MMM - Pellan Pretender Proliferates Peers, Pulling Plenty of Powerful Presents to Professor's Partners (Lord El-Melloi Rerun Gacha)

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The Modern Magus Magazine

So, the New Year comes in with a nice, gentle start, by simply killing a meme. To be honest, I was somehow expecting it to be longer before we got a fellow Pretender to join Oberon in his class roster.

And Hephaestion is basically the most suitable canon Servant out there to fill in, so you’ll hear no complaints from me.

This is entirely tangential to the actual MMM, but El-Melloi Case Files is basically my favorite spin-off to the Fate series, encapsulating the cutthroat and intriguing environment of Magi that Clock Tower creates rather finely. And it also has Reines in it, which automatically earns bonus points. So watch it / read it / whatever you prefer when you get the chance. It has its own Seal of Approval from me.

Case Files Plus Episode Banner
NA Release Date: 01/2024

Boy, don’t you hate it when your boyfriend’s sister dresses up like you to redirect curses from you because the King of Conquerors has that much of a target on their head, but they still don’t like you as much as your totally-homo “best friend”?


Regardless of how amusing the lore setup to Hephaestion’s existence as a girl basically dragging the discount store Iskandar skillset is, having any extra Pretender in the game is nice. And her inclusion also ushers in some pretty nice NP buffs to Reines and Gray, which I’m frankly more excited for, somehow.

Servant Data
Max HP 11,168
HP Rank
Max ATK 9,879
ATK Rank
Base Atk1,646Base HP1,786
Max Atk 9,879 Max HP 11,168
Grail Atk 11,961 Grail HP 13,541
Independent Action B (EX)

Increase your Critical Strength by 12%.

Disguise Creation B

Increase your Critical Chance Resist by 10%
Increase your Critical Star Drop Rate by 10%.

Territory Creation EX

Increase your Arts Card effectiveness by 12%.

??? (Hephaestion)

Increase your NP Strength by 10%.


Being the first entry into the SR Pretenders lineup, there’s sadly not much to be done for comparisons against her class competition - after all, there’s only one of them. However, in general for a 4* Servant Hephaestion packs a good, offensive statline - anything nearing 10k Attack is high for her rarity, and her HP in turn is reasonably good considering her offensive presence.

Inarguably more interesting, however, is Hephaestion’s passive lineup. With no real class skills for the Pretender class, this area is basically a free-for-all design-wise, and it really shows. With high-ranking Independent Action and Territory Creation, she gets a moderate boost to both her Critical Damage and Arts cards, combined with Disguise Creation B, giving her a passive 10% Critical Resistance and Stargen buff, she has some very respectable boosts spread around her statline. The Critical Resistance in particular is quite nice to prevent any nasty surprises, even if it doesn’t fully prevent criticals from most enemy types (as typically the critical chance ranges from 10-15%).

Lastly, is ???. Yup, following Oberon’s stead Hephaestion also has a spoiler-guarded skill which I cannot call by name for now. Regardless, it’s a very neat 10% NP Power buff, meaning she’s already getting a notable boost to her NP’s damage just from the baseline.

All in all, Hephaestion has a very strong start to her statline.

NP Generation
Servant Skills
Noble Phantasm

So, how does Hephaestion fare in practice? On one hand, she’s built up steam and all ready to chug along:

As one of the few Pretenders implemented in the game, and the first that’s ST, Hephaestion gets an automatic bump for being an option for class advantage against Alter Egos that doesn’t come with any clean disadvantage. Using Oberon offensively comes with some issues, and while Kama has technically possessed the niche for a while, her class advantage being tied to a skill and not covering defensive class advantage does leave her a little vulnerable, especially as she is typically weak to Alter Egos. Simply put, she has the market cornered for the moment.

Even with supply and demand economics ignored, Hephaestion’s offensive profile is not bad at all. While her damage output may not be too impressive, she can compensate with her CE options due to how flexible High-Speed Divine Words makes her, and the standard double Castoria support lineup tends to compensate for her offensive shortcomings more than enough.

Hephaestion is notable for having one of the broadest class advantage repertoires available. While it doesn’t mean much from a farming sense, as her NP isn’t AOE, it does make her particularly versatile when you need a ST damage dealer, capable of getting class advantage on 5 classes, as well as Berserker like basically everyone else, 4 of which are very common. And even then, Alter Ego is like, the 2nd most common Extra class after Ruler, maybe tied with Avenger.

However, she can also find herself rapidly derailed when she hits a bend:

While Unsigned Favor is technically something in that area, Hephaestion is otherwise very…plain in terms of what she brings to a team. Her entire kit is leant toward NP’ing quickly, and dishing out damage, which is certainly respectable, but leaves her with very little to stand on if another competing Servant creeps ahead of her in the damage numbers, when other Servants can lean on fun gimmicks or rare utility effects. While that Taunt+Def buff of hers is nice, it isn’t going to make her a premier pick over the competitor with a bigger impact.

I may have glossed over this subject for Oberon since he’s more a support than an offensive presence for a Pretender, but Hephaestion shares the eternal conundrum of Alter Egos - why use the versatile, singular Servant with 1.5x class advantage when you can very easily raise multiple Servants with 2x class advantage, some of them even Welfares, to tackle each class individually? The virtuoso path may be useful for starting players lacking in resources, but when you have a broad Servant pool, the number of situations Hephaestion will be the optimal choice versus Kagetora for an Archer, or Summer Hokusai for a Lancer is going to be few.

So far as the real, permanent introduction to the Pretender class goes, not cursed by the despair of a limited banner or the SSR pull rate, Hephaestion is far from a bad start. She’s simplistic, sure, but simplicity is her weapon to bear like a sword and cut the knot of this game’s rock-paper-scissors class triangles, paving way to an actual option to handle Alter Egos.

Being a looping-focused Arts ST Servant with a very clean, damage-focused kit and a nutty gauge charger certainly helps in that, but she honestly could’ve distributed some of the raw offensive power in her kit into more generalistic supportive or utility effects and she would’ve accomplished the same effect - you wanna take down an Alter Ego? Bring Hephaestion. You wanna bring down any of the 7 OG classes except Rider or Assassin? Hey, she can do that too. In fact, she’s a rather convenient tool for the lazy player in us all that hates swapping around team formations to match class advantage, though Berserkers still do it better.

So yes, she’s very solid, if not anything to write home about. Just the fact she can pop up randomly in your pulls in the future to fill out your class options sells her better than most of her actual gameplay power, so it’s very good to have her around. Rath™ Seal of Approval.


The thing they don’t tell you when I write MMM’s about any Foreigner-Alter Ego-Pretender triangle Servant is I have to constantly double-check the class advantage between the three, since I keep getting it wrong. But I was prudent…this time.

I suppose since it isn’t in my tradition to dedicate whole sections to Servant buffs, I will just add that the buffs to Reines and Gray both are fairly impactful for them - I believe Gray’s 10% gauge charger post-NP theoretically allows her to NP loop now (Kaleido+Mana Loading, double Koyanskaya of Light into Oberon battlesuit swap just barely gets her there), which is a solid win for the welfare Assassin farming meta. Kiichi Hogen worked but…well, Quick farming can be annoying depending on your offensive option.

And Reines is now essentially a competitor to all NP refund-based farm loops, and in some situations is actually superior to Skadi (at least, I believe if damage output can be sacrificed a little, Skadi+Reines is now better than double Skadi). And I’m all for evening out the SSR support balance a little more.

…So, when is Merlin getting that Hero Creation strengthening, huh?

I’m not even kidding, he could kind of do with another gauge charger.

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