Fire Emblem: Three Houses: How to survive maddening mode

One of the criticisms of Nintendo’s new Fire Emblem: Three Houses is that hard mode wasn’t all that hard. In fact, every difficulty the game had to offer could kind of be coasted through so long as you spend enough time grinding.

Well, Nintendo heard the angry call of the hardcore gamer and recently patched in maddening mode which seriously cranks up the difficulty. This is a mode that is so difficult the “mock battle” at the beginning of the game is ending many gamers’ runs. Why is it so difficult? Enemies have inflated stats, powerful abilities, and tend to be at least five levels ahead of you. All the while your own XP is severely limited and many avenues to grinding have been cut off.

Of course this super difficult mode would frustrate some gamers, but that’s largely because you have to approach it in a different way. Useful skills and abilities on hard mode become useless on maddening and seemingly useless abilities on lower difficulties suddenly become the key to your salvation. To break down the strategies needed to tackle maddening mode, we have put together this quick guide for you.

Equip everyone with bows

Enemies will have higher stats than you across the board on maddening difficulty. A single counter-attack from an enemy is usually enough to kill one of your units. Thus, one of the only safe ways to attack them is to do so from outside their range. To this end everyone, yes EVERYONE, should have a bow in their inventory. Yes, even your spellcasters since you’ll be wanting to attack opposing spellcasters with physical attacks and you’ll also want to have a ranged attack ready after you use up your spell slots.

Equip your infantry with knuckles

Since enemies have much higher stats than you, double attacking them will be much harder. That is where knuckles come in. Knuckles are guaranteed to double attack, much like brave weapons, even at lower weapon grades. This will make you double and in some circumstances quadruple attack enemy units right in the beginning of the game. This is a good way to pile on a lot of damage to deal a finishing blow to an already damaged unit.

Rely on Iron and Training weapons

While you might want to equip your whole army with fancy weapons, this will actually hinder your progress in maddening mode. You actually want to mostly rely on iron and training weapons, since they are the lightest and give you the highest chance to double-attack the enemy and dodge enemy attacks. They also have the highest number of charges allowing you to use powerful combat arts.

Equip your slower units with shields and heavier weapons

While every unit in the game should have an iron or training bow, knuckle, or primary weapon , just in case the chance to double arises, units that consistently cannot double attack the enemy (like Fortress Knights) are better off with upgraded weapons to get the most out of their single swing. It’s also worth equipping them with the best shield you can find to up their chances of surviving an enemy assault.

If you can’t attack twice use a combat art

Speaking of single swings, if you are unable to double attack the enemy you are almost always better off using a combat art. They hit harder, cause status effects, move the enemy, or even hit the enemy from a longer range than usual. Yes, this does use up a lot of charges of your weapon, but in maddening it’s more worth to lose a few charges of a weapon than to lose a character.

Raise the faith of every spellcaster to at least D

Every spellcaster in the game gains the ability to cast healing magic at faith rank D. Not only does this make every spellcaster in your army and healer, which is important if you take an unfortunate it, it also gives you a convenient source of XP. All XP earned from battling and defeating enemies is reduced in maddening, but XP earned from healing is not. So use this to squeeze a few extra levels out of your characters.

Raise charm, train authority, and use gambits

Gambits are incredibly useful in maddening because they allow you to attack while preventing a counter attack all while doing area of effect damage. Unfortunately, gambits are difficult to use if you aren’t specifically training to use them. This means you should train the authority of every unit you are using so they can use the best battalions. It also means you need to constantly have tea with your army to raise their charm with perfect teatimes. You’ll have to plant white flower seeds, Albinean seeds, and Northern Fodlan seeds to harvest Golden Apples from the garden, items that further raise your charm. Pick characters with high charm growths for your army and further customize them with high charm classes. Charm is the stat you’ll dump everything into in this run.

Stride, dance, and immobilize gambits are lifesavers

While many of your gambits will be used solely for attacks, there are three types of gambits that will greatly aid you. Stride will let your whole army move at fast speeds across the map, which allows you to get out of danger zones and get in to strike lethal blows. Dance gambits allow up to four of your units to move again during a turn, which is much better than the standard dance ability. Finally immobilize gambits can freeze enemy units in place well outside the range of your units. This allows you to safely take them out from afar using chip damage.

If you can help it, NEVER move more than one character into danger range, and never move them more than one square in

Every single enemy character in maddening mode is a source of instant death. If more than one enemy is targeting one of your units a turn, you are in serious trouble. You should move your army slowly into enemy range and always open up your attacks by moving only one highly guarded character into danger range. This will pull the enemy toward you and allow you to safely pick them off one by one. Note, this makes fortress knights very valuable in maddening mode, especially high res ones. I kid you not, consider making Mercedes a Fortress Knight for this exact reason.

Take note of enemy abilities

In normal and hard, enemies will have few abilities you have to worry about. In maddening, every enemy is stacked with abilities. From thieves using pass to walk to your back lines, to units with defiant skills that make them more dangerous to attack while at low health, you should always check an enemy’s abilities before attacking them. They will often have a few abilities that are worth considering more than the simple combat forecast.

Choose your team early

XP is at a premium in maddening mode, so you need to spread it around wisely. As such, you’ll need to decide on your core team very early on. Choose 12-13 characters that you are going to focus on for the rest of the game and ONLY focus on those characters, period. Many of them should be from your core house so you can survive the chapter directly post time-skip when you only have house units to use. In addition, choose 6-7 of these units and focus on them as your forward force. They will necessarily have to be higher level than everyone else in your army to take more hits from the enemy.

Get three armored adjutants

In addition to your main army, train three students into armored classes and set them as your adjutants. Armored adjutants have a chance of negating and reducing damage and preventing counter attacks. They are by far the best adjutants to have in maddening mode, as they will make your frontline forces that much more hardy.

Don’t bother equipping anyone on the bench

This might go without saying, but anything you put on a benched unit is just wasted resources. In fact, any weapons that a recruited but benched unit comes with should be immediately stripped from them and repurposed from your army. Gold is also in short supply on maddening mode, so you’ll want to pinch every penny.

Recruit EVERYONE!

Despite only using a small core army, you are still going to want to recruit every character in the game. This has two purposes. First, it makes some battles easier as named characters will be replaced with faceless generics with lower stats. Second, it gives you access to paralogues which are fantastic sources of gold, items, battalions, and XP, and you’ll need all of it to keep the strength of your units up.

Recruit late if possible

This one is conditional, but if a units “standard” class is the class you want them in at the end of the game, recruit them as late as possible. They will always start at level parity to the rest of your army, which essentially means free XP. Unfortunately they will have poorly trained skills with only one or two being raised at all, so there’s a tradeoff. However, if those are the only skills you want to raise you lose absolutely nothing by recruiting your most wanted units as late as possible.

Take class tests early to raise base stats

Classes have certain minimum stats that they have to have. If you have ever gotten a stat bonus simply for passing a certification test, this is because your unit’s stats are being forcefully upgraded to that minimum. Thus, it’s important that you take certification tests as soon as you possibly can, even if you don’t change to that class, as they will simply grant you free stat points. Armored class certifications are especially good to get since defense growths are low across most characters and simply certifying for the Armored Knight class will bump your defense up to 12.

Don’t use auxiliary battles to level characters, use them to level skills

XP has been severely reduced in maddening mode, but this gives you a hidden benefit. Skill XP and class XP hasn’t been reduced, so you can fight in auxiliary battles as much as you like to gain skill levels and class mastery skills without risking gaining too many levels in classes with off growths.

Get every last drop of XP you can, even if it means cheesing enemies

Because XP is so limited, you have to get as much of it as possible. One of the best ways to do this is to use healing skills on your party while there is one unit left in rout maps. Just try to leave a priest or something hanging around. They will use up their attack magic and you can spend the rest of the map just farming XP from passive skills.

That’s all the tips we have for you today. Do you have any tips for surviving Fire Emblem: Three Houses’ Madding difficulty? Let us know in the comments.