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 Bluntly, they were not very good, often reflecting out of date information or giving terrible suggestions with no context.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 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, risk 18 on CC permanent stages, and the SSS game mode.
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 / IS#3). 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, though be aware that the grades may not reflect the overall pick value. This is a Mastery guide, and not an IS guide. Last, there are some major differences between IS#2 and IS#3. To avoid over-complicating an already complicated system, the Roguelike grades reflects both. Some skills may only be good in one or the other. I will try to note this in the write-ups when relevant.
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.
Most Recent Additions
Texas the Omertosa
Texas the Omertosa is the highest graded M6 in this guide. That can be a scary thing for many players due to the extremely high cost of 6★ Masteries. After all, most similarly meta units only have one skill that stands out. However, Texas is one of the top units in the game, and she owes part of that to just how flexible she is between her two best skills. She is absolutely worth the M6 investment for everyone who is using her.
S3 is the higher graded skill here and should be your starting point. While it technically does less single-target damage than S2, it’s still an absurd total, and the utility more than makes up the difference. The sword rains hit multiple targets in a relatively wide area and can even hit aerial enemies. Even better, the microstuns provide tremendous control and can often keep her alive long enough to actually reach her damage potential in dangerous situations, something FRDs typically struggle with. Note also that S3 has particularly important Mastery gains due to the extra target at M3.
On the other hand, S2 does an absurd amount of damage along with a ludicrous amount of RES shred. On paper it can seem like the easier skill to use since it’s more straightforward, but the lack of any stun makes her much more vulnerable when compared to S3. Note that the Mastery gains here are primarily centered on the RES shred. That is important, but it can make the gains “seem” poor. Mastery on S2 is less essential than it is on S3, but it should still be a high priority. That’s just how absurd Texas is.
There isn't much need to invest into S1. While certainly not a terrible skill, it just doesn't compare to her other skills. Why would you need Silence when you can just kill pretty much everything flat out?
Penance is a little tricky to evaluate. She is extremely strong and is one of the best solo lane-holders available. However, there's an emphasis there on "solo" which makes her somewhat more situational compared to other lane-holders. Since she has no form of self or external sustain, she needs a fairly steady stream of enemies that she can kill or tank to maintain her barrier. This puts her in that somewhat awkward tier where her potential strength may not completely align with her priority.
Her S3 is by far the standout skill and the only one to strongly consider. It does so much and is really the "glue" that brings everything great about her kit together. It adds a massive chunk of barrier, gives her a massive amount of attack that lets her take on extremely hard targets, and super-charges her reflect thanks to said attack boost and increased Taunt. Mastery makes a big difference here too, improving all aspects of the skill, and reducing her SP cost to a very reasonable 20 SP. Defensive Recovery is no problem here either since she *wants* to be taking hits.
Her other skills aren't bad if you were interested in extra investment into Penance. However, you give up a lot by not using her S3, so most people won't find it worthwhile to pursue their Masteries. If you did, you could go with either skill. Most people favor S1, but be aware that a not insignificant portion of that is because of the attack animation rather than the merits of the skill itself.
Lunacub’s permanent Camouflage can be a decent tool to have access to, but the lack of a damage multiplier on her primary skill is a huge drawback that makes her largely inferior to the other 4 and 5★ Deadeyes. For example, she will only out DPS Firewatch against sub-200 DEF, and only out DPS the much cheaper Ambriel at sub-450 DEF. Considering how both are highly available, and have much more forgiving cycle times, it becomes difficult to recommend any of Lunacub’s Masteries. Still, she is not awful, so if you did want to invest in her, S2 is the clear choice. The Mastery gains on it are sizable and S1 doesn’t work with her Camouflage.
Vigil has the extremely dubious honor of being the only completely ungraded 6★ in this Mastery guide. His summon is weak, his already mediocre DPS is reliant on that weak summon, his DP generation is low, and his main skill has a horrific initial ramp-up. There is no meta justification for spending your resources on Vigil.
Should you opt to pursue him anyway, you could go with either S1 or S3. His S3, is his better DPS skill and will probably be more generally useful. If you only do one (or rather, insist on doing at least one), S3 is the one to go with. In good conditions it can even reach some respectable DPS. However a bad cycle time, low DP generation, a reliance on his weak wolves blocking, and an absolutely horrific initial activation time seriously hinder what would already be a fairly niche skill.
His S1, meanwhile, is better for DP generation owing to a relatively forgiving cycle, and renewing a wolf does work around one of his kits' major flaws. However, his DP generation is still pitiful compared to other commonly available Vanguards, and it’s his lowest DPS skill. It's something you should only pursue if you're insistent on using Vigil over better options.
Pass on his S2. While you might initially think that it would be a nice, consistent AFK DP generation skill, it doesn't actually trigger if the wolves haven't spent the previous activation. This makes its effective DP generation extremely unreliable.
Qanipalaat is a nice little 5★ Caster with an interesting kit that has a good mix of control and damage. Levitate is a strong control status effect, and seven seconds on a 30 SP cost mixed with good damage can be pretty appealing. However, Levitate does have shortcomings, and the duration loss for heavier enemies is significant since his base duration is so long. In addition, 5★ Casters will forever be in an awkward spot thanks to Amiya and solid 4★ options, and Qanipalaat has an expensive 600 red certificate cost on top of the already expensive 5★ promotion costs. While he is decently usable, few will find him worth the price of admission.
Pass on his S1 unless you're a heavy Casterknights player. It has the exact same damage and cycle as Amiya's S1, with only the targeting priority setting it apart. The fact that his S1 has no way to inflict the Levitate means that it has no value that a good Marksman Sniper couldn’t cover better.
The first Crusher (and the second) miss the mark on design pretty hard. While Quartz may appear to be an HP tank, a complete lack of DEF or RES eliminates most scenarios that would actually be useful. She is, instead, incredibly fragile, and doesn’t even have the DPS to make up for it. Even fully maximized, her DPS is very low, although the stun on her S2 at least provides some decent control. Pass on her S1, which has worse DPS and will only outperform S2 against high DEF enemies that Quartz is unlikely to survive against anyway.
The correct priority decision with Crushers is to promote a Centurion instead. You will get much more value out of Estelle than you will out of Quartz.
Integrated Strategies 3 - Mizuki & Caerula Arbor
Outside of IS#3, Highmore is fairly inferior to La Pluma. La Pluma's Talent is just far better in the general game. However, Highmore is still an excellent unit due to a strong archetype, and her IS#3 mode specific Talent elevates her above her competitor there. While mode specific effects are rarely worth pursuing, Highmore is an exception, due not only the scale of IS#3 but also her decent value outside of it.
While La Pluma is a strong M6 candidate, Highmore is not. The debate of burst versus consistency isn’t here, and the defensive nature of her S2 is too situational. There will be rare places it excels in, but in a vast majority of cases you should stick with the consistency that her S1 brings. With S1 and her mode specific buff, she is one of the stronger starter picks due to her good damage, strong self-sustain, and functionality at E1. However, the reduced SP at S1M3 is big, so even if she works well at E1, she is well worth the extra Mastery investment.
S2 is the key skill for Siege since her S3 doesn't produce any DP. It has a strong breakpoint at M1, and stopping there will be sufficient for most players. Further Mastery only offers some damage and initial SP, so they aren't especially valuable for the cost.
She is a weak pick for the Roguelike mode and for Advanced content, though those intent on using her in those scenarios may want to consider her S3 Masteries. It has the highest consistent attack multiplier among Vanguard skills and can be instantly activated with Bagpipe at M3. However the places it is useful in are quite niche so most players will want to look elsewhere for their investments.
Bagpipe is one of the best units in the game. It can be easy to assume that is only because of her talent’s relevance to the Flagpipe meta, but her skills are every bit as important. Prioritization between S2 and S3 has long been a point of significant debate, with strong opinions on both sides. Notably, I used to grade her S2 very low to encourage people towards her much better S3. However, her Module upgrades force me to reconsider.
To be clear, you should still prioritize Bagpipe’s S3 over her S2, even when accounting for her Module. It is the better and more impactful skill and Mastery without question. With S3M3, she is one of the best early laneholding options because of her low DP cost, short wind-up, massive bulk, and incredible damage. That damage is then strong enough for her to double as a flexible late-game assassin.
S2 is a strong skill, but places it’s better than S3 are much more niche. Although her S3 already has a very short windup, the difference between "instant" and "almost instant" can matter for a unit as strong as Bagpipe. Notably, the SP cost is reduced at M3, which means that you start with more charges upon deployment. This is especially relevant with her Module upgrades, which provides a full additional charge at S2M3.
Saga has two viable skills, though I favor her S3 in most scenarios. Her S3 first activation can have DP generation similar to a Flagbearer Vanguard, and it greatly increases her combat prowess, which is the main reason to be running a 6★ Pioneer Vanguard.
Her S2 can still be quite valuable at times since it hits in a true AoE on a fairly large range with a big attack multiplier, though for the most part it will be fine at M1 with further investment being a niche luxury. She is a weak pick in the Roguelike, but if you do intend to use her, the consistency of her S2 will likely be more valuable given the relatively long cooldown on her S3.
Saileach has the biggest gulf in priorities between Story and Advanced players.
In all cases, S3 is her best skill. It brings valuable utility on a very short cooldown along with decent DP generation. The 20s downtime on her weakening effect is a unique aspect to her that has lots of broad application. Mastery is quite valuable here. In addition to the all-important "first activation" times with all Flagbearer's, she gains a significant increase in utility effectiveness as well.
After that though, things get more nuanced. The DP generation on S3 is actually fairly poor relative to other Flagbearer skills which gives room for her other skills to shine. Her S1 is identical to Elysium's S1. It also has among the most expensive M3 material cost in the game so far. For most players this means it's something to avoid, especially if you haven't already found a reason to do Elysium's S1 Masteries. Outside of high-risk CC and certain memes, the intensity of DP generation that her S1 brings in addition to the other Flagbearers is never necessary. Your resources are better spent elsewhere. But for players who do care about pushing risk, her S1 is essential, often being chosen over her S3 to maximize DP generation among small deploy limit rotations where her S3 is just too slow.
Her S2 is a similar case. It gets mixed into high risk CC only slightly less than S1 does. The DP gen on it is only slightly worse than her S1 (and significantly better than S3) so it can be the better choice when DP pressure is high, but with a little bit of flexibility. For Story players though it is again an expensive thing for fringe usage at best and relatively small gains. If you haven't found a reason to use Myrtle's S2 before, you probably won't find any reason to use Saileach's S2 either.
With an eye towards the Roguelike, her S3 is still king, though Saileach is only a modest pick herself thanks to a high Hope cost. If you wanted to do a second Mastery after S3, then S2 would be the goal. Like Story mode, the extra DP generation on S1 just isn't necessary and you'd be better off taking Myrtle for less Hope anyway. Meanwhile S2 can provide a valuable healing utility that can oftentimes be in short supply. Even then though, the less expensive Myrtle tends to be the better choice for emergency healing given the lesser costs involved, both in Hope and in materials
In the age of Flagpipe, Flametail brings a shocking amount of utility that has continually proven itself in the end game since her release. Dodges don't usually have a lot of value but her very high chance on S3 makes her virtually invulnerable a third of the time while maintaining good DPS (for a Vanguard).
Mastery in her S3 has the best return on value of any Pioneer Vanguard skill, providing relatively large improvements to her cycle time which is vitally important to her role. Her grades are relatively high here compared to her meta value as a unit. The strength of the Flagpipe meta really hurts her overall value so she is not a must raise. However her S3 Masteries are incredibly valuable if you do choose to raise her, bringing her grades up a bit.
Her S2 is modestly popular for its team support, but the associated dodge chance is far lower and adds an unpalatable amount of RNG to the mix. The Mastery gains on it are also far lower, so it is a very low end consideration for only those who use Flametail a lot and want some more flexibility from her.
Although capable in the Roguelike, she is on the weaker end of picks. Vanguards as a class are just not that valuable thanks to Myrtle and the restrictions of Hope costs. Still, she is a competent fighter, and her sustain and DPS are both useful. S3 Mastery is still the key skill for that mode.
Despite being at the center of the discussion of powercreep, SilverAsh is still one of the top DPS units in the game. In addition to two extremely powerful Talents, he has historically been *the* high Damage-per-hit (DPH) Physical damage unit, the most valuable form of damage. For much of the game's life, this guide has suggested SilverAsh's S3 as the more important Mastery in the game. That probably isn't true anymore due to newer units; however, SilverAsh is no weaker for it. He is still one of the best units in the game, and still has some of the most important Masteries. There are just more options these days.
In addition to the all important damage increases on one of the best DPS units, as well as an extra target, his S3 Masteries drastically improve his skill’s initial wind-up time. Like many early units, SilverAsh's SP cost is abhorrently high after its first use. However, the large improvement to the initial wind-up means that he can instead retreat and then redeploy after his initial skill use, which not only improves his effective cycle time but also frees up a deployment slot in the interim.
While he may no longer be the *best* target for Mastery anymore, he still has some of the most important Mastery gains in the game. SilverAsh at S3M3 is a different monster than at SL7 and he should be highly prioritized.
Finally, consider Mastering his S2 if you like off-meta builds or his character. Even though it’s ungraded, his S2 gives a ton of self sustain that few other units have. It makes for a fun alternative. Just remember it is a fringe option. His meta usage is his DPS, not his tanking.
|S2M3||A- *||A *||B+ *|
* Note that these skills are graded assuming this unit has the DRE-X Module level 3. If you do NOT plan to get this unit's upgraded DRE-X Module, treat the priority of these skills significantly lower.
Skadi's fully leveled DRE-X Module is one of the best in the game in terms of how it upgrades the base unit. Without it, Guard Skadi is a very weak unit with terrible skill cycles and no real niche. However, with it, Skadi becomes a uniquely powerful Fast(ish)-Redeploy, and her S2 becomes a much more appealing Mastery target. In addition to an above average attack increase, Mastery also improves her S2's duration. Between that and her massive HP pool, Skadi lasts much longer than other Fast-Redeploys.
S3 also is worth considering. While her S2 will cover a majority of situations, her S3 has much more bulk and a much longer duration which can give it several viable use cases where it is superior to S2. The redeployment time reduction from DRE-X also works around the skill's biggest drawback. However, Masteries are expensive and S2 will cover a lion's share of the work on its own.
Finally, be aware that the above write-up does not apply to her DRE-Y Module. While it does have some uses, DRE-Y is far more situational since it doesn’t mitigate her extremely long cycle time. Should you choose to pursue that Module instead, treat her Mastery priorities (S2 especially) much lower, even on an Abyssal Hunter team.
|S3M3||B+ *||B+ *||B+ *|
* Note that these skills are graded assuming this unit has her Module level 3. If you do not plan to get this unit's upgraded Module, treat the priority of these skills significantly lower.
Ch'en has the peculiar honor of having the most full re-writes in this guide. Her value in the game has shifted significantly as the game has gone on. However, her Guard form made an unlikely comeback thanks to her Module upgrades and the removal of alter restrictions. Her Module in particular is a big upgrade to both her uptime and her team support which warrants reconsidering her place in Mastery priority.
S3 is the better skill to pursue Mastery on, regardless of Module. The rapid burst, invulnerability frames, and long reach make it far more powerful and unique. Mastery has always been valuable on Ch'en due to her skills being Attack Recovery, but high SP costs are a massive drag on her uptime which normally bring that value down. However her Module upgrades greatly improve its uptime, and thus the value of the Mastery.
Her S2 is notable due to being instantly available on deployment at M3, but its damage is paltry for the current meta. Her Module lets her spam it with more regularity, but at that point it's best to just use her more powerful S3. The difference in their SP costs matters much less with her Module. That leaves S2 as a far more niche option.
However, be wary of overreacting. Just because Ch'ens Module takes her off life support does not mean she is suddenly meta. She is greatly improved, but when fully accounting for all related costs and competition, Ch'en's base form is still much a matter of personal desire when it comes to priority.
The whole Musha archetype is in a tough spot these days. There aren't many meaningful targets they can self sustain well against, so they largely just end up as a 1-block, low damage-per-hit, unhealable holes in the team. Any investment into Hellagur is not high in the recommendations, but if you do so anyway, then his S2 is the preferred starting point for Masteries. In addition to strong burst, the fairly high dodge chance on a short cooldown gives him a good amount of survivability which can mitigate some of those Musha flaws.
Most should stop there. However, his other two skills can make appealing alternatives if you are particularly intent on using him. His S3 is a strong burst skill with some range utility, as well as a particularly strong M1 breakpoint. Meanwhile, his S1 gives him strong consistency and is his best tool for tackling high DEF, a notable flaw in his kit. They are still luxury options, however, and not recommended for most people.
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 is probably the best starter unit in IS#2; however, he’s lost a lot of value in IS#3. While he is still quite good at the lower difficulty levels of IS#3, the removal of E2 starts tremendously hurts his value, especially as the Ascension (difficulty) level increases. Thorns is still very strong and well worth maximizing, but in the current content, he is nowhere near as essential as he was in IS#2.
Her S2 is a strong skill, but since there is the lost opportunity cost of her S3, it's not worth considering... usually. She is still one of the strongest picks in the Roguelike mode, but the forced retreat can be a big drawback which gives some space for S2 to be useful. S2 Mastery is still a luxury as SL7 is usually more than sufficient in those scenarios, but alternatives on the most powerful units available always have some value.
His S3 is a fairly strong DPS skill, but it's a situation where you have to give up his better skill and better role in order to make use of it. With so many strong DPS skill these days and the high cost of 6★ Masteries, investment beyond the M1 breakpoint is a luxury for most.
Pallas is a rough unit. Her intended design niche seems to revolve around buffing with her S3. However, her reliance on Vigor for her buffs is a huge drawback, the cycle time is excessively long, and she offers little else during her skill downtime. It is little surprise then that her S1 is often suggested as her best skill, which at least adds a dose of hard hitting consistency.
Her S1 is often touted as an extremely good skill for the Roguelike mode. That was true in IS#2 where the interaction with a large number of relics gave her strong damage, low DP cost, and healthy self-sustain. However, she is nowhere near as valuable in IS#3 which drops the value of that investment significantly.
There is no easy answer with Pallas, other than not investing at all. However, if you decided to promote her anyway, all three of her skills are potential options. Start with her S1 which at least has circumstances it stands out in. S3 is a luxury option. She has strong burst damage with it, but the buff is ultimately too situational to be generally useful. Even her S2 could have some value to someone intending to maximize Pallas against other options, though that is so far off of the meta that anyone considering it probably doesn't need this guide for help.
Nearl the Radiant Knight
Nearl's alter form has two skills that are definitely worth Mastery, and a third also well worth considering. The best option to start with will depend on how you intend to use her, the type of player you are, and what other tools you have available.
Her S3 is her daily driver skill. It is another great option in the realm of big DPS nukes which are very valuable. However the issue with it is that it tends to be a slightly weaker version of Surtr's S3 and a slightly harder to use version of Kal’tsit’s S3. For more established teams, the value that damage bomb brings is somewhat limited. Though those who are newer and less established will find tremendous value in it.
Advanced players will find quite a bit more use out of her S2 which is her unique niche and will want to prioritize it above S3 (if not passing on S3 entirely). Purely Story players will still get use out of it as well, but may not find investment into Mastery nearly as valuable as the deploy limit bypass is a lot less important under normal conditions.
She is a strong Roguelike pick, only hurt by how common place meta Guards are. However she brings a level of flexibility and tankiness that the other top picks don't have. For use there, you'll likely want to Master both skills, especially if you lack the other end game nuke Guards like SilverAsh and Surtr.
Finally, her S1 is a good skill with surprisingly high and consistent damage. It is her best skill for laneholding. That flexibility is especially powerful in IS, where options are limited and her role flexibility shines. However, it’s a bit of a luxury for the rest of the game, and isn’t typically why she’s on used.
Irene's best skill is her S3, and it badly needs Mastery to be effective. The M1 breakpoint is incredibly important, representing a massive 20% increase to her skill DPS on its own. The damage increase across M2 and M3 may seem anemic in comparison, but the reduced SP cost is vitally important to using her effectively since her biggest drawback is Attack Recovery on a high SP skill.
Although Irene has two other serviceable skills that both have valuable Masteries, there isn't much reason to go beyond S3M3. Her other two skills have niches, but the damage on her S3 is her main selling point. Further investment doesn't have much value with Irene, with related niches being far and few between, and certainly not worth giving up her S3 for. Even the breakpoint at S1M1 may not be worth much for the use you would get out of it.
** A word of caution related to Dorothy. There is a combo with Irene and Dorothy where Irene's levitate allows you to place a new Dorothy mine, thereby extending a stall for as long as Dorothy has mines. This can work with S1M1/M2 or S2M3 (S1 preferrable), but S1M3 actually loses effectiveness since you end up needing to use mines more frequently. If you would like to use Irene on her own, it is fine to go with S1M3 for use as an AFK skill, but if you want to use her with Dorothy, keep her at the much cheaper S1M1.
Gavial the Invincible
Gavial is a modestly strong M6 consideration, but if you can only afford one Mastery, start with her S2. S3 has significantly higher DPS, but Gavial is a relatively rare situation where the utility of her S2 more than makes up the difference. S2 still has very good damage, but also has range, control, a higher attack multiplier, and an absurdly high up-time. Mastery makes an especially large difference to that all-important up-time.
In addition to all of that utility, there is another reason to prioritize S2 first. It is extremely rare in this guide that another operator influences any suggestions. However, in this case, Gavial’s S2 uptime at M3 almost perfectly synchronizes with Mlynar’s S3 downtime. This allows for two very strong units to cover each other, and it is enabled by the improvements to uptime over Mastery. Combos in Arknights tend to be gimmicky and easy to overrate, but this specific interaction should not be ignored.
However, don’t forget about her S3. It has better raw damage, and the DPS gains on its Masteries are well above average. Since Gavial is a Centurion, that increased block count means more targets as well, which greatly improves her damage potential. It doesn't quite see as much use as S2 (especially in IS), but it is one of the more worthy secondary skills out there.
Last, her S1 garners a mention as a self-sustain option, but remains ungraded because the skill doesn’t play to her better role. Most players shouldn’t bother with it, but if you particularly like Gavial you may want to give it some consideration. The gains on it aren’t too impressive, though, so even then it will probably be fine without Mastery.
Mlynar is the best Physical Melee DPS unit in the game, and possibly the best DPS unit period, depending on who you ask. His S3 is his key skill, and the Mastery gains on it are big. Units of Mlynar's caliber are simple to evaluate because of how game-defining they are. Their primary skills should be your highest priority among Masteries. Simple as that.
I would not bother with his S2 Masteries and they are ungraded here. It has a fairly high Mastery rate among secondary skills, but that is more a reflection of his overall power and popularity as a unit. Compared to S3, niches that his S2 might be useful in are much more narrow compared to other secondary skills on other top-tier units. His S2 Masteries will be an expensive alternative you're not likely to ever practically use.
Saria is one of the strongest units in the game with a wide variety of applications across all of her skills. She is the best M9 candidate in the game, even after three full years! However at the same time, some restraint is warranted, especially for newer Story centric players. Although she is strong, she is still a support unit with expensive 6★ upgrades. DPS should still be prioritized higher which is why her grades are somewhat low despite her meta value.
The standard suggestion with Saria has been her S1M1 breakpoint, followed by focusing on her S3M3 which is her end-game skill. However the arrival of the second iteration of the Roguelike mode has given new life to her S2M3 which muddies the waters. S2M3 tends to be overkill in a lot of situations which is why it fell from favor, though it is now also her most used skill in the new mode!
I would suggest you still do S1M1 first, followed by S3M3, then S2M3. However if the Roguelike is your overriding goal, there is nothing wrong with bumping S2M3 up first. Just remember to exercise some restraint with Saria's Masteries until your key DPS roles are firmly established.
Hoshiguma is somewhat unique in the Mastery guide. I have long maintained that her S3 is her better skill, and this guide generally tends to favor burst over consistency. However, in Hoshiguma's case, pure bulk Defenders just don't have much value in the game anymore. The value that her S3 gives just isn't what most people who are intent on using her want. While the debate of burst vs consistency still goes strong to this day, in Hoshiguma's case, her meta value is so low that most players simply prefer her S2’s ease of use.
If you decide to invest into Hoshiguma, follow your preferences. Go with S2 for the ol-reliable no-thinking set-and-forget gameplay, but consider S3 instead if you're looking for something slightly more competitive.
While pure bulk Defenders are at the bottom of the meta these days, Nian has recently seen her value rise quite a bit — especially in Advanced gameplay. The shields from her Talent are the main force behind that, but her Module is a significant contributor as well, pumping up her bulk significantly while hastening her first skill activation in tight situations. For most players, none of that matters. It only really comes into play for extreme end-game clears. However, those wanting to maximize Nian should start with her S2 since it provides more bulk and lets her tank some of the biggest threats in the game. In general gameplay, her S3 tends to be more impactful, but as mentioned, pure bulk Defenders don't have a lot of value. These days her S3 is often relegated to Aak buffing memes, making it a very questionable investment choice.
Pure defensive blockers don't have much value in the Roguelike, so extra investment for her isn't suggested for that mode.
Eunectes acts as more of a Duelist Guard (Dreadnought) 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 lower priority than many due to her difficult usage.
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, but at least looking ahead now it's best not to invest into Mastery outside of personal desire since it can be difficult to properly set up.
Blemishine is a more offense-oriented take on the Guardian archetype. However, that offensive nature is not as powerful as other DPS units, which puts her in an uncertain middle-ground of usability. Add onto that a set of skills which all have uses, but also all have major drawbacks, she can be a daunting unit in terms of investment. Most players probably shouldn’t raise her at all.
If you do raise her, there is no definitive “best skill” to Master, but her S2 plays to her niche the best. Her Sleep niche is unique, and it gives the best DPS among her skills while still offering some self-sustain. However Sleep is a tricky status effect, and it can often hurt more than it helps since few other units can contribute damage during the stall. Because of this, it is often best when used as a solo lane-holding skill.
Meanwhile, S3 is a strong DPS skill, and a very rare Guardian skill that improves DEF. It also has some of the highest healing-per-second (HPS) in the game. However, its fatal flaw is that it can't heal herself, so she requires another unit for sustain, largely defeating the purpose of bringing a Guardian to begin with. It can be a fantastic skill if you prefer to use Blemishine in a front-line role over other options.
Finally, her S1 strikes a nice balance across her skills. It can heal herself for a nice measure of consistency while still maintaining respectable DPS. It is also her only skill that isn't Defensive Recovery. While it can't benefit from her Talent, it does make it more reliable and can provide a nice burst when allowed to charge between waves.
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 is the strongest Defender pick in the Roguelike. You should highly prioritize her and her Masteries.
Horn is an extremely powerful unit, but also a very expensive one. She is perhaps the strongest M9 candidate when considering her relatively meta value with all of her skills giving different and valuable niches and all of them having pretty strong damage increases over Mastery.
Aside from the S1M1 breakpoint, if you only Mastered one skill, it should be her S3. It is her skill with both the highest total damage and her highest DPS and the one you'll be using overall most of the time. It has very high grades by being the best skill on a meta unit, but there isn't too much nuance with it either. Big attacks go boom.
Nuance settles in after that with there being a division between S1 in S2 for the best secondary target. Most polling shows S2 is the more popular choice which is understandable since it's also a powerful nuke skill. However I would favor S1M3 as the secondary Mastery choice if you don't want to do the full M9. While S2 has some valuable niches over S3 that most definitely makes it a worthy consideration, the two skills do have a lot of overlap. S1 meanwhile has a more unique niche in giving her a very strong sustain, better scaling, and utility which are all very valuable in both IS and SSS.
As said, Horn is an extremely viable M9 candidate, but that is an expensive proposition for your average player. So the ultimate suggestion for Horn is to grab S1M1 and S3M3. If you like her and find yourself using her a lot, grab S1M3 next, and if you really like her, grab S2M3 as well.
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. It's also the better option in the Roguelike mode since his buffing ability is not especially valuable there, usually requiring extra setup that isn't worth the Hope cost.
Phantom has seen his relative value decline quite a bit thanks to the recent abundance of other high-caliber Fast-Redeploys. His DPS was always a little questionable thanks due the cheaper Projekt Red having a strong minimum damage niche, but he has only fared worse since the introduction of ridiculously powerful units like Texas the Omertosa, Kirin X Yato, and Ines. His value has especially fallen in the Roguelike thanks to how strong Specialists have become in general.
Should you want to promote Phantom anyway (and he is still more than usable), he has two skills worth consideration. S2 is his primary DPS skill, but S3 is his more unique skill in the context of the current FRD landscape. Previously, his S2 was the clear winner here, but that DPS role is so minor these days (the stacking aspect is a big issue for general usability) that you will likely want to pursue his more unique S3 instead. However, the extra layer at S2M3 makes a big difference to his damage, so it will still be worthwhile if you want to regularly use Phantom.
Weedy is a very tricky unit. There is no bigger split in the game between her Story usage and her Advanced usage. She is one of the most common CC units, appearing frequently across all risk levels. This gets a lot of people to invest a lot of resources into her, yet very few end up using her in the general game. Not to say she's bad elsewhere, but she tends to be a more roundabout solution than most people prefer. She has strong grades because her Masteries are vitally important and she has a ton of potential, but be cautious with your investments here, especially if you're newer. You'll probably want to put your resources elsewhere if you aren't willing to put in the extra effort.
If you are willing to go that extra mile though, Weedy is an easy M6 with the potential for a full M9. Start with her S3, which has the most general application. When properly used with her cannon, it has far and away the best Shift force in the game and great damage to boot. Her S2 is next up. It is a strong stall skill, but one that requires planning to use. Players only interested in Story content in particular will likely not find it worth the high price of Mastery. Last in priority is her S1. Most won't want to bother beyond the M1 breakpoint as the skill has limited use, and FEater's S1 is usually better in the rare situations where either would see play.
Weedy is a pretty tough unit for the Roguelike mode. Especially in IS#2, there isn't any place for her to really shine, even before factoring in her expensive Hope cost. However, in IS#3, there are a few spots for some Shift shenanigans, which she will need S3 to exploit. It is still a quite off-meta strategy though.
|S2M3||S- *||S- *||A+ *|
* Note that this skill is graded assuming the unit has her HOK-X Module level 3. If you do NOT plan to get this unit's upgraded Module, treat the priority of this skill slightly lower. See the write up below for more details.
Gladiia’s Masteries are tricky to evaluate. Shifters tend to be very situational, but unlike the other Shifters, she is much more capable of acting like a Guard. This is especially true with her HOK-X Module upgrades, which make her one of the bulkiest pseudo-Guards even before accounting for its buffs to other Abyssal Hunters.
Traditionally, the choice of Mastery came down to how you intended to use Gladiia. S3 was more unique, while S2 was more consistent. In previous versions of this guide before her Module, I suggested S3 for her first Mastery. That is still true if you have no plans to get her Module upgrades. However with her Module upgrades the consideration changes quite a bit, and S2 becomes the suggested first Mastery. Her S2 is the far better skill when using her in that Guard role. It has the better utility, overall damage, and uptime.
Although S2 is now the first suggestion, if you are spending the resources to upgrade her Module, you will most likely want to Master S3 as well. In addition to its more unique application, it is also her better burst skill. Her Module gives a large amount of additional damage. Having both at your disposal gives Gladiia quite a bit more flexibility.
S1 is also a strong skill but is ultimately just expensive and redundant. Being charge based gives it a lot of value over similar low-SP Shifter skills, but like those skills, it is very situational. Even in the rare situations where S1 would be valuable, S2 will often fill the role just as well. Its relatively high grades are largely a reflection of the force gain and SP reduction, but Mastery outside of the breakpoint is best left to those wishing to maximize Gladiia.
Mizuki is a weaker unit, so most players should avoid investing in him altogether. He has limited control utility compared to the stronger Ambushers like Ethan or Manticore, but not enough damage to make him a core DPS unit. However, if you wanted to promote him anyway, all of his skills are viable options. Most people who regularly use Mizuki prefer his S1, which has by far the highest Mastery rate of his skills. It gives him a much needed measure of consistency and tends to deal the most damage. I personally like his S2 which adds some decent control on a short cycle time, though it isn't as good as Ethan and has lower damage versus armor than his S1.
Surprisingly, the flashier S3 is also his weakest skill and is ungraded here. Its damage is subpar, its cooldown is brutal, and it necessitates team support. It does have some uses if you’re trying to maximize Mizuki for all situations, but the vast majority shouldn’t bother.
Lee is a good but fairly clunky unit, made even clunkier by subpar Masteries on his best skill. His S3 is typically the main reason to use him. It's already a quite situational skill, being very abusable in some circumstances but an inconsistent annoyance in others. As his key skill, it is of course worth maximizing for regular use, but the gains on it are fairly poor which suppress the overall grades. In many situations his S3 is used, it would work just as well at SL7, making him a fairly rare M0 consideration among 6★s, especially surprising since he's still a pretty decent unit!
His S2 is his DPS skill, but that has only limited secondary usage for a unit like Lee. It's the best alternative when his S3 can't be abused, and it does have pretty reasonable damage even without outside help. However his main role is not DPS and he can fit in very awkwardly in scenarios outside of his S3 since it can be difficult to maximize. That relegates his S2 Masteries to just above luxury grades despite some really good gains (especially at M3). It's a great skill if you intend to regularly use him, but can be skipped if he will only be doing part-time work.
Specter the Unchained
|S2M3||S *||S *||S+ *|
|S3M3||A *||A- *||A+ *|
* Note that these skills are graded assuming the unit has at least one Module level 3. If you do NOT plan to get this unit's upgraded Module(s), treat the priority of these skills significantly lower. Priority depends on the Module. See the write up below for more details.
More than any other unit, Specter the Unchained's Mastery priority depends on if and which Module you upgrade for her. With only her base kit, there just isn't any value when compared to her 5★ form. Specter’s base kit is very mediocre and would only garner B or C-tier grades; however, both Modules are excellent and have differing niches that influence the grades. In particular if using PUM-X, favor S2. For PUM-Y, favor S3. Keep this in mind when deciding where to invest.
Supposing you do plan to get at least one of her upgraded Modules, Specter the Unchained is a worthy M6 consideration with the better first target (and Module) depending on how you want to use her. The generally better option would be to go with her S2 and PUM-X Module upgrades. This setup improves upon the invulnerability niche of her base form, while also making her a very effective lane holder. With the heavy snare and damage improvements on her doll from PUM-X that help stop leaks, and much improved cycle time on her invulnerability, she can excel in the role in a way few others can. S2 Mastery is very important here, representing large improvements to her cycle time and DPS.
Her S3 is a bit of a tricky skill. It is her DPS skill, and taken on its own and in the context of similar DPS skills on other 6★s, it has quite poor numbers. If she can't trigger the HP threshold condition, it performs worse than her 5★ form and without the invulnerability or 3-block. However, her second Module, PUM-Y, gives a pretty significant upgrade to her S3. It markedly improves S3 cycle time while also making her more bulky, which helps avoid her weak doll effect. This combos especially well with Gladiia's upcoming Module, which furthers her bulk. With PUM-Y and S3M3, Specter can maintain close to 50% uptime on a high DPS skill while being nigh unkillable to all but the biggest threats. Mastery also represents a well above average DPS increase for her, so don't skimp out if you plan to use her for that DPS role.
Dorothy is one of those units whose priority will depend on the sort of player you are. She is a high cost and high effort unit for results that can usually be found elsewhere. Most players likely won't want to invest deeply into her at all. However, if you're one of those players that finds satisfaction in that sort of gameplay, Dorothy can be extremely valuable with near mandatory Masteries. Trapmasters are reliant on renewing their traps to be effective, so the reduced SP cost alone is worthwhile before even looking into the effects, and Dorothy has big gains to the effects as well.
Should you be one of the few brave enough to pursue Dorothy, she is a very strong M6 consideration. Both S2 and S3 have strong use cases, and regular Dorothy users will definitely want both. However, start with S3 if you only do one as it is her main source of damage. It oftentimes requires extensive planning to optimize, but the results are as satisfying as they are effective. The gains from Mastery are massive too. In addition to the previously mentioned renewal rate, Mastery is also a well above average improvement to both damage and control.
S2 is a similarly solid skill, though it is of lower importance than S3. It trades some damage for better control, but the most effective form of control is a dead enemy and the damage potential loss is quite large. This makes places where S2 is the better choice a little less common. With that said, the global reach of a solid duration bind on top of large Mastery gains makes it a strong secondary consideration.
Don't bother with her S1 unless you are a Dorothy simp. While it does have some use, it only affects one target and the debuff is nothing special. Situations where it is the best option are extremely rare.
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.
Now that said, I actually have added her S2 here with the Roguelike update, but only for the Roguelike mode. I want to strongly emphasize that S2 Mastery is a luxury that very few should pursue. However the mode can be an unforgiving sort and Exusiai is one of the strongest options available. The added flexibility of her S2 is something to at least consider. But I say again, 99% of the time you should be using her S3.
Schwarz has a reputation as a boss killer, which I admit my own previous writeups have perpetuated. And it is true to a point, but her rapid cycle times make her an excellent general purpose DPS unit as well, just one that can take on harder targets. Her S3 is her bread and butter skill to that end, and Masteries give her quite large damage and uptime gains.
For most, there is no need to go further with her Masteries, but her S2 has some value for those that want to use Schwarz regularly. Her S3 is the superior skill, and the range is usually a benefit, but that is not always the case and sometimes it can be a problem. Particularly in the Roguelike mode where flexibility is important, her S2 can be an enticing alternative.
Rosa is a fantastic unit, offering surprisingly good DPS and crowd control against what are 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. Note that she has an unusually large breakpoint 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.
Most of the time you use Rosa, you will be using her S3 which is the unique reason to bring her. However regular Rosa users will want to consider her S2 Masteries as well. Although it has very strong DPS, the low uptime on S3 results in low total damage. This gives her extremely high uptime S2 a very valid niche, especially in the Roguelike mode. However do keep in mind it is a luxury option for those wanting more use out of Rosa, and a majority of people should stick with S3.
W is a powerful DPS unit, but not exactly top tier. This makes her Mastery 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 think S3 is the better skill as it has better controllable damage, but the utility and consistency on S2 tends to be more popular. Which skill to begin with is largely a matter of preference. Somewhat unusually, both skills have M1 Breakpoints, so start there and see which you like better before diving in further.
She gains a lot of value in IS#3 that she didn't have in IS#2 thanks to her long range and stun, which are both very valuable, although the debate between S2 and S3 remains. Further, S1 becomes a consideration as well. It is still ungraded since the usage is very fringe, but it does strike a nice balance of cooldown and stun that her other skills lack.
Rosmontis was never the most meta of units to begin with, but time has been fairly unkind to her. Her niche is still quite unique and so she is worthy of investment, but her damage isn't where it should be and there are usually simpler solutions to what she solves. Her rating only falls further with the Roguelike mode where her inability to hit drones becomes a much bigger problem.
Although both her S2 and S3 are usable skills, focus only on her S3 for Mastery. It is her more unique niche as well as having far superior gains. Her S2 is a popular skill for its better uptime and lack of reliance on deployable tiles, but is somewhat notorious for its rather poor Mastery gains and poor damage relative to other current options. It is an easy skip for any reason except waifu desire.
Archetto has seen her stock rise pretty dramatically of late. She has always been good, but in a lot of content she plays a distant third fiddle to Exusiai and Ash. Now with the advent of the Roguelike mode, she has become a much stronger option, often surpassing Ash and competing strongly with Exusiai.
Both her S2 and S3 are strong skills with strong Masteries and if you regularly use her, you will want to do both. S2 especially can feel very underwhelming without Masteries. Of course a 6★ M6 is quite expensive, so as a matter of priority, favor her S3 if you do not have Exusiai (or don't want to use her), and favor S2 if you do. Although Archetto's S3 maintains some strong and important niches, it has a lot more overlap with Exusiai, while S2 is her more unique option if she is acting as a compliment instead of being your main Marksman Sniper.
Her S1 may also be worth considering as well. While less unique than the other two skills, it does have several things that work in its favor. It is Auto Activation which may appeal to those who find her S2 to be tedious, it handles armor best among her skills, and it can significantly out-DPS S2 in dense crowds. Archetto won't be worth the full (and expensive) M9 for most people, but she is still a reasonable low-priority consideration for the honor.
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. However its single-target nature and reliance on stunability hinders her value slightly as she can go quickly from fantastic to useless. Especially in the Roguelike mode where she doesn't work well with the best Relics, her value can often times be very limited.
Ch'en the Holungday
Ch'en the Holungday, regardless of any controversy, is one of the best DPS units in the game, so her skills are among the highest Mastery priorities. Her S3 hits incredibly hard, has a high total damage, and is further enhanced by its flexible, resource-efficient ammo system. Put simply, it’s one of the best DPS skills in the game, and it has priority grades which reflect that.
With that said, a small bit of caution is warranted. Her Mastery gains are a touch worse than others in the S++ tier of priorities. If you have them, you should consider starting with the likes of Texas2, Mlynar, or Surtr instead. Just keep in mind that doesn’t mean she isn't an S++ tier unit — she is still among the highest priority units.
Her other skills aren't really worth considering. While both are good skills on their own, there's almost never any reason to consider either over S3. If you really wanted to do a second skill, her S1 would be the one to go with since it works with the various ASPD buffs in modes like IS or SSS.
Fartooth overlaps a lot with Schwarz, but does the main job of damage quite a bit worse, leading to an ultimately disappointing unit. Her range advantage niche is obvious, but the stages in Arknights are never designed where a specific solution is required, so the places she can really excel with that unlimited range are pretty small, and generally better resolved by other means, and her targeting talent often means wasted shots against weaker enemies that cross into the expansive range.
Worse, her S2 is an awkwardly designed skill. It lacks a damage multiplier, limiting the targets she can be effective against, and imposes a harsh requirement that no other global range unit has to deal with. It's ungraded here, though it's worth pointing out that it can be a valid Mastery to pursue if you're aiming to make regular use of her. It can be used similarly to Schwarz' S2, that is, a high DPS skill without the range restriction of S3, since the blocking requirement is only for units outside of her normal range, and it has the much bigger Deadeye range.
To be clear, none of that is to say she's bad. She can actually be a very valuable asset to many teams and has pretty reasonable value in her S3 Masteries. There's just very often better options out there and is quite costly for what is ultimately a narrow niche.
She is a poor pick in the Roguelike. Snipers are a crowded group full of lots of better choices for the Hope cost, and her talent becomes useless in some of the stages. All while having the same problem she has in the main game of limited places to apply her niche. Certainly she is usable, but is a sub-optimal pick.
While Fiammetta is a viable M6 consideration, her S2 is the far better choice for Mastery and her S3 isn't nearly as good as many people think it is. That's an understandable thing since it's rare these days that a 6★s key skill is NOT their S3 and Fia's S3 is certainly a flashy looking skill. However her S3 has a pretty bad positioning problem. It's only really her best DPS in a small tile-and-a-half sized circle at the impact point, and given it's so far away from her it becomes highly map dependent if ideal positioning can be achieved. In many cases she just gives a few chip shots as enemies pass. Though it does still have value, especially if you favor the lazier variety of clears, be aware the Mastery gains on it are fairly small as well and it comes out as a luxury overall.
Instead, focus on her S2 Masteries. Her S2 has its own issues, but they are less restrictive than the S3 issues. The straight line where damage is at its highest is far easier to deal with than S3's ranged pinpoint. S2 is also the go to skill in the IS mode where it interacts better with the ASPD relics since she can double dip with her second talent, along with the better flexibility. And last, S2 has far better gains over Mastery than S3. While the improved sp cost on S3 barely matters on an infinite duration skill, it makes a very sizable difference for a skill used as often as S2.
Fia gains a lot of value in IS#3. She was always a very strong IS pick, but range is especially valuable in the third iteration. Also, related to IS, be aware that her S2 does not typically work with Spinach-type relics. The damage takes too long to apply, so the buff is lost before the damage happens.
Pozëmka / Pozyomka
Pozëmka (Pozy) is one of the best DPS units in the game. There isn't a lot of nuance when it comes to that tier of unit. The best skill on one of the best units has one of the best ranks, and most people won't need to look beyond that. S3 has sizable Mastery gains too, with big improvements to damage, cycle time, and initial windup. How much more convincing do you need to make it a high priority upgrade?
Her S2 can be an appealing secondary Mastery. It is difficult to give up the damage that S3 brings, but S2 gives her quite a bit more flexibility. The M3 upgrade in particular drops the redeployment time on her typewriter by an additional 4 seconds and comes with a nice SP cost reduction, which makes it a huge upgrade in terms of flexibility. For a unit of Pozy's pedigree, it’s something worth considering once you're done with your team's primary upgrades. Keep in mind, however, that she cannot activate S2 if nothing is in her own range (not the typewriter’s range) which is pretty limiting compared to S3.
Finally, Pozy's S1 is ungraded since the niches it fills over S3 or S2 are miniscule. However, you might consider it as a luxury extra if you particularly like Pozy and find yourself using her a lot. Burst is almost always better in this game, but with S1 Pozy has some of the highest consistent DPS in the game.
Ifrit has two very good skills. In many places you will find her S2 Masteries favored over S3. Although Ifrit is most definitely a worthy M6 candidate, I strongly disagree with that assessment and suggest starting with her S3 after grabbing the inexpensive S2M1 breakpoint. Her S3 has far stronger DPS on a super short cycle time. Far shorter than most other skills of its kind which makes timing it significantly easier than most. The RES shred is also frequently more important, especially in the end game. Of course, her S2 is still quite good and oftentimes better, especially in the Roguelike where the required team support can be a problem, so look to pursue both.
Even after three years of content, Eyjafjalla still reigns supreme as the top Caster in the game. Although there are many reasons for this, a big one is that she also has two of the best Caster skills which gives her a lot of flexibility in how she deals out damage, and you'll definitely want to Master both of them. After the S2M1 breakpoint, focus on her S3M3 which is one of the best burst DPS skills in the game for both Story and Advanced clears. Her S3 needs Mastery to really reach its potential since it has some pretty incredible gains including an extra target at M3. Don't cheap out on the remaining S2 Masteries though, especially for more Story and Roguelike-centric players who need consistent Arts DPS.
Historically, Mostima has been one of the lowest graded units in this guide. Since nearly launch, she has epitomized early design mistakes, with her paltry damage, long downtime, and high costs. That is still mostly true. While most basement dweller 6★s picked up good Modules, Mostima is a unique case. Her SPC-Y Module is quite good, and it does give her a strong niche that even appears in some end-game scenarios like CC#12. However, it does not have a huge influence on her skills such as with someone like Guard Ch'en. Even with full Mastery, her damage is still weak and her cycle time is still brutally long. In other words, her SPC-Y Module niche is worth almost as much at SL7 as it is at M3. It's worth enough to note with a grade here, but it’s not something most players should consider, given the costs of Modules and her general weaknesses.
Ceobe's S2 is her main DPS skill and has 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 while most units only get 10-20% from Mastery. S2M3 is incredibly important for her viability, though she's not quite as top-tier as many other 6★s since she tends to be much more niche. That keeps the grade down just a touch, relatively speaking. Note that S2M2 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.
|S3M3||B *||B+ *||B *|
* Note S3 is graded assuming Dusk has her SPC-Y Module level 3. If you do NOT plan to get this upgraded Module or prefer her SPC-X, treat the priority of S3 lower. See the write up below for more details.
Dusk is one of the weakest 6★ Caster options, so her investment priority is generally quite low. However, she is still sufficiently usable should you favor her or lack the more meta options. Like many off-meta 6★s, the best Mastery to put first depends on how you intend to use her.
Her S1 is a popular Mastery choice for those who wish to use Dusk as a daily driver. It is similar to the very meta Eyjafjalla's S2, though it lacks many of the features that make Eyja’s S2 so good. It gains an extra charge at M1 which is worthwhile for everyone, but the reduced SP cost at M3 will be important if you're making regular use out of Dusk. It pairs best with her SPC-X Module, but the expensive upgrades are not essential to using S1 effectively.
Meanwhile her S3 is the far more unique skill. It adds a huge amount of blocking utility, something that Casters typically lack. It is the best skill to target if you only plan to use Dusk in the situations where she stands out from the rest of the cast. While low damage and a brutal SP cycle time badly hurt most of its potential, her SPC-Y Module upgrades can make a big difference here. You still need to keep the SP lockout during skill duration in mind, but the leftover Freelings with SPC-Y level 3 can jumpstart the following cycle which makes a huge difference in viability.
Finally, her S2 is worth discussion, though it remains ungraded. The extended range and true-AoE can be very valuable at times, so the skill may be worth pursuing as well if you particularly like using Dusk. However, most won’t find the damage to be worth the cost.
Passenger is a unit with a long and storied past, full of ups and downs. It's all worthy of its own article, but for now the end result is a very decent mid-to-high level Arts DPS unit, with good burst and a flexible range.
His main value is in his S3 which is where your Mastery focus should start. The description can be a little daunting, but it is fairly straightforward: it basically dishes out strong burst damage in a very short interval. It warrants special note for the Roguelike mode, where it interacts with the Hand of Diffusion relic, resulting in near infinite uses (which is where the Passenjesus or Godhand nicknames originate). However, in the rest of the game, a long charge time and a rather middling gain from Mastery keep the priority somewhat low for a DPS skill.
His S2 is also pretty good as a more “typical” Chain Caster skill; however, it is ultimately not what Passenger is known for. It’s less valuable in its niche than S3 is, less necessary on stronger teams, and only marginally better than the 5★ alternatives. It’s a luxury option for those who want a bit of off-meta flexibility.
Carnelian is a decent 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 decent Story mode unit 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.
Goldenglow's go to skill is her S3 thanks to its extremely strong burst and rare global range (the first global range skill with no condition or targeting priority). It has important Mastery gains as well thanks to a fairly high attack multiplier that applies to all of her drones (both their base attack and their explosion damage) which makes it a high priority Mastery on one of the strongest units in the game.
Her S2 makes an excellent alternative for when the global range isn't necessary (and you can afford the wind up time of course). It is the go to skill in longer stages, especially in the SSS mode (counted under the Story grade here). However it has fairly weak Mastery gains with no improvements to the wind-up time and somewhat small Attack gains for an infinite duration skill. Additionally her S3 has fairly short downtime for a skill of its power which drives S2 to be relatively more niche. Goldenglow is so powerful that she is worth the M6, but her S2 has much lower priority and doesn't at all need to be rushed.
It's worth noting her S1 since it has absolutely massive single target DPS. It even out paces Ceobe against all but the highest armor enemies and can often even still perform better overall in those cases thanks to a much shorter cycletime and built in RES shred. However it ultimately remains ungraded since the situations it is better than S2 or S3 (or another operator like Surtr) are very small. It has good gains and a niche so it's something to consider to maximize waifu, but for most players S3 will cover the same needs as S1 already.
In the realm of 6★ DPS, Ebenholz is pretty middling. There's just so many good options these days, and he can seem anemic and difficult to use in comparison. However, his targeting is unique and useful, and he can hit like a truck, which is quite satisfying. Just be aware that your resources are probably better spent on more mainline-meta units. That leaves his grades a bit lower than most 6★ DPS units, especially for the IS and CC game modes.
All that said, Ebenholz has two skills worth Mastering should you decide to pursue him. S3 is the obvious first choice, as it caters strongly to his boss/elite-killing niche. It also has pretty significant gains that improve pretty much all aspects of the skill. However, the skill can be tricky to get the hang of. Timing and map knowledge are critical to keeping him from blowing his charges on trash. It isn't a skill for the impatient or lazy.
When that elite-killing niche isn't needed, his S2 is a very strong alternative, and can often be the better daily driver skill. It can be difficult to wrap your head around at first, but it's not really that complicated. He essentially summons a bunch of proximity mines that explode for big damage. There is the ever present problem with such skills where they're difficult to control and often wasted on trash mobs, but the cooldown on the skill is short enough that it remains quite usable. Mastery is a pretty big increase to S2’s damage, so Ebenholz is a strong M6 candidate, supposing you plan to actually use him over more meta options.
In some ways, Nightingale is the most broken unit in the game. No other unit can shut down an entire mechanic (Arts Damage) as well as she can. Her extreme ability to do so is likely why we have not gotten another unit with the ability to buff RES since the launch of the game.
However, some caution before Mastery investment is warranted. With how the game is balanced, Nightingale is never a necessary solution outside of some extreme end-game circumstances. In many of the places she is most powerful in (eg. Chapter 8), she is sufficient at SL7, and in situations where the RES isn't necessary, she is frequently worse than lower rarity Medics. This makes Mastery tricky. Generally speaking, you should prioritize DPS above all else, but Nightingale's S3 is so powerful in the situations it matters that it is worth considering among the first support-type Masteries. Advanced and Roguelike players especially will want to prioritize her higher, and she is particularly valuable in IS#3.
Another consideration for Mastery is her S2. While it is nowhere near as powerful as her S3, its consistency can be appealing given S3’s massive cooldown. However, investment beyond the M1 breakpoint is a luxury, even if the gains at M3 are quite nice.
In an era where straight tanking is generally not the ideal solution, Shining has seen a dramatic drop in viability. She is almost always outclassed by the far more versatile and lower rarity options. On top of that, her Mastery gains are fairly unimpressive and best left to personal desire. This is especially true for Roguelike players where her Hope cost only lowers her value further. The exception to this, and the place she still holds value, is in enabling Aak buffs. It is a modestly popular strategy in Advanced situations (or just for fun), and S3 Mastery is frequently required for ranged units to survive the stim. But if that doesn't interest you, she is a pretty safe skip.
Alternatively, if you have no interest in Aak buffing, S2 can be an appealing option due to S3’s ludicrous SP cost. However, it is a very low priority option. There are many better ST Medics to consider Mastering before Shining such as Warfarin, the Elemental Medics, and the Therapist Medics.
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.
Although that said, if you intend to use Kal'tsit in the Roguelike mode, especially as your starter option (which is a very strong course of action), you'll want to prioritize her S2 Masteries more highly than normal. Her S3 is still her key skill, but especially early on in the run, her S2 will be more valuable when you need Monst3r to act in that cornerstone role.
Lumen's best skill is easily his S3. Supposing you can afford the long wind-up time, it ends up with massive healing-per-second that usually lasts the entire duration of the map. It will stay active until his ammo is depleted, which only happens when removing a status effect. Of course, it can run out if there's heavy status effects in the map, but that just ends up playing to the main strength of the skill, which is instantly clearing status effects! His S3 Masteries are quite important, granting additional ammo (i.e. lasting power) and reducing the windup time, as well as significantly improving his healing. Lumen is not a 'must-raise' sort of unit, especially for purely Story players (focus on Nightingale or a Berry first), but his S3 Mastery is important if you are using him.
Those who particularly like Lumen might also find some value in his S2, but it usually ends up being too weak in comparison to his S3. Lumen has two main values: his very strong healing and his status removal. Even at S2M3, he requires 26 SP to remove statues (due to the Charged effect) which is already halfway to S3's activation. There are certainly places that can matter, but they are far and few between and you give up a lot of healing effectiveness to get it. On top of that, status effects rarely pile up all at once, which is the main scenario his S2 would be particularly effective. It just has so few places where it is better than his S3, and fewer still that justify the Mastery. His S2 does have an M1 breakpoint, but its usage is so much lower that even that is probably not worth pursuing for most.
Angelina was a historically strong unit. In the game’s early days, there were not many sources of strong Arts damage and in the original guide she was a top graded unit. Unfortunately, her niche and value have continually fallen since launch. These days what she does is done better elsewhere, which makes her Masteries a low priority for her rarity. While she is still certainly serviceable, investment in her Masteries is often a luxury or due to a lack of better options.
Should you decide to invest into Angelina despite her middling value, both S2 and S3 are worth considering. As a DPS replacement, her S3 is the standout. Mastery grants it a huge increase to uptime and damage. However, if you already have more powerful damage options, S3 can feel unnecessary. When it comes to more Advanced situations, it is often her S2 that stands out due to its extremely high uptime Slow. The Mastery gains on it can seem rather anemic, but the reduced SP cost improves the skill's best value — its uptime.
Magallan is a unit that has fallen on hard times. While she has always been potentially powerful, she has also always been a tricky unit since the Summoner gimmick tends to fit in poorly with most people's play-styles. However even that role is heavily eroded with the soon to be released Ling who decimates the Summoner landscape.
The niche Magallan still holds over Ling is in the stall of her S1. It is a very strong stall that Advanced players will find appealing, and Mastery is quite important for its use. Her S3 is the real victim though. While it is still her best DPS skill for general use, it is generally inferior to Ling and is now left only to those who specifically want to use Magallan, a crowd of people who were already quite small.
Pass on her entirely for the Roguelike mode. Limited deployment slots and the fact her drones can't block means she is a far bigger liability than a help.
This guide strongly favors beginning with your key DPS first when it comes to Mastery priorities. Once those are done though, Suzuran should be among your first support role considerations. She is, by and large, considered to be the best support unit in the game. This is due to her flexible S3, which covers a lot of ground. The improvements to her damage amp from Mastery can be a little tough to appreciate, but they are sizable and important, and her S3 Mastery is an important meta investment.
Her S2 is also an option for those who want to use her as more than just a debuffer. It has decent DPS and good control, but that role has tough competition these days. In most of the game it isn't worth the resources unless you personally want to use Suzuran in a more general team role. However, it is extremely good in the SSS mode. Arts damage is favored there and it is easy to stack ASPD on Suzuran, giving her strong damage and 100% uptime slow on multiple targets. That still won't justify the extra costs for a lot of people since she can still fill that role without the full M3, but at least grab the breakpoint at M1. It adds an additional target which is a huge upgrade for the cost.
Skadi the Corrupting Heart
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! It is one of the most powerful skills available in the Roguelike mode.
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, but it does tend it towards more Advanced situations. Most of the time, especially in the Roguelike mode, you'll want 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.
Gnosis is a powerful unit that offers an easy and powerful solution to many irritating mechanics. Freeze is one of the best forms of crowd control, and Gnosis reliably applies it with very high uptime. Along with a powerful damage amp, and good damage of his own, he has proven to have a ton of value across all game modes. S3 is his main skill to that effect. Its Masteries can seem a bit on the weak side, but the improvements to uptime and cycle time are important to the role he fills.
His S2 is another good skill. In most situations it doesn't have the meta value of his S3, but has one of the best crowd control uptimes in the game, and its Mastery gains are crucial. This results in a grade slightly higher than the skill’s value. It’s definitely worth pursuing Mastery if you intend to make regular use of Gnosis, but you can often treat it with lower priority. However, it is a very valuable skill in IS#3 where control is often necessary, so he becomes a much stronger M6 consideration there.
Finally, note that Gnosis’ S1 is used fairly frequently, but it doesn’t need Mastery. S1 is primarily used for its shorter cooldown Freeze, which Mastery doesn’t improve.
For all of the discussion surrounding Ling, she is quite a simple unit as far as Masteries go. Her S3 is far and away her key skill and the one that makes her as powerful as she is. The Higher Form dragons are absolute monsters of stats, and those giant stat sticks are key to her usage. Masteries on the skill go a long way too, giving significant boosts to the already inflated stats (though keep in mind the base stats depend on her level and not skill). Her Summons are quite powerful still at SL7, but you'll need M3 to truly bring out her potential.
A small aside on the matter of Advanced players. She is a somewhat tricky unit for those sorts as it depends what "Advanced" means to you specifically. For CC specifically she has yet to make a meaningful high risk appearance and is fairly unlikely to in the future given some of the more common risks. However, how hard she carries low-OP clears keeps her Advanced grades up significantly, so adjust the grade here depending on your goals.
Although her S3 is her main skill, it does have limitations which gives good value to her S2. However her S2 plays much more similarly to other Summoners like Magallan so the types of players who will get value out of it are more limited. It is especially important for players looking to use her in the Roguelike since melee-only S3 dragons are not good on all stages. Outside of that mode though it tends to be more of a luxury option if you don't consider Ling a waifu-tier unit.
Finally, pass on her S1. It does have some niche value that Ling extremists may find useful from time to time, but a vast majority of the time it is inferior to S3. For most players it is an easy skip.
Stainless is a tricky unit to give Mastery suggestions for as he is reliant on other units to be effective. All of his skills are support oriented, to include his S3. While he can, of course, use S3 on his own, the DPS without someone else is quite poor. S3 is the standout here, but the support nature and some odd Mastery gains makes him quite nuanced and he could reasonably range from "don't raise at all" to "full M9", depending on what you want out of him.
His DPS support role with S3 is the best starting point due it's extreme flexibility, and some flaws in his other skills. The first thing to note is that his S3 has significantly better Mastery gains than it appears. This can't be seen in his operator page directly so it is easy to overlook, but the turret's internal skill that deals the damage also improves over Mastery. From SL7 to S3M3, the direct damage increases from 260% to 300% and the splash damage increases from 120% to 150%. You can see these details over on the the CN wiki.
That out of the way, his turrets add a huge amount of flexibility to your DPS units. For some examples, he can safely extend the range of more fragile DPS units. He can convert low damage-per-hit (DPH) units like Exusiai into high DPH units to help them overcome armor. He can double dip on multi-hit units like Mlynar or La Pluma. He can charge Offensive Recovery skills like Thorns S3 or Ines S1. There are many more, but it would be a fool's errand to attempt to list them all.
However, that all can seem gimmicky if there isn't a good place to take advantage of these things. With the way AK is designed, these sorts of things are never a necessity, and it is not always easy to come up with these trickier solutions. While it is his best skill, ultimately his S3 is still a luxury relative to its potential.
Meanwhile, his S1 and S2 are more typical support skills. While not bad skills on their own, they do suffer from some fatal flaws that keep them out of meta consideration. Primarily, it is that Stainless is not a good unit on his own. Since deployment slots are limited, the best support units are those that justify the spot on the field. In Stainless' case he does nothing outside of turrets and has relatively poor stats. Compare that to Operators like Warfarin or Ptilopsis who are amazing Medics with strong general purpose Talents. This makes the Mastery gains on his S2 especially poor since a bulk of the "benefit" is focused on his own stats and the actual buff gets no benefit aside from a tiny cycle time improvement. His S1 meanwhile has better gains, but again since he is a fairly poor unit, it relegates that role to meme comps instead of being more general purpose like Skadi2 or Warfarin.
In summary, start with S3M3 (if you do any at all) and stop there. Use S2 regularly, but it will be fine at SL7. Only pursue Mastery as a matter of luxury. Finally, consider S1 as a secondary option if you want to open up a few more possibilities with him.
Despite being a 5★, Texas is probably the most valuable Pioneer Vanguard in the game. While her stats are middling, her Talent and her S2 are assuredly not. Despite that, her Masteries can be tough to appreciate since the damage is nothing special. Texas gains an extension to her stun duration at M1 which is powerful for the cost, but the benefits beyond that are not nearly as impressive. Advanced and Roguelike players will want to prioritize her fairly highly anyway. The upgrades to her wind-up and DP generation are not huge, but they do matter, especially when using her in tandem with Bagpipe. However, Story-only players may find that not particularly worth the cost as that super rapid setup is often nowhere near as necessary there.
Being defensive oriented with low DP generation and a long skill windup kills a lot of Zima's value in the current meta. However she does occasionally creep in with her strong buff and talent, though most players will be fine sticking with cheaper options.
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 generation skill, 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 very rare in Story scenarios, so Elysium's S2 is the better choice for its utility.
However for Advanced situations such as high-risk CC, his S1 gains a lot of priority. DP management is extremely important, and with the introduction of Saileach, his S1 has become a far more important option, often being preferred over Myrtle (unless you run all three of course). Advanced players will want to prioritize Elysium's S1M3 quite a bit higher, whereas Story players may not want to bother at all.
Finally 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.
Blacknight's main skill is her S2. It is the centerpiece of the pseudo-meta sleep stall strategy that has occasionally arisen. But even outside of that it is a strong skill with a very high uptime stall on a low DP cost unit, even if she is operating alone. She has a ton of value as an early hold unit, especially considering her rarity, and holds her value as the stage progresses. Her M3 Mastery is quite important to that end, though the M1 and M2 are somewhat mediocre alone, so be sure to go all the way with her Masteries.
In previous versions of this guide, Blacknight's S1 was a decently graded alternative, but it has since been removed. It might be something to consider still if you are using Blacknight over other, better, options. After all, it does have better DP generation and it improves her Slumberbeast’s combat prowess. However, her value ultimately lies in her S2. Even outside of sleep stall comps, S2 is the superior skill, being able to reliably stall many dangerous enemies at all phases of a stage. This makes S1 only worth it for Blacknight diehards.
Cantabile is a very powerful and flexible unit, and is very worthy of an M6 consideration, a rarity among 5★s.
Most people will want to start with her S2. It is the better skill and has very important Mastery gains. Notably, it can be instantly activated at M2 with Bagpipe (regardless of Bagpipe's potentials). Although that is a big point, you will want the full M3 due to ammo and ASPD gains.
If you do not have Bagpipe, you may want to consider starting with S1 Masteries instead. Without Bagpipe, S2 is quite a bit less appealing. The initial cost on S2 can be quite high for the role she fills so the instantly activated S1 can be more appealing. However, even if you do have Bagpipe, you should still consider S1 for Mastery in addition to S2, albeit with lower priority. It has the higher attack multiplier and produces more DP, and for a unit of Cantabile's power, that difference can matter.
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.
Because Lappland's S2 is attack recovery, the gain in SP cost reduction from Mastery 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, though Roguelike players will still find her very powerful with certain relics.
Although not really a Mastery topic, I'd like to take a small digression. Older players often incorrectly say that Silence has become useless, though that isn't really true. Their observation has more to do with the power creep of the game which has made Silence less important. There are still plentiful situations for Silence to shine, and Lappland continues to be the best unit to apply it, so I still rate both her and her Masteries quite highly.
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 is a powerful unit. Few can match the utility of her reliable AoE stun on a short cooldown, short activation, and stacking charges. This has been especially true in Advanced situations when combo'd with Liskarm, though there are a number of other stall alternatives these days as well. Still, she is quite powerful and her S2 Masteries are very important to that end. Story players won't find this niche to be quite as valuable as Advanced and Roguelike players will, but Story players should not underestimate her either.
While not the strongest Arts Guard (Surtr makes for some stiff competition), Amiya's Guard form is a powerful DPS option for the rarity, not to mention easily accessible as part of the story progression. S1 is the best starting point for Masteries. It has strong Arts DPS, and the drawback of only using S2 once per map is significant. Despite that, her S2 is likewise worthy of Mastery for when that near instant burst is necessary.
Be aware that while her Guard S2 is a good skill that is well worth pursuing, her Caster S3 is the better starting point if you are looking for a True Damage skill. The initial S2 slashes are regular Arts Damage, while the True Damage slashes are restricted to her immediate (and much smaller) attack range. This makes Caster S3 the much better skill for the purposes of True Damage, and her Guard S2 more situational.
The typically favored Mastery progression for Amiya is Caster S3 followed by Guard S1, with Guard S2 a somewhat distant third.
It pains me to grade Akafuyu because she's one of my personal favorites. But ultimately I'm forced to come to terms with a weak archtype, 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, though the bulk of her S2 is appealing. Ultimately though, both are luxury options.
La Pluma has two very good skills, and the choice between them is not an easy one, so prepare yourself for the full M6 investment. Her skills occupy the fairly typical "consistent vs burst" divide. This guide typically favors the burst skills in these situations, but in La Pluma's case, the gap is much narrower. On top of that, both have extremely strong Masteries (among the best in the game), so most people using La Pluma will definitely want to Master both.
Her S2 is probably the better starting point. It has an eye-watering 37% increase in DPS over Mastery (most skills average only about 15-20%), and the interval reduction also adds a huge amount to her sustain. However, her S1 is no less strong. In addition to many people preferring consistent skills to begin with, it also tackles armor better, works extremely well with various IS relics, and sustains herself better on average. Owing to her lack of external sustain, S2's downtime can often be extremely dangerous, so S1 is favored in blind runs. Its Masteries aren't quite as insane as S2, but are still well above average.
La Pluma is not a mandatory unit. There are so many strong 6★ Cornerstone units these days that she may struggle to find a role on stronger teams. However, should you lack those options (or simply not want to use them), then La Pluma has some of the highest priority 5★ Masteries out there.
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.
Nearl is a great basic unit that forms a natural bridge across rarities, but as a result she fits in the meta somewhat awkwardly. She has no niche over Saria, who is one of the best units in the game, and is only incrementally better than Gummy, who is much more cost effective, especially in the Roguelike mode where Hope is a factor as well. Nearl’s Defender form is by no means a bad unit and her priority grades reflect that; however, she does lean a bit more to the luxury side than a unit of her caliber might normally be. Stick with her S1. The short cooldown consistency is where much of the value of the archetype lies. Her S2 has value as well if you intend to maximize your Nearl usage, but the long cooldown makes it much more situational compared to just using a Medic.
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. Roguelike players likely won't want to do either, as pure blocking Defenders have pretty low value there.
Ashlock is an interesting unit. She has the longest range of any melee unit in the game, and has pretty high Physical AoE damage to boot (many qualities in why SilverAsh is so good)! However she can be quite a hard unit to use and her range can be just as much of a hindrance as it is a help, making her the very definition of "niche". She can do some very impressive things, working around stage mechanics and clearing waves other units at her rarity struggle with. But for a lot of people, she just won't be worth the effort or resources (which are really really high compared to most other 5*s).
Now that said, if you do intend to use Ashlock, her S2 Masteries are incredibly important. There's a huge jump in damage between M2 and M3, so don't skimp if you want her to be a regular on the team.
One final note, her Advanced grade is high because this is a skill that creative players will favor, but be aware it is certainly not a meta CC skill.
Pullers are in an awkward spot, and Cliffheart is no exception. However, her S2M3 is shockingly powerful. A 3 second stun on a 15 second cooldown is already good, then she gains very rare True Damage on top of it. The skill even maintains its 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. Finally, while Shifters in general struggle in the Roguelike, and there are better options for everything else she does, Cliffheart does have some niche value due to her stun.
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 her 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. Don't bother at all with regards to the Roguelike, however, as shifting has very little value there.
There aren't many slows in the game with 100% uptime. Manticore's S1 is one of them and it is very good for that reason. More Story-centric players might not notice a massive difference though, especially as the cost increases sharply at M3, and she is especially weak in the Roguelike where the cheaper Ethan is usually the better pick.
Projekt Red has had her ups and downs in the meta since launch. At times her damage has seemed inconsequential and her niches extremely fringe. At other times, such as the current here and now, her niches seem so valuable that she is useful even in an era of the hyper-meta Texas2 and Yato2. These days, she is very frequently more useful than Phantom. Being better than a 6★ is not something many 5★s can lay claim to!
Both of Red's skills are good, and the niches they fill are different which makes her one of the better graded 5★s. S1 will play better to her "minimum damage" Talent, and the dodge will let her get that damage in on some very dangerous targets that other FRDs would quickly die to. Meanwhile, her S2 is unique in how rapidly it applies stun. Many similar Operators have very noticeable activation times, and that difference in time can make a huge difference. To this day, no crowd-control is as rapidly applied as Red's S2. Be aware that the stun duration scales with Mastery level, so the later stages can seem extremely expensive for the gains.
All that said, Projekt Red’s total DPS is still fairly low, and the benefits she brings are most most appreciated in more Advanced content. For many players, she can seem a bit too "subtle" for the expensive costs when compared to more straightforward solutions. Investment into Red is not mandatory, but she will be extremely rewarding for those who value her unique skills.
Trapmasters are high effort units that will not appeal to many players, but they are also very high reward for those willing to invest the resources and time. Many players will be fine skipping Robin entirely, but if you find her kit and playstyle appealing, you will want to prioritize Robin's Masteries quite highly. The reduced recovery time for her mines is extremely important to using Trapmasters effectively. Both skills are very good with valuable Masteries, but stick with S1 if you only intend to do one. S2 is capable of better overall stall since traps can be replaced when the enemy is pushed off of the tile, but it requires the enemy in question to be lightweight. Since bigger threats tend to be heavier, S2 will often be completely ineffective against the targets you'll actually want to stall.
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 is a good unit, but one that can be a questionable investment for Masteries. She has low gains on S1 that don’t affect its primary use case, and S2 is harder to use than comparable skills. You likely don’t need Masteries at all with Kafka. Many people even leave her at E0 for the reduced DP cost since the Sleep duration remains unchanged. However, if you do promote her, both skills are reasonable options for Mastery. I would ultimately favor S1 first. While the total damage gains are quite small for the cost of Mastery, it is still her best skill and the primary reason to bring her. The gains on S2 are better, but it is much harder to use and best left for waifu purposes.
Mr. Nothing has a bit of a bad reputation. I’m not sure where that came from, exactly. He has really solid DPS, a great talent, and a super interesting kit. However, he's still tough to suggest Mastery investment for. His main meta value is in his talent, which can be used to great effect in IS#3 or various Advanced stall strategies, but doesn't gain anything meaningful from Masteries. Furthermore, there just isn't a lot of reason to use him over Jaye who is ridiculous and half the cost. As a value prospect, you almost certainly have better places to put your resources.
All that said, if you do want to Master a skill, S2 is the better option. S1 is 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 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.
Kazemaru's main skill is her S2. Her clone's ATK is based off of her own and the skill enhancement effect is applied before the nuke from her Talent, resulting in a triple whammy of damage increase, though the total increase is still somewhat modest for the cost which keeps her grades down just a touch.
Her S1 is ungraded due to it being quite a bit more niche on a non-meta unit, but it's something to consider for those who particularly favor Kazemaru. In addition to strong gains and superior single target damage, it is a rare example of a Dollkeeper skill that is available immediately after the doll summon ends. Since the doll doesn't gain SP, it can make skills like her S2 or Bena's skills have deceptively long cooldowns. A majority of people won't find what her S1 brings to be terribly useful, but for a few, the gains will be worthwhile.
Enforcer's no-damage and directional shifts are his key advantages over the other Push Strokers, and the directional shift is only available on his S2. Additionally, those niches tend to favor less common scenarios. That is, they’re best to save for specific high impact moments, so the additional control and larger shift force also help make it by far his best skill.
Without the directional shift, his S1 only has a tiny niche that is inferior to other options like FEater’s S1, Weedy S1, or Shaw’s S1, so it is mostly not worth the resources. It does maintain modest grades due to the important shift force increase, however, and can be a reasonable target if he is your only raised Push Stroker. Like most Shifters his Masteries are quite important for his usage.
Snipers - Marksman (Anti-Air)
For a long time I had a lengthy write-up here discussing the value of the various Marksman Snipers relative to each other. As the guide has grown though this has felt unnecessary so it has since been removed. All I will say now is that most of the Marksman Snipers are really good, so they all have good grades, but be cautious about over-investing in the 5★ Marksman. You don't need to raise all of them.
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★ Marksman Sniper to compliment Exusiai. Some of that value is lost in the Roguelike, however, since the best relics work counter to her talent.
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 three 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.
For regular users of Blue Poison, you will probably want to do the full M6, but that is an expensive proposition for most people given how many strong options exist these days. I personally favor S2 here, as burst DPS is much harder to replace, but her S1 is certainly a worthy skill still and will often be the better choice in the Roguelike. That is reflected in the grades here, but really, you could go either way depending on your own preferences.
As a matter of trivia, by the way, Blue Poison's S2M1 might be the biggest breakpoint in the game with an absolutely massive increase to total damage. Definitely do that breakpoint first regardless of what skill you favor.
GreyThroat has the highest single target DPS among the 5★ Marksman 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. Stick with her S2 here which is the better skill for both damage and controllability. Being Attack Recovery makes the Mastery gains quite impactful as well.
Her S1 used to be graded in this guide since it has quite high gains, but there just isn't really a good place to use it in the current game and it has since been removed. She mag dumps the charges early which leaves her playing catch up later and the Auto-Recovery is worse in the Roguelike where the consistency might actually have more value.
Although the same archtype, April should be considered outside of the other Marksman Sniper's role because the role she fills is quite different.
April is a very powerful unit. She is a rare 5★ unit that holds significant value even in a team full of 6★s, 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 Marksman core is on the weak side for a unit you may want to E2 anyway.
Kroos the Keen Glint
Both of Kroos’ skills are good with strong Masteries, and the best option will depend on how you intend to use her. Favor S2 if you are relying on Kroos to be one of your primary Marksman. It has an absolutely massive total damage and some of the strongest Mastery gains in the game. For newer players it will be a tremendous asset, though the lack of an attack modifier ultimately hurts its long term value. That said, it still creeps into the end game on rare occasions as a very receptive buff target, so don’t ignore it either if you’re an Advanced player.
On the other hand, more established players who are looking to raise Kroos for part time use will find better value in her S1. Although the Mastery gains are not nearly as good as S2, the Camouflage retains long term usefulness and the attack multiplier keeps her viable against a wider variety of targets.
While Kroos has always been good in the IS modes thanks to her flexibility, she becomes especially valuable in IS#3. Her micro-stuns help mitigate one of the biggest threats there, which can even make her a better pick than some popular 6★s. Both skills are still viable investments here, but S1 is probably better if you only go for one.
Snipers - Other
The first note for Provence is that if you have Schwarz or Fartooth, don't waste your resources Mastering Provence's skills. Those units do the job better in all regards and to a significant degree. However not everyone has them, so there is still value in the hard hitting Provence for some. She can be a relatively difficult unit to use though, with a very long initial wind-up, short range, and stringent HP requirement, so exercise significant caution before investing.
Avoid her S1 which, while a nice idea, has really poor numbers.
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.
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.
However, that said, her S1 can still come out ahead in some situations. It works particularly well with Archetto. It is also her better option in the Roguelike, should you intend to use Meteorite there since it works much better with the various relics.
High damage per hit Physical damage is frequently the most valuable source of damage since it can overcome both high DEF and high RES, and it’s what Andreana excels at. There are few units who can hit as hard as Andreana does, even at higher rarities; it gives her a valuable niche despite her clunky targeting and HP Restriction. Of course, her half HP drawback is a doozy, so she is hardly a mandatory unit, especially on more meta teams. But even softening high threat targets can be extremely valuable, and with the growing strength of the Abyssal Hunter tribal thanks to Modules, Andreana is a viable consideration.
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.
Amiya’s base Caster form is an interesting unit. We get her for free (obviously) and have to promote her to progress in the story. She’s pretty decent too, which has historically hurt the value of the other 5★ Casters. Given that she is the main character and a required E2 promotion, many would opt to pursue Masteries on her regardless of her power. Lucky for us then that she’s actually incredibly good as well!
True Damage is extremely powerful (and rare) and has grown in value of late. True Damage not only bypasses all DEF and RES, but also bypasses most dodges and damage reductions, which are both common mechanics in recent content. While her total damage and DPS are a touch low, she is the best 5★ Caster simply for how many mechanics she works around. That is something well worth maximizing, though only after more mainline DPS options.
Since Amiya is popular, her other skills are worth a look as well. Her S1 can have ridiculous uptime between her Talent and Module, while her S2 has good DPS without the forced retreat. However, aside from the S2M1 breakpoint, they are luxury options for maximizing our beloved CEO. S1 ultimately has low DPS and the RNG and auto-activated nature of S2 can be extremely frustrating.
|S2M3||A- *||B *||B+ *|
* Note that these skills are graded assuming the unit has her CHA-X Module at least level 2. If you do NOT plan to get this unit's upgraded Module, treat the priority of these skills significantly lower.
Leizi has spent many years loitering at the very bottom of the meta. Her 80 SP cost made her unusable despite decent skill up damage. However, in rare form, Hypergryph actually gave Leizi a Module upgrade that addresses her core issue in a big way. At Module level 2, she gains 1 SP per bounce (not per attack) which makes a huge dent in that otherwise abhorrent downtime. While being reliant on a constant flow of unblocked enemies makes her somewhat unreliable, it also lets her shine in some circumstances with a ridiculously high uptime on good damage and solid control. In SSS, she is especially ridiculous and is one of the top “carry” picks, despite her rarity. Keep in mind that Leizi’s S2 Masteries provide a well above average amount of ATK, so her grades are a touch higher than her overall value. The 5★ Caster group is a crowded and dubious set, but Leizi is one of the few that manages to stand-out… if you’re willing to go the extra mile with investment anyway.
While ungraded, S1 may be worth considering as well if you plan to maximize your Leizi usage. Although it has significantly less damage, it can have really ridiculous uptime thanks to her Module.
Leo might actually be better than his higher rarity counterparts, though that says more about the archtype than it does about him. He badly needs his S2 Masteries to be even remotely good since they give massive gains, so while he is not a mandatory unit to raise, consider his Masteries mandatory if you want to use him.
Beeswax was perhaps the best designed Phalanx Caster (Lin with Module finally surpasses her design-wise). Only her low damage really holds her back. She makes an excellent ranged tank between her bulk and her powerful regeneration. Her S2 is the skill to use because it plays directly into that role, allowing her to switch to a DPS role while the obelisk mitigates her reduced bulk. However, her DPS is relatively weak and her S2 Masteries don't do much to address that. The improved stun and cycle time are nice though, so it is still worth pursuing.
While it doesn't play to her Phalanx role nearly as well, you could also consider S1 if you'd like to use Beeswax regularly. It has much improved damage and a better range, however it leaves her much more vulnerable, meaning it's usually better to bring someone else instead.
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 worthy of investment if you plan to use her or just want something quirky. Her S1 may be worth Mastering as well. It has better damage and range; however she is left much more vulnerable without the Shift on S2 so only go for it if you plan to use Mint over better options.
Kjera, although a decent unit, is one who has a serious value problem. When considering promotion costs, there are more cost-effective 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 high grades here. However if you can stomach the costs she can be a surprisingly reliable Caster, especially in IS. Most people though, will want to stick with Click and put those resources elsewhere.
It's worth noting that along with Gnosis, she can pretty reliably Freeze enemies for her S2 duration which is a pretty powerful combo. If Gnosis is a regular on your team she can look a lot more appealing despite the costs.
The 5★ Casters tend to be a crowded group, but also a decidedly mediocre bunch. Rockrock stands out among them with her incredibly high damage so she can be a modestly strong consideration among the chaff. Her S2 is really the only skill to consider with her S1 performing worse in all situations except when you just don't let her go into Overdrive ever (at which point, why bother using her over Kjera or Click). However despite her damage potential, her overall role is still a fairly tough one and promotion + Mastery costs are expensive for an only slightly above average unit and that's reflected in her grades.
While the 5★ Caster class is crowded and full of questionable value, the Chain Caster archetype has been increasingly useful of late. They combine decent damage with decent control that stacks especially well with the ASPD buffs common in IS and SSS. Astgenne brings a measure of reliability to that role which her rival, Leizi, sometimes lacks. S2 is the go to skill for Astgenne, but the Mastery gains are notably poor, with low damage gains and no improvement to uptime. That keeps her grades down a bit when compared to similar units, so the grades don't necessarily reflect her total value. For most people, she will work perfectly fine at SL7.
Pass on her S1, even the M1 breakpoint. While charge based skills tend to have some value, the higher SP cost significantly narrows the gap on Astgenne. There are vanishingly few places where S1 will outperform S2.
A related aside, be aware that Chain Casters only bounce to three targets at E1. It only increases to their usual four targets at E2. While Astgenne can work well at SL7, she still needs E2. If left at E1, S1 looks significantly more appealing since the extra target is built into the skill itself.
While Ptilopsis is primarily known for her Talent, she also has one of the best pure healing skills in the game. Her S2 Masteries represent big gains too. The interval reduction at M3 results in around a 30% improvement, and the 10 SP initial cost improvement is a meaningful difference in tight spots. So why isn't she graded higher? Well, aside from pure healing skills being generally among the lowest of priorities, Mastery can be expensive overkill. There aren't many scenarios where she can't already outheal at SL7.
While her S2 is almost exclusively preferred from a meta perspective, you could also consider S1 if you're an especially heavy Ptilopsis user. It is much weaker in terms of healing, but has significantly better uptime. Given that her S2 is usually overkill, S1 can at times be preferable. However it is still a waifu-tier only Mastery.
There's very few Medic Masteries worth pursuing, and Warfarin has two of them. Her S1 is the strongest ST pure 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 S2 buff skill which is one of the most viable buff skills in the game, particularly if you are a more Advanced player.
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.
The 5★ Wandering Medics are very valuable, especially in the Roguelike mode, and the choice between Mulberry and Honeyberry is an interesting one with proponents on both sides. Mulberry works better as a regular Medic with much better base healing, while Honeyberry is significantly better at the unique Elemental healing role but with fairly underwhelming normal healing. There is room for both, but that amount of investment into Medics is unpalatable for most people. Whichever you choose, both have well above average Masteries, especially for Medics which typically grade very low.
Mulberry has two good skills that split a somewhat typical burst vs consistency divide. This guide typically favors the burst skill in situations like this. However, in Mulberry's case, her value is primarily in her consistent S1. Her S1M1 breakpoint is very valuable and it is reasonable to stop there in the short term, but it should eventually be pushed to the full M3. At S1M3, Mulberry can consistently maintain S1 activations for almost 75% of her heals, which gives her the highest consistent, conditionless single target healing-per-second (HPS) in the game (others still do better in burst or under certain conditions).
Her S2 is still a valuable skill and worthwhile Mastery. For its duration, S2 has a better total effect against Elemental damage than Honeyberry does, but the long cooldown makes it much more situational. It also has far less necessary Masteries than S1, with her S2M3 being notably one of the worst upgrades for the price in the game. The interval reduction at M2 is valuable and worth pursuing in addition to S1M3, but the only reason to do S2M3 is for the sake of completionism.
The 5★ Wandering Medics are very valuable, especially in the Roguelike mode, and the choice between Mulberry and Honeyberry is an interesting one with proponents on both sides. Mulberry works better as a regular Medic with much better base healing, while Honeyberry is significantly better at the unique Elemental healing role but with fairly underwhelming normal healing. There is room for both, but that amount of investment into Medics is unpalatable for most people. Whichever you choose, both have well above average Masteries, especially for Medics which typically grade very low.
While her regular healing is fairly weak, Honeyberry is so good at that raw Elemental healing role with her S1, that she will usually work sufficiently at SL7. Of course, it is always good to max out strong skills, and her S1 Masteries bring sizable total boosts. However, be aware that those boosts can be deceptive due to a quirk in her skill animations. S1M1 is not the breakpoint it first appears. Under constant pressure, it still activates every third attack, the same as it does at SL7, and since she cannot stack charges like Mulberry can, the benefit is usually lost. Instead, the real benefit is at S1M3 where the SP cost is reduced enough that she can activate S1 every two attacks, resulting in a large boost to her Elemental healing output.
Pass on her S2 Masteries entirely, unless you particularly favor using Honeyberry over better options. While not an awful skill, the total healing is still very low compared to more mainline Medics, and the skill does not help her core Elemental healing role.
Summoners tend to be a love 'em or hate 'em group, with most people falling into the latter. I really wouldn't suggest pursuing Mayer too hard unless you specifically wanted to do Supporter or Summoner specific clears. A majority of people will just find Mayer too tough to use for the reward she gives. And even if you did want to dabble with Summoners, Scene is the better starting point.
So that said, if you did want to use Mayer, her S2 Masteries are fairly important. Mastery gives her a much longer stun, better cycle time (very important), and a big boost on damage. Her S1 is used far less, but it has a really interesting breakpoint at M1 which can give her a bit of team support, though Mastery beyond that initial breakpoint isn't recommended.
All of that said, Mayer gains a lot of value with IS#3. Her remotely activated stuns are very valuable against one of the biggest threats, so she becomes more appealing than Scene despite being more difficult to play. However, keep in mind that her main value is in the stun, so extra investment over E1 and SL7 may not be particularly valuable unless you are using her as a starter.
Scene is an interesting unit as far as Summoners go, as she is the only one other than Ling (who is limited) who can recover her own summons if they die. 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 looking to use a Summoner.
S2 is Scene's key skill since it is the one that gives her additional summons. She does not need Masteries to be effective since the main value is in the drone recovery, but S2M3 certainly helps, giving her summons big stats on a better uptime. 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 to be replaced!
Scene is often touted as a strong starter pick in the Roguelike mode since she is an easy to use unit that can carry many of the early floors on her own. However that role has waned quite a bit. Ling is far better, Deepcolor can do the same with her Module for less cost, and Mayer has more long term value in IS#3 due to her stun. She is still more than usable, especially at lower difficulties, but is no longer a recommended starting point.
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.
Shamare's S2 is an extremely strong Mastery. The key with Shamare is that her cooldown timer begins when the doll is deployed instead of when it expires. At M3 this effectively means she has a 50% uptime (15s while the doll is active, only 15s remaining while the doll is down). In addition, she gains a lot to her debuff values over Mastery. Since the DEF and ATK debuff 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 that. This is a worthwhile Mastery for nearly everyone across all game modes, though as with almost all support skills, you should still put key DPS before her.
Quercus barely edges out a grade here since her Masteries are pretty valuable. Her SP battery niche can be fairly hard to use, but she gains a lot over Mastery between the ASPD boost, wind-up time, and up-time, so if you have bothered to E2 her it can be a valuable consideration.
Her S1 can make for an interesting alternative. The long wind-up during which she is mostly useless keeps it from having a grade. However, when it is activated, she has extremely high healing-per-second (HPS) due to her low attack interval and a unique range compared to proper Medics. Not many people should pursue Mastery on it, but it can give her an appealing niche if you’re looking for something a little different.
Given how valuable her base skill is, many people will promote Proviso anyway, which makes the Mastery decision relatively interesting. Proviso is essentially a slightly better Podenco. She has better damage and duration, but a worse cycle time. That isn't amazing, given that her promotion and Masteries cost twice as much, but it still makes her a more than functional utility option. Her S2 Masteries are very important to using S2 since they provide big boosts to both damage and uptime. The interval reduction at M3 is especially valuable for her DPS, though her overall damage is relatively low still. While she is not as cost effective, her Masteries are reasonable, if low-priority considerations to make a unit you likely are investing in anyway capable on the field. Her S1 is ungraded. It may be useful to those who want to use Proviso as a regular member of the team and has big Mastery upgrades, but it’s easily outclassed by a myriad of other, better options.
The 4★ section of this guide has always been muted, and for a good reason. Really long time readers may remember it once only had four operators in it at all. The fact is with the 4★s is that almost all of them don't need Mastery and usually even E2 isn't suggested. For the role they fill in the game, a high E1 SL7 is usually more than sufficient. It's rare that they creep into the end game with so many powerful top-tier units available, so heavy investment is usually best placed elsewhere.
However, the addition of the Roguelike changes things. I will say, it does not change things as much as you might think. For the most part, you should continue to prioritize 4★s very low with respect to Masteries. But many of them certainly are good and get even better with the new mode, so lots more people will be looking for advice than before. The guide must grow with that fact and expand!
Though again, exercise restraint here. If Myrtle was the only 4★ that you ever Mastered a skill on, you would be totally fine for the life of the game.
Myrtle is the ultimate queen of the 4★s, having appeared all over the game since her release, from the easiest of Story stage to the highest risk Advanced CC clears. She is the only 4★ that everyone should E2 and Master. The focus of that Mastery should first be her S1. The benefits of it can be deceptive at first and seem small, and to be fair she will work at SL7 just fine most of the time. However that initial wind up makes a big difference in usability, plus 4★ Mastery is very cheap which makes it one of the most valuable in the game.
Her S2 is also a quite valuable tool to have handy. It gains a lot of value in the Roguelike mode since Myrtle is already such a strong pick and Medics can sometimes be in short supply. Although it still qualifies as a luxury extra, especially in Story where it should likely be skipped regardless, it is worth considering once your core team is complete.
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 accounts 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 which is why he is listed second in this guide despite the usual order. 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.
His combination of damage and sustain in the relatively weak Specialist class makes Jaye one of the top picks in the Roguelike mode. He is not quite as ubiquitous as Myrtle, especially with the base skill trade off, but is well worth the investment for many people and his Masteries are relatively good for a 4★.
You likely don't need me to tell you why Gravel is good given how ubiquitous she is in the early going. She is still the best at that bait niche well into the endgame, even sometimes appearing in high risk CC. Typically, she works more than fine at E1; her damage is negligible and her bulk is already so high that extra investment is overkill. However, given that she is a unit many people like to E2 anyway, her Masteries have some decent value with low costs and big gains.
Ethan was already a very strong unit, especially for a 4★. Even before his Module, he was debatably the best Ambusher for stalling. However, Ethan got one of the best Module upgrades in the game across all rarities and he is now undeniably the best Ambusher. His Module level 2 makes his bind time match his attack interval, meaning he can permanently bind enemies in his range. Mastery is especially important for that purpose due to the improved activation chance at M3. With his Module level 3 and S2M3, his activation chance becomes a very comfortable 84%. That high chance to permanently stall enemies in his range is invaluable, even more so for the relatively low costs of 4★ Masteries and Modules.
Beanstalk is an interesting alternative to the typical Vanguard landscape. Her free unkillable blocker along with decent DPS can be really useful, especially in the Roguelike. However her Masteries are quite weak, especially compared to the more ubiquitous Myrtle since the initial windup isn't nearly as valuable to her. If you are using Beanstalk regularly, you will likely want to Master both skills, but favor her S2 first which is the more impactful skill. The faster cycle time on her S1 can be important, but will matter in far fewer places. But really, Beanstalk works completely fine at SL7, even if you've already E2'd her for the stats so invest with caution.
Vigna has some surprising value and is one of the few low-rarity operators who has enough ATK to punch through heavy enemy DEF. She ends up being more useful, especially after modules, than the 5★ Chargers even before accounting for investment value. Her S2 Masteries are actually pretty valuable, though investment beyond E1 SL7 tends to be overkill.
Cutter is one of the best low rarity melee options. Although she can't quite hang with the 6★s in the very end game, she can cover a lot of ground in the meantime, especially on weaker teams where her big hit damage and ability to cover air are huge assets. She is especially valuable in the Roguelike where she works very well with the best relics on top of being an inexpensive and powerful pick, even without said relics.
Unlike many 4★s, her Masteries are very powerful since they both have big gains to her damage and reducing her expensive Attack Recovery costs. Both of her skills are worth Mastering if you are planning to use Cutter and there isn't really a clear delineation between them, but give a slight favor to S2 which is a bit more consistent and easier to use.
The main knock against Arene is that the higher rarity Lords are some of the best units in the game. But not everyone has Lappland or Thorns, so Arene can make for a really viable alternative. Stick with his S2 which is more broadly useful. It has some decent Masteries for the cost, though like many 4★s he works fine at SL7.
Utage's helidrop Arts damage on her S2 can be a pretty valuable tool to have available, especially if you lack a lot of the higher rarity damage options. She is not worth the E2 usually, but if you do anyway, her S2 Masteries are well worth doing. Her S1 is actually a decent skill too (though is used very differently) but Mastery on it is very poor, so generally don't bother with it.
At first glance, Mousse is a subpar unit but she has a surprising niche. Her S1 at M3 is the only skill in the game that can apply a persistent attack down, which lets her 1v1 (with some healing) some pretty dangerous enemies. That's not usually worth the investment value these days though, but it's at least something worth noting.
Luo Xiaohei is a reasonable unit, though generally inferior to his easily available counterpart Arene; invest with a bit of caution. However, since he is a collab unit at an inexpensive rarity, that won't deter many people. If you plan on promoting him, his S2 is the best Mastery option. S1 will be popular due to the transformation, but the effects are just not worthwhile. It has low damage-per-hit due to lacking an Attack modifier, and it can't handle anything beyond basic trash mobs. His S2 is the significantly better DPS option. However he still lacks the utility that make other Lords like Arene and Lappland so good.
There isn't a lot to say about Gummy. She's an inexpensive Healing Defender, and Healing Defenders have a lot of value. Stick with her S1 which is her better healing skill. It has a big Mastery gain at M3, though E2ing her in the first place is a big luxury.
Although her obnoxious voice and out of place design are a turn-off for a lot of people, May is actually the best low rarity Marksman Sniper. Her damage is only a touch lower than other options like Jessica but she brings a ton more utility. She works just fine at SL7 thanks to her already short cycletime, but if you wanted to promote her further, focus on S2 which is her better burst skill by a good bit. For the Roguelike, her S1 is a reasonable consideration as well since it works extremely well with some of the best relics.
A lot of people end up using Shirayuki in the early going given that she is a cheap and moderately powerful source of hard to find (at least early on) Arts damage. Although her damage doesn't hold up into the end game she can still be quite usable across a large portion of the game. If you're at the point where you are considering Masteries, then Shirayuki likely no longer fits into your team. But if you do find yourself using her regularly, she has an unusually valuable E2 for a 4★ which leads into pretty decent and inexpensive Mastery gains on her S2. She can be a nice Roguelike addition to if you don't have a lot of good Sniper options at the higher rarities.
If you've watched any amount of low-rarity finesse clears before, then you've probably already seen Pinecone used. Her damage doesn't hold up with the end-game units but her strong damage in a true AoE has a lot of utility should you lack those options. Her S1 Masteries are very important to that end. Do be aware though that using her properly can entail a lot of 'babysitting' for her short cooldown Manual Activation skill which can make her really tiring to use. Try using her for a bit at E1 SL7 before you invest too deeply here.
Ambriel's global range is an amazing utility at her rarity, and one that is very useful to have. Her relatively low DPS means she isn't a must-raise by any means, but that utility plus a high damage-per-hit (DPH) makes her a very strong contender for 4★ Mastery. S2 is the obvious choice for Mastery here. It has some shockingly large gains over Mastery, with the extra ATK and uptime accounting for over 50% more total damage per activation. Given her utility and low relative cost, Ambriel is a unit that a lot of people will find worth the investment.
Totter is a pretty nice unit. He isn't mandatory to raise, but he has a unique and rare niche combined with a powerful range. While it is not a full on invisible reveal, he is one of only two purely Ranged units (as of this writing) that can interact with invisible enemies (Tsukinogi is the other, Scene requires her Melee buggies to be deployed). Given the inexpensive costs to promote a 4★, he is a decent utility to have available. His skills split a fairly typical "consistent vs burst" divide which can make selection a matter of preference. You can potentially do both for Masteries, but if you only do one, I slightly favor the better burst and larger gains of S2.
Click is pretty easily the best low-rarity Caster option, even beating out many of the often lackluster 5★ Casters. She combines solid damage with good control (for her rarity) along with the utility of her drone. Given her availability and low investment requirements, she makes for one of the strongest 4★ promotions to fill in early holes in your team. That said, the 5★ Caster group is steadily becoming more and more viable, so Click isn't quite the slam dunk she used to be. However, she still has lasting value thanks to the Roguelike mode. Having access to a strong Caster option at low-Hope cost is tremendously valuable.
Pudding isn't quite as good as Click, but she can dole out some really respectable damage for her rarity if you find that Pudding's design appeals to you more. She really needs her module to get there though and given that requires E2 already, the Mastery value of her S2 investment can be pretty appealing. Although ungraded you might consider her S1 as well if you find you regularly use Pudding. Her S2 is what makes her special, but her S1 has the better total Slow which can be useful in some niches.
Indigo is not an easy unit to use and there are many quality 4 and 5★ Casters these days. That puts her at the pretty low end of priority. However, she does have a niche that becomes much more consistent to use with her Module, which makes her quite powerful in the right hands. If you are willing to tackle the challenge of using her, then S2 is the better Mastery. S2 is where her niche lies and has pretty significant gains over Mastery as well. The gimmick on Mystic Casters’ S1s is to quickly stack their charges, but it tends to be extremely situational depending on ranges, and you don't use Indigo for damage in the first place.
For most purposes, Podenco is just fine at E1. However she is a very powerful option in the Roguelike thanks to the weak Supporter class, so she can be an appealing investment for some. Focus on her S2 which gains a pretty significant cycletime improvement over Mastery.
Once considered a joke of a Summoner, Deepcolor has seen a significant revival thanks to her module. It gives her enough summons that for shorter maps (and most AK maps are short) she no longer has to worry about her inability to refresh them. This is especially valuable in the Roguelike mode where she can replace what Scene does at a much lower cost. I still wouldn't suggest that strategy, but many will want to try it anyway. Her S1 Masteries are fairly important to that end, though you may want to consider S2 as well for the team support on the later floors.
Perfumer holds a very nice niche over her higher rarity counterparts thanks to her global regen. Her S2 is her better skill since it supercharges said regen. The low cost and general viability make it one of the better pure healing skills; however, she will usually work perfectly fine at SL7. Assuming E2, the jump from SL7 to S2M3 is only about 9 healing-per-second (HPS) on the global heal.
Pulling is already very limited in its usage and were it not for the force upgrade, Rope would be unlikely to be graded at all. You don't need to invest into her at all really, let alone E2 and Masteries, though her S2 does have good value if you wanted to raise her up anyway. It holds a unique niche over the higher rarity options thanks to its range. But pass on her S1 which is inferior to other options despite the force increase.
Compared to Rope, Shaw has more value since she is a pusher and neither of the higher rarity options come free like they do with Pullers. Investment beyond E1 is unnecessary still, but it can be an appealing enough option to warrant consideration. If you do raise her up, favor her S1 which has a force upgrade at M3, but pass on her S2 which is the only pusher skill to NOT get a force upgrade.
This is an honorable mention skill. Don't raise Frostleaf beyond her E1 base skill. 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.
This list is mostly here so that if you do a Ctrl + F, it doesn't turn up no results. If an operator is listed here and is not graded above, it means that they aren't worth Mastery. Usually this is because the unit is quite poor, although it can also be because they have low value Masteries despite being decent units (Silence and Waai Fu for example).
Keep in mind this guide is meant to help a majority of people. It is already quite large so it doesn't make sense for this guide to go too in-depth on operators that the majority won't find useful. Do not let that discourage you from using your favorite operators though! Most operators are still more than serviceable.
The most up to date write-ups regarding these units can be found in their individual Operator pages. A full guide was released in December of 2022 that is linked below, but it may not be up to date.
Vigil, Savage, Silence, Nightmare, Skyfire, Istina, Sora, Franka, Indra, Vulcan, Croissant, Grani, Swire, Glaucus, Ceylon, Astesia, Flamebringer, Executor, Breeze, Waai Fu, Bison, Reed, Snowsant, Hung, Sesa, Sideroca, Asbestos, Tsukinogi, Absinthe, Ayerscarpe, Folinic, Chiave, Tomimi, Flint, Aosta, Whislash, Iris, Tuye, Lava the Purgatory, Blitz, Tachanka, Heavyrain, Kirara, Corroserum, Wild Mane, Aurora, Shalem, Nine-Colored Deer, Heidi, Windflit, Erato, Czerny, Hibiscus the Purifier, Minimalist, Greyy the Lightningbearer, Paprika, Dagda, Courier, Scavenger, Myrrh, Gavial, Haze, Gitano, Meteor, Jessica, Earthspirit, Dobermann, Estelle, Vermeil, Beehunter, Matoimaru, Cuora, Matterhorn, Greyy, Dur-nar, Purestream, Conviction, Aciddrop, Bubble, Jackie, Roberta, Chestnut, and Quartz.
Q: When should I start to do Masteries?
A: Generally when you have a well rounded team of E2’d units. 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 as soon as possible. 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. In this guide, skills of this caliber usually have S++ grades. While good E2s should still be done first, units with this grade are so powerful that they are worth prioritizing relatively early.
Q: These are really expensive, why should I bother?
A: Yes, they are really expensive, especially the 6★ M3 upgrades. 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 from 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. However, Masteries will make your life a helluva lot easier. If you’re not the kind of person that likes to sweat away at specific stages for hours at a time without guides, Masteries are highly recommended. Again though, it comes down to what you want out of a game.
Q: Why isn't <operator> or <skill> listed?
A: Because it is not worth doing from a meta perspective. For the sake of brevity, I exclude most skills and units that are simply not worthwhile. Discussion of these units can be found on their operator pages, or in the Off-meta Mastery guide, linked here.
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. That said, I do include a look-ahead in the banner updates which you can find linked below.
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: 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.
Q: Why are there different grades for "Story", "Advanced", and "Roguelike" players? What is the difference?
A: See The Grading System section above.
- May 16-19 - Added Il Siracusano units. Removed a reference in Guard Ch'en to alter restrictions which are now removed. Updated Dusk to reflect her new second Module and gave her a slight upgrade.
- May 9 - Fixed a typo on Nian.
- April 26 - Fixed a couple small mistakes in Stainless' write-up.
- April 24-25 - Updated several operators as part of a large annual write-up. The full changelog is too long to list here, instead it can be found here. A few more grammar issues will be added over the next few days. Also added Episode 11 units.
- April 8 - Removed S+++ grade for clarity. Affects Surtr, Ch'en2, and Pozy. This is part of the update I mentioned in the Mlynar update. That's still being worked but I wanted to push this early for clarity.
- April 2 - Added Luo Xiaohei and Highmore
- March 29 - Added An Obscurer Wanderer units.
- March 9 - Added Dorothy's Vision units. Minor grammar fixes on Leizi.
- February 19 - Added Leizi to the main guide. This has been planned for a while and I wanted to add it with Astgenne and Dorothy's Vision, however since the event was delayed I decided to push the change now. Pudding's grades have been reduced to be more consistent with Leizi and Astgenne. Also changed several Advanced None grades on the 4*s. The None didn't really convey the correct idea. Also moved the Lingering Echoes units out of the recent section to save me some time later. Finally, I am retiring the IS#2 guide. It is still available, but it's no longer worth updating so I've removed most references to it.
- February 13 - Removed a reference in Specter the Unchained to the "upcoming" Ideal City patch since it's no longer upcoming.
- January 27 - Gave Rockrock and Kjera Advanced grades that are in-line with the others. The previous None's didn't really correctly convey the right idea and weren't really appropriate for the guide.
- January 10 - Updated Gladiia and Ethan to reflect their Modules. Added Ideal City units.
- December 27 - Updated Specter the Unchained write-up to reflect the Lingering Echoes patch release. Touched up a few typos. Similarly updated Leizi's write-up in the Off-meta guide.
- December 23 - Updated grades and write-ups for Ch'en, Skadi, and Bagpipe because of Modules. Updated grades and write-ups for Weedy (S2 down), Gnosis (S3 up), and Mountain (S3 down) as part of a general adjustment. Moved SN and Ch10 units to the main section of the guide and added the LE units.
- December 16 - Updated Suzuran's Story grades for SSS and touched up her write-up a little bit.
- December 5 - Added Andreana to the main guide. Updated the off-meta section to reflect the new guide. Added a note that SSS is included in the Story section.
- October 29 - Added Stultifera Navis units. Fixed Estelle and Aurora being missing from the off-meta list.
- October 16 - Added Chapter 10 units. Fixed Istina being missing from the off-meta list.
- September 17 - Fixed a mistake in Enforcer's writeup. Grades remain unchanged.
- September 13 - Added Guide Ahead units.
- August 16 - Added A Light Spark in Darkness units.
- July 24 - Added Invitation to Wine units. Added grades for Kjera. Gave a slight bump for BP S2 IS to match KTKG. Gave a bump to Robin S1 for IS.
- June 27 - Added Break the Ice units. Fixed a mistake where Suzuran's S3 had the wrong link.
- May 20-25 - For this week of May I made many significant changes. Too many to list in full detail. Added Roguelike grades. Updated FAQ, Introduction, and Grades section to reflect those. Changed a majority of the writeups. Most were just touch-ups and grammar fixes, but many have been redone entirely. Added: Siege S3, Surtr S2, Blemishine S1M1, Rosa S2, Nightingale S2M1, Amiya S3. Grades up: Bagpipe S2, Pallas S1, Mizuki S1, Shining S3, Angelina S2, Amiya (Guard) S1, Ptilopsis S2. Removed: Astesia, Asbestos, Pallas S2, Eunectus S2, Amiya S2, GreyThroat S1. Lowered: Magallan S3. Simplified M2 grades for Saga and Dusk. Added Ungraded section. Removed the 5* AA discussion.
- April 30 - Added NTRK S2M1 Breakpoint.
- April 26 - Added Near Light units.
- April 14 - Added Pinus Sylvestris units.
- March 21 - Added Stormwatch units. Updated Mulberry writeup slightly from the initial article.
- 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).
Previous banner updates are listed below, though please keep in mind that they are not actively maintained so any changes or updates are not reflected in them. Refer to this main guide for the most up-to-date information.