I am a Fire Emblem series veteran and avoided playing the Golden Deer route until after playing through the others, partially because Leonie made a bad impression on me during my first playthrough. I did not enjoy how she seemed so focused on comparing herself to Byleth, but I learned that there is a lot more to her than being Jeralt’s “best apprentice,” to use her own words.
Leonie is an unusual case in Three Houses, since most characters spend the majority of the game talking about how great or amazing the player character is, fawning all over Byleth as if the player is a messiah. Leonie is a nice change of pace because she does not go out of her way to compliment or look up to you. Instead, she sees you as an equal and rival. In terms of stats and capabilities, Leonie is not as good as Byleth of course, but that is not a fair comparison. After all, Byleth and the main lords of Three Houses are utterly broken and intended to be as good as they are. Assuming you are not playing on the highest difficulty, Leonie can still fulfill whatever role you would like because she is highly adaptable and could be molded to do well in anything. However, she does have roles in which she will excel and stand out. There is a lot of room for optimization and customizing your experience when playing with Leonie as one of your units.
Key Info Up Front
- Max HP – 26
- Str – 9
- Mag – 5
- Dex – 8
- Spd – 9
- Lck – 6
- Def – 7
- Res – 2
- Cha – 7
- Defining Ability: Rivalry
- Strengths: Lance, Bow, Riding
- Weaknesses: None
- Base Growth Rates (Not including bonuses from current class): HP – 40, Str – 40, Mag – 20, Dex – 55, Spd – 60, Lck – 40, Def – 40, Res – 15, and Cha – 40
- Hidden Talent: None
- Crest: None
Leonie has one of the highest speed growths in Three Houses and after a bit of leveling can generally double most enemy units and reliably avoids being out-sped by foes. She does not have much that she specializes in, but she is very well-rounded and capable of filling in for pretty much any role you would like to have her perform. Because of her unique defining ability, Rivalry, which grants her combat buffs when positioned next to a male unit, it is generally a good idea to keep her deployed near male units who can passively activate the ability. The problem with Rivalry is that many enemies do not stand next to each other. To position Leonie effectively can require some careful planning, made easier by having her focus on bows, allowing her to attack from range.
Leonie Pinelli is a student at the officer’s academy and a member of the Golden Deer house. Prior to arriving at the academy, she met the father of Byleth, Jeralt. While in Sauin Village, he took her as an apprentice and made a significant impression on her. She always wears the hand-carved charm that Jeralt gave her and decided to become a mercenary and warrior just like him. In order to achieve this goal, Leonie goes to the officer’s academy only due to the financial aid of her village that allowed her to enroll. Leonie is acutely aware of her debts and carries that burden honorably at all times. She is not wasteful of resources or her time, constantly training and working hard to make her people proud.
Because Jeralt protected Leonie and her village when she was young, she became not only inspired by his heroic behavior but by all of his actions. As revealed in a support conversation with Shamir, Leonie looks up to Jeralt so blindly that she would even emulate his drunken behavior of aiming a bow at random passers-by as a form of “training,” which naturally makes people uncomfortable and nervous. Perhaps due to the way she idolizes Jeralt, Leonie is determined to surpass the man’s own child. From the very start of Three Houses, Leonie perceives an intense rivalry with Byleth. Regardless of the choices Byleth makes, Leonie will at first view them as being unappreciative of Jeralt as a father and mentor.
Her bold and sometimes abrasive demeanor also extends to her interactions with others. No matter the context of the social interaction, Leonie seems to feel comfortable always speaking her mind. Despite her blunt and sometimes rude words, she cares deeply about the people close to her both at the academy and back home. Her hard-working attitude also extends to her relationships as she is willing to hear people’s criticisms and improve herself to surpass her flaws. From the beginning of Three Houses, she is already an adult and one of the older students, at age 19. This is likely a contributing factor to her self-discipline, time management, and consistent effort.
It is in her truly earnest intentions and good heart that she can surpass her flawed mentor and idol, Jeralt. Depending on the route and choices selected by the player, Leonie’s future as a successful mercenary can vary. She can appear as an ally or enemy in some routes when she is not recruited. Thanks to her skill and honest hard work, she becomes a heroic mercenary for whatever side she is fighting on.
Because Leonie is so effective in fulfilling various class roles, there are different forms her build can take. Due to her strength in riding, she generally has an easy time reaching the skill rank required for mounted class types. The build I prefer for Leonie makes the Bow Knight master class the end goal. Because Bow Knight is the final class she would become, the choices for the build along the way can vary radically. For my build, she stays as a mounted unit as much as possible, because the extra movement is invaluable in every battle.
A breakdown of the main important abilities to consider with Leonie:
- Rivalry: grants +2 damage dealt and -2 damage received when adjacent to a male ally, obtained and equipped automatically because it is her personal ability
- Close Counter: allows the equipped bow user to retaliate at 1 range even with a bow that cannot initiate combat at that distance, earned at rank C bow skill
- Bow and Lance Prowess 5: grants additional hit, avoid, and crit avoid while using the type of weapon, earned by reaching A+ rank in the respective weapon skill
- Aegis: user has a chance to cut damage from bows and magic in half based on their dex stat, obtained by mastering the Paladin class
Leonie is good enough that she does not really rely on ability effects to be a powerful unit, they are generally passive bonuses to think about when you are planning her move. For my build, I recommend obtaining Aegis because of Leonie’s low Res base and growth in that stat. However, if making her stats well-rounded and countering magic users is not important for you, it is optional. Also, note that she will not have the ability for a large amount of the game due to the Paladin class mastery prerequisite.
Though she will not have the benefits of the Bow Knight class throughout the entire playthrough, most of the time she will still be a mounted unit and capable bow-user. With high mobility and ranged attacks, she is an oppressive physical combatant, capable of standing her ground on the front lines. Though she excels with ranged combat, Leonie is not meant to sit in the back behind her allies. She is tanky enough that she can face off multiple foes in a turn. Just be wary of any units with weapons that have effective damage against mounted units. She has good growths that quickly enable her stats to outclass her foes, especially with speed that enables Leonie to pretty consistently double. I find that most enemies cannot outspeed Leonie to get in more than one hit.
Leonie is not a utility character or support with special abilities meant to help with complex strategies, she is just a really powerful unit. Because of this, her playstyle can adapt to the rest of your units. She could go on the defensive and be positioned to block off enemies or use her high mobility to reposition quickly and take out important targets. Even though she has a strength in lances and some of her best class options are generally lance-users, I find that she is equipped with a bow most of the time. Being able to initiate combat from afar and take out enemies before they have a chance to retaliate can be very important for dealing with large groups. There are also other abilities like Desperation (obtained from mastering Cavalier) and Battalion Desperation (obtained from C rank in Authority) that can aid with this, but I do not think those are important for Leonie to succeed.
Unlike most of the characters in Three Houses, Leonie’s ability makes the decision of what gender to make Byleth potentially important. If Byleth is male, Rivalry can activate while Leonie is adjacent. In addition, she would receive extra experience because of Byleth’s personal ability. If Byleth is female, Leonie’s personal ability would not activate, though. The little bit of extra experience granted by positioning Leonie next to Byleth does not make much of a difference, but it can help her level up faster. Being able to activate Rivalry at the same time and build support all at once is optimal, so making Byleth Male can make Leonie easier to level up even on the highest difficulty.
Increasing Byleth’s support points with Leonie is also a good way to make her easier to recruit if you do not choose the Golden Deer and start with access to her automatically. Note that her B support with Byleth is locked and unable to be activated until reaching a certain point in the storyline. Still, a C support makes the thresholds for Byleth’s Lance rank and Strength stat lower. Without any support between the two, Byleth needs a strength stat of over 15 and a C rank in lances to recruit Leonie. Of course, the easiest way to use Leonie is to choose the Golden Deer class from the start.
If Leonie approaches you with a question, answer with “They are wrong. Pay them no mind.” This response gives the most professor rank experience, support points, and motivation. Building her support points with characters other than Byleth is also very important, but consider limiting the number of units that Leonie is spending most of her time in battle beside. She would benefit most from fighting near her male classmates to activate Rivalry. If you increase her support ranks with them as well, she will benefit from the support bonuses granted by each character in addition to the buff from standing adjacent to a male unit.
Do not forget to equip Leonie with a battalion as soon as possible. Increasing her authority rank is not the top priority compared to other skills, but giving her a battalion to use gambits and get some bonuses in combat immediately increases her utility. At the highest difficulty, Leonie’s usage of a battalion will be crucial to survival, especially when you are fighting monsters and large groups of enemies. Her beginner class promotion is not particularly important, but I increased her bow rank to make her a fighter, which got one extra point of strength.
When developing her stats, remember that she only needs a C in lances to promote into a cavalry class and eventually a Bow Knight. Improving her lance and riding ranks at first so that she can promote into a Cavalier is important, but do not neglect her improvement in using bows. Leonie is an exceptional bow-wielder and it allows for more adaptable strategies in regard to how she is positioned on the map. Getting Leonie to C rank in bows to obtain the Close Counter ability is crucial. While a cavalier, her high movement combined with a ranged weapon prevents enemies from being out of her reach. Comparing Leonie’s range as a Cavalier to a non-mounted Byleth, you can see that the average unit with 4 or 5 movement in the early game would struggle to reach the nearest enemy on the map, while Leonie is able to reach any of the nearby enemies in their starting positions.
To get Leonie promoted into a Cavalier and eventually a Bow Knight with a Riding rank of A as quickly as possible, consider putting her on stable duty as soon as possible to further increase her riding rank beyond normal instruction. Once she has the C rank in lances needed for a Cavalier promotion, I focus on raising her bow skill. Depending on the promotion path you want to take, you may need to increase her lance rank beyond C, but no matter what you are shooting for an A in bows if you want her to be able to promote into a Bow Knight.
Bow Knight requires only a C in lances, A in bows, and A in riding. It is easy enough to reach these because Leonie has strengths in all of the skills required. However, while the long-term goal will be Bow Knight, you might find different advanced promotions more useful along the way. The best options for Leonie are Sniper and Paladin. While Leonie is good as a Sniper, the benefits of a Paladin promotion cannot be ignored. It requires a higher lance rank of B, but mastering the paladin class grants the ability Aegis. This is a very useful defensive skill that helps to make up for Leonie’s low resistance and makes her even more capable of fighting hordes of enemy bow-users. The only thing granted by mastering the Sniper class would be the powerful combat art, Hunter’s Volley. Since it is exclusive to the Sniper class, Leonie would be unable to benefit from it as soon as she becomes a Bow Knight.
Directly comparing Leonie’s stat changes at level 20 between becoming a paladin and a sniper, I think paladin is a better option for a well-rounded unit. Leonie’s stats would be better all around as a Paladin, while as a Sniper she sacrifices defensive stats and survivability in exchange for speed and dexterity. Though the difference in speed is negligible, especially considering Leonie’s speed growth. The extra mobility offered by staying as a mounted class, plus the utility of canto, easily makes up for a little less bow range.
Another factor to consider is that the Paladin is a lance-wielding class, while the Sniper is a bow-user. To help raise Leonie’s skill ranks faster in either case, consider equipping the knowledge gem found in the chest on the Red Canyon paralogue. This will be especially helpful for increasing her weapon rank with bows even while not in a bow-user class like Cavalier or Paladin.
When she reaches level 30 and passes the Bow Knight certification, Leonie achieves her true potential. The extra mobility was useful for positioning in the early game as a Cavalier and that high mobility as a mounted class is just as powerful for the rest of the game too. The difference is just a little more noticeable early on. With high movement, extra bow range, and an additional bit of range from weapon arts if needed, enemies evading Leonie is not really possible at this point.
How Your Choice Affects Gameplay
Cavalier, Archer, and Pegasus Knight are good intermediate class options, given Leonie’s strengths. However, for long-term functionality, Cavalier helps with improving her riding rank. Choosing the high mobility of the Cavalier class also allows Leonie to more easily reposition on the battlefield. After reaching level 20 comes the key choice for Leonie when deciding on a class promotion path. She can excel as a Sniper, but I prefer promoting her into a Paladin.
Mastering the Paladin class grants the Aegis ability. Because of Leonie’s good dexterity, Aegis allows her to reliably cut down on taking magic and bow damage. If you do not care about Aegis, the Sniper class might be a better choice. However, Bow Knight is the best final class for Leonie. If you choose to make her a Sniper once eligible, do not feel the need to master the Sniper class before using Bow Knight. Enabling her to move across the battlefield more efficiently allows Leonie to get way more value every turn. Instead of spending turns just getting her in position, Bow Knight Leonie will be capable of dominating the map.
Question: How to recruit Leonie?
Answer: Leonie is recruited automatically and usable immediately if you select the Golden Deer house at the start. To recruit her to other houses, raise Byleth’s lance rank to C and the strength stat to at least 15. Increasing Byleth’s support rank with Leonie can also make it easier to recruit her. She is able to be recruited and deployed on any route, so there are no other restrictions. If you want to recruit her to a house other than the Golden Deer faster, consider having Byleth only use Lances early on and do faculty training with Jeralt and Seteth to raise your lance rank.
Question: Can you recruit Leonie after the time skip?
Answer: Unfortunately, Leonie is not one of the characters who can be recruited after the academy phase of the game. If you want to have Leonie join you, go ahead and recruit her as soon as possible. Depending on your choices throughout the game, she may appear as an enemy. You might wonder if there is a way to spare her or save Leonie. Sadly, there is seemingly no way to go back on your decisions by that point. The best way to save Leonie is by befriending and recruiting her. You could also avoid fighting her entirely on the map she appears as an enemy and defeat the boss before she attacks your units. There are many characters in Three Houses who you may face on the field of battle if you do not recruit them before the time skip. Plan ahead and choose carefully.
Question: What is the best class for Leonie in Three Houses?
Answer: Leonie’s strengths with the lance, bow, and riding perfectly align with the Bow Knight. It is likely the best final class for Leonie, but it is only available once she is level 30. The best classes for Leonie throughout the playthrough are generally mounted units. Without weaknesses, she can do well in almost any role, but she really shines as any bow-user or mounted unit.
Leonie can become an absolute monster of a physical combatant. As a Bow Knight with high movement and extra bow range, no enemy can escape Leonie. She can hunt down whatever target you need and plays well in combination with her allies, especially male units that grant her bonuses on top of support bonuses and her already great stats. If Leonie had a crest, she would probably be broken and close to the main lords of Three Houses in terms of capabilities. Jeralt’s “best apprentice” does live up to the hype and completely won me over, earning a place as one of my favorite units in the game.
Since she can be recruited into any route, Leonie is a consistently solid option if you want a mounted bow-user throughout the game. She is more than just a jack of all trades. If you play to her strengths she is not only powerful, she is a standout unit. Compared to her classmates, I prefer Leonie over most of the Golden Deer. She is highly adaptable to whatever role is needed, but she is also good enough that I think she is worth building a team around. Whether you want to plan out a playthrough on high difficulty or just mess around and experiment with different units, Leonie is an excellent choice.
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