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jonnymac110

First NG Maddening Run Post-Mortem

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Long time lurker here, and I just completed my first NG Maddening run last night, taking the Verdant Wind route; and I wanted to share some of my overall thoughts about the experience, as well as my party build. I found these types of posts really helpful for my planning of the run, so I wanted to give back for those looking for ideas.

General Comments on the Run
-I used DLC characters, items, and aux battles. I held out on the stat boosters until after Chapter 5, but I did use the Chalice of Beginnings right away
-The run took me just under 110 hours. I avoided cheesy grinding strats with rusted weapons/heal tiles. However, I did do aux battles ~1-2 weeks per month pre time skip, and ~1 week per month post time skip
-I recruited every character possible on VW, and completed every paralogue. This was more trouble than it was worth, and I wouldn't do it again. I found it really stunted Byleth's growth, and she was often the last unit to promote to a class tier. Next time, I will just focus on recruits/paralogues of units that give me something I need for my endgame build
-Holy cow, the difficulty at the beginning is truly maddening. I found the most difficult sections of the game were Chapters 3 & 5 (I averaged 50+ turn counts without grinding), doing DLC aux battles in the very early game, the pre time skip paralogues, and Chapter 13. The lack of stats, movement, and utility tools really punishes the player, especially when so many early enemy units have Pass
-I can't stress how important it is to plan your units/builds ahead of time. The units where I planned ahead really came together, while I was kicking myself for not thinking through some unit progression ahead of time (looking at you, Byleth!)
-My builds are player phase focused. I had never used some of the enemy phase strats with dodge tanking or Vantage/Wrath, and I shied away from too much experimenting once I experienced that intense difficulty curve early game

My Roster (in order of MVPs)

Mercedes, Bishop, 35 Battles/13 Victories (37%), 0 MVPs
Faith Lv 5, White Magic Range + 1, Reason Lv 5, Magic +2, Fiendish Blow

-My main healer. She is a unit of extremes -- depending on the turn, she can heal my entire party to full with the click of a button, or she does nothing. A good candidate for a Stride battalion to fill in some more useful turns
-Pros: I was not using Vengeance or Vantage/Wrath strats on my other units, so Fortify was really strong and didn't come with downsides. The auto self-heal personal meant that if she did have to tank a hit, I didn't have to worry about healing her (rare). Her Res was so sky high, she could pull enemy mages worry-free throughout the whole run
-Cons: She lacks really any other utility tools (Warp, Rescue, Silence), so there were a lot of turns where she just Waits
-This pick was more of a security blanket for me, and if given another chance, I probably would opt for a unit with more offense or utility


Marianne, Dancer, 113 Battles/50 Victories (44%), 0 MVPs
Sword Lv5, Reason Lv5, Sword Avo +20, Special Dance, Fiendish Blow

-I love the Dancer class, it just opens up so many possibilities (double your strongest unit, fix positional problems). I paired her with Fetters of Dromi, so I could just dive bomb a critical enemy with Lysithea and dance out
-I trained her swords and gave her a Levin Sword and her relic. She was able to delete some enemy units all the way up until late game. Also, she was super dodgy with Sword Lv5 and Sword Avo+20. Between her Avo and a Guard Adjutant, I could keep her on the frontlines without as much risk
-Her having Physic is a huge bonus for Chapters in which you have to split your party or Chapter 13. I didn't find much use for Silence, it was often just better to Dance a unit and eliminate the caster


Ignatz, Sniper, 269 Battles/173 Victories (64%), 0 MVPs
Bow Lv5, Death Blow, +20 Hit, Bow Crit +10, +4 Dex

-Ignaughty was the surprise of the run. I thought he was a pipsqueak and I never used him in any of my Normal/Hard runs. I was so wrong
-Because of his personal and his Speed Rally, his early game is strong as a reliable chipper or a speed rally bot to prevent or cause doubles. Thank Sothis I had him for those times you NEED some additional dmg to an enemy on forest or +Avo heal tiles
-Around mid game, his crit potential comes online, and he starts to become a monster. Give him a Killer Bow, a Crit Ring, and Hunter's Volley, and he becomes a delete button with 3 range and a high hit rate
-He had the highest Victories/Battles ratio on the team (64%), despite spending most of the early game chipping damage. If I could see the stats just post time skip, I bet it is some crazy high % ratio
-Avoid the temptation of investing any strength stat boosts early, he'll cover it with crits later on
-Overall, a low investment/high return unit with a strong early and late game -- 100% recommend


Leonie, Bow Knight, 307 Battles/127 Victories (41%), 1 MVP
Bow Lv5, Death Blow, +20 Hit, Bow Crit +10, Mov +1

-If Ignatz was my pleasant surprise of the run, Leonie was my negative surprise
-To her credit, she was one my strongest and most flexible early game units -- useful with a lance or bow, and she can tank a hit
-My intention for her was to be using Point-Blank Volley on horseback; but I already had that with Sylvain and Swift Strikes, and he got blessed with more strength and def, AND he has a relic and crest. There are too many maps in the midgame in which horseback gets neutered by terrain/stairs, so Leonie ended up being the odd woman out when I needed to pare my squad down
-Luckily, Chapters 19-21 were mostly flat, so she came alive for those and salvaged her investment; but if I could do it all again, I would find a way to get her airborne


Claude, Barbarossa, 410 Battles/196 Victories (48%), 2 MVPs
Bow Lv5, Death Blow, +20 Hit, Bow Crit +10, Bowfaire

-Oh man, I feel like I could talk forever about Claude. After this run, I am still no closer to knowing if he is the best lord or the worst lord
-Best lord: Barbarossa is a top tier class, and requires no investment. Encloser means that Claude can always deal with an enemy unit, even if he can't delete it. Ashes and Dust is an S tier battalion. Two fliers to start Chapter 13. He has good supports with other natural fliers. Dreamiest eyes
-Worst lord: He is a liability on enemy phase. Lacks the raw damage of a Bey-delgard or a Dimitri. Locked out of Darting Blow (granted, so is Dimitri)
-Either way, he was a super solid unit for me. Low investment/high return


Seteth, Wyvern Lord, 209 Battles/115 Victories (55%), 2 MVPs
Lance Lv5, Death Blow, +20 Hit, Lance Crit +10, Alert Stance+

-Seteth was a strong unit for me. My only complaint is that you get him so late
-You really need to take Chapter 12 and the first bit post time skip to invest in him to get him caught up with masteries -- plus you also want to rush to Lances A
-Once you do get him online, he is immediate A team material just as you start getting more unit slots available for chapters. Swift Strikes + flying is so strong
-I got lucky with Def/Res level ups. Along with his very strong crest, he was one of my few units who could take a punch or two in the late game and still keep trucking along


Sylvain, Paladin, 320 Battles/202 Victories (63%), 3 MVPs
Lance Lv5, Death Blow, +20 Hit, Lance Crit +10, Strength +2

-My other Swift Striker, I went the Paladin route (as opposed to Wyvern). It is really low investment when you don't have to worry about getting him airborne or trained too high in axes -- that way you can focus on rushing Lances A
-Sylvain has a really good set of bases, so the immediate recruit from F Byleth added a strong early game unit for free
-I think if the terrain in this game was more forgiving for horse units, Paladin Sylvain would be one of the best unit/class combos in the game
-He was my Death Knight killer late game once the Death Knight scaling outpaced Lysithea's damage; Swift Strikes + Lance of Ruin is that strong


Balthus, Grappler, 290 Battles/177 Victories (61%), 3 MVPs
Fist Lv5, Death Blow, +20 Hit, Fist Crit +10, Fistfaire

-While I found his voice acting and barks grating, on the battlefield he is a monster
-Another low investment/high return unit, with a fist relic for when you need a little bit of extra oomph
-I had originally intended to leave him in War Master, but the terrain ignore and Fierce Iron Fists from Grappler are just too strong that I went back after getting Quick Riposte. After this run, I am not convinced Quick Riposte was worth it, and that maybe the best play is to just stop at Grappler
-The biggest flaw, if you can call it that, was that he didn't have Canto (unlike most of my other top units), so he sometimes got left out of position and had to use a turn to catch up


Petra, Wyvern Lord, 286 Battles/184 Victories (64%), 4 MVPs
Axe Lv5, Death Blow, Darting Blow, +20 Hit, Alert Stance+

-I really don't have much new to add on Petra that others here don't already know. She is one of the strongest units in the game -- great growths, great skill boons, natural fit into Wyvern Lord/Falcon Knight
-I rushed B support to get her ASAP, and slotted her in immediately
-She's not the perfect unit -- no crest to use a relic safely, she doesn't have a lot of supports out of house, and she gets a little outscaled in the final chapters
-If you've been reading closely, you've probably noticed I've often mentioned valuing "low investment" unit/class combos. That is because you have limited investment, and a unit like Petra needs a lot of investment to thrive -- flying, auth, axes, bows, lances to get to my endgame build, not to mention using stat boosters to fix any issues you have with her growths. This is where progression planning really paid off


Hilda, Wyvern Lord, 375 Battles/207 Victories (55%), 5 MVPs
Axe Lv5, Death Blow, Darting Blow, +20 Hit, Alert Stance+

-What a unit, Hilda rules. By the end of my run, I was chanting Hilda! Hilda! along with her
-She was just a better-performing version of my Petra above, because she had higher Str and Freikugel to help keep up with late game damage
-Hilda required the most investment by a wide margin -- neutral in bows/flying, and a bane in auth. She was instructed every week, and part of all of my Group Tasks. I also gave her Dex stat boosters to help fix her hit rate issues
-I also did a little training in Heavy Armor early to get her a cert in Armored Knight to raise her Def a bit. She was able to tank a hit to soften Nemesis at the end, which is more than I can say for most of my units
-High investment, very high return -- struggled with hit rate in the early game, but even so, she was one of my strongest units throughout the whole run


Byleth (F), Falcon Knight, 443 Battles/247 Victories (56%), 9 MVPs
Lance Lv5, Death Blow, Darting Blow, +20 Hit, Alert Stance+

-I went female for the access to Darting Blow and the free Sylvain
-This is my first Byleth that I didn't keep in Enlightened One with a sword, and I vastly underestimated the amount of monastery training I needed for her to keep up her progression with her students
-Luckily, post time skip you are swimming in activity points, so I eventually got her there; but she was my last unit to certify into her final class. I only went Falcon Knight because I was so behind on axes compared to lances/swords
-My strongest unit early game, really carried the first few chapters. Also my only unit who could keep up with endgame stat scaling and who could still reliably double all the way through Nemesis
-Because it is so easy to keep her Charm sky high, she was my Ashes and Dust gambit user, and it really carries some sticky situations late game
-She was also the closest thing I had to an enemy phase dodge tank, and I would use her when I needed to pull late game enemy units


Lysithea, Gremory, 381 Battles/226 Victories (59%), 15 MVPs
Reason Lv5, Fiendish Blow, Uncanny Blow, Dark Magic Range +1, Dark Tomefaire

-What a monster of a unit. I gave her my +2 move shoes and Thyrsus -- so she had a ton of battlefield control
-She was my only Warper, so I sometimes had to forego the damage to get some critical utility
-I often paired her with Marianne's Dance, so she could delete just about any two units per turn from 5 tiles away. I mentioned this before, but it was so effective to dive bomb her deep to delete a priority unit, then use Marianne to Dance + Fetters her out of harm's way
-I considered her an S+ tier unit coming into this run, but I am backing off of that a little. Her early game is slow before she gets going, and really late game she struggles to OHKO enemy units, even if you feed her Magic stat boosters
-However, once she got Thyrsus and some class masteries, all the way up until the very late game, Lysithea was the undisputed champion of my run


Honorable Mentions

Lorenz, Mage
-I kept up with his training and used him as an adjutant through Part 1 for one purpose: to help Ignatz stay alive in Chapter 13. When it was time to shine, there were two turns when I needed his damage to keep it all together, and he delivered
-So much experience investment for 2 turns, but worth it

Caspar, Warrior
-1 Battle, 1 Victory: the Death Knight. What a boss

Spoiler

Dedue, Chad
-Homeslice stormed the throne room, and took out two units and pulled the Demonic Beast so I could kill it through the wall. I drank to your sacrifice that night


Conclusion

A big shout out to the people who contribute to this forum -- you really helped me put together a plan and see it through -- it was such a rewarding gaming experience. I hope this post can help others like me who were on the fence and looking for some ideas. I invite your feedback or any recommendations to improve on these ideas for others.

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Welcome to the Maddening Mode Club. Yeah Female Byleth is always an odd duck. D+ Lances and D flying is a tall order when D+ axes is equally urgent. Not enough activity points to go around early on, and when you can start sparing more than two or three points on faculty training, Battle has become far more lucrative in getting your units up to speed on their class masteries. That's why I think Byleth is absolutely fine sitting in Enlightened One since it's zero investment and a relatively strong class. Or at least that's the conclusion I've drawn in a No DLC environment. There are so many units that have an easier time becoming fliers, Byleth will be so far behind them in skill ranks, likely stats too by the late game.

Oh but Male Byleth? The brawler pipeline is a wonderful thing. Never falls off.

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I'm curious, why did you have Alert Stance + equipped on some units if you didn't intend to use those units as dodgetanks? That skill alone enables dodgetanking so long as you stack with other + Avoid boosts.

You didn't like using enemy phase set ups or something?

Edited by LoneRecon400

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15 minutes ago, LoneRecon400 said:

I'm curious, why did you have Alert Stance + equipped on some units if you didn't intend to use those units as dodgetanks? That skill alone singular handly enables dodgetanking so long as you put everything else on.

You didn't like using enemy phase set ups or something?

Valid criticism, I struggled with that 5th skill for the fliers, between Alert Stance+ and weapon crit +10 (I never got close to the faire skills).

I wasn’t familiar with the maps, so opted to have the flexibility to aggro with any of the flier units in a pinch. In hindsight, I would probably be more intentional with one or two of them opting for Alert Stance+, and the others grabbing more offense.

To your other question, no, I never went full enemy phase focus with a unit. I’ve never used a build like that before (this is my first FE game), and I wasn’t sure how it would keep pace with the stat scaling, so I fell back on player phase focus as my comfort zone. I’m assuming if you commit to enemy phase, you can make some busted builds.

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47 minutes ago, jonnymac110 said:

To your other question, no, I never went full enemy phase focus with a unit. I’ve never used a build like that before (this is my first FE game), and I wasn’t sure how it would keep pace with the stat scaling, so I fell back on player phase focus as my comfort zone. I’m assuming if you commit to enemy phase, you can make some busted builds.

Dodgetanks work pretty well regardless of stats. Even if you were stuck with Falcon Knight's base Speed of 25, if you added that with:

Avoid +10 (35) , Evasion Ring (45), Secret Transport Battalion (60), Alert Stance + (90), A Rank Support Adjutant (100).

That's 115 Avoid with Lance Prowess 5 when most endgame enemies struggle to break over 130 hit. And you can further add to a dodge tank's consistency with things like Cooking, Rallies, the Blessing Gambit, and of course extra Speed levels.

Combine that setup with say, Battalion Wrath, you can sweep through practically any enemy who doesn't have an offensive gambit or is a monster.

Edited by LoneRecon400

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Congratulations on finishing the run, especially given that Three Houses is your first Fire Emblem.

15 hours ago, jonnymac110 said:

-I recruited every character possible on VW, and completed every paralogue. This was more trouble than it was worth, and I wouldn't do it again. I found it really stunted Byleth's growth, and she was often the last unit to promote to a class tier. Next time, I will just focus on recruits/paralogues of units that give me something I need for my endgame build

Recruiting everyone is almost like a little extra challeng run stipulation to add on to the basic run. It's something that's only really worth doing for its own sake, not because it actually helps out. If the goal is just to complete the run, then it's definitely easier just to recruit the people you're going to use and the ones whose paralogues give useful items or battalions.

15 hours ago, jonnymac110 said:

-Holy cow, the difficulty at the beginning is truly maddening. I found the most difficult sections of the game were Chapters 3 & 5 (I averaged 50+ turn counts without grinding), doing DLC aux battles in the very early game, the pre time skip paralogues, and Chapter 13. The lack of stats, movement, and utility tools really punishes the player, especially when so many early enemy units have Pass

Yeah, the early game is definitely one of the trickiest parts of a Maddening run. There's a difficulty spike at chapter 13 and another one for endgame, but by and large, once you're through the early game, you're through the worst of things. Once you've had the time to start acquiring the toolkit you need and the builds you're looking to run, things get a whole lot easier. Honestly, I tend to think that the reverse difficulty curve is one of the biggest weaknesses of the design of Maddening.

16 hours ago, jonnymac110 said:

Ignatz, Sniper, 269 Battles/173 Victories (64%), 0 MVPs
Bow Lv5, Death Blow, +20 Hit, Bow Crit +10, +4 Dex

-Ignaughty was the surprise of the run. I thought he was a pipsqueak and I never used him in any of my Normal/Hard runs. I was so wrong
-Because of his personal and his Speed Rally, his early game is strong as a reliable chipper or a speed rally bot to prevent or cause doubles. Thank Sothis I had him for those times you NEED some additional dmg to an enemy on forest or +Avo heal tiles
-Around mid game, his crit potential comes online, and he starts to become a monster. Give him a Killer Bow, a Crit Ring, and Hunter's Volley, and he becomes a delete button with 3 range and a high hit rate
-He had the highest Victories/Battles ratio on the team (64%), despite spending most of the early game chipping damage. If I could see the stats just post time skip, I bet it is some crazy high % ratio
-Avoid the temptation of investing any strength stat boosts early, he'll cover it with crits later on
-Overall, a low investment/high return unit with a strong early and late game -- 100% recommend

My take away from this is less that Ignatz is a really good unit and more that Sniper is a really good class. Most units will function well as a delete button once you have Hunter's Volley and a full crit setup. And yeah, he definitely does have some stuff going for him (his personal, his high Dex and Luck growths, and his rallies), but I think it's the Sniper class that's doing most of the heavy lifting. I'd definitely agree that he's worth using in Verdant Wind where he's available in the early game and chapter 13, but he wouldn't be a high priority recruit for me in any other routes (especially since Shamir exists and can get to Hunter's Volley much quicker).

16 hours ago, jonnymac110 said:

-This is my first Byleth that I didn't keep in Enlightened One with a sword, and I vastly underestimated the amount of monastery training I needed for her to keep up her progression with her students

I've run Falcon Knight Byleth before without much trouble. I think part of your problem was probably that you were trying to combine this with the recruit every last one of them run. If you don't need to do many sidetracks for recruitment, then going for a class line like Falcon Knight or Wyvern is fine. But if you are trying to recruit everyone, then probably best to leave her in Enlightened One.

16 hours ago, jonnymac110 said:

Lysithea, Gremory, 381 Battles/226 Victories (59%), 15 MVPs
Reason Lv5, Fiendish Blow, Uncanny Blow, Dark Magic Range +1, Dark Tomefaire

-What a monster of a unit. I gave her my +2 move shoes and Thyrsus -- so she had a ton of battlefield control
-She was my only Warper, so I sometimes had to forego the damage to get some critical utility
-I often paired her with Marianne's Dance, so she could delete just about any two units per turn from 5 tiles away. I mentioned this before, but it was so effective to dive bomb her deep to delete a priority unit, then use Marianne to Dance + Fetters her out of harm's way
-I considered her an S+ tier unit coming into this run, but I am backing off of that a little. Her early game is slow before she gets going, and really late game she struggles to OHKO enemy units, even if you feed her Magic stat boosters
-However, once she got Thyrsus and some class masteries, all the way up until the very late game, Lysithea was the undisputed champion of my run

I am generally less high on Lysithea then many people are. Don't get me wrong, I still think she's a very good unit, just not a phenomenal one. Her weakest performance, as you point out, is in the very early game and the very late game. Which are typically some of the hardest parts of the game. Her strength is through the middle game, which (except for chapter 13) is often the easiest part of the game. And she is a worthy recipient of valuable resources like Thyrsus and the Sacred Galewind Shoes, but using them on her does tend to make her seem better than she is. She's still a good unit, though.

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Agreed with @lenticular re Lysithea. Thyrsus is a busted equip, and too often people credit its power to Lysithea, when in fact any mage can do tremendous work with it, even the ones without crests. I often try to pass it around mid-battle a bit.

Flying Byleth is incredibly useful in AM/SS Chapter 13s, where s/he is dramatically more useful in that class than a ground class. It's less necessary in VW because Claude + Immortal corps tends to make that version of the map much easier than it is on the other routes. That said, I think flying Byleth is still pretty clearly their best build overall. Enlightened One is okay for super-low investment but you can do better. Wyvern's not very high investment anyway, you can get there with C/C. Only Assassin/Hero are easier to qualify for for Byleth, and they're not nearly as good.

18 hours ago, jonnymac110 said:

-My main healer. She is a unit of extremes -- depending on the turn, she can heal my entire party to full with the click of a button, or she does nothing. A good candidate for a Stride battalion to fill in some more useful turns
-Pros: I was not using Vengeance or Vantage/Wrath strats on my other units, so Fortify was really strong and didn't come with downsides. The auto self-heal personal meant that if she did have to tank a hit, I didn't have to worry about healing her (rare). Her Res was so sky high, she could pull enemy mages worry-free throughout the whole run
-Cons: She lacks really any other utility tools (Warp, Rescue, Silence), so there were a lot of turns where she just Waits

Mercedes has become weirdly underrated IMO; she's one of the most deployed units for a reason (despite not being that popular). To some extent I agree with you about her flaws (I'll also note the lack of 3 range tome compared to someone like Marianne or Dorothea) but yeah she works as a great safety blanket, and tends to shine on challenge runs in my experience. Fortify is an incredible bailout in a tough fight. With Caduceus/Thyrsus she can reach more enemies to chip in offensively, so I actually find she doesn't end up using Wait too much. High charm makes her great for dropping offensive magic gambits but Stride's always a good choice on anyone too.

18 hours ago, jonnymac110 said:

-Oh man, I feel like I could talk forever about Claude. After this run, I am still no closer to knowing if he is the best lord or the worst lord
-Best lord: Barbarossa is a top tier class, and requires no investment. Encloser means that Claude can always deal with an enemy unit, even if he can't delete it. Ashes and Dust is an S tier battalion. Two fliers to start Chapter 13. He has good supports with other natural fliers. Dreamiest eyes
-Worst lord: He is a liability on enemy phase. Lacks the raw damage of a Bey-delgard or a Dimitri. Locked out of Darting Blow (granted, so is Dimitri)
-Either way, he was a super solid unit for me. Low investment/high return

 

Claude's incredibly good though I do think he's a bit closer to "worst lord" than "best lord". He just doesn't shine as much earlygame (lower str/cha/bulk than the other lords), and doesn't have the peak power potential of Raging Storm of BWrath/Vantage (though he is one of the best choices for dodgetank/BWrath if that's your thing). Ashes and Dust is S tier but obviously, not unique to him. He is way more helpful than Dimitri in Chapter 13 specifically, though.

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11 hours ago, Dark Holy Elf said:

Claude's incredibly good though I do think he's a bit closer to "worst lord" than "best lord". He just doesn't shine as much earlygame (lower str/cha/bulk than the other lords), and doesn't have the peak power potential of Raging Storm of BWrath/Vantage (though he is one of the best choices for dodgetank/BWrath if that's your thing). Ashes and Dust is S tier but obviously, not unique to him. He is way more helpful than Dimitri in Chapter 13 specifically, though.

I would say that Claude has a higher floor than the other Lords, but also a lower ceiling. If you screw up Edelgard, you get a mediocre Armor Knight. If you screw up Dimitri, you get a moody lance infantry who refuses to come to class. If you screw up Claude, you get a flier with Pass, Failnaught, and the best offensive battalion in the game. He's not pulling off the "peak power potential" you mentioned, but he's far harder to screw up than Edelgard (the game never indicates that you should train her Flight rank) or Dimitri (most casual players won't be getting him to A Authority pre-skip).

13 hours ago, lenticular said:

I am generally less high on Lysithea then many people are. Don't get me wrong, I still think she's a very good unit, just not a phenomenal one. Her weakest performance, as you point out, is in the very early game and the very late game. Which are typically some of the hardest parts of the game. Her strength is through the middle game, which (except for chapter 13) is often the easiest part of the game. And she is a worthy recipient of valuable resources like Thyrsus and the Sacred Galewind Shoes, but using them on her does tend to make her seem better than she is. She's still a good unit, though.

My preference for the DLC boots would be a Dancer, or else somebody with Canto (so they get to make full use of the range offered). Dansithia is a waste, but Valkyrie and Dark Knight are both good classes for Lysithea. And yeah, she's good with Thyrsus, but so is literally any other Mage. I'd say the biggest boon she brings to the table is insanely early Warp access, rather than any offensive prowess.

On 8/1/2022 at 5:38 PM, jonnymac110 said:

Sylvain, Paladin, 320 Battles/202 Victories (63%), 3 MVPs
Lance Lv5, Death Blow, +20 Hit, Lance Crit +10, Strength +2

-My other Swift Striker, I went the Paladin route (as opposed to Wyvern). It is really low investment when you don't have to worry about getting him airborne or trained too high in axes -- that way you can focus on rushing Lances A
-Sylvain has a really good set of bases, so the immediate recruit from F Byleth added a strong early game unit for free
-I think if the terrain in this game was more forgiving for horse units, Paladin Sylvain would be one of the best unit/class combos in the game
-He was my Death Knight killer late game once the Death Knight scaling outpaced Lysithea's damage; Swift Strikes + Lance of Ruin is that strong

I used Swift Strikes with Luin to one-round VW17 Dimitri on Maddening. Paladin Sylvain is just such a beast.

On 8/1/2022 at 5:38 PM, jonnymac110 said:

Balthus, Grappler, 290 Battles/177 Victories (61%), 3 MVPs
Fist Lv5, Death Blow, +20 Hit, Fist Crit +10, Fistfaire

-While I found his voice acting and barks grating, on the battlefield he is a monster
-Another low investment/high return unit, with a fist relic for when you need a little bit of extra oomph
-I had originally intended to leave him in War Master, but the terrain ignore and Fierce Iron Fists from Grappler are just too strong that I went back after getting Quick Riposte. After this run, I am not convinced Quick Riposte was worth it, and that maybe the best play is to just stop at Grappler
-The biggest flaw, if you can call it that, was that he didn't have Canto (unlike most of my other top units), so he sometimes got left out of position and had to use a turn to catch up

Did his personal ever come into play? I tried to make that work with him as a Wrath/Vantage Hero, but the build took a long time to assemble. Grappler sounds great for him, though.

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33 minutes ago, Shanty Pete's 1st Mate said:

I would say that Claude has a higher floor than the other Lords, but also a lower ceiling. If you screw up Edelgard, you get a mediocre Armor Knight. If you screw up Dimitri, you get a moody lance infantry who refuses to come to class. If you screw up Claude, you get a flier with Pass, Failnaught, and the best offensive battalion in the game. He's not pulling off the "peak power potential" you mentioned, but he's far harder to screw up than Edelgard (the game never indicates that you should train her Flight rank) or Dimitri (most casual players won't be getting him to A Authority pre-skip).

 

Yeah I think this is very well put.

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Congrats on your first NG Maddening run! I've done basically this exact run as well, was very fun to compare your thoughts with my experience.

On 8/1/2022 at 10:38 PM, jonnymac110 said:

Leonie, Bow Knight, 307 Battles/127 Victories (41%), 1 MVP
Bow Lv5, Death Blow, +20 Hit, Bow Crit +10, Mov +1

-If Ignatz was my pleasant surprise of the run, Leonie was my negative surprise
-To her credit, she was one my strongest and most flexible early game units -- useful with a lance or bow, and she can tank a hit
-My intention for her was to be using Point-Blank Volley on horseback; but I already had that with Sylvain and Swift Strikes, and he got blessed with more strength and def, AND he has a relic and crest. There are too many maps in the midgame in which horseback gets neutered by terrain/stairs, so Leonie ended up being the odd woman out when I needed to pare my squad down
-Luckily, Chapters 19-21 were mostly flat, so she came alive for those and salvaged her investment; but if I could do it all again, I would find a way to get her airborne

I've been underwhelmed by PBV in general, as it doesn't fit with the normal advantages of bows/bow-specialising classes, and it comes out poorly in comparison with Swift Strikes because there are many more good lances to use. I also find Leonie pretty essential in the early game, where you're really struggling for reliable frontliners in VW. 

On 8/1/2022 at 10:38 PM, jonnymac110 said:

Balthus, Grappler, 290 Battles/177 Victories (61%), 3 MVPs
Fist Lv5, Death Blow, +20 Hit, Fist Crit +10, Fistfaire

-While I found his voice acting and barks grating, on the battlefield he is a monster
-Another low investment/high return unit, with a fist relic for when you need a little bit of extra oomph
-I had originally intended to leave him in War Master, but the terrain ignore and Fierce Iron Fists from Grappler are just too strong that I went back after getting Quick Riposte. After this run, I am not convinced Quick Riposte was worth it, and that maybe the best play is to just stop at Grappler
-The biggest flaw, if you can call it that, was that he didn't have Canto (unlike most of my other top units), so he sometimes got left out of position and had to use a turn to catch up

I'd say don't give up on QR just yet - Grappler is better than WM for Player Phase, but vice versa for Enemy Phase (where QR obviously shines). Balthus is a particularly bad choice for an EP WM build because of the bad synergy between QR and his personal, and his relatively low base speed/avoid. QR is part of the gauntlets user build that is one of the best all-round builds an infantry combat unit can get to (strong kill rate on Player and Enemy Phase, high survivability, can handle tanking duties/being outnumbered etc.), but really isn't necessary for Player Phase centred tactics.

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Thanks to all the really great responses here! I have a daily post limit, so I will try and respond to comments questions here -- apologies if it starts to get all over the place.

 

On 8/2/2022 at 12:10 AM, LoneRecon400 said:

Dodgetanks work pretty well regardless of stats. Even if you were stuck with Falcon Knight's base Speed of 25, if you added that with:

Avoid +10 (35) , Evasion Ring (45), Secret Transport Battalion (60), Alert Stance + (90), A Rank Support Adjutant (100).

That's 115 Avoid with Lance Prowess 5 when most endgame enemies struggle to break over 130 hit. And you can further add to a dodge tank's consistency with things like Cooking, Rallies, the Blessing Gambit, and of course extra Speed levels.

This is awesome, I have not seen the math laid out cleanly like this before. I think I could have easily transitioned my Hilda or Byleth into this without much changing around (their higher charm would have been a defense against enemy unit gambits). I definitely would incorporate that build into a future run.

 

21 hours ago, lenticular said:

My take away from this is less that Ignatz is a really good unit and more that Sniper is a really good class. Most units will function well as a delete button once you have Hunter's Volley and a full crit setup. And yeah, he definitely does have some stuff going for him (his personal, his high Dex and Luck growths, and his rallies), but I think it's the Sniper class that's doing most of the heavy lifting. I'd definitely agree that he's worth using in Verdant Wind where he's available in the early game and chapter 13, but he wouldn't be a high priority recruit for me in any other routes (especially since Shamir exists and can get to Hunter's Volley much quicker).

I can definitely see Sniper being good all around -- low investment, a guaranteed brave art, high battlefield range. And then Shamir just falls into your lap already at the class and Bows A. I think you're right that Ignatz isn't a high priority recruit out of house, but he really fits so perfectly into the role with his growths and personal -- I didn't expect it. I definitely don't want others to sleep on him in VW.

 

19 hours ago, Dark Holy Elf said:

Mercedes has become weirdly underrated IMO; she's one of the most deployed units for a reason (despite not being that popular). To some extent I agree with you about her flaws (I'll also note the lack of 3 range tome compared to someone like Marianne or Dorothea) but yeah she works as a great safety blanket, and tends to shine on challenge runs in my experience. Fortify is an incredible bailout in a tough fight. With Caduceus/Thyrsus she can reach more enemies to chip in offensively, so I actually find she doesn't end up using Wait too much. High charm makes her great for dropping offensive magic gambits but Stride's always a good choice on anyone too.

You are making me think I was a little hard on Mercedes when I was reflecting on here. There were times where Fortify just fixes what would have been a horrible situation. I've seen some posts discuss her potential with bows + magic bow -- I wonder if that is a way to eek out some offense on turns when healing isn't needed.

 

17 hours ago, Bylift said:

GG and well done on your maddening NG run! And thanks for sharing the details. Very fun to read.

Thanks! I had a blast reflecting on the run, and it ended up being a very fun post-run activity to put it on paper.

 

8 hours ago, Shanty Pete's 1st Mate said:

Did his personal ever come into play? I tried to make that work with him as a Wrath/Vantage Hero, but the build took a long time to assemble. Grappler sounds great for him, though.

Honestly, only early game -- but his hit rate wasn't great at that point (and the extra dex wasn't enough to mitigate it) so I felt like I was rolling the dice with a miss/counterattack at low health and a small pool of divine pulses. Once I got to mid-game and then Fierce Iron Fist in late game, there weren't enemies that could survive a turn, regardless of his health.

 

8 hours ago, Shanty Pete's 1st Mate said:

My preference for the DLC boots would be a Dancer, or else somebody with Canto (so they get to make full use of the range offered). Dansithia is a waste, but Valkyrie and Dark Knight are both good classes for Lysithea. And yeah, she's good with Thyrsus, but so is literally any other Mage. I'd say the biggest boon she brings to the table is insanely early Warp access, rather than any offensive prowess.

 I thought a lot about Gremory vs the higher movement classes for Lysithea. In the end, she was my only Warper, and so I went Gremory for the flexibility of a second Warp (since she had the +2 shoes and Thyrsus). I can see a Dancer making some good use of the shoes, especially with Fetters and the Canto (best of both worlds you mention here).

 

1 hour ago, haarhaarhaar said:

I'd say don't give up on QR just yet - Grappler is better than WM for Player Phase, but vice versa for Enemy Phase (where QR obviously shines). Balthus is a particularly bad choice for an EP WM build because of the bad synergy between QR and his personal, and his relatively low base speed/avoid. QR is part of the gauntlets user build that is one of the best all-round builds an infantry combat unit can get to (strong kill rate on Player and Enemy Phase, high survivability, can handle tanking duties/being outnumbered etc.), but really isn't necessary for Player Phase centred tactics.

This is really helpful. I didn't focus Enemy Phase, so the value of QR just didn't present itself. I'm curious, if you are trying to go for avoid on an EP WM, is Alert Stance+ even part of that build? It feels so strong, but the flying investment is very steep and you aren't getting the passive flying training while battling on the ground.

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1 hour ago, jonnymac110 said:

You are making me think I was a little hard on Mercedes when I was reflecting on here. There were times where Fortify just fixes what would have been a horrible situation. I've seen some posts discuss her potential with bows + magic bow -- I wonder if that is a way to eek out some offense on turns when healing isn't needed.

If you choose to go all in on it, Magic Bow + Hunter's Volley is just outstanding offence, dealing damage that physical variants need crits to have a hope of matching. One problem is that you need to gain 150 sniper exp (minimum 38 actions with Knowledge Gem) as before then it's quite mediocre, and you also can't really start going wild with it until Arcane Crystals become storebought in Chapter 16. The other problem is you can't use both this and Physic/Fortify in the same battle, though you can choose by fight which you want more. I do recommend giving Magic Bow Sniper a whirl at some point, either on her on Hanneman.

If you aren't planning to make use of Sniper I suspect it's easier to just ignore bows on her; Magic Bow is weaker than her spells for offence (except against fliers). Its main niche is being 3 range once forged, which is nice if Caduceus/Thyrsus are wanted elsewhere and you don't have S reason yet. But of course, by skipping the training needed to get from E bows to B bows you can get to S reason that much faster.

1 hour ago, jonnymac110 said:

I'm curious, if you are trying to go for avoid on an EP WM, is Alert Stance+ even part of that build? It feels so strong, but the flying investment is very steep and you aren't getting the passive flying training while battling on the ground.

Alert Stance+ probably isn't practical for the reasons you've laid out, but Brawl Avoid +20 and, if you want it, the basic B-rank Alert Stance can go far for this build.

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4 hours ago, jonnymac110 said:

This is really helpful. I didn't focus Enemy Phase, so the value of QR just didn't present itself. I'm curious, if you are trying to go for avoid on an EP WM, is Alert Stance+ even part of that build? It feels so strong, but the flying investment is very steep and you aren't getting the passive flying training while battling on the ground.

Basically this. I actually don't use Alert Stance on this build because it's overkill, even on Maddening, and robs the unit of a perfectly good Player Phase (that's what gauntlets are for to begin with, right?). The massive investment required is an extra issue, although one that NG+ can sort for you easily enough if you're so inclined.

Broadly speaking, I'm also not a huge user of EP builds, which is why the WM version appeals - I can maintain my Player Phase tactics, have the dodgetank WM kill an enemy on its Player Phase, and then leave it there for aggro afterwards, without any managing of HP thresholds/worrying about Breaker skills etc. Not having Alert Stance (+) also allows me one of the high-level gauntlet skills/another mastery skill, which I think are often better value for this play style. IIRC, some of the quicker enemies in the lategame (fliers basically) might have non-trivial hit rates against the build (30-40 Hit and doubling), but QR with Killer Knuckles normally ends them before they become a concern.

4 hours ago, jonnymac110 said:

You are making me think I was a little hard on Mercedes when I was reflecting on here. There were times where Fortify just fixes what would have been a horrible situation. I've seen some posts discuss her potential with bows + magic bow -- I wonder if that is a way to eek out some offense on turns when healing isn't needed.

2 hours ago, Dark Holy Elf said:

If you choose to go all in on it, Magic Bow + Hunter's Volley is just outstanding offence, dealing damage that physical variants need crits to have a hope of matching. One problem is that you need to gain 150 sniper exp (minimum 38 actions with Knowledge Gem) as before then it's quite mediocre, and you also can't really start going wild with it until Arcane Crystals become storebought in Chapter 16. The other problem is you can't use both this and Physic/Fortify in the same battle, though you can choose by fight which you want more. I do recommend giving Magic Bow Sniper a whirl at some point, either on her on Hanneman.

If you aren't planning to make use of Sniper I suspect it's easier to just ignore bows on her; Magic Bow is weaker than her spells for offence (except against fliers). Its main niche is being 3 range once forged, which is nice if Caduceus/Thyrsus are wanted elsewhere and you don't have S reason yet. But of course, by skipping the training needed to get from E bows to B bows you can get to S reason that much faster.

Really good points from @Dark Holy Elf. I'm a huge fan of this build, but it is very binary for mages. You have to plug a significant amount of investment into raising bows (Mercedes' is a budding talent, so starting at E and with at least 3 sessions of no boon to Bows) while probably fielding her as an Archer adjutant and knowing the build won't come online before Ch. 9 at the earliest. For this build, you'd probably spend time as Mage to get Fiendish Blow, but that requires Reason rather than Faith. In other words, there's every chance you won't get Fortify before Ch. 13 if you're going to make use of her as a Magic Bow Sniper. Furthermore, Hunter's Volley is what makes this build a delete button, so leaving her in mage classes only means she gets another attack option (albeit one she can use much more freely than the limited spells). Magic Bow is nice, but isn't worth the effort without Sniper (unless you're somebody like Yuri maybe). 

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A very interesting thread.
After reading your builds and about your run I came to think about doing myself a run with player phase builds, your report was really refreshing!

In the past I played a lot of Three Houses NG Maddening and eventually lost my interest in it, I always felt they need to plan everything ahead and to optimize my resource management. Overkilling the dodge tanking was the result, it makes the lategame irrelevant, as in my most recent run of Blue Lions Maddening NG this year, which took 87:22.
The beloved Lysithea von Ordelia did the work, she has solid Dex./Spd. growths and her highly valuable Mastermind skill - the key to learn many weapons, so I can boost her stats through exams (e.g. General for Hp&Def.) and master sword very fast through combat.

Class: Falcon Knight Weapon: Rapier+  Item: Chalice of Beginnings Battalion: Cichol Wyvern Co.
Stats: 48 Hp. 36 Str. 41 Mag. 49 Dex.  79 Spd.  39 Lck. 31 Def. 36 Res. 49 Charm with Battalion 59 Charm.
Skills: Alert Stance +. Sword Flaire, Sword Crit +10, Sword 5, Sword Avoid +20
Results: 57 Atk. 170 Hit. 90.Crit 136 Avoid, with Alert Stance+ 166 Avoid, 37 Prt. 37 Rsl.
This is one of few runs were I got enough speed carrots and solid speed levels to actually cap her speed in NG.
Enemies are often around 130 hit in the final chapter, they can't do anything against optimized dodge tanks.
In the battle of Enbarr is Dorothea the only enemy with a very high hit rate of 173, this might be a strike (173-136=37, or 7 with Alert Stance+), but she can't OHK Lysithea with her 61 Atk.
Its worth to remove Alert Stance+ with something else,  but I don't know what to use instead, maybe death blow or strength +2?

I am thinking about Player Phase tactics, but they seem to be more troubling to build, on the other hand it would be more interesting since its something fresh. I considered building them, but then I begin to fear that I would fail.
Enemy Phase Tactics are easy to plan and in the endgame still very reliable . Only the very first chapters are often not suited for those tactics. Sadly it often feels like a solo run in the late game, just with some assistent units to support Lysithea, or who is doing the dodge tanking.

Reading all the comments was very inspirational and gave me new interest in the game. I hope that you all are going to have fun again in future runs of Three Houses.

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On 8/3/2022 at 4:47 AM, Shanty Pete's 1st Mate said:

I would say that Claude has a higher floor than the other Lords, but also a lower ceiling. If you screw up Edelgard, you get a mediocre Armor Knight. If you screw up Dimitri, you get a moody lance infantry who refuses to come to class. If you screw up Claude, you get a flier with Pass, Failnaught, and the best offensive battalion in the game. He's not pulling off the "peak power potential" you mentioned, but he's far harder to screw up than Edelgard (the game never indicates that you should train her Flight rank) or Dimitri (most casual players won't be getting him to A Authority pre-skip).

I agree with all of this, yes. Though I will say that his ceiling is still ridiculously high. Even measured by his ceiling, he's still one of the best characters in the game and one of the best lords in the series. That he can't reach the high highs of Edelgard and Dimitri says more about how overpowered they are than it does about any possible weakness of Claude's.

On 8/3/2022 at 4:47 AM, Shanty Pete's 1st Mate said:

My preference for the DLC boots would be a Dancer, or else somebody with Canto (so they get to make full use of the range offered).

I think that putting them on a Gremory is a fine choice, since it really covers for the biggest weakness of that class, it's low move. I often like to throw them onto a Fortress Knight, for the same reason. I think it largely comes down to a question of which you value higher out of consistency or power spike. If you put the DLC boots (or regular boots in this game or any other) onto a low-movement character (like a Gremory or Fortress Knight) then that's going to give them a consistent boost that is going to make the unit just that bit better, turn after turn. On the other hand, if you put them on a high-movement unit with canto (like a Falcon Knight or Wyvern Lord), then that's going to open up some plays that just wouldn't be possible otherwise, thanks to the ridiculous range. But at the same time, there will be a lot more turns where you just aren't doing anything with that extra range because it's complete overkill.

23 hours ago, Dark Holy Elf said:

If you aren't planning to make use of Sniper I suspect it's easier to just ignore bows on her; Magic Bow is weaker than her spells for offence (except against fliers). Its main niche is being 3 range once forged, which is nice if Caduceus/Thyrsus are wanted elsewhere and you don't have S reason yet. But of course, by skipping the training needed to get from E bows to B bows you can get to S reason that much faster.

Agreed. I think that Magic Bow+ would be a reasonable alternative to Black Magic if it meant you were training in Bows instead of Reason, but it doesn't. If you want to go down that route, you pretty much have to train in Bows as well as Reason, or else you have to have awful attacking options prior to unlocking the Dark Merchant for reliable Arcane Crystal access.

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20 hours ago, lenticular said:

I agree with all of this, yes. Though I will say that his ceiling is still ridiculously high. Even measured by his ceiling, he's still one of the best characters in the game and one of the best lords in the series. That he can't reach the high highs of Edelgard and Dimitri says more about how overpowered they are than it does about any possible weakness of Claude's.

I think that putting them on a Gremory is a fine choice, since it really covers for the biggest weakness of that class, it's low move. I often like to throw them onto a Fortress Knight, for the same reason. I think it largely comes down to a question of which you value higher out of consistency or power spike. If you put the DLC boots (or regular boots in this game or any other) onto a low-movement character (like a Gremory or Fortress Knight) then that's going to give them a consistent boost that is going to make the unit just that bit better, turn after turn. On the other hand, if you put them on a high-movement unit with canto (like a Falcon Knight or Wyvern Lord), then that's going to open up some plays that just wouldn't be possible otherwise, thanks to the ridiculous range. But at the same time, there will be a lot more turns where you just aren't doing anything with that extra range because it's complete overkill.

Agreed. I think that Magic Bow+ would be a reasonable alternative to Black Magic if it meant you were training in Bows instead of Reason, but it doesn't. If you want to go down that route, you pretty much have to train in Bows as well as Reason, or else you have to have awful attacking options prior to unlocking the Dark Merchant for reliable Arcane Crystal access.

I once made Mercedes a Gremory with Magic Bow+ and while she did not have Bowfaire for added damage her having 5 move and spell access made her quite versatile. No Hunter’s Volley but Curved Shot along with Hit +20 and Fiendish Blow can at times out do her spells like Bolganone and is on par with Ragnarok. Plus You can alternate between if you want to use Ragnarok or Magic Bow+. Give her Thrysus and/or Healing Staff. Even Magic staff is fine for a tiny bit more firepower. 
 

It worked out quite well for me and she was still able to contribute to the my team when I did Azure Moon maddening. Never did Sniper Mercedes before but it sounds like a fun build. But like everyone else mentioned, you got to wait until part 2 I think during the chapter 14 before you even get to try it out.

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