There are many character classes to play in Fire Emblem. Myrmidons, Thieves, Clerics, Fighters, etc. But these classes are tier 1 classes. To take your characters to the next level as you get further into the game, you’ll need to promote them. Some titles in the series contain a re-classing system that allows you to convert units into any class you want. But in most games, classes are limited to one or two traditional promotions. For the Archer, one of those promotions is the Sniper.
As the de facto promotion of the Archer, the Sniper is the most iconic Bow-wielding class in the series. But iconic status aside, what really matters is its functionality and performance. Continents won’t save themselves, after all.
So, does the Sniper class have what it takes to be worthy of your time? Let’s find out.
History of the Sniper
The Sniper holds two distinctions amongst character classes in Fire Emblem. It is one of two character classes to appear in every game in the series and the only promotion class to appear in every game.
The Sniper debuted in Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light as one of five playable promotion classes. It serves as the promotion for the Archer. While Gordin is the debut Archer of the series, Jeorge is the first Fire Emblem Sniper. Due to the relatively large number of flying enemies in the first game, Jeorge does quite well for himself.
In the second game of the series, Fire Emblem Gaiden, the Sniper was once again the promotion class of the Archer. But Snipers were no longer the endgame for Archers as Snipers could promote into Bow Knights. Intelligent Systems put the Archer class on the bench in Genealogy of the Holy War and Thracia 776. The Sniper continued to be a promotion class for the newly introduced Bow Fighter class.
The change didn’t last long, and the Archer was brought back for The Binding Blade, the sixth game in the series. The Sniper was a promotion class for the Archer once again in The Binding Blade, Blazing Blade, The Sacred Stones, and Path of Radiance. The only deviation from the formula was in The Sacred Stones when Archers could promote into Rangers instead of Snipers.
Tier 3 promotion classes became commonplace in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn and Snipers could promote into the short-lived Marksman class. Radiant Dawn also gave Snipers access to Crossbows. Like the Marksman class, Crossbows are Radiant Dawn exclusives, but they were fun while they were around. The Sniper remained a promotion class for Archers in Fire Emblem Fates. In Three Houses, it is a possible promotion for level 20 Commoner and Noble units who possess an A rank in Bows and an Advanced Seal.
Skills of the Sniper
Throughout the series, Intelligent Systems has given unique skills to the classes in Fire Emblem. Some skills are generalized skills, like Shove in Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn. Others are exclusive.
Here are all the skills available to the Sniper class throughout the series:
Follow-Up was a combat skill in Genealogy of the Holy War that allowed units to perform a follow-up attack if their attack speed surpassed their enemy’s attack speed.
For modern Fire Emblem players, Follow-Up is sure to be confusing since doubling is just a thing nowadays. They were still figuring things out back then.
Sure Strike, exclusive to The Sacred Stones, gives a Sniper a 100% Hit Chance on their next attack.
Unfortunately for Snipers, this is one of the most useless skills in Fire Emblem history. The Sniper class has problems, but accuracy is not one of them. Snipers will seldom have a Hit Chance below 90%, so while it’s not entirely useless, it adds little to the Sniper’s value.
While not officially a skill, Snipers (And Archers) can utilize ballistae in The Binding Blade, The Blazing Blade, The Sacred Stones, Path of Radiance, Radiant Dawn, and Three Houses.
Ballistae often have a woefully low number of uses (Except in games where there are playable Ballisticians) but still, come in handy. They are essentially an unavoidable death sentence for enemy flying units.
Deadeye is the Occult Skill for the Sniper class in Path of Radiance. When Deadeye is activated, it doubles the Sniper’s Hit Rate and puts the enemy to sleep.
The Hit Rate increase isn’t a big deal, as with Sure Strike, but the Sleep effect comes in handy.
In Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn, the Shove skill allows you to push adjacent targets one tile away. As the Sniper is an unmounted unit, Snipers could utilize the Shove skill.
In Radiant Dawn, Snipers gained a flat +10 to their Critical Rate.
Generally held as inferior to mounted Bow users like Nomadic Troopers, Bow Knights, and Rangers, Critical+10 tried to give Snipers some additional value to compete and contrast with mounted Bow users. You can consider Sniper to be the Swordmaster/Berserker of Bow users.
Fire Emblem Awakening’s Hit Rate+20 is a pretty self-explanatory skill. If there’s one thing Snipers do well, it’s being accurate. Learnable at level 5, the Hit Rate+20 skill helps Snipers maintain their one consistent utility.
Bowfaire is the second Sniper skill in Fire Emblem Awakening. It gives Snipers +5 Strength or Magic when they equip a Bow or Magic Bow.
Snipers need to be level 15 to learn the skill, but it really comes in handy. If your Sniper gets screwed over by their Strength growth, Bowfaire might be what salvages them as a unit. It returns as a Sniper skill in Fire Emblem Fates.
Remember how I said Sure Strike is one of the most useless skills in Fire Emblem. Well, Certain Blow is in the running for most overkill.
Learnable by Snipers level 5 or higher in Fire Emblem Fates, Certain Blow increases their Hit Rate by 40 when activated. That’s enough additional accuracy to hit your enemy and their entire family tree.
Featured in Echos of Valentia, Bowrange+2 gives Snipers +2 additional attack range with their Bows. It’s not the +5 they enjoyed in Gaiden, but it’s still good for keeping them out of harm’s way while allowing them to attack enemies.
Snipers received a slight nerf to their Bowrange skill in Three Houses, gaining +1 attack range instead of 2.
The most recent skill of the Sniper class is Hunter’s Volley.
Previously a weapon skill for the Killer Bow in Echos of Valentia, Hunter’s Volley is the Sniper’s Master Skill in Three Houses. It gives Snipers a +10 Crit Rate and allows them to strike consecutively. It essentially means any Bow can function as a Brave Bow.
With the skills of the Sniper out of the way, let’s talk about how they perform in combat.
What Makes a Sniper?
As the de facto promotion class of the Archer, the Sniper is a pretty faithful improvement on their junior class. Snipers are all about accuracy, and their Skill bases are always high. Too high, in fact, as it veers into diminishing returns territory. Their HP is always unimpressive, and Defense and Resistance are average at best. Every other stat is a mixed bag. Some Snipers, like Igrene and Shamir, have relatively high Strength, but others like Louise and Klein (Without Hard Mode Bonuses) have average Strength. Luck and Speed base stats vary from okay to moderately high.
Snipers are fairly common pre-promoted units you can recruit, typically before Chapter 10 of any given game (Though not always). Their bonus damage to flying units at a point when you might be struggling with them gives them some much-needed value. Like with Archers, Snipers possess the slightly crippling weakness of being unable to defend themselves at close range. They lack the HP, Defense, and Resistance to tank more than a few blows and don’t do well as Dodge Tanks either. You will need to make sure enemies have as little access to them as possible. Depending on their Strength, your Sniper may be unable to fully take advantage of weapons like Brave Bows or Silver Bows. It won’t be a problem in the early-mid game, but becomes noticeable as you near the endgame.
Archers get a healthy stat boost when they promote to Snipers, but how they turn out is largely dependent on when you promote them and their individual growth rates. Because of how much they struggle early on, many will promote Archers to Snipers as soon as they hit level 10. But if a particular Archer’s growth rates screw you over consistently, promotion might not be enough to make your Sniper a good unit.
Pre-promoted Snipers hold a couple of advantages over Archers that promote to Snipers. The first benefit is they never join with lower than a B-Rank in Bows. That gives them immediate access to Killer Bows and Brave Bows, and most Snipers begin with an A-Rank, allowing them to use Silver Bows upon joining.
Archers are a little painful to train up, so it takes a while for them to get access to the better Bows in the series. But more than that is the biggest problem of Archers, which is their growth rates. Any character in the series can turn out bad if RNG screws them over when they level up, but that possibility is more common with Archers. Their growth rate spread is pretty unbalanced, with excessive Skill growth rates but problems everywhere else.
Pre-promoted Snipers always start with respectable enough growth rates that you should have issues getting them up and running. Generally speaking, Archers will almost always turn out better than pre-promoted Snipers. However, many players find the time it takes to optimize an Archer not worth it. While they may turn out better than their pre-promoted counterparts, it’s not an overwhelming difference.
How Many Playable Snipers Exist in Fire Emblem?
Not including Archers, Commoners, or Nobles that do and can promote to Snipers, there have been 12 Snipers in the series so far.
- Jeorge (Shadow Dragon & The Blade of Light, Mystery of the Emblem, Shadow Dragon, New Mystery of the Emblem)
- Brigid (Genealogy of the Holy War)
- Klein (The Binding Blade)
- Igrene (The Binding Blade)
- Louise (The Blazing Blade)
- Innes (The Sacred Stones, Awakening)
- Shinon (Path of Radiance, Radiant Dawn)
- Rolf (Radiant Dawn)
- Tomas (New Mystery of the Emblem)
- Clarisse (New Mystery of the Emblem)
- Shamir (Three Houses)
- Ashe (Three Houses)
Is the Sniper Class Good?
The Sniper class is situationally useful. It’s largely dependent on the enemy types you frequently encounter in any given Fire Emblem game.
For a game like The Binding Blade, Snipers definitely have use since the game throws Wyvern Knights and Lords at you like candy. They’re also stronger against Pegasus Knights, but they are significantly more fragile than their Dragon-riding cousins are far easier to take down without Bows. In Fire Emblem titles without many flying enemies, the Sniper’s value drops off a cliff.
Generally speaking, mounted Bow users like Nomadic Troopers or Rangers are better options than Snipers. Their vastly superior mobility and additional combat options make them the clear choice. Warriors can also function as Bow users despite their low Bow rank due to raw power. Even Valkyries with AirCalibur are better options. Valkyries can also counter attack at close range and typically do pretty well as Dodge Tanks. Snipers spend most of the series helpless in close range, and that’s a liability most players can’t afford. And I am talking about Normal Mode of any given Fire Emblem game. On Hard Mode, training an Archer up to a Sniper and keeping Snipers alive is very hard.
Pre-promoted Snipers you get early on are useful because their base stats are higher than almost everyone else in your army, but their usefulness wears out quickly. Some maps are so restrictive that you can only bring a maximum of 10 units. And on those maps, you need to bring your absolute best. With the exception of the early game and pre-promoted Snipers, they are never top ten units.
Who is the Best Sniper in Fire Emblem?
It was a close call between Shamir and Klein, but I’d say Shamir. Klein with Hard Mode bonuses has better stats and comes at level 1 as opposed to Shamir’s level 11, but there are a couple of things that put Shamir over the top. For starters, Shamir has earlier recruitment than Klein and makes much more of an impact about acquiring her. By the time you recruit Klein, you should have at least several promoted units that will be more useful than him.
Shamir starts with an A-rank in Bows and thus immediate access to the best weapons she can use. Hunter’s Volley is a great skill to rely on early in the game, and Close Counter gives her some survivability (Her HP is very low for her level, so she needs it). Besides her Defense and Resistance, she has good growth rates for a pre-promoted unit. Her Survival Instinct makes up for her somewhat average Speed base as well.
Question: Who is your favorite Sniper in the series?
Answer: My favorite Sniper is Shinon, specifically from Radiant Dawn. He starts with extremely high base stats for his join time, and it really allows him to shine as a unit. And that is a very rare occurrence for a Sniper.
Question: Who is the worst Sniper in the series?
Answer: Definitely Tomas from New Mystery of the Emblem. He appears in several games as an Archer, but his appearance as a Sniper is his worst showing. He joins in Chapter 17 with bases worse than pretty much every other pre-promoted Sniper in the series and and has zero value.
Question: Should I re-class Archers to something other than Snipers in games where it’s an option?
Answer: I love using Bows, so I hate to say this, but yes. Thematically, I like keeping Archers as Snipers. Rangers are one thing, I suppose, but it’s jarring turning Legolas into a Dark Mage or something like that. But the reality is the Sniper class is pretty bottom-tier, and re-classing is the best way to make Archers useful.
I enjoy using Snipers in some of the easier games in the series, like The Sacred Stones and Shadow Dragon, but the class is definitely in rough shape. Things are looking up for Snipers, however. They had their best showing in the most recent Fire Emblem game, and if Intelligent Systems can keep up this pace, then maybe the class will finally know what it’s like to be top tier. I just want one Sniper to be S-tier in their game, and I’ll be satisfied.
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