Fire Emblem is one of my favorite all-time video game series. I have played almost every title with a western release and for many of them, my playtime exceeds hundreds of hours. I’ll happily dive into Fire Emblem time and again to discover the varied support relationships of the characters, play through each story path, and test out new mechanical possibilities for the cast members. So it’s likely not surprising that so much of my passion for Fire Emblem has influenced my work as a blogger and now a streamer. Some of my most successful articles on Adventure Rules are guides for the Fates series as well as my ranking of my ten favorite character endings for Fire Emblem Three Houses. And recently I brought Fire Emblem to my stream audience in the form of Path of Radiance. During one of those streams I posed a question to my viewers – what kind of content would they be interested in seeing from me for a bonus stream that could be “funded” with channel points? A few people jokingly (or maybe not-so-jokingly) suggested a Fire Emblem waifu list. I decided to take that idea and expand upon it, and the Fire Emblem Tier List stream was born.
On Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021 at 8 PM EDT, I’ll be teaming up with two other streamers to debate our tier lists for three games in the Fire Emblem series: Path of Radiance, Awakening, and Three Houses. At the time of posting, that’s tomorrow night! My guests will be the venerable Matt AKA The 3rd Player as well as my wonderful brother Deen AKA mdomeer2, both of whom are easily just as passionate as I am about the Fire Emblem games. Though we’ve all experienced so much of the series, each of us is coming from a different background and perspective with very different preferences on what makes a compelling character. The stream is going to be a blast and I am pumped to get to talk to my friends about these titles and characters that have meant so much to me over the years. If you’re excited too, I’d encourage you to come check out my stream live at twitch.tv/adventurerules, but if you’re reading this too late to catch the stream when it happens then the power of technology will allow you to catch the VOD here (assuming my goofy ass remembers to put the link there).
To celebrate the upcoming stream and to wet your whistle for what’s to come, today’s article is going to share my tier list for Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones. For myself as well as many of my viewers, this was one of the earliest titles we played in the series (in my case it was second after Path of Radiance). It has a manageable cast size appropriate for an article and while it’s been longer since I have played this game than most others in the series, I played it enough times back in the day that a lot of the characters still stand out to me (whereas Fates, even though I played it more recently, I’ve forgotten 60% of the characters). I’ll be going through each tier starting from the bottom and working up, giving you an idea of what the tiers are meant to represent and also introducing you to the types of characters and storytelling ideas that appeal to me. While we won’t have Deen or Matt today to chime in and push characters up or down a tier, you’ll get an idea of where you stand in terms of your level of agreement with me – or at the very least have a better understanding of what I’m looking for when thinking about these characters. With all the introductions out of the way, let’s jump in with perhaps one of the most fun tiers to talk about, one that my pal @javmanimation over at the Frosty Canucks podcast affectionately refers to as “the Shadow Realm.”
I chose to name the tiers after the typical progression of weapon types in most Fire Emblem titles, beginning with iron at the bottom and finishing with “legendary” at the top, representing unique named weapons with historical significance in the setting. Iron weapons are bog standard and easily outclassed by most other weapon types, making them a solid fit for the tier at the very bottom of the ladder. With each tier I’ve also included an adjective to give an idea for the type of characters that fit well in that tier. The adjective for iron tier is “unwanted” – the game would suffer no harm and in fact might be better off if these characters just didn’t exist. You’ll notice this tier is very small; the legendary tier AKA top tier or S-tier is similarly small, with most characters landing in the middle categories between them. Only a handful of characters are remarkably good or remarkably bad. In the remarkably bad category, we have this trash.
First is Knoll, a character who lands in iron tier not because he is conceptually bad but because the execution of his character is so frustrating to me. In Sacred Stones magic exists in a triangle just like weapons. The three types are Anima (traditional elements like fire, wind, and lightning), Light, and Dark. Like the classic FE weapon triangle these magical elements also exist in a triangle with anima beating light, light beating dark, and dark beating anima. Dark mages are almost exclusively the domain of the bad guys, but Knoll is the traitor to that trend. He leaves the bad guys and joins your side, becoming one of only two options for dark magic in the game (and the one that most players will probably utilize first). The problem is that Knoll is mechanically terrible. He joins late game at a middling level and is only properly useful if you make him into a summoner – a class I personally hate because it is all about generating fodder units that don’t gain XP and distract from your real team. So Knoll gets “shadow realmed” not for being something I don’t want at all, but for being something I do want done poorly.
Orson, on the other hand, Orson is just flat-out the kind of character I don’t want. Most Fire Emblem titles have what is called a “Jagen,” an overpowered unit that joins early but has poor growths who never is worth investing in long-term. These units are tempting to use because they are so strong early on, but in reality they suck up experience points that need to be invested in your other characters so that they can grow and improve into true powerhouses later on. Orson is similar to a Jagen in that when he makes an appearance, he is already a paladin amongst characters who are not ready to promote yet, and he hits a lot harder than the other characters you have available. What makes him even worse is that Orson doesn’t stay in your party – unlock Knoll who betrays the bad guys, Orson betrays you and actually leaves your party permanently, taking any experience he soaked up with him and making it completely useless to you. I mean, clever points to Intelligent Systems for turning the tables on us I guess, but I still hate this guy.
Steel weapons at the beginning of a Fire Emblem game are a bit heavy and slow, but once your characters have leveled up a bit they become the standard that you’ll probably be using as the default for most of your characters. Steel tier, by extension, is for those characters who themselves are standard. The adjective for this tier is “uninspired,” and these characters are ones who are not actively bad but who also don’t really bring anything to the table as far as being impressive or important. Some of the characters in this tier, I legitimately don’t remember their names. The two girls with green hair, for example, or old guy at the end, or the mercenary third from the end. Who are these people? Obviously they aren’t important enough for me to remember them so they can’t be that great. Some of the characters really just have the misfortune of falling into classes I don’t like, such as the dancer Tethys or the manakete Myrrh. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with these characters from a design or story perspective but they are so mechanically not my cup of tea that you’re never going to convince me to use them.
An unfortunately large number of early game cast members fall into this category. Heroes like Moulder (the first guy on the list) or Gilliam and Franz (third and fourth respectively) are characters who you begin this game with, and there’s nothing particularly wrong with wanting to stick with them throughout the game and take them to the end. But in my experience, each of them is outclassed pretty well by other characters of the same type who have more interesting personalities or better mechanical potential. Franz is literally just an extra cavalier – like, we already have the Christmas Cavaliers, did we really need another character whose whole thing is “guy who happens to have a horse?” Moulder becomes one of the best classes in the game, but other units who have that potential are easier to use than them and don’t join all that much later than him, plus they have more notable personalities and designs.
This leaves us with who…Kyle, Saleh, and Rennac. Kyle is not only mechanically boring in his cavalier role compared to characters higher on the tier list, but his story implementation is boring too. It takes a really special touch to make the “generic serious knight guy” trope into something interested and Kyle absolutely does not have that special touch. Saleh and Rennac join late game as promoted units and fall into a category that I refer to as “substitute characters.” They’re fine backups if you haven’t had good results with similar characters you pick up along the way or if those characters died, but they are generally outclassed by characters who you can raise on your own from the beginning.
Silver weapons are the best of the basics. You can buy them in store but they’re expensive and they require a lot of skill to utilize. While they don’t have the significance of special, named weapons, they do stand out and acquiring silver gear is something special. Characters in silver tier, then, are those who have at least one truly noteworthy feature that makes them stand out. They may not be the best characters in your party but you certainly want to bring them along. Or if they aren’t that viable mechanically, then their design or their backstory tempt you to keep them around anyway. The first four characters on this list – Natasha, Dozla, Colm, and Neimi – as well as the final character Garcia are all notable for their interesting relationships. Some of them have other advantages too, such as Natasha being a useful healer and Colm being the game’s most viable thief.
Seth, the red-haired knight, is sometimes considered to fall into the Jagen category I described earlier, but others consider him differently due to the fact that his growths aren’t so bad as to make him useless late-game. Seth can actually turn out as a decent unit which makes him a bit more viable when utilizing him. To his left in red armor is Forde, my favorite of the cavaliers available in this game. He’s quick and hits hard enough but beyond that he has an easygoing, artistic personality that makes him a bit more appealing than the typical more traditional cavaliers that Fire Emblem games tend to employ. Cormag, the blonde in blue armor second from the right, falls into one of my favorite classes as a wyvern rider. With high strength, defense, and mobility, he’s got plenty to like about him, but I do find him somewhat unremarkable as wyvern riders go which pushes him into a bit of a lower tier.
The sibling duo of Tana and Innes are hanging out third and fourth from the right, royalty of an allied kingdom to the main characters of Sacred Stones. Tana is my favorite unit within a class that in most Fire Emblem games I really don’t care for, the pegasus knight. Speed is the stat I consider the most important in Fire Emblem and so you would think that a unit whose name is essentially synonymous with speed would speak to me more, but pegasus knights have so many vulnerabilities and a general lack of hitting power that even being the fastest of the fast doesn’t make them worthwhile for me. Her brother, Innes, is a viable archer in a game that only has two characters who are dedicated archers. And while “arrogant, insufferable prick” is unfortunately a common archetype for FE archers, Innes pulls it off in a way that is more likeable than similar characters like Virion or Shinon.
Brave weapons are something special. They’re rare enough that not every unit in your army will have one and you want to be selective about who you allow to carry them. There’s still a sort of uniformity to them – not each individual brave weapon is in a class all its own – but they are still some of the most special tools you will have in your arsenal. These characters are “impressive,” with multiple likeable qualities that help them to stand out from the rest of the crowd. Characters who land in brave tier will almost always be great performers from a mechanical perspective, their designs are generally colorful and convey more personality, and their dialogue and story adds to what makes them compelling. Still, there’s room for something about these characters to be less than stellar, although generally such a quality will be unremarkable rather than downright bad.
The first three characters in this tier are collectively referred to usually as the pupils or the trainees. They each occupy a special class that is much weaker than standard base classes, then promote into base classes before finally reaching promoted status. The extra levels they receive give them higher potential for great stats as they have more opportunities to take advantage of their growths, and because they have a choice of two base classes when they promote for the first time they have a greater variety of options compared to other characters. Amelia, Ross, and Ewan all have the ability to become classes that really only have one other representative (general, berserker, and druid respectively) and they do it better than their older, more seasoned counterparts. These kids are so good that there’s literally a Sacred Stones challenge run for using only the pupil characters and the two lords. And while that challenge run begins as a challenge, in my experience one these kids come into their own they are able to quickly make the rest of the run into a cakewalk.
Speaking of lords, our main character Eirika falls into this tier for me. She’s great mechanically and has a cute design, and while her personality is a little on the bland side it still makes her an endearing character. She’s pretty standard as far as lords go (hence the brave rank rather than legendary) but I still enjoy her a lot. Lute joins early and is my favorite anima spellcaster in the game. I find her relatable (just let me read, dammit!) but she also kicks ass, although as she levels up she does tend to be a tiny bit slower than I usually prefer. Marisa is a character for whom I remember very little of her story impact, but she’s one of my favorite classes in Fire Emblem: the myrmidon. Fast with decent hitting power and a high crit rate, it’s hard to hate a myrmidon and Marisa has a strong and memorable design to accompany her great performance in combat. Finally, there’s L’Arachel, a character who I don’t necessarily love from a mechanical standpoint but who has fantastic supports across the board and a lovable over-the-top personality. Mobile healers have their uses but L’Arachel joins a bit late for my tastes to be great at her job. Despite that, I love her character and she is worth using simply to see her ridiculous antics.
There isn’t really a classification of weapons in Fire Emblem called “legendary weapons.” This is a term I’m using here to refer to the named weapons, tools which have significance to the setting and are often meant for a specific character or for the most capable member of a specific class. There aren’t a lot of these weapons and in some games there may not even really be one for each weapon type. Every legendary weapon is unique and special, a best in class for that weapon type. Similarly, the characters in the legendary tier are “unmatched,” pinnacles of mechanics and storytelling that stand out to me more than any other characters in the game. They may not be objectively the best from a combat standpoint, but I find them to be the most useful and fun characters to play based on my own experiences with the game. A great example of this idea is Prince Ephraim, the first character in this tier, who is mechanically inferior to Eirika due to being just a bit slower without enough of a bump in strength to make up the difference. However, Ephraim is a lot more unique thanks to his specialization in lances rather than swords. He’s the ultimate underdog, charging to the heart of enemy territory with way too small of a force to take on the nastiest baddies that the empire has to throw at him. His indomitable spirit and his unique fighting style captured my heart early, and he’s easily one of my favorite lords from the series as a result.
Joshua is a character I didn’t expect to like starting out. He is introduced as a mercenary with an obsession with fortune and chance, literally joining Eirika for no other reason than for losing a coin toss to an attractive woman. But there’s a lot more to Joshua than wooing and gambling. The reveal of his true identity as a prince in disguise is well-done and legitimately caught me by surprise the first time I played. His desire to leave a life of wealth behind in pursuit of his own brand of happiness makes for a compelling story, and he has some interesting support options resulting from his separate lives. From a fighting perspective, Joshua is a myrmidon and therefore excellent by default. Okay maybe that’s a bit unfair as there can be bad myrmidons (looking at you, Hinata) but Joshua kicks ass and often sends foes on a one-way trip to crit city.
Finally, let’s talk about Artur. Having only played Path of Radiance when I first played Sacred Stones, the idea of light magic not sucking was a foreign concept to me. I never imagined I would be excited about someone who specialized in it. But Artur immediately demonstrates the appeal, hitting enemies fast and hard with his spells. Light is effective against dark and boy do the bad guys love using dark magic. On top of that, the bishop class in Sacred Stones gets a special ability for dealing enhanced damage to monster enemies, which means Artur can deliver some truly massive hits to some of the toughest opposition you face in the game. He can also serve as a backup healer if needed once he promotes, and having a healer who can hold their own in combat and therefore safely hang out near the front lines is always a huge boon. Storywise Artur maybe isn’t as compelling as the other characters in this tier but he still has a gentle, pleasant personality and some great banter with Lute that stops him from being downright boring (and therefore worthy of dropping a tier).
There you have it, adventurers, my full Sacred Stones tier list. This should give you a good idea of what to expect during the stream, but I’ll be going through my thought process live and I’ll have pushback and counterarguments from two other people to help make the conversation more compelling. By the way, compliments to user Matthew2084878 for making this tier list on tiermaker for public use – I used the site’s features to rename the tiers but everything else was provided by Matthew, so thanks for making it a template for everybody! I’ll be using Tiermaker templates for the stream as well which means that folks who want to do their own tiers along with me can do so with ease. If you enjoyed today’s article, I fully recommend you come hang out for the stream at twitch.tv/adventurerules on Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021 at 8 PM EDT.