Arena pits two teams against each other. The Arena offense team, wielded by the player, is facing an Arena defense team composed by another player and controlled by the game AI (which is deterministic and thus can be manipulated to some extent).
An Arena offense team's goal is to efficiently (with minimal loss) take the AI-controlled Arena defense team it's fighting out. Ideally, you're hoping to lose zero units in the process as any loss will result in a diminution of your Arena score.
This is much harder than just taking four units out without care for loss.
Additionally, an Arena offense team doesn't know what it will be facing. This makes it impossible to fine-tune the team's composition towards beating a specific team - here, the goal will be to design teams that can handle the majority of potential threats with minimal (ideally zero) loss.
One thing to keep in mind is your ability to score also depends on your team's score range (which determines the minimum and maximum score your team may earn on a flawless victory). We don't know how exactly the criteria that determine a team's score range are applied, but we are aware of a list of them:
- Character level and rarity.
- Amount of merges.
- Total team BST (ignoring skills).
- Equipped skills.
This suggests you should thrive to run fully maxed 5star teams if you can afford to, ideally running high-BST (Base Stat Total) units with a lot of equipped skills.
There is no single mold for a "great team". A really determined player could probably build a powerful Arena offense team revolving around any of the units in the game and get good results with it (not optimal, but good).
With that being said, many units are by nature fit for specific tasks. These units usually fulfill one or more "roles" depending on their build and the team's composition, and being aware of these is helpful when designing a team.
A dancer's primary role is to transfer their turns to teammates in order to better use said teammates' abilities. For instance, an offensive unit can attack twice per turn if they're being supported by a dancer, potentially taking two foes down instead of one.
Dancers usually carry a buff in their C slot (such as Hone Atk or Fortify Def), which allows them to also improve their teammates' stats.
Finally, dancers can also contribute their own firepower to the team when a unit they counter is present on the terrain. Dancers can be surprisingly menacing under the right circumstances - for instance, a well-built Olivia is usually able to handle Hector just fine.
Including a dancer in a team's composition is usually a good idea.
Most players are unlikely to have one actually useful powerhouse unit per color in their box, and even then these units won't necessarily have good synergy. It's better to have a very synergetic team built around one or two excellent units and a dancer than a team with weak synergy made up of four good units that don't actually fit together.
A tank's mission is to bait foes that can't kill them into their more offensive teammates' range. Most tanks are specialized (either against physical or magical assault), and many of them are also capable of killing foes on their own (even though that's not their primary mission). What matters is their ability to bait units and not die in the process.
Including a tank in a team's composition isn't strictly speaking necessary, but strongly recommended nonetheless.
Fielding at least one tank makes it much easier to control how your foes approach you, which greatly improves survival.
- Most melee units, with a preference for high atk.
- Special mentions:
A melee nuke's job is to kill the units it attacks (or baits, in the case of Distant Counter abusers such as Ryoma or Hector), ideally in a single engagement (i.e. without needing to rely on a dancer). It really is that simple.
Most teams want one or two melee nukes.
Not bringing any melee nuke will usually have too many drawbacks (you won't always be able to maintain distance, especially on some of the trickier maps), and bringing more than two has different drawbacks (sometimes ranged is just needed).
The ranged counterpart to melee nukes. Not much to add there.
Most teams want zero to two of them. It's possible to have a good team with no ranged nuke if you use chippers instead (but you'll want at least one ranged attacker nevertheless).
Chippers may be ranged or melee - what matters is their ability to deal damage without getting killed in return (especially through indirect damage). Unlike nukes, they don't really care about actually killing their foes - that job is for teammates.
Most teams will want zero to one chipper. And one ranged attacker, whether it's a nuke or a chipper.
- Ephraim and Eirika are the specialists there since they can buff three stats on their own (their legendary weapons provide Hone Atk 2), but most non-dancer units can buff two stats just fine.
Buffers are there to increase their teammates' stats and performance through Hone/Fortify/Goad/Ward skills, as well as potentially a Rally assist skill.
There is no set amount of buffers for team building, but blade tome teams will always want at least one if not two.
A healer's primary role is to refill their teammates' hp gauges so they're able to keep fighting for a longer amount of time. They usually wield a support staff too (such as Fear, Pain or Slow), which can be used as a crutch if needed. Arena is an extremely brutal and fast-paced environment.
In the overwhelming majority of situations, bringing a healer has too high an opportunity cost when compared with just bringing another combat-capable unit - the sustain they provide won't have time to matter.
Here are a few examples of role combinations that produce interesting results. Use these as inspiration.
- Ranged nuke + tank, with the tank's assist set to Reposition, Pivot or Swap.
- Have the ranged nuke hide behind the tank. Whenever they attack, have the tank reposition them behind them afterwards.
- Allows the nuke to advance in the opposing team's range without too much exposure (nukes and especially ranged nukes are usually relatively fragile).
- You can also have a buffer stand behind the nuke's position to improve said nuke's firepower.
- Blade tome user (ranged nuke) + Buffer.
- That one is pretty self-explanatory. Have the buffer increase the blade tome user's firepower as much as possible, then nuke things.
- Nino + Ephraim/Eirika is great for this, as Ephraim and Eirika both check some of Nino's counters (Eirika checks Julia, Ephraim checks most red units).
A team normally needs to contain at least one unit whose primary role is to kill most foes (i.e. a nuke, or an offensive tank - let's call them Attackers for now), but the precise amount determines how the team is played as well as its flexibility.
For instance, a Nino-centric team will usually consider Nino to be its only dedicated attacker - it will probably contain a blue unit capable of killing Nino's counters (such as Ephraim or Sharena), but that unit's primary role will be to support Nino in her sweeping, not sweep on their own. Hence, we'll call that probable blue unit a support.
Thus, the possible attacker/support spreads for a team are 0/4, 1/3, 2/2, 3/1, and 4/0.
In most cases, you'll want 1/3, 2/2 or 3/1 attackers/supports.
Using only attackers or only supports will limit your team's flexibility or efficiency (respectively), which is nearly guaranteed to hurt you in Arena.
(As a side note: usually the fourth unit is support by default because it's filled with whatever featured unit you're running this Arena season. This means we're really only looking at the first three slots most of the time, with fourth slot occasionally having usefulness if you happen to have a unit cooked for it.)
1/3 spreads tend to be cheap to build. Running suboptimal supports isn't a huge liability, so a 1/3 spread only absolutely requires one high quality unit (its attacker) to function.
1/3 spreads tend to use a ranged nuke such as Nino, Olwen, Reinhardt, Linde or Setsuna as their attacker. It's not impossible to run a melee nuke instead, but melee nukes will usually be stopped cold by their counters which leads to a preference for running them in 2/2 or 3/1 spreads where their counters can be handled by fellow attackers.
You will probably want to run a dancer and a tank among your supports. The dancer will greatly improve your attacker's destructive power by transferring actions to them, and the tank will make it much simpler to manipulate the AI and keep your attacker away from danger.
Additionally, you will probably want to buff your attacker through C slots and possibly Rally skills. You only have one dedicated canon, so you might as well make sure they have as much firepower available as physically possible.
Although 1/3 spreads tend to be cheap, this doesn't mean they're bad - just focused. It's important to keep in mind that there are many ways to achieve proficiency in Fire Emblem: Heroes, and not all of them demand huge resources.
For instance, Nino, Olivia and Sharena are all easily available (Nino and Olivia can be summoned at 3star) and they work extremely well together in 1/3 spread (fourth unit is filler, usually a featured unit to adjust for Arena season).
- Nino/Tharja/Linde (attacker - ranged nuke) + Sharena/Eirika/Gwendolyn/Draug/Ephraim (support tank and buffer) + Olivia/Azura/Ninian (support - dancer and buffer) + Featured unit
- A well-established classic offense team. Blade tome users make excellent nukers, especially in 1/3 spreads where everyone is dedicated to increasing their firepower.
- Hector (attacker - melee nuke and vantage tower) + Olivia (support - dancer and buffer) + Azura (support - dancer and buffer) + Featured unit
- With Pivot and his two dancer teammates, Hector can move through the map at scarily high speeds and rely on Vantage to destroy units both during attack and defense. The dancers will likely want Wings of Mercy.
2/2 spreads rely on two complementary nukes (such as Anna + Effie for instance). It's possible to make this work with any combination of melee and ranged nukes.
2/2 spread is slightly harder to assemble than 1/3 because you do need a pair of high-quality and complementary nuke units (running two red nukes doesn't really work, for instance), but it achieves much greater flexibility in its attack style since each attacker supposedly covers (most of) its partner's blind spot.
On the other hand, this also means you're running two support units "only" (including the featured unit) - when compared with 1/3 spread, you have a little less flexibility and you need to allocate support (and especially dances if you're running a dancer) more carefully.
- Anna (attacker - melee nuke) + Effie (attacker - melee nuke and tank) + Olivia (support - dancer) + Featured unit
- Anna and Effie complement each other pretty well, and Anna being part of the original trio makes this team relatively easy to build.
- Olivia is the preferred dancer because her color makes her better at handling Hector, one of the biggest threats to Effie and Anna.
- Effie (attacker - melee nuke) + Hector (attacker - melee nuke) + Draug (support - tank and buffer) + Featured unit
- One variation of Armor Emblem. Draug is considered a support because of his comparatively low atk and huge def.
- Hector's Goad Armor combines well with Effie's huge firepower and probable use of Brave Lance+.
At this point, support is largely an afterthought. 3/1 spreads are particularly hard to build as they require a trio of complementary high quality units, and not necessarily better depending on said trio and your ability to wield its features.
Together, the three units should have no obvious blind spot (i.e. their combination should cancel each of its parts' weaknesses - if it doesn't and they all share a weakness, it may be worth considering downgrading the team to a 2/2 spread instead). This is hard to achieve, but potentially very rewarding as it leads to a huge variety in potential attacking approaches.
3/1 spreads will usually handle support nearly exclusively by providing each attacker with a buff in C slot, and potentially a Rally in assist slot (although position play matters much more to teams without a dancer, and makes Reposition a very important assist to consider).
- Cordelia/Hinoka (attacker - melee nuke) + Palla (attacker - melee nuke) + Camilla/SpringCamilla/Cherche (attacker - melee or ranged nuke) + Featured unit
- This is one possible composition for a Flier Emblem team (most class-based teams are going to be 3/1 spreads by design).
- Archers may seem like a bane to these teams, but their inferior mobility makes it easy to nuke them through Reposition play. Unless you run in a full archer team, you shouldn't actually be in trouble.
- Eldigan/Stahl/Eliwood (attacker - melee nuke) + Ursula/Olwen/Reinhardt (attacker - ranged nuke) + Frederick/Cecilia (attacker - melee or ranged nuke) + Featured unit
- Standard Horse Emblem team.
- Ryoma (attacker - melee nuke) + Nowi (attacker - melee nuke) + Hector (attacker - melee nuke) + Featured unit
- This is a team focused on Distant Counter (Ryoma and Nowi both get it for free thanks to their signature weapons). Everyone in this team gets to counterattack no matter the attacker, leading to huge flexibility.
- Also a standardized defense team (usually run with either Takumi or Kagero as fourth unit).
This spread discussion is mostly a tool for the conceptualization of teams, not an absolute description of their workings.
A Nino + Ephraim + Olivia team may be considered 2/2 or 1/3 depending on Ephraim's build and the wielder's playstyle.
Nevertheless, it's useful when looking at one's resources and trying to determine a starting point and a core idea for a team. This is because you'll usually want to think and build your team around your attacker(s), rather than around your supports.
In most cases, building an Arena offense team starts with identifying attacker(s) to work with. You'll want to go through your box and look for units with excellent offensive potential (i.e. clearly dedicated attackers). Make a list of these, see whether you have pairs or even trios that work well together (different colors, and minimal blind spot overlap). You won't necessarily actually play a 2/2 or a 3/1 attacker/support spread, but having a clear idea of the ones you could pull off is useful.
Once you have a list of potential attacker compositions, look through your box for adequate support for each of these compositions.
Ideally, support units should be different colors than the attacker units and they should increase the efficiency of every/most attacker in the team's composition.
Dancers, due to their extremely high support level, may be used regardless of color (i.e. playing Olivia alongside another red unit is acceptable). Furthermore, the meta tends to punish playing two blue units a little less severely (but meta changes a lot, so use your best judgment based on experience).
At this point, you should have a list of potential attacker+support compositions. If none of the currently featured characters for Arena appears in this list, now is the time to slot someone in (there will usually be one of the original trio characters in the featured list no matter the season, if it comes down to this). Else, keep the fourth slot empty for the next step.
Pick some compositions you like (based on playstyle, character affinity, etc.) and have each of these compositions go through the counters checklist (see below). If your fourth slot isn't filled already, you may pick it now to adjust and ameliorate the team's results against the checklist.
The next step is relatively simple: pick a team you like among the teams that managed to get through the checklist. Run it through a few matches in Arena, see how well or badly it fares. Try to evaluate whether battles you don't ace are failed because the team never stood a chance, or simply because your tactics were bad. See whether you're happy with the score range the team gets (remember: higher natural BST fares better, but this also means facing tougher foes).
By design, the Arena is largely biased in favor of offense.
If your tactics and team construction are solid, it should be feasible to achieve a perfect chain (i.e. chain seven battles without losing a single unit, which is how you can obtain your team range's maximum possible score).
In other words, if achieving a perfect chain is proving to be impossible, this means either your tactics or your team construction needs refining (or you're trying to grab too many points with underbuilt units - running many armors is attractive score-wise, but badly built armors will have a hard time performing well). Make sure your team can't be further optimized (especially look at your unit builds), try to identify your playstyle's possible flaws in regards to its workings, and don't be scared of incremental change.
This article is part of the General Team Building Guide, a series of articles written by takaminacchan. A list of the articles in this series can be found at the top and bottom of each article.