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Arknights: Mastery Priority Guide

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Introduction

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 Bluntly, they were not very good, often reflecting out of date information or giving terrible suggestions with no context.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

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

A few caveats for new readers...

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

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

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

The Grading System

Story vs Advanced vs Roguelike

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Grades

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Most Recent Additions

Invitation to Wine - Unstrained Liquor, Pellucid Heart

Ling

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

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 SL 7, 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.

Lee

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

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 SL 7, 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.

Blacknight

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 S- S+ A+
S1M3 A B A-

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.

Her S1 is one of those skills where the value of it depends on how you intend to use Blacknight. Although her S2 is the main reason she is used in the context of the other units, the relative strength of other Vanguards (e.g. Flagpipe) can limit her more "typical" usage. Taken in a vacuum, her S1 has quite a lot of value if you intend to specifically use her over other options. It has better DP generation than her S2 and better general combat capability and sustain of her tapir. It is a strong alternative if you plan to regularly use her, but becomes a luxury consideration if you only want her for her meta value.

Kroos the Keen Glint

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 A+ B+ A+
S1M3 B A A+

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.

The 6★s

Vanguards

Siege

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M1 Breakpoint
S2M3 B B+ B+
S3M3 None C- C-

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

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

The S2 grade is one of the more contentious grades in the guide as there are a good amount of people who favor S2, but S3 is her far superior skill and it is not as close as many think. Quite simply, her S3 is one of the best burst physical damage skills in the game. Giving that up for some low level consistency is just not worth it, especially considering she is not often left on the field for the entire map in her common usage.

That said, I have updated the S2M3 grade for Advanced and Roguelike players. I still strongly encourage you to focus on her S3 first, but for Advanced and Roguelike players, her S2 can definitely have good value. However this is not because of the consistency that is often bandied about (though it can be used for that, especially for one of the best units available in the Roguelike mode), but rather at S2M3, she can deploy with 2 charges which can make a difference in those extreme scenarios.

Saga

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

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

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S3M3 S- S+ S-
S1M3 None A None
S2M3 None B+ C-

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

Flametail

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S3M3 A+ S A

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 it's team support, but the associated dodge chance is far lower which adds an unpalatable component of RNG to the mix. The mastery gains on it are also far lower, so most people shouldn't bother and it is ungraded here.

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.

Guards

SilverAsh

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

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

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

Skadi

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 None C- None
S3M3 None C-- None

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

Ch'en

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 C C B
S3M3 C C B

Ch'en's default Guard form has never been all that strong, but her value has only dipped further as time has gone on, especially with the introduction of her alter form, the most powerful unit in the game.  But still, her Guard form does hold some small niche meta value still, and she gains a small bit of new life thanks to the Roguelike mode.

Most players should not spend resources on Guard Ch'en at all, though both her S2 and S3 have quite valuable Masteries for those intent on using her.  For her S2, Mastery allows for instant activation on deployment.  Her S3 provides some strong damage that can be dished out at range with some pretty rare invulnerability attached which occasionally finds an end-game niche.

She can work well in the Roguelike mode thanks to various relics that work really well with her skills.  That gives her slightly higher grades than a unit of her meta caliber normally gets.  But she is still a waifu-only raise.  There are simply too many good Guards who do the same role better or cheaper.

Hellagur

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 A A B
S3M1 Breakpoint

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

Blaze

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 S S S

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

Thorns

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

He's the best top to bottom unit in the Roguelike, given his damage and sustain, which elevates his Mastery grade to the next level there.

Surtr

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S3M3 S++ S+++ S++
S2M3 None None C+
Surtr is utterly broken and it is mainly because of her S3 and it gets a lot out of M3 as well. On top of ever increasing damage, she hits another target, and most importantly reduces her wind-up to a very helidrop worthy 5 seconds. Everyone who has Surtr (and intends to use her) should do S3M3.

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.

Mountain

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

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

Pallas

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S3M3 B C+ None
S1M3 B None S

Pallas is a bit of an odd unit. The initial write-up I had for her was quite long since there was a weird sort of controversy surrounding her on release. That has mostly blown past at this point, though now there is the added curveball of the Roguelike mode. All-in-all, it's worth simply starting the write-up over again.

Pallas is ultimately not a very meta unit, though she does have some niches to shine in. She has three viable skills, but her S1 and S3 play best to those niches. The best skill to focus on will depend on how you want to use her.

Her S3 is best to insert her into otherwise meta teams. It is her niche that she holds over the stronger units, giving her some strong burst and team support. But she can also act as a cornerstone unit (Thorns, Mountain, Blaze, etc) with her S1, though she is far weaker in that role than the alternatives. Most players should not bother with her S1M3, but it can be very valuable for people looking to make her a regular part of the team. It really shines in the Roguelike mode, where her advantages stand out more. With certain relics, Pallas' S1M3 is one of the best single skills in the mode! Still though, she ranks as below average overall so be cautious of over-investing, especially if you have the generally stronger options available.

I had previously graded her S2, but it has since been dropped from the guide. It just really hasn't found any scenarios to shine in and Pallas isn't good enough to justify the M9 suggestion. It is a safe skip for all but the most die hard of Pallas-stans.

Nearl the Radiant Knight

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

Nearl's alter form has two skills that are definitely worth mastery, though the best option to target 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.

Lastly, S1 is a good skill with really surprising damage, but it is ultimately a waifu only tier skill. It's her best skill for lane holding, but 1-block lane holders generally have a pretty tough time plus you have to give up the opportunity cost of her better skills, so it's not an option most people should consider.

Defenders

Saria

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

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

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S3M3 C C+ None

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

Pure defensive blockers don't have much value in the Roguelike, so extra investment for her isn't suggested for that mode.

Nian

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S3M3 C- C- None

Nian does hold some Advanced value lately thanks to her shield talent, but her skills aren't a tremendous factor. If you are looking for something unique to Master on Nian, stick with her S3. None of her other skills have much meta value, but her S3 maintains some uniqueness in being able to share DEF. It is ungraded but S2 is something to consider for waifu purposes. The Silence is not very helpful, but the reflection has occasionally crept into some niche Advanced clears.

Pure defensive blockers don't have much value in the Roguelike, so extra investment for her isn't suggested for that mode.

Eunectes

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S3M3 A- A- B

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

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

Blemishine is a more offensive oriented version of the Healing Defender, and while that sounds good on paper, the drawbacks to her skills end up making her not quite as valuable as the other options.  It also complicates the Mastery suggestions, with both of her best skills having very valuable gains, but also significantly different niches.

I would favor her S3 if you were to only Master one skill, which gives her a much stronger team role.  The fact that she cannot heal herself with her S3 is the ultimate drawback to it but it is the much stronger combat skill along with the highest ST HPS in the game.  Her S2 meanwhile works more towards treating her as a pseudo-cornerstone unit (like Thorns or Mudrock).  It tends to be better for letting Blemishine hold lanes on her own.  However, the sleep aspect  means it ends up being a pretty poor team skill, and there are several better options for lane holding.

Although it's ungraded here, aside from the M1 Breakpoint, you could also consider her S1 if you were dedicated to using her regularly.  It is not as individually strong at either role as S2 or S3, but it does strike a balance between them since it lacks either drawback.  This is especially true in the Roguelike mode where she can be a very usable pick in an otherwise weak Defender class.

Mudrock

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

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

Specialists

Aak

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weedy

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S3M3 S+ S+ S-
S2M3 A- S A
S1M1 Breakpoint
S1M3 C- C None

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

She can be a tough unit to use in the Roguelike mode. Her grades are still relatively high there since Masteries are so essential to her usage, but most people shouldn't bother (with specific regards to that mode). Especially pass on her S1 which has almost no value in the mode.

Gladiia

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S3M3 A- A A
S2M3 B+ C+ A
S1M1 Breakpoint
S1M3 B- B None

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

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

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

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

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

With regards to the Roguelike mode, Gladiia holds a bit more value than Weedy since she is a bit easier to use as a pseudo-guard.  But still she can be a daunting pick and only holds her high grades because of the necessary value of the Masteries.  As with Weedy, pass on her S1 Masteries which has almost no value in the mode.  If you do intend to regularly use Gladiia, you will want to prioritize her S2 higher than normal since it is her more consistent skill.

Mizuki

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 B B- B+
S1M1 Breakpoint
S1M3 B None None

Mizuki is a weaker unit, so most should not invest at all. However, if you wanted to, all of his skills are viable options. Surprisingly, the flashier S3 is also his weakest skill and is ungraded here. The damage is subpar along with a brutally long cooldown and necessity of team support.

Instead favor his S1 or S2. Most people who regularly use Mizuki prefer his S1 which is his highest DPS skill as well as giving him some much needed consistency. However I tend to personally favor his S2 which gives him some respectable utility. His S2 is also by far his strongest skill in the Roguelike mode. With certain relics he can actually be a very strong pick there with his S2 giving strong damage with the possibility of 100% uptime stall.

Snipers

Exusiai

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S3M3 S+ S+ S+
S2M3 None None C+

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

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S3M1 Breakpoint
S3M3 A S+ S
S2M3 None B B

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

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S3M3 A- A+ A+
S2M3 None C+ C+

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

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M1 Breakpoint
S3M1 Breakpoint
S3M3 A+ A+ A-
S2M3 A A B+

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

Rosmontis

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S3M3 S- A+ A-
S2M3 C- None None

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

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

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 AA Sniper.

Ash

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

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

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

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

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

Her other skills aren't really worth considering. Both are good skills on their own, but there's almost never any reason to consider either over S3, though if you really wanted to do a second skill, her S1 would be the one to go with.

Fartooth

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S3M3 A- A+ B

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.

Casters

Ifrit

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

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.

Eyjafjalla

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

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.

Mostima

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M2 A- A- None

Mostima is the weakest 6★ in the game and is the closest to being cut from this Mastery guide entirely. She lacks pretty much any sort of useful niche with very poor damage, and on top of that doesn't even have particularly compelling Masteries. Her S2 gets a stun extension at M2 which at least gets her a grade. Anything further is purely a matter of personal desire, though in that case both her S2 and S3 are considerations.

Ceobe

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 S S+ S-

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.

Dusk

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S3M3 B B None
S1M1 Breakpoint
S1M3 C C C

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

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

However, her S3 has a very long cooldown which can make it a tough option if you're looking to regularly use Dusk.  Looking beyond her S3, both her S1 and S2 are good skills and with good mastery gains.  There used to be a fairly even community split between them, though lately most people have given favor to her S1 which becomes comparable to Eyja's S2 in a lot of situations.  Mastery is still largely a matter of waifu value more than anything, but S1M3 is very valuable if you want to make more consistent use out of her.

Passenger

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S3M3 A- B+ S-

No single unit has seen their value rise as dramatically as Passenger. On his release, he was a literal joke of a unit. But thanks to multiple rounds of buffs, a module (soon to be multiple modules), and a broken relic that's tailor-made for him in the Roguelike, he has become one of the best 6★ Caster options in the game. Admittedly that is not a high bar, though that is a different discussion.

Through it all, his S3 has been his key skill and is the one you should focus on, especially for the Roguelike mode. The ability to hold charges of it gives him an incredible burst with a surprisingly large range, giving him tons of value. It is also his only skill that works in that special broken way in the Roguelike, allowing him to infinitely spam S3 as long as there are targets.

His S2 is a modestly popular skill, though I would not bother with it outside of husbando reasons. The popularity of the skill is largely a relic from the time when his S3 was pretty bad which meant the consistency of S2 was more appealing. That's less true now though and his S3 is now the best option in almost all scenarios.

Carnelian

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S3M3 A+ B B
S2M3 C C C

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.

Medics

Nightingale

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S3M3 C+ A+ B-
S2M1 Breakpoint

By some measures, Nightingale is actually the most broken unit in the game.  No one else can really shut down an entire mechanic of the game 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 in more than three years.

However, despite that ability to completely shut down arts damage, some caution before Mastery investment is warranted.  With how the game is balanced, Nightingale is never a necessary solution outside of high-risk CC circumstances.  And most places she is useful in, she is sufficient at SL7.  Advanced players will absolutely want to Master her S3, but Story players should consider it a luxury.  Roguelike players especially may not find value in it as there are no places in the mode she is truly broken.

Another consideration for Mastery is her S2.  It is nowhere near as powerful as her S3, but given S3's long cooldown, the consistency of S2 can be appealing.  However investment beyond the M1 breakpoint is an even bigger luxury than her S3 Masteries are.

Shining

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S3M3 C- B None

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.

Kal'tsit

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

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

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

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.

Supporters

Angelina

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S3M3 S+ S+ S+
S2M3 None A+ A-

Angelina isn't as strong as she once was with so many strong arts units these days, but she is still quite good with some valuable niches and Masteries.  Her S3 is her strongest skill and the improvements to her damage and uptime are quite dramatic, so focus there first, especially if you want to make regular use out of her such as in the Roguelike mode.

But now in addition, her S2 has become a very strong Mastery candidate as well.  It has always been mentioned in this guide, but I've become a bigger and bigger fan of it as time has gone on.  Few skills can stall as well as Angelina's S2 can which is a more important niche for her now since her role as a main DPS unit has shrunk.  The Mastery gains on S2 are quite large as well, with more than a 50% total improvement to cycletime, on a skill where uptime is everything.  You may even want to prioritize S2 first if end-game use is your only focus!

Magallan

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S1M3 B A+ None
S3M3 C- C- None

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.

Suzuran

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S3M3 A- A+ A
S2M1 Breakpoint

Suzuran is an intensely powerful unit that can enable DPS to really excel with an absurdly long stall, and she does that role through her S3. However her S3 Masteries are a bit on the weak side, relatively speaking. Story players especially may find them underwhelming (especially the M3 upgrade) when considering the cost with only a very modest improvement to the Fragile effect. Even Advanced players will find the most value in her uptime/windup, though those differences matter much more in Advanced scenarios.

Although used significantly less often, her S2 is a popular option for those that want to use Suzuran as more than a debuffer. S2 gains an additional target at M1 which is quite a nice gain at a small cost, and the higher Mastery levels have a very significant damage gain. However it is best left to a matter of personal desire only. It is just not why Suzuran is so commonly used.

Skadi the Corrupting Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 5★s

Vanguards

Texas

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M1 Breakpoint
S2M3 B S- C+

Texas gains an extension on her stun at M1 which is incredibly powerful for the cost. Beyond that, Advanced players will want to prioritize the M3 quite highly as she reliably appears in end game situations thanks to her near instant activation with Bagpipe. Story players though may find M2-M3 very lackluster for the cost, so passing on further mastery in favor of other options is probably a good idea, especially if you do not also have Bagpipe to enable the rapid activation. Roguelike players will also likely want to pass as she is a fairly weak pick for the Vanguard tickets.

Zima

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 C C None

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

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 A+ S- A+
S1M3 C A- None

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.

Guards

Specter

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 S S+ S+

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

Lappland

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

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

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 A A B+

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

Bibeak

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

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. 

Guard Amiya

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

Amiya's Guard form is a pretty powerful unit considering she is a free 5★. She has really strong damage and healthy team support, and since she starts at E2 already, investment is pretty appealing. However she isn't quite a mandatory tier of unit either which leaves her Masteries as luxury options, with the best one depending how you want to use her.

Her S1 has grown on me quite a bit since I initially wrote her entry and it has come to be my favored skill. Although it is still true that her S2 is her more unique skill, her Caster form's S3 is usually the best option for True Damage. Her S1 meanwhile gives a really strong buff to her damage and a huge (and repeatable) uptime to her team buff. But still, both are excellent options.

Amiya is anywhere from an M0 to an M15, with the real answer depending entirely on you.

Akafuyu

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S1M3 C C C
S2M3 C C C

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

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

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

S1 is a bit more complex. S1M3 is a huge breakpoint that greatly increases the damage of the skill and makes her an extremely strong and consistent cornerstone at a lower rarity than the other cornerstones. It's a tougher role though, especially since the 6★ cornerstones are so powerful, and the team can offer her relatively limited support (similar to enmity guards). It has good grades here because it's a strong skill and Mastery, but for most S1M3 should be treated as a luxury which is usually sufficient at SL7. S2 is the better option and stronger Mastery in a majority of situations.

She is an extremely strong Roguelike option, able to fill similar roles as the other cornerstones at a lower cost. If you intend to use her there, then S1M3 regains much of its value since the consistency will be far more important.

Tequila

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 A- B A-

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.

Defenders

Nearl

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S1M1 Breakpoint
S1M3 B A B+

Nearl is a great healing defender but one with some significant drawbacks. If you have the better Saria or her powerful Alter, she won't make her way into many teams. Even the lower rarity options present a problem in the Roguelike, as the less expensive Gummy or Spot / Cardigan are usually the better choices. All this leaves Mastery a luxury despite the relatively good grades on a pretty good unit.

Liskarm

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S1M3 C B+ None
S2M3 C C None

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

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 A- A A-

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.

Specialists

Cliffheart

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 B- B+ None

Pullers are in an awkward spot, and Cliffheart is no exception, but her S2M3 is shockingly powerful. A 3 second stun on a 15 second cooldown is already 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.  Don't bother at all with regards to the Roguelike as shifting has very little value there.

FEater

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S1M3 B- B+ None
S2M3 C+ B None

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.

Manticore

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S1M3 B A+ C+

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

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

For a long time in this guide, I have been down on Projekt Red, however the Roguelike mode and a shiny new module has given her a new lease on life. Both of her skills are good options, though the Mastery gains can feel a bit small with only a modest damage increase on S1, and a linear stun increase on S2 (meaning M3 is a similar gain for a far larger cost compared to M1 or M2). Favor S1 for the Roguelike where she can frequently out-damage the higher rarity Phantom and the increased dodge chance at M3 can actually matter. Outside of the Roguelike though, most of her value remains as a stun bomb with her S2.

Robin

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

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

Frost

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 B- B B

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

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

Kafka

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 C None None

Most people should leave Kafka at E0 for the lower DP cost. Her main value is in her sleep bomb which has no duration increase with skill level, so raising her at all lacks value despite her usability. However, that isn't appealing for a lot of people. Those who do want to raise her for DPS potential will find a tricky choice. Although her S1 is the more commonly used skill, the damage gains on it are tiny with only a 721 damage increase in the best case scenario. Her S2 has quite a bit stronger gains, but is far harder to use. I favor S2 here, but really, either leave her at E0 or pick your poison with Kafka.

Mr. Nothing

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 C- C+ C+

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

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

Bena

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 B B+ B

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

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

Snipers - 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.

Platinum

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 A+ A+ A

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

Blue Poison

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

Blue Poison is reliant on her Masteries to be as good as she is so they should be highly prioritized if you intend to use her. Which is better is a matter of significant debate though, a debate that has been ongoing for nearly 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

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

GreyThroat has the highest single target DPS among the 5★ AA snipers, but she is most similar to Exusiai, and the gains on her Masteries are a touch lower, which downgrades her priority a little relative to the others. 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.

April

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 S- S- S-
S1M1 Breakpoint

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 AA core is on the weak side for a unit you may want to E2 anyway.

Snipers - Other

Provence

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 B+ B+ B

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

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M1 Breakpoint
S1M3 B B B

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

Meteorite

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S1M3 A- C B
S2M3 B- A None

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.

Toddifons

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 C C None

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

Casters

Amiya

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M1 Breakpoint
S3M3 B B B

Amiya is a fairly good ST caster (considering she's free) and needs to be E2 already to progress in the story. Given that, S2M1 is a quite valuable breakpoint, but anything else is a luxury.

Previously I favored S2 since it has quite high damage and is easier to handle at E2, though I've since shifted to favor S3. With so many good options these days, including the lower rarity Click, her S1 is too weak while her S2 is hard to use. Meanwhile her True Damage S3 can be an absolute beast versus bosses with Damage Reduction like Mandragora and Blood Knight, and the damage gains from Mastery are quite high as well.

Leonhardt

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M1 Breakpoint
S2M3 B+ B+ B+

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

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 B B B

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

Mint

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 B B B

Mint is far from a mandatory unit, but her S2 is a super fun skill that gets a big force upgrade at M3. It does not have much meta use, but is well worthy of investment if you plan to use her. Like Beeswax, her S1 can be appealing, but is best left as a luxury option of personal preference.

Kjera

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 B- None A-

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.

Medics

Ptilopsis

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 C C C

Ptilopsis has one of the biggest gains over Mastery on her S2, with something around a 30% total increase in healing per second. However, despite that, she is a really low priority Mastery since it is already incredibly powerful at SL7. Beyond that fact and the fact that pure healing skills are low priority to begin with, the uptime gains are minimal (only 4 extra seconds) which would be the more useful aspect. As it is, Mastery on Ptilopsis ends up being a pretty extreme luxury and your resources will usually end up being better placed elsewhere.

Warfarin

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

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

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 C C C-

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

Mulberry

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S1M1 Breakpoint
S1M3 A- B- A
S2M2 A- B+ A+

Mulberry's S1 has incredibly valuable masteries. At the very least take the breakpoint at M1 which provides a huge boost at a very low cost. It greatly increases how often the skill is available for activation as well as stacking charges during downtime. That's a reasonable stopping point if you don't intend to use her that often, but the availability increases even further at M3 to nearly 75% of her heals under constant pressure! This gives her the highest consistent and conditionless healing per second in the game (others still do better with burst) in addition to strong elemental healing. It is her better skill purely as a medic for when elemental healing tends to be of secondary concern, and given her wider than normal range, that tends to be more valuable than pure healing skills typically are.

S2 has grades slightly higher than similar medic skills due to the fact that it is only really worth going to the less expensive M2. The M3 gains are just too small to justify the cost for any reason other than completionism. However the M2 is a very valuable gain. The prevention here is what gives her an edge over Honeyberry as an elemental healer who otherwise has better raw elemental healing numbers.

Her advanced grades are fairly low. Raw healing is just not a big factor in how the game tends to be played at a high level. CC#8 even features very dangerous elemental damage yet neither her or Honeyberry has seen extensive use beyond risk 18. For the Roguelike though she is incredibly valuable. Both Mulberry and Honeyberry are the top picks there thanks to the range, high healing per second, and elemental healing, and Masteries are important for their effectiveness.

Honeyberry

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S1M3 A- B- A

Although Honeyberry is very competitive to Mulberry, if not better at the role, her masteries are not quite as good. She does her role pretty well at SL7 already, though masteries do still have value. Her S1 is the more valuable mastery with an incredibly high elemental healing. It does not have the breakpoint it appears to at M1 since she can’t hold charges (it remains every third attack) while it improves (surprisingly) to every second attack at M3 thanks to a quirk in ST medic animations. That results in a pretty big gain to her overall output.

Her S2 is a good skill in a vacuum. It is clearly her better skill for raw healing, but suffers from a few flaws. For one, the gains are just not that impressive on it, with really modest gains to both regular hps and elemental hps. For two, her S1 maintains a significantly higher elemental healing, her main value versus Mulberry. For three, the overall healing is just subpar, not matching either common AoE medics or common ST medics. That leaves the main value in the skill in her range and coverage, but to point one, it just doesn’t need mastery to reach that goal. This leaves S2 as a very usable skill, but mastery as a matter of personal desire for completion only.

Supporters

Mayer

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S1M1 Breakpoint
S2M3 C+ C+ None

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.

Scene

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 B A A-

Scene is an interesting unit as far as Summoners go, as she is the only one (until Ling) 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 used to be a very popular pick to start in the Roguelike mode since she was an easy to use unit that could carry the early floors.  She can still be effective there, but it is not a strategy I personally suggest.  And even if you wanted to pursue that, Deepcolor can now do the same thing with her module at a lower Hope cost, so think carefully before investing too deep into Scene for that specific purpose.

Pramanix

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 B A B-

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

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

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.

The 4★s

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

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

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.

Jaye

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 S+ S+ S++

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★.

Gravel

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 B A+ B-

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. Generally she works more than fine at E1 already, but given that she is a unit many people like to E2 anyway, her Masteries have some decent value with big gains, though they are a hefty overkill.

Ethan

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 B A A

Rather than being powercrept by Manticore, they actually complement each other very well, being ideal in different places. Depending on what you're stalling (he's better at faster units) and if you just need them to stay in one place (for example, in a DPS unit's range), Ethan is often better at pure stalling than Manticore is. Given his low cost, high availability, and the fact Mastery brings the RNG up to a viable 75% he's a worthwhile investment on many teams.

He is also quite powerful in the Roguelike where the various most powerful relics can supercharge his stall and damage, making him a very powerful and low-cost pick.

Beanstalk

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 A A A

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

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 B None B

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

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 A+ None A+
S1M3 A None A

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.

Arene

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 A None A

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

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 A None A

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.

Mousse

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S1M3 B None None

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.

Gummy

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S1M3 C None B

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.

May

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 A None A+
S1M3 None None A-

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.

Shirayuki

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 A+ None A+

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.

Pinecone

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S1M3 B None B

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

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 B None B

Her total damage is a touch too low to particularly recommend Ambriel, but her global range is a fun utility that's decent enough to keep in the pocket. Her S2 Masteries are relatively valuable to that end with an above average damage gain, but overall she definitely qualifies as a luxury investment.

Click

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 A None A+

Click is pretty easily the best low-rarity Caster, beating out most of the 5★s and even some of the 6★s when you start to consider investment value as well. She is a top Roguelike pick thanks to her strong damage and utility on top of the low 4★ Hope cost. Her S2 Masteries are a pretty big gain too so she ends up as one of the best investment options at the rarity.

Pudding

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 A None A

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.

Podenco

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 B None A

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.

Deepcolor

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S1M3 C+ None A
S2M3 C None C

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

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 C C A

Perfumer holds a niche over her more meta and higher rarity counterparts thanks to her global heal. Her E2 and S2 Masteries are quite important to that end, though most will find that level of investment to be excessive.

Sussurro

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 C None C

She still has the best burst single target healing of any medic in the game and she's so good at it there's no real reason to consider the other 4★ options.

Rope

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 C- C- None

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.

Shaw

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S1M3 C- C- None

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.

Frostleaf

Skill
Mastery
Story
Advanced
Roguelike
S2M3 None None None

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.

The Ungraded

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.

In a future update, I will be adding writeups for these off-meta units, which will be linked here and on their operator pages.  But for now, if you see the operator listed here, exercise quite a bit of caution before investing.

Savage, Silence, Nightmare, Skyfire, Sora, Franka, Indra, Vulcan, Croissant, Grani, Swire, Glaucus, Ceylon, Astesia, Flamebringer, Executor, Breeze, Waai Fu, Bison, Reed, Snowsant, Hung, Leizi, Sesa, Sideroca, Asbestos, Tsukinogi, Absinthe, Ayerscarpe, Folinic, Chiave, Andreana, Tomimi, Flint, Aosta, Whislash, Iris, Tuye, Lava the Purgatory, Blitz, Tachanka, Heavyrain, Kirara, Corroserum, Wild Mane, Shalem, Nine-Colored Deer, Courier, Scavenger, Myrrh, Gavial, Haze, Gitano, Meteor, Jessica, Earthspirit, Doberman, Vermeil, Beehunter, Matoimaru, Cuora, Matterhorn, Greyy, Dur-nar, Purestream, Conviction, Aciddrop, Bubble, Jackie, Indigo, Roberta.

FAQ

Q: When should I start to do Masteries?

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

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

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

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

Q: Do I need Masteries?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Why are unreleased CN operators not listed?

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

Q: What is Integrated Strategies (e.g. IS#2 or the roguelike mode)?

A: In this mode you draft your team fresh each run using a limited currency which creates very different pressures on Mastery.  The specifics are beyond the scope of this guide though, and if you aren't familiar with the mechanics of the mode already I would suggest reading up on that before worrying much about Masteries specific to the mode.  Although much of the meta remains the same, there is quite a bit of variation still, meaning a different set of grades.  See the link below for a more in-depth discussion.

These grades were added much later in the life of the guide, so the verbiage may be slightly different from Story and Advanced.

Revisions

  • 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.

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