Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a…scantily clad festive Tharja masquerading as an armored unit? Fire Emblem Heroes is no stranger to seasonal celebrations and alts. Let it be brides in springtime or (curiously) pirates in the twilight days of summer, the game has traditionally prided itself on banners that are as thematically goofy as they are prone to inducing the next wave of powercreep. The game’s infancy year was a special one though. Far and away were we from the days of “save units” or “dodge tanks”, instead focused on obtaining those sweet, sweet 35 atk/35 spd offensive spread units like Bridal Cordelia has wrought into the fray. When winter 2017 came around though, past a handful of somewhat tame seasonal units, was when all Hel broke loose.
Its worth noting first and foremost that Fire Emblem Heroes was actually delayed from it’s initial launch date. Whereas the game was originally slated for a release in fall of 2016, unknown factors on Nintendo’s side pushed both it and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp into the following year. Heroes would eventually launch on February 2nd, 2017, the early days quickly garnering notoriety as users rushed to summon the formerly completely busted units, Takumi and Hector. It was in this time that eagled eyed dataminers noticed something; rather than the games first seasonals being the ill fated spring units (poor Sping Xander) it was meant to be the Christmas units that would launch the following year (Male Robin, Tharja, Chrom and Lissa) which makes sense giving the game’s original timeline.
Now while we had datamined images of the units themselves, the community was still unaware how these units would play or their relevance to the metagame as a whole. The biggest hint came from their attacking portraits. Male Robin wielded an entire tree as a spear, so that one was fairly concise. However, Tharja had a lit candle in hand, which gave her the appearance of a healer (especially in the “special” art) but could also be reasonably assumed to be a tome of some sort. Given the amount of joke weapons in their portraits, it became extremely difficult to tell what sort of units these would be.
Then, judgment day. December 14th, 2017 would be known as the day that the Fire Emblem Heroes community received a grim reminder to never, ever assume with this game. The Winter’s Envoy trailer dropped, and all four of the units (even the aforementioned barely clothed Tharja) were in the armored class. This was a class composed of iron walls and unbreakable armor, not gallivanting in St. Nick costumes! On top of that, two of the units dropped with a skill that would lay the groundwork of armors encapsulating the meta years into the game’s life; Bold Fighter and Vengeful Fighter. No longer would slow, unable-to-follow-up armor units be relegated to a useless spd stat, but now they had a guaranteed follow up on user initiation (Bold Fighter) or enemy initiation (Vengeful Fighter) and an additional special charge on top of that! Pandora’s box of skill ridiculousness was opened for FEH, and there was no going back.
The meta shaken, armors taking the reign as top dog this early in Heroes’ lifespan, and nary a Takumi in sight (poor guy didn’t last long as the go-to king of the meta). Christmas day rolls around, a beacon of positivity amid the discourse the subreddit and general community was under, and the devs had prepared a present for the dutiful fans who’d been playing obsessively for months now. A single orb, nestled safely under the tree, was given to each and every one who logged in on December 25th, 2017. That was the day I stopped believing in Santa Claus. -Victiny