Arknights Anti Air Snipers Guide
An analysis of anti-air snipers
The gacha decided that after giving me Exusiai, Blue Poison, Platinum, and literally every 5 and 4 star sniper in the game, it hasn’t given me enough anti-air snipers, so now I have Greythroat too. Given the circumstances, I figured that I might as well overanalyze the hell out of them to see who’s good at what and who’s worth it and who is not.
I’m assuming that you are willing to invest a bit to get a very good sniper but not go overboard. Meaning:
- E2 Level 40
- Skills at Mastery 1
- Potential 1, except for 3 & 4 star operators obtainable through recruitment, who I will assume are potential 6
- Max trust
I’m only analyzing snipers whose traits cause them to prioritize air units. Snipers with other traits do very different jobs from AA snipers, so I’ll skip them in this analysis.
Lastly, when I talk about overall DPS, I’m referring to the damage dealt over the duration of the skill, plus the damage dealt over the duration of the downtime after the skill ends and before the skill can be activated again, and then divided by the time all of that took. I mostly use this number to paint an overview of the operator’s damage, but be careful with this number. You can’t expect ops to be dealing this much damage “on average”, since they won’t be dealing this much damage when their skills are down.
Our beloved Apple Pie is the 6 star AA of this game, and she’s the undisputed queen of anti-air. She’s infamous for dealing a whopping 5,754 single target DPS with her S3 active when she’s maxed everything, but even with the much weaker Exusiai we get under our assumptions, she’s still able to put out 4,163 DPS with S3. If you’ve seen this in action, you’ll know how quickly it just deletes enemies… as well as how little it does to armored enemies.
Exusiai does so much single target DPS because she gets many different DPS increasing effects that stack multiplicatively with each other. With her S3, she’s simultaneously getting multiple hits per attack, an attack speed increase, an attack interval decrease, an attack buff, and an attack multiplier. This results in her skill multiplying her DPS more than 6 times. However, her actual attack damage multiplier and attack buff aren’t particularly high, so she does low damage per hit, resulting in very poor performance against armor.
S3 is her most common ability due to its sheer DPS, but it has a problem of being automatically activated. If you need her skill to go off at specific times, you can opt for S2 instead, which does a bit less DPS but is manually triggered. S1 is yet another DPS sacrifice in exchange for more consistent damage output.
Here are some charts for these skills:
So S3 is beating S2 by a noticeable amount, but it’s worth noting that the disparity in DPS between when her skill is active and when it’s not is huge, so it’s important that you get the timing right. You can get S3 to trigger when you want it to with a bit of fiddling, but in the cases where you can’t, you may want to consider S2 instead. In the cases where S2 just doesn’t have enough uptime, you may want to consider S1 instead. As for their uptimes, they’re just about the same:
- S2 is up for 15 seconds and down for 38, giving it 28% uptime
- S3 is up for 15 seconds and down for 36, giving it 29% uptime
As the chart plainly shows, Exusiai sucks against armor. Luckily for us, drones don’t have a lot of it. The only highly armored drone as of now is the frost drone, with 600 DEF. You’re meant to take that one out with casters, except it also has 30 RES because it wasn’t annoying enough. Second place is THICC bombtail, with only 220 DEF.
Also worth noting is that Exusiai is the tankiest AA sniper due to 6 star privilege, having 1485 HP and 147 DEF. Second place for this is Platinum with 1409 HP and 152 DEF.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that her second talent gives a small HP and attack buff to a random ally. It technically exists, I guess, but it’s probably going to land on a vanguard if you’re deploying Exusiai early like you usually want to. Ah well.
Before the Blaze banner, we joked that Blue Poison was 5 star Exusiai. Now, Greythroat has come to take that position. Not because she’s better than BP, but because she has a lot more similarities with Exusiai. After all, her S2 is basically just a slightly weaker version of Exusiai’s S2. Speaking of which, S2 is her skill of choice.
Here are some charts, with comparisons to Exusiai:
So Greythroat is honestly not far behind Exusiai in terms of raw damage. But there is one big problem: S2 builds SP on hit. So Greythroat needs to be hitting enemies to generate SP. Assuming that you’re constantly hitting, S2 is up 18 seconds and down 31 seconds, giving it 37% uptime.
Also, based on the charts, I don’t think S1 is worth taking. The numbers on S1 are pretty bad. If you just take a glance at it and compare it to BP or Exusiai’s S1, it’s pretty obvious that Greythroat’s S1 is just very subpar. Greythroat isn’t who you want to pick for consistent damage.
All in all, if the gacha gods didn’t give you Exusiai, or you want a second Exusiai, go for the Greythroat (hah).
Our lovely poison dart frogge is considered to be the best 5 star sniper by many, excelling at multi-target damage. Her S1 procs every 4th hit (3rd hit at M3), hitting 2 enemies when it does. Her S2 is an activated buff that lets her hit the primary target twice and hit 2 additional targets. If you want the most of her, you’ll want to be hitting multiple enemies.
Some people prefer her S1 since it has more consistent damage. You don’t have a skill downtime with her S1 since it’s just consistent. But her S2 is much better at overall DPS if you can work around the downtime. I generally use S2, but S1 is by no means a bad choice.
Here are some charts, with comparisons to Greythroat:
Based on these charts, BP’s title of 5 star Exusiai is well warranted. Her S2 being able to keep up with Exusiai’s S3 DPS is no small feat. However, BP definitely needs to be hitting multiple enemies to reach that much damage. That’s not that hard, all she needs is 3 enemies (2 with S1) to be anywhere in her range. But it does mean she suffers from the classic AoE problem of having trouble dealing enough single target damage to tankier enemies before they slip past.
BP’s S2 is up 27 seconds and down 47 seconds for 36% uptime, which is quite a different uptime scheme than the other snipers we’ve covered so far. The uptime is longer, but so is the downtime.
Some people have said that Blue Poison does well against armor because her talent gives her a bit of arts damage, but even more people have countered by saying “no, her talent isn’t really dealing that much damage”. I have to agree that BP can’t counter armor. The numbers clearly show that she can’t deal truly good damage to armored enemies. She just deals more damage than other AA snipers when she happens to be hitting armored enemies. But if your primary concern is armored enemies, you should bring casters.
Let’s also talk about her S1M3. A lot of people say it’s a huge upgrade, since it reduces the SP cost of her S1 from 3 to 2. Is it? Let’s do some math:
- BP: Upgrading her S1 from M1 to M3 takes it from 1029 DPS to 1272 DPS, a 23.6% increase
- Greythroat: Upgrading S2 from M1 to M3 takes it from 1238 DPS to 1433 DPS, a 15.8% increase
- Exusiai: Upgrading S3 from M1 to M3 takes it from 1704 DPS to 2049 DPS, a 20.2% increase
So they’re right, Blue Poison’s S1M3 upgrade is noticeably better than the M3 upgrades of aforementioned mentioned ops.
Lastly, let’s mention BP’s unfortunate problem of being rather squishy. She has only 1150 HP and 119 DEF in exchange for… 5 RES? Not a particularly good tradeoff, even against mages and arts drones. It unfortunately makes her allergic to bombtails, spiders, turrets, and more. Thankfully, it’s not a big problem on most maps, and it’s something you can usually work around.
Sometimes regarded as the 3rd best AA sniper in the game after BP… but is she really weaker than BP? Let’s have a look. Platinum’s signature ability is her S2, an infinite duration buff that reduces her attack speed, increases her attack damage, and extends her range 1 tile. Let’s look at the charts:
Considering that only frost drones have 250+ DEF, that looks pretty damning, doesn’t it? But having tried an E1L50 Exusiai, an E1L50 BP, and an E1L50 Platinum on Annihilation 3’s top lane, I can tell you that only Platinum can handle that lane (not entirely solo, she received a bit of help, but she was the primary anti-air). The other two crumble to drone rushes and big arts drones (with the same amount of help that Platinum received). What gives? How can she do better than BP and Exusiai in Anni 3 top lane in spite of her lower DPS?
Well, the name of the game with Platinum is consistency. She doesn’t have super high peaks like BP S2 or Exusiai S3, but she doesn’t have low lows either. Whereas the “better skills” on Exusiai and BP are burst damage skills, the “better skill” on Platinum is a consistent damage skill. On Anni 3’s top lane specifically, what you’re looking for is consistency due to the long drone waves. BP S2 and Exusiai S2 or S3 can handle the drones fine with their skills up, but crumble to the drone waves when they’re not. Platinum S2 will always be able to handle the drones.
But what if you chose to put the other snipers on their S1’s to get consistent damage output? Let’s see:
So the graph says Platinum is just OK at consistent damage. But there’s something Platinum has that the others don’t: Extra range. I’m always surprised to see people say it’s “niche”, because it’s anything but. There are a ton of ways to make good use of this extra range, from spawn sniping, to covering additional lanes, to outranging ranged enemies, to letting you place Platinum further behind your front line defenders and guards. But even if you think you can’t make good use of the extra range, you’re still just getting 25% more time to hit enemies coming directly towards her. This made all the difference in my Anni 3 run, where I didn’t place her far enough forwards to spawn snipe, but the extra range still made a big difference with killing drones in time.
Here’s a detail that’s not obvious to people at first: Platinum’s talent synergizes with her S2. Her S2 decreases her attack speed enough to trigger her talent on every attack, amounting to an extra 13.33% damage per hit. At potential 5+, it’s 15% extra damage per hit instead. So her talent isn’t just there to give her an attack boost against the first enemy of a wave. This was already taken into account during my calculations. Dreamy notes that it’s nice in chapter 6 against all the chill effects. True, it is nice, but Platinum still deals less DPS when she has less attack speed, which shouldn’t be a surprise.
As my charts showed earlier, Platinum does surprisingly well against medium armor enemies in the 400-800 DEF range due to her relatively high damage per hit. It’s pleasantly surprising against stuff like the black shield soldiers. But drones don’t have that much DEF, and I would rather bring casters if enemies with that much DEF are the primary threat.
Finally, one detail I’ve neglected to mention: Her S2 taking 59 seconds to charge up. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it’s a real problem on some maps. I frequently find myself dropping Platinum as early as possible just to ensure that she can get S2 up in time. But it nonetheless lets me down on maps where I absolutely need to have it up ASAP. If you’re concerned about early rushes, you may want to consider switching to a different sniper. It also means you can’t reposition her once you drop her. At least, not very easily.
Oh, and I suppose I didn’t answer the question of whether BP is truly better than Platinum. I’m going to give you the lame answer of “it depends”. BP is better if you are looking for good multi-target damage, especially burst damage, and aren’t worried about drones leaking due to lower single target damage. Platinum is better if you’re looking for consistent single target DPS or longer range, and aren’t worried about early rushes or having to reposition her. Use your best judgement.
Just as Greythroat is a discount Exusiai, Vermeil is a discount Blue Poison, specializing in multi-hitting. How does she fare? Let’s find out:
Oh… um… yeah. Ouch. There is a bit of silver lining to this: Vermeil’s S2 is up 18 seconds and down 17.69 seconds (nice) for an uptime of around 50.43%. This is a way better uptime ratio than BP’s S2. But BP with S1 is dealing almost as much damage constantly as Vermeil’s S2 is dealing when it’s active, so that even strips that advantage away.
So yeah, that discount is looking more like a budget cut. Nevertheless, Vermeil is the gold standard of DPS for 4 star AA snipers, as we are soon about to see.
Ah Jessica, the sniper you used until you got a better one. Unless you’re like me and used Kroos. Jessica is mostly about higher damage per hit single target attacking, but her S2 gives her 75% physical and arts evasion too. Let’s see how her DPS stacks up against Vermeil and Greythroat:
Once again, quite a budget cut from Greythroat. But she has an ace up her sleeve: 75% evasion. It can let you pull some shenanigans with dodging bombtails, arts drones, and such. Her defensive stats are 1228 HP and 144 DEF, which are worse than Greythroat’s 1357 HP and 140 DEF, but she’s still able to tank more than just about any other AA sniper in the game with her S2 up. It’s nice that she has a niche despite her DPS being so much worse than the higher star snipers.
Worth noting is that since she’s a 4 star you can get from recruitment, I assumed she’s potential 6, whereas all the previous snipers are potential 1.
Is it just me or is the younger sister always the more powerful one? It would probably be fitting for this scenario, but Meteor and Meteorite sadly do not appear to be related. Meteor’s passive gives her +40% Damage vs aerial enemies, which would give her godly amounts of AA DPS if not for the fact that Meteor’s DPS is normally fairly mediocre:
I should mention that I’m assuming Meteor can hit 3 enemies with her S2 because I think that’s a reasonable estimate. Let’s be real here, you won’t be hitting 5 all that often.
So Meteor does pretty darn good against aerial enemies, but not so hot against grounded ones. But it is worth noting that since every drone except frost drones have 220 or less DEF, Meteor doesn’t get to flex her armor piercing muscles against drones very often. Which is kind of an anti-synergy, but I suppose it’s fine since +40% damage against drones is a lot.
Against grounded foes, her DPS is mediocre. Most of her utility comes in the form of armor shredding for her team. How useful is that? I won’t try to measure how much extra damage a 31 DEF reduction with S1 or 35% DEF reduction with S2 amounts to, since it’s dependent on a number of factors. But I’ll throw out a number anyways: Against enemies with 250 DEF (which is fairly middle of the line), your physical damage ops will be dealing 77.5 extra damage per hit.
Huh, how’d a slow supporter get into this analysis? May is a sniper specializing in slows and stuns. With her S1, she can slow enemies every couple of attacks, while her S2 is a powerful slow effect. I think her main competition is actually Frostleaf and slow supporters, so let’s compare her with Frostleaf and Istina S1. Yeah, I know, Istina’s a 5 star, but Earthspirit is too wonky to do reasonable comparisons with her.
Her DPS reminds me of Jessica and Meteor, in that she has less DPS than Vermeil but gets utility in exchange. How good is this utility? Let’s break down the numbers:
A standard slow supporter has an attack interval of 1.9 and slows for 80% over .8 seconds (This appears to be correct based on scattered information I’ve gathered, but I can’t find a source that definitely proves it). Overall, the enemy is being slowed by 33.6%. However, every slow supporter except Podenco has something that improves their slow, be it attack speed or more slow time. Istina is no exception with her attack speed talent, which means her slow amounts to a 39.7% slow overall.
May’s S1 slows for 80% over 2.5 seconds every 4.67 seconds, amounting to a 42.8% slow overall. So she actually slows more than a slow supporter while their skills are down. May’s S2 slows for 80% over .9 seconds every 1.40 seconds, with a 30% chance of being a 1.1 second stun instead. This amounts to a 59.5% slow. The stuns can also interrupt attacks, but seeing that the slow would be wasted on blocked enemies, this is mostly for dealing with drones that can attack and ranged enemies.
Meanwhile: Frostleaf’s S1 slows for 40% over 2.5 seconds every 4.45 seconds (I’m taking into account the amount of time it takes to perform an attack), amounting to a 22.5% slow. Frostleaf’s S2 gives her +40 Attack speed, inflicts a 44% slow for 2 seconds every attack, with a 30% chance to bind for 2 seconds instead. The math for this is rather hard, so I wrote a simulation to do it for me instead, and I got a slow of roughly 71.1%.
Lastly, with Istina’s S1, she hits enemies enough to permanently slow them, amounting to a slow of 80%.
Something that I neglected to mention is that May has by far the best uptime of these abilities, being up for 28 seconds and down for 23 for a 54.9% uptime. By comparison, Frostleaf’s S2 is up for 25 seconds and down for 53 seconds for a 32.1% uptime. Istina’s S1 is up for 27 seconds and down for 43 seconds for a 38.6% uptime, but she can still slow while it’s down.
Overall, May’s slow utility is really nice. Comparing her with Meteor and Jessica, I’m tempted to say she’s the best of the 4 star utility AA snipers. Even if all you need to deal with are normal drones, being able to slow them really helps with killing them and preventing leaks. After all, if a drone is being slowed by 42.8% thanks to her S1, it’s spending 74.8% more time in May’s range. Which actually makes her really good if all you need to do is kill 1 drone. Her S2 is also really good, being very powerful, having great uptime, and even having pretty decent DPS. If you don’t have Angelina, May could prove very useful against wraiths and wraith leaders. Heck, I do have Angelina and after looking at the numbers, I think I’m still going to give May the proper try she deserves.
Alright, we’re in 3 star territory now, which means we can’t have E2L40 ops anymore. So let’s knock it down a peg to just E1L55 ops with rank 7 skills. At this point, I’m tired of making charts, so I’m going to skip separate charts for skill active and skill inactive DPS and just show overall DPS. Here we go with angel boy:
As expected, another step down from the 4 star ops. Then again, Adnachiel doesn’t have to hit 2 targets to get his full DPS. Adnachiel also prioritizes ranged enemies, which is quite nice for dealing with enemy mages and snipers.
KO KO DA YO! Kroos is probably the most popular 3 star operator. Coincidentally, she’s also one of the best 3 star operators in the game, sitting with Melantha and Lava in the 3 star hall of fame. Let’s look at the numbers, shall we?
Yo! Ko ko da yo, that is. That’s pretty good! She can deal more damage than Jessica, except you don’t even have to grind sniper chips to E1 her. Scratch that, you don’t have to grind anything to E1 her if you use her to complete the “upgrade a 3 star” questline cause all the missions just refund you the costs of upgrading Kroos. If I were to start the game on a fresh new account, I’d probably dump my resources into Kroos.
Alright, time for the home stretch with Rangers, the 2 star sniper with 5 YeArs oF cOmBaT ExpERiEnCE. Fun fact: at E0L30, Rangers has a base attack stat of 269 (nice), which, get this, is higher than Exusiai’s base attack of only 255. 2 stars? More like 2 GUD. Anyhow, why don’t we compare him to Exusiai then? Assuming 0 trust, potential 1, and skill level 1, since we’re talking about the beginning of the game here.
I… I… Impossible! The Angel of Death herself bested in combat? Is this the power of 5 years of combat experience? Have we solved the E0L30 meta?
Anyways, Rangers gets a ridiculous +50% damage against air units at level 30. If there’s any reason to use him, this is it. That, and his stupidly low 7 deploy cost.