Aether Raids Tier List Addendum - September 2022

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This article is meant to be an addendum to the previous tier list update, specifically with regard to Laslow’s promotion to Tier 1. In this article, we will spend a bit of time examining the different pointers that led to Laslow’s promotion on the tier list. This includes the state of Enemy Phase Brave effects, the application of Godlike Reflexes on such units, how Laslow came into the picture, and what is happening after the demotion.

Enemy Phase Brave Effects

Enemy Phase Brave effects are acknowledged by many members of the team to be one of the strongest effects available in the game, and it is likely that this will remain so moving forward. This is because of the general abundance of effects that either reduces the damage on the first hit (Summer Edelgard, Brave Eirika), or has Miracle effects with HP conditions tagged onto it (Ascended Celica, Brave Seliph, and Ymir). Taking out the foe in a single hit is becoming much more difficult to do compared to before due to having more and more defensive mechanisms getting thrown in the mixer. 

Attacking twice in the Enemy Phase circumvents most of those issues; attacking twice means having the 2nd hit doing full damage in the first case, and lowering the HP enough to take out the opponent in the 2nd scenario. Furthermore, the presence of supports such as New Year Peony and Summer Thorr are both easily exploited by the double attacks as the Atk and damage boost counts twice, making them even more effective than they currently are. As such, most of the units that can attack twice in the enemy phase are considered favorable as we believe it is likely the direction that will be affected by the meta moving forward.

There is one big common trend among those with double attacks in the Enemy Phase; their rather atrocious Spd values. Most of these units with weapons that grant Enemy Phase Brave effects are relatively slow in nature. This means that Windsweep is a decent strategy to specifically deal with such units. It also didn’t help that Vantage units are caught in the crossfire with Far Saves some of the teams on defense are using Windsweep to stop some of the Far Saves from attacking, specifically Brave Hector. While we now have a larger variety in terms of the amount of Savior options available, Windsweep is still a relatively common sight in some defense teams.

In theory, if a double-attacking unit in the Enemy Phase has the Spd, they would be able to tackle the relatively common Windsweep effects, they effectively bypassed one of the few things that are going to stop such units. This means that the only ones of significance are users of Hardy Bearing and users that can prevent counterattack altogether. Whereas in contrast, slower units would have to deal with Windsweep units at least until there exists a double-hitting unit that is not physical. This is also partially the reason why the team does have some skepticism regarding Valentian Palla.

Observation 1: Windsweep is still a relatively common tech option in some of the teams, and having some Spd to deal with those sets is not a bad idea at all.

Godlike Reflexes

Godlike Reflexes is a new special skill that was introduced by Flame Lyn in the early part of September. It is classified as a defensive Special, however, it does have the offensive property that all attacks deal 15% of Spd as true damage if the Special is fully charged. Captain obvious says that if you attack twice, you do more damage. This is where double attacks come into the picture; by using Godlike Reflexes, it essentially allows the unit’s attacks to scale based on Spd on top of Atk. This means that stacking Spd indirectly increases the firepower of the unit, which is exactly what a Vantage unit wants. Coupled with the defensive properties of Spd mentioned in the previous section, it does make stacking Spd for units that can leverage Godlike Reflexes to be a pretty good option at the end of the day. 

Another point is that, unlike other inheritable defensive specials, Godlike Reflexes activates regardless of attack range, making it much more versatile compared to the other defensive specials. This also serves as a form of defensive mechanism, as a unit can reduce the amount of damage done if the foe has Hardy Bearing. Furthermore, as Hardy Bearing effects are relatively sparse outside the seal, this means that Godlike Reflexes is good enough to at least prevent the unit’s death for the most part. This is very similar to how Brave Marth functions as a unit, as he can Vantage sweep when he is at 100% HP, which is invaluable if he takes a hit. The only qualm with Godlike Reflexes is that it only applies on the first hit, which can be rather damaging against Hardy Bearing users that attack twice, such as a Hardy Bearing user with Bridal Catria (which in all fairness, is not exactly an uncommon strategy).

Observation 2: Godlike Reflexes serves not only as a damage booster by allowing damage to scale based on Spd, but it also doubles as a defensive mechanism should it be required. This is especially useful for double attackers.

Hardy Bearing and Speed Distribution

We can now somewhat piece the two pieces of puzzles together; stacking Spd is not the worst idea to ward against Windsweep users, and Godlike Reflexes also means that even if attacks go through, users can use it as a form of defensive mechanism. So outside of the Bridal Catria case, either the unit is running Hardy Bearing while having enough speed to stop Godlike Reflexes from activating, or the unit is running Windsweep on top of meeting the Spd check.

The first thing is that running Windsweep either comes at an opportunity cost of running buff negation such as Lulls, or the unit does not even have that option to begin to win (ranged flier curse strikes again). This means that from the get-go, these units are already likely to incur a 6 Spd deficit in the Spd check at the very start. The general sparsity of Atk/Spd Unity on defense also means that most of the time these units cannot run visible buffs either, and are also likely to get inflicted by Spd debuffs such as the likes of Temari. 

Furthermore, defensive teams usually run 2 Mythics at most due to their lack of combat potential, whereas the offensive team can run up to 4 Mythics if they wish to augment their team. This asymmetry meant that meeting Spd checks is not the most challenging thing to do in the offensive metagame so long as the unit itself does not have Spd that is so bad that it is beyond salvaging (which is true for units such as Winter Altina and Valentian Palla).

As for Hardy Bearing, the odds are even worse, as most of the time the said unit is forgoing a seal slot, which is another precious source of Spd that can be supposedly leveraged by the attacking unit. This means that it will be an uphill battle for the most part for the Hardy Bearing unit to not get affected by Godlike Reflexes. The only exception to this rule are weapons that have Hardy Bearing by default, but most of the time either they are too weak (inheritable such as Armorpin Dagger) or they are on units that do not have much Spd, to begin with (Legendary Lilina).

Lastly, one also needs to observe the general usage of speedy units in most defenses. Most of the time, these units are not the ones with the counterplay to Vantage; they would rather run another skill or seal to boost their damage output. Even if the condition of Godlike Reflexes is not met, these units usually get struck down anyway due to the Vantage win condition that these units usually go for. Furthermore, Spd distribution while creeping upwards continues to be a bell curve; there will be diminishing returns even if the unit has more Spd, to begin with, as the number of units in which the increased Spd actually matters might be marginal and not even see play on defense at all.

Observation 3: The offensive-defensive asymmetry means that most of the time, the defenses have a hard time prioritizing counterplays. As Spd stacking Vantage is more-or-less a rare sight, it is difficult for defenses to compromise due to the reasons stated above

Laslow’s Placement and Moving Forward

All of these factors were considered during the September update; most of the defensive teams are not well prepared even if the counters for the strategy do exist. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed is king; with the only other double-hitting competition that can use Godlike Reflexes being Winter Altina, Laslow was propelled forward in the discussion. The team undeniably was also rather split in terms of the decision, however, there was eventually a consensus that such a strategy is indeed valid at least in the landscape of evaluation. The folly of this placement was the release of Male Shez, and more discussion should have definitely been in place instead of pushing forward with the update. This is something that the team believes needs to improve moving forward.

After examining Male Shez in detail, the matchup improvement of Laslow and Male Shez is actually marginal in the current landscape. It is undeniable that Male Shez has the higher ceiling due to his more modern stat distribution on top of in-built acceleration, however at least based on our initial impressions, these differences do not matter at least right now. The general apathy of most players defending in the mode means that these slight punishments might continue to go unpunished even for the Laslow user. However, it is worth noting that the team has a consensus that we are too relaxed in terms of Tier 1 placements. The team will be tightening up Tier 1 placements in the near future, and these changes will likely be in the next update. 

I hope that this article explained in relative detail the reasons for our actions, and our plans moving forward. Thank you for reading. 

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About the Author(s)

Maskilraid is a writer specialising in Fire Emblem Heroes. He situates in the tiny island of Singapore, and is a fanatic in crafting Aether Raids Defence teams. He also has academic background in Statistics, providing statistical analysis of the pull rates in Fire Emblem Heroes.