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Arknights: Mastery Priority Guide

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Introduction

Hello and welcome to TacticalBreakfast's mastery priority guide, now on Gamepress! This guide was born of my dissatisfaction with the various guides and infographics on the subject that came before. Bluntly, they were not very good, often reflecting out of date information or giving terrible suggestions with no context. This guide is my attempt to remedy that and help players of all experience levels make more informed decisions.

I first posted this guide on reddit in December of 2020 and it has exploded since then, both in views and in word count.  In its current state it's now more than reddit can gracefully handle, so now I bring it to Gamepress and (hopefully) a broader audience.

A few caveats for new readers...

First, if you're new to Arknights, read the FAQ section. I know every guide says that, but it really will help ease you in to the often times daunting world of masteries.  You can find it at the bottom of the guide.

Second, keep in mind that this guide (and all Arknights guides) should be treated as a suggestion or a guideline, and not an absolute truth. Arknights is a very flexible game and you will find lots of opinions, very few of which are objectively wrong (or objectively right!).  Don't treat the guide as a gospel.  There is a reason there is no 'overview' of the grades here.  That's not how this guide is meant to be used.  The best choice is almost always contextual to your own goals and team.  Use this guide to help you make informed decisions, but don't let it make the decisions for you.

Third, and a very important note, these rankings do not reflect E2 priority! This list is solely about masteries so they assume the unit is already E2! Though you may find useful information, this list should not be used directly for the overall progression of your team!  The grades do, however, frequently reflect the overall strength of a unit.

The Grading System

Story vs Advanced

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 two, 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.

The Grades

S - These skills are the cream of the crop. They are skills that everyone with the unit should do and give a high priority to. Units with S tier skills get an outsized value from them, either because the skill is incredibly powerful or because it changes how the unit is used.

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

B - These skills 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 skills 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 in the end of the day, 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.

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

Most Recent Additions - Interlocking Competition

Interlocking Cometition [Hymnoi Wisdom] - From the Spark

Ch'en the Holungday

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S3M3 S++ S+++

I've said many times in the lead up that Ch’alter's S3M3 overtakes TSS as the most important mastery in the game, but I'll slide back on that ever so slightly. To be clear, Ch'alter's S3M3 is the most powerful skill in the game (or at least tied with Surtr S3), and that alone means it is the highest of priorities for anyone who wants to make maximal use of her. For Advanced players, I would say it is still more important since every second of charge time and initial sp matters! If there's any meta criticism at all of Ch'alter though, it's that the gains on M3 itself are juuuuust a touch unimpressive for the cost which I suppose gives the edge back to TSS for Story players.

However that's all a pedantic argument in a game where 'best' doesn't really matter. It's in the highest tier of importance still no matter how you nitpick at it.

Her other skills aren't really worth considering. Both are good skills on their own, but there's almost never any reason to consider either over S3.

Mizuki

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 B B-
S1M1 Breakpoint
S1M3 C

Mizuki is a rather tough unit to grade, as weaker 6★s tend to be. Strong units tend to have a particular skill that stands out as the reason they're good, while weaker units, like Mizuki, can be tougher to separate out the impact of the differences. The nuances of their place in the game is also difficult to convey so I hesitate to 'over grade' them as well, which is ultimately why Mizuki's S3 is not graded here.

His three skills are all viable options, but the flashier S3 is also his weakest one. Early showcases featuring his lackluster S3 might even be a significant contributor to his tepid reception. Typically in these guides I tend to favor the burst skills, but S3 just doesn't bring anything meaningful over the other options along with a brutally long cooldown. It even works against his archetype, forcing some measure of team support that Stalkers don't usually need! However even with S1 or S2 he's still nothing too special as a 6★ so I wouldn't suggest anything more than the S1M1 breakpoint unless you have a specific personal desire.

If you do though (which many will), I favor S2 here over S1 since the attached stall on S2 (albeit only against two targets) is quite good with respectable DPS. At M3 the cycle time is pretty short too, giving him a good uptime. A number of people favor S1 which, surprisingly, is his highest overall DPS skill by quite a bit. However the damage front loads in waves, and there are lots of consistent damage options out there these days so taking the utility and stronger control is generally the better option.

La Pluma

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 S- A
S1M3 B C

La Pluma has two good skills, and both are valuable masteries, but S2 is by far the standout. At S2M3 she has incredible DPS, nigh unkillable sustain, and a manageable sp cost. In fact, thanks to the interval reduction, S2M3 is one of the best masteries in the game in terms of pure DPS gains (only BP S2 beats it, and that's frontloaded into M1). It's so good that it could easily be considered an essential mastery for her effective usage.

S1 is a bit more complex. S1M3 is a huge breakpoint that greatly increases the damage of the skill and makes her an extremely strong and consistent cornerstone at a lower rarity than the other cornerstones. It's a tougher role though, especially since the 6★ cornerstones are so powerful, and the team can offer her relatively limited support (similar to enmity guards). It has good grades here because it's a strong skill and mastery, but for most S1M3 should be treated as a luxury. S2 is the better option in a majority of situations.

She is a solid choice in the roguelike mode currently running on CN. That isn't reflected in the grades here, but it's worth at least noting for now, especially with regards to her S1 which will likely be more valuable there.

Tequila

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 A- B

Tequila's S2 is often called a mini-TSS, and for good reason. Ground based, high physical damage per hit, in an AoE, is quite rare and quite valuable. However he can be tough to use, still doesn't compare to the strong 6★s, and doesn't have especially strong mastery gains thanks to his essentially mandatory 40 second trait (no uptime or cycle time improvements over mastery). Like La Pluma, he is a strong unit that will benefit weaker teams more compared to stronger teams, however weaker teams often have greater resources pressure which can make the investment here a bit less appealing for the smaller gains. His E2 talent gain is already comical and his low base attack scales poorly with levels. His S2 mastery gains, especially M3, can seem to be quite small for the cost. The difference between him at E1 max SL7 and E2 max M3 is important, but nowhere near as big as comparable DPS units (La Pluma for example is a much more drastic difference).

None of this is to say he's bad by the way. He's amazing, in fact, especially since we get him for free! Just be aware the mastery gains aren't all that impressive and he still doesn't compare to the 6★s. A small bit of caution is warranted before heavy investment.

The 6★s

Vanguards

Siege

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M1 Breakpoint
S2M3 B B+

S2 is the key skill for Siege since her S3 doesn't produce any DP. It has a strong breakpoint at M1, but M2 and M3 only offer some damage and initial SP so they aren't especially valuable given how much they cost. Siege's S3 is sometimes suggested since the introduction of Bagpipe but ultimately is never really needed.

Bagpipe

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S3M3 S++ S++
S2M3 C C

The S2 grade is one of the more contentious grades in the guide as there are a good amount of people who favor S2, but S3 is her far superior skill and it is not as close as many think. In her most common usage, she is not on the field very long. She typically gets deployed after Myrtle and Elysium, and by the time her S3 runs out, you have better units out in the field. She can then be retreated for full refund and retained for helidrop damage later in the map. Her S3 is far more powerful for it's duration (it has ludicrous damage and tankiness for her DP cost) which allows her to easily handle the early hold until the more powerful units can be deployed. There just isn't need for the longevity S2 provides, which is its only benefit over S3.

Saga

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M1 Breakpoint
S3M2 S- S
S3M3 A- A+
S2M3 B B+

S3 is the best option for Saga. The DP gen essentially makes her a Flagbearer (S3 FIRST activation has similar dp gain per second as Elysium S2) but still allows her to be a very solid fighter with a low DP cost (unlike Siege who has trouble doing both). For units like this, the first activation is extremely important in end game situations which makes S3M3 the most valuable choice here. However there's a nuance here for story players. The gains Saga gets from masteries are significantly worse than the gains Elysium gets, yet they cost 33% more. Check this chart. You can see that Elysium gains almost twice what Saga does, and does so at a lower cost. Of course there is the + attack component for Saga as well, yet the M3 gain is the same as M1 or M2. Advanced players will absolutely want to do S3M3 but if you are tight on resources I think it's very justifiable to stop at S3M2 despite it not being a breakpoint.

Her S2 is a solid skill that gains a good amount from masteries, however it is frequently overshadowed by her S3. It is a fairly skippable mastery if you don't personally favor her, but it does have a valuable breakpoint at M1.

Guards

SilverAsh

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S3M3 S++ S++

SilverAsh's S3M3 is the best single mastery in the game and a significant contributor to why he is one of the best units available.  Mastery adds a ridiculous amount, with a huge damage increase (especially important for physical damage dealers) and even an extra target at M3.  More important though is the huge improvement to his initial SP which has a two fold benefit.  Most obviously, it vastly improves the all important ability to be helidropped.  More subtly, it also improves his cycle time since it becomes more time efficient to retreat him after the skill effect then redeploy instead of waiting for the full SP bar which is especially valuable since he's a mediocre field unit without S3 up for the otherwise very long recharge time.

If you only ever did one mastery, this would be the one.

Skadi

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 C-
S3M3 C--

Skadi is infamously one of the worst 6★ in the game. Still, she is not worthless, and does occasionally creep in to high end content, usually with S2 but sometimes with S3. Given how much 6★ M3s cost, it's difficult to really recommend any of them, but advanced players may still get some value out of them.

Ch'en

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 C
S3M3 C

Ch'en is a tough unit.  When I first wrote the guide nearly a year ago, she was already in a tough spot, but she still had good masteries and a workable niche.  The year since though has not been kind to her, and seen her fall even further in the ranks.  The overall pool of units and good masteries has massively grown, and some of the most broken units in the game have been introduced (with even more to come).  Even worse, her guard form cannot be run alongside her future brokenly powerful alter form.  The suggestions, unfortunately, need to come down with the changing game.

Of course, Arknights is a waifu game at its core and Ch'en is a popular character.  If you personally like Ch'en, then S2M3 and S3M3 are absolutely worthwhile.  They are viable skills that are still usable in story content. Don't let me poopoo on your favorite unit.  But for the rest of us... 

Story players will find more value in Ch'en as her skills still hold up decently against typical story enemies.  S2M3 provides a powerful helidrop skill (that requires M3 to actually be helidrop) and S3M3 can be useful for boss killing.  However given the cost of 6★ masteries, even those are difficult to highly recommend.  Advanced players won't find any value left outside of personal waifu desire and 1P relays.  There's just too many other good masteries out there to be focusing on and she is only used in the most niche of scenarios that only the biggest whales will find the spare resources for her.

Hellagur

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 A A
S3M1 Breakpoint

Most people prefer Hellagur's S2 because of the dodge chance. However if you find you use S3 more often there's nothing wrong with prioritizing S3M3 over it. Whichever you choose, his masteries are powerful but as a duelist guard, not as meta as most other DPS 6★s. It is unranked here and I do not suggest it for anyone but the most min/maxed of players, but it is worth noting that S1M3 creeps into high risk CC a surprising amount of the time.

Blaze

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 S S

In her role as a cornerstone unit, Blaze's S2 is her key skill and mastery is very important to her output. Like most infinite duration skills, the gain is linear, so S2M1 and S2M2 offer quite a bit more value and should be highly prioritized (though they are not 'breakpoints' in the traditional sense). Unfortunately with the proliferation of cornerstone units, the value of her S2 mastery has fallen a little bit, especially the more expensive M3.

Thorns

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S3M3 S+ S+
Although not the first cornerstone unit, Thorns is the one that really broke the role into the forefront of the meta. He is an absolute monster of a unit, and like his predecessor cornerstone Blaze, that power comes down to a single skill which for Thorns is his S3. In terms of power, there's really no reason to do anything else. Thorns only gains DPS from his masteries, but keep in mind the second activation doubles all the values so the DPS gain is tremendous and since his regen only kicks in when he's not attacking it makes a sizable difference to his sustain as well.

Surtr

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S3M3 S++ S+++
Surtr is utterly broken and it is mainly because of her S3 and it gets a lot out of M3 as well. On top of ever increasing damage, she hits another target, and most importantly reduces her cooldown to a very helidrop worthy 5 seconds. Everyone who has Surtr (and intends to use her) should do S3M3. S2 is a good skill, but not worth investing in. The only reason to use S2 over S3 in all but the most fringe of circumstances is personal insistence on avoiding the most broken skill in the game.

Mountain

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 S+ S+
S3M1 Breakpoint
S3M3 A A
Like the other cornerstone units, Mountain's value in that role comes down to a specific skill which for him is S2. And like Blaze/Thorns, since Cornerstones are so central to team comps, S2M3 should be highly prioritized. It is incredibly valuable in his role, greatly amping up both his damage and sustain.

However his S3 should not be ignored as it is a tremendous DPS skill. Those who wish to use Mountain for more than brain-dead map clears will especially want to focus on it. However since his S2 is so strong and 6★ M3s are so expensive, it is hard to call S3M3 mandatory for most players, but be sure you at least get the S3M1 breakpoint.

Pallas

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S3M3 B C+
S2M3 C
S1M3 C

As I discovered in feedback to the PL unit lookahead, Pallas has some quite ardent defenders. However, with respect to them, she is still a lower tier unit and the grades here reflect that. Certainly she is still viable. Please do not let me discourage you from raising her if she appeals to you! But for a vast majority of players, both story and advanced, investment here is an expensive luxury.

I personally favor S3. It has better single target DPS than S2, and does so against 2 more targets, with the enhanced benefit of her buff support (limited as it is). The mastery gains on S3M3 vs S2M3 are also quite similar, keeping the edge with S3.

S2 is actually an interesting skill that makes for some nice highlights. The high stun chance on her relatively low attack interval can be quite good for interrupting slow attack interval enemies like golems or Grudgebearers. However, it really does not need mastery to fill that role. Since S3 is the better combat skill, the main benefit to mastery is in uptime and stun chance (though the stun chance is already fairly high at SL7). The usage though is quite niche and often inferior to other options which makes it a very tough justification for the cost of 6★ masteries. I hesitate to call it a breakpoint, but M2 has significantly more value than M3. It is still a waifu only mastery, but bringing her up to S2M2 and stopping there is a reasonable consideration.

Last is S1 which has many strong supporters. I am not one of them and I was not even sure I wanted to grade it at all, but I will attempt to give it a fair shake. At S1M3 (post module) she has a similar single target DPS to Thorns and she does so without Thorns' wind up which is at least an interesting option. However the comparison to Thorns ends there and there are so many good options these days that it's a tough consideration. She lacks Thorns' range and her DPS is conditional on the enemies being unblocked by her and her 80% HP threshold, which are severe detriments to her overall viability as a cornerstone. As soon as she begins to block, her DPS takes a precipitous decline which is a severe detriment to her value. It's a decent option for those who specifically want to use Pallas in their team, but I wouldn't suggest it for anyone else.

Defenders

Saria

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S1M1 Breakpoint
S3M3 A S+
S1M3 A- A+
S2M3 B B

Saria has 3 very strong skills and is the strongest M9 candidate in the game, even after nearly 2 years. It should be unsurprising then that there is a lot of variation in opinion on the best skills to master, and the best skills have changed over time. The current standard suggestion is S1M1 > S3M3. Current meta thinking is that her S2M3 is not worth the cost (though is still a good skill) because M3 tends to be overkill in places where the skill would be used. If the content is difficult, you are likely using S1 or S3 instead (that said, S2 does have many advocates). In early CCs her S1 was the key skill, but in modern CCs her S3 has come to dominate. Advanced players will absolutely need her S3M3. However, newer story focused players should exercise some restraint when it comes to her masteries. Despite Saria's exceptional strength, the gains her masteries bring (except for the S1M1 breakpoint) are less valuable than most key DPS masteries.

Hoshiguma

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S3M3 C C+

Hoshiguma does her job sufficiently at SL7, especially if you're a story-centric player. Mastery on her is rarely the deciding factor. Worse, she gets power crept in high-end content by Mudrock who has become the go to defensive defender (even despite being quite different). If you do master a skill, S3 is the one to go with as it greatly raises her peak performance. S2 is a fine skill that many people favor for its simplicity, however the gains on it are painfully low for what 6★ mastery costs (it's significantly more sanity efficient to just give her more levels for the same stat gains) and it is rarely the choice in high end situations.

Nian

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S3M3 C- C-

Nian is the second best pure defender in the game after Hoshiguma, and like Hoshiguma she does her job perfectly fine at SL7 so masteries have a worse value than other 6★s. The skill of choice for Nian is S3. The silence on her S2 is pretty worthless and her S3 is one of the few skills in the game that can increase other unit's defense.

Eunectes

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S3M3 A- A-
S2M3 C C+

Eunectes acts as a more of a duelist guard than a defender. With her S3 up she has an absolute mountain of stats that few units can beat which allows her to do some crazy things like 1v1 Patriot. Unfortunately she also has several drawbacks that hinder her viability such as cost, uptime, 1-block without skill up, and an awkward trait that prevents a lot of reliability. Her S3 is her bread and butter and maximizing it is important to her, however as a mastery it's best to treat it a touch lower then many simply because she is not a core DPS unit. Her S2 deserves a note since it's an absolutely ridiculous stun that no one else can match. It has found use in high risk scenarios before (CC#3 Grudgebearers), but at least looking ahead now it's best to leave it as a fringe consideration.

Blemishine

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S3M3 A+ S-
S2M3 A- A-

Blemishine is a pretty tough unit to rank. She has two very good skills that are both very worthy of mastery and are great in different situations. But her overall power level is a touch under the top tier of units which makes it difficult to suggest such an expensive investment.

On her launch I suggested S2 over S3 but I've since come around to favor S3 (thanks, yet again, to /u/Boelthor). Her S2 worked best as a pseudo-cornerstone unit, allowing her to hold low to moderate pressure lanes on her own. However the proliferation of incredibly powerful self sustaining units (most notably Mudrock and Mountain) have really reduced the value of that role. Meanwhile her S3 maintains her value as a good support DPS with the highest ST HPS in the game. This is especially valuable for Advanced players as attack down tags are very common in CC and her S3 is less effected by such tags. And on top of all that, when using her in a more typical team role, the sleep effect on S2 often hurts more than it helps.

Mudrock

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M1 Breakpoint
S3M3 S S+
S2M3 A S-

Mudrock is an absolutely ridiculous defender with two very strong masteries that you will want to highly prioritize regardless of the type of player you are. S2 is her "daily driver" skill which has a massive breakpoint at M1 (do it ASAP). It greatly contributes to her lane holding ability, offering big AoE damage, stun, and sustain. S3 is her "big hitter" skill that is more often (though not always) used against big baddies on the front line. The improvements to her damage, stats/bulk, and stun are very valuable. Mudrock has two of the best non-DPS masteries in the game and you should highly prioritize her.

Specialists

Aak

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S3M3 C B+
S1M3 C- C-

Aak is a curious unit. He is extremely niche in a way that most players just won't find valuable, however his buff is the best buff in the game which has become increasingly useful in high-risk CC situations. If you want to use Aak for husbando reasons, you might also consider S1M3 which makes him a decent DPS unit with good crowd control utility, but most shouldn't bother.

Phantom

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 A A
S3M3 B B

Phantom has two very viable masteries but most players, both story and advanced, will want to focus on S2 first. S2M3 adds a tremendous amount of damage both to himself and to his clone, greatly adding to his overall usefulness as a fast-redeploy DPS unit. Note that most of the gain on his S2 is at M3 so be sure to go all the way. M1 and M2 on their own are not worth much.

S3 is also a wonderful skill with a very long crowd control on it. However the random nature of it and the pushback can be annoying. Further, the uptime gain is linear so S3M3 can look a lot less appealing for the cost. It's a very good skill, but you'll get more use throughout the game from his S2.

Last, pass on his S1. It comes up frequently in questions about Phantom, and it is a decent skill, but there's very little reason to ever bring it over Gravel who is the better defensive option even before accounting for costs.

Weedy

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S3M3 S+ S+
S2M3 A- S
S1M1 Breakpoint
S1M3 C- C

Weedy is a tremendous unit, but she can be a daunting one for inexperienced players, and her use is not always obvious at first glance. Advanced players will want to highly prioritize both S2 and S3 which variously see meta use in nearly every CC. Story players will find value in both as well but will likely want to focus on S3 more as the impact and use tends to be more obvious. S1 has an important breakpoint at M1 that gets used a lot for stalling slow attacking enemies, but I do not suggest the M3 here as the force upgrade is unnecessary (and very expensive) for where the skill is used. If an enemy is light enough to be pushed, FEater is actually the noticeably better stall and so the better M3 investment for that purpose.

Gladiia

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S3M3 A- A
S2M3 B+ C+
S1M1 Breakpoint
S1M3 B- B

Gladiia is a tricky unit to grade. She's one of those units that can be incredibly powerful in the right situations, but only average to worse in the wrong situations. On top of that, like all shifters, she has valuable masteries regardless of power on account on the increased shift strength at M3 (you'll note almost all other major shift masteries are graded elsewhere in the guide). And on top of THAT she is part of a very expensive banner on which prioritization is very important while being super expensive herself! AND ON TOP OF THAT all of her skills are good!

Alright, I'm done being dramatic. She's a nuanced unit, but the grading isn't actually that hard. Pullers are one of the tougher archtypes in the game since pulling often does more harm than good if there isn't a hole to pull the enemy into (compared to pushers for stalling). And while Gladiia is a tremendously good unit for a free unit, she's only about average as a 6★ overall, so promoting her at all couldn't be called mandatory by any stretch.

Gladiia's S3 will be the skill most will want to focus on. It has a niche that no one else can do, and most teams will find useful (in addition to looking real cool). It is a really good stall that can be deployed at a good long distance, and one of the only skills good for 'bundling' mobs together. Although it's not quite a mandatory skill, it's the sort that will always be useful to have in the pocket, and gets a big upgrade out of mastery.

Her S2 is a very flexible skill. It's less overtly flashy than S3, and the niches aren't as unique, but it covers a lot of ground. It has high damage, multi-targeting, a wide range (only matched by Cliffheart), and good uptime. If you wanted Gladiia to be a regular part of your team, then this is the skill to go with, however people with even decent rosters will generally find better units to place in those roles. The grade here is relatively high since it is both flexible and has good upgrades, but most should treat it as a waifu only skill.

S1 is the best short-sp pull skill in the game. The charge stacking is a really ridiculous feature that overcomes the cycle time issues that can sometimes arise from such skills. However it's very map dependent. Pulling is not overly useful if there isn't a bottomless hole to abuse, unlike pushing which can find use in stalling otherwise. As a comp, the best short-sp push skill is FEater S1. If you haven't found cause to do that mastery, you probably shouldn't bother with Gladiia's S1 either.

Snipers

Exusiai

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S3M3 S+ S+

Exusiai's S3 is the only skill to bother with. It is what makes her good. Occasionally someone will advocate her S2 but the DPS difference between the two skills is staggering. It's almost never worth it and even advanced players will find almost no value in mastering S2. Timing issues are easier to solve than DPS issues and S3M3 adds a lot of forgiveness.

Schwarz

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S3M1 Breakpoint
S3M3 A S+
S2M3 B

Schwarz's S3 is her bread and butter and what makes her one of the best boss killers in the game. Such high physical damage is a rarity and often overcomes boss units that have both incredibly high def and res. Advanced players might consider S2 which still packs a punch and has a more useful range, but most players should stick with her S3 as S2 mastery are rarely useful outside of high risk CC.

Rosa

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S3M2 A- A+
S3M3 B+ A+

Rosa is a fantastic unit, offering surprisingly good DPS and crowd control against what is usually the toughest opponents on the map. She can be a bit tough to use at first and her DPS potential might not be apparent at first glance, but do not underestimate her. Advanced players especially will want to give fairly high priority to Rosa who has been a frequent performer in high risk situations. Note that there is a very large break point at M2, but M3 is still a very worthy mastery. Story players might find M3 not worth the cost relative to other masteries though so stopping at M2 is reasonable. Although not graded here, waifu players may also wish to consider S2M3 which offers some impressive damage and uptime.

W

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M1 Breakpoint
S3M1 Breakpoint
S3M3 A+ A+
S2M3 A A

W is a powerful DPS unit, but not quite a top tier DPS unit which makes her rankings a little less absolute than others. You will find plenty of opinions on both sides of the debate of S2 vs S3 and many will recommend the M6 on her. Personally I feel S3 is the better skill as it has better controllable damage but the utility and consistency on S2 definitely has its proponents. I would be cautious pursuing the M6 unless you are a particularly end game player (or really love her, of course), so my suggestion is to do the skill you prefer, then focus on other units.

Rosmontis

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S3M3 S- A+
S2M3 C+

Like a lot of early limited units, Rosmontis is a shade off of the very top tier of units. Advanced players especially will find her drawbacks to be very limiting, and she is rarely the key DPS unit in advanced clears. However she is still a tremendous unit and her S3M3 is a big gain to her DPS. Story players especially will find this valuable as she absolutely crushes a lot of story stages. Although a decent skill, her S2M3 should be left to waifu or whale purposes only. The damage gain on it is shockingly small for what a 6★ mastery costs so it's just not worth doing for most players.

Archetto

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S3M3 A+ A
S2M3 A- A+

Archetto is a good unit, but since she plays third fiddle to Exusiai and Ash, don't feel compelled to invest in her masteries if you don't intend to use her. However, if you want to use her, then her masteries are very powerful (nearly mandatory) and absolutely worthy of investment.

If you only do one mastery, then stick with S3 which is much easier to use and more generally viable, however S2 tends to be a bit more valuable to use in the niche scenarios you might bring Archetto over Exusiai. Many people say S2 feels underpowered, but it feels much better to use at M2 and M3. The masteries on Archetto make a big difference.

Ash

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 S- S+

Ash's S2 is what sets her apart as something truly special in the meta. The damage it can dish out against a stunnable enemy is obscene and the controllable nature of the ammo feature is a big benefit to maximizing the output. Like most top-tier DPS skills, it's absolutely worth mastering and it gains big benefits from doing so.

Casters

Ifrit

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M1 Breakpoint
S3M3 S+ S+
S2M3 A A

In many places you will find S2M3 suggested over S3M3, but it's just not especially true. Her S3 has a much higher damage and the RES debuff matters much more for end game usage. On top of that it has an incredibly short cooldown at M3 so timing it for incoming waves is quite easy compared to other skills of its kind. Her S2 is still quite good and definitely has a place in the game, but her S3 is much stronger in more places.

Eyjafjalla

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M1 Breakpoint
S3M3 S+ S++
S2M3 S- A

After the S2M1 breakpoint, focus on her S3M3 which is one of the best end game DPS skills in the game for both story mode and for advanced clears. S2M3 is absolutely a worthy skill though, especially for more story-centric players who need consistent arts DPS, however S3 is still far and away the more impactful skill.

Mostima

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M2 A- A-

Mostima is one of the weakest 6★s in the game. She gets a stun extension at M2 which makes it a really good mastery, but don't take the grade to mean she should be highly prioritized overall. Don't go beyond S2M2 unless you know what you're doing, though if you wanted to do an M3 I would take S3 which is at least cool as hell.

Ceobe

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 S S+

Ceobe's S2 is her main DPS skill and one of the largest DPS gains from mastery in the game.  The difference between SL7 and M3 is around 19% DPS and 33% total skill damage (per viktorlabs, most top tier skills range around 10-20% on both numbers).  S2M3 is incredibly important for her viability, though she's not quite as broken as a lot of other top-tier 6★ which keeps the grade down just a touch, relatively speaking.  Note that M2 has no meaningful damage gain, so be sure to go all the way to M3 as stopping at M2 is just wasted value.  Unfortunately S2 is her only good skill.  While both S1 and S3 are interesting ideas, their DPS just doesn't compare, and they are only useful in the most niche of circumstances (though S3 did see some minor use in CC#5).

Dusk

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S3M2 B B
S1M1 Breakpoint
S1M3 C
S2M3 C

Dusk is a tough unit to rank, but the nuance only really matters if you personally favor her. She is a fine unit, but the flaws of the archtype are still here, so none of the masteries are especially essential unless you have a strong personal desire to use her.

S3 is the typical suggestion for mastery on account of the fact that no one else can really replace what it brings. S3 is why you would bring Dusk over simply bringing a better option, so maximizing that is her best value overall. Do note though that M3 itself is incredibly expensive for a minimal gain, so stopping at M2 is probably a good idea for all but the biggest min/maxers.

After that though, it becomes a MUCH tougher question. Both her S1 and S2 are good skills and with good mastery gains. You can see in the NGA mastery poll that there really isn't a definite answer between the two skills among the community. Most players won't want to do either, but for those that personally favor Dusk and want a more reliable skill than her S3, it comes down to preference.

Passenger

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S3M3 A- B+

Thanks to two rounds of buffs and an upcoming module, it's finally time to re-address Passenger. My original writeup on him was not glowing at all, but no unit has seen their stock rise in the game as much as Passenger who has gone from an absolute joke to the second most picked caster in IS#2. One still has to be careful not to overreact. His skills are still the same as they were on release and the drawbacks are still there. However he's more than solid enough now to carry his own weight, especially in story modes where those flaws are easier to overcome. His Advanced grades still present a problem though as they do not yet account for IS#2 performance as I write this which is where most of his Advanced value lies. His Advanced value has improved, but nothing overtly special, and most of his value won't be realized until IS#2 which reflects here in the grades (for now).

His S2 is a semi-popular sub-choice, but I've left it ungraded here. With a unit like Passenger there isn't a ton of reason to not use S3 except for personal desire, especially now that he's a decent unit.

Carnelian

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S3M3 A+ B
S2M3 C C

Carnelian is a powerful story mode unit but has some significant design issues that keep her out of the upper tiers of the meta. Long wind ups, a lack of synergy with the archtype, and a charged effect that's basically mandatory all contribute to what would seem to be at first glance a very good unit. Instead she is left as a story mode dominator who gets picked less than her little sister in end game scenarios.

Despite the issues with her kit, it has some pretty interesting skills for consideration. A majority of players will want to stick with S3 for mastery and go no further. Damage is by far the biggest asset that she has, so maximizing it is key, as well as reducing her hampering wind up time.

S2 is an interesting option providing a good stall with some supplemental damage. Carnelian combines with Aak well since she can natively survive his buff, and with it, S2 becomes a permanent stall for the duration. However, that's ultimately a niche usage. It requires two units at a high cost and unimpressive uptime when there's almost always a better solution available and has yet to find its way into high end gameplay.

Although ungraded (6★ masteries just cost too much), I am personally quite fond of her S1 which is her only skill that plays to the strength of the archtype. Still though, the damage on S1 is unimpressive and despite the lack of synergy, most players will find S3 to be more useful overall. Beeswax S2 is still the ultimate form of the modal caster archtype. Take that, onee-san.

Medics

Nightingale

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S3M3 C+ A

Since the launch of the game, no one has seen their stock increase as much as Nightingale. She has gone from a luxury extra who played second fiddle to a lower rarity counterpart to a key component of many high risk situations. Her main value is in her RES buff on her S3, a role no one else in the game can do, however this still requires some nuance. For one, I do not believe purely story players will find a lot of value here. Certainly S3M3 adds a lot of comfort over SL7 but is ultimately not close to required for any story stage or risk 18 situation, and outside of specific stages it can seem quite underwhelming. Especially considering the cost of a 6★ M3, story players will find much more value elsewhere. Advanced players though will find much much more value here and likely it always will have value unless HG makes a major change to how they deal with enemy arts damage. Still, the limits of the mastery outside of those scenarios keeps the grade down just a bit relative to other skills in its class.

Shining

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S3M3 C- C+

Shining's DEF buff can be helpful in places, but it's nowhere near the value of Nightingale. Advanced players will get some use out of it, especially in various max risk daily CC stages, but even then there's usually better value elsewhere.

Kal'tsit

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S3M3 S+ S++
S2M3 A+ S

Kal'tsit has two very good skills, but focus first on her S3 which is the most potent True Damage skill in the game. Most other True Damage skills have a significant drawback (Franka, not really True Damage I know, and Skalter on the same banner), limitations (Weedy), low total damage (Cliffheart), or limited uses (Amiya). Kal has none of those, doling out a ton of True Damage on a pretty short timer. S3 is her best skill, and the reason Kal is special in the meta.

Her S2 is a great mastery in terms of the gains, especially if you wish to use her for more general purpose since it allows her to operate as a pseudo cornerstone unit, but in the wider scope of the game, it fits in awkwardly. Given the involved restrictions of two deploy slots, micromanagement, and reliance on tile layout, it's rarely the best choice if the flexibility of Monst3r's fast-redeploy is not needed. Even semi established players with a decent unit selection will most likely want to redirect the resources elsewhere and just bring a ground cornerstone instead of Kal S2. However it is still a very good skill, and the fact Monst3r is essentially a fast-redeploy (with more block and better stats than any full FRD), means S2 provides a ton of flexibility that few others can match.

Supporters

Angelina

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S3M3 S+ S+
S2M3 A-

Angelina's S3 is easily her best skill and a valuable mastery, giving it high damage and low cooldown. Her S2 is frequently used in very high risk CC-type content, but players who do not care about pushing every bit of risk possible should not consider it for mastery. Advanced players though will find the uptime and initial activation gains to be fairly valuable for where it is used.

Magallan

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S1M3 B A+
S3M3 C B

Magallan is a tough unit to rank. She is either incredibly powerful around which you center all strategies, or often worthless and not to be used in standard comps. If you wish to make extensive use of her, you will need a more comprehensive guide than this one. If you are a new-ish player reading this guide looking for general advice, you should probably not master any of her skills. That said, most players who are not specifically focusing on summoners will find the most value in S1M3 for stalling or in S3M3 for DPS, but you'll want to favor S1 if you're not planning to make general use of her since her stall is more unique and quite powerful. Advanced players will get more use from her masteries as she tends to be very valuable in high-risk CC situations where team sizes are frequently restricted.

Suzuran

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S3M3 A- A+
S2M1 Breakpoint

Suzuran is an intensely powerful unit that can enable DPS to really excel with an absurdly long stall, and she does that role primarily through her S3. However her masteries are a bit on the weak side, relatively speaking. Story players especially may find them underwhelming (especially M3) when considering the cost, and even Advanced players will find the most value in her uptime/windup increases rather than the stat increases. Though used significantly less often, S2 gains an additional target at M1 which is quite a nice gain at a small cost, however it is not really worth pushing beyond M1 outside of waifu reasons.

Skadi the Corrupting Heart

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 S++ S++
S3M3 A+ S
S1M3 C C+

Unlike her base form, all of Skadi the Corrupting Heart's skills are worth mastery. She is the latest entrant into the growing M9-ables. Though like all M9s there are still skills that are a cut above the rest.

S2 is Skalter's standout skill. It does so much and going into all of the details is a guide worthy all on its own. I would argue it's one of the strongest masteries in the game, with only Surtr and SA tier masteries beating it out. Quite simply, it elevates your entire team to another level while nearly eliminating the need for medics at all. For just one example, a max level S2M3 Skadi gives Popukar better stats than an unbuffed E2 90 Blaze, and Skadi gives more stats to Blaze than she gets from all 90 of her E2 levels!

S3 is next up. It will be the skill you want to use when you need the buff army to kick into overdrive. The True Damage is nice too, especially with the deploy-almost-anywhere Seaborn, but it's somewhat weak and the skill overall has a relatively long cycle time. This is a VERY strong mastery though, but it does tend it towards more advanced situations while most story situations will prefer to stick with S2.

Last comes S1. It's the weakest of the three skills, though it is still very good. You can probably pass on mastery, even for advanced players. In the situations you would use S1, it is probably fine still at SL7. It's very hard to justify the mastery costs here unless you're a whale.

The 5★s

Vanguards

Texas

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M1 Breakpoint
S2M3 B S-

Texas gains an extension on her stun at M1 which is incredibly powerful for the cost. Beyond that, advanced players will want to prioritize the M3 quite highly as she reliably appears in advanced CC situations thanks to her near instant activation with Bagpipe. Story players though may find M2-M3 very lackluster for the cost, so passing on further mastery in favor of other options is probably a good idea, especially if you do not have Bagpipe as well.

Zima

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 C C

Being defensive oriented with low DP generation and a long skill windup kills a lot of Zima's value in the current meta, however as CC#1 showed, there's sometimes value in the ridiculous damage buff she can give Bagpipe. Still, that won't be useful terribly often.

Elysium

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 A+ S-
S1M3 C A-

Elysium's masteries can be a little confusing because at first glance it looks as if they would follow the same logic as Myrtle, yet the logic ends up being the opposite. Although S1 is the better DP gen skill by a significant margin, his S2 utility is miles ahead of Myrtle's. Additionally Myrtle is often the better choice for tight DP because her base cost is cheaper. The times where DP is SO tight that you need both S1's is pretty rare, so Elysium's S2 is the better choice for its utility. Typically you'll want to run both Myrtle and Elysium (along with Bagpipe) with S1 on Myrtle and S2 on Elysium. His S1 is still good though so worthy of consideration, especially for very tight high-risk situations.

However note that Elysium lacks an important feature of Myrtle which is cost effectiveness. Being higher rarity, his masteries cost quite a bit more, and although his S2M3 is an important mastery, key DPS should be put ahead of it in most cases.

Guards

Specter

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 S S+

Specter's S2 is the strongest 5★ mastery in the game. It massively increases her damage and is required to effectively use her for helidrop immortality. Even despite her popular higher rarity counterpart, Specter continues to be one of the best units in the game, and S2M3 is a big reason why. Nothing else can do what Specter's S2 does and it absolutely should be maximized.

Lappland

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 A+ A+

Because Lappland's S2 is attack recovery, the gain in SP cost reduction is a significant difference to her damage output. She takes a small hit on her grades though because there are many better options these days unless the silence utility is needed, which is not terribly often.

Astesia

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 B+ B-

The biggest drawback to arts guards is the 1-block nature. At M3 not only does Astesia get big increases to her attack and defense, but she also gets good uptime on fixing that flaw. S2M3 makes her much easier to use. For Astesia, mastery is very important to her viability which keeps her grade up just a bit, but unfortunately though, being an arts guard not named Surtr has seen her overall value decline dramatically.

Broca

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 A A

Broca is one of the most underrated operators in the game which likely stems from heavy overlap with both Specter and Lappland, two of the most popular units in the game (and more common too). Still, judged alone he is tremendously powerful, and his S2M3 is a significant power spike.

Bibeak

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 A+ S-

Bibeak is a monster of a unit. Her reliable AoE stun on a short cooldown, short activation, and stacking charges simply cannot be beat by anyone else. This has been especially true in advanced situations when combo'd with Liskarm. She is the center piece of major stall strats and needs S2M3 to be effective in this role. Story players won't find this niche to be quite as valuable as Advanced players will, but Story players should not underestimate her either.

Guard Amiya

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 B- B-
S1M3 B

Guard Amiya's best mastery will depend on how you want to use her. If you want to use her as a core part of your team, than S1 is the better option. It offers remarkably good DPS and better team support (and of course can be used more than once). However, if you only use her occasionally and want to have Amiya be more splashy and impactful, S2M3 is the way to go. Neither is mandatory for her to be effective.

Akafuyu

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S1M3 C C
S2M3 C C

It pains me to grade Akafuyu because she's my personal favorite unit in this banner. But ultimately I'm forced to come to terms with a weak archtype, a super strong banner on which nearly every other skill is a better investment option, and a long standing 6★ counterpart that's still better in most ways. She is quite strong relative to other 5★s, and newer players with weaker teams will find value in her strong self sustain, but at this point in the game that doesn’t mean as much as it used to.

Both of Akafuyu's skills are good, and if you raise her, the one to go for first will largely depend on how you play. I give a small favor to S1 since I personally feel the 0-block niche is an underrated and underutilized niche and it has stronger DPS. Unfortunately though, she gets relegated to waifu only grades.

Defenders

Nearl

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S1M1 Breakpoint
S1M3 B A

Although no Saria, Nearl is still an amazing healing defender. S1 has a strong breakpoint at M1 but if you have Saria, going further is not really necessary.

Liskarm

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S1M3 C B+
S2M3 C C

Liskarm is a slightly peculiar unit. She is a very valuable and very meta unit, yet a majority of that comes from her talent and not her skills. Even in advanced high risk situations she is usually sufficient at SL7 with masteries only adding some level of comfort or flexibility. In this regard, both of her skills are viable options depending on what is needed more: defense to take pressure off or supplemental DPS.

For purely story players, neither is a necessary mastery and, in fact, you may find the gains to be quite lackluster for the cost. Advanced players will want to favor S1 though, since the enemies she needs to take hits from in high risk CC scenarios are frequently the hardest hitting in the game.

Asbestos

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M1 Breakpoint
S2M3 B B

Asbestos isn't the greatest defender in the game (it's a pretty stacked class of operators), but if you're using her, her S2 is a really good mastery and a significant contributor to her viability.

Specialists

Cliffheart

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 B- B+

Pullers are in an awkward spot, and Cliffheart is no exception, but her S2M3 is shockingly powerful. A 3 second stun on a 15 second cooldown is already massive, then she gains very rare True Damage on top of it. The skill even maintains it's value in a post-Gladiia world. She's a tough unit to use effectively though and Advanced players will find quite a bit more value here than Story players will.

FEater

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S1M3 B- B+
S2M3 C+ B

FEater is a bit of an odd unit. For most players there is not a lot of investment value, but advanced players will find use for both skills even despite Weedy. FEater's S1 has a better pure stall than Weedy's S1 and FEater's S2 fills a gap in terms of charge time that Weedy can't cover with any of her skills. Further her S2 actually synergizes with Weedy's S3, stacking force along with Weedy's damage. FEater's role is not as overt as many, and there's many units that should be prioritized higher, but there are few people who ultimately regret the investment, especially those looking for more creative clears.

Manticore

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S1M3 B A+

There aren't many slows in the game with 100% uptime. This is one of them and it's very good. More story-centric players might not notice a massive difference though, especially as the cost increases sharply at M3.

Projekt Red

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M2 B- B+

Red's damage has never been all that impressive and her general value is in her S2 stun bomb. Masteries do give that stun a good extension, however the stun scales with each mastery level which makes it very reasonable to stop at M2. M3 is a very expensive luxury. S1 can be an option if you're particularly fond of her, but even before Phantom, there just isn't much value there.

Robin

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S1M3 B- B
S2M3 C B

Although not a summoner in the literal sense, Robin can be considered in the same idea. She is a high effort unit that will not appeal to many players, but a very high reward unit if you're willing to invest the resources and time. Players who find her kit appealing will want to prioritize her masteries higher than the grades here might indicate, but many players will be totally fine skipping her entirely. Both skills are very good with valuable masteries, though I would stick with S1M3 if you only intend to master one skill since S2M3 isn't as useful against the biggest threats in the game. S2 offers better overall stall though, assuming the enemy in question isn't heavy, as it pushes the enemy off of the tile and allows a new trap to be placed.

Frost

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 B- B

Frost is a damage focused trapper which is a problem since the only other trapper, Robin, is control oriented which is much more useful for what the class does. There is ultimately very little reason to raise Frost if you have Robin. Additionally, like Robin, Frost won't appeal to a lot of players. She is a high effort, high reward unit which for a lot of people is simply not worthwhile.

Now that said, if you missed Robin, favor meme comps, or simply like Frost better, than her S2 mastery is quite valuable. The reduced sp cost especially makes trappers much easier to use. Stick with S2 though as the stun on S1 is just not that useful on trappers since traps cannot be placed below enemies and so can't be used to interrupt attacks. Plus the duration increase on S1M3 is rather anemic for the cost.

Kafka

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 C

Most people should leave Kafka at E0 for the lower DP cost. Her main value is in her sleep bomb which gains no extension with skill level and should thus remain unleveled. However that isn't appealing for a lot of people (she deserves better!) She is a viable DPS unit to raise, and in that role S2M3 is a significantly better investment (a respectable 3k+ damage increase per deploy) since the damage gains on S1M3 are really anemic (only 600 damage increase per deploy). Still though, most won't find the investment here tremendously valuable outside of personal desire.

Mr.Nothing

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 C- C+

Mr.Nothing has a bit of a reputation for being bad. I think that's pretty unfair since he has really solid dps, a great talent, and a super interesting kit. However, that said, he's still tough to suggest mastery investment here. His main meta value is in his talent which doesn't gain anything meaningful from masteries. Further there just isn't a lot of reason to use him over Jaye a lot of the time who is half the cost. As a value prospect, you almost certainly have better places to put your resources. And if that weren't enough, he is quite a tough unit to use effectively and a lot of players just won't want to use him.

All that said, if you do want to master a skill, S2 is the better option. S1 is actually a very interesting skill that's fun to play around with, but ultimately the mastery gains just aren't worth it in all but the most niche situations. S2 meanwhile gets a good DPS gain and solid upgrades to all of his various effects.

Bena

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 B B+

Bena is a very curious unit. She has a strong kit with lots of potential, yet is very hard to get full value out of and hasn't really made a showing in end game content yet despite the potential. She is a very appealing unit to the more creative players, but likely to be frustrating to players who prefer brute force. Something to remember is that when she 'dies' and brings in her substitute, she loses all SP and doesn't begin gaining SP again until her base form returns. Her cycle times can be deceptively long.

Her masteries present a tough problem of priority. Neither directly affects her bait potential, but both are solid choices in different ways and do different things. I also hesitate to grade both though for fear of giving the wrong impression. I would lean towards S2 as the better mastery though. S2 has significantly better mastery gains, and significantly better damage against low to medium defense enemies (S1 doesn't overtake S2 until around 1100 enemy DEF, and by 1500 most of the advantage is lost) leaving S1 a costly alternative only better in a narrow band. Either way, though she has lots of potential, her masteries are very much luxury options.

Snipers - Anti-Air

A brief sidebar is needed before I dive into the 5★ AA snipers. I have frequently said in this guide that many of the decisions here are contextual. I have also said this guide is not a suggestion of overall investment priority. These topics are probably the most apparent here amongst the trio of of Platinum, Blue Poison, and GreyThroat. The tricky part is that all three of them are VERY good units with VERY good masteries, but there are also three VERY good 6★ AA snipers and they all compete for a role you typically only need two for!

Put another way, the priority grades among these three will vary greatly with who you have, how you like to play, and what you already have invested. The various permutations of the "ideal" setup here are staggering and that's even before considering how personal preferences and play styles fit in!

The discussion of those permutations beyond the surface level is well beyond the scope of this guide. I only note it here to give this advice: All three have strong masteries and are worthy of raising and investing in. However you should not overinvest in AA snipers. It will hurt your overall progress to go beyond two or three AA snipers (including the 6★s, but NOT including April). Don't overinvest in your AA snipers and neglect your other units just because they all have high grades!

Platinum

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 A+ A+

Because of how Platinum's damage scales with her talent, she gains more damage out of masteries then the numbers might imply at first glance. Further, as an infinite duration skill, the damage increase here is very important (especially at M1 and M2), as is the lowered wind up time. Don't be scared off by the wind up time. This is a monster of a skill and is why Platinum is often considered the best 5★ AA sniper to compliment Exusiai.

Blue Poison

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M1 Breakpoint
S2M3 A+ A+
S1M3 A- A-

Blue Poison is reliant on her masteries to be as good as she is so they should be highly prioritized if you intend to use her. Which is better is a matter of significant debate though, a debate that has been ongoing for nearly 2 years with little sign of letting up. She is perhaps the most pure example of the "consistency vs burst" debate. Her S1 allows her to deal out fairly strong DPS for the entire map with no downtime, while her S2 has a MUCH higher peak that will allow her to overcome big obstacles that might otherwise crush your team. I personally favor S2 here, as peak DPS is much harder to find, but her S1 is certainly a worthy skill still.

However, you should not highly prioritize M6 on Blue Poison. It simply costs too much to do both skills when there are so many other valuable skills out there. For most players I would suggest highly prioritizing S2, then coming back to S1 at a later time.

GreyThroat

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 A- A-
S1M3 B C

GreyThroat has the highest single target DPS among the 5★ AA snipers, but she is most similar to Exusiai, and the gains on her masteries are a touch lower, which downgrades her priority a little relative to the others. I used to suggest S1 as her better mastery, but the game has shifted since then, with a much greater favor now towards burst skills, and her S2 has significantly superior DPS in a controllable form. S1 is still a viable mastery though. The extra charge and reduced SP are incredibly valuable, to the point of being required to effectively use the skill, but like Blue Poison, you probably shouldn't spend your resources on the M6 unless you personally favor her.

April

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 S- S-
S1M1 Breakpoint

Although the same archtype, April should be considered outside of the above discussion on the topic of AA snipers because the role she fills is quite different.

April is a very powerful unit, but one that requires a good bit of investment for that power to be realized.  Her value is pretty much entirely in her on-deploy S2 and she is dramatically less useful once that skill runs out, so maximizing that skill is vital for her to be as good as she is.  It's tough to call April a mandatory unit despite her very strong and unique role, but her mastery is near mandatory if you intend to raise and use her.  The relatively high grade here reflects that.

For more typical sniper use, S1M1 is a big breakpoint, however the DPS and utility pales in comparison to others of the role.  Still, it can be occasionally useful to fill in gaps if your AA core is on the weak side for a unit you may want to E2 anyway.

Snipers - Other

Provence

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 B+ B+

The first note for Provence is that if you have Schwarz, don't waste your resources mastering her skills. Schwarz simply does the job better. That said, Provence does have a tremendous DPS potential and she gains a lot of damage out of the mastery. She's a bit of a tough unit to use compared to Schwarz though which brings the ranking down a little bit. Avoid her S1 which, while a nice idea, has really poor numbers.

Firewatch

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M1 Breakpoint
S1M3 B B

Firewatch is a tough unit to use and most people will want to avoid investing into her. But if you do, her S1 is a tremendous skill, with mastery giving her a big damage boost and a really short cycle time. S2 is a fun skill though and gains a third nuke at the M1 breakpoint so it is definitely worth doing as well.

Meteorite

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S1M3 A- C
S2M3 B- A

In previous versions of the guide, I favored only S1, and while S1 is still a very strong option, I've since grown to appreciate S2 quite a bit more as the advanced option. Because of her long attack interval, and the fact S1 is attack recovery while S2 is per second recovery, the skills actually have nearly identical DPS. In fact, S2 can more easily reach a higher DPS since it charges between waves.

This means that the decision between them most often comes down to the utility they bring. For S1 it's consistency and range. S1 has a big mastery gain and will continue to be the better choice for story players looking for a simple option to help clear out trash. However, for advanced players who wish to get a bit more out of Meteorite, S2 becomes the much more valuable option. It provides better burst, better armor penetration (more damage per hit and the debuff applies to the attack itself), and better team support. And with how the game has crept in power, most advanced players have more than enough options for clearing out trash.

It's also worth noting that S1 gets a significant boost from Archetto. If you regularly use the beercat then the scales tip a bit back in the favor of S1.

Toddifons

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 C C

Toddifons has good damage... if the right conditions are met, but falls off pretty sharply otherwise (most notably, if there are no Sarkaz enemies). S2M3 is the best option for mastery, though the gains on it are modest. Although S1M3 is actually a pretty interesting consideration, but it requires a very specific setup to make work. S2 out damages S1 significantly in all but the most specific of circumstances.

Casters

Amiya

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M1 Breakpoint
S2M3 C+ C+

Amiya is a fairly good ST caster (considering she's free) and needs to be E2 already to progress in the story. Given that, S2M1 is a quite valuable breakpoint, but anything else is a luxury. There's valid arguments to be made for all three skills, however I tend to favor S2 for its damage output. The true damage on S3 is nice in theory, but in practice rarely useful and the places it is useful don't require mastery. Her S1 is also very viable and popular since it's much easier to control versus S2, but it's just not worth the cost over other options.

Leonhardt

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M1 Breakpoint
S2M3 B+ B+

AoE casters are a rough class, so I do not necessarily suggest raising Leonhardt. However, he is the best of the bunch outside of Mostima/Dusk and gains a lot from his masteries, so if you raise him they're definitely worthwhile.

Beeswax

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 B B

Though she has very good skills, Beeswax just doesn't gain a tremendous amount out of masteries. S2 already has a decent uptime and the damage gain is fairly small. On top of that the masteries don't affect it's fundamental usage so she works perfectly fine at SL7. Her S1 can be an appealing option for it's true AoE, but S2 plays to her strengths much better.

Mint

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 B B

Mint is far from a mandatory unit, but her S2 is a super fun skill that gets a big force upgrade at M3. It does not have much meta use, but is well worthy of investment if you plan to use her.

Medics

Ptilopsis

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 C- C-

Although this is a strong skill, Ptilopsis' S2 is already very strong at SL7. M3 on it is overkill in all but the most extreme circumstances.

Warfarin

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 B A+
S1M3 C B-

There's very few medic masteries worth pursuing, and somehow Warfarin has 2 of the top 3. Warfarin's S1 is the strongest ST healing skill in the game, but healing skills are rarely worth mastery and the gains are quite small for most targets (however the extra charge at M3 is quite a nice boost). Focus instead on her buff skill which is one of the most viable buff skills in the game, particularly if you are a more advanced player.

Whisperain

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 C C

Whisperain's S2 is her best skill by a large margin. There's very little reason to ever spend the resources on her S1 even despite an M1 breakpoint. For her S2 most of the gain is at M3 with M1/M2 gains being very modest, so don't bother to only go part way. Generally she works just fine at SL7.

Supporters

Mayer

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S1M1 Breakpoint
S2M3 C+ C+

Like Magallan, Mayer can be a tough unit to rank as her value will change dramatically with how you play the game. Some players will find a lot more value than the ranks here indicate. S1 gains a nice little perk at M1, but most people doing summoner clears will want S2 instead. Advanced players not focused specifically on summoner clears will find more value in Scene or Magallan.

Scene

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 B A

Scene is an interesting unit as far as summoners go, as she is the only one who can recover her own summons if they die and without removing them from the field. On top of that she fills a niche neither Magallan or Mayer can by offering melee-focused summons that she directly buffs for longer on-field deployments (instead of blowing up). This makes her both more forgiving and more flexible, and thus the better choice for a majority of players. Scene is a very strong and flexible summoner. She does not need masteries to be effective, but S2M3 certainly helps, giving her summons big stats on a skill you will be using regularly anyway to recover her summons. It is sometimes asked if the increased cycle time is worth it (since it lengthens the drone recovery time) and the answer is yes. The loss in time is small and if drones die less, less drones need replaced! Advanced summoner players may want to consider S1, but most players will want to stick with S2.

Pramanix

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 B A

Pramanix is a powerful debuffer. Advanced players especially will find value here and she is a core component of many buff comps. The defensive debuff at M1 and M2 is significant, but most of the value lays at M3 with the RES debuff as RES debuff is very hard to find. Story players won't find anywhere close to the value as the debuff values tend to be overkill in story situations and she lacks Shamare's flexibility and uptime.

Shamare

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 A+ S-

This is an extremely strong mastery. The key with Shamare is that her cooldown timer begins when the doll is deployed. At M3 this effectively means she has a 50% uptime (15s while the doll is active, only 15s remaining while the doll is down). On top of that the debuff is a very large value for both defense and attack. Since it is a high percentage base, Shamare can really neuter some of the most dangerous threats in the game with a ton of flexibility to go with it. This is a worthwhile mastery for anyone using Shamare though you should probably still put key DPS before her.

The 4★s

Good For Any Team

The 4★s require a lot of nuance. Because of how the game is setup there are many that are extremely good and viable, but very few which are objectively good on every team. Most of them have higher rarity options which completely power creep them, which turns investments into lost resources in the long run. There are a few which are currently irreplaceable though.

Myrtle

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S1M3 S++ S++
S2M3 C B

Myrtle is the single highest usage 4★ in the game regardless of team. Her S1 is an integral part of many high end strategies and one of the most powerful masteries in the game. Combined with Bagpipe, she has only a couple seconds of windup, but even without Bagpipe, S1M3 greatly increases her viability over the standard 2-block Vanguards. Her S2 creeps in at times thanks to being a cheap source of healing while still providing DP generation, but is used far less.

Gravel

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 B A+

Gravel is usually sufficient at high E1 but gets used so often that she is definitely a viable unit to invest more deeply in, and if you do she gains a truckload of HP from masteries, at a very low cost. She gains more hp from M1 than she does from 30 levels, for example. At a certain point it starts to be overkill though, but given the low cost it's still worth finishing for as much use as Gravel sees.

Jaye

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 S+ S+
S1M3 C

There is a very interesting question as to whether Jaye should be raised at all or left at E0 for his superior base skill.  That discussion is well beyond the scope of this guide, however I favor raising him as a unit.  The very high grade here assumes you have decided to raise him (and account for his low cost), however Jaye is not nearly as mandatory as most other units with S+ tier masteries.  Keeping him at E0 for that sweet TP buff is absolutely a reasonable course of action.

If you do raise him though, Jaye is a ridiculous unit for his rarity. His DPS is absurd for his cost and his restriction is easy to work around on most maps, especially if you have the core of your team out already, and if that weren't enough he's fast redeploy too so there's lots of flexibility in his usage. S2 is his best skill since the silence on S1 just isn't needed and S2 has extremely good sustain. There are small niches S1 might be better as it has higher damage and lower wind up, but the sustain on his S2 is too good to give up so S1 should only be considered by more end game players.

Ethan

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
S2M3 B A

Rather than being powercrept by Manticore, they actually compliment each other very well, being ideal in different places. Depending on what you're stalling (he's better at faster units) and if you just need them to stay in one place (for example, in Bagpipe's range), Ethan is often better at pure stalling. Given his low cost, high availability, and the fact M3 brings the RNG up to a viable 75% he's a worthwhile investment on all teams, but lower than other core units. Although Ethan firmly belongs in this "good for anyone" category, he is the lowest priority, especially for Story players.

Other Noteworthy 4★s

The 4★s in this section have masteries that are noteworthy but are units which are not necessarily great investment options on all teams. Often times it is simply not worth the cost to invest in 4★s beyond high E1. They are supplanted by higher rarity options, sufficient at E1 max, or just age out as your overall team improves, among other examples, resulting in sunk resources in the long run. The grades here should not be taken as recommendations to E2 these units, but are rather suggestions on units and skills that might help round out weaknesses in your team. There is a lot of nuance to the decision to promote these units so consider your team and situation carefully.

These units do not have Advanced player grades since they are rarely used in high risk situations.

Unit
Mastery
Story
Comments
Shirayuki S2M3 A+ Very powerful arts DPS at her rarity. Mastery gives her big gains at a relatively low cost.
Cutter S2M3 A+ Fills a lot of missing gaps in big damage, air coverage, and AoE coverage. Cutter is a tremendous unit and gains a lot from masteries since her skills are attack recovery. S2 is the more common recommendation.
Cutter S1M3 A Cutter is perhaps the best M6 candidate among the 4★s. Her S1 doles out an absolute ton of damage allowing her to hit well above her rarity. Although S2 is a bit more generally useful, S1 has a higher peak performance in tough spots.
Arene S2M3 A Debatably better than Lappland despite less DPS thanks to manual activation and auto recovery. A very valuable unit if you lack good arts or good ground based damage.
Utage S2M3 A Used to be in the "good for everyone" category but Surtr creeps her pretty significantly. Still, she has extremely powerful helidrop arts damage with only one better alternative.
May S2M3 A An immensely underrated unit. She brings extremely good crowd control with respectable damage in a low cost package. She is easily the best 4★ AA sniper.
Beanstalk S2M3 A Beanstalk has a unique and powerful niche that has even seen use in near-max risk CC (extremely rare for a 4★). Stick with S2M3. The mastery gains are modest, but it's the more impactful skill, though S1 does have its own niches.
Beanstalk S1M3 B Beanstalk's S1 is fairly valuable for Advanced players. It can give an instant refresh on her crab on a much shorter cycle than her S2 and without the delay of retreating it. The mastery gains are not all that good though, and the difference really only matters in very high pressure situations. Most should stick with S2.
Vigna S2M3 B Vigna has a sky high attack at a very low cost. The damage per hit on S2M3 is tough to match at any rarity, and she remains good even against strong armor (a rarity on physical melee units), but it's a role that tends to age out quickly on stronger teams.
Podenco S2M3 B Strong AoE arts damage at her rarity with great utility on top of it. Lots of units do her various jobs better though.
Pinecone S1M3 B Pinecone is a tremendous trash clearer, providing high damage in a true AoE, and mastery highly contributes to her ability to burst. Beware of overreacting to her OD performance though, as those scenarios are not that common and her range is a big limiting factor.
Click S2M3 B There's a valid argument that Click is the third best ST caster. She has respectable damage and brings a tremendous stun utility that makes her extremely useful at the rarity, especially when considering how anemic most ST casters can feel.
Mousse S1M3 B A surprisingly good and often overlooked unit. The attack down on her S1 is massive and such a debuff is hard to find. At M3 she can keep the debuff up nearly 100% of the time.
Ambriel S2M3 B The only global range attack skill in the game gives Ambriel a super unique niche and mastery gives it a pretty good damage increase at a low cost.
Gummy S1M3 C The (second) worst of the healing defenders, but still a healing defender, and she gains a lot at M3. A good option if you do not have Nearl or Saria or strong healers.
Estelle S2M3 C This isn't the best mastery out there on its own, however if you're using Estelle there's a good chance you E2'd her already. In that case this is a worthy consideration for the low cost.
Perfumer S2M3 C Perfumer maintains some value even for advanced players thanks to her global heal which is maximized with masteries. But players in a position to consider this mastery probably don't need it either.
Sussuro S2M3 C Sussuro has the highest single target healing per second by a medic in the game which is certainly noteworthy, though in story content it tends to be overkill and in advanced content, her lack of utility is killer.
Rope S2M3 C- Her range is a unique niche over other pullers, but it's just not needed very often and it's needed even less at M3.
Shaw S1M3 C- Worth considering if you don't have FEater or Weedy, but loses all value outside of meme comps if you have either. Skip S2 which does not gain a force increase.
Frostleaf S2M3 None This is an honorable mention skill. Don't raise Frostleaf. She's one of the worst 4★s in the game. HOWEVER, S2M3 is also one of the biggest mastery gains in the entire game (over 600% effectiveness over SL7, not a typo) so I'd be remiss to not mention it at all.

FAQ

Q: When should I start to do masteries?

A: Generally when you have a well rounded E2 team. On a measure of value, (that is, how much you gain for the resources required), an E2 will almost always come out ahead so you should generally not focus on masteries until all of your core units are E2.

There are few exceptions to this. Many masteries have an early breakpoint at M1 that is extremely valuable for low cost. These should be done almost immediately. Some examples include Saria's S1M1 or Eyja's S2M1 but there are many others. The most powerful masteries should probably be treated higher as well such as SilverAsh's S3M3, but there's only a handful of those that should be considered over strong E2s.

Q: These are really expensive, why should I bother?

A: Yes, they are really expensive, especially the 6★ M3 skills. It's also why you should focus on E2s first. At a certain point though, you just don't need more E2 units, which leaves masteries as your route forward to a stronger team. That's also why I wrote this guide in the first place. Only the biggest whales can afford to do them all, so the rest of us need to maximize our value among very costly options.

Q: Do I need masteries?

A: Need is a funny term in this game. If you're big brained enough, most content can be cleared with appropriately leveled free to play units. There's very few places where a mastery would be considered a mandatory requirement in order to progress in the game. Masteries will make your life a helluva lot easier though. But really though, it ultimately comes down to what you want out of the game.

Q: Why isn't <operator> or <skill> listed?

A: Because from a meta perspective it is not worth doing. For the sake of brevity I have excluded most skills and units that are simply not worthwhile.

Q: But what if i really like <operator> or <skill>?

A: By all means, go ahead and do it then. In fact, I encourage you to (as long as you're aware of the consequences)! Arknights is a waifu/husbando game at its core and you should have fun playing it. I personally have an M6 max level Swire even though she's a terrible unit. If you love Flamebringer, feel free to M6 him. This list is purely about the meta value of the various skills and units.

Q: I disagree with your ranking of <operator> or <skill>! It should be <higher or lower>.

A: A very nice thing about Arknights is there are very few answers that are true 100% of the time. It's a game where opinions can flourish and the correct answer can depend on the individual and their playstyle. I'm also not an all knowing god of Arknights knowledge. I don't have every unit and I don't have every skill mastered, and anyone who has followed me in the Reddit Daily threads knows I get things wrong (hopefully not that often). That said, I've been playing since global launch with more than 120 E2s and 130+ M3s across two accounts so I at least think my opinions are pretty decent and informed!

I'm very open to feedback, so if you think I got something wrong, do share it in the comments.  I've already majorly adjusted several rankings as I've sought feedback on this list and I'm open to adjusting more.

Q: Why are unreleased CN operators not listed?

A: Because I am a global player writing for a global audience. Looking six months down the road just doesn't have any value here. This list will be updated as the units are released on global though, typically a few days prior to the banner release.

Q: <Operator A> has a grade that's higher than <Operator B>. Should I always prioritize A over B?

A: Frequently, no. It's literally impossible to give a tier list or grade in this game that is 100% applicable to all players all the time. There will always be variation depending on your team, your goals, and your preferences. This is especially true when we're talking minor differences such as A+ vs A. Arknights is also a forgiving game so there's no need to min/max every single decision. Ultimately the grades here are not meant to give "always true" answers, but rather are meant to give you a guideline to base your decisions on. Use your brain and read the writeups instead of blindly following letter grades!

Q: Why are there different grades for "Story" and "Advanced" players? What is the difference?

A: See The Grading System section above.

Q: What about Integrated Strategies (e.g. Fungimist or the roguelike mode)? I see several skills that were great there but are not mentioned here. Does "Advanced" cover the roguelike mode?

A: As I write this update, I am not considering usage in Integrated Strategies when making these grades. To date a second one has not been announced on CN, and what was good in the first IS isn't guaranteed to be good in the future ones. It would be foolish to base rankings on a gamemode not guaranteed to come back at all, let alone in the same form. That said though, this will of course be updated should that change in the future.

edit:  IS#2 has been announced!  And thank Terran Jesus for it.  There will definitely be an update to the guide (probably a whole new article) related to that, but it won't come until after the event happens on CN and we know more details.  Stay tuned!

Q: I currently run a 2-5-2 base so I can't upgrade my training room. What should I do? Should I swap to 2-4-3?

A: While swapping to 2-4-3 is an option, you don't actually have to. If you downgrade a few factories to free up some power you can still run 2-5-2 at a higher efficiency than 2-4-3. Don't use 2-5-2 as an excuse to avoid masteries! You will find much more long term value in the masteries than in a few factory slots.

Revisions

  • January 16 - Updated Passenger.  Added Beanstalk S1.  Added Dossoles Holiday units.
  • December 25 - Added Pallas to the guide and moved the Preluding Lights units to the main guide (Kirara and Indigo are removed since they had no grades).  Cleaned up a few typos and bugs.
  • December 11 - Overhauled Meteorite's grades and writeup.
  • December 5 - Added Preluding Lights - Revolution Symphony units and moved Deep Drown Lament units to the main guide.  Removed some fluff text from their entries.
  • October 19 - Added Under Tides - Deep Drown Lament units and moved Erg Passenger units to the main guide.  Heavyrain removed since she was graded breakpoint only.  Slightly updated grammar in Toddifons.
  • October 12 - Whole bunch of updates and tweaks!  Magallan (writeup updated, grades unchanged), Mountain (fixed a typo), Passenger (fixed a typo), Bagpipe (writeup updated, grades unchanged), Hoshiguma (writeup updated, grades unchanged), Ceobe (writeup updated, S2M3 up to S / S+ from S- / S), Ch'en (writeup updated, S2M3 down to C / None from B / C, S3M3 down to C / None from C / C+, sorry), Angelina (writeup updated, grades unchanged), SilverAsh (writeup updated, grades unchanged), Blaze (writeup updated, S2M3 down to S / S from S+ / S+), Elysium (writeup updated, S1M3 down to A+ / S- from S+ / S+), Meteorite (writeup unchanged, S1M3 down to A+ / B from A+ / A+), GreyThroat (writeup updated, S2M3 up to A- / A- from B / B, S1M3 down to B / C from A- / A-), Jaye (writeup updated, grades unchanged).  Added Sussuro, Ambriel, and Frostleaf (honorable mention).
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About the Author(s)

Lost redditor, April simp, and Mastery guru
/u/TacticalBreakfast

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