bench (Donnel).

Wow, that turned out longer than I wanted. Sorry for going off on a bit of a tangent, there...

Edited by DragonFlames

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  • Move/Move Type
  • Availability
  • Growths/Bases combination (Also exp gain is important too if you're considering efficiency shit)

There's a rule of thumb in FE. If it's got a mount, it's usually really good.

 

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Listen to Czarpy. It varies from game to game, but in FE4, for example, almost every unit who doesn't have a horse is kinda meh. Of course, this varies some based on whether you're going for a low turn-count or just looking for a unit which doesn't need much training, but the former tends to be the metric by which units are judged. 

In fact, only two armor units I can think of, Oswin and Effie, are considered any good throughout the entire series. And for the latter, it's largely because you can give her a horse.

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  • What a unit can do compared to others - unique abilities like dancing, healing, or warping; countering specific enemy types (bow users vs. flyers, Rutger vs. bosses); strong 1-2 range; having 3-10 range; or just having good combat parameters in general. And, of course, mobility.
  • How impactful these abilities are in that specific game: Access to effective weaponry is largely useless in PoR, but absolutely crucial in the DS games; 1-2 range helps less in the DS games than in PoR because they're less EP-heavy.
  • Availability and investment needed to get these abilities. Prime example would be Seth vs. Amelia - technically, the latter has better averages than Seth even when promoting into Paladin, but we're still looking at best unit vs. worst unit in the game here, since Amelia just needs so much investment to get to the point where she's equal to base level Seth. Not to mention that even when she catches up, she still can't make up for Seth's incredible earlygame. It might be worth noting that this doesn't automatically disqualify growth units - there are still plenty of good one, namely most earlygame cavs, the 7th platoon, PoR!Marcia, or RD!Jill (or both Jills, actually).

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Video did a great job highlighting the many criteria we use to judge how good or bad a unit is, but kind of left it a vague "everything matters" instead of committing to any sort of opinion as far as what matters more. The way I see things is usually by imagining what happens when you stretch any criteria to its logical limit, and then consider its actual value in the game/map/unit in question and compare that. For example, take availability. If a game had 20 chapters and every unit joined on chapter 1 or 2, availability would count for very little. On the other hand, if unit join times were spread between 1-17 in that same game, availability all of a sudden becomes a much bigger factor. 

The first thing I usually ask when I evaluate a unit is what I expect out of that unit, and then take a look at how well they do that job compared to other units in the game and how the game rewards you for being able to do well in that role. I think one of the best ways to judge what "role" a unit should fit into that applies to just about every fire emblem game is whether you expect that unit to operate mainly on the player phase or enemy phase, and see units first and foremost as either offensive or defensive units. I then think of what % of the map/game they are able to take on in their respective roles. What I'm looking for is either taking on a wide variety of situations, or being able to excel in a niche role that few/nobody else can do.

An offensive unit would be first judged by how much of the map they can kill, and how difficult each kill is to obtain compared to other units. An offensive unit needs to either have the firepower to kill just about everything you point them at (Arthur in CQ, Alm w/ Royal Sword in Echoes) or get a kill that is very hard to get (Bow Knights killing ninjas in CQ25, Mathilda killing Rudolf in Echoes Ch4). Past that, defensive benchmarks matter only if nobody can score the kill and avoid the counterattack.

Defensive units are judged by the exact same metric, how much of the map/game they can take hits from and how comfortably they do it. It's why I think most knights are bad. Most of them simply do not take the hits from magic units well. Chip damage tends to play a major role in how easily an enemy can be killed by the dedicated PP units, which is why I consider strong 1-2 range on your defensive units extremely important. Being able to dive into huge chunks of a map, take the hits, and weaken every enemy that hit you is way better than just taking the hits without returning fire.

 

Most disagreement on a unit'a relative strength comes down to what people are expecting that unit to accomplish in their playthrough. Figure out what you're expecting a unit to do, what resources it takes to accomplish that, and simply compare that to other units trying to do the same thing with the same resources.

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I think one important aspect that needs to be taken into consideration is the game's difficulty. 

You could argue that Ryoma is better then Xander because he can practically solo birthright while Xander can't do the same. Ryoma dodges more and that he doesn't hit as hard as Xander is negated by him having criticals with almost every attack. But Xander is still the better unit because his game is more difficult. 

Ryoma can decimate the enemy army on his own but he's from Birthright where the enemies are quite weak and the overall difficulty is low. He's the best unit by far but he's not special in this regard. Pretty much every unit is viable in birthright and even weaker unit can decimate the enemy just fine. That isn't the case with Conquest. Conquest is a game where a mistake means that one of your units will die. Xander is a rare exception to this rule. If you make a mistake with Xander he tends to live to tell the tale. This makes him invaluable for testing out tactics or for being bait. Even not being the killing machine that Ryoma is works in Xanders favor because this makes him ideal for nearly killing the enemy and giving the experience to other units so they can eventually grow to be on par with Xander. 

I never needed Ryoma while Xander was my most valued players for the first few chapters after he joined. 

The same principle goes for other games. People talk about Seth as if he's some pony riding god but he's from an easy game where you can grind to your heart's content. You won't suffer for putting Seth on a bench. But go to Genealogy and you're pretty much required to use Shanan and Ares since they got a Holy weapon and the rest of your army doesn't.....but Blume does. Because its very hard for characters without holy weapons to take on bosses that do have them characters like Shanan become all the more valuable. 

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