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Zapp Branniglenn

Tier Lists and 'Availability': What do?

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Hey, so I love tier lists and character rankings in Fire Emblem. So fun. But for years I've been caught up on the concept of "availability". It's the amount of time (usually in chapters) in which a unit gets to be in your party. That's time they can be contributing, leveling up, gaining supports. For most people, higher availability is always a positive, but I was never convinced. Rebecca starts out trash in FE7, and never stops being bad because archers/Snipers have almost no enemy phase presence and don't kill things any harder than your other units until fliers are in the equation. Meanwhile Louise is way better than Rebecca because although her stats are slightly worse than a trained Rebecca, it didn't cost all that experience and cherry picking of kills for half the game just getting her to that level. There are several other reasons why Louise is better, but my point is that in the chapters she exists, she's just as good as the version of Rebecca who has investment - but without investment. Let's look at a more extreme case:

  • The Athos paradox. Athos is a character who joins your party in the final chapter of FE7. And even though that chapter is the first one with consistently challenging enemies that will trounce your low tier rebeccas and wallaces, Athos is tough enough to solo the entire map, especially if he has help from your dancer or a healer. He can also wield any luxury staff you've been holding onto. And yes, can solo the final boss faster than anybody else if you hung onto a Luna tome for him. He's even max level, so you don't have to talk about his growths or not "having enough time to gain exp". He's a 10 out of 10 unit who's begging to be used. But nobody considers him top tier, since he's only there for the two maps. It always struck me as an arbitrary penalty when he's thrown into mid tier for something that's not even "wrong with him", you know? And I get that it's not a matter of Athos being a bad unit, it's just an absence of the amount of time he can be the unit that he factually is. But when I rate him based on the unit he factually is, I'm told that I'm ignoring his availability when I'm doing the precise opposite by only looking at his performance in endgame. 

How much do you penalize units over their availability? And how late does a unit have to join to be considered bad because of their availability? Pent is pretty much mini Athos joining a third of a game earlier, but I've never heard somebody penalize Pent for having poor availability. He's top five in any tier list. I think availability is only a concern for a unit that joins at a level lower than your roster is expected to be. Because if their niche is high growth rates and the game is almost over, then that's a losing combination. With Ests, I absolutely get it, I just need to be convinced why it's a standard even for units that aren't selling you on their growth rates or room to grow.

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Read this article by yours truly:

Ping interpreted a tier list as a ranking of units based on how much you would like to draft them, which is a reasonable definition. I think differences over the importance of availability arise from people disagreeing on what exactly a tier list is supposed to rank and then not acknowledging that fact.

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Yeah, basically, availability matters in ranking a unit if we're talking about who's more valuable to get in a draft. If it's a question of "who should you deploy if you have both?", then availability only matters in games like Radiant Dawn, where availability also applies to after their recruitment chapter and some units will go away for a while.

Edited by Alastor15243

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Some of this depends on what you want a tier list for. If it's just to answer "should I use this unit", then you don't want a ranked list at all. You just want an answer of yes/no and for which chapters. Which is fine! To be clear, a simple answer is probably more useful to players. It doesn't matter whether Florina or Athos is "better" to such an analysis, just that you should use both, while you shouldn't use Rebecca or Bartre once other options are available. And communicating that Marcus should definitely be used until Chapter [insert something in the second half of the game here] is more important than assigning him a numeric ranking.

That said, tier lists are, for many people, at least as much an academic question of "how much does this character contribute to a playthrough", at which point availability matters, at least under some circumstances.


My personal feeling is that if you're good, it's better to be good for longer. Athos is good in his one chapter, but if someone is as good as Athos for the entire game, they'd unquestionably be better than him. Marcus being better overall than Athos is a simple case to make, for instance: Chapter 11-21 (or so) Marcus is at least as good as Endgame Athos, but he has multiple chapters of being that good. Even if you bench Marcus at that point, he'll have contributed more to a playthrough than Athos has, and deserves a higher score. (I still think Athos deserves a good score since you want to use him in his one chapter, but not sure how high exactly... he's tough to rate.)

Availability, however, is only a help when a character is good during their availability. For example, I'd agree with Louise > Rebecca. My take is that Rebecca is a considerably below average unit before Louise joins, so if you give exp to her as opposed to a replacement unit (i.e. whoever would get her party slot instead of her), you're suffering for it. So Louise managing Rebecca-level (or close) combat while letting you use a better unit early means she's better overall.

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I think this is down to how you specifically want to measure in your tier list. Mekkah's old FE5 character rating is quite a good reference point in that regard where he rated Sety a 10, simply because "theres no real reason not to use him" but on the same time on a tier list set up

Ultimately its down to how you want to measure it in your tier list. Tier list ultimately is just how you convey your opinion on how several characters stack up to each other - whether you want to use "how good are they when theyre around" vs "overall contribution to the game" is your guess


For whatever its worth, Pent's late alvailability have been used as a point to hit against him: specifcially there i believe was a time when people experimented using Canas/Lucius(?) as their bootleg Pent and works it out on LTC esque context, so alvailability being "a big thing that swallows everything" have been a thing that hits even a unit that good that just happen to not be alvailable. The fact of the matter about alvailability is when a unit is alvailable you can start to tilt the advantage on that unit's favor earlier

 

Alance vs Percival would be an example where this works in that if you funnel enough stuff to Alance, by the time Percival appears he'd be either slightly worse or only slightly better. Miledy vs Shanna is where it "doesnt" since Miledy arrives rather early probably right before a heavy duty combat flier is big, amongst generic characters Miledy arguably have THE best growth in the game by far, and have a base so ridiculous that a Robed mildly rng abused Shanna had issues competing against her

 

I guess what i want to say is ultimately stuff isnt black and white and there really isnt an objective one true way to make Tier list >_> The general fire emblem community uses the overall approach but if you look at it differently its kinda ok lol. Like personally speaking i think Niime is the real best character in FE6

 

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18 minutes ago, AnonymousSpeed said:

Read this article by yours truly:

Ping interpreted a tier list as a ranking of units based on how much you would like to draft them, which is a reasonable definition.

Did he say that? His post is basically "numbers are arbitrary and misleading. Back them up with explanation if you want to guide new players". I don't disagree with those statements, I just don't see where in the thread people are talking about drafts.

Quote

I think differences over the importance of availability arise from people disagreeing on what exactly a tier list is supposed to rank and then not acknowledging that fact.

A preface and explanation of rankings is incredibly rare in tier lists. Even the so called "good tier lists" like Mekkkah's I have never seen him drop an explanation before ranking anything. If he ever has, then excuse my lapse in memory. I only ever saw a couple game-specific lists. I try to have explanations in my own, especially when it's a weirder type of Fire Emblem game with unconventional concerns and strange game design. But I know in my tier lists, if a unit is great for only part of the game, that's still being reflected in some way rather than being ignored because his growth rates are poor or the game is almost over. FE1 Bantu, for instance. I rated him high tier because he's indestructible against physical units and that gives him a niche of walling off infinite reinforcements as early as chapter 8. Sure he doesn't grow stronger, and not every chapter has infinite reinforcements to worry about, but he's a big deal in a game where most units are bad, stat caps are low, and stat boosters are buyable. Cap out his stats and he'll carry in late game at a rate only Tiki could compare to which is also fun.

18 minutes ago, Dark Holy Elf said:

My personal feeling is that if you're good, it's better to be good for longer. Athos is good in his one chapter, but if someone is as good as Athos for the entire game, they'd unquestionably be better than him. Marcus being better overall than Athos is a simple case to make, for instance: Chapter 11-21 (or so) Marcus is at least as good as Endgame Athos, but he has multiple chapters of being that good. Even if you bench Marcus at that point, he'll have contributed more to a playthrough than Athos has, and deserves a higher score. (I still think Athos deserves a good score since you want to use him in his one chapter, but not sure how high exactly... he's tough to rate.)

Yeah but like, Marcus is Marcus. I can't give you the argument for Athos > Marcus. BUT when Athos is dropped in mid tier because of his availability, is it ever justifiable to rank him lower than the likes of Erk, a unit that will try and try but never live up to Athos' potential, even if you somehow got him to level 20/20? Or if that's not a suitable comparison, other pre-promotes like Geitz, Hawkeye or Vaida, how are they higher than Athos? I'm down to use all three of those guys, but none of them blow me away as much as Athos does.

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I think Anonymous and Dark Holy Elf both gave very good answers. I agree with them. I think that tier lists are pretty worthless actually, unless they thoroughly explain what the metric is and why each unit is placed where they are. I think the information of what each units' strengths and weaknesses are, and what they are capable of at different points in the game is far more important than "unit is x good". The important part is to convey factual information bout units and let people decide for themselves how much they want to weigh certain things. "Saying FE6 Marcus is a great unit" would be a pretty worthless statement on its own. You would need to explain that he is great for the early game but not so much for the later game.

10 minutes ago, JSND Alter Dragon Boner said:

Alance vs Percival would be an example where this works in that if you funnel enough stuff to Alance, by the time Percival appears he'd be either slightly worse or only slightly better.

I don't think Alance are nearly as good as Percival when he joins.

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17 minutes ago, Glennstavos said:

Yeah but like, Marcus is Marcus. I can't give you the argument for Athos > Marcus. BUT when Athos is dropped in mid tier because of his availability, is it ever justifiable to rank him lower than the likes of Erk, a unit that will try and try but never live up to Athos' potential, even if you somehow got him to level 20/20? Or if that's not a suitable comparison, other pre-promotes like Geitz, Hawkeye or Vaida, how are they higher than Athos? I'm down to use all three of those guys, but none of them blow me away as much as Athos does.

I'm inclined to agree with you here – Athos is difficult to rate but I'd personally be inclined to rank him above all those people, for the same reason. Basically, none are so far above average in their extra chapters of availbility to outweigh the fact that Athos stomps them during their overlap.

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32 minutes ago, Whisky said:

I think Anonymous and Dark Holy Elf both gave very good answers. I agree with them. I think that tier lists are pretty worthless actually, unless they thoroughly explain what the metric is and why each unit is placed where they are. I think the information of what each units' strengths and weaknesses are, and what they are capable of at different points in the game is far more important than "unit is x good". The important part is to convey factual information bout units and let people decide for themselves how much they want to weigh certain things. "Saying FE6 Marcus is a great unit" would be a pretty worthless statement on its own. You would need to explain that he is great for the early game but not so much for the later game.

I don't think Alance are nearly as good as Percival when he joins.

I was talking a stupidly highly invested Alance. The most extreme version is something like Irysa's giga rig run where Alan is almost as good as Percival when the chapter count isnt even half of the chapter when Perci joined.

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39 minutes ago, Whisky said:

I think Anonymous and Dark Holy Elf both gave very good answers. I agree with them. I think that tier lists are pretty worthless actually, unless they thoroughly explain what the metric is and why each unit is placed where they are. I think the information of what each units' strengths and weaknesses are, and what they are capable of at different points in the game is far more important than "unit is x good". The important part is to convey factual information bout units and let people decide for themselves how much they want to weigh certain things. "Saying FE6 Marcus is a great unit" would be a pretty worthless statement on its own. You would need to explain that he is great for the early game but not so much for the later game.

alright alright alright, no arguments in this thread that numbers are better than explanations. Speaking for myself, those are never separated from each other in my own tier lists, and every unit I rank is getting some writeup of explanation. BUT, in my experience, I'm usually called out less for what I do say and more for what I don't. Folks look at my writeup, point out something I neglected to mention and assume I didn't know about it and that I must be playing the game wrong or that there's something structurally false about the whole list. Explanations foster discussions, yes, but even if you're spending enough hours to have an entire walkthrough of the game to accompany your tier list, understand that they are never enough. Your list is still getting trashed on some detail, spoken or un-spoken. I've had people admit that I taught them new things and perspective about the game and still insist I must be wrong. It's no longer a clash of facts but a clash of opinions and addressing arguments the other guy didn't make in the first place.

That's where we're at with the realm of availability, in my opinion. I think people are all over the place on it because the difference it makes is not so easily quantifiable as being able to say "this is how good the unit is in their join chapter, and here's every chapter following that". If you ask me, marking units down or up based on their "availability" in a conventional fire emblem game feels like a pitfall. Or at least I think people need to question why it's the standard to curve unit placements up or down based on their join time. 

Edited by Glennstavos

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That's a good point. People could always have things to complain about with a tier list. There are many metrics (both objective and subjective) that could be used for a tier list, but there is no 'best' way to make a tier list. I might have more time to say more about this later, the topic is interesting and there are a lot of things to explore with it, but right now I'm pressed for time, so I'm just going to say what someone told me on the GameFAQs board; the value of a tier list comes from the discussion around it.

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35 minutes ago, Glennstavos said:

Did he say that? His post is basically "numbers are arbitrary and misleading. Back them up with explanation if you want to guide new players". I don't disagree with those statements, I just don't see where in the thread people are talking about drafts.

Might have been something he posted in another thread around the same time.

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Not sure how much this contributes to the conversation, but when tiering units I usually consider availability irrelevant unless comparing multiple units of a similar class or role.

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1 hour ago, Dark Holy Elf said:

I'm inclined to agree with you here – Athos is difficult to rate but I'd personally be inclined to rank him above all those people, for the same reason. Basically, none are so far above average in their extra chapters of availbility to outweigh the fact that Athos stomps them during their overlap.

I'd agree without a second thought of Vaida below Athos, she comes one chapter too late and already comes very late. I like Geitz, but yeah, I can see him below Athos too. Hawkeye though, I'd hesitate on him. I no super-efficient hardcore player, but he has just enough availability and useful durability that I'd want to rank him above Athos. -But I am very likely overestimating enemy strength even with Death By A Thousand Cuts in FE7.

I guess one factor it comes down to, is how many units you "need" for a chapter. I'd speculate that if you "need" fewer units per chapter to get it done, that you have more "filler" slots, that availability would matter less. But if it's all hands on deck, then would being less available hurt more? But then you have to define how many units are "needed" for a given map, and for this to be repeated for every single chapter. Then, your play level and how you factor in investment would matter. Should "massive BEXP dump into Marcia" be considered for PoR? If so, then you only "need" two units per map, strictly speaking. If you say no to such a lopsided investment, then your quantity of necessary unit slots increases, because one unit + Ike can no longer so readily solo the maps.

Edited by Interdimensional Observer

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I believe that tier lists, at least the way I use them, is a pretty simple thing. I ask myself, "how much would I miss this unit if I couldn't use them." This means that availability is still a penalty, however not as big as some tier lists make it out to be. Rebecca wouldn't change the game very much if she were gone, maybe a little less chip, but not a lot. However, Louise would be a bigger loss, as she does have utility, and without her a part of the game for me at least would change.

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Availability isn't as big of an in issue in cases like Athos, Pent, Percival, Claud, Laguz Royal, etc. when they come out of the gate ready to go. Availability is an issue for units who will need a lot of investment because they need the time to grow.

If we're looking at FE7 alone - Availability is a not really an issue for Athos. I wouldn't say he's the best character in the game because you have him for a short time, BUT he has never been a liability. He is ready to use when he joins and the player is not punished for using him

Meanwhile, for Nino, Availability IS a big issue. Nino comes underleveled and unpromoted, which is not good for her join chapter. Thus, availability is an issue because in order to make her competent, you have to feed her so many kills before endgame (because at that point it's not worth it anymore). She already missed a chunk of the game, and now you have to play catch up with her just so she won't die as easily.

In tier lists, I'm definitely guilty of knocking down one unit over another because of their join time. If two units have similar combat abilities and talents, availability becomes the straw you grasp to pick one over the other. 

Plus, we're FE fans. We always gotta nag about something. It's our culture.

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5 hours ago, Glennstavos said:

Yeah but like, Marcus is Marcus. I can't give you the argument for Athos > Marcus. BUT when Athos is dropped in mid tier because of his availability, is it ever justifiable to rank him lower than the likes of Erk, a unit that will try and try but never live up to Athos' potential, even if you somehow got him to level 20/20? Or if that's not a suitable comparison, other pre-promotes like Geitz, Hawkeye or Vaida, how are they higher than Athos? I'm down to use all three of those guys, but none of them blow me away as much as Athos does.

I dont put Tier list above my judgement of who to pick / use. Because im 100% sure the guy who made it has different playstyle than me. usually it involves efficent / LTC run. So i only regarded it as a kind of reference like this is unit is "generally" bad, not actually bad (except bottom tier which is absolute bad most of the time) heck i would even put lilina in A or B tier, not C or D like many people do because of how good she perform in endgame, disregarding how fragile she was when recruited.

availability only becomes penalty to me if  the unit is like Sophia from FE6 (but i actually use her for endgame in my 1st playthru. believe it or not). She joins halfway thru the game, with lvl 1 unpromoted class, in a desert with low visibility no less. And the stage with an Arena is actually the one before you recruit them. if they are like Zeiss or hugh where they join late but ready to be promoted and the arena appear just one chapter more, availability doesnt really affect their "tier list" to me.

Edited by joevar

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@AnonymousSpeed @Glennstavos - I probably never used that draft definition of tier lists because I've never played a FE draft. It is a reasonable criterion, though.

---

For me, a big factor for why later joining characters shouldn't be too high on a tier list is competition. Your typical Jeigan is completely uncontested as the best unit for the first half of the game, give or take - there is absolutely nobody who can replicate Marcus' combat in FE7 before Sainadin or Kentadin might join the party; whereas Pent, as good as he is, can be somewhat replaced by a promoted Canas/Erk/Lucius. Not 100%, since Pent still has a pretty ridiculous set of base stats, but it's way easier to ignore Pent than it is to not use Marcus.

For the same reason, I would argue Marcus > Percival, even though this is obviously not true while they are both available - yes, Percy is going to be your best combat unit when he joins, but not by the same margin or with the same impact as Marcus in the first third of the game.

(TL;DR: Black Knight S tier, 10/10. Well, not quite, but RD tiering is still weird)

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I have for a long time now felt like availability is overrated. I'd rather ask "Should I use this unit when I have them?" over "How much can this unit do?" and judge from there. I also think if tier lists ever make a comeback they should include pros and cons for each unit. Availability can still be a factor, but more often used as a tie-breaker rather than a major advantage. I made a tier list for ranked HHM that follows these guidelines as a personal experiment, though I never posted it.

11 hours ago, Glennstavos said:

Yeah but like, Marcus is Marcus. I can't give you the argument for Athos > Marcus. BUT when Athos is dropped in mid tier because of his availability, is it ever justifiable to rank him lower than the likes of Erk, a unit that will try and try but never live up to Athos' potential, even if you somehow got him to level 20/20? Or if that's not a suitable comparison, other pre-promotes like Geitz, Hawkeye or Vaida, how are they higher than Athos? I'm down to use all three of those guys, but none of them blow me away as much as Athos does.

I actually put all those units above Athos not because of availability, but because I just don't think Athos is as good as you do lol.

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Athos is pretty darn good on his one map! Aside from Nils (dancers are always tough to compare), he'll outclass your other units pretty cleanly. Other units don't have his reliable 2RKO on almost everything with high accuracy at 1-2 range. He can also do great things at higher range, with 30 magic to sling Bolting or status staves. There's no challenge present in the map he can't disarm*; I remember seeing a guide for how Nils + Athos can beat that map alone no matter how terrible the rest of your team is back when the game was new.

Granted I wasn't considering a ranked run; if you do, he drops since he contributes nothing to the exp rank and you'll probably make an effort to give combat to your other units instead.

*Unless the dragon has 40 atk. I remember reading that can happen, though I've never seen it myself.

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10 hours ago, Hello72207 said:

I believe that tier lists, at least the way I use them, is a pretty simple thing. I ask myself, "how much would I miss this unit if I couldn't use them." This means that availability is still a penalty, however not as big as some tier lists make it out to be. Rebecca wouldn't change the game very much if she were gone, maybe a little less chip, but not a lot. However, Louise would be a bigger loss, as she does have utility, and without her a part of the game for me at least would change.

You also miss out on a white gem. Very important.

6 hours ago, ping said:

@AnonymousSpeed @Glennstavos - I probably never used that draft definition of tier lists because I've never played a FE draft. It is a reasonable criterion, though.

Well frick, who said it then? Was it @Whisky? I certainly didn't come up with it.

1 hour ago, Florete said:

I have for a long time now felt like availability is overrated. I'd rather ask "Should I use this unit when I have them?" over "How much can this unit do?" and judge from there. I also think if tier lists ever make a comeback they should include pros and cons for each unit.

Fire Emblem Tier Chart.

When assessing how much I like a Fire Emblem unit, my consideration is this vague metric of "convenience," the amount of time and effort a unit saves me. How reckless I can afford to be without punishment. Lute's an interesting example of this. She's not super high in efficiency tier lists, which is weird to a lot of casual players because Lute is really good for most of us. The thing is that she requires some investment before she starts snowballing out of control- it's such a trivial amount that you normally don't notice, but it's a little more than can be afforded to her during an LTC. Unlike Nino, stopping to help Lute isn't a terrible drag. It's not hard to feed ber kills, and since the results of training her allow me to mindlessly destroy a lot of enemies, I consider her a convenient unit to use.

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I mean, if what this is about is tier lists being accurate vs self-explanatory, I think it's tricky. Both are important as far as I'm concerned; if a tier list is unhelpful, it serves no real long term purpose and is only entertaining to make(which, to be frank, is fine as well, realistically people who need help probably don't primarily seek tier lists). And availability is very much not self-explanatory, its value varies depending on the game itself, its balancing, its difficulty progression. Availability is opportunity. Some games like 3H are opportunity-friendly early on, others have Seth. Importantly, past a certain point there is less place for opportunity left because of competition in deployment slots or a difficulty to contribute on base stats/with limited training. That's for general availability, there's also punctual availability(which honestly Athos falls under), aka being around for specific chapters where it matters. Fortunately that's much more simple and I think most of us agree that that's highly valuable. But that's still something you have to actually explain.

The way I see tier lists is as a rating of how much each unit can reasonably contribute to clearing the game with ease, overall. As a result, obviously availability will often matter. But I do recognize that it might not be as helpful as a plain "unit good/unit bad".

Now if the debate is if availability matters, I mean... yes, it does. It's a factor among others, it just cannot save an unit on its own if everything else about it is bad, and as I said, it's opportunity, if there's no room for it, then it's less valuable. We just need to not be all binary about it.

An interesting example is Lara from FE5. Or it would be if capture baiting wasn't so potent and she was more of a combat unit; point is, she is available for a while before becoming the usual midgame dancer most FEs get, and I'd argue that yes, this is strictly a positive(there is the matter of her needing to survive). The only question is how much of a positive is it, it's not necessarily big.

Edit: Last part was removed because I'm just going to derail the discussion with stuff like that.
Re-edit: Last part is now actually removed, alcohol is bad even when you don't drink.

Edited by Cysx

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5 hours ago, Dark Holy Elf said:

Athos is pretty darn good on his one map! Aside from Nils (dancers are always tough to compare), he'll outclass your other units pretty cleanly. Other units don't have his reliable 2RKO on almost everything with high accuracy at 1-2 range. He can also do great things at higher range, with 30 magic to sling Bolting or status staves. There's no challenge present in the map he can't disarm*; I remember seeing a guide for how Nils + Athos can beat that map alone no matter how terrible the rest of your team is back when the game was new.

Granted I wasn't considering a ranked run; if you do, he drops since he contributes nothing to the exp rank and you'll probably make an effort to give combat to your other units instead.

*Unless the dragon has 40 atk. I remember reading that can happen, though I've never seen it myself.

Wasn't saying he's bad. He's definitely very good. I just don't think he's 10/10 good.

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44 minutes ago, Florete said:

Wasn't saying he's bad. He's definitely very good. I just don't think he's 10/10 good.

Yeah, that's my B. I think most would agree Athos is there to ensure you can beat the map no matter how your units turned out, but that's a more precise description than putting a number 10 on it in your OP. And such jokes undercut my plea for a serious discussion on availability.

And I do thank you guys for that. While I may not always agree with your conclusions, I appreciate the thoughtful approach in these responses. I don't put together tier lists often but I know next time I do I'll have more to consider about how the unit's join time impacts the bigger picture. And I'm happy to see other people looking at the concept of availability in a more three-dimensional sense, rather than a bullet point in a pro or con column.

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Well, I think it has to do with the difficulty of the chapters said unit is available and how much they can help you out.

 

Paradoxically, for example, I'd say that Illyana's high availability in RD makes her a worse unit. The DB chapters are by far the hardest parts of the game, and while she's there to help them at the beginning, she leaves to join the GM who do NOT need the help. Meaning that any experience and items given to her are taken from the most vulnerable team and given to the least.

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