Jeremy enjoys anime when not working as a chemist or building manager.
What Are Heroic Spirits in Fate?
Whether you're experiencing the Fate world through a visual novel, video game, or anime, it depicts tournaments where modern-day mages compete to win a wish from the all-powerful Holy Grail. They engage in a battle royale where each mage summons a champion from history (like Alexander the Great or Jack the Ripper) who adopts a specific class (like Saber or Archer) and fights to the death alongside their partner.
Full of hope, bloodshed, and betrayal, Fate's mages and spirits vary greatly in morality and goals. But regardless of character, we've witnessed dozens of impressive warriors throughout the years; which companions reign supreme? These are the ten strongest heroes in Fate! Spoilers ahead.
Main Class: Saber
The war in novel Fate/Apocrypha bends the usual rules, as it's a 7-vs-7 team match rather than a battle royale. German hero Siegfried serves as the Saber of Black, and he's arguably their strongest member, perhaps the only servant who can hold his own against the red team's Rider and Lancer.
Siegfried's "Balmung" Noble Phantasm offers a powerful and fast anti-army ultimate attack while his "Armor of Fafnir" greatly reduces the damage he suffers. This lets what would otherwise be fatal wounds end up as minor scratches that his master can easily heal with magic. However, (as per his legend), Siegfried bears a weakness on his back where a leaf stuck to him as bathed in dragon's blood, and his armor won't protect him there. Thus, he strives to conceal his identity for as long as possible to guard his one real vulnerability.
Main Class: Berserker
Anime Fate/Zero features a more-traditional Grail battle royale where Lancelot (the strongest Knight of the Round Table) is boosted with the mad parameters of the Berserker class under the control of master Kariya Matou. However, his "Eternal Arms" skill lets him fight with full technique despite his insanity, and his full-body armor and "For Someone's Glory" skill effectively conceal his identity. Furthermore, "Knight of Owner" lets him use anything he holds as a Noble Phantasm, potentially stealing the weapons of other Heroic Spirits, and he can summon his own sword "Arondight" if needed.
Lancelot even fights the renowned Gilgamesh on relatively equal terms despite his master being a much weaker mage that Gilgamesh's. This eventually proves his downfall against Saber, as he beats her but runs out of mana and thus loses. Still, despite his handicap (a mage's power slightly alter's a Heroic Spirit's stats), Lancelot never really lost a battle despite facing two of the strongest champions in history—but more on them later.
8. Tamamo no Mae
Main Class: Caster
Serving as the Caster class for video game Fate/Extra, Tamamo's power greatly fluctuates between her forms. Her single-tailed mode is remarkably weak, but she can gain up to nine tails, each exponentially increasing her might by a factor of nine. Tamamo is one of Japan's "Three Great Monsters", and at full power, she can move faster than light and reverse time.
Her Witchcraft attacks (essentially an alternative form of magic) have unique powers and seemingly ignore magic resistance. Plus, her "Eightfold Blessing" Noble Phantasm serves two purposes, both offering a competent melee weapon (useful for the magic-oriented Caster class) and temporarily providing her with infinite mana, negating the main weakness of her class and letting her freely cast her strongest spells.
7. Heracles (Hercules)
Main Class: Berserker
The Berserker of the original Fate/stay night, Heracles is a massive warrior who compensates for his madness-induced lack of skill with brute strength, able to manhandle any servant beyond Gilgamesh. His "God Hand" Noble Phantasm automatically blocks both physical and magical attacks that are less than A-rank, and his "Nine Lives" attack is quite versatile, changing form based on what kind of weapon he uses.
But most notably, Heracles's God Hand also gives him eleven extra lives, meaning he has to be killed a total of twelve times before truly falling, and it defends against attacks he's already experienced. Thus, Heracles has an insane amount of endurance, and even skilled opponents like Archer only manage to take a few lives before falling. If you count Alcides (the Archer form of Heracles Alter in Fate/strange fake), Heracles has even more potential classes and powers, further cementing his already-tremendous might.
Main Class: CasterGrand Caster
Technically these are two separate entities, but Goetia (sometimes called Beast 1) possesses Solomon's body and the two share several abilities. Solomon can create fields where "death does not count" that allow resurrection, his rings protect against magic, and he can see into the past or future. Meanwhile, his "Ars Almadel Salomonis" Noble Phantasm incinerates life across human history with a blast the size of North America. Yikes.
Due to their debatable status as Heroic Spirits, we won't see any more beasts today, but whether or not you count demonic Goetia, there's no doubting Solomon's power. Even before his upgrade through Goetia's possession, he won Fuyuki's Grail War, highlighting his skill.
5. Artoria Pendragon
Main Class: Saber
As the main Heroic Spirit with about a dozen different forms (including Saber Alter, Galactica Saber, and no joke, Lion King Saber), King Arthur's gender-swap has appeared in most of the Fate series in one form or another.
Saber's devout nature and fierce swordmanship earn many allies throughout her wars, often allowing her to team up with fellow knights, but she's a competent force on her own. She conceals her sword's length with magic, deflects weaker blows with armor, can predict the flow of battle with her "Instinct" skill, and her "Excalibur" Noble Phantasm is undoubtedly one of the strongest in existence. Her Avalon scabbard also provides her or an ally with incredibly fast regeneration, allowing only a direct hit on their brain to take them out.
You could debate back and forth on which of her many incarnations is strongest (I'd bet on Saber Alter), but any of Artoria's forms prove deadly, and her masters are often the winners of their Grail Wars.
Main Class: Lancer
Indian hero Karna, the Lancer of Red in Apocrypha, is arguably the most skilled of all Heroic Spirits, able to overwhelm even Siegfried in battle. He can also adopt the Rider or Archer classes, and his "Discernment" skill allow him to see through lies, making him immune to deception. He's also surprisingly calm and obedient for such a powerful hero, allowing easy cooperation with his master.
Karna's golden armor reduces incoming damage by 90%, meaning that even the few opponents who scratch him have trouble landing any serious wounds, and if he permanently sacrifices his armor, he gains the one-time use Noble Phantasm "Vasavi Shakti", a spear that can kill even gods. Throw in the anti-country blast of "Brahmastra", and he's got more than enough firepower to take on any threat. Karna was eventually defeated in Apocrypha, but only after being ganged up on, as no single Black servant could match his abilities.
Main Class: Rider
The infamous Greek warrior from the Trojan War depicted in The Iliad, Achilles is the Rider of Red and the only hero on equal footing with Karna in Apocrypha. Achilles is stated to be the fastest hero (in any Grail War) thanks to "Dromeus", one of his many Noble Phantasms. Additionally, his "Troias" Phantasm offers a mount pulled by three horses that can travel through air, "Diatrekhōn" creates a personal arena where no third parties can interfere with a duel, and his "Akhilleus" shield offers a superb defense against enemy Phantasms.
Not only that, Achilles is completely invincible against opponents without a high enough divinity rank—meaning only Black's Chiron can really harm him). His weak points are his heart and heel, but he's not as vulnerable as you might think thanks to the "Battle Continuation" skill, letting him continue fighting even after suffering critical injuries. Throw in other boons like "Bravery", which negates mental interference, and you simply have a versatile and lightning-fast warrior who few can match.
Main Class: False Lancer
Stemming from the light novel Fate/strange fake, Enkidu (who is neither male nor female and is referred to with plural pronouns) is stated to be roughly equivalent to Gilgamesh in his prime, standing as the only being Gilgamesh recognizes as an equal.
Enkidu can speak with animals and has an advanced "Presence Detection" skill useful for locating Heroic Spirits, but their real powers lie in their Noble Phantasms. "Enuma Elish" turns Enkidu into a weapon of destruction comparable to Gilgamesh's Ea, while "Age of Babylon" perfectly counters Gil's infamous "Gate of Babylon", summoning a seemingly-infinite supply of weapons from the ground. Few champions can withstand a continuous onslaught of ranged blades, making Age one of the strongest moves in the entire series.
Main Class: Archer
The King of Heroes appears in nearly as many Holy Grail Wars as Artoria, and he's rightfully proud of his strength. Gilgamesh can fly, has ranks in both "Charisma" (letting him empower armies) and "Divinity", but his true power stems from Gate of Babylon, which lets him summon and wield nearly every weapon ever made. He can rapidly shoot them in a brutal bombardment that few heroes can avoid. Additionally, his "Enkidu" (named after his old friend) traps heavenly beings in chains, working better on divine enemies.
As if that weren't enough, Gilgamesh also wields "Ea", arguably the strongest Noble Phantasm, which tears a hole in the fabric of reality and engulfs everything in range, overpowering even Saber's Excalibur. Fate's creator has stated that Gilgamesh could win Grail Wars in a single night if he really tried, but his arrogance causes him to hold back in most fights. Even restrained, he's more than a match for most foes, though occasionally his pride proves his downfall. Nevertheless, at full power, Gilgamesh is undoubtedly the strongest Heroic Spirit of all time.
More of the Best Heroic Spirits
With dozens of series spanning several different media, we've witnessed dozens of impressive heroes throughout Fate, and narrowing the list to just ten wasn't easy. Still, even the strongest champions have suffered their defeats, often due to hubris or being teamed up on, so you never know exactly how a Grail War will end even if you can gauge the relative power of its participants.
Remember that stronger masters also slightly boost the stats of their allies, and that heroes may arrive in different classes, meaning their abilities fluctuate with each appearance. With this in mind, we'll undoubtedly return to tackle more of Fate's strongest Heroic Spirits, but for now, as we eagerly await future Grail Wars, vote for your favorite champion and I'll see you at our next anime countdown!
© 2018 Jeremy Gill
Vishw Deepak on May 23, 2020:
If karna was introduced as Archer with his Vijaya bow and his armour in the fate universe then Gilgamesh and any other heroic spirit is a no match for him.
He will be invincible.
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on April 21, 2020:
Solomon's Noble Phantasms are undoubtedly deadly, but I ranked him lower for several reasons. Whether beasts belong here at all is debatable, the attack involves danger to him as well, and Myrie was able to block it (albeit only partially).
Kaine on April 20, 2020:
Solomon/Goetia literally has planet-nuking beams? How is he at 6th place?!
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on March 18, 2020:
It's tricky comparing Saber and Hercules because it depends on matchups; Hercules is amazing up close, but not so much from range; Saber does much better against Gilgamesh than him. Hercules also has the benefit of a skilled master (Illya) where Saber was stuck with Shirou.
He might fare better in other classes, but he'd need a way to get past Saber's healing.
Rsav on March 17, 2020:
i'm going to pretend that you didn't just put saber and Achilles over Hercules but apart from that the list is fair. Just saying Beserker wasn't the strongest form of Hercules. If his archer form fought Gilgamesh then it would be a tough battle
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on February 04, 2020:
I agree Cú Chulainn is underrated, but I'm still not sure he deserves a spot. Saber did much better against Gilgamesh (who beat Cú), and has arguably better Noble Phantasms.
That said, Cú gets a power boost in Ireland, so for Greil Wars that transpire there, he'd undoubtedly be a top-tier partner.
Astrid on February 04, 2020:
Cú Chulainn and Shirou Emiya should be here then, They both bested Saber, Cú Chulainn actually gave up one of his noble phantasms so that Saber could be useful. I think they get so little mention because people think it's mainstream to look up to a main character and a side character with high charisma. But at least let Cú Chulainn be on here, even just as a caster, he nukes rider. Everything about him is amazing from his quips, banter, all the way to combat prowess. He should be on something,
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on April 29, 2019:
I'm mostly referring to the Fate wars, where (in addition to her assigned partners), her valor impresses figures like Alexander the Great, Gilgamesh, and Diarmuid, often turning enemies into allies, or at least respected rivals. And in her original life, she was famous for assembling the Knights of the Round.
Stars123 on April 29, 2019:
“Saber's devout nature and fierce swordmanship earn many allies throughout her wars”
What wars are you talking about here? The holy grail wars from fate? The Germanic invasions? The raids from the scots, Picts, Britons? Or the French only Arthurian wars? Which don’t even exist in the majority of the Arthurian works. Since most of them came from the French prose cycles, which was Cistercian propaganda. Where the English heroes were demonized and made substantially weaker, in order to make the French heroes look good and op.
Stephanie Bradberry from New Jersey on December 14, 2018:
Great list. One of your heroic spirits I was not familiar with. So I need to go and see strange fake.