Arknights Firewatch Guide

by Windgesang

So you want to use Firewatch. You might have pulled/recruited her and want to know more about her, or you like her from the recent skin in the shop, or you just want to see a fellow FW user (hi!). Regardless, you want to learn more about her game-mechanic wise. I wrote this as a commemoration to finally getting Firewatch’s potential completely maxed out (combine with fully upgraded FW) about 3 days ago.

I got and used FW since 23/1, so about 1 week after global launch. I have been using her in every single map possible. Got her to max level on April 10, after I cleared most contents, including all H5 maps, at that time. (so please trust my analysis I’m not just brute forcing every map)

The general consensus is that FW is situational and niche and most of the time just use one of the top 3 snipers in the game instead (Exu, BP, Platinum). I don’t want to throw dictionaries around on definitions, but I’d argue that she’s less consistent than other snipers rather than situational (this is NOT what I am here for so please don’t get on about this in the comment). Of course, that’s not to say she has no drawback at all. Anyway, that’s enough foreplay, let’s f…inally get into it.

Stats:

– Attack and attack speed:

Firewatch has the highest base attack damage in the game. For that amazing damage though, she lacks haste in dealing it. A careful sniper to the core, she takes nearly thrice as long between shot than a typical single target sniper mentioned above: 2.7s vs 1s, and nearly twice as long compare to a “crit” sniper: 2.7s vs 1.6s. For this reason, her higher damage actually translated to lower DPS.

This negative is made worse by another point: waste damage. Let’s assuming FW with 1200 ATK is attacking someone with 0 DEF and 1300 HP (for example’s sake), and her first shot drop them down to 100HP. She will now have to spend an entire attack interval just to fire at it again, while wasting 1100 ATK that will do nothing. Coupled with a noticeable pre-fire animation (where she takes aim before actually shoot), and she just waste almost 6s to fire 2 shots on an enemy, while needing only 1.08 shot to do the work. If we were to take Exu as an example, with 650 ATK, she will also need to shoot only twice to kill this target, but taking those 2 shots only cost her 2s, plus she has little to no pre-fire animation. And if she does needs 3 shots to kill it instead, that is still just 3s, half the amount FW needed to fire 2 (plus Exu has her own ATK speed talent so it’s not even 1shot/s). That is just an example, but the more you use her, the more you’ll see this point, with a couple of exceptions as there are always exceptions.

→ This means that just a medium number of weaklings can easily waste a lot of FW’s time and overwhelm her, while fast shooting snipers can do just fine (especially BP). Obviously, high attack with slow attack speed isn’t supposed to do fine against a swarm of enemies to begin with, but it does add up to her bad reputation.

– HP and Defense:

She also has lower HP and DEF than most other 5* and 6* Snipers except for BP to offset her massive attack. She would have trouble staying alive if she is targeted or suffers collateral damage from AoE attack. With that said, there’s a couple things later down the road that helps counter this drawback, and actually helps her stay alive better than most other snipers.

– Cost:

Unlike most other ST snipers, she has a much higher DP cost, even higher than 6* Schwarz (just 1 more DP though). So, deploying her is harder than most, though with Myrtle these days it’s not necessary that hard.

Range:

FW’s range is “huuuuuuge”-Trump. In fact, she, and later Ambriel, are the only one that can consistently reach these tiles. Mostima, Amiya, and Suzuran can also reach it sometimes with their respective 3rd skill. Now those 2 tiles aren’t that important at first glance, but it also means that she can reach as far as 2 tiles up and down, while staying at least 2 tiles back (take Anni 2 and 3 as an example, she can cover your defenders for these mock setups). This range allow her to have a better flexibility in deploy location as it is important for a sniper and does help her cover multiple lanes at once with ease (though she still struggles with a swarm of enemies).

Trait:

Unlike the other ST snipers that we are used to, FW also has a different target priority. She does not aim for drone first directly, instead choose to aim for the lowest DEF enemy. Considering that, as of the posting date, she’s the only one that does this, she can throw most people off with this feature. Aside from a couple of easy one to remember like doggos, slugs/spiders, and some basic form of most small enemies, you can only guess who has lower DEF than who most of the time unless you’ve been doing it long enough and have good memory. Even some drones has higher DEF than some ground enemies, especially the small basic mobs. The most extreme case I found with this trait is in OF-EX-6. Remember the big dude with purple RES armor that activated when blocked and the much smaller sniper leader, guess which one has higher DEF between them? That’s right, the bigger dude. Granted, both of them aren’t the issues in that map but the point still stands: sometimes it’s hard to judge who FW will target first.

In conclusion, the trait is clearly defined, but it is unreliable sometime because appearance can fool people.

Another thing you can get from this trait is that, whenever FW make a shot, it will always be the highest possible damage she can deal against an enemy within a group of enemies in her range without considering the talent (which is right below).

Talent:

Firewatch has only one talent: Assassin. It multiplies her damage by 1.2 at E1, and 1.4 at E2, if she is attacking a ranged enemy (potential 5 increase the above numbers by 0.05). It should go like ((FW’s ATK * any skill/ATK-buff multiplier) *1.4) – enemy’s DEF

Furthermore, typically multiple of the normal damage buffs (i.e. Warfarin, Sora, FW’s 1st skill…) just stack additively, but multiple effects of these type stack multiplicatively (Pramanix, Saria…). For example if you are attacking a ranged unit that is under 40% HP and is within Pramanix’s range, FW will now deal 140% * 130% = 182% extra damage.

Important note: This talent also multiplies any skill % or attack boost FW has, which mean it affects both of her skills (below)

EDIT: fixed false info

Skills:

Each of Firewatch’s skill does a different thing. As present later, both skills are going to need masteries level in order to shine really bright (which is actually another reason why she isn’t more popular). If you want to use her though, these investments are the question of when, rather than how expensive. Besides, it’s much less expensive than upgrading a 6* to the same level.

RIIC skillClue search α (β at E2)

Increase clue search speed by 10% (20% at E2). Not much to say about this, it’s a decent one at E2 though not the highest.

First skill: Camouflage

As the name suggest, the skill turns Firewatch invisible to the enemies. The only things that can hurt her during the skill duration are poison/DoT debuff effects (AP maps and H5-3) and being revealed. It also increases her damage massively (regardless of being revealed or not) and has a long duration, while having a relatively short cooldown. This skill in combination with her massive range means that FW can be place in literally any (range) tiles on the map and survive. It’s basically Jessica’s Smoke Screen 2.0. However, the 20 seconds where the skill is not active (15.38 with E2 Ptilopsis) can be particularly dangerous if you decided to put her deep in enemies’ line and miss the timing of the skill.

The problem is the scaling in its level. All Firewatch’s skill has low scaling before masteries. From level 1 to 7, the skill drops only 4s in cooldown, gains 10s in duration, and +16% in attack boost. At level 7, the skill “only” gives 40% ATK and 35s duration, at 26s cooldown. However, from level 7 onward, EACH mastery level gives +10% attack and 5 whole seconds. Only after going through that much investment that you can only get the amazing 50s “invincibility” and +70% attack boost, whereas the other ST snipers can already function well at E2 SL7 (FW kinda too to be honest, but the scaling is way too good to skip, and the duration is a bit short in comparison).

With that much of a damage boost though, FW can start one two punch some of her enemies that she couldn’t before, especially if they are ranged. This works spectacularly better against most bosses in the game as of global server (except Crownslayer), which all have dangerous ranged attack. FW doesn’t afraid of retaliation thanks to this skill (with the exception of maybe FrostNova’s ice drop). This skill turns FW into a special target killer, and she can be as good of a boss killer as Schwarz, with a much better range and survivability but with a weaker DPS.

→ The investment is high, but the payoff is worth it. With how consistent this skill is, this is the better skill to lean on if you are unsure about what FW should do in your squad (other than leaving to make space for others /s). However, you are here exactly because you’re unsure about FW (perhaps), so let’s keep going.

Some (maybe) advanced info:

– Because the damage is calculated when the shot lands, you can wait until the projectile is really close before activating Camo, saving a bit of time for the first shot. This of course also means that if the duration is over when the shot has not landed yet, you’ll lost the extra boost.

– Despite being unable to be target by ranged attack in its duration, if she does get targeted before, there’s nothing you can do to prevent that even if you have Camo ready. If the enemy already begin the attack animation, you cannot go invisible to avoid that (I believe their attack animation start as soon as when they stop while walking)

– Edit post chap 6: If you’re reading this after chapter 6 is already out, this skill is your best bet to kill FrostNova. Schwarz has really nice damage and all, but her short range or her S3’s range will need her to be getting close enough in either 6-16 or H6-4 to deal any decent damage, but she will get mow down really quick with the attack slow and collateral damage. Whereas FW will stay safe for a long duration against all dangers except the ice drops. Again, all bosses except Crownslayer are considered ranged unit, so FW’s talent will always proc.

Second skill: Tactical Transceiver

This is the more famous skill for Firewatch, and unfortunately caused her a bit of a bad rap as a meme operator. When activated, she will drop 2 nukes on the enemies’ position after a delay of about 1s. The placement is non-stackable, as in the 2 will never drop in the same tiles. However, they deal AoE damage in their 4 adjacent tiles thus having 2 nukes next to each other would double the damage the enemies in those 2 tiles will receive. The skill has a 50 second cooldown (38.5s with E2 Ptilopsis) and is unchangeable regardless of skill/mastery levels. From level 1 to 7, each level increase damage of each nukes by a measly 10% multipliers, while only increasing the initial SP (the SP immediately granted when first deploy) by 5 at level 4 and 7. At level 7, each nuke deal 240% of FW’s attack and has an initial SP of 20, effectively making the skill has only 30s (23.07s with…) when you first deploy her.

As mentioned above, FW’s skills need mastery level to shine, and here’s the best part: at the first mastery level, this skill gain an additional nuke, increase from 2 to 3, while also increasing the damage multiplier by 20%. This effectively make this one of the biggest mastery spikes out of all instant active skill: gaining one extra nuke of 260% damage, and another 40% combine from the existed 2 for a total of 300% damage multiplier increased from just 1 mastery level! Considering the skill deal AoE damage, that 3rd explosion also has potentials to further increase the skill’s total damage output in one use. Each subsequent mastery also increases the skill multiplier by 20%, for 300% per nukes at the maximum level, that is 900% total if they bunch up together. Considering FW has the highest base attack in the game, those percentage aren’t nothing to scoff at. Not even Ch’en can match the nuke potential though hers is definitely more consistent than FW’s.

At M3, the skill has a multiplier of 300%, drop 3 bombs, 50s cooldown, 30s initial SP. That 50 seconds (38.5…) cooldown is this skill’s biggest weakness. You need to be careful and to make each use count.

Another problem though lies on the nuke’s random target system. I made multiple observations over the course of my journey in the game, and lately mostly in S4-6, because the enemies spread out nice and evenly, and 4-7 where there’s also a couple of 0 DEF enemies spreading around. There was this hypothesis running around that her nukes follow her trait (above). I used to believe this as well, but after extensive researches in about 20 runs but with careful examination, that isn’t quite true anymore (apologies to that guy that I lost the name who I told him this misinformation before). However…

That doesn’t really matter. Most people assumed that the skill is unreliable because it is, again, random. But the thing is, it already prioritised enemies. When was the last time that you are facing against enemies that are so spread out that 3 strong AoE nukes wouldn’t still not be enough to deal with at least half of them?

→ I called Camo the more consistent skill for FW earlier, but this skill does far more for FW than Camo. First of all, we made a “shocking” discovery earlier that Firewatch is bad against a swarm of weaklings, well guess what can deal with that? A couple of AoE attacks from an actual AoE sniper/caster.

The more you use it, the more you’ll realise the skill is more flexible than just for nuking one spot (or even worse, for memes). There are a couple of ways you can use this skill depend on where the enemies are at or what you want to do with it:

+ Most of the time, the enemies would be constantly pouring into a lane. Your melee operators can block some of them effectively causing them to group up together. This should be the typical usage, where FW would drop 2 nukes in front of that melee operators. That would likely clean up all but the highest of armor/HP enemies in that range and they would definitely be massively weaken, easily clean up by others (FW still shouldn’t be the only DPS you have after all).

– Advanced trick: Sometimes, if you let one enemy slipped through your defense, you can turn that into an advantage. What I meant was, a 1 or 2 block guard can easily let 1 enemy pass through if they can’t kill fast enough or are busy attacking a high HP/DEF enemy. When that happen, the enemies would be at: the tile that guard is on when one of them pass through, the tile that the guard is attacking when they are blocked, and the tile further away when more are approaching (not the best example but should work for visualisation). If that’s the only place FW is covering right now, that’s an easy 3 bombs lining up, absolutely destroying the middle tile. If the middle tile has a really strong enemy (Heavy Defender,…), even he would probably die in that scenario (thus adding 1 more use for this skill: killing high armored enemies, which is most ST snipers’ weakness). This is actually easy to setup with something like a guard in front of a defender/another guard (e.g. the Bison+Guard or Swire+Guard combo), though you wouldn’t necessarily built around those to begin with. Most of the time, just 2 nukes would do wonder, and that’s the easiest setup already.

– Continuing from the above point, even though you have 3 nukes, you shouldn’t be feeling that you have to drop all 3 of them close together in order to make a deep impact. Most of the time, just 2 together is already strong enough to deal with most enemies, honestly even high DEF one. You should rather think that the 3rd one is a bonus, if it hits, sweet, if it doesn’t, it’s still good enough. Again, dropping 2 together is easy to setup.

+ The skill can also be used to deal with enemies at up to 3 different lanes at once, if the need ever arises. Only Ifrit, SA, or Eiyav can do that, and only Ifrit can consistently do that. With how wide Firewatch’s range is, covering multiple places at once is simple, and can still leave spot for others shorter range DPS to do their thing.

– Advance trick: To add more from last two point, when there are more than 3 tiles that the enemies are on, you should aim to use the skill when there’s no chance that it won’t be a good usage. What I mean is that, instead of relying on RNGesus to bless you with the best placement, time the skill so that, regardless which 3 tiles FW choose, it will never be a bad choice. This quite depends on specific scenario, so there is no real guideline I can describe in detail, just experiences. Example: think of Anni 2 with the casters phase, if you use FW to kill them early, you will just drop the skill ASAP, since you wouldn’t care where the bomb would drop. If you are in doubt, you can also wait until there’s only 3 tiles left, either by having the enemies completely swarmed in even if your defenders can’t hold all of them (also works with earlier advanced trick), or by waiting for your other DPS to deal with some of them first. Just remember, unlike fast shooting snipers, you need to be careful with your shot, like a real sniper would.

+ Because the nukes deal AoE damage, you can actually use this to your advantage and reach someone outside of FW’s range (Example demonstration). This is most useful for enemies that like to stand around a bit further before actually moving in (Anni 3, 5-10,…), since you would have time to wait/set up and outright kill them before they can be a threat.

Miscellaneous info:

– All instant active skill has this downtime of about 1 second when used. Because of this little activation time, FW cannot received Warfarin’s talent granting SP if she kills enemies with this skill.

– It seems like each enemy are counted individually for the targeting system. For example, if there are 6 enemies standing in 1 tile, and 1 each in 4 other tiles, Firewatch would 60% of the time drop the nuke into that 6-enemies-tile, and 2 more in the rest. I may need more confirmation on this from other FW users. I even heard from one of them that, if there are more than 2 enemies in 1 tile (and none in others), there’s a decent chance that there will be a random 2nd one close to it anyway (as in, they try to put all 2 together, but since that’s not allowed, it pushes the 2nd one to the next tile). This I can’t confirm myself mostly because I rarely use this skill like that or ever need to. You shouldn’t need to as well, the skill has too long a cooldown, unless it’s a dire situation, or if you are sure you won’t need it until the cooldown is over.- When an enemy is blocked, they will be barely in range to receive damage from the nuke behind them, as they are on the edge of the tile they are standing on. It seems like if they move in just a little bit further onto your melee op, then they won’t receive damage from that further tile anymore (the tile that is 2 tiles away from that melee op). The same thing happens with your range operators that has their tile just onto your melee, if the enemies get blocked, the ranged ops won’t attack, but slightly move in and they will start to.

→ All in all, Firewatch’s 2nd skill is a strong skill that is slightly more versatile than just nuking, and covering a lot of her weaknesses (swarmling, high armor, single target). The “randomness” of the skill somehow cause her a bad reputation, but just a little bit of work and it will never be unreliable to you. And you can still use other operators along with FW, she shouldn’t be your only core of the squad.

If you want to compare to Exu or BP or Platinum, the first 3 have easier way to deal with swarms of enemies mostly because of their attack speed rather than AoE effect (except BP who has both). FW’s S2 has too long of a cooldown to make it consistent. Firewatch can also deal with high armored enemies better than most for 2 reasons: she have a strong AoE nukes that can overpowered DEF, and her targeting system will never let her attack them first, until they’re the lowest one in range, effectively isolate them. Most other snipers, if they ever decided to target those high DEF enemies because they are closer to the base (and no drone), they would stuck there for a longer time (except for BP who has pseudo AoE). Firewatch can also deal with drone, since their DEF are usually on the lighter side, and most drone recently are ranged as well. She’s also perfect against the drone that increase DEF of all surround enemies, since that will be the one she shoot first (most of the time).

Anyway, this is a long post comprising of my years of experiences with Firewatch (CN masters pls forgiv me arrogance). I’m hoping to see what you think about her. If any can point out what I’m missing, or if I focused on the wrong area that people wouldn’t care to begin with when they want to learn about a new operator, that would be great as well. (I spent only like 4 days writing this so there may still be errors around or missing crucial info)

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