The plots of many Fire Emblem games center around the main character and co going up against immeasurable odds. Typically, an empire suddenly declares war on the world and strikes at countries in every direction. Despite them logically being outnumbered, they always manage to put the rest of the world on the ropes.
The ensuing wars with these aggressors get ugly. Battles are fierce, and you’ll need every asset at your disposal to come out on top. You’ll primarily focus on who best to lead on the frontlines on the battlefield. But sometimes, allies lurking from the shadows and striking at the backs of your enemies might be your best bet of winning a battle. That’s where Assassins come into play.
One of the more modern promoted classes, the Assassin class, is the best way of pretending to be Ezio de Auditore in Fire Emblem. But how well does the cloak and dagger schtick work in Fire Emblem? Is the Assassin a welcome inclusion or just a forgettable curiosity? Let’s find out.
History of the Assassin
The Assassin class first appears in Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade. The first Assassin in the series is Jaffar. In most of its’ appearances in the series, the Assassin is a Sword-locked class. Being Sultan of Agrabah, the most powerful sorcerer in the world, a genie, and a villain in Kingdom Hearts didn’t pan out for him. So he decided to try his hand at assassin work.
While I’ve got good things to say about Jaffar, the Assassin class got off to a rough start. In The Blazing Blade, it serves as the promotion for Thieves. Unfortunately, it has two things going against it that make promoting your Thieves a poor decision.
For starters, promoting a Thief to Assassin requires a Fell Contract. Fell Contracts are exceedingly rare and are worth a massive 50,000 gold. Even if you aren’t doing a ranked run and your funds rating doesn’t matter to you, 99% of players are better off selling your Fell Contract. Only Thieves can use Fell Contracts, and there’s a big reason you shouldn’t promote Thieves in The Blazing Blade.
That reason? Thieves lose their ability to use the Steal skill after becoming Assassins. Sure, they can still use lockpicks, but they lose their primary utility. Why it’s true that you have two Thieves in The Blazing Blade, using only one Thief on maps with lots of chests or things to swipe from enemies is impractical. What they gain from promoting doesn’t make up for what they lose. So aside from Jaffar, the Assassin is essentially a dead class in The Blazing Blade.
The Assassin class gets some minor improvements in the follow-up title, The Sacred Stones. It’s still a promotion option for Colm, the lone playable Thief in the game, but it is an infinitely worse option than the newly-introduced Rogue class. Rogues give Thieves a way to promote and level up further while also retaining their ability to use the Steal skill. Thieves also need an Ocean Seal in The Sacred Stones to promote. Your first Ocean Seal almost always goes to Ross to make him a Berserker, which means waiting until the mid-game to purchase another Ocean Seal from a Secret Shop.
Luckily for the Assassin class, it was made a promotion option for Myrmidons, alongside the Swordmaster. The Swordmaster’s Critical bonus received a nerf after The Binding Blade, so the Assassin class had a fighting chance of being picked over the Swordmaster. Hero Crests are more common than Ocean Seals, which is another factor in favor of making a Myrmidon an Assassin over your Thief.
The Assassin returns in the Tellius Saga games as a limited character class. There are two playable Thieves in Path of Radiance, Sothe, and Volke. However, only Volke can promote and become an Assassin (Which is what the character thematically is). Volke returns in Radiant Dawn as a pre-promoted Assassin and the only user of the class.
The Assassin class is once again a promotion option for Thieves and Myrmidons in Fire Emblem Awakening. In addition to Swords, Assassins gained access to a secondary weapon type: Bows. Assassins are Hoshidan units in Fire Emblem Fates and are instead called Master Ninja. I suppose it would be copyright infringement to call them ANBU, but one could dream.
The Assassin is an Advanced class in Three House. Becoming an Assassin requires a level 20 unit to have at least a B rank in Swords and a C rank in Bows to pass the Certification Exam.
Skills of the Assassin
There are more skills for Assassins than Assassins themselves. In total, Assassins have had access to 10 skills over the years.
The Silencer skill is the debut skill of the Assassin class, present in The Blazing Blade and The Sacred Stones.
When you Assassin lands a critical hit on an enemy, Silencer has a 50% chance of activating and instantly killing your opponent. At first glance, this seems pretty decent, but it has a lot of problems.
Assassins didn’t get a bonus to their Critical Hit Rate like Swordmasters, so their chances of landing crits are much lower. Killer weapons are the way to go if you want to land crits, but why waste your Killing Edges on Assassins when Swordmasters make much better use of them? There’s a lot of Luck needed to make Silencer happen, and Swordmasters crit killing everyone is a more plausible outcome.
There’s also the fact that Silencer isn’t entirely effective depending on the enemy. Boss enemies half the activation rate of Silencer, and those are the enemies you’d most want to kill instantly. The skill also doesn’t work at all against all final bosses. As a result, Silencer will be random overkill 99% of the time. Unless you’re Joey Wheeler, it’s hardly reliable.
The Silencer skill got an overhaul in the Tellius Saga. Renamed Lethality, Lethality is an Occult skill in Path of Radiance and a Class skill in Radiant Dawn.
Lethality has a set percentage chance based on the Critical Rate or Skill (Depending on the game) to kill an enemy instantly. Once again, it does not work on boss enemies. Some abilities later in the series also nullify its’ effects.
As the class skill of Assassins, Lethality is pretty disappointing.
The Knife skill in Path of Radiance allows Assassins to use all knife weapons in the game.
Knives are the weakest weapons in the Tellius Saga, so this skill isn’t a huge deal.
The biggest issue with the Thief’s promotion to Assassin during the GBA era was losing their ability to use the Steal skill. Path of Radiance fixes that, allowing Volke to apply the five-finger discount even after becoming an Assassin.
At least in Path of Radiance. For some reason, Intelligent Systems stripped Volke of this ability in Radiant Dawn. It’s a shame since the Tellius Saga reintroduced the ability to Steal weapons (Something you can’t do in the GBA era).
Shove is a universal skill of all foot units in the Tellius Saga, which allows a character to push an adjacent target one tile away. It comes in handy from time to time.
Critical + 25
Critical +25 is a class skill of Assassins in Radiant Dawn that gives them a bonus of +25 to their Critical Hit Chance. It’s excellent for general usage but too little too late for Lethality.
By this point, Intelligent Systems made the Skill stat the primary determining stat for Lethality’s activation rate, not Critical Hit Chance.
Learnable at Level 15, Pass is a class skill of the Assassin in Fire Emblem Awakening.
Very fitting for the class, Pass allows Assassins to pass through tiles presently occupied by enemy units. It’s a great way to avoid becoming trapped by enemies.
Swordfaire is a class skill of Assassins in Three Houses that adds +5 to their Might stat while they have a Sword equipped. Simple but effective.
Locktouch is another class skill of Assassins in Three Houses. It allows Assassins to pick open chests and doors without needing keys. It’s a great piece of utility for a class in much need of additional value.
The most thematically appropriate skill of the Assassin, Stealth, makes enemies less likely to target Ezio de Auditore.
It took over 16 years for the Assassin class to get an Assassinate skill, but better late than never.
Assassinate is the mastery skill of the Assassin class in Three Houses and can instantly kill a target. So Lethality, but better.
What Makes An Assassin?
Assassins are like a promoted cross between Thieves and Myrmidons. As such, their stat spreads are very similar to those classes.
Assassins boast high Speed and are extremely fast. No enemy should be capable of doubling them, and they should be able to double most enemies. Their Skill stats are high and growth rates solid, so they’ll have no issues with accuracy. The Skill stat is the primary determining factor for Lethality’s activation rate, so that’s good.
Assassins have average Strength, and like Swordmasters, they rely on critical hits to deal massive damage. But unlike Swordmasters, they spend most of the series with little outside help to buff their Critical Hit Rate.
Assassins are the Joey Wheelers of Fire Emblem. They are heavily reliant on Luck to be at their best. Oddly enough, both playable Assassins have poor Luck growth rates. And Lethality activation rates fall outside of what the Luck stat can influence, so their main gimmick is too unreliable.
Assassins have solid Resistance as far as physical infantry units go but don’t get carried away and try to use them as magic tanks. Their HP and Defense tend to be average at best and below-average at worst. They’re pretty good at avoiding attacks, but you still want to keep them hidden in terrain as much as possible. They can’t take too many blows before going down.
How Many Playable Assassins Exist In Fire Emblem?
I guess being an Assassin is hard in the Fire Emblem universe. That, or these folks don’t like to come out to play.
In total, we’ve had two playable Assassins so far.
- Jaffar (The Blazing Blade, Awakening)
- Volke (Radiant Dawn)
Is the Assassin Class Good?
No, it is not. I wouldn’t call it bad either. I think the word that best describes Assassins is unnecessary.
If you want to play someone with sticky fingers, use a Thief, Rogue, or Trickster. If you’d like a Sword-user that specializes in critical hits, go with the Swordmaster.
Assassins try to be a mixture of two different classes while failing to be as good at either one as their more focused counterparts. The main gimmick of Assassins is entirely too unreliable and doesn’t even work on the enemies you want to assassinate the most. Volke in the Tellius Saga has to use the weakest weapon type in the game. Hardly an advantage.
Don’t get me wrong; an Assassin class fits very well in Fire Emblem. But if Intelligent Systems wants Assassins to thrive, they need to be much more fleshed out.
Who Is The Best Assassin In Fire Emblem?
Both Assassins suffer from availability issues, but I’d pick Volke over Jaffar as the best Assassin.
Volke’s base stats are great, and he has higher than normal Strength and Defense for an Assassin. Outside Luck and Resistance, he has solid growth rates for a pre-promoted unit. His +25 Critical Hit Rate due to being an Assassin plus the +15 coming from Baselard means you can expect Volke to land many critical hits. He’s no god-tier character, and he joins too late to get the most out of him, but he’s good enough to fulfill a role for your army and perform well.
Question: Are Assassins worth using in Three Houses?
Answer: As a rule, I recommend at least trying out every class in Three Houses. But for me, Assassins were a one-and-done kind of thing. They’re there, but there’s better.
Question: What game has Assassins at their best?
Answer: The Tellius Saga games. But this has more to do with Volke being a great character. The Assassin class itself is still underwhelming in those games.
Question: Who is the coolest-looking Assassin in the series?
Answer: Assassin sprites are some of my favorites, so it’s a shame the class itself is underwhelming. I don’t see it often since I promote him to Rouge 99% of the time, but Assassin Colm from The Sacred Stones looks incredible. His outfit is virtually all dark blue, with his hair matching perfectly. When he lands crits, he’s just a dark blue blur.
I hope Intelligent Systems gives the Assassin class a major revamp in the next release. There are many things they could do with Assassins to make them stand out.
Poison weapons are seldom useable in Fire Emblem, and I’ve always hated that. Why not make them exclusive to Assassins since they’re the only people capable of safely using them?
Critical Hits in Fire Emblem are close enough to deathblows. Since killing blows is the Assassin’s line of work, why not make them less susceptible to crits since they know where their targets will likely strike?
But most of all, I think that Assassins need their own first-tier class. They’ve spent the entire series piggybacking off Myrmidons and Thieves, who already have a set-in-stone promotion tract. Giving Assassins a first-tier class will go a long way towards making Assassins stand on their own.