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Best and worst units in three houses

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I'm doing my first gd maddening playthrough on a new game+ file and I'm not sure which units to recruit. Any offers? And if so, what builds?

 

Edit: I'm definitely using leonie, claude, sylvain, hilda, lysithea and ignatz

Leonie is going through fighter-brigand-paladin-bow knight

claude is a pretty standard route

Sylvain is going through fighter-brigand-wyvern rider-wyvern lord

hilda is going through the same as sylvain but with seal speed

Lysithea is going through monk-mage-bishop-gremory (giving her soulblade)

Ignatz is going through myrimidon-archer-brigand-assassin and ending on sniper (giving him seal strength)

 

recruiting and using flayn, mercedes and ferdinand (maybe bernadetta as well), recruiting others for paralogues

Ignatz is going to be purely a debuff unit, (break shot,Ward shot, haze slice, seal strength), but will be able to kill weaker units with crits due to stupidly high dex. I will keep him solely for maddening demonic beasts.

Lysithea is a walking nuke and the kit I'll give her will help her even more

Hilda and sylvain are both going to be my main source of damage output, with hilda being slightly less strong

Claude is going to be crowd control (encloser, hit+20)

Leonie will be frontline, protecting my weaker units whilst also giving damage in return

Ferdinand will be my primary tank

flayn will be a holyknight (I dont have DlC, meaning flayn is my only way of using rescue)

Mercedes will a bishop, giving her access to double use of healing and white magic (solely a support unit)

 

Also, Who should be my dancer?

 

Edited by FireEmblemFan3475
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I would include Lysithea, Leonie, Sylvain, and Petra among the best units that could easily become your parties staples. Linhardt and Hapi are also super useful for Physic & Warp.

 

As for the worst units, we have the ones most likely to be relegated to Guard adjuctants (Raphael and Caspar). Ashe is also quite mediocre - not bad, per say, just mediocre.

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There is only one real answer for the best unit. Her kit is too good on maddening. 

Also, Dedue kind of bad because he gets shafted. 

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1 minute ago, JubileePhoenix said:

There is only one real answer for the best unit. Her kit is too good on maddening. 

Also, Dedue kind of bad because he gets shafted. 

It made me really happy when Bernie-bear got some recognition. 

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1 hour ago, LoneStar said:

I'd say every unit except Hanneman, Ashe, and Caspar can perform a competent role if you invest properly.

Normally none of them are great in battle, but honestly these guys are definitely usable. Don't get me wrong, Caspar is potentially the worst playable character in the game, but Killer Knuckles+, Death Blow, Fierce Iron Fist still works fine on him. You could also make him fairly easily into a Vantage + Wrath build (maybe as a Hero, but more likely as a Warrior). 

If you're recruiting Ashe, it's not gonna be for his battle ability (he just isn't really capable of killing things, and other units can fill his niches better). If you really wanna use him, send him through Thief for the mastery (that way he can have Steal and Locktouch regardless of what class he's in, and he'll be fast enough at least to steal from armours and some cavalry when necessary) and then put him in a flying class so he can reach chests better. Alternatively, he can act as a debuff unit (send him through Wyvern for Seal Def, but then put that on a Sniper or Bow Knight - Waning Shot will seal two stats at once, and Shatter Slash will seal defense a lot). Since it's NG+, you could even gift him Poison Strike, but that might be too much effort considering debuff + chip builds aren't that necessary on NG+ anyway. 

Hanneman excels as a Magic Bow sniper (lol am gonna keep selling this build because it's just so amazing). Other mages will outperform him with spells (especially if you have DLC Constance) but Hanneman just is best suited to pull off Magic Bow sniper. I've already spent ages praising him elsewhere, so I won't do it again though

Caspar and Ashe have never made my endgame team, so I'm not gonna pretend like other units aren't going to outperform them, especially if you're recruiting everyone. But Mercedes is the best healer in the game, so recruit Caspar to get their Part II paralogue at least. Golden Deer gets Catherine fairly early, so you don't have to recruit Ashe at all (and actually you have to re-recruit him in VW as well, so there's an argument that he's one of the worse recruits for VW). 

3 hours ago, FireEmblemFan3475 said:

I'm doing my first gd maddening playthrough on a new game+ file and I'm not sure which units to recruit. Any offers? And if so, what builds?

 

Edit: I'm definitely using leonie, claude, sylvain, hilda, lysithea and ignatz

As far as people you wanna recruit, who you didn't mention in this post:

Felix and Petra are amazing full stop. They can do most physical classes - you might have heard about Felix and bows, and VW as a route also loves bows, which works out great. But basically fitting builds around any of their advantages works out great (maybe give Petra some hit rate help though).

Catherine is also very good and does similar things to Felix,  and might be a bit easier to recruit. Shamir is another easy recruit, can do good damage in a pinch, and gives might bonuses to Catherine, so you can use either of them quite effectively.

Ingrid and Ferdinand are good units with good paralogue rewards. They may perform well for you so keep them around, but they won't make or break your run. 

Mercedes is the best healer, but IMO Flayn is second-best (doesn't have Physic, but has Rescue), and comes free, so Mercedes isn't technically necessary

Linhardt is a good recruit for his paralogue with Leonie, but it's unlikely that you'll use him when you'll have Lysithea, Marianne and Flayn.

The DLC characters are good if you have access to them - you may as well recruit them all, but you probably won't use more than two in your endgame team (Balthus is a straight upgrade on Raph, Hapi is a straight upgrade on Linhardt, Constance has Bolting and Rescue, Yuri is a speedy Assassin/Sniper)

Alois and Seteth are both very decent, but they come quite late, and you're unlikely to have enough trouble on NG+ that you need to invest significantly in them. Of course if you like their characters, then go wild.

Cyril and Manuela are just a bit meh combat-wise in my opinion.

The remaining house members (Annette, Ashe, Caspar, Dorothea, Bernadetta) are by no means bad, but Caspar is the only one you really need to recruit for paralogue rewards, and none of them are particularly powerful. Part of this is also my personal preference - I don't really use rallybots or low-HP builds, for example, and if you do, then you'll love Annette and/or Bernadetta. 

 

 

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1 hour ago, LoneStar said:

Do you have any initial ideas? I'd say every unit except Hanneman, Ashe, and Caspar can perform a competent role if you invest properly.

Hard disagree, Hanneman is an amazing magic nuke. His main issue is just... being a Male magic user. They all get pretty screwed thanks to just lacking the amazing magic classes girls have. His utility through White magic is also kind of garbage, Recover and Ward, but he really just needs to nuke.

Worst units in the game I'd say are Caspar and Manuela.

Caspar has some low bases for how mediocre some of his vital growths are, and unfortunately he struggles to get his feet off the ground on average, until he hits War Master where he can finally pick up some steam. He's not an awful unit in the long run, but getting him there isn't fun. Raphael at least has better strength base and growth to work with for Fists, meaning his low speed is less of an issue. Plus Raph easily picks up Armor/Fortress Knight for an amazing Defense boost.

Manuela, on the other hand, is a mixed offense female, which on paper isn't awful, but her growths and bases in them are veeeery low for the point you normally get her. And, despite having the rare Bolting, she has a negative proficiency in Reason, meaning she's going to have to work extremely hard to get into Magic offense focused classes. Not to mention her negative proficiency in Flying, meaning even if you wanted to put her into the objectively best classes in the game, you're going to have to focus on it and likely only get her into Wyvern by veeeery lategame at best. While she can get Trickster or War Cleric, there are much, MUCH better options for both due to her extremely poor Strength and negative proficiency in Reason meaning her literal only offensive options are Hexblade and Levin Sword/Aura Knuckles.
So, basically, Manuela lacks the ability to access Magic offense classes, or her own spells for that matter, without extreme focus which is very difficult to throw into her given her later join time compared to other units with bad Reason, she has poor Strength meaning she'll struggle to use anything but a Levin Sword/Aura Knuckles in mixed Phys/Faith classes, and she can't even access the Wyvern line without EXTREME focus on a negative proficiency from the moment you get her. She has Warp, but as great as Warp is I don't feel like it's enough to justify sinking resources into her when there's 2 much better Warpers in the game with actual combat capabilities.

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4 hours ago, FireEmblemFan3475 said:

I'm doing my first gd maddening playthrough on a new game+ file and I'm not sure which units to recruit. Any offers? And if so, what builds?

 

Edit: I'm definitely using leonie, claude, sylvain, hilda, lysithea and ignatz

Leonie is going through fighter-brigand-paladin-bow knight

claude is a pretty standard route

Sylvain is going through fighter-brigand-wyvern rider-wyvern lord

hilda is going through the same as sylvain but with seal speed

Lysithea is going through monk-mage-warlock-gremory (giving her soulblade)

Ignatz is going through myrimidon-archer-brigand-assassin and ending on sniper (giving him seal strength)

 

recruiting and using flayn, mercedes and ferdinand (maybe bernadetta as well), recruiting others for paralogues

Mostly this looks good already. I might recommend you pick up Catherine, Felix, and/or Petra, though not necessarily all of 'em, since they play pretty similar roles. They have some of the best stats for any physical build, and Catherine in particular is relatively easy to get and incredibly powerful out of the gate. Like most physical characters she's best as a flier but you can do something with her swords or brawling (latter requires DLC) if you wish. Petra or Felix might depend a bit on if you're building the relevant skills to make them easier to recruit, they do well either archers or fliers.

Also, since you're on GD anyway, I do recommend using Marianne, as she's a solid healer (Physic and Silence) who also gets Thoron, which is one of the best Reason spells. If you have the DLC classes she's even better because of her talent in both riding and flying making it easy for her to reach Dark Flier/Valkyrie.

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1 hour ago, haarhaarhaar said:

Normally none of them are great in battle, but honestly these guys are definitely usable. Don't get me wrong, Caspar is potentially the worst playable character in the game, but Killer Knuckles+, Death Blow, Fierce Iron Fist still works fine on him. You could also make him fairly easily into a Vantage + Wrath build (maybe as a Hero, but more likely as a Warrior). 

If you're recruiting Ashe, it's not gonna be for his battle ability (he just isn't really capable of killing things, and other units can fill his niches better). If you really wanna use him, send him through Thief for the mastery (that way he can have Steal and Locktouch regardless of what class he's in, and he'll be fast enough at least to steal from armours and some cavalry when necessary) and then put him in a flying class so he can reach chests better. Alternatively, he can act as a debuff unit (send him through Wyvern for Seal Def, but then put that on a Sniper or Bow Knight - Waning Shot will seal two stats at once, and Shatter Slash will seal defense a lot). Since it's NG+, you could even gift him Poison Strike, but that might be too much effort considering debuff + chip builds aren't that necessary on NG+ anyway. 

Hanneman excels as a Magic Bow sniper (lol am gonna keep selling this build because it's just so amazing). Other mages will outperform him with spells (especially if you have DLC Constance) but Hanneman just is best suited to pull off Magic Bow sniper. I've already spent ages praising him elsewhere, so I won't do it again though

Caspar and Ashe have never made my endgame team, so I'm not gonna pretend like other units aren't going to outperform them, especially if you're recruiting everyone. But Mercedes is the best healer in the game, so recruit Caspar to get their Part II paralogue at least. Golden Deer gets Catherine fairly early, so you don't have to recruit Ashe at all (and actually you have to re-recruit him in VW as well, so there's an argument that he's one of the worse recruits for VW). 

As far as people you wanna recruit, who you didn't mention in this post:

Felix and Petra are amazing full stop. They can do most physical classes - you might have heard about Felix and bows, and VW as a route also loves bows, which works out great. But basically fitting builds around any of their advantages works out great (maybe give Petra some hit rate help though).

Catherine is also very good and does similar things to Felix,  and might be a bit easier to recruit. Shamir is another easy recruit, can do good damage in a pinch, and gives might bonuses to Catherine, so you can use either of them quite effectively.

Ingrid and Ferdinand are good units with good paralogue rewards. They may perform well for you so keep them around, but they won't make or break your run. 

Mercedes is the best healer, but IMO Flayn is second-best (doesn't have Physic, but has Rescue), and comes free, so Mercedes isn't technically necessary

Linhardt is a good recruit for his paralogue with Leonie, but it's unlikely that you'll use him when you'll have Lysithea, Marianne and Flayn.

The DLC characters are good if you have access to them - you may as well recruit them all, but you probably won't use more than two in your endgame team (Balthus is a straight upgrade on Raph, Hapi is a straight upgrade on Linhardt, Constance has Bolting and Rescue, Yuri is a speedy Assassin/Sniper)

Alois and Seteth are both very decent, but they come quite late, and you're unlikely to have enough trouble on NG+ that you need to invest significantly in them. Of course if you like their characters, then go wild.

Cyril and Manuela are just a bit meh combat-wise in my opinion.

The remaining house members (Annette, Ashe, Caspar, Dorothea, Bernadetta) are by no means bad, but Caspar is the only one you really need to recruit for paralogue rewards, and none of them are particularly powerful. Part of this is also my personal preference - I don't really use rallybots or low-HP builds, for example, and if you do, then you'll love Annette and/or Bernadetta. 

 

 

Linhardt has the physic/warp combo, which Lysithea, Marianne, and Flayn do not. And I'd argue that this makes him a better support unit than Mercedes. The only unit that really makes him redundant is Hapi, who also has the combo with a better reason list (arguably) and Gremory access, as well as easier access to dark knight if you want to go that route.

Edited by Fabulously Olivier

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11 minutes ago, Fabulously Olivier said:

Linhardt has the physic/warp combo, which Lysithea, Marianne, and Flayn do not. And I'd argue that this makes him a better support unit than Mercedes. The only unit that really makes him redundant is Hapi, who also has the combo with a better reason list (arguably) and Gremory access, as well as easier access to dark knight if you want to go that route.

While Hapi's reason list is definitely better (having a 3-range spell ensures this), Linhardt does have a notable advantage in that he's actually strong in Faith (and starts with D+ instead of E), so he gets Physic and Warp notably faster.

That said I don't find Warp nearly as useful as some so I definitely value Marianne (Thoron) and Mercedes (Fortify + Live to Serve + decent bulk for a mage) more than Linhardt myself... though it's all debatable and depends on what you want from your magic user. I personally rarely find myself using Linhardt outside of Black Eagles runs, but he's not a bad choice.

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3 minutes ago, Dark Holy Elf said:

While Hapi's reason list is definitely better (having a 3-range spell ensures this), Linhardt does have a notable advantage in that he's actually strong in Faith (and starts with D+ instead of E), so he gets Physic and Warp notably faster.

That said I don't find Warp nearly as useful as some so I definitely value Marianne (Thoron) and Mercedes (Fortify + Live to Serve + decent bulk for a mage) more than Linhardt myself... though it's all debatable and depends on what you want from your magic user. I personally rarely find myself using Linhardt outside of Black Eagles runs, but he's not a bad choice.

Mmm. Understandable point. Personally, I don't subscribe to the whole Warp = Speedrun mindset and find it extremely useful in my normal playthroughs because it opens up a lot of tactical options.

 

Linhardt, as my favorite 3H character, has found his way onto 2 of my 3 playthroughs thus far, and he's been incredibly useful. This run, he was replaced by Hapi, another of my favorite characters who just happens to make him mostly redundant. Though I do appreciate that his easier Faith leveling and innate Cethlean crest affords him certain advantages.

 

Usually, I'll use Linhardt as my main healer, with Marianne as my dancer (sword proficiency, personal sword, great faith list, and good with Levin Swords) and another mage or two as nukes & backup healers (Hapi is likely to be my standard choice here, plus Lorenz over Lysithea out of pure favoritism, though I really do need to use Constance more).

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@Emerson @haarhaarhaar  I didn't mean to say they are bad units. I used Ashe and Caspar on their respective routes, but considering the OP wanted to know who to recruit I don't think they are worth it. Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned Hanneman, because of his low speed he would have a hard time one rounding armors, but that Magic Bow Sniper build sounds good, and chip damage is good anyway. Manuela is definitely hard to justify using compared to other characters. The times that I used her I reclassed her to Falcon Knight and the DLC Trickster since she appreciates what that class does.

Edited by LoneStar

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4 hours ago, Emerson said:

Worst units in the game I'd say are Caspar and Manuela.

Caspar has some low bases for how mediocre some of his vital growths are, and unfortunately he struggles to get his feet off the ground on average, until he hits War Master where he can finally pick up some steam. He's not an awful unit in the long run, but getting him there isn't fun. Raphael at least has better strength base and growth to work with for Fists, meaning his low speed is less of an issue. Plus Raph easily picks up Armor/Fortress Knight for an amazing Defense boost.

Manuela, on the other hand, is a mixed offense female, which on paper isn't awful, but her growths and bases in them are veeeery low for the point you normally get her. And, despite having the rare Bolting, she has a negative proficiency in Reason, meaning she's going to have to work extremely hard to get into Magic offense focused classes. Not to mention her negative proficiency in Flying, meaning even if you wanted to put her into the objectively best classes in the game, you're going to have to focus on it and likely only get her into Wyvern by veeeery lategame at best. While she can get Trickster or War Cleric, there are much, MUCH better options for both due to her extremely poor Strength and negative proficiency in Reason meaning her literal only offensive options are Hexblade and Levin Sword/Aura Knuckles.
So, basically, Manuela lacks the ability to access Magic offense classes, or her own spells for that matter, without extreme focus which is very difficult to throw into her given her later join time compared to other units with bad Reason, she has poor Strength meaning she'll struggle to use anything but a Levin Sword/Aura Knuckles in mixed Phys/Faith classes, and she can't even access the Wyvern line without EXTREME focus on a negative proficiency from the moment you get her. She has Warp, but as great as Warp is I don't feel like it's enough to justify sinking resources into her when there's 2 much better Warpers in the game with actual combat capabilities.

I would disagree - Raphael is a textbook case of Crippling Overspecialization. While he might have an easy time getting into Armored/Fortress Knight, it's meaningless because he's so slow just about everything doubles him. Even if I wanted to compare him to Dedue, he still looks bad because he doesn't have the stuff that makes Dedue good (and Balthus being a thing now doesn't help his case). Long story short, it takes a Herculean effort to get him to a point where he can even be called decent, and even then, he can't do anything someone else can't do better.

I'll have to correct you here - Manuela is good in flying.

Another candidate for worst is Lorenz, who has the opposite problem as Raphael above. He doesn't excel in anything, and the result is the same as Raphael - I have a hard time finding a reason to use him over just about anyone else.

Edited by Shadow Mir

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The only note I'll give on your initial plan is that if you want to have Leonie end up in Bow Knight, you're better off putting her in Sniper as an Advanced class than Paladin.  Hit+20 is very nice to counteract the range penalties from shooting at 4 range, and a Bow Knight shouldn't be taking enough attacks to make Aegis valuable.

I agree with the others here that Felix and Petra are gimme recruits, as their stat growths are best non-lords in the game for physical combat.

Ingrid makes for a fantastic dodge-tank if you send her into Falcon Knight, but she can require a fairly intensive class progression to make her an effective offensive weapon.  It's manageable, but you need to get on it quickly.

Mages are a bit trickier.  Lysithea will be your default magic nuke.  I like using Mercedes as a dedicated healer in Bishop, as she has the best healing spell list in the game and a great personal ability for a healer.  After that, you'll likely want at least one more mage and possibly two.  Hapi and Constance are attractive options if you have the DLC.  Marianne is roughly on the same tier as those two, as she has a weaker Reason spell list, but better a better Faith spell list.  Dorothea is probably your best option for a fourth mage if you want to go magic heavy if you don't have the DLC, as she might have the best Reason spell list in the game even if she lacks raw magic power.  But she's a decent step behind the others mentioned.

It wouldn't be the worst idea to recruit someone with the idea of making them a War Master eventually, as the class is fantastic and Quick Riposte is preposterously good.  However...the road to get just about any unit into War Master is a slog.  Unfortunately, most of the units that would want to go into that class (Raphael, Caspar, Alois, Bathlus, Dedue) really take a hit in value until on Maddening.  They'll likely be burdens until you get them Quick Riposte, at which point they will be high damage dealers that don't require much babysitting.  It's your call if you want to bother.

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5 hours ago, LoneStar said:

Do you have any initial ideas? I'd say every unit except Hanneman, Ashe, and Caspar can perform a competent role if you invest properly.

I dunno...for some reason, on every playthrough I do, my Ashe somehow gets godly level ups and becomes my best unit, so I always use him. 

As for bad units...I would say Dedue, but if your playing GD he doesn't matter, so I'd say Hanneman. I tried using him once, but he wasn't all that good. 

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I tend to think that Caspar is just underwhelming to me. The moment I recruited Balthus I knew he was just better because his K.o.G personal ability gives him a +6 in Str/Def when under 50% health which combos with the Vantage + Wrath skill well. Use the retribution gambit or give him the chalice of beginnings and there you go. Caspar does have born fighter which is -10 avoid for adjacent foes but his stats are mediocre at best for me.

I just think that Balthus brings more to the table than Caspar and certainly Raphael. Dedue at least has Staunch Shield which does mix well with defense +2 and you can even give him something like a goddess ring for some nice HP regen.

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I'm not sure he's the worst, but I consider Ashe the most underwhelming character in the game. Pretty much everyone else has something that sets them apart from the crowd or some sort of unique selling point. Maybe an interesting personal ability, good combat arts, good spell list, amazing growths in at least one stat... something. Caspar isn't great, but I like his personal skill, and there's an extra bonus in his paralogue if you use him to beat the death knight. Raphael has the highest HP growth in the game. Manuela has Warp and Silence, as well as great speed. Lorenz is much more durable than most magic users which lets him sit on the front lines throwing out recovers and frozen lances in a way that will get most mages killed. Annette has amazing rallies. Cyril learns Vengeance and Point Blank Volley. And so on and so forth.

With Ashe, I just don't see anything that sets him apart and makes me want to use him. His stats are unremarkable at best, his personal can be entirely replicated by buying chest keys, his spell list is abysmal, and his combat arts aren't much better. He isn't even needed for his paralogue in most routes, and in the one route where you can't get Catherine, you don't actually have to use him at all if you do recruit him for the paralogue. And then on two out of four routes, he also ends up going missing for a couple of months in part two. He can be turned into a perfectly decent end-game character, but there's nothing about him that particularly makes me want to pick him over other characters.

Honorable mention for underwhelmingness goes to Anna, who mostly feels like a cross between worse-Bernadetta and worse-Manuela, has an awful personal, and worst of all, has no supports. This not only makes her feel so much shallower as a character, but also hurts her combat performance because of linked attacks and gambit boosts being so much weaker. I've never actually used her, but I'm sure she'd be perfectly usable. But like Ashe, there's nothing about her that makes me want to use her. She at least has pass/rescue and a higher magic kill than Bernadetta, so that is something I guess? But I still feel overwhelmed by meh whenever I think about using her.

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The only good thing I can think of for Anna is that her crest can occasionally cancel counter attacks when in combat. So for the most part if you're ever going to use Anna at all it would be for that purpose only. She does have a budding talent in riding which gives her pass so she can do some neat things on a horse similar to Bernadetta as a Bow Knight if you so desire. You could also go for Movement +1 and Pass with her as a Trickster or Assassin since both of them are the fastest class options for her.

And then there is Great Knight if you want her to go down the tanking route. She has a boon in Axes so her being a bad character going into a bad master class somehow makes it fitting. You would have to have her go down the armored knight route and just have her goal be set to Axes and Riding.

As a matter of a fact, it's one of her suggested goals. It's called: "Journey to the Great Knight"

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15 hours ago, Fabulously Olivier said:

Linhardt has the physic/warp combo, which Lysithea, Marianne, and Flayn do not. And I'd argue that this makes him a better support unit than Mercedes.

Very fair point. I also agree with you that Warp doesn't solely find use in speed run/LTC clears, and is a useful tool in its own right. Of course, Mercedes still has better healing spells, all the other Warp users have access to Gremory, and Physic isn't hard to find, so it's very much up to the player to decide whether Linhardt is the most useful support unit to deploy or not. All four of the women you've named here get better Mag than Linhardt, so even though Flayn has a comparable Reason list, all four of them are better magical attackers. So the question should be - do you need an extra Warp user in your party? You honestly might want one, but on a NG+ playthrough where you have the freedom to recruit anyone whenever, you can probably do better. Linhardt isn't at all bad, though.

13 hours ago, Shadow Mir said:

I would disagree - Raphael is a textbook case of Crippling Overspecialization. While he might have an easy time getting into Armored/Fortress Knight, it's meaningless because he's so slow just about everything doubles him. Even if I wanted to compare him to Dedue, he still looks bad because he doesn't have the stuff that makes Dedue good (and Balthus being a thing now doesn't help his case). Long story short, it takes a Herculean effort to get him to a point where he can even be called decent, and even then, he can't do anything someone else can't do better.

I'll have to correct you here - Manuela is good in flying.

Another candidate for worst is Lorenz, who has the opposite problem as Raphael above. He doesn't excel in anything, and the result is the same as Raphael - I have a hard time finding a reason to use him over just about anyone else

These are both good points. Raphael and Lorenz might see some use in the early game (and you're gonna wanna train them, especially Lorenz, for Ch. 13) but both are far from ideal. Marianne does the Frozen Lance build much better than Lorenz (even if you don't optimise her for Lances) and Raph's niche quite quickly becomes actively useless. It's not like either unit is  completely unusable, but there are far better units waiting in the wings.

10 hours ago, lenticular said:

Honorable mention for underwhelmingness goes to Anna, who mostly feels like a cross between worse-Bernadetta and worse-Manuela, has an awful personal, and worst of all, has no supports. This not only makes her feel so much shallower as a character, but also hurts her combat performance because of linked attacks and gambit boosts being so much weaker. I've never actually used her, but I'm sure she'd be perfectly usable. But like Ashe, there's nothing about her that makes me want to use her. She at least has pass/rescue and a higher magic kill than Bernadetta, so that is something I guess? But I still feel overwhelmed by meh whenever I think about using her.

I tried to use her in my last playthrough, and found she was actually around middle of the pack in terms of combat ability. Not especially strong or magical (about the same kind of strength as Yuri/sword Ferdinand, and the same magic as my Trickster Ingrid) which meant that swords in general (even with Hexblade/Soulblade) didn't do more than average chip. Her Authority bane is also a pain. But she had great speed (with Darting Blow, the highest AS of my entire army pre-endgame) and okay Crit rates. I still wouldn't recommend using her for all the reasons that you've mentioned (underwhelming is definitely the right word choice) but she was better in combat than the likes of Ashe and Manuela. I'd also note, however, that Anna alone can be recruited at any time after Chapter 3 - when she first came out I was just about to do VW endgame, and her stats when I recruited her were amazingly good (but she was still in the Thief class, and didn't have good enough skills/weapon levels to be considered for endgame). Of course, recruiting her late means missing out on her paralogue (unless CF) and although on NG+ her paralogue is far from necessary, you still might resent having to miss out on completing a paralogue/lots of gold and weapons just to make a poor unit a bit better.

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1 hour ago, FrostyFireMage said:

Ashe has both boons in bows/axes so he can easily get Death Blow and nuke things with Hunter's Volley

Getting to C in a skill is super easy even without a strength, though. Even characters with axe weakness like Bernadetta aren't going to have much difficulty going into brigand for long enough to pick up death blow. Having a strength in a skill is really nice if you're trying to get it up to A or S, but doesn't offer much when you're only going for C. It will let you get to C slightly quicker, so it is better than nothing, but not by all that much. And besides, it's not like he's the only one with strength in both axes and bows. Cyril and Petra both do as well, as does Claude if you pick up his budding talent, and all three of them have other things going for them as well.

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22 hours ago, lenticular said:

I'm not sure he's the worst, but I consider Ashe the most underwhelming character in the game. Pretty much everyone else has something that sets them apart from the crowd or some sort of unique selling point. Maybe an interesting personal ability, good combat arts, good spell list, amazing growths in at least one stat... something. Caspar isn't great, but I like his personal skill, and there's an extra bonus in his paralogue if you use him to beat the death knight. Raphael has the highest HP growth in the game. Manuela has Warp and Silence, as well as great speed. Lorenz is much more durable than most magic users which lets him sit on the front lines throwing out recovers and frozen lances in a way that will get most mages killed. Annette has amazing rallies. Cyril learns Vengeance and Point Blank Volley. And so on and so forth.

With Ashe, I just don't see anything that sets him apart and makes me want to use him. His stats are unremarkable at best, his personal can be entirely replicated by buying chest keys, his spell list is abysmal, and his combat arts aren't much better. He isn't even needed for his paralogue in most routes, and in the one route where you can't get Catherine, you don't actually have to use him at all if you do recruit him for the paralogue. And then on two out of four routes, he also ends up going missing for a couple of months in part two. He can be turned into a perfectly decent end-game character, but there's nothing about him that particularly makes me want to pick him over other characters.

Honorable mention for underwhelmingness goes to Anna, who mostly feels like a cross between worse-Bernadetta and worse-Manuela, has an awful personal, and worst of all, has no supports. This not only makes her feel so much shallower as a character, but also hurts her combat performance because of linked attacks and gambit boosts being so much weaker. I've never actually used her, but I'm sure she'd be perfectly usable. But like Ashe, there's nothing about her that makes me want to use her. She at least has pass/rescue and a higher magic kill than Bernadetta, so that is something I guess? But I still feel overwhelmed by meh whenever I think about using her.

I would say Ashe is better than Raphael, who I'd consider the king of underwhelming. What in the name of Hylia can he do that someone else can't do better? He has high HP, but that doesn't make him a good tank because he's so slow he'd get doubled by a snail on depressants. And now we have Balthus, who practically renders him obsolete. I gave up on him in my first run because he was getting nowhere fast. Long story short, I can't find a good reason to suffer through the trouble of raising him. Ditto for Lorenz, who only has it slightly better.

Edited by Shadow Mir

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1 hour ago, Shadow Mir said:

I would say Ashe is better than Raphael, who I'd consider the king of underwhelming. What in the name of Hylia can he do that someone else can't do better? He has high HP, but that doesn't make him a good tank because he's so slow he'd get doubled by a snail on depressants. And now we have Balthus, who practically renders him obsolete. I gave up on him in my first run because he was getting nowhere fast. Long story short, I can't find a good reason to suffer through the trouble of raising him. Ditto for Lorenz, who only has it slightly better.

I've always found the concerns about Raphael's speed to be somewhat overblown. Sure, he's slow as a tortoise wading through treacle but in practical terms, there often isn't any difference between terrible speed and mediocre speed. If you're making a fortress knight, it doesn't matter whether your speed growth is 15 (Raphael) or 30 (Balthus), you're still getting doubled by basically everything. If you send both through fighter and armor knight, then certify in warrior for the stat boosts, then spend the rest of the game in fortress knight, then by level 40 you'll expect (on average) Raphael to have a speed of 9 and Balthus to have a speed of 12. That is just not a significant difference at that level.

I know a lot of people hate fortress knight and will never use it, and that's fine. I find it completely usable, but to each their own. But for anyone who is looking to build a physical wall, he's one of the best, if not the best. You may not like his niche or ever want to use it, and I totally understand that, but at least he has a niche.

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1 hour ago, Shadow Mir said:

I would say Ashe is better than Raphael, who I'd consider the king of underwhelming. What in the name of Hylia can he do that someone else can't do better?

Quick Riposte does end up fixing a lot of the issues you mention (I mean it is an amazing skill anyway). I'm sure you'd say that the pain of getting Raph to master War Master isn't worth the effort, and I'd agree that it's really painful, having actually done it on my VW run. But it does bring results - he stays in Quick Riposte HP thresholds for longer than anyone else except a dodge tank, and that high HP is the niche I'd assume people are referring to for Raph. Also, Killer Axe/Killer Knuckles will often get a crit on the counter, which is at least enough for big chip on enemy phase. So, like every unit, he's usable with enough effort, and the niche he brings to an army can be effective, especially for the Deer. 

On the flip side, Death Blow + Hunter's Volley Ashe (which I imagine is Ashe's biggest damage output? Maybe there's a more powerful Ashe build idk) is done better by literally everyone who would be a physical Sniper. I've described other potential Ashe builds earlier in this thread - as a permanent Thief or as a stat debuffer - and both of those niches can be done better too (Assassin is a good enough class to use if you don't want to bring a Chest Key, and both Ignatz and Hilda are GD natives who can do debuffing as well as something else). So Raph slightly edges it for me over Ashe in terms of who is more useful in battle, although both of them are a drag for significant portions of the game.

2 hours ago, Shadow Mir said:

Ditto for Lorenz, who only has it slightly better.

I actually find it harder to defend Lorenz' gameplay than Raph's. There are other all-rounders in the game, and other units created to be physical/mag hybrids, and yet Lorenz still somehow is underwhelming at all his potential niches. And because of Marianne, it means there's always at least one person in your army on any route who does Lorenz' niches better. I've heard 'he's a mage who can take a hit' before, and that makes sense for Maddening NG - but he's still slow enough to be getting doubled, which means that relying on outlasting counters with his HP is a bit too dicey for my taste. That niche will also exhaust itself in the very early game (which is tough, sure, but is only a fraction of the game as a whole). So beyond mandatory deployment in Ch. 13, it feels like there's no reason not to use him as little as possible.

 

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41 minutes ago, lenticular said:

I've always found the concerns about Raphael's speed to be somewhat overblown. Sure, he's slow as a tortoise wading through treacle but in practical terms, there often isn't any difference between terrible speed and mediocre speed. If you're making a fortress knight, it doesn't matter whether your speed growth is 15 (Raphael) or 30 (Balthus), you're still getting doubled by basically everything. If you send both through fighter and armor knight, then certify in warrior for the stat boosts, then spend the rest of the game in fortress knight, then by level 40 you'll expect (on average) Raphael to have a speed of 9 and Balthus to have a speed of 12. That is just not a significant difference at that level.

I know a lot of people hate fortress knight and will never use it, and that's fine. I find it completely usable, but to each their own. But for anyone who is looking to build a physical wall, he's one of the best, if not the best. You may not like his niche or ever want to use it, and I totally understand that, but at least he has a niche.

If you want to make a Fortress Knight, then I agree that Raphael's as good a choice as any (aside from Dedue, who is better at it, but locked to one route). But count me among the crowd who doesn't like Fortress Knight much. Raphael can't even transition into Great Knight easily because of his bane in riding. (I don't like Great Knight much either, but it's clearly an upgrade on FK, trading 2 def for 2 speed and 3 move.)

And in other classes both might favour (e.g. the punchy ones, or wyvern), Balthus's speed advantage becomes more meaningful, either offensively or defensively.

(I don't think Raph is as bad as Mir does, but I do think he's towards the bottom of unit usefulness.)

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