Right near the start of the adventure, Fire Emblem: Three Houses gives players the seemingly impossible task of choosing between three houses: Black Eagles, Blue Lions, and Golden Deer.
Every house will stick you with eight free party members immediately, but naturally there’s a lot of nuances to unpack before you make your big decision. Here’s a full list of their starting lineups and some advice about which house to choose.
Roughly 30 minutes into Fire Emblem: Three Houses (effectively after the tutorial), the game places you in the monastery hub. You’re then allowed to get familiar with the game’s cast through some brief conversations before you have to make a choice. One of those choices is the Black Eagle house.
Here are your initial Black Eagles party members and what they’re first proficient at:
- Edelgard (Axe/Authority)
- Hubert (Reason/Authority)
- Ferdinand (Lance/Axe)
- Lindhart (Reason/Faith)
- Caspar (Axe/Brawling)
- Bernadetta (Spear/Archery)
- Dorothea (Sword/Reason)
- Petra (Sword/Axe)
In nearly every in-game and external poll we’ve seen, the Black Eagles are the most popular choice. Why is that? Well, Edelgard is one of the most formidable looking characters in the game, so it makes sense why people would want to gravitate toward her.
The Black Eagles are also appealing mechanically. Edelgard is a perfect opportunity to employ the golden child strategy with a sturdy axe-based build right out of the gate. Hubert is one of the strongest mages in the entire game, so his immediate penchant for the reason (offensive magic) stat will help you score some really big hits early on.
Hubert, Lindhart, and Dorothea are also cheap in terms of upkeep, as you don’t need to equip them constantly with weapons that need repairing when their (free, replenishing) spells will do the job. Bernadetta is another character to pay close attention to, as she can use bow skills to hit enemies from a distance farther than any party member right away: We’ve won many battles solely due to her strength.
There’s even a third reason why the Black Eagles are so enticing. Without spoiling anything, the house is arguably the most entwined with the story. It’s a great jumping off point that will provide you with greater context for the overarching narrative.
Here are your initial Blue Lions party members:
- Dimitri (Lance/Authority)
- Dedue (Axe/Brawling)
- Felix (Sword/Brawling)
- Ashe (Axe/Archery)
- Sylvain (Lance/Axe)
- Mercedes (Reason/Faith)
- Annette (Reason/Authority)
- Ingrid (Sword/Lance)
Beyond the fact that the Blue Lions — unlike the other houses — do not represent both genders equally (five men, three women), they also heavily focus on close combat skills. Mercedes and Annette are your only proficient spellcasters available after joining the house, as most party members prefer to get up close and personal with melee-centric skills.
That isn’t to say that you can’t change their paths immediately and add another caster or another ranged archery specialist, but nurturing their natural talents will result in quicker level-ups and faster access to new advanced roles. Just know what you’re getting into: If you prefer melee combat, the Blue Lions will probably suit your needs without any alterations.
Here are your initial Golden Deer party members:
- Claude (Archery/Authority)
- Lorenz (Lance/Reason)
- Raphael (Axes/Brawling)
- Ignatz (Sword/Archery)
- Lysithea (Reason/Authority)
- Marianne (Sword/Faith)
- Hilda (Lance/Axe)
- Leonie (Lance/Archery)
With three characters proficient in archery, the Golden Deer house is an incredibly appealing choice.
There are scores of enemies that can make short work of your party in a melee situation, especially on higher difficulty settings. With a few characters available that can soak up the damage (we recommend you add Byleth, the protagonist, to this situation with a melee build), you can sufficiently protect your archers and allow them to stay in safe positions to snipe away.
That’s on top of the reason-trained Lorenz and Lysithea, who can lay down spell-based covering fire to further demolish enemies at a range. Keep the tanky Raphael and Hilda close, leading the charge, and you’ll crush early-game battles easily.
Ultimately, go with your gut
If you like the look of a house’s emblem or their leader, just pick it, as all three houses have stellar lineups and a good spread of party roles out of the gate. Each house also features a unique storyline and provides inside looks at different parts of the game’s narrative, so you can’t really make a wrong choice.
After you complete Fire Emblem: Three Houses, you also get the convenient option of creating a new save file under a New Game+ heading. This will allow you to keep a few currency types and start the game over from the beginning, with the chance to ally with another house.
So long as you’re willing to play through Fire Emblem: Three Houses again, you won’t be missing anything.