Arknights: Mastery Priority Guide - Break the Ice Update

Submit Feedback or Error


Hey, finally a new unit update! I thought we were mostly done with the long gaps with the Pinus update, but apparently Yostar had other ideas. But that's neither here nor there and either way we have some interesting new units to discuss and a big update to the look ahead!

A small note, I've been quite busy this summer with real life stuff. Although I've still kept tabs on upcoming content, please excuse me if I have a little less detail than usual or if I miss anything!

This article specifically covers the new units from the Near Light event, You can find the full version of the guide here, or on the banner below which covers all of the other noteworthy masteries in the game

FAQ and Banner Discussion

Q:  Should I pull?

A:  It's pretty reasonable to do so, though it isn't a must pull banner and you may be better off saving instead.  Gnosis ends up being quite a balanced unit.  He has some good niches and is quite strong in them, but he doesn't end up being quite a must-have.  His Freeze is very situationally powerful and he is dominant in the upcoming Splatter event as well as the new tower mode, but short uptime on his S3 debuff skill and the necessity of enemies being freezable (and many enemies you would want the Fragile on, are freeze immune) are fairly significant shortcomings.  Pretty average (being generous) 5s plus several more attractive banners on the horizon, further contribute to a banner which isn't quite as necessary to pull on as it could be.

Q:  I have (or don't have) Suzuran.  Does that change the assessment of Gnosis?

A:  Yes.  Gnosis exists somewhere between Suzuran and Angelina, but his more important niche closer aligns to Suzuran.  Although they act as side-grades to each other, with strengths in different areas, Suzuran tends to be the stronger option for the role thanks to her longer duration on both the stall and the Fragile effect.  Gnosis can still have a use in teams with Suzuran due to his powerful Freeze niche and much stronger damage, but her presence does hurt his value quite a bit.

Q:  Why isn't Aurora's S1 graded?  Wasn't it used in high risk CC#8?

A:  It was, however these guides have never been about specific CCs.  CCs tend to lend themselves to very niche and specific circumstances that may never be used again, which is exactly the case with Aurora's S1.  It just doesn't make sense to grade the skill based on a single event when it has otherwise found no use in the rest of the game

Q:  Should I raise Kjera over Click?

A:  Probably not.  Kjera is more than a reasonable unit, but a lot of Click's appeal is in her very cheap upgrade costs.  Being a 5, Kjera already costs quite a bit more, but on top of that, Kjera ends up being one of the most expensive 5 promotions in the game due to the materials she uses.  Her DPS is only marginally better, so as a return on investment it makes more sense to stick with Click and Amiya for your low rarity caster needs.

That said, if you are intending to make regular use of Gnosis, then Kjera becomes a more appealing option.  Kjera can nearly permanently freeze an enemy alongside Gnosis' basic auto attack.  It's not a combo that's worth going out of one's way to accomplish, but can be an appealing addition if you're using the units anyway.

Q:  Any thoughts on the new modules?  Will they affect grades in the future?

A:  Although I do have some criticism, I'm a big fan of the new modules.  HG has finally created a way to legitimately buff some under utilized units, and for any other flaws and power creep, that is a very welcome addition.

However they are relatively unlikely to significantly affect my Mastery grades, except perhaps a few small scenarios.  The primary problem is that they cost too much.  People will have to carefully decide who it is they want to focus on for promotions.  That polarizes the meta options, so although, for example, Mostima has gotten a tremendous module, she is still a luxury investment.  Most people should focus on Phantom or Bagpipe (just to name a few examples).  Only a few modules elevate the unit to the next level and thus justify a difference in investment advice.

The modules are still relatively new so we luckily have some time to reflect on the changes and see how they shake out.  And indeed, some units will get improved grades (as far as the grades go, I'm particularly interested in Skadi's S2, Eunectues S3, and Mostima's S3), but don't expect any huge swings either.

Q:  Any thoughts on the new game mode?  Will it affect grades like IS#2 did?

A:  The new game mode is the biggest victim of my real life schedule as I know very little about it.  However from what I do know, it's unlikely to have a meaningful impact on the Mastery grades.

Break the Ice - Edelweiss' Vow


S3M3 A+ A+ A
S2M3 A A- A-

There is a lengthy discussion to be had on the relative value of Gnosis compared to Suzuran (and Angelina) though that tends to be somewhat out of the scope of what this guide covers. In short, he trades significantly improved damage and a greater Fragile effect for worse duration and a worse stall compared to Suzuran. This, on top of his reliance on no Freeze immunity, leaves Gnosis slightly weaker in the meta-game, though his S3 Masteries are more important to his usage than Suzuran's are to her usage. Although Mastery only improves his S3 uptime by 3 seconds, his short uptime is his biggest drawback, making it a large value in terms of percentage and usability.

Gnosis' S2 presents another very important Mastery. The skill doesn't have anywhere near the meta value of his S3, but the gains on it are very important to using it effectively which results in a grade a bit higher than the skill's value. It is a very good skill so it's well worth pursuing Mastery on if you intend to make regular use out of Gnosis, though you would be likely fine passing on it should you only be looking to use him in more meta scenarios.


S2M3 None

Aurora fixes a few of the issues with her Duelist Defender archetype by having significantly lower associated SP costs. However, being a 5★ hampers her numbers compared to Eunectes, who is already not a mandatory promotion. Her big hits can be quite satisfying, but her 5★ stats and reliance on other Chillers who may otherwise be suboptimal picks leaves her a luxury promotion. If you do choose to raise her, her S2 is the better option. Her S1 is a decent defense skill that has found some small niches, but her low Block count means those niches are far and few between and the attached stun and drawbacks of the archetype will make it frustrating to use in general content.


S2M3 None

Kjera, although a decent unit, is probably not one worth raising. When considering promotion costs, there are better options for lower rarity Casters that people will already have available, such as Amiya and Click. That makes the investment value of Kjera quite a bit lower. Given her very high promotion and Mastery costs, it's difficult to give Kjera a grade here, though her S2 is her standout skill should you choose to raise her anyway. Keep in mind that the Mastery gains here are deceptively good (though still not amazing). Although they look mediocre at first glance, remember the increased attack applies to both herself and both drones. They still aren’t the most impressive Mastery gains, but are at least better than they appear at first glance.

It's worth noting that if you plan to regularly use Gnosis, she can pretty reliably Freeze enemies for her S2 duration which is a pretty powerful combo. However that doesn't ultimately change the suggestion or her grades.


S2M3 B A B-

Please note that Pramanix is not a new operator but is a shared rateup on the banner, so her information is included here for reference.

Pramanix is a powerful debuffer, but not everyone will find what she brings to be particularly useful. Advanced players will find decent value in her, and she is a component of many buff comps due to a higher DEF debuff than Shamare, and a quite rare RES debuff. Story and Roguelike players won't find anywhere close to the value though, especially if you have Shamare already. In Story content, the debuff values tend to be overkill, while her general weakness outside of debuffing is a problem in the Roguelike.

Although Shamare is generally the better investment, if you did want to pursue Pramanix, S2 is her best skill for Mastery. The defensive debuff improvement is significant, but most of her Mastery value lies at M3 with the RES debuff improvement.

The Grading System

Story vs Advanced vs Roguelike

There are very few absolute answers when it comes to prioritizing upgrades. A major determining factor is what exactly your goals are. Now, there are actually many more types of players than these three, but the most obvious delineation as far as which Masteries to think about comes down to the type of content you're most interested in clearing. If you only find value in first time story clears and risk 18 CC, then your goals will be different for someone looking to reach high-risk (25+) in CC.

Story - A story player is a player who is only interest in rewarded content.  This means all normal stages and challenge modes (without added personal challenges), risk 8 on CC daily stages, and risk 18 on CC permanent stages

Advanced - An advanced player here is any player interested in non-reward topics such as higher risk CC and more min-maxed gameplay or specialty clears.

A note on the topic of the Advanced grades is that these grades should not be taken as specific advice for a specific CC. There may be an occasional specific note to provide some context or example, but the intention here is to be more general than a particular event and prioritize skills that will be broadly useful in multiple scenarios. A skill appearing once in a high-risk CC is not enough for inclusion here as CCs tend to lend themselves to niche scenarios that can't really be planned for. Further still, Advanced grades encompass all min/maxed gameplay and do not, strictly speaking, have to be about CCs.

Roguelike - These grades are specific to the Integrated Strategies game mode (aka, the Roguelike mode or IS#2).  These grades are slightly different compared to the Story vs Advanced delineation since the same sort of pressures apply in the mode regardless of the type of player you are.  These grades tend to be more "meta" focused than the others.  For a lengthier discussion on why this is, please check out the main Roguelike mastery guide linked below.  I've excluded most of the discussion from the main guide, simply because this guide is already long enough as it is.

Additionally, please check out the main Roguelike guide for more in-depth operator specific discussions specific to that mode.  Although I have updated most write-ups in this guide to reflect all of the grades, some of the nuance on the best picks won't come across as well here, and the main Roguelike guide will provide a better analysis of who is a strong pick.

The Grades

S - These Masteries are the cream of the crop. They are Masteries that everyone with the unit should do and give a high priority to. Units with S tier Masteries get an outsized value from them, either because the skill is incredibly powerful or because it changes how the unit is used.  For the Roguelike mode, S-tier grades are reserved for the best skills on the most meta of units (whereas meta value is not necessarily a requirement in other mode grades).

A - These Masteries are powerful Skills that most players who have the unit should do. These are among the most powerful Masteries in the game, but less overtly overpowered than the S-tier Masteries.

B - These Masteries are reasonably powerful and worthy of consideration, but have a factor which hold them back. The impact may be relatively small for the cost, the unit may not be especially powerful already, the unit may not fit well into the meta, or there may be a better version available, among other examples.

C - These Masteries are strong enough to be noted, but should only be done by the most end game of players with nothing else to do. There's value in them, but most players will have something better to be doing.

Breakpoint - Not a true grade, but a designator given to an M1 that gives an unusually large benefit. In most cases, these should be prioritized immediately after the E2, thanks to their low cost and high value. Note that there are many M2 and M3 breakpoints but they are not considered breakpoints for this purpose as the cost is much more expensive. Also note that some breakpoints on valueless skills are excluded as well.

NG or None - Not a true grade, but these are sometimes used for Skills which are noteworthy but not worth Mastery.  Either the skill or unit is not worth using, or the Mastery has very poor Mastery gains.  NG stands for "No Grade".

Please remember all rankings here are considered independent of E2 priority, but do consider overall unit strength.  And most importantly, these grades should be treated as guidelines rather than absolute requirements.

Mastery Look Ahead

Lots of new units added this time. Some disappointments, but also some surprises!

Crimson Solitare
Shalem Welfare He has high enough damage in an interesting niche to be a viable consideration, however he is ultimately nothing too special either which leaves him mostly as a unit of personal desire. S2 is the best mastery choice here.
Who is Real Rerun
Nine-Colored Deer Welfare Her gorgeous art aside, 9CD is not a very good unit. Abjurer's are a very weak archtype and she doesn't have a meaningful niche like Quercus does (or frankly even Tsukinogi, as small as that niche is). Her main value is in her base skill which doesn't even require E2 to use, so she just isn't worth raising outside of personal desire.
Invitation to Wine
Kroos the Keen Glint Welfare Alter Kroos is one of the best welfares we have ever gotten, and maybe the best in terms of broad applicability. She gives stiff competition to the existing set of 5★ AA snipers, GreyThroat especially, though they all hold varying niches over her still. I personally think she is the best option among them with her high DPS, high total damage, built in crowd control, and camouflage utility that will remain long term relevant. Admittedly though that is a fairly controversial opinion and subject to a lot of debate. Like the other three though, the strength of the 6★ options drastically limits her meta value so her main value will be for newer players who lack better options. S2 is her better skill for general purpose and has better mastery gains, but those with meta teams will likely find more value in S1 which has a stronger niche versus the higher rarity options.
Blacknight Gacha A long awaited higher rarity Beanstalk. And she does not disappoint. She requires a bit more finesse than the more bruteforce-ish Beanstalk, but brings good utility with a very high ceiling as a reward for the effort. Both of her skills are viable and will be graded, though S2 is the better choice overall. Mastery on it is a mixed bag however with an important increase to duration but modest gains elsewhere.
Lee Gacha Lee is one of those units that's really hard to rank. He has a lot of flexibility and utility and is capable of doing some really impressive things. But his archetype will always keep him out of the meta, and his most impressive showcases tend to be against content that has easier solutions. A lot of players will find him simply not worth the effort despite his potential. He is worth raising and using, especially if you're willing to put in some brain power, but he is not a "can't miss" sort of unit either. Both S2 and S3 are good skills, but perhaps unpopularly, I think S2 is his best mastery. S3 just does not need mastery to do what it does (no force upgrade), while mastery on S2 is quite important to his overall damage output. That said though a lot of people will prefer his S3 so the best mastery here mostly depends on how you intend to use him.
Ling Gacha Limited Oh what to say about Ling. Entire articles can be written on her, and surely will be. I'll keep it short here (for now). Ling is functionally a cornerstone unit (similar to Thorns or Mountain). She is so powerful that most people no longer consider Ling clears when it comes to "low OP clear records". She bucks the idea that summoners are for "big-brained" players only. The dragons have such high stats that even the worst of players can solo most of the game with her. Yet like most cornerstones, she can feel like unnecessary overkill after a certain point. S3 is by far her standout skill and will be among the highest priority masteries. S2 will be graded as well, though it is significantly lower priority than S3 is.
A Light Spark in Darkness
Quercus Gacha Unlike the other abjurers, Quercus actually has a pretty decent and useful niche in her S2 SP charging. It's still a bit of a gimmick though, and isn't usually worth giving up the team slot for. There's also an interesting question of if it's best to leave her at E1 Level 1 and pass on mastery which will affect her overall priority as well.
Goldenglow Gacha Our long awaited pink doggo (I know) is here at last and our patience is rewarded by a very solid caster. She doesn't surpass Eyja, especially in a CC context, but she pretty cleanly beats out Ceobe in all but a few niche circumstances. Her S3 is probably the highest priority option since her lack of an overriding targeting priority on a global range skill is a unique and very powerful niche. It deserves special note in the context of the upcoming roguelike mode where it is a tremendously valuable skill and plays well with commonly used relics. However her S1 is her highest DPS skill with very valuable mastery gains and the better choice when the global range is unnecessary. Her S2 is a decent skill, but is the odd one out for mastery consideration. It's niche is far smaller than S1 and S3 and the mastery gains on it are pretty bad. It's a safe skip unless waifu.
Guiding Ahead
Enforcer Welfare How many times can I say stroke in one paragraph? This stroker is a surprisingly interesting stroker. He strokes in a way the other strokers can't since he is able to stroke enemies through his tile, such as if they are being blocked from behind. Even better, his stroke skills don't deal damage, another unique trait among the strokers, further increasing his stroking niche. Like most strokers, he has big masteries upgrades thanks to a stroke force increase at M3. Both of his stroking skills will be good targets, though S2 will be graded higher thanks to its better stroke force. Seriously, who thought "Push Stroker" was a good name for this archtype?
Kazemaru Gacha One of my personal favorite upcoming units. Her kit plays to the strength of the archetype far better than Bena does, with her S1 being usable right off of respawn and her S2 providing really strong synergy with the whole doll gimmick. Both of her skills are good mastery options, though she’s still a luxury unit overall. I favor S2 here for the more impactful on-demand arts nuke.
Fiametta Gacha Her kit is a little bit awkward which will likely prevent her from ever being an end-game CC unit, however she does enough damage to be competent in the story, and is considered a well above average IS#2 unit. That’s largely due to her S2 which gives her a strong burst that’s spammable in fairly common conditions. Her S3 has its places too, though its overall DPS is not as impressive.
Chapter 10 - Shatterpoint
Heidi Welfare Heidi's kit will certainly enable some creative things with her block manipulation, and her Inspire effect is shockingly high, being comparable to Skalter's S3. However short uptimes (only 10 seconds on S1) in a tough archtype, as well as not stacking with Skalter, will hold her back from being anything too special. Most players won't get much value from her, but should you want to raise her anyway, stick with S1 which has the stronger mastery gains and more useful niche.
Chestnut Gacha Unlike Mulberry and Honeyberry, he's a really poor regular medic, which drastically limits his value. Six months ago on CN time there may have been value in his low rarity elemental healing versus the relatively expensive Berries, but being so far off now, there just isn't any reason to wait. If you are an active player now reading this look-ahead, he is a unit to avoid (and probably will be even for new players). Just raise Honeyberry or Mulberry instead who are worth much more long term despite their costs. Neither skill stands out as a good mastery either, though I would favor S1 since S2 is limiting on one of the more valuable aspects of the archtype.
Rockrock Gacha Lost a bit in the hype around Horn, Rockrock actually has some shocking DPS, almost matching Goldenglow's S1 single-target DPS. For a 5★ that's pretty incredible. Unfortunately she has a long cycle time thanks to Overdrive, and brings no other utility like GG does which limits her. She'll be a viable option for newer players with weak caster cores, though even then because of the mandatory and free Amiya, even that role is limited. S2 is her stronger skill and a very strong mastery.
Horn Gacha Horn looks to be a monster of a unit, bringing all the advantages of her archetype, with SilverAsh levels of damage, none of the drawbacks of Ashlock, and a fast cycle time to boot. Both her S2 and S3 will be high tier Masteries. Her S1 will be worth considering as well, though the M9 will be a luxury. She has already had a tremendous impact in both CC and IS. There's a fairly valid argument to make that she is the most important upcoming unit meta-wise.
Stultifera Navis
Lumen Welfare The welfare Medic is arguably the best unit from this event, at least with regards to the meta end-game. He has very strong healing and a very strong and unique niche that completely negates many dangerous status effects. It's so powerful, that he can very often replace Wandering Medics despite having nothing directly to do with elemental damage since he negates most of the effects as soon as they trigger rather than worrying about 'keeping up', all while providing much stronger healing. His S3 is the best Skill and Mastery to that end. His S2 is likely to garner a grade as well, though it will be in the luxury class of Masteries with a far smaller and less impactful niche. Be wary of overrating him, though. His niche is extremely strong for end-game players, but a very long wind-up holds him back, and being a Medic still lowers his priority despite his potential.
Windflit Gacha Another very disappointing and undertuned 5★, and worse, one who butchered one of the more interesting archetypes with incredibly poor numbers and a perplexing restriction (he'd be bad even with no restriction). Even Supporter specific players will find very limited use out of him. That leaves him as a husbando-only promotion, though those players may find use in both skills depending on how you're trying to use him.
Irene Gacha Irene is what happens when a Swordmaster is released in year 3 instead of year 1 (like Ch'en). She has very powerful burst damage that can hold up against even tough enemies. Although her damage is not as overtly broken as the top-tier of DPS units which keeps her from being a 'must-pull' sort of unit, the fact she has such strong burst holds a ton of value for all sorts of players (she has make high risk CC appearances, is a very strong starting IS pick, and destroys story mode enemies). There's a good chance that all of her skills get a grade, though give a very strong favor to her S3 which is where her power lies. S1 and S2 are both very good with strong Mastery gains, but have much more niche usage and will lean more towards luxury investments instead of necessities like her S3 is.
Specter the Unchained Gacha Limited Specter is the first limited unit who has a truly disappointing kit given the relative state of the game at her release. I do agree that she is disappointing, but I think people saying she is a "Moody Blues" tier unit are overreacting. Taken in a vacuum, she would be a decent unit with the invulnerability niche. However the game isn't played in a vacuum and that niche is just a sidegrade (if not worse) to her far cheaper and more common 5★ version. Outside of that, her doll is weak and works clunkily with the rest of her kit, and her S3 DPS skill is subpar compared to other 6★ DPS skills. That all said, her Masteries are fairly important to her usage, so she is likely to have ultimately decent grades. Favor her S2 which is her better niche. Her S3 is worth considering but won't find its way into many clears unless you're purposefully using it over other options. It’s worth noting that her later module upgrades are a significant improvement to her kit, though she remains a side grade to her 5★ version.
Contingency Contract #9 - Operation Deepness
Erato CC Welfare Similar to Kafka, Erato is a unit that buys into the existing Sleep stall "meta" (meme) yet requires almost no investment to do so. Despite her potential, she has almost no Mastery value. Her key skill, S1, gains nothing but some damage over Mastery, which will likely result in it being ungraded. Her DPS skill is a fairly average one (for a 5★) and while it gives her a niche in attacking sleeping units, it's too small of a niche to give much consideration to for anything but waifu purposes. However the gains on S2 are significantly better, so that's the skill to look for if you intend to do one, despite S1 being more meta.
Lingering Echoes
Czerny Welfare I will confess that I don't really have a good feel for Czerny. He isn't really a unit that inspires a lot of interest and there's been very few highlights of him so far. He can make a decently functional RES tank with his S1 which is a modestly rare niche, though the lower rarity Matterhorn does that role better and already barely sees usage. That leaves his S2, which is a fun skill, but one without particularly impressive numbers. If you wanted an offensive oriented Arts Protector, you'd be better off with Shalem, so Czerny will probably not have any graded skills.
Hibiscus the Purifier Gacha I'm quite fond of Hibiscus' design (both aesthetically and as a unit) and she will definitely find usage in various NicheKnights clears. However, as a general unit, the numbers aren't quite there to make her anything too special, although she is the best hybrid dps/healer so far. Both of her skills are options. You will probably want to focus on her S2 which is her more unique skill, though its low total damage and limited targeting gives plenty of room for her S1 to be useful despite being quite a basic skill.
Ebenholz Gacha There's been a lot of discussion on if Ebenholz is any good or not. Of course I will give my opinion here, though be warned there is still a lot of on-going discussion on him and my opinion could very well change. That said, I don't have an especially favorable view of Ebenholz, although I don't quite think he is awful either. His elite/boss killing niche is strong enough to be quite useful in Story content, but his kit is designed in a way where he doesn't have an easy way to generate charges once they're spent, and he is only really effective if the elites/bosses come in one at a time. To me, this makes him a unit that makes for nice Youtube highlights, but a difficult one to reliably use as a regular part of the team. If you plan to use him, you'll probably want to do both S2 and S3, though favor S3 if you only did one. S3 is the more important skill for his niche, while his S2 is the better option for general Caster duties (something better done by Goldenglow or Eyja).
Enjoyed the article?
Consider supporting GamePress and the author of this article by joining GamePress Boost!

About the Author(s)

Lost redditor, April simp, and Mastery guru
/u/TacticalBreakfast, TacticalBreakfast#1637 on Discord, or TacticalBreakf1 on Twitter.