Melee combat, archery, and magic are the three primary combat styles you’ll experience in most RPGs. And it’s always fun testing out specific builds to see which of the three is the most over the top. Melee tends to come in first due to ease of use and how quickly you can scale your damage. But sometimes, magic or archery will be the best.
That is not the case in Fire Emblem, particularly regarding the latter combat style. Not only is archery never the best combat style in Fire Emblem, but the Archer class is the most memed-on character class in the entire series.
But is it really that bad? As the resident archery lover here at FEFanatics, I felt obligated to find out. So, let’s dive right on into it and see what the Archer class can do.
History Of The Archer
The Archer class made its debut in the first game of the series, Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light, with Gordin serving as Fire Emblem’s debut Archer. Unlike numerous other classes in Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light, the Archer had a promotion in the form of the Sniper class. And that’s great because the Archer class needed the help.
In the follow-up title, Fire Emblem Gaiden, Intelligent Systems made the Archer class a tier 2 class exclusive to male Villagers. Archers could again promote to Snipers and then to Bow Knights. Bow Knights had excellent mobility and unmatched attack range in Gaiden and definitely came in handy.
Archers suffered a downgrade in Mystery of the Emblem. They once again became a tier 1 class that you could promote to Snipers but lost the ability to become Bow Knights. Following this, they were entirely absent from the Genealogy of the Holy War and Thracia 776 as a playable class. Instead, players got to use the Bow Fighter class.
The Modern Archer
The Archer returned in The Binding Blade and its’ sequel, The Blazing Blade. Their tier 3 Bow Knight promotion remained absent, with them only being able to promote to Snipers.
The eighth game in the series, The Sacred Stones, gave Archers a buff with the branching promotion system. Instead of only being able to promote to Snipers, Archers could also become Rangers. Rangers are similar to Bow Knights, though they have less attack range than Bow Knights from Gaiden. On the upside, Rangers gain access to Swords, giving Archers much-needed versatility and the ability to defend themselves in close combat.
That versatility was short-lived as Archers once again reverted to promoting to Snipers only in Path of Radiance. They did receive a slight buff in Radiant Dawn with the tier 3 Marksman promotion. The Marksman class is like an infantry version of the Bow Knight from Fire Emblem Gaiden. It possesses exceptional attack range, being able to attack from 3 spaces away, but is Bow-locked once again.
In Awakening, the Marksman is gone, and the Bow Knight is back. Archers once again have eventual access to Swords, though, with a more robust reclassing system, you may opt to turn your Archers into something else entirely.
Their Best Promotion Yet?
In Fire Emblem Fates, the Archer class could still promote to Snipers but also received its’ coolest promotion yet: the Kinshi Knight.
The Kinshi Knight is a flying unit that can use Bows and Lances. I can’t imagine using a Bow in mid-air on the back of a dragon creature being the most practical, but the rule of cool trumps everything. It also gives Archers their best mobility in the series thus far.
In Three Houses, the Archer class is similar to Fire Emblem Gaiden with the Villager class. Commoners and Nobles alike can promote to the tier 2 Archer class at level 10 by passing the Certification Exam with the required Bow skill and Seal.
As you would expect, the Archer class doesn’t change much in the remakes of the first three games, other than bringing them up to modern standards. But I’m sure a breakdown of the Archer’s functionality is what you really want to see. Let’s get to the bottom of this class’s notorious reputation.
What Makes An Archer?
The Archer is a class with near-immediate accessibility in every appearance they make in the series. If one of your starting companions isn’t an Archer, you’ll usually gain one within the first four chapters. The Archer and their de factor promotion class, the Sniper, are Bow-locked units. They are unable to defend themselves at close range. Their primary utility is dealing extra damage to flying units like Wyvern Knights and Pegasus Knights. They can also use any Ballista that is on the field.
Unlike most classic Fire Emblem classes, the Archer does not have a true Archetype. There is a Jeorge archetype (Jeorge being a Sniper), but this archetype has nothing to do with the Archer class. Instead, it has to do with the actual character Jeorge. Characters that fall under the Jeorge archetype are seemingly just another unit in your army but turn out to be high nobility, royalty, or play very relevant roles in advancing the plot. Most Jeorge archetypes aren’t even Archers.
Due to the lack of a proper class archetype, the growth rates of Archers can vary wildly. Their base stats, on the other hand, are pretty consistent. And unfortunately, they are consistently terrible. Archers typically start with average or below-average stats, even if they join within the first few chapters. Their low base Strength means they will need 3-5 shots to kill most enemies in the early game. Against Knights, they won’t be able to do any damage.
Their Speed is similarly unimpressive, only being able to double slow units like Soldiers or Knights. Depending on the individual Archer’s Speed growth, it may remain unimpressive for the entirety of the run. Some Archers will only be able to double enemies by using a Brave Bow.
The Archer class has some innate flaws that offset most of its utility. Archers are good at sniping down foes who cannot attack them but lack the Strength to do anything other than chip damage. As an infantry unit, they have a poor movement that requires you to taxi them with a mounted or flying unit or intentionally slow down your advance for them to keep up. Combining this with their inability to kill anything quickly for a while absolutely kills their usability in ranked runs.
The Archer’s ability to do more effective damage against flying units does come in handy, but this usefulness comes with a citation. While Pegasus Knights are frail, Wyvern Knights are pretty tanky. Depending on your Strength growth, your Archer may fail to take out Wyvern Knights even with their advantage. And depending on your Speed growth, you might able unable to double flying units.
Archers are incredibly fragile units, and you would be wise to flank them with several other characters as protection. Their HP growths are usually good (Though not always, like with Neimi in The Sacred Stones), but even as promoted units are squishy. Their Defense and Resistance bases and growths are also poor, so they will rarely be able to take more than two-three hits before dying.
Unit restrictions are what really kills the Archer class. In the early game, you will field every character you have. But once you approach the mid-game, you will have to pick a limited team to use on any given map. Each unit you choose to run really needs to bring something to the table, and it’s nigh-impossible to justify bringing an Archer over an extra Cavalier or Pegasus Knight. The only exception is chapters with a lot of flying units. Ironically enough, Archers are at their best in chapters that are indoors. It gives them less ground to cover, makes formations denser (Giving them more protection), and prevents high mobility units from easily killing them.
If you want to train up an Archer, there are some tricks that you can use. Archers pair well with your Jagen unit in the early game. Remove your Jagen’s weapons and have them bottleneck a chokepoint. You can use your Archer to kill off enemies while your Jagen tanks. Boss abuse is also a viable strategy in the early chapters. Every Fire Emblem tends to interchange early-game bosses between Brigands and Knights. Archers can’t harm the Knights but are strong enough to do chip damage to boss Brigands. It doesn’t hurt to farm up a few levels utilizing this strategy.
One slight saving grace of the Archer class is their promotional item, the Orion’s Bolt. Orion’s Bolt is one of the more common promotional items in the series and is used to promote Archers or Nomads. Sometimes, you won’t have a Nomad yet when you acquire your first Orion’s Bolt. And that means you can freely promote your Archer early. The promotion gains really help, especially the Strength and Speed. Early promotion is the best way to salvage an Archer.
How Many Playable Archers Exist In Fire Emblem?
Not including characters that can become Archers as an option, there are 19 Archers in Fire Emblem.
- Gordin (Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light, Mystery of the Emblem, Shadow Dragon, New Mystery of the Emblem)
- Tomas (Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light, Mystery of the Emblem, Shadow Dragon)
- Python (Gaiden, Echos: Shadows of Valentia)
- Leon (Gaiden, Echos: Shadows of Valentia)
- Ryan (Mystery of the Emblem, New Mystery of the Emblem)
- Wolt (The Binding Blade, Awakening)
- Dorothy (The Binding Blade)
- Wil (The Blazing Blade)
- Rebecca (The Blazing Blade)
- Neimi (The Sacred Stones)
- Rolf (Path of Radiance)
- Leonardo (Radiant Dawn, Awakening)
- Norne (Shadow Dragon, New Mystery of the Emblem, Awakening)
- Virion (Awakening)
- Noire (Awakening)
- Jamke (Awakening)
- Takumi (Fates: Birthright, Warriors)
- Setsuna (Fates: Birthright)
- Kiragi (Fates: Birthright)
Is The Archer Class Good?
Sorry Oliver Queen, but Intelligent Systems has failed your profession.
One of the clearest examples of how rough the Archer class is in Fire Emblem is the Shadow Dragon prologue sacrifice.
In Shadow Dragon’s prologue, one of Marth’s allies decides to dress as Marth and stay behind to act as a decoy so Marth and company can escape. The Cavalier Frey is the canonical decoy. But Cavalier Frey is so more useful than Archer Gordin that many players will say forget canon and send Gordin as the decoy instead.
Bad bases and growths prevent Archers from shining in Fire Emblem. They will frequently struggle to double or deal good damage against enemies. As the game goes on, your other units will get stronger, while your Archers may get weaker because they aren’t keeping up without boss/Arena abuse. Outside of chip damage, they are unusable in ranked runs. The Archer does have some interesting alternative promotion classes, but their innate weaknesses limit their viability. Sure, being a Bow Knight or Ranger gives them access to Swords. But given their low HP and poor Defense growths, they’re too fragile from prolonged close combat.
Pre-promoted Snipers, especially those with early availability, tend to be the best traditional Bow-users in Fire Emblem. Getting over the initial hump by slowly training up an Archer is more trouble than worth most of the time. While pre-promoted Snipers may have lower growths than Archers, they tend to be respectable enough, and Snipers have much better bases. But even then, you’re better off using classes like the Bow Knight (When it isn’t a promotion for Archers), Nomadic Troopers, Horsemen, or even Warriors over Snipers. They will have more overall utility than Snipers ever could.
So, is the Archer class as bad as everyone says it is? Unfortunately yes. With poor bases and growths, traditionally Bow-locked, and bad movement, it has earned its’ title as the worst combat class in Fire Emblem.
Who Is The Best Archer In Fire Emblem?
The best Archer in the series is probably Leon in his first appearance in Gaiden. Because Archers and their promotion class Bow Knights could have a ludicrous attack range of 5, they were actually very viable. Leon’s growths aren’t good, but his bases are decent, and since he can attack well out of enemy range, he is worth your investment.
When Intelligent Systems removed the Archer class’s peak attack range, it heavily weakened the class. Archers being able to attack while so far out of range of enemies made fragile Archers viable. Without that added protection, the risk/reward ratio swung in favor of too much risk for too little reward.
Question: Who is your favorite Archer in the series?
Answer: My favorite Archer is Neimi from The Sacred Stones. I think the interactions between her and Colm are adorable. While her bases are terrible, her growths are mostly respectable, and The Sacred Stones is the easiest game in the series. Even bad units can be good in The Sacred Stones.
Question: Should I level up Archers at all if they’re that bad?
Answer: Leveling them up via experience from chip damage is fine, but unless you are committed to using an Archer, don’t give them any kills (Unless absolutely necessary). They fall off hard on harder difficulties, but their chip damage can be clutch early on.
Question: Who is the coolest Archer in Fire Emblem?
Answer: For those interested in Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn, I suggest fielding the Archer Rolf. He and his brothers Oscar and Boyd can perform a Triangle Attack.
Triangle Attacks are mostly associated with Pegasus Knight trios, so anyone else performing them is a cool sight to see.
I dabbled in a bit of archery as a Boy Scout growing up, and my fondness for the craft persists when I play video games. And yes, despite how bad the class is, I typically don’t do FE ranked runs and freely enjoy using Archers. But if there were ever a class in dire need of a buff, it’s the Archer class. I’m talking about a top-bottom rework. Not even giving them dragons in Fates makes them top-tier.
Hopefully, the developers will do something to change that in the future. And if not, well, there’s always Skyrim.
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