Featured with permission by Korochun
This is an opinionated list of recommend S-Blades and A-Blades
S-rank: Kos-Mos and Sheba both hit S-rank on this list, because they are at a confluence of many excellent traits: their Specials are useful, their Battle Skills are all relevant, they possess highly desirable Blade Arts, both have access to three Aux Cores and their Ether Cannon is a truly excellent weapon because it cannot be parried, only blocked. Weapons are important, by the way. Several otherwise extremely good blades are crippled by being forced into using the fucking Bitball. In addition, both have elements that allow you straight combos (Light/Light/Light and Water/Water/Water) that are also relevant in other combo chains.
Kos-Mos is a jack of all trades that relies on quickly hitting max affinity in battle to truly unlock her potential. She is notable for having a very spammable heal with her Special 2, and tanking like nobody’s business with Overclock. In addition, she has the coveted Recharge Boost as one of her Blade Arts. Recommended Aux cores are Telepathy, Max Affinity Damage, and Max Affinity Barrier.
Sheba can reach tremendous DPS if you use only female Blades in to take full advantage of her Entitled Entourage ability. Her level 3 special will cause enemies to drop money, collecting which can boost her damage up to 333%. Combine both of these with Back Attack Up, and congratulations, you have the single highest DPS blade in the game. Notably, her level 1 special is spammable and allows you to deal with adds of any kind by flat out killing them. Unlike Kos-Mos, she can’t tank, so she requires more setup, but it pays off big time against really tough bosses. Suggested cores are Telepathy, Affinity Barrier, and Special Aggro reduction (this, combined with Back Attack and Financial Statement, allows you to avoid drawing aggro most of the time).
A-Rank Blades: A-ranks are almost as good as S-rank, but they lack a few things. Either their weapons are somewhat subpar, their specials aren’t really there, they have only one Aux core slot, or I just don’t like them as much. A little bit of column A, a little bit of column B. You generally want to include as many of them as you can in your party setups. A-rank blades are Mythra, Nia, Theory, Brighid, Newt, Electra, Aegaoeogoeon, Zenobia, and Nim.
Mythra is a no-brainer choice for a good blade, and you are stuck with this uppity bitch for most of the game anyhow. She has several key advantages going for her, such as, for example, not being Pyra. Jokes aside (not really, though), she is above A rank, but not quite good enough to be S-rank. She succeeds because she gives you a large critical bonus, provides the entire party accuracy and evasion at max affinity (which she builds very quickly), and her abilities synergize with her high critical rate to reduce recharge and allow you to cancel arts into themselves. The problem is that the arts themselves are fairly mediocre. She uses the same weapon as Pyra, after all. You can get nice consistent DPS out of her and build up her specials, but unfortunately her specials are not very good, and if you are fighting indoors, she is about as useful as a wet umbrella. She’ll get the job done, but she lacks the oomph. Plus she is painful to use against high-block enemies, because that throws your entire cancel-art-into-art strategy out of the window. Or into a window, in her case. Suggested Aux Cores are Max Affinity Barrier and Critical V.
Nia is a solid blade with no real disadvantages. Her catalyst scimitar is fun to use, she heals like she means it, all of her specials do decent damage and provide healing, and her arts are on point. You can really go any way you want with her, because she does decent DPS but can facetank via healing, too. She won’t be winning any DPS races, but she won’t come in last either.
Theory is as useful as her outfit is ridiculous. Quite importantly, she rewards you for keeping aggro by dealing more damage to enemies that target you, and her level 3 special gives her easy way of getting everything to target her. Katanas are good weapons in general. Theory, Aeogaeogeogen and Brighid can form an extremely strong trio of blades for Morag, since all three capitalize on evade tanking with different strength. On the downside, her Blade Arts suck and her outfit is equal parts blatant fanservice and weirdly off-putting. But if you give her Break Resistance V and max out her Steadfast skill, you’ll never have to worry about getting Comboed again, so that’s pretty amazing.
Brighid is a great mandatory blade, which is a pleasant departure from the likes of Dromarch and Pyra. Her chief thing is that she deals more damage the more attacks you evade, so if you time your Evade whip skill carefully to dodge some multi-frame multi-attack bullshit move, you can boost her to ridiculous damage levels at the very start of a fight. On the downside, her skills are really annoying to cancel out of and she really doesn’t do AOE as such, so keeping multiple enemies engaged is not something that comes easily to her. Give her whatever Aux Cores you want, but Max Affinity Barrier will probably save your life.
Newt is another very strong A+ rank blade that just has useful everything. Her damage is good, her skills are on point, her specials are all right. Her real problem is that she occupies the same elemental slot/role as Brighid, and Brighid does the job more or less just as well. But hey, if you want to make Zeke or Rex a tank, by all means, use her.
Electra has a shitty weapon, a shitty annoying to combo element, shitty annoying specials, and shitty annoying voiceovers. Electra is just shitty and annoying. Except for the fact that she can get over 90% fucking block rate, so she can facetank anything. Literally any fucking thing. And she counters attacks for a fuckton of damage. And she automatically draws aggro. So actually, she’s quite good if you need a tank that can basically take whatever life throws at them. Which is good, because I’m pretty sure nobody likes Electra, and so everybody throws things at her on the regular. She’s a goddamn drummer, for god’s sakes. Think about that for a second. Look, just give her Block V Aux Core, begrudgingly accept that despite all appearances she is an important member of your team, and pretend she is not actually there while she does her job better than most other people. She electrocutes an old man at one point in her story, I’m pretty sure she deserves it.
Aegaoeogoeon: however the fuck you pronounce that. Evades like nobody’s business, but doesn’t actually reward you for camping him very much. Does good damage and draws aggro well, but also lacks AoE skills, so he’s good for burst tanking. If you cycle between him, Brighid and Theory, you can get into a very nice rhythm on Morag where you literally just evade everything life throws at you. Definitely worth using. Give him some Evade Aux cores to really capitalize on his already silly dodge ability.
Zenobia: honestly, if you don’t bother with any setup or anything and just want to go in swinging without a care in the world, Zenobia is probably your girl. She has ridiculous synergies that make her basically S-rank. Axe’s Berserker Slash skill recharges itself upon crit, and she gets Recharge Boost as one of her Blade Arts, as well as Critical Up. Get her Critical aux core, and use a high crit weapon with Telepathy, and you’ll be able to reliably chain Berserker Slash into Berserker Slash, which will deal much better DPS than Mythra could ever hope for, and cleave enemies to boot. Zenobia does have a few problems, though. Her specials are fairly forgettable (literally, due to the way she flies around and the shoddy camera and that idiotic thing she wears you can’t really see what the fuck is happening most of the time). In addition, her skills are not always relevant. In battles with lots of trash, she doesn’t get the bonus from fighting a boss. In battles with bosses, she usually doesn’t get bonus from fighting multiple enemies. And you kind of need a crit heal accessory, or she will draw aggro and go splat in very short order. Still, she is a very solid choice, and leaves Mythra in the dust when it comes to damage output.
Nim is the only healer blade that makes the A-rank other than Nia. There are a few reasons for this. Chief among them is the fact that her weapon does not suck. I’ll talk (well, screech angrily) about Bitballs once we get to B-rank and below blades, but basically fuck that noise. She also gets very nice bonus through Back Attack Up, which boosts her damage and reduces her aggro. Finally, her specials are all very useful. Her level 3 special is similar to Kos-Mos’s level 2, except with foxes shooting lasers out of their eyes, which earns points in my book. Overall she is a solid healer and a surprisingly solid damage dealer. In addition, Earth complements a lot of combo chains, making it easy to combo with her. Finally, she heals the living crap out of your party through fusion combos (that’s the moment where you zoom in on a random body part of the enemy and the narrator screams something enthusiastic and incoherent). It happens when you combine an ongoing elemental effect (like Light, or Burnout, or Disappointment) with Break -> Topple -> Launch -> Smash steps. It extends the effect and generates bonus damage. She heals you and boosts the effects when they happen. If you know how to exploit this, Nim can generate tremendous bonus damage just by hanging around and watching the proceedings. So give her Fusion Effect Up Aux core, give your party members Break / Topple /Launch / Smash weapons, and go to town.
This concludes the S-A part of the guide. From here on it’s all disappointment and failed expectations, much like your relationship with your parents. The next guide will include the Bad, the Critically flawed, and the Damn useless.