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The Mercenary and Myrmidon are Fire Emblem‘s two iconic Sword-user classes. Both are capable of cutting swathes through enemies with their blades of choice. Due to their similarities, comparisons are inevitable, and questions about which is superior get asked.
The truth is, Mercenaries and Myrmidons have distinctly different functions, so it’s not as simple as asking which is better when they fill different roles.
Feel free to check out my Myrmidon guide here on FEFanatics to see my breakdown of the class. To see what I think about the Mercenary class, read on.
History of the Mercenary
The Mercenary first appears in Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light, with Ogma serving as the first Mercenary in the series. Mercenaries can promote into Heroes in their initial appearance, though Heroes are Sword-locked in the first game.
In Fire Emblem Gaiden, the formula changes significantly. The Mercenary has become a promotion option for the Villager class. Instead of Mercenaries promoting into Heroes (Which is the promotion class for Fighters in Gaiden), Mercenaries promote into Myrmidons, who then promote into Dread Fighters. Despite the changeup to the promotion line, it remains a Sword-only class.
The Mercenary class is absent in the experimental Genealogy of the Holy War, which gave out Fighter and Knight class designations like they were candy. Mercenaries return in Thracia 776, but as the promotion class for Axe Fighters and one Sword Fighter. Functionally, Thracia 776’s Mercenary is the earliest version of the modern-day Hero class and the first time Heroes have access to Axes.
Intelligent Systems stuck with the formula they implemented in Thracia 776, and in the sixth game in the series, The Binding Blade, the Mercenary class found its groove. Throughout the GBA era of the series, the Mercenary is a tier 1 class with access to Swords. The Hero became the de facto promotion option for Mercenaries, with Heroes retaining their access to Axes. The only notable change to the class came in The Sacred Stones, where Mercenaries had the option to promote into Rangers instead of Heroes. Rangers made them mounted units with access to Swords and Bows instead of infantry units with access to Swords and Axes.
The Mercenary class went on a temporary hiatus during the Tellius Saga. Ike, the main protagonist of the Tellius Saga games, is of the Ranger class in Path of Radiance and is essentially a fusion between a Mercenary and a Lord. Radiant Dawn doesn’t even have any Rangers but does have Heroes and Vanguards. These function as the tier 2 and 3 promotion options of the Mercenary class line. I always found it odd how games with a literal band of mercenary characters front and center don’t have the Mercenary class, but ah well.
Shadow Dragon and New Mystery of the Emblem, remakes of the first and third games, respectively, reduced the number of playable Mercenaries. Numerous characters that were Mercenaries in the original games, like Navarre and Radd, were changed into Myrmidons in the remakes. Other than that, no notable changes occurred. Fire Emblem Awakening and Fire Emblem Fates give Mercenaries secondary promotion options in the form of the Bow Knight. The Bow Knight is essentially the same as the Ranger from The Sacred Stones, giving Mercenaries mounts and access to Bows.
In Three Houses, the Mercenary is a promotion class option for Commoners and Nobles. To become a Mercenary, you need to pass the Certification Exam and be level 10, have at least a C rank in Swords, and an Intermediate Seal.
What Makes A Mercenary?
Mercenaries are rightfully compared to Myrmidons but have a few qualities in common with the Fighter, boasting higher HP and Strength than Myrmidons.
The Ogma archetype heavily influences the Mercenary class, with Mercenaries falling under the archetype tending to be the most reliable. They are similar in both character design and background, most sporting battle scars and acting as leaders of mercenary groups.
The Ogma-class Mercenaries almost always join your party before Chapter 10. They usually join you at the behest of a story-prominent lord who hired them to fight for you. Their bases tend to be higher than anyone else’s in your army at their join time, making them one of your best units immediately. They often come equipped with heavier and more powerful Swords like Iron or Steel Blades.
Mercenaries that don’t fit the Ogma archetype usually join with weak bases and average to salvageable growths (Though some Mercenaries, like Caesar, aren’t so lucky). They can become pretty good units if you invest in them, but there’s rarely a reason when your Ogma Mercenary has 5-6 Chapters to level up ahead of them. There are a handful of exceptions, like Ogier in The Binding Blade, who might have higher Speed and Luck than Dieck after training.
Two Mercenaries stand out from the others, Ralf and Galzus from Thracia 776. The Mercenary is a promoted class in that game, and both of them are fantastic pre-promoted units with excellent base stats and weapon ranks.
Mercenaries are one of your most reliable early game unit types. They possess base Strength comparable to Fighters and base Speed and Skill roughly equal to Myrmidons. Swords being an accurate weapon type overall means they won’t have accuracy issues, even against Lance-users. A Mercenary with an Armorslayer is better against Lance-wielding armored opponents than a Fighter with a Hammer due to their superior accuracy.
The high Strength levels of Mercenaries allow them to punch up and hit hard, unlike the early game Myrmidon, which relies almost exclusively on their Killing Edge to do a lot of damage. You can’t afford to blow through all your Killing Edge uses too quickly, so your Mercenary will likely do the heavy lifting as far as infantry Sword-users go. Unlike Myrmidons, they don’t suffer heavy Speed penalties from wielding heavy weapons. Since they usually join with a relatively high Sword weapon level, they can use the better Swords quickly.
Their base Defense stat tends to be respectable, though not spectacular, though their high HP allows them to absorb a fair share of hits. That makes them perfect for being on the front lines alongside Cavaliers and Fighters. Their Resistance, on the other hand, is terrible. However, in the early game, there’s a workaround you can use, at least during your turn. Early game enemy Mages have low HP, so a Mercenary with a stronger Sword like a Steel Blade can likely OHKO them before they get a chance to attack you. A Myrmidon can only achieve the same outcome if they land a crit. That makes Mercenaries the better units for dealing with Mages early on.
Mercenaries may start to have trouble after you get well into the midgame. Their bases tend to be great, but their growth rates hover around average (With below-average Defense and Resistance growth rates). Depending on your RNG, they may begin to struggle with doubling faster enemies like Myrmidons or promoted enemy units. Promoting your Mercenary early on is a temporary fix, but if your bad luck continues, you might end up with a promoted Mercenary with average Speed. If playing on a game’s hardest difficulty, this will be especially noticeable. Their Skill will also start lagging behind, making them less accurate, especially with Axes.
Mercenaries don’t have stellar Luck growth rates, and they won’t be supremely effective at avoiding enemy attacks except when they have a weapon triangle advantage. They will also be more susceptible to critical hits compared to Myrmidons. While Mercenaries can OHKO Mages in the early game, that ability will disappear later, and magical enemies will become far more dangerous opponents. The Myrmidon will begin to be the option of the two because Myrmidons have higher Avoid.
Intelligent Systems attempted to give Mercenaries some Movement utility by giving them Ranger and Bow Knight promotion options, but it didn’t really work. Bows are infinitely worse as secondary weapons than Axes, which is what Mercenaries get when they become Heroes. The tradeoff isn’t really worth it since Paladins are still much better than mounted Mercenaries.
How Many Playable Mercenaries Exist In Fire Emblem?
Fire Emblem has seen a total of 22 playable Mercenaries so far.
- Ogma (Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light, Mystery of the Emblem, Shadow Dragon, New Mystery of the Emblem)
- Navarre (Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light, Mystery of the Emblem, Warriors)
- Caesar (Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light, Mystery of the Emblem, Shadow Dragon, New Mystery of the Emblem)
- Radd (Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light, Mystery of the Emblem)
- Saber (Gaiden, Echoes: Shadows of Valentia)
- Kamui (Gaiden, Echoes: Shadows of Valentia)
- Jesse (Gaiden, Echoes: Shadows of Valentia)
- Samuel (Mystery of the Emblem)
- Ralf (Thracia 776)
- Galzus (Thracia 776)
- Dieck (The Binding Blade)
- Ogier (The Binding Blade)
- Raven (The Blazing Blade)
- Gerik (The Sacred Stones)
- Gregor (Awakening)
- Inigo (Awakening)
- Severa (Awakening)
- Roy (Awakening)
- Selena (Fates: Conquest and Revelation)
- Laslow (Fates: Conquest and Revelation)
- Soleil (Fates: Conquest and Revelation)
- Zhara (Fates: Conquest and Revelation)
Who Is The Best Mercenary In Fire Emblem?
I want to say Kamui just because of his name, something Naruto fans will appreciate, but I’m going to go with Saber from Gaiden and Echoes: Shadows of Valentia. Saber has respectable base stats, aside from a somewhat low HP and Defense. He can promote quickly, and his value boils down to the Dread Fighter tier 3 promotion that Mercenaries get in the second generation of Fire Emblem.
Dread Fighters may be Sword-locked in these games, but the weapon triangle system did not exist yet in Gaiden, and the class has other things going for it. The Dread Fighter has excellent Resistance for a physical unit, making Saber viable against magic users. The class gets even better in Shadows of Valentia, getting a Resistance +5 as a skill and Apotrope, which halves damage from black magic.
The Dread Fighter also has something that the Hero lacks; great Movement. In Gaiden, Dread Fighters have equal Movement to Cavaliers, fixing the problem of infantry units always being late to a fight unless ferried there.
Is The Mercenary Class Good?
Yes. I would say that the Mercenary class is a solid B-tier class overall.
Some may disagree with me on this, but I find Mercenaries even more reliable than Cavaliers early on. Sometimes RNG screws you over, and it takes a while for your Cavaliers to get decent Strength and or Speed, but your typical early game Mercenary starts off with both. Mercenaries are better at chipping down bosses than anyone else (Outside of supereffective weapon use). Their raw Strength and ability to use the heaviest weapons without significant Speed penalties give them high damage output without relying on crits.
Mercenaries start to fall off past the mid-game when units like Cavaliers and Wyvern Knights begin to promote. They have far superior Movement and similar access to multiple weapon types, so Mercenaries will start falling behind. As enemies get fiercer, their average Defense will start biting them in the rear, and magical enemies will become a pain. The Myrmidon is a better boss killer 95% of the time, and that becomes pretty much 100% when one promotes into a Swordmaster.
Mercenaries and their promoted forms will be most effective as rearguards the further you get into the game. Intelligent Systems loves throwing reinforcements at you, and they are almost always physical units. Throw one of your Mercenaries into a choke point, and they can hold a line with the best of them. They’re especially effective on maps where the goal is to survive a set number of turns for this very reason.
So yes, while Mercenaries will begin to fall off when their class superiors start to get stronger, they are arguably the most steady infantry unit in the series that can pretty safely go off on their own and be just fine.
Question: Which unit should I promote first, a Mercenary or a Myrmidon?
Answer: I would say go with the Myrmidon first. Not because I think Myrmidons are better than Mercenaries, but because they need their promotion more.
Myrmidons rely heavily on landing crits to do heavy damage, and they get a significant boost to their crit when they promote to Swordmasters. A Mercenary does not rely on crits. While it’s true that a Mercenary may start to slow down without the Speed boost from promotion, the high damage output remains. A non-promoted Myrmidon risks doing pitiful damage even with crits.
Question: Who is the worst Mercenary in the series?
Answer: I have to go with Caesar, particularly in his first appearance in Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light. He joins around the same time as Radd, but with worse growth rates and marginally better base stats. He pretty much has no use whatsoever.
Question: So, which class do you think is better? Mercenaries or Myrmidons?
Answer: The classes are both good at different things, so that’s not an easy question to answer. I will say that Myrmidons bring something to the table that’s harder for other classes to replicate. There are classes besides Mercenaries that are great with Swords and later Axes, but few can crit as hard or as often as Myrmidons can.
I love using Mercenary units as much as I can in the early game and mid-game, knowing they will eventually become the Sixth Man of my army once I start fielding an armada of Paladins and Wyvern Lords. The higher the difficulty setting, the more they shine, as that’s where you can clearly see their value as early game MVPs when most other units struggle to deal damage to bosses.
I really love the Mercenary’s design too. Especially in the GBA era, because it reminds me of Zack Fair in his SOLDIER uniform wielding the Buster Sword. And ironically enough, clearing out waves of low-tier enemies, similar to Zack’s final stand against Shinra, is what Mercenaries do best in Fire Emblem. They may not be Sephiroth but are a force to be reckoned with in the right scenarios.
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