This guide is meant as a starting point for newer players learning how to play Bard from scratch. Expect this guide to cover the basics rather than any intermediate and advanced tips/optimization. Bard is a job that is easy to pick up, yet difficult to master. With unparalleled utility and versatility, they are incredibly desirable as a member of any party.
From the Beginning
Understanding core elements and features of combat is key to performing well in FFXIV. Each fight varies in both what happens, and when it happens. It is reasonable to expect that your performance will vary based on the fight. Because our gear is always getting better, it is also sensible to expect that attempting a fight when it is first released will be different compared to trying 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 essential 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. 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 critical in dealing the most amount of damage possible.
The actions available to Bard can be classified into the four categories as follows:
The core defining feature of bards; each song has a unique effect, and one should always be up while in combat. All songs provide a 2% critical hit rate buff to allies in range. The songs trigger a special effect when either of your DoTs crit or when you use Empyreal Arrow.
The cooldown on Bloodletter
andRain of Death resets.
Stacking up to 4 times, recast time on GCD, spells and auto-attack delay decreases.
The Wanderer’s Minuet
Stacking up to 3 times, allows the usage of Pitch Perfect, expending all stacks when used.
Each song has a duration of 30 seconds and a cooldown of 80 seconds so that a song can be up at all times. Additionally, this means one song only needs to be up for 20 seconds before the first song in the rotation is available to use again.
Regarding single target offensive power, the strongest is Wanderer’s Minuet, and the weakest is Army’s Paeon. For AoE, Mage’s Ballad is the strongest, and Wanderer’s Minuet is the weakest.
Weapon skills, except for Empyreal Arrow, share a recast timer known as the “Global Cooldown,” or GCD for short. These set of actions constitute the majority of your casts. Make sure to always be using one of these when they are available.
Basic attack weapon skill. It has a percentage chance to proc Straighter Shot, which guarantees a critical hit on the next cast of Straight Shot and enables the ability to cast Refulgent Arrow. This is what you will be using most of the time on GCD.
Weapon skill that grants a critical hit chance buff.
Make sure to keep this buff up as often as possible!
Basic AoE weapon skill. Hits in a cone in front of you; use only when there are multiple targets of equal importance. In general, a good time to AoE is when there are 3 or more enemies.
Stormbite and Caustic Bite – Damage over Time (DoT) weapon skills. Keep these up on your targets as they make up a lot of your damage.
These are the direct upgrades ofWindbite and Venomous Bite as a result of the trait Bite Mastery.
Weapon skill that refreshes the duration of Stormbite and Caustic Bite. This is what you will always be using after your two DoTs are on your target unless they fall off.
Only available when under the effect of Straighter Shot, and consumes the effect when used. This does a load of damage, so make sure to take advantage of those procs.
Classified as a weaponskill, but does not share a recast timer with your GCDs. Guarantees the trigger of a song’s special effect. Make sure to use this as often as possible.
Not actually a Weapon skill, but listed under this category because it’s on the GCD. Increases the amount of damage taken by targets within range around you. Also the only use of your mana bar.
Actions that modify specific abilities or stats. They have a longer cooldown period, and their uptime should be maximized based on fight.
Basic buff ability that boosts damage on all your attacks. Use this as often as possible when the duration can be fully utilized.
Buff that multiplies the number of hits on your next weapon skill by 3. Always use with Refulgent Arrow if a proc is available, but otherwise Empyreal Arrow.
Increases the Direct Hit rate of all nearby party members. Use as often as possible when duration can be fully utilized. This does not affect you.
The Warden’s Paean
Removes a debuff effect on an allied target or self and provides a shield that negates the next debuff effect.
Keep in mind that only certain debuffs can be removed and are denoted with a light blue line on the debuff icon.
Increases healing done to a party member or self.
Provides a particular buff based on the current song being played.
Wanderer’s Minuet: Party magic vulnerability down.
Army’s Paeon: Party physical vulnerability down.
Mage’s Ballad: Party Max HP up.
Actions that aren’t on the GCD and don’t fit in any of the other sections. These can be referred to as “Off-GCD” abilities as they all have their own cooldown timer (with one exception for Bard.) In general, they should be used as often as possible.
Basic damaging off-GCD. Shares a cooldown withRain of Death. Resets when DoTs crit under the effect of Mage’s Ballad.
Rain of Death
Basic AoE damaging off-GCD. As with Bloodletter, the cooldown resets when DoTs crit under the effect of Mage’s Ballad. Use when there are two or more targets.
Can only be cast when target is below 20% health.
Off-GCD that is only available when under the effect of Wanderer’s Minuet. In general, should be used when you have three stacks to maximize damage.
Longer cooldown off-GCD that deals more damage when your DoTs are on the target. Should only be used when both DoTs are applied.
Non-damaging off-GCD that has a backstep effect. Only useful to reposition yourself, be careful not to backstep into an AoE or off a ledge.
Bard is classified under the Physical Ranged DPS role. They share Role Actions with machinist. Up to five of these actions may be selected. In a raid setting, these actions can be classified into three categories as follows:
Tactician and Refresh – Party TP/MP refresh actions respectively. They also include a self-enmity cut by half and is the only enmity management action available to the Physical Ranged DPS role. Incredibly important support actions, do not ignore.
Reduces an allied target’s physical vulnerability by 20% for 10 seconds. Incredibly powerful in any party content, but cannot be used on self.
Self-heal. Always useful in any content and
can occasionally save your life.
Restores own TP. Useful in content where TP is an issue, worthless otherwise. Excellent in dungeons for Quick Nock spam. Can be used for recovery in the event that you die.
Bind/Heavy/Silence/Stun action. Take when required to apply any of the crowd control statuses.
Unable to be used in combat. Useful in dungeons to save a few seconds between mob pulls, but there are better options.
Bard follows a priority system rather than any set rotation. Since they have a lot of chance based procs, their playstyle relies more on adaptability. Therefore, a list of actions to consider, from most to least important, can be defined as follows:
- Keep DoTs (Stormbite and Caustic Bite) on relevant targets.
- Keep a song up.
- Refulgent Arrow, when proc is available.
- Keep Straight Shot buff up. If the duration aligns with DoT expiration, refresh the DoTs earlier with Iron Jaws.
- Pitch Perfect (if in Wanderer’s Minuet) or Bloodletter (if in Mage’s Ballad)
- Empyreal Arrow (unless Barrage comes off cooldown within the next 5 or so seconds, in which case hold it and use them together)
- Misery’s End (if target is below 20% hp)
- Bloodletter (If not in Mage’s Ballad)
You should always be considering the most important choice in any scenario. For example, if there are a lot of adds in a boss fight, think about whether they will die fast enough that it would be better to just AoE them with Quick Nock, or maybe it would be better to put DoTs up on a few of them to take advantage of crit procs. Context is important. Always experiment and consider what your best options are in any situation.
To maximize effectiveness, songs should be played in a specific order. In general, it should look something like this:
The Wanderer’s Minuet (30s) -> Mage’s Ballad (30s) -> Army’s Paeon (~20s)
Mob pulls in Dungeon
Mage’s Ballad (30s) -> Army’s Paeon (30s) -> Wanderer’s Minuet (~20s)
If you let a song time out and forget to play another for a bit, keep the general rotation going and, if required, allow the last song in your rotation to run longer for song cooldowns to realign. This way, you reduce the amount of time not having a song up.
Raging Strikes should always be used while under Wanderer’s Minuet on bosses. The easiest way to remember this is just to use them together when they’re both up.
Likewise, Barrage should always be used while under the effect of Raging Strikes as they have the same cooldown. Ideally, a Refulgent Arrow proc should be utilized with Barrage, but you won’t always have a proc ready when Barrage is coming up, so in the worst case, just use Barrage with your next Empyreal Arrow when it’s up.
Use Battle Voice whenever it’s off cooldown unless there is an invulnerability phase coming up and its duration can’t be fully utilized.
Foe Requiem should be played at full mana or as the boss returns from downtime.
For other buff actions:
Troubadour, Nature’s Minne, and Warden’s Paeon all have varying uses depending on fight. Troubadour is useful for high damaging AoEs such as Dimensional Wave or Almagest, while Warden’s Paeon can be used on debuffs, such as Doom or other cleansable debuffs when applicable.
Nature’s Minne has a short cooldown and will often be up for every Tank Buster or mob pull, so use this often. It works great for a dark knight or warrior using Living Dead or Holmgang respectively, or to help your scholar spread a larger Adloquium.
Credits to Miyuri Latte of Sargatanas.
(Use Foe Requiem at 4s pre pull and Infusion at 2s pre pull. If omitting the Infusion, play Foe Requiem at 3s pre pull instead.)
If any of the Heavy Shots procs Refulgent Arrow, use Barrage with that instead of the Empyreal Arrow at the end.
Reasoning: Putting out the DoTs immediately gives more chances for procs on your song. Using Iron Jaws after all the raid buffs go out will ensure that your DoTs snapshot them along with your Straight Shot.
(Use Foe Requiem at 4s pre pull and Infusion at 2s pre pull. If omitting the Infusion, play Foe Requiem at 3s pre pull instead.)
If you have 3 Pitch Perfect stacks, expend them as soon as possible, even if it means delaying your GCD slightly.
This opener may be adjusted as required, depending on the timing that your raid buffs are applied; Your first application of Iron Jaws should come out when Chain Stratagem (SCH), the Spear (AST), and/or Battle Litany (DRG) are up, and another one as the first expires.
After the opener, follow the priority system and maintain song order.
Crit > DH > Det > SkS
Reasoning: Crit is by far the most important secondary stat for bard as their entire core system relies on crits. Direct Hit works great when combined with Crit, while Determination is just a solid stat in general. Skill Speed doesn’t increase the frequency in which DoTs tick, so the value is diminished.
Be sure to use Tactician and Refresh as necessary. Tactician isn’t always useful, so it works great as an enmity dump when needed since these two abilities are the only way of managing your own enmity.
Second Wind is useful if you’re not near your healers or need a quick extra burst. Self-healing is always great!
Memorize your button layout, so you don’t need to spend time fumbling around to attack.
Try not to clip buff/DoT durations too much. Straight Shot should only be refreshed when it has 2-3 seconds or when it times out, and your DoTs should be refreshed at about 1-2 seconds under normal circumstances. At 4s left on DoTs, you can fit in at least one more GCD before refreshing.
If you have a Straighter Shot proc and Straight Shot will time out on the next GCD, use Refulgent Arrow anyway before refreshing Straight Shot.
Likewise, if Barrage is coming up and you have a proc, let Straight Shot time out and use Barrage + Refulgent Arrow before refreshing Straight Shot.
If the previous case will happen, then refresh your DoTs earlier so that it snapshots Straight Shot before it falls off. In the worst case scenario, Iron Jaws with no Straight Shot up so that it preserves your DoTs without having to use Stormbite/Caustic Bite again.
While sub-optimal, a simple way to keep track of Straight Shot would be to just use it at the start of every song or right before you change to a new one.
Since all buffs and debuffs snapshot when a DoT is applied, you should Iron Jaws whenever a buff/debuff such as Chain Stratagem (SCH), the Spear (AST) or Battle Litany (DRG) is up to maximize crit chance.
To build off the last tip, use Iron Jaws near the end of the duration of each buff, so the amount of time your DoTs have the crit buff is longer. Make sure your DoTs have the highest crit chance possible!
While your DoTs have snapshots of both Battle Litany (DRG) and Chain Stratagem (SCH) up and under the effects of Wanderer’s Minuet, you should use Pitch Perfect at 2 stacks rather than 3.
In general, reapplying your DoTs far earlier than usual for the sake of snapshotting crit buffs will be a gain in potency. For example, even if your DoTs have 21s left and your AST gives you the Spear, it’s still worth refreshing your DoTs to snapshot the crit buff, as long as there isn’t anything more powerful on your DoTs already.
Snapshotting your DoTs on damage buffs such as Embolden (RDM) (only when at 5 stacks) and your Raging Strikes will also result in a DPS increase, but as a general rule, reapply only if your DoTs are under 15s duration left and there is currently nothing stronger affecting them.
Put Stormbite up before Caustic Bite as it has a higher DoT potency.
Apply your DoTs to multiple targets to take advantage of any crit procs for songs that may occur.
If you proc Refulgent Arrow less than 10 seconds before Barrage is up, save it and use them together.
When your Wanderer’s Minuet has less than 3 seconds on duration, use whatever remaining Pitch Perfect stacks you have so they are not wasted.
Test how close you can get to a boss without pulling with Foe Requiem. This can be determined by walking out of range (indicated by TP values on your weapon skills turning red), then inching towards the boss until it turns white. You can freely move in towards the boss when the pull goes out since the effective range of Foe Requiem is shorter than your attack range.
When in Mage’s Ballad, if you have no other off-GCDs up, get in the habit of tapping Bloodletter between GCDs in case a proc happens, and the cooldown resets.
If you have a dragoon, consider coordinating to use your Battle Voice and Battle Litany together, since they have the same cooldown.
Troubadour has a large window to activate for specific songs. Since it always lasts 30 seconds, you can still play it on a song with 1-second duration left, and it will still last the same amount of time.
Mage’s Ballad + Troubadour may sometimes lead to trouble when dealing with mechanics that involve checking or modifying health, such as Charybdis and White Hole. Be careful when using it!
If you have a Ninja in the group, align your Sidewinder with their Trick Attack to maximize potency.
When played correctly, Bard is incredibly powerful; packing large amounts of single-target and AoE damage, and utility like no other, they are definitely a valuable asset to any team. As long as you keep in mind these basics, you too can push damage numbers like no other and effortlessly top the DPS charts!
I would like to thank the following people for their contributions towards this guide by either suggesting something to be added or proofreading it:
- God-master veteran raider Elastic Bands of Adamantoise
- Galdion Grieves of Adamantoise
- Yumiko Chikanari of Adamantoise
- Mizacka Nanbu of Adamantoise
- Miyuri Latte and The Balance Discord
And anybody else my goldfish memory may have forgotten.