And The Lowest Shall Rise…
Why Should I use 3 and 4 Star Operators?
The main advantage of low-rarity Operators is their significantly cheaper development costs than their 5★ and 6★ counterparts. They also tend to be just as strong if not stronger at the same E1 levels of promotion, often making them stronger gameplay Operators in that phase on top of being more resource efficient investments.
The pool of 3 and 4 Star Operators in the game is large enough to create a sufficiently balanced squad, and strong enough at mid-to-max levels of E1 promotion to clear content into end-game with reasonable knowledge and skill. Thus, the most efficient use of resources for new players (as well as the faster way to progress) is to only invest in 5 or 6 star Operators that will be useful/impactful at the highest levels of end-game, and to fill-in the rest of the squad with 3 and 4 star Operators until those end-game meta Operators are acquired.
This means that most 5 star units in the game are not recommended for early development. This is because, in general:
- They are more expensive to develop yet not more powerful at E1 promotion levels than 3 and 4 Star Operators.
- They are not worth the steep E2 costs because they get power-crept by stronger 6 star Operators.
How Much Should I Develop My Low Rarity Operators?
There is no hard-and-set rule as far as how high to level low-rarity Operators, and each player should use their own judgment. Immediate development to their maximum levels is not necessary nor recommended for new players , however. A good starting point is probably E1 Lvl 30. As the player progresses into harder content, more levels can be added as needed.
An important note is that 3 Stars gain a Talent improvement at E1 Lvl 55 (their maximum), so after a balanced core team is developed, it might be beneficial to push to that level for strong 3 stars you use often.
4 Stars should typically NOT be E2 promoted, though there are exceptions (e.g. Myrtle). Even in these cases, though, higher impact E2s for high rarity meta Operators should be done first.
Another thing to note is that low rarity Operators are very useful in the Integrated Strategies game mode. This means that investment in strong low rarity Operators that are good in this mode will not go to waste, so they can be developed more freely to higher levels
So Which Ones Do I Develop And In What Order?
In the remainder of the guide we will list and discuss some of the best Operators at each rarity, but the best answer to this question will depend on your specific roster and the Operators you currently have (both high and low rarity). You will want to have a balanced squad and make efficient use of your resources by prioritizing the Operators with the most impact (both short and long-term).
Since there are so many variables, the best answers typically come from knowledgeable friends or community members., but we've also put together some rankings in the New Player Tier List to help new players prioritize their development decisions:
Are There Things To Consider Other Than Just Combat Ability?
Yes. Low rarity Operators are also some of the strongest workers for improving your base efficiency, and their low investment costs mean they will often reasonably quickly "pay off" their own investment costs through the resource production improvements that they make when assigned to facilities in the base. See our article on Good Operators to Promote for Base Skills for more info.
How Do I Acquire These Operators?
3 Star and lower Operators can all be acquired through recruitment. Some 4 Star Operators can be acquired through recruitment, but some are gacha-only. Over time, the 4 stars that are gacha-only gradually get added to recruitment. There are several ways/places to see an Operator's availability. One is on their Operator Page in the "Obtain Approach" section. For example, here is May:
It shows if the operator is available in recruit or not, for both global and CN servers, and the dates they were added.
Another way to see Operator Obtain info is with the Interactive Operator List with the "Obtain Method" View, as seen here:
The final option is a dedicated list page here:
AoE Casters like 12F are a generally "underpowered" subclass of Casters, especially in late/end game challenging content. It is inefficient for players to invest in high rarity Operators in this subclass that they will eventually not use. However, there are some early and mid game stages that rely heavily on AoE splash damage to complete. 12F is a great option for filling the "Arts splash damage" role in early game at a cheap investment cost, potentially allowing players to skip heavier investment costs in higher rarity Operators that will eventually fall out of use.
As a side gimmick, he also has one of the highest passive Physical Dodge rates in the game from his Talent, which players can try to use to cheese hard hitting ranged bosses (for example, Faust), though the rate is too low to be a reliable strategic option in most cases.
Don't let Yato's classification as a Pioneer Vanguard fool you. Her best use is as a Fast-Redeploy Specialist, which is enabled by her Talent. Gravel is a much better Fast-Redeploy that is rather easily obtainable from recruitment, and it is rare to benefit from having more than 1 in a squad. But for players that want or need a second Fast-Redeploy and haven't acquired a second other than Gravel, Yato can get the job done. Don't bother using her as a normal combat Operator, though.
When it comes to single-target DPS, Kroos has some of the highest damage of any Marksman (Anti-Air) Sniper below E2. This Archetype plays a core role in all levels of play, and in some cases 2 or more can be beneficial, making her a sound investment for most players. Since her Skill is automatic and on-attack, she doesn’t need to be actively managed, making her very beginner-friendly.
Midnight is a 3★ Ranged Guard who can change his attacks into Arts damage with his Skill. Ranged Guards are a very strong archetype because of they can block-2, have extended range, and can hit aerials, which gives new players more flexiblity in placements and covering mistakes. His DPS is very high for a low-rarity Operator, and he can sometimes outperform Ranged Guards of even higher rarity at equal levels. The manual activation of his Skill allows it to be saved for the best moment, and i's Arts Damage increases his flexibility of use. He will be a useful addition to almost every new players early-game roster.
Spot is a Healing Defender, which is a strong Archetype due to their ability to both block and heal. This allows for additional healing coverage of allies, or potentially removing the need for a dedicated healer entirely, opening up deployment slots for more damage. This makes them a better and more dynamic choice than Normal Defenders when high DEF mitigation is not necessary, which is most of the early-mid game. Spot has an on-demand healing Skill that can be timed for greatest effect, and he can satisfy the "Defender" role as sufficiently as higher rarity Defender Operators in the early mid-game, making him a solid and efficient starting Operator for almost any player.
Ansel is a Single Target Medic whose unique Skill extends his range beyond that of most Medics, making him a great choice if you want the extra coverage without wanting to bring another dedicated healer. The chance to heal an extra target can also massively increase his healing output when more than one operator is taking damage. In the early-mid game, developing your DPS and blocking units is generally more impactful than developing dedicated healing units, so Ansel's cheap development costs can allow players to distribute more resources to the more impactful units. Higher impact Medics can then be developed later, when their extra strength and utility starts to make more of a difference.
Even though players receive Amiya, a 5★ Single Target Caster, free from the story, new players will be better off developing 3★ Steward as their first source of Single Target Arts damage. There is a combination of reasons that add up to this:
- He prioritizes high DEF enemies, unlike other ST Casters including Amiya, which is exactly what you want him to do.
- His damage output is good enough for early game, and similar to Amiya at E1 development levels, and he's cheaper to develop.
- He gains a strong Base Skill at E1 that will improve the LMD production in the base, so you will benefit by E1ing him regardless.
Players will eventually need to E2 Amiya to progress the story much later in the game, but all players will be better served starting with Steward.
Lava is an AoE Caster with decent stats and is a worthy development consideration for the same reasons as 12F (The 2 Star mentioned above): because their Archetype is generally underpowered and not very useful in the current end-game meta. Developing Lava can help players to clear the early-game situations where her Archetype is more useful while saving on the development costs of higher-rarity Operators that will eventually fall out of use.
It should be noted that Gitano, a 4 Star AoE Caster, is used in a popular low-rarity strategy for clearing Annihlation 3. Players that lack higher rarity options and plan on using this strategy will be better off developing Gitano instead of Lava.
Fang is a Pioneer Vanguard with a cheap Deployment Cost and a defensive oriented blocking body. This makes her a great option for new players for her intended use: to stall early weak enemies and generate DP to deploy stronger Operators. Fang can be an effective Operator for quite a while into the game, but it is also good to keep in mind that 4 Star Pioneer Vanguard Courier is a direct upgrade in most ways, and can be acquired free at full potential through the Credit Store. Some players may prefer to skip Fang for Courier, some players may want to use both, and both are reasonable choices and up to the player.
Also good to note is that It is recommended that new players try to acquire and learn how to use Myrtle (or any other Standard Bearer Vanguard), that produces a lot more DP a lot faster at the cost of less blocking (they are the DP generation meta and used even in the hardest of current content). The Standard Bearer's lack of blocking make it advisable for new players to use them alongside a Pioneer Vanguard (e.g. Fang or Courier) or some other low DP cost operators to more easily block and handle early waves and rushes.
Popukar is an AoE Guard, which is a very strong Archetype due to high damage output potential from a combination of a high ATK stat and the ability to hit multiple targets (the number of targets is equal to its block count). Popukar is an easy to acquire option for shredding streams of low-to-mid DEF enemies in the early game at a cheap development price and will be a solid addition to most teams. This archetype can be especially useful in situations where a body is needed to block multiple enemies, but the high mitigation of a Defender is not necessary, which is more common in early-mid game.
Standard Bearer Vanguards are the fastest DP-Generating Vanguards in the game, and are a core component to the DP-Generation meta. Myrtle is an exceptional example of this archetype, and is often preferred over her higher rarity counterparts because of her cheaper deploy cost and the faster first-use of her S1 (even though her overall DP gain eventually falls behind). The passive healing from her E2 Talent, and the active healing from her S2 can also provide useful utility and support.
Because of their 1-block base and no-blocking-at-all during skill use, it can take some time for new players to learn how to use them properly, but because their DP generation output is so powerful, players should try to acquire and familiarize themselves with this Archetype as soon as possible. Myrtle can be acquired through recruitment, and she is one of the most-used Operators in the most challenging content the game has to offer, so investment in her is never wasted. In fact, she is one of the only 4 Stars we recommend E2ing, to gain access to her passive heal and for Skill Mastery (keep in mind, however, that her E2 is lower priority than high-impact 6 Star E2s)
Cuora is a Normal Defender and one of the most impressive Operators in the game at mitigating Physical damage. With her S2 active, she is not only incredibly tough (with better mitigation than higher rarity Defenders at equal levels), she is also one of the few Operators that can block 4 enemies without assistance.
Bubble is a Normal Defender that takes the alternative route for survival: she debuffs the ATK of enemies that attack her. Her S2 has a "taunt" attached to it that can be especially useful for new players sill learning the game and haven't yet fully mastered deploy order to get ranged enemies to attack the desired targets.
Normal Defenders as an Archetype are currently in a spot where they are very useful in the early-mid game to new players or players with limited rosters, but drop off considerably in the harder content of the current game due to their relative lack of utility and damage. Most new players will be better off developing Cuora or Bubble to satisfy their early game needs, and avoiding developing higher rarity Normal Defenders at all (or until they know enough to decide if they really want to use them at end game or not)
Perfumer is an AoE Medic whose Talent passively heals all Operators on the field for a percentage of Perfumer's ATK. This allows her to heal allies outside of her range and is especially useful in "poison mist" type stages that apply steady damage over time. As an added bonus, her talent can also heal allies that typically cannot be healed, like summons and Enmity Operators. Because of these rare benefits, she is sometimes a better choice than even higher rarity counterparts.
Purestream is a Wide-Range Medic and is one of the most consistent appliers of the Status Resistance buff, which reduces the duration of status effects like Stun, Cold, and Freeze by 50%. She was originally only available through a pack purchase, but she will eventually be added to the recruitment pool (she hasn't been added to recruit yet at the time of this writing, but be sure to check her page to see if she has been added since).
In the current state of the game, pure direct healing Operators tend to be less useful than healers that bring some additional utility. Perfumer and Purestream are two examples of 4 star medics that can provide something a little extra. More importantly, however, both have excellent Base Skills at E1, so players will want to promote them anyway. This makes them stronger candidates than the other low rarity medics to bridge the gap until the better higher-rarity Medics can be acquired and developed.
Gummy is a Healing Defender, which means she combines aspects of a Defender and a Medic in a single unit slot. She can Block-3 after being promoted to E1 or higher, and her Skills heal adjacent allies. Healing Defenders are prized for their versatility, and Gummy is also very accessible, as she can be purchased with the $0.99 Starter Pack in the Store.
Vigna is a DP-On-Kill Vanguard with incredible offensive presence for her rarity. She won't typically generate as much DP for the team as a Skill-DP Vanguard, but she makes up for it by being able to bring heavy DPS throughout a map, long after your DP needs have been met. She's also an excellent assassin, since being a DP-On-Kill Vanguard means she refunds her DP cost every time she is retreated.
Gravel is a defensive Fast-Redeploy Specialist. She is great for baiting strong enemy abilities, delaying enemy flow, or "catching" solo enemies that get through the frontline. Although she can tank a few hits from stronger enemies with her defensive Skills, her low ATK makes it difficult for her to kill things. She requires a bit of practice to use properly but can be a very useful utility Operator.
Shaw and Rope are 4★ Shift Specialists whose Skills allow them to push (Shaw) or pull (Rope) enemies. This can be used to move enemies into lethal terrain like pits, to force enemies away from your frontliners, or even to pull off advanced tricks like changing enemy movement patterns. Shift Operators need high Skill Levels to move heavier enemies, and Shaw and Rope are the lowest-rarity Shift Operators, making their Skill Levels the cheapest to increase.
4★ Gitano is arguably one of the better AoE Casters in the game due to the utility of her S2, which increases her attack range and allows her to hit all enemies in the area at once. This is something even higher-rarity Casters can't duplicate, giving her a unique niche when you need AoE Arts damage across a particularly wide radius.
ShiraYuki is an AoE Sniper with two interesting Skills. S1 increases her attack range by 2, giving her a crazy long reach. S2 changes her attacks to Arts damage and adds a Slow effect, giving her extra utility and tank-killing potential. She's a massive improvement from 3★ Catapult, and her utility gives her a niche even when compared to higher-rarity AoE Snipers.
The following Operators will typically have a lesser, more limited impact for newer players, but can have certain situations in which they excel.
Lancet-2, Castle-3 and THRM-EX are 1★ Robot units with several special properties. Their defining mechanic is that they ignore the Deploy Limit, so they can be deployed on top of the full deployment allowed by any given stage. This can make them interesting options for adding a little bit of extra strategic utility to a map with their unique on-deploy abilities (or to a lesser degree, their combat presence), or baiting large infrequent attacks. Their impact tends to be much smaller than normal Operators, so they are typically only used if you don't need the squad slot for something more impactful.
Other than the free copies of Lancet and THRM that are given by clearing story stages, Caste-3 and additional copies of the robots can only be acquired through recruitment. They are relatively rare and difficult to get, as their "robot" tag is rare and prone to dropping, and they are extremely rare if you don't have that tag. Since the robots are primarily used for their on-deploy effects, and the strength of those effects is directly increased by their Potential (duplicates), their rarity limits their potential impact even further for most players. For more information on recruitment see the Operator Recruitment Guide.
The combination of their rarity, relatively low impact, and highly strategic nature mean they aren't necessary, nor will be particularly useful for newer players clearing early-mid content.
Rangers’ strength is his Talent, which increases his ATK against flying targets by 50%, perfectly supporting his role. In the early days of the game, he was a strong candidate for "2nd Anti-Air Sniper" to back up Kroos in drone heavy stages for players that didn't have higher rarity snipers. With the addition of Vermeil (who is good to E1 for her Base skill anyway) and May, there are more easily accessible and high quality Anti-Air Snipers in todays game, vastly reducing his value and potential role for early game players. That being said, if a player finds themselves in need of a little extra anti-air support, and doesn't have someone more worth of the investment, Rangers can be an extremely cheap option that can hit harder than you might expect.
Noir Corne is a surprisingly durable meat shield for how little his development costs. The 3 and 4 Star Defenders mentioned above are just too much stronger than he is to warrant making him one of your main Defenders (and he just won't push far enough into the game), but if you are finding you just need a basic meaty blocking body to clear something, and don't have anything more meta worth raising, then he can be a cheap option to get you through.
Plume is 3 Star Charger Vanguard. This Archetype is notable for the high stats relative to their deploy cost (especially offensive), their DP gain on kill, and their DP refund on retreat. They make a great fast-start complement to Standard Bearer Vanguards by supporting the DP printers with an offensive punch to hold off early enemies, providing some chip DP on top, and then retreating at a full DP refund when it is time to replace them. Their high offensive potential also make them good candidates later in stages for assassin-type duties.
Vigna (mentioned above) is a much better Operator in this Archetype and will be relevant much later into the game, so most players will be better off skipping Plume and developing Vigna instead. But if a player isn't having much luck acquiring Vigna and doesn't want to wait, Plume can be a cheap, solid introduction to the Archetype.
When it comes to pure healing output, Sussurro is one of the best Operators in the game. During her S2 activation, she has stronger healing output than even higher rarity ST Medics! The limit of 2 uses per map is rarely an issue on normal length stages.
The problem for Sussuro is that the extra healing won't make a difference in most situations, and pure-healers are typically not as useful as those that can provide much needed utility along with their heals. Sussurro will eventually be replaced once a player acquires and develops these utility healing options. Early game healing requirements are not particularly demanding, so players are better off using the other healers mentioned in the above sections(Ansel, Perfumer, etc), and only developing Sussuro if they absolutely need more powerful healing to progress and haven't yet acquired a better utility healer option.
Mousse is a 4★ Arts Guard, making her one of the few melee Operators in the game who deals Arts damage, and she's also one of the few Operators who can debuff enemy ATK (S1). Her niche is not necessary in the earlygame, and she can be hard to use well due to having a high DP cost and only Block-1, but she shines in challenge content where Arts damage is required but Casters are limited or outright unable to be deployed.
4★ Utage is an Enmity Guard with some of the highest on-deployment DPS currently in Arknights. Her Descending Strike - Earth Splitter Skill gives her a huge ATK boost, turns her attacks into Arts damage, and starts her at half HP in order to trigger an attack speed boost from her Talent. She is incredibly powerful, but Doctors should be aware that she is NOT beginner-friendly to use. She can't be directly healed by other Operators (so the HP loss from Descending Strike can screw you up) and Descending Strike is an on-deployment Skill, making it difficult to use multiple times in a fight.
Matterhorn is often outclassed by other Defenders, but one area he excels in is tanking Arts damage. At E2-promotion with a maxed-out S2 active, he has a whopping 40 RES, allowing him to shrug off Arts damage like a light summer rain. It's a lot of investment, but if you're really struggling with enemy Casters, Matterhorn might be a good addition to your team.
May is a 4★ Sniper who can Slow and Stun enemies using her super-special Secret Detective bullets (disclaimer: may not be super-special or Secret Detective). She doesn't have the highest DPS of the 4★ Snipers, but her crowd control capabilities make her an excellent utility unit and possibly one of the better 4★ Snipers to consider raising long-term.
Frostleaf is a 4★ Ranged Guard and Ethan is a 4★ Controller Specialist, but despite their different classes, they have something in common: they're both ground-deployed Operators with useful crowd-control Skills. Frostleaf can Slow or Freeze enemies with her Skills, and Ethan can Bind enemies with his Talent. Both are very niche, but they can be extremely valuable for stalling strategies.
Deepcolor is a 4★ Summoner Supporter who specializes in stalling strategies. Her tentacle minions can be useful for baiting strong enemy abilities, delaying enemy flow, and "catching" solo enemies that get through the frontline, and the AoE Physical Dodge buff on her S2 is extremely potent. It takes a bit of practice to use her properly, but once you get the hang of it, she can be a useful utility Operator.
No Longer Worth Mentioning
Durin was once lauded for her gimmick Talent that give her a high amount of passive Arts Dodge. This, along with her low HP, made her surprisingly good at dealing with the 'Sand Tomb' ability of the Rat King, a boss in the Code of Brawl event. (this ability targeted the lowest HP operator on the field and dealt periodic Arts damage). Even at the time it was not particularly hard to handle in other ways, and her low damage output compared to the other free/cheap options mean there is absolutely no reason to use her outside of her gimmick. Players can certainly pay her cheap development costs if they want to play around with Dodge memes, don't don't expect much in return.
Melantha is a 3 Star Dreadnought Guard, one of the least useful Archetypes in the game because of their 1-block limit and relatively low survivability and high DP Cost for what they provide compared to other Classes/Archetypes. You might hear players saying she is a good Operator for new players to develop, because early in the game's life that was definitely the case. At game launch, the available pool of 3 and 4 Star Operators was much smaller, so there were far fewer alternatives. Times have changed, however, and in today's game there exists a larger, better, and more easy to acquire pool of 3 and 4 star Operators that can provide equal or better overall combat usefulness and longevity (not to mention more 6 star Operators that can cover her usage that players may find more efficient to E1 instead of her).
Because of the limits of her Archetype, Melantha is now an unnecessary and inferior development choice for most new players. For the same reasons, she also isn't a good choice for the Integrated Strategies game mode, which is the saving grace for some 3 Stars as far as development costs not going to waste. New players that do find her role necessary (and don't have a different Operator that can cover it) are better off using a support in these rare cases rather then spending the resources themselves. Players that insist on using/recommending her can certainly do so: she has good stats for a 3 Star, her development costs are relatively cheap, and she can function fine in early game like any other Operator, but players are better off spending their resources elsewhere.