Every Chaldean master has had that moment; you look upon your collection of Servants, bronzes to silvers to those gleaming golds, and gets overwhelmed at the number of resources and investments all these Servants must mean.
While in an ideal world, all Servants would have max level and max skills, everyone must start with that first step, with that first Servant. This article aims to break down the thinking process that goes behind choosing which Servants to level first and, subsequently, which skills to focus on to ease the burden on players when it comes to managing their Chaldea efficiently.
This article will also use terms and abbreviations unique to the FGO community, the definitions of which have been neatly and conveniently compiled together here:
As the North America FGO server winds down from a successful lotto season after GilFest, many players will find themselves with lots of embers, QP, skill gems, and certain mats to enhance their Servants. This article hopes to help players create their own priority checklist to level their Servants as effectively as possible. As with the blog's nature, many of the considerations make here will place efficiency and gameplay elements at the top. Still, the players are free to put their own personal rankings of Servants to show their love for them should they choose to.
Table of Contents
|Farmers||Highlight Servants / Supports|
|Steroid skills||Buff stacking / Case study : Jalter Zerk|
|Other skills to level|
|Using lores on skills|
|Why farming is important|
When faced with the dilemma of choosing which Servants to level first due to a lack of ascension materials, embers, QP, or any combination thereof, having a priority list to go down becomes more important. This is especially true for Servants whose ascension materials are rare or tedious to farm. For example, Napoleon was released alongside the 2nd Lostbelt and required a whopping 29 Gunpowder to ascend a 3rd time and another 132 for his skills. While Gunpowder as a material has an average 30.6 AP/drop (value courtesy of Atlas Academy's drop lookup tool), it was a very new material at the time of his release and therefore was not featured in shops or exchange tickets. So the natural choice for people who wanted to level him fast was to farm those manually in Lostbelt 1.
While that was only the example of Napoleon, the situation above is universal. At some point in their FGO career, most players will run out of materials to level their next Servants or raise their skills. And this is when having a strong lineup of Servants geared towards farming, farmers for short, can mean the difference between slight annoyance and loss of sanity when farming. This article will go a bit more in-depth about the extensive role farming has in this game later, but for now, let’s answer a very crucial question:
Who are farmers?
While technically speaking, almost any Servants can be used for farming, not all of them can do so efficiently or in a way that doesn't make you want to pull your hair out after a couple runs. There are two main categories of farmers, those with AoE NPs and those with ST NPs, each with their own quirks but otherwise very similar in usage: use NP to kill enemies as fast and efficiently as possible.
Considering that most nodes, up to the point of this article, feature waves that have more than 1 enemy in each, having a Servant with an AoE NP can, quite literally, kill two or three birds with one stone. This saves you the trouble of unleashing a devastating ST NP on a mob, only to have to use face cards for the other two enemies on the waves, draining both your time and sanity. At this point, you might point out my contradiction about having a category for ST farmers a few lines above. While it is true ST NPs don't contribute much to some nodes, there are farming nodes that feature one or even two waves with a single high HP boss that requires the use of a ST Servant to kill cleanly, such as Des Moines to farm Claws of Chaos or Dragon Palace for Divine Wine.
So eliminating a portion of Servants who have non-damaging NPs (though some of these can act as fantastic farmer support, more on that later), any other Servants can be good farmers right? It's not quite that simple. If you happen to have 3 MLBScope, you might get access to your NP immediately, but this is not the case for most of the player base. Even then, you have to take into account whether your NP can kill the waves or not. This brings us to the other two components of a good farmer: batteries and steroids. When a Servant has one or both of these components, they fix the two problems above respectively, charge and damage. Using a Servant with their own battery removes the need to have an MLBScope or running a support charger to fill their NP gauge. This can drastically increase your choice in CEs and support Servants, making your farming runs much more comfortable. This flexibility allows a much wider variety of comps to be used for different nodes as well as some CEs like Aerial Drive and Holy Night Supper, which offer a lot more offensive potential than a Superscope.
The next component to consider when looking at farmers is their steroids. While using your NPs is nice, it doesn't mean much during farming if your enemies aren't dead (or very close to death) at the end of it. Steroids offer a large part of your damage potential and will allow you to clear waves that an unbuffed Servant won't do, no matter their NP level. In fact, your steroids contribute a proportionately large amount to your farmers' damage compared to simply raising their NP level, which takes more a lot more gacha rolling. Consider the examples below of NP1 Servants using all their skills at max level compared to their NP5 counterpart with no self buffs applied in terms of damage with class advantage: (damage calculated with all current JP buffs at the time of writing)
|Shuten Douji (NP1, self buffs)||58,889|
|Shuten Douji (NP5)||48,561|
|Okita Souji Alter (NP1, self buffs)||42,394|
|Okita Souji Alter (NP5)||34,840|
|Artoria Pendragon (NP1, self buffs)||77,612|
|Artoria Pendragon (NP5)||50,594|
As you can see, steroids play a vital role in boosting a Servant's farming capability in a way that alternatives without self buffs often get outclass or simply delegated to clearing smaller nodes/waves, drastically lowering your farming potential.
If you are new to the game or find your farming roster to be lacking, our friend Aria has written a very detailed yet concise guide on the first few farmers to invest in first, starting the proverbial snowball of farmers that will farm for your future Servants.
However, if you have had those raised and are looking for more options in your farming roster, here are a few other farmers that are worth consideration due to their versatility and/or efficiency. There are many more Servants who can be good farmers if they have the criteria above, but these highlights will feature Servants who are relatively easy to acquire as they are in the permanent Servant pool, meaning they can spook you at any time.
Depending on the FGO community you've been to, this choice is either the most obvious or surprising. While her damage is nothing to boast about compared to other, more famous, farming Casters like Nero, her kit is nothing to scoff at. Her main appeal is her battery, which scales from 60% to a staggering 120%, which means you can just leave it at level 8 to achieve a full 102% NP charge. The ability to use her NP instantly by herself makes her a prime choice for people who prefer to have lots of flexibility in their CEs. She can carry a CE from Da Vinci shop, giving you more XP/bond or, more relevantly, free up a slot for lotto CE during lotto season. There are other, less obvious perks to using Nitocris as a farmer that our friends Cloud and Kozakura talked about more intensively.
Memes about him aside, Astolfo is an excellent farming Rider, especially for those without Francis Drake. With a 50% battery and an attack up steroid, he can be used with event CEs, 50% charge CEs, or if you have Scope and some external chargers like Skadi, Astolfo can clear 2 waves by himself. With this flexibility, he can be very versatile for many different nodes, especially as you get more NP levels for him.
Cu Chulainn (Prototype)
While he is also featured in Aria's starter guide above, his niche is useful enough, even for whales and veterans, that it is worth mentioning again. His main power comes from his S3, which gives him a 100% PM when hitting Beasts, which plays a crucial role in killing the big final mob on wave 3 for some free quests. As such, he excels at killing Hydras for Wine and Chimeras for Claws. As a final cheery on top, Cu is Sky attribute, which gives him another 10% damage boost against most of his Beast targets who are predominantly Earth-attribute. This solidifies him in the top position as a ST Lancer against Beasts, even out-damaging welfare SRs.
Helena is a very interesting Servant to consider since she works as both a support and wave-clearer by herself. She has a 20% team battery, which, while less impressive than top tier support Casters like Waver or Skadi, still gives a cheaper alternative to charge your team's NP, including her own. She also has a 3T team-wide color buff for all card types. This will increase your team's overall NP damage if you need the extra push to clear a wave. Her second skill is more self-centered and plays into her secondary role as a wave clearer. While her damage is too weak to clear wave 3 of most free quests, she is still strong enough to clear wave 1 or wave 2 if she manages to land her NP buff skill. This allows for comps where she uses all her skills on turn 1, charging and buffing the team, use her NP to clear the wave, and your team moves into waves 2 and 3 with 20% more charge and 20% card mod buff. This split charge comes in especially helpful even for veterans who want to use Servants who lack enough battery to charge themselves.
There is a multitude of other Servants who can be excellent farmers, some more accessible than others. Our friend Souless has made a document outlining choices on the SR ticket from a farming-oriented perspective, which features many permanent SR Servants who can spook your rolls at any time.
It will be an incomplete look at the game's farming aspects if the big supports in the game don't get a mention. People like Waver, Skadi in NA, and Caster Artoria (Castoria) in JP play a crucial role in one's farming comp despite having non-damaging NPs. Their skills provide unrivaled support for your DPS farmers, allowing them to clear nodes they otherwise would not be able to or makes nodes they can clear more comfortable to run. Some supports even brought new farming meta such as XSS looping with 2 Skadi and a Quick AoE DPS Servant or double Castoria looping that allow a single Servant to clear all 3 waves by themselves with considerable flexibility in CEs and Servant choice. The most prominent supports in this role are:
Waver, Mr. Worldwide of comps, fitting himself into almost any comps regardless of card type. His strengths lie in his 3 battery skills (20% team-wide and 50% for a single Servant) and a 30% attack buff on his S3. He also has usage in CQs and hard contents thanks to the DEF and crit buff.
Skadi, the newest sensation in NA FGO, features a kit that allows for a certain comp archetype known as XSS looping, utilizing 2 Skadi and a Quick AoE Servant to clear 3 waves by themselves. Even outside of XSS, Skadi is still a fantastic support for any farming team with her 50% battery, AoE DEF down, and a 3 turn Quick steroid for one Servant.
Castoria caused waves when she was first announced in JP FGO, featuring an unprecedented skill set built for NP looping, especially for Arts Servants. Her battery skills (30% team-wide and 50% on one Servant) along with Arts steroid and NP gain buff heralded in a new farming meta using two Castorias. On her own, she is still the premier support Servant for any farming comp, especially ones focused on Arts.
Leveling skills on Servants
So now you've leveled all your farmers and decided to take them out to a node, only to realize their performance is rather lackluster, to say the least. Their damage is low, and sometimes they don't even get enough NP charges. A Servant's skill levels are just as important as their level, fou, and NP level. As seen in the chart above, NP1 Servants with proper maxed skills out-damage their NP5 counterparts with no buffs. But each of these Servants has 3 skills, and leveling all of them up to max might take a large amount of materials that you might not have on hand immediately. As with Servants, not all skills are created equal, and some are more worthy of being focused on first to maximize a Servant's potential. Identifying the proper order to level skills will allow you to have an easier time managing your materials while still enjoying the most potential out of your Servants. To start off with the first skill that should be looked at on any Servant kit, if they have it, the battery.
There are two main types of battery, one at the top of the priority list and one near the last. Scalable batteries are NP charge skill that scales with level. These are skills that at level 1 might only fill up a small part of the NP gauge but at level 10 will charge much more. Due to the prominence of NPs in farming, scalable batteries provide unrivaled flexibility to a Servant's game plan as well as their potential CE and teammate choices. The higher you bring these scalable batteries, the easier you will find ways to fill the rest of the bar to NP right away with the Servant. In a game where you always go first, having instant access to your NPs means the enemies might never get a turn to attack, not only decreasing the damage your team is taking but, more importantly, halving the amount of time it takes to clear a quest. These batteries become even more important in team comps where you are utilizing NP refunds or any looping strategy for your Servants, such as Jeanne d'Arc (Archer), whose battery scales from 20% to 40%. Even missing 1% on a scalable battery might mean the difference between NP'ing a second or third time or get stuck at 98% NP bar coming into the next wave.
On the contrary, there are battery skills where the charge is flat, which means that at level 1, it provides as much charge as at level 10. Well, known examples of these skills are Waver's skills, which are all flat batteries at 30-10-10 value, or Bedivere's S2, which provides a flat 30% charge to himself even at level 1. These skills are much lower on the priority list as their most valuable buff is already at max value, even at level 1. Of course, exceptions exist like Waver's S3, but only because they fall under the next categories in the skills pecking order.
Okay, batteries are used to fill Servant's NP gauge to 100% easier, but what if CEs like Scope are available and level 1 battery skills can still give Servants access to their NP? Well, technically true, but leveling batteries will allow much more flexibility in team comps and CEs that might provide them with more damage, which might be crucial to clearing a wave. Some whales or veteran players can run triple Superscope comps, but those comps have the same pitfall, the fact that Superscope has minimal offensive potential compared to lesser charge CEs but has a lot more offensive capabilities.
|Servants||Super Aerial Drive||Superscope|
|Artoria Pendragon (Lancer)||105,287||89,733|
These are examples of Servants whose battery scales up to 50% at max level, allowing players to run them with Aerial Drive, a welfare CE, to achieve much more damage than a Superscope, which is drastically harder to obtain. Even for players who have superscopes, maxing a battery might allow them to double NP with Waver or any 50% charger, even if they have no refund capability.
For an in-depth look at how having a maxed battery skill become essential to clearing a node, look no further than NA’s recent Lostbelt 2 Aurora Steel node, Castle of Ice and Snow:
This comp perfectly demonstrates the usefulness of having max battery skills for both someone with Superscope and non-Scope CEs. Ereshkigal battery being at max allows her to NP a second time, giving Okita Alter a 40% charisma buff. Okita Alter having her battery maxed at 30%, allows her to run a 50% charge offensive CE (Aerial Drive) with Waver's 20% team-wide charge to clear the last wave of Valkyries. Any of those battery skills being even one level lower would have ruined that comp from being a perfect no-RNG 3 turn comp.
There isn't really a lot of difference when it comes to supports with battery skills for your team. If they have scalable batteries like Skadi or Castoria, you should definitely max them to give your team more flexibility. Supports like Waver or Merlin has static charge and so their battery can be left alone at 1, except Waver's S3, which has a scaling attack buff and so should be maxed.
Now that your Servants can properly charge their NP and fire them before the enemies' turn, you might run into another problem, your NP isn't killing them. While, in some cases, it might be a problem of you simply not having a strong enough Servant or they don't have enough NP level, you can take steps to minimize these low rolls and maybe push your Servants past that threshold of not clearing a wave. Steroid skills are a farmer's bread and butter; the bulk of their damage potential and, as shown above, can most of the time compensate for a lower NP level Servant if adequately leveled. Like batteries, there are also scalable steroids and non-scalable steroids, and the same rule applies: if a buff scales in value, it's way more useful to level than skills whose buff don't scale with level. For example, leveling Parvati's steroid skill, which scales her attack from 30% to 50% depending on the level, is more material-efficient than leveling Orion (the Artemis version) skill - a static 20% attack buff.
Leveling steroids are usually less pressing than leveling battery skills because some Servants might have enough raw stats to power through a wave even if their buffs aren't maxed. While you are encouraged to level these buffs as high as possible on farmers to get the most potential out of them and also more support and CE flexibility, materials should be focused more on scaling battery skills since NP charge is universal across nodes and can't be power through with pure stats alone.
One common dilemma that you might encounter when leveling steroids for Servants is that some might have more than just one steroid skill. While the ideal situation is you have enough materials to level both to as high as possible, sometimes you will have to pick and choose. To answer which buff has more priority, it's important to look at a concept in FGO called buff stacking.
To maximize your damage, you will want various buffs from different types to take advantage of the multiplicative modifier between them. From this, it's easier to see which steroids will be more beneficial to focus on for DPS Servants, primarily by looking at their supports. Since varied buff types is preferred, the focus should be on buffs that the supports do not provide, or provide disproportionately compared to other types.
Case study: Jalter Zerker
Looking at her skill set, her S1 does not contribute to her NP or her damage output in any way, so it's a choice between her S2 and S3. While her S3 has an NP battery along with a steroid, usually placing it at top priority, but the battery is flat at 20%, so only the buster buff scales with level. If the team has Summer Jalter paired more often with someone like Waver, he will provide her with a 30% attack buff with his S3 at max. Therefore, to maximize damage output, the focus is first on her buster buff, so the two types stacked multiplicatively, resulting in a larger damage buff percentage. However, if she's paired with Shakespeare instead, he will provide her with a 40% buster buff with his S1 max, making her attack buff a better choice to level first. Another common buffer for her is Merlin, who has both an attack buff and a buster buff on his kit. However, his attack buff is only 20% while his buster up is 50%, so it's better invest more in Jalter's attack buff to get the maximum amount of buff stacking possible. This can be neatly summarized in the chart below, which assumes the support has maxed skill while Jalter only has one of her steroids maxed to compare the damage difference of proper buff stacking.
|Servants and skill||Average damage|
|Jalter attack buff + Waver||118,194|
|Jalter buster buff + Waver||119,352|
|Jalter attack buff + Shakespeare||125,026|
|Jalter buster buff + Shakespeare||121,681|
|Jalter attack buff + Merlin||154,867|
|Jalter buster buff + Merlin||152,166|
While the difference shown isn't large compared to the total, the difference will increase more as more buffs are applied, or as other buff types are added to the equation like PM and NP buff. More than that, a small difference sometimes can be the difference between having a no-RNG comp and one that sometimes fail on a minroll and is definitely something to consider when dealing with material shortage. There is also a strategy to maximize buff stacking by leveling a buff halfway, then using the remaining materials to level the others halfway. If the player aims to optimize the efficiency of their materials used, it is a factor to consider.
As always, supports, for the most part, follow the same guideline as DPS Servants. If they have a skill with a scaling steroid buff, those should be leveled, such as Waver's S3 or Skadi S1 and S2. This will allow more flexibility in your DPS damage range and, therefore, their CE and teammate choices.
Other skills to level
Now having covered a majority of skill types on Servants, especially farmers. At this point, your farmers will have reached, or come very close, to their full potential, and you can breathe a sigh of relief as the days of spending 12T carding through a free quest is long gone. Now you have materials from farming, and you want to invest in other skills for your Servants, whether to use them outside of pure farming or to show your love and appreciation for them. So, which one do you focus on next? Sadly, after those two main categories, the lines blur between the other buff types, and how useful they are on a Servant depends greatly on the Servant's role in a team and your goal in using those Servants in non-farming scenarios. While this article cannot provide a concrete guideline for skills past this point, our friend has written a fantastic article on how to define your goals for a quest and for the game in general. From those goals, you can determine how each skill plays into this goal and level them accordingly.
Using lore on skills
So now you've known to level your skills in the proper order, but you have these shiny Crystallized Lore lying around from events that can take your skills a step further to level 10. However, these are rare, much rarer than simple free quest materials, since they cannot be farmed normally. They are only available from events or from the RP shop, and as such more thought and care will have to go into using them than when you're using normal materials. So, which Servants and which skills are worthy of these lores?
Scaling battery skills in FGO have a unique property; they only achieve their full potential when lored. This is because starting charge CEs have an even amount of charge, such as Aerial Drive 50% or Kaleidoscope 80%. If a battery scales from 10% to 20%, for example, at level 9, the skill will only charge your Servant 18%, 2% short of a full charge with Scope or AD with Waver's team charge, which defeats the purpose of having a battery skill to instantly NP. Due to this weird property, scaling battery skills will always need to be lored to level 10 to achieve their full potential for any team.
Steroid skills are a bit more forgiving than battery in that they can still perform a good portion of their function at level 9. While this means you won't be hitting their full potential for damage, for the majority of nodes, they might not need that extra push from level 9 to 10 in the first place, and you can save a lore. However, if you find a node that you struggle to clear consistently and find that loring a Servant's steroids will help increase that comp's consistency, it's recommended to do so. After all, lores are there to better your team, not just as decoration.
Using lore on supports
While supports with a flat charge like Waver are perfectly functional at 1/1/10 or even 1/1/9 for yourself, putting a support-focused Servant on your support list that is not 10/10/10 can be considered bait and might lead to some stricter players purging you for maybe messing up one of their runs due to a missed lore. Therefore, it is advisable to 10/10/10 all your support Servants before putting them up on the support list. This holds especially true for Servants whose skills do scale drastically with level and lore like Skadi or Castoria, and someone accidentally picking a non 10/10/10 from your list will scuff their runs, leading to some purging. The general consensus is that if your supports aren't 10/10/10, don't put them in the support list, especially Caster slot.
Why farming is important
Throughout the article, there is a heavy emphasis placed on farming in the game. Some of you might be wondering why "gameplay focused" articles like these are very much focused on farming and not challenging content. The answer is that there is simply no hard or end-game content to FGO, unlike most other games. Instead, most of the time, AP, resources, and other metrics you spend on the game will be to farm. Whether it is an event or a dead week, you will spend more time farming free quests than clearing CQs or story chapters.
For perspective, each event has, on average, 1 maybe 2 CQs for you to clear, and there are around 2 events per month. That makes the total number of CQs per year around 30. While these so-called “Challenge Quests” are supposed to be hard and reward you greatly with a lore when you beat them, the truth of the matter is that a majority of them can simply be cheese or trivialized using the friend support system, as shown by the solos featured in this collection by Arc or through a simple search on YouTube/Bilibili.
While there will be a few CQs per year that you will need your own Servants properly raised to beat, these are far and few in between, and your Servant requirements might not be high either if you learn the CQ’s gimmicks beforehand.
As for the story, all of Arc 1 story and 3 out of 4 EoR Chapters can be solo with a friend's support, while Shimousa is entirely optional and can be left when you feel more comfortable with your account. This means you can clear the entirety of Arc 1 and most of Arc 1.5 with just a level 1 Georgios and Leonidas and some strong friends. As for the Lostbelt chapters, they do get progressively harder with each chapter and some of them do reuse the forced support format from Shimousa to make the fights more challenging and forcing you to have your own raised Servants. Just like un-soloable CQs, however, some of them can be cleared with minimal effort and investments if you know their gimmicks beforehand, like the Valkyrie and Sigurd fight in Lostbelt 2, where all you need is a leveled Caesar or Bedivere to win. Later chapters like Lostbelt 5 and 5.2 might require even more preparations. Still, at this point, your Chaldea will be a lot more developed and can easily take on these bosses without you ever needing to consciously focus on non-farming Servants or skills.
So with those two sources of content making up only around 5% of the game content per year, the other 95% is farming. Events will have the farming nodes; lottos will feature heavy farming with lots of appling, dead weeks will have you farm free quests to stockpile materials, ready to level your favorite Servants, or prepare for the QP and ember dump during lotto season. As such, having a strong roster of farming Servants will make your FGO experience a lot more enjoyable overall as you can simply breeze through FQs with 3 turn comps rather than tediously card your way through them every time you need some extra mats. Focusing on farming Servants will also create a snowball effect, in which the more farmers you have, the easier it is to farm for materials later, making it easier to raise more and better farmers, and the cycle continues until you have a solid line up and can procure materials to level your favorite Servants with little loss in sanity going through their mats (looking at you Eresh).