By Aria Seryn of Adamantoise
Bard is an incredibly easy job to pick up but deceptively difficult to master. They offer utility and versatility that most classes cannot compare to.
FROM THE BEGINNING
To perform well in any class, you must understand core defining features of combat in MMOs. Each fight varies in both what will happen, and when it will happen. It is reasonable to expect that your performance will vary based on the fight. Because our gear is always constantly getting better, it is also reasonable to expect that attempting a fight when it is first released will be different compared to attempting it three months later.
Playing your job to its maximum effectiveness is not easy — but to get there, knowing the basics of dealing damage is very important. There are two very basic points that you must completely understand, the first being that you should ALWAYS BE ATTACKING. It goes without saying that to deal damage, you must attack. Therefore, always strive to maximize uptime of attacking enemies in any encounter. Secondly, use every tool in your class’ arsenal. Understanding your job skills and when to use them is key in dealing the most amount of damage possible.
UNDERSTANDING THE BARD JOB
To play Bard well, you must understand what their strengths and their defining features are.
The spells that define Bard are their songs — Mage’s Ballad, Foe Requiem, and Army’s Paeon. Mage’s Ballad gradually restores MP of all nearby party members, Foe Requiem reduces all nearby enemies’ magic resistance, and Army’s Paeon gradually restores TP of all nearby party members. You will be using Foe Requiem the most often for boosting the damage of your casters. Note that Mage’s Ballad and Army’s Paeon reduces the amount of damage you deal! Use it only when necessary!
Then there is Battle Voice: a buff that doubles the effectiveness of your songs for 30 seconds. Of course, most of the time it is used with Foe Requiem, but in some cases it can be used to massively refresh MP if your healers run out.
Heavy Shot is your most basic attack weaponskill. It deals damage and has a percentage chance to activate Straighter Shot, which causes your next usage of Straight Shot to always critically strike and require no cast time, this will be the weaponskill you use most of the time.
Straight Shot is a weaponskill that deals damage to a target and grants you a +10% critical hit chance buff for 20 seconds. Make sure that you always have this up, especially when you apply your DoTs. Also be sure to take advantage of any Straighter Shot procs that you get!
A very large amount of Bard damage comes from their two Damage over Time (DoT) weaponskills: Windbite and Venomous Bite. It is top priority that you keep these two up on your primary target. Use Iron Jaws to easily reapply your DoTs.
Quick Nock and Wide Volley are your bread and butter Area of Effect (AoE) weaponskills. On single targets they have no value, but on groups of targets they are incredibly strong. The main difference between the two AoE weaponskills is their attack pattern.
Quick Nock deals damage to all enemies in a cone in front of you, while Wide Volley deals damage to all enemies in a circle centered around your target.
How they are used depends on the scenario. Quick Nock consumes less TP, and should be used when you can hit all your targets. Wide Volley is useful for enemies that are moving, or when you are unable to position yourself in a manner that maximizes the number of enemies that Quick Nock will hit.
Bards have a collection of off-Global Cooldown (oGCD) skills – Bloodletter/Rain of Death, Misery’s End, Empyreal Arrow, Sidewinder as well as Blunt Arrow and Repelling Shot. In general, these oGCDs are used primarily for dealing damage. As a result, it would be a wise idea to use them as often as possible, with the exception of Blunt Arrow and Repelling Shot.
Repelling Shot, as its name suggests, repels you from the target by blasting you directly away. It is a useful mobility ability when you need to quickly reposition yourself, but in most cases can be used as a source of damage. Be careful that attempting to cast a spell directly after usage of this ability may cause your spell to be interrupted.
The Trait River of Blood gives your DoTs a chance to reset the cooldown of Bloodletter/Rain of Death when they deal critical damage. Be sure to take advantage of any resets.
Empyreal Arrow is a weaponskill that deals damage to a target. Please note that while it is classified as a weaponskill, it does not share a recast time to weaponskills such as Heavy Shot or Straight Shot. In general, you will be trying to use this as much as possible.
Sidewinder is an ability that deals damage to the target, increasing if the target is under the effect of Windbite and Venomous Bite. Therefore, only use Sidewinder on targets that are afflicted by both DoTs.
Damage buffs(Raging Strikes, Internal Release, Hawk’s Eye, and Blood for Blood) are all incredibly important in maximizing your damage.
Make sure to fit as many attacks in when using them, and to maximize their uptime in a fight.
Barrage multiplies the number of non-critical hits on your next weaponskill. This applies to only the damage component of a weaponskill and will not increase the effectiveness of any bonus effects such as DoTs or buffs. Under no circumstances will you ever use Barrage with anything other than Empyreal Arrow.
(aka. The Bard Thought Process)
1. Keep your DoTs up on your primary targets.
2. Keep STRAIGHT SHOT up – If the duration aligns with your DoTs, use it a little earlier so that it is up when you use IRON JAWS.
4. MISERY’S END
6. EMPYREAL ARROW — Unless BARRAGE comes off cooldown in the next 10 or so seconds, in which case you should hold it for BARRAGE.
7. STRAIGHTER SHOT — You may opt to hold this for a few seconds if your Empyreal Arrow comes up soon.
8. FLAMING ARROW when you can get the most duration out of it
9. BLUNT ARROW when you don’t need it for the silence
10. REPELLING ARROW when you don’t need it for mobility
You should always be considering what would be most important in your scenario. Since your DoTs do take time for its full effect, sometimes a Heavy Shot would be better than putting up a DoT, especially on weak adds that die in a hit or two.
Or, is it worth putting DoTs to try and take advantage of River of Blood on a group of mobs? Sometimes it’s just better to just purely use simple AoE to burn them down quickly. It all changes based on the scenario. For example, it wouldn’t be worth it on Yorn Pigs in A5S, but it would be worth putting up DoTs on two Sturm Dolls in A7S. Context is important. Always be experimenting and considering what your best option is in any situation.
CROSS CLASS ABILITIES
Bard acquires cross class abilities from two classes: Lancer (LNC), and Pugilist (PGL). The abilities can be classified into four categories, ranging from most to least useful.
Depending on your latency or Skill Speed, you may opt to use Iron Jaws one GCD earlier to refresh while every buff is still up. Additionally, you may substitute a Heavy Shot for Feint in the event that you have a bloodletter proc.
BRD BiS (Patch 3.4): http://ffxiv.ariyala.com/VOT2
Grouping buffs with similar cooldowns increases their effectiveness. In this case, there are two distinct buff groups: HAWK’S EYE + BLOOD FOR BLOOD + BARRAGE, and RAGING STRIKES + INTERNAL RELEASE.
Hold BLOOD FOR BLOOD for 10 seconds and pair it with HAWK’S EYE. BARRAGE comes up shortly after so make sure to have EMPYREAL ARROW available to use before your buffs fall off.
Pair INTERNAL RELEASE with every other RAGING STRIKES. Since INTERNAL RELEASE has a shorter duration than RAGING STRIKES, it is okay to use RAGING STRIKES when there is 5 seconds left on INTERNAL RELEASE’S Cooldown to sync up their durations.
BATTLE VOICE should always be used when you have enough mana to sustain a song for the entire duration.
– USE YOUR SONGS. If you’re not using them for anything else and there is no TP/MP shortage, at least sing FOE REQUIEM, even when you don’t have a caster DPS. It’s still useful for your healers if they DPS.
– TRY NOT TO CLIP BUFF/DOT DURATIONS TOO MUCH. STRAIGHT SHOT should only be refreshed when it has about 2-3 seconds left, and your DoTs should be refreshed at about 3-4 seconds under normal circum stances. If you have a STRAIGHTER SHOT proc, don’t be afraid to use it earlier, even if it means clipping your STRAIGHT SHOT duration.
– Hold BLOOD FOR BLOOD for 10 seconds and use it together with HAWK’S EYE.
– Only use BARRAGE in conjunction with EMPYREAL ARROW.
– Refrain from using buffs if your have MAGE’S BALLAD or ARMY’S PAEON active.
– USE IRON JAWS IMMEDIATELY AFTER USING YOUR DAMAGE BUFFs, and again as they’re about to wear off to maximize the duration that your DoTs are affected by your buffs.
– Pair a STRAIGHTER SHOT proc with EMPYREAL ARROW to prevent EMPYREAL ARROW from delaying your next GCD cast.
– DON’T WEAVE TWO OFF-GCDS unless it’s buffs, or if it’s BLOODLETTER with another oGCD.
– SLIDECASTING SAVES LIVES; You can move during the last ~0.5s of a cast to increase mobility without dropping casts.
– EXPERIMENT with fights to minimize movement so that you can focus on dealing damage.
– Apply your DoTs to MULTIPLE TARGETS where possible to take advantage of Bloodletter procs.
– If you need to move for more than a GCD, turn off WANDERER’S MINUET, or USE FEINT. Similarly, if you need to move soon, consider saving a STRAIGHTER SHOT proc.
– BATTLE VOICE and your caster’s RAGING STRIKES has the same cooldown (180s). Consider coordinating FOE REQUIEM usage to maximize effectiveness.