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TheLaserSonic

How to improve at Three Houses (and Fire Emblem as a whole)

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Reflecting on my finished playthrough of Blue Lions the other day, I realised I barely used the game gave me to my advantage to make the maps quicker and more 'efficient', which may have actually done something to make them less long. Granted, I was playing blind, but I don't think that excuses me from not knowing how to use utility Gambits like Retribution and Stride to my advantage.

To explain, my main playstyle in Fire Emblem as a whole is the tried and true "bait" method (where you put a unit just in range of enemies, so you can finish them off with surrounding units once player phase starts). It keeps my units alive (except when it doesn't), and I've become better at aggroing multiple enemies at once, but it still takes a lot of time, especially when I don't use all my mov to my advantage. My reluctance to send units like cavaliers or pegasus knights into enemy territory stems from knowing getting them dog piled will likely end up with them getting killed, which is also why I feel reluctant to use Warp (especially when Lysithia is too busy nuking other units, but that's neither here nor there). So what can I do to overcome this phobia?

Besides stuff like using gambits effectively and becoming bolder in strategy, is there something I should keep an eye out when building units? I remember I missed skills like Speed +2, the various positioning combat arts this first time. Also, I heard there was something about cavalry giving a negative speed growth?

Any suggestions on improving would be appreciated!

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The best advice I can tell you is to play on a casual mode so that you can experiment with strategies without worrying about unit deaths. It'll help you figure out different things that work and also figure out the different mechanics of the battalions and such with a safety net of sorts.

For more specific recommendations, I'd say to plan out the paths your units are going down from the beginning so that you can plan what skills and builds to go with. Like if you know you want Felix to end as an assassin, I'd say definitely get him Hit+20 and while he can do alright without death blow thanks to his crest, I'd still recommend mastering the class to get it too.

Or do like I did and jump into Radiant Dawn at 12 years old as your first FE game and let it beat you over the head with a stick until you figure out how to keep all those assholes alive lol.

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The problem is that I'm not exactly the most creative sort...I tend to spend too long considering all the options in front of me (which is part of the reason FE takes me a while to finish). Having some more concrete strategies that other smarter players have come up with will help get the ball rolling.

11 minutes ago, Silver-Haired Maiden said:

jump into Radiant Dawn at 12 years old as your first FE game and let it beat you over the head with a stick until you figure out how to keep all those assholes alive lol

You poor soul. I'm surprised you didn't develop PTSD to the word "Gambit" after that.

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What difficulty are you playing Three Houses on?  Which other Fire Emblem games do you have experience with?  Trying to answer the question of how to improve at Fire Emblem as a whole is a little tricky because no two Fire Emblem games play exactly the same.

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I would say to slow down, take a moment, and just read. Go through skills, battalions, unit descriptions, stat descriptions, etc. Just sit down, take a few hours and read what skills and other stuff does. I would also look at what classes increase what growths, as well as the skills that they give. (this latter part is up to you, since its not really in the game, meaning you don't know beforehand unless you've played it/watched it)

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3 hours ago, Silver-Haired Maiden said:

Or do like I did and jump into Radiant Dawn at 12 years old as your first FE game and let it beat you over the head with a stick until you figure out how to keep all those assholes alive lol.

Damn this hits hard. To this day I dread any map where I have AI-controlled green units.

 

A lot of the advice already on here is really sound - especially the stuff about reading around the game and planning builds, which is definitely the most efficient way to get optimal units for the lategame. 

4 hours ago, TheLaserSonic said:

I remember I missed skills like Speed +2, the various positioning combat arts this first time

The stat boosts are all helpful, though they get outclassed by mid to late game (and their effect can be replicated with the stat boosters you get from gardening so it isn't a big loss). They are a decent use of a skill slot for a while though (and pure mages will probably have Mag +2 for ages).

I still get a little careless about unit position, and sometimes you just want an extra point of movement, so I really like the option that movement CAs give you - Swap is the only one I don't use, but the others I run even on endgame. Except for pure mages, there's plenty of competition for those three slots, and while the first CAs unlocked for every weapon except Brawling are some of the most dependable CAs in the game, the ones immediately following tend to be situation-specific. So movement CAs don't have any opportunity cost until around Lv20, by which point units are beginning to A-rank their primary weapons and/or have a reliably high-rank secondary weapon, and thus wanting to equip two or three weapon CAs.

 At that point, you can weigh it up based on the character's performance and your personal preference - for example I've not found a lot of use for the brawling combat arts that change your unit position (and often they do less damage than normal brawling attacks) so tend not to run those in favour of a movement CA, but I quite like Hit and Run, which has a similar effect for lance users (lance users tend to be mounted, so Hit and Run gives them a point more range for Canto).

There's definitely merit in mastering Beginner Tier classes just for the movement CAs - you should be able to do it by Lv 10, and they give you options when in a pinch (even having a couple of units with them in Chapters 5 and 6 is super helpful for dealing with reinforcements/the Death Knight etc.). 

4 hours ago, TheLaserSonic said:

Also, I heard there was something about cavalry giving a negative speed growth?

Yep, all cavalry, armours, and Mortal Savant do (off the top of my head, there might be more). Cavalier and Paladin are quite good units otherwise, and if you're running someone in armour classes then they probably don't care about speed anyway. When I plan builds, I normally think about what I would want a character to do if they were in my endgame squad and then go backwards from there, taking into account which classes make it easiest to get to that endpoint, the character's weapon preferences, spell lists, abilities and CAs, growths, and what class mastery skills would be both useful and long-lived. Then again I get quite anal about build planning - there's no wrong way to play, and you'll be better off even with a general idea of how the unit is gonna progress.

The Intermediate tier has the most competition for usable skills. A lot of physical units will want to go through Brigand if they can to get Death Blow, and (if you're aiming for optimisation) every magic user, and ideally hybrids too, should go through Mage for Fiendish Blow - these skills add +6 to their attack on Player Phase . You'll have a fighting chance to class into them just by reaching D+ in Axes and Reason respectively, and be able to master those classes by Lv20 even if you aren't subsequently using their recommended weapons - that way you can continue to train whatever weapon types you plan on using for the lategame.

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5 hours ago, TheLaserSonic said:

Also, I heard there was something about cavalry giving a negative speed growth?

All cavalry classes have negative speed growths, as do Mortal Savant and the armored classes. Also of note, most cavalry classes lose speed when mounted. In addition, aside from Bow Knight and maybe Valkyrie and Paladin (the former of which is DLC exclusive as well as exclusive to female units), being a mounted unit isn't that great in 3H imho.

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For FE as a whole, I'd watch efficiency playthroughs and try them out for yourself. If you can, find someone doing a live attempt and ask them about it. The thought and strategies they display are generally something that you want to follow to get better. Not saying you have to do a full 3H LTC or anything, but just try to low turn a chapter or two, figure out the necessary strats to pull it off with the team you've built. What I found when I did that is that it was really quite enjoyable, and I discovered many communities around doing that which were super helpful.

The strategies you use aren't necessarily bad, if it works it works, that's just how it is with Fire Emblem. But being good entails knowing when and where to use strategies like putting a unit on the edge of an enemy's move range, or when to rescue drop them right in the middle of enemy lines. You aren't gonna learn this overnight, lord knows I didn't, but given time, and a few runs, you'll be a pretty good player.

For 3H in specific, don't beat yourself up over not knowing how to fully utilize everything given to you. The game gives you a lot, most of which is best utilized in the early game, where you don't know how to use it. It's fine to not know what to do on a first playthrough. I spent mine just having fun with the game, figuring stuff out in a super optimal way.

1 hour ago, TheLaserSonic said:

The problem is that I'm not exactly the most creative sort...I tend to spend too long considering all the options in front of me (which is part of the reason FE takes me a while to finish). Having some more concrete strategies that other smarter players have come up with will help get the ball rolling.

Like I said, just watch some Youtube videos of people doing runs. I'd recommend people like Dondon151 or Mekkah if you want to get into being better at some of the older games (Older meaning like, before Awakening). For 3H in specific, I don't know anyone in specific but a quick Google search pointed me towards plenty of good looking runs. 

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3H has the rewind feature, so abuse it.  I'm not sure if it rewinds the RN to its previous state, though.

Regardless, proper battalion management goes a long way.  Figure out who needs what battalion stats, and use stuff like Impregnable Wall for baiting.  Your high-level spells refresh every map, so use Rescue/Warp as necessary.  This game doesn't let you do the bait thing as well as the GBA games, so you'll want to invest in stuff like Swift Strikes (Sylvain + Lance of Ruin + Swift Strikes is your panic button).

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For 3 houses in particular, some skill combos are really good. Wrath+Vantage and retribution (or the battalion counterparts) give a lot of units the ability to clear out entire sections of maps at once (even on maddening), or at least deal with a lot of enemies that don't try to gambit them. Dimitri is by far the most potent user of this (he get gets both battalion skills and has high Strength and Charm), but it's good on basically everyone.

Dodge tank builds can also work really well for enemy phasing (basically just stack a lot of skills that boost avoid and place someone in a forest).

More general, a good way to deal with the phobia of "but what if people die from this" is planning things out. If you're scared someone might not survive being warped ahead, check who will be in range and how much damage enemies will do against them. Abusing Stride and the dancer battalion is also a good way to just kill certain groups of enemies before they even get a chance to hurt anyone.

And as people said, don't worry too much about not figuring everything out at once. I hardly used combat arts or battalions in my first playthrough lol, and it took me a few more to notice the actually broken combinations (most of which I looked up anyway).

1 hour ago, eclipse said:

3H has the rewind feature, so abuse it.  I'm not sure if it rewinds the RN to its previous state, though.

It does.

2 hours ago, Shadow Mir said:

All cavalry classes have negative speed growths, as do Mortal Savant and the armored classes. Also of note, most cavalry classes lose speed when mounted. In addition, aside from Bow Knight and maybe Valkyrie and Paladin (the former of which is DLC exclusive as well as exclusive to female units), being a mounted unit isn't that great in 3H imho.

Not sure if you include it as mounted, but flying is still really incredible in this game.
Otherwise, canto and more movement is still really good, especially if you want to play faster, the speed drop and the terrain in some maps just make it not as broken as in other games.

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Thanks everyone for the responses and encouragement so far!

I'll say for the record that I have only played through Blue Lions as of now, and will probably go Black Eagles for my next runthrough. I play on Hard Classic, since I was told Normal is too easy.

As for other FE experience, I've played through all 3ds games (all Fates Routes included), the Elibe duology, and Shadow Dragon.

1 hour ago, Bartozio said:

More general, a good way to deal with the phobia of "but what if people die from this" is planning things out. If you're scared someone might not survive being warped ahead, check who will be in range and how much damage enemies will do against them

Something I noticed is that there wasn't always a good opportunity to do this, since the enemy crowd was too diverse. Like, I felt I couldn't warp Dedue since there were Gremories in range, or I couldn't warp Mercedes because of Moral Savants (I actually did try this strat during the final chapter, but both died despite high defences).

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For FE in general:

I'd say the most important thing is to plan ahead. 

Before you start your game, pick which units to use, class path, etc. Of course you could make adjustment as you play, but I'd recommend at least have a general plan for your roster and stick to it. (for example, make sure you have enough strong in house units for ch 13.)

You are killing more on enemy phase than player phase. If you want to play "efficiently", you would want your units to be killing more on enemy phase because a unit can kill much more enemies rather on player phase(you can only kill max the number of units you have on that map). This is why most FE games, bows are a terrible weapon since it is very player phase focused.

 

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8 hours ago, TheLaserSonic said:

Something I noticed is that there wasn't always a good opportunity to do this, since the enemy crowd was too diverse. Like, I felt I couldn't warp Dedue since there were Gremories in range, or I couldn't warp Mercedes because of Moral Savants (I actually did try this strat during the final chapter, but both died despite high defences).

Well..., that just means warping those units ahead to that place wasn't a good strategy. Sometimes warping a flyer instead can help, since they might be able to canto out of range. Sometimes however... you just need more than one unit to deal with a certain area, so warping one unit ahead isn't worthwhile. You can try warping them first, and then rescueing them back if there's something there you really need to deal with, or maybe try to bait some of the enemies away with other units, but sometimes you'll just have to focus on killing other things first.

In that specific chapter, I generally just send Dimitri ahead so he could deal with everything with Battalion Wrath+ Battalion Vantage.

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It's helpful to have a mindset of "how can I manipulate these units so that I neutralise all threats in one turn?" so that you can advance your frail units without fear of them dying. Failing that, working out which enemies you can leave alive, or how to position your units just right such that the correct units are in/out of range. Liberal use of combat arts, brave weapons and Hero Relics will be helpful in this regard as well.

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6 hours ago, Agro said:

It's helpful to have a mindset of "how can I manipulate these units so that I neutralise all threats in one turn?" so that you can advance your frail units without fear of them dying. Failing that, working out which enemies you can leave alive, or how to position your units just right such that the correct units are in/out of range. Liberal use of combat arts, brave weapons and Hero Relics will be helpful in this regard as well.

I strongly second this. One of the best things you can do in Fire Emblem is to look at the nearby enemies and try to estimate which ones you'll be able to kill (or in 3H's case, neutralize via rattle/Encloser, etc.) by the end of the player phase, then make sure you don't leave your lower-durability units in range of too many units who will still be alive at the start of the enemy phase. Have at least a rough plan for what you want to accomplish at the start of each player phase before you start committing people to actions. The beautiful thing is that, in a tight situation, you can in fact check everything before you start: you can see how much damage all your own units do so you'll know if you're able to kill any given enemy, and you can see how much damage all the enemies can do to you so you will know if your mage can take a hit from two of those enemy cavaliers or just one.

 

Also, plan for the worst. If an enemy has 10 crit on you, assume they will get a crit, and try to neutralize them before they attack or find someone who can tank or null the crit rate. If an attack you're planning to make has only 70 hit, you'd better be prepared for what happens if you miss (i.e. have a backup plan to take out that enemy if it presents a major threat to your team should it survive). In 3H you can use linked attacks to get your accuracy up with clever positioning and use of equipped weapons, this is particularly important for gambits.

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I think you just have to play a lot. A lot of it is how you set up your skills, weapons, etc. beforehand. You also have to have a handful of strategies up your sleeve that you can pull out in a tricky situation. I think FE Heroes would actually be a pretty good learning tool because it is all about repositioning units and learning about the canon skills. Word of caution that Heroes has an ungodly amount of content, and can get old quickly.

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22 hours ago, Agro said:

t's helpful to have a mindset of "how can I manipulate these units so that I neutralise all threats in one turn?" so that you can advance your frail units without fear of them dying. Failing that, working out which enemies you can leave alive, or how to position your units just right such that the correct units are in/out of range. Liberal use of combat arts, brave weapons and Hero Relics will be helpful in this regard as well.

I'll definitely second this as well, in fact, disregard everything I say next if that's what it takes for the above to stick.

... I'm still gonna talk, though.

It's important to point out that what being "good" means can be a bit debatable here. Fire Emblem games, once you understand them, are lenient at their core, likely for the sake of accessibility. Pushed to the extreme, this leads to low-turncount clears, or even 0% growth rates runs(I assume you're familiar since you spoke of efficiency but just in case, this involves modifying the game so that level ups don't grant stats, ever, for anyone), but I'd say that in general, any high-end run follows a comparable philosophy: do more with less. So if you want to progress, I'd say restrict yourself little by little, in any way you see fit, put yourself in situations where crutches aren't the solution, where there's no easy way out. Things that carried you through before, maybe don't use them at all next time.

Another thing; you spoke of time a bunch. Now I don't know how much of that was in game turns vs real time exactly but, I will point out, the dirty little secret of this franchise is that things can also get very, very time consuming the better you play, because there's a ton of planning involved. If to you, getting better is tied to playing faster, then turtling(the playstyle you described basically) is pretty much exactly what you want to be doing.

... and then there's excelling at the game, which mostly involves knowledge and a lot of exploiting. If that's what you're aiming for, basically read, read, read, learn. Play also, but mostly read. It's a one time thing for the most part, most FE games are exploited in comparable ways. Unit that starts off strong? Use that. Warp? Use that. Units with more movement, flight? Use those. 1-2 range? Doesn't apply as much for 3H, but use that. Dancer? Use it. Etc.

Edited by Cysx

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May I suggest that to make most of the game very easy you restart the Game then during The Mock Battle you fight in Chapter 1 defeat all foes other then Hannerman, once Hannerman is the only foe on the map retreat from the battle, then restart the battle and keep doing that until your units are powerful enough that all of them is definitely strong enough to be able to solo every mission prior to the times-skip and several of those after it

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11 minutes ago, James Marshall said:

May I suggest that to make most of the game very easy you restart the Game then during The Mock Battle you fight in Chapter 1 defeat all foes other then Hannerman, once Hannerman is the only foe on the map retreat from the battle, then restart the battle and keep doing that until your units are powerful enough that all of them is definitely strong enough to be able to solo every mission prior to the times-skip and several of those after it

That doesn't work on anything above Normal, iirc, given that if you retreat, experience is not retained.

Edited by Shadow Mir

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For what it's worth, there's nothing inherently wrong with "baiting" enemies. I still find it useful a lot of the time. Most of the time on Maddening, my first turn is setting up to bait multiple enemies. Then on turn 2, finishing off those who were drawn in, while setting up to bait another group. In this style, what's important is figuring out who can safely bait (and what kind of enemies) - Great Knight Gilbert, for instance, can handle a ton of physical foes, but should be kept out of range of magic. Also, how to deal with those you've drawn in - if there's too many to kill, you can stun them with a gambit.

Anyway, you shouldn't be reluctant to send mounted units into enemy territory. But it's not necessarily wrong to be reluctant at letting them end their turn in enemy range. Like in Blue Lions, I used Paladin Dimitri - with a Brave Lance, he was a player phase nuke, but he suffered on enemy phase. So I'd send him in when I had a clean kill, but only if I could Canto away, or kill other threats, to such a degree that he wasn't at risk of dying on enemy phase. And when an unit is at risk, some tricks that can help include a) trading so they're equipping a lighter weapon, b) rallying to improve survivability, or c) support gambits like Blessing or Impenetrable Wall.

Anyway, others have offered great advice. But the most important thing is to keep playing, and trying new things. I'd never really dodgetanked, for instance, until I met Alert Stance+ Defiant Avo/Crit Falco/Wyvernknight Ingrid with the Chalice of Beginnings for Retribution and a Devil Axe/Sword. She was responsible for killing half of Enbarr, haha.

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I did not enjoy playing Four Houses, but I still think that some things that I have learnt while playing other games might help you too.

• Restarting a map is a great way to practice and improve. Embrace it.

• Learn to laugh at your own luck. If you get mad at a 3 % critical hit or at a 95 % Hit missing, you do not understand how probability works.

• Use a core set of units (say, the default house members) and avoid convoluted class-changes. Stick to the basics and pay attention to how each unit behaves and performs. After some time (and various restarts), you will identify your defensive and offensive thresholds. You must know the capacities of your team.

• As much as Fire Emblem requires calculations, it is basic arithmetic. It plays more like a puzzle. After a while, you will “feel” the situation and know how to tackle each group of enemies without simulating damage and attacks.

• Divide the map in sections and think how you would wipe each of them.

• Move forward. Take a position, wipe the area on Player Phase, then move to the next position. If a certain area is taking you too long, you are doing it wrong. Restart and try again.

• Be aggressive (but not stupid.) You can complete the entire game in thousands of turns and learn nothing. Or you can fail a single challenging map at a fast pace and learn more than in an entire campaign. You do not need to do crazy 2-turns clears, but you should know how many turns it would take to wipe a certain area of a map. Then try to take the position in as many or less turns.

• If you ever play Conquest, c-h-e-c-k the fucking s-k-i-l-l-s! They will kill you. Multiple times.

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I'm on my 5th playthrough of Three Houses and still finding ways to get better at the game. One thing I realized too late was that in any difficulty below Maddening it's very easy to use auxiliary battles to grind to the point where the story content becomes trivial, and that doing so wasn't actually making me a better player or improving my understanding of game mechanics.

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Kinney:

Hard difficulty does not offer endless auxiliary battles. You can develop good habits in hard difficulty.

 

Cindered shadows hard difficulty is a good mode to practice good combat habits.

 

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On 5/23/2020 at 5:10 AM, AC6 said:

Kinney:

Hard difficulty does not offer endless auxiliary battles. You can develop good habits in hard difficulty.

 

Cindered shadows hard difficulty is a good mode to practice good combat habits.

 

True, but I'm finding that I tend to out-level the story content even with the auxiliary battle cap on Hard. (Granted, this is on NG+.) And yeah, Cindered Shadows on Hard was a good challenge.

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