FFXIV dungeons have something of a formula. You’ll hear people say it’s always two trash pulls, a boss, repeat 3x, and that is true, but then you might observe that it seems like there are typically 4 trash packs between each boss. You’d be right, but here is the rub: single pulling is for chumps.
Okay, now that I’ve started inflammatory, let me break out the real statement I’m building around here – counter-intuitively, the safest and best way to run FFXIV’s dungeons (edit: mostly from level 50 content onwards), new tank, new healer, low DPS, whatever, is to always pull wall-to-wall, until you hit a boss room or an unmoving barricade. I hear some of you charging up a comment, and just give me a minute (or however many words this ends up being edit: wow that’s a lot) to explain.
In WoW and many other MMOs with instanced group dungeons, it is common to take pulls as they come – one at a time, maybe a double-up here and there when the individual pulls permit it, but rarely are you able to stack the trash up high, and even then, those other titles often don’t offer a well-defined stopping point for you. In WoW specifically, something else worth noting is that tank mitigation is often a cycle where something is nearly always available. When I stopped playing, Vengeance DH dungeon mitigation was about cycling a mix of abilities, from obvious pure mitigations like Demon Spikes to less-defined mitigations (using a Sigil to fear mobs for a second or two? That’s mitigation, baby!) and you always had something on the horizon coming off cooldown. Further, you have more passive mitigation in WoW and your healer’s job is more actively centered on keeping you alive, with their own collection of big buttons to help you out.
In FFXIV, mitigation is on longer cooldowns and is almost entirely the tank’s responsibility. DPS and the healer have ways to help, but the main burden of reducing incoming damage lies with the tank. The longer cooldowns of mitigations lead to my main point – it is actually safer to pull in bigger packs, for two reasons – each mitigation reduces a larger total amount of damage when used and this methodology also ensures that you have mitigation for each major pull. The other major secret of FFXIV tanking is this – unlike in WoW and many other MMOs, dungeon bosses aren’t that threatening that you need to mitigate everything they do. Instead, they use specific tankbuster abilities for which you have a basic, low-cooldown mitigation to handle. The rest of your cooldowns? All for trash!
This couples with the design of healers and DPS in FFXIV to create an interesting flow that feels counter-intuitive at first, but I will break it down further by role, starting with tanks in this post!
The Tank’s Job In The Dungeon
The job of a good tank is to minimize the incoming damage to the party while doing as much damage as they can to the enemies. They do this by being the highest health, the most able to take a hit and offer passive reduction to the incoming damage, but then also by using their abilities to hold the attention of the enemies and reduce the damage they do further, allowing the healer to focus on damage output instead. Note I did not say the tank is a puller or dictates when things are pulled, here – we’ll discuss that later!
In Endwalker, enmity management (threat/aggro/hate/whatever term you prefer) is pretty basic. Getting mobs to focus on you involves having your tank stance on (Iron Will/Defiance/Grit/Royal Guard) and then doing damage to the enemies. For big packs, generally you’ll have a two-part AoE combo, with additional job-specific AoE abilities that do more damage. For single-target fights like bosses or remaining trash mobs, you’ll have at a minimum a 1-2-3 combo structure, with specific off-Global Cooldown abilities you can weave in-between your main combo hits. Some tanks have more complicated combos, like Paladin, who has a two-path branching physical attack combo and a magical combo fully separate. Generally, tagging a pack with a few rounds of your AoE combo is going to be enough to stick them to you for the pull, although until the pack gets down to around 2 mobs, the AoE combo is generally going to be more damage.
Where tanks get interesting is in their defensives. As I mentioned in the intro, tank defensives in Final Fantasy XIV are pretty different, in that they are all (with the exception of tankbuster protection) on long-ish cooldowns. You also have less passive damage reduction than you might be used to in other MMOs with tanking as a role – you do have “tank privilege” but going into a full pack without mitigation is unwise. A good habit to learn early is to start rolling mitigation at the start of a pull, and not to wait or panic-press it as your health drops. A big reason large pulls feel scary to start is because of this bad habit – if you reduce incoming damage when you are already low, you are in a dangerous situation where the tools available may not be enough, or you may panic yourself into “kitchen-sinking” your mitigations just to have nothing left in the tank for the next pull while making yourself almost invulnerable in that moment.
While the abilities differ in names and some side effects, generally, each tank in FFXIV has 4 core defensives they can reliably cycle during pulls. One of those abilities is a tankbuster mitigation, on a short cooldown or resource cost that allows it to be used roughly once every 25-30 seconds, while the others vary a bit. Let’s breakdown by role actions and then job.
All tanks in FFXIV have a shared set of role actions. These include Provoke (a taunt equivalent), Shirk (transfers half of your threat to a party member of your choice, used for tank swaps in raid content to ensure safety), and an interrupt, but there are also 4 mitigation tools in there.
The first is Rampart. Rampart is a shared, common mitigation ability that reduces incoming damage by 20% for 20 seconds. It’s bread-and-butter simple mitigation, use it.
The next is Reprisal. Reprisal is enemy-targeted and a debuff that reduces the damage dealt by the target and all nearby enemies by 10% for 10 seconds. This is highly useful on raid bosses for big damage AoEs (as it prevents outgoing damage to the entire party) but also on trash pulls, because it is constantly up (with only a 60 second cooldown) and applies to all enemies in range of the target.
Next up is Arm’s Length. Arm’s Length is a surprise to new tanks, because it is most commonly used as an anti-knockback tool for raid fights where knockbacks are a mechanic. However, in dungeons, it is one of the most potent mitigation tools you have. When Arm’s Length is active, any enemy that hits you is slowed by 20%. This, critically to FF newbies, is not a movement speed slow (that is called Heavy in this game) but is an attack and casting speed reduction. Once you have a pack rounded up and attacking you, hitting this gives you a ton of damage reduction, as the effect applied lasts for 15 seconds, with a 2 minute cooldown on the ability. In dungeons, this should be a bread-and-butter mitigation tool, but not enough tanks use it, so it will set you apart in a positive way if you do!
Lastly on mitigation is Low Blow. Low Blow is emergency mitigation of a sort, as all it does is stun a single target for 5 seconds, with a 25 second cooldown. It is an oGCD, so you can weave it, but it generally is only best used in an emergency when you are completely out of mitigation and your healer is running on fumes (which itself should only ever happen with bad DPS). Still, I’d recommend putting it on your bars and using it from time to time – reducing incoming damage is still a benefit!
Paladin’s core mitigation (and tankbuster mitigation as well) is Sheltron. This costs 50 Oath Gauge, which is generated through auto-attacks, and takes around 25 seconds in melee range attacking to generate. Sheltron’s base form is just a block, which works to reduce damage from all incoming attacks. Sheltron is unique in that block is based on the block rate of your equipped shield item, so damage reduction is variable but generally around 15-19% of incoming damage from some casual observation. You can pool Oath Gauge to 100 to use Sheltron twice back to back (or other Oath spenders I’ll mention below). Lastly for this ability, it upgrades at level 82 to Holy Sheltron, adding an additional 15% damage reduction to the effect for half the full ability duration (8 seconds of block, 4 seconds of added damage reduction) and also adds a heal-over-time effect that lasts for 12 seconds.
The remaining Paladin mitigation abilities are Sentinel, which is 30% reduced damage for 15 seconds with a 2 minute cooldown, Passage of Arms, which gives you a 100% block rate and reduces damage for party members behind you by 15% over 18 seconds, but requires you to channel the ability and cancels your auto-attack, and Divine Veil, an ability that buffs you so on your next received healing, an absorption effect is placed on you and all party members within range for up to 10% of your health, while also healing you for a small amount.
Paladins also have party defensives in Cover and Intervention, which both cost 50 Oath Gauge. Cover redirects damage taken by the target to you for 12 seconds, while Intervention reduces damage taken by a target party member by 10% for 8 seconds, and at level 82, it is upgraded to have the bonus effects given to Holy Sheltron (a 10% additional damage reduction and a HoT effect). The damage reduction is also increased if you have Sentinel or Rampart active on you when casting Intervention, by 10% a piece.
Lastly, there is Clemency. Clemency is a cast time heal with high cure potency (1,000) that also heals you for 50% of the amount healed (if your target is a party member). Let me be perfectly frank here – outside of a few very niche scenarios, if you are casting Clemency, it is very likely you have failed in mitigating properly and are about to make the situation worse. Clemency stops your auto-attack for the cast duration, which reduces your ability to generate Oath Gauge, which reduces your ability to use Sheltron, which means you will take more damage. It also reduces your damage output, prolonging fights and creating a potential death spiral. If your healer is dead and all your defensives are on cooldown, sure, it can save a potential wipe, but most of the time I see rookie Paladins using it when they are either in no danger, or when they could instead save themselves by using more mitigation than just Sheltron. At level 84, your magic attack combo also heals you for each attack, so Clemency is absolutely not worth it for self-preservation. Don’t be that PLD!
Warrior’s best mitigation tool is Raw Intuition, which becomes Bloodwhetting at level 82. This reduces incoming damage by a measly 10% for 6 seconds, but is on a 25 second cooldown and heals you for 400 cure potency per hit you deal out during its duration. Critically worth noting is this – an AoE will trigger the heal for every target hit, not just once for the ability itself. The Bloodwhetting upgrade gives it an 8 second base duration, offers 4 seconds of 10% additional reduction on top, and gives you a shield immediately that is equivalent to a single hit of the healing effect. This shares a cooldown with Nascent Flash, a defensive that you can target onto another party member to give them the effects while you still also get the healing. In dungeons, generally, you are going to use Bloodwhetting instead because you need the defensive effects as well as the healing, but a lot of runs can be saved by Nascent Flashing a low-HP healer nearing death or by turning yourself into the party healer, one target at a time. (It’s also a key component of easy 1 tank/3 DPS speedruns in dungeons, which are pretty fun!)
Warrior’s other normal mitigation is Vengeance, a 30% reduction for 15 seconds that also hits targets with a 55 potency counter-attack whenever they hit you with physical damage over the duration. This has a 2 minute cooldown, and generally, it’s not worth waiting to use to maximize the counter-attack – just pop it normally. When you get into the nitty-gritty of optimized Warrior play, you’ll start to care more about that, but for a dungeon it is unnecessary.
The rest of the Warrior defensive kit is oddball, built around healing and shielding. There’s Thrill of Battle, which increases your max HP by 20%, heals you for the amount of that increase, and increases all incoming healing from your abilities by 20% for its 10 second duration, with a 90 second cooldown. Next up is Equilibrium, which is a 60 second cooldown self-heal, with an initial heal of 1,200 potency and a 15 second HoT effect that heals for a total of 1,000 more potency over the duration. Lastly, there is Shake it Off, a 90 second cooldown that shields all party members for 15% of their max HP and heals each affected party member for 300 potency. The amount of the barrier is increased by 2% if you have Thrill of Battle, Vengeance, or Bloodwhetting active at the time you cast Shake – and the increases stack, however that increase also costs you those buffs. Given the amount of the shield, that isn’t a particularly steep price to pay – and Shake it Off is a huge help for big raidwide damage spikes and the like.
Dark Knight has a reputation for being the softest, squishiest tank, and that is for a simple reason – their defensive kit is quite good but requires a fair bit of careful planning and working around the DPS rotation.
Their main ability is Blackest Night, an ability with (edit: a 15 second) cooldown but an MP cost of 3,000. With your average 1-2-3 combo regen of MP, you’ll be able to regen the cost in 5 cycles, or around 37.5 seconds minus any skill speed. Blackest Night is a shield for 25% of the target’s max HP. If the shield is broken by damage, you receive a Dark Arts buff, which makes your next Edge of Darkness or Flood of Darkness cost no MP (they normally also cost 3,000 and are your damage buffing abilities that do high damage in their own right). TBN is somewhat challenging, because you absolutely do need to use it as a part of your defensive kit, but you want to ensure it will break when you do use it, because that 3,000 MP costs you a 460 potency oGCD weave if lost. Tankbusters are very safe use for TBN, with some raidwides also being good use for it. Using it on party members for said raidwides is a good way to curry favor with your healer and to get a free Edge of Darkness at the same time! Learning TBN is about half of being a good, non-healer aggravating Dark Knight, because it does take some acclimation – especially since TBN gets harder to pop on-content as you gear a DRK, because now your base health is higher but the attacks still hit the same, so, you know, enjoy that!
DRK’s theme is magic so they get two added magic damage reductions. Dark Mind is self only, 20% reduction to incoming magic damage for 10 seconds with a 60 second cooldown, while Dark Missionary is 10% reduced magic damage for 15 seconds once every 90 seconds, but for the whole party.
The rest of the DRK kit is pretty straightforward defensively. There’s Shadow Wall, your 30% reduction, 15 second duration, 2 minute cooldown defensive, and there’s Oblation, a 10% reduction for 10 seconds with 60 seconds to charge, and you can hold two charges. You can also use Oblation on a party member.
Gunbreaker gets a little bit more oddball with their mitigation, but only slightly.
Their base mitigation is Camouflage, which offers 10% reduced incoming damage for 20 seconds on a 90 second cooldown, but it also increases parry rate by 50%, with each parry reducing damage by an additional 20%. Nebula is their big reduction, which offers 30% reduced damage for 15 seconds on a 2 minute cooldown.
Gunbreaker’s unique flavor starts with healing and absorbs. They have Aurora, a 60 second cooldown (that can hold 2 charges at level 84) which is a HoT effect, restoring 1,200 potency in health over 18 seconds. Their core 1-2-3 combo includes the ability Brutal Shell, which restores a small amount of HP (200 cure potency worth) and also gives a shield for the amount healed.
Their tankbuster protection, which interacts with the healing, is Heart of Stone, which upgrades at level 82 to Heart of Corundum. The base HoS mitigation is 15% for 7 seconds with a 25 second cooldown. It can be targeted onto other players and will give your Brutal Shell to that player if you have the buff active when casting it. The Corundum upgrade increases the duration of the base mitigation by 1 second, while adding a 4 second bonus of 15% more mitigation and adding a healing effect that sits like a ticking time bomb on the target. When they either drop below 50% or when 20 seconds is up, the last effect heals the target for 900 cure potency.
Lastly, the Gunbreaker also gets some magical play, with Heart of Light – a 10% magical damage reduction that lasts for 15 seconds on a 90 second cooldown.
A Word on Invulns
Tanks in FFXIV all have invulnerabilities. These abilities are on long cooldowns (4 minutes for Warrior up to 7 mins for Paladin) and offer the tanks the power of being unable to die (except for super-mega-guaranteed kill abilities like enrages and some raid/trial boss abilities). Most of these come with some sort of caveat – Warrior’s Holmgang means the WAR takes full damage until they are at 1 HP and then cannot be killed for the duration (but will still take damage if healed above 1 HP), Gunbreaker’s Superbolide forcibly drops the Gunbreaker to 1 HP and then makes them immune to damage for the duration, Dark Knight’s Living Dead only works if the DRK takes lethal damage, at which point they are damage-immune but must be healed for their full maximum HP to avoid actually dying (as of patch 6.1, they have a huge cure potency on hit during this effect, so the DRK can almost always self-heal to avoid death), and for Paladins, Hallowed Ground just flat-out makes them damage immune for the duration (hence the longest cooldown time).
In raids, these are often used very specifically to cheese mechanics, but in dungeons, you should be using these as mitigations, mostly. For Paladins, there is literally no reason not to – it is a damage immunity with no downsides, but for the others, a few words are worth being said.
Holmgang on Warrior is the one that ends up being somewhat useless in dungeon play, just because it offers no real self-recovery mechanism that fits with the Warrior kit. If you have Raw Intuition already, then you can self-heal so much on such a reliable schedule that Holmgang only really enables insanity like vast overpulling, which is only possible in a couple of dungeons (Mt Gulg has two such pulls!). It’s a good save if you’re just on autopilot and hit a struggle point, but generally, you will have a hard time finding 100% perfect uses for Holmgang unless you play poorly and overextend in a dungeon. In raids, it’s the best because the short duration means a warrior tank can cheese all kinds of shit, but in dungeons? Decidedly meh.
Superbolide on Gunbreaker is much easier, by comparison. If a pull is extra-spicy, your healer is extra-spacey, or, god forbid, both are true, hit it as your first mitigation in a big pull. You can self-recover a fair bit of the health lost through a combination of Brutal Shell in your single-target combo (when you’re down to 1-2 targets), Aurora, and Heart of Corundum, as you should already be below 50% when hitting HoC after a Superbolide. I wouldn’t do it immediately, as you get a few seconds of recovery time, but right near the end of the damage immunity, just pop that to get the DR rolling and pop the heal, you’ll be good.
Living Dead is the one that requires the most babying but is also the most worth it (outside of the simple Hallowed Ground, of course). For Living Dead to be useful, you need to ensure you will pop it at a moment where you will take lethal damage and where the healer will not panic-press you to live or triage you into a bad hole where LD doesn’t pop and now you’re just low on health and panicked. Because of this, you want to make sure that nothing will get in the way – HoTs, mitigations, or partywide healing. If you have a Sage healer, you may want to click off Kardion on yourself so the Sage can continue to DPS without triaging you unintentionally (editor’s note: I have personally ruined a DRK LD this way as Sage and I am not sure if you can click off Kardion at this point, with some searches proving inconclusive), and if you have any HoT effects on you, it may be beneficial to click them off. You want to use LD ideally where you have no mitigation active, no party mits, and a large number of active targets causing you harm. Popping it below 50% health will also help ensure that a couple of auto-attack cycles will take you down into undeath. Once you’re into Walking Dead status, you need to be ready to hit your buttons – AoEs will restore health per target hit, so a quick AoE combo or Quietus will likely bring you near to full. That being said, LD is probably the second-best dungeon invuln at this point, because played well, you are off the healer’s mind for 20 seconds, get a big burst of self-healing, and can save all other mitigations for after the effect expires. Just, you know, don’t let any other healing kill your vibes.
The Core Tenets of Being a Good Tank In FFXIV Dungeon Play
To put this all together, your role as a tank in FFXIV is to reduce incoming damage as much as possible by focusing enemies on you and using your mitigations smartly to reduce your damage taken.
Earlier, I said this duty does not include pulling, and here is where I explain that.
A scourge in FFXIV in particular is this idea of “you pull, you tank” or YPYT for short. I’m gonna be direct and honest on my feelings – if you do this to your party, you suck and it is indicative of a big, fragile ego. As a tank, picking up mobs in FFXIV, especially now, is incredibly easy, and dungeons rarely, with a single-hand of exceptions, offer mob layouts where an overzealous non-tank bringing more stuff to the tank is going to result in a wipe. Single-pulling, given the timing of mitigation cooldowns, actually makes it harder on the group, so not doing wall-to-wall pulls is, counter-intuitively, actually harder than just going all-in and taking it to the walls. The pacing of most modern FFXIV dungeons from about Heavensward forward also line up so that you have two-minute segments, where it takes about 2 mins to clear two big wall pulls, 2 minutes for the boss, and then repeat, which means that this lines up with how burst DPS cooldowns currently work in Endwalker.
Functionally, if you are not going all the way on pulls, you are hurting the group and yourself, full stop. You’re losing mitigation effectiveness and ability to cycle cooldowns properly, you’re costing your healer their big buttons to help you in those same circumstances, and you’re creating inconsistent timing that will prevent your DPS from maximizing their burst windows.
Here’s more detail on why that is. With two pulls that last about two minutes combined, the first pull is one where you can use tankbuster mitigation, 60 and 90 second cooldowns, and lean a bit more on the healer, while the DPS can pop their two-minute big cooldowns and bring the pack down quickly, avoiding taxing your healer (as the mobs melt before significant damage can come out) and avoiding hitting your cooldowns too hard (leaving you with your two-minute mits, your tankbuster mit, and your 60 second mits refreshing as you pull the next pack). Since the second pull in each pair of two will take longer without DPS burst cooldowns, now you get to run your big two minutes – popping a 30% to start, cycling in tankbuster mit as that expires, and having the ability to add Reprisal and Rampart as those both cycle back in to available. This leaves you with your tankbuster protection and another 1-2 Reprisals to handle boss mechanics and tankbusters with ease, while your healer’s kit can stretch to cover, since they’ll need to use partywide mitigations and healing to cover unavoidable AoE damage and the DPS will have their burst cooldowns back up around the time you get to the boss.
This cycle plays to everyone’s benefit – it doesn’t require a heavily-optimized speed run and it isn’t a rush through the dungeon either, but instead a thoughtful use of the resources provided to have some fun, put up some big numbers, and finish without major hassle. Single pulling is worse in every regard – it takes longer per pack because you do less overall damage and use of burst cooldowns offers less net benefit, you need more defensives which will stretch you thin by the third of 4 pulls and leave you in a situation where you have no mitigation available short of small-duration TB protection, and each of your mitigations will reduce less total damage by virtue of having fewer impacted targets. If the passive mitigation offered by just being a tank was enough to offset this, single-pulling could make some logical sense, but as it stands now, it just simply doesn’t – tanks in FFXIV take too much damage when unmitigated to single-pull and run the risk of being without cooldowns for 10-15 seconds at a time during trash, with 3-4 targets all wailing on you.
Now, I want to be clear with the other half of the YPYT argument too – a non-tank pulling needs to do their level best to make it as little of a nuisance as possible. This means bringing the pull to the tank quickly, using their own mitigation like Arm’s Length for melee DPS or Bloodbath to keep health up while doing damage, and ensuring they don’t stutter-step themselves into a handful of auto-attacks or close range too quickly on the pack and take a lot of heat. Since most dungeon pulls are linked mobs anyways, you should be able to ranged-tag one of them and start the run back immediately, creating a nice single-file line for your tank to wallop while not taking damage yourself. Even still, however, DPS or healer health in this situation is also mitigation – if they take a single auto-attack or even two or three, they can often be left un-triaged because the natural regen at the end of combat will top them up, and all they need to do to ensure safety is not be hit by AoEs or avoidable damage past the pull.
Here is my big controversial statement to close on – non-tank pulls are often only frustrating to tanks who are already playing poorly themselves, because proper play of a tank in a dungeon should mean you have mitigations available, you have the ability to gain threat easily, and you should be able to manage with relative ease. Unless you have to go AFK unexpectedly or something, there’s not really any reason to YPYT and it just communicates that you kinda suck to play with. It also, under MPK and lethargic play, is technically against the TOS of the game – you’d have to say something to the effect of it for a report to stick, but most people I’ve seen do this are the kind of loudmouths that can’t help themselves with a comment, so, you know, there’s that. I offer all of this not as an insult, but an invitation to learn better – single pulling is, counter-intuitively, actually placing you and the party in more danger of a wipe, and the game’s toolkit for tanks (and healers as well) actually makes wall-to-wall pulling objectively easier and less stressful in terms of mitigation, healing, and overall burden on the party. It does take learning – a bad tank will not survive – but that is the challenge I leave this part with – if you cannot tank a wall pull today, that means you need to up your game.
It also takes advantage of the fact that AoE in FFXIV is totally fucking broken as it is not a part of the balancing targets for the most part, so damage scales out of hand crazily when you have 8 targets all being hit, especially for tank and healer AoE, which often does not have falloff damage past the first target. On Sage, for example, my core AoE DPS button Dyskrasia does 170 potency of damage per target, which makes it a gain over Dosis on 2 but then it keeps scaling more and more past that, with each enemy just adding a flat multiplier to the damage done. With 4 targets, I can do twice my single-target numbers, and with 8 targets, it’s around 4x the damage of my single target rotation (my burst on Sage has reached over 20,000 DPS before!).
In the coming parts of this guide, I’ll discuss healer and DPS interactions with dungeons in more depth, but to sum up for tanks:
-Use of mitigation cooldowns is vital, and cycling them on trash is key, as they are not needed for bosses (except TB protection).
-Wall-to-wall pulling is, counter-intuitively, actually safer than single-packs as it ensures smooth pacing and cycling of defensive cooldowns.
-Your invulns are very useful in dungeons and worth cycling in as mitigation for hairy pulls.
-The tanks job is not the puller and with proper play, no compensation should be needed for a DPS or healer running ahead to bring back some friends. If it makes you feel pressed, the problem is you.