Perhaps you’ve tried Fire Emblem Heroes, Nintendo’s new mobile strategy game.
Perhaps you’ve crashed and burned.
Perhaps you’d like a few tips so you can impress your friends and generally avoid sucking?
I’m a Fire Emblem fan who’s pretty much beaten the entire game so far — as well as the last seven or so Fire Emblem games before that. These are all the simplest, yet most important things I’ve learned about how to kick ass.
(WTF is Fire Emblem? Click here.)
Get better heroes, fast
Are you still using the default team of Anna, Alphonse, Sharina and Virion? Fix that. The game’s starter heroes are weak — except maybe Sharena, because she’s got a mean lance. Read our guides on how to spend your first orbs on better heroes, and on which heroes you want to keep.
With some more powerful heroes, you’ll have a way better chance of victory.
Obvious? Yes, but in Fire Emblem Heroes, it can be tempting to toss your heroes at enemies just to see what happens. That’s because unlike in other Fire Emblem games, your heroes can’t permanently die and they’ll always hit the enemies they attack.
But whenever a hero dies in Fire Emblem Heroes, they lose all the experience and ranks they gained during that battle. Dead heroes don’t get more powerful. That means you just wasted your time and stamina points.
Which brings me to…
Hold down on foes before you attack
In Fire Emblem Heroes you can predict the outcome of any skirmish. Don’t believe me? Just drag one of your heroes to an enemy, and keep your finger held down for a minute.
At the top of the screen, you’ll see how much damage you’ll do, how many swings you’ll get in (look out for “x2”) and, most importantly, how much health each character will have at the end of the fight.
Don’t let go of the screen if your hero’s going to die!
Let them come to you (unless you can wipe ’em out)
Why rush in? In Fire Emblem, she who attacks first often dies first ,too. That’s because when you attack them during your turn, they often get a counterattack, and during their turn, they get a whole new attack which might finish you off.
Never attack an enemy unless you can wipe them out that turn, or unless they’d do so little damage to you that it won’t matter. Instead, walk up close with a hero who has an advantage (more details later), and let your enemies throw themselves on your lance (or sword, or axe).
Stand your ground
It might be better not to move your characters at all — if, say, you’d be walking into an ambush from multiple foes. Make sure your characters are in a safe spot (hit the Danger Area button to check), then tap End Turn to let the enemy move first. If you’ve got a healer, you’ll probably want to heal first.
Bleed on your terms
Sometimes, enemies won’t come to you — particularly at the beginning of a battle — and you’ll need to put them in danger before the enemy will move.
Instead of using the Danger Area button, tap on each enemy individually to see their attack range (look for the red squares), and pick a spot where only one enemy can hit your character. Send in a character with an advantage (see three items down) against the enemy that’s about to attack, especially one that’s able to fight back.
Read your opponents
You can see every single one of your enemies’ weaknesses before you even get close. Just tap on any enemy to see all their stats, the weapon they’re using and their skills. Tap again on each of those items to see what they do, and if they’ll give those foes an advantage (see two items down) over you.
You might discover they’ve got a special legendary sword that slices through dragons (ouch!), the ability to weaken your nearby characters or even heal themselves.
And speaking of stats…
Do some simple math
You can come to some conclusions right away by comparing your foes’ stats to yours. Subtract one character’s defense from another’s attack to see how much damage each hit of a weapon will do. Subtract resistance from attack to calculate the damage of spells. (Assuming neither character has an advantage: see below.)
And remember, if any character has speed that’s 5 or more points higher than an opponent, they get two attacks in a row.
Press your advantage(s)
Things change big time if one character has an advantage — sometimes enough to let one completely destroy another without taking any damage in return.
The most basic is the weapons triangle: Sword beats axe, axe beats lance, lance beats sword. Characters do 20% more damage if they’ve got an advantage, and the opponent does 20% less.
Just imagine chopping off the wooden head of a lance with an axe, slicing past a short axe with a longer sword or spearing a sword fighter with an even longer lance if you need a memory aid.
But there are more advantages out there, as well as character archetypes that are simply strong or weak to others. Here are combinations to avoid (or exploit):
Red mages beat green mages, green mages beat blue mages, blue mages beat red mages (think fire, earth, water)
Mages fry armored generals
Pegasus Knights and healers resist magic (think holy vs. dark)
Archers shoot down fliers*
Armored generals laugh at melee weapons (if the weapon triangle’s in their favor, they’ll take very little damage)
Hammer wielders crush heavy armor*
Falchion masters (Lucina, Chrom) cut through dragons like butter*
*= actually does way more damage, instead of just tipping a fight in one character’s favor
Watch out for specials
See the little magenta number next to a hero? That’s the number of turns before they unleash a powerful Special Move. When it’s ready to fire, it’ll turn into a magenta crescent+cross symbol. Don’t forget about that when you’re attacking a foe! Why? See the picture above.
Soften them up
Big, beefy foe? Smack them down with multiple attacks from different heroes so you can take them out in a single turn, and give each of your heroes experience points in the process.
Start with the heroes that won’t take damage. For instance, if you hit a melee character with a bow or magic spell, or vice versa, they generally can’t hit back. If possible, finish them off with your lowest level hero, since they’ll gain the most experience points.
Snipe, but don’t leave your archers exposed
Long-range characters that use bows and magic spells can hit melee characters without getting backhanded — and you should do it constantly — but the inverse is also true. Place your archers and mages behind a wall (or another one of your characters) so enemies don’t get a free hit on you.
Predict their moves
If you play for a while, you’ll start to notice that the AI isn’t too smart. Your enemies will almost always attack your closest, weakest ally, unless they can do more damage to another ally because of an advantage. You can exploit this by making sure what they’re about to attack will leave them in tatters.
When possible, keep your characters in a formation that’ll let them work as a team. Armored knights can only move one square at a time, foot soldiers and flying units can move two squares and horse riders move three.
Ask yourself: Will this leave one of my heroes open to ambush? If they choose to attack from the right side of my favorite character, will teammates be close enough to save them?
But don’t stack up, either
Moving across a bridge or another narrow path? Don’t crowd. If your lead character gets smacked, you may not be able to move them back out of danger if other heroes are in the way.
Remember a moment ago when I told you how far different types of heroes can move? Some characters have special abilities that can turn the whole game around by bending or breaking those rules.
Lyn and Cordelia have an expensive super move called Galeforce that lets them take a second turn after an attack.
Bartre and Effie can throw an ally two whole squares away — even over a pit of bubbling lava — with the smite ability.
Marth and Cherche can vault over allies with the pivot skill. If you’ve got a Pegasus Knight or other flying unit, you can have them fly over a chasm and effectively give Marth a ride to the other side.
Roy, Gordin and Est can shove friendly units one space away. Good for getting your slowest characters moving.
Fae, Nino and Sully can pull a friendly unit one space out of harm’s way with the draw back ability.
Arthur, Stahl and Subaki can swap with a nearby ally to trade places.
Barst and Selena can move an ally on one side of them to the other side with the reposition ability.
Azura can sing, and Olivia can dance, to give any unit (other than themselves) a second turn.
Any character that uses one of these abilities ends their turn, but targeted characters still get to move and attack afterwards!
Plus, some heroes can run away and warp next to another hero once they’ve taken a lot of damage.
Every time a healer heals, it earns them experience points, and they heal themselves in the process. Remember to heal before you finish off the last enemy in a map, as tempting as it might be to go for the kill. There are limits on experience points for healing, though, if the game sees you abuse it.
Diversify your team
Maybe it goes without saying, but the advantages (above) mean you should bring different kinds of characters into battle. Even though some of the game’s most popular characters use swords, four of them can still get absolutely wrecked by a single armored general with a lance. Think about that.
Create additional teams
See those big, bouncing blue arrows on the left and right of your team? That’s because you can have more than one. In the Alliesmenu, hit Edit Teams, use those arrows to cycle to an empty team, and fill ‘er up. I’ve got one team that’s just my strongest characters, another that’s diversified to take on any foes, and two others with weak characters — on purpose.
Which brings me to…
Don’t overuse your strongest characters
Your heroes only get stronger if the enemy can put up a fight. If your character is too many levels (Lv.) higher than your foes, you’ll get NO experience points. The lower your level, the more XP you get. Optimally, you’ll want to fight enemies of the same level or greater to get the most bang for your buck.
So: Pick maps that have a level around the same number as your heroes to avoid wasting time. When those heroes get too powerful for the next map, switch them out for weaker ones that’ll benefit more from the battle.
Don’t use shards to level characters up
After you’ve accumulated some shards (typically by completing quests from the fountain on the home screen), it can be tempting to spend them to level up characters quickly (Allies > Level Up). But if you do that, they’ll miss out on the Skill Points (SP) they would have earned when defeating foes one-by-one, and it’ll make unlocking their special moves a bit slower.
Spend SP early and often on new skills
Once you’ve got 40SP or so, you may want to check Allies > Learn Skills to see if there are some game-changing upgrades you can buy. Once you’ve got 100SP, it’s almost always worth it.
Fight in the Training Tower and Arena
One easy way to make sure you’re constantly leveling heroes up: fight in the Training Tower or Arena Duels instead of Story Maps.
In the training tower, you can always pick a fight that’s appropriately leveled for your characters. The Arena adjusts to your strength automatically, though you may want to pick Beginner duels in the Arena unless you’ve got some 5-star characters and are confident in your teams and tactics.
Keep some weaklings around
Just because you know how to maximize your experience points doesn’t mean you always should. If you want to win battles at the Arena, it can actually help to go in with lower-leveled characters.
You’ll be more likely to get matched up against beginners who haven’t built good, balanced teams — and you won’t have to worry about them having all sorts of crazy skills that make the outcome tough to predict.
Don’t forget the higher difficulty levels
If you’ve carved through even a small chunk of the main story on Normal difficulty, you can start attempting missions on Hard and Lunatic, too. Didn’t know that was an option? That’s because it’s not particularly obvious that the “Normal” badge you see in Story Maps > Main Story is actually a button.
Tapping it will give you the same levels, but with tougher enemies and a fresh set of free orbs to acquire.
Play every day
You’ll get two orbs just for signing in daily — that’s 1/10 of your way towards a new set of five heroes — plus feathers that can help you upgrade them further. At the end of this guide, you’ll find a list of everything you should do each day.
You don’t have to spend real money
Somebody spent $1,000 on Fire Emblem Heroes and still didn’t get every character. (Completionists may hate this game.) Whereas I haven’t spent a dime, didn’t even re-roll, and managed to get a decent handful of my favorites (5-star Lyn, Ryoma, 4-star Lilina and Tiki) on my personal phone.
Sure, your mileage may vary, but Nintendo’s spitting out enough free orbs that you shouldn’t have trouble succeeding in FE Heroes. At least not now you’re armed with knowledge.
Need some more advanced strategy tips? Got some of your own? Leave them in the comments and we might add to this post.