A guide for new, as well as veteran, Black Mages for maximizing DPS
Black mage is a ranged magical DPS that features a unique turreting playstyle and high damage nukes. The job has less buttons to manage compared to other jobs, but still maintains a high skill cap due to spells with long casts. Long casting times force the player to find ways to stand still in order to deal damage, and it is a major focus when playing the job. While somewhat lacking in AoE damage compared to our other magical DPS, summoner, black mage boasts impressive single target damage consistently. It can recover from death easily thanks to its infinite resource pool, and also provides a little bit of raid utility in the form of a magic defense buff.
In a previous TMP issue, I had written a short guide outlining some tips in optimizing black mage DPS. This guide will be much more in depth and will focus on my opinions on how best to play a level 60 black mage optimally in a raid setting.
BLACK MAGE BASICS
Astral Fire and Umbral Ice
The BLM job, at its very basic level, revolves around juggling between two buffs (or phases) called Astral Fire and Umbral Ice. Astral Fire can be stacked up to 3 and it increases the damage and MP cost of your fire spells whilst reducing the damage and MP cost of your ice spells. Umbral Ice can be stacked up to 3 and it regenerates your MP whilst reducing the damage and MP cost of your fire spells. They both last for 12 seconds every time it is applied.
The two buffs can be thought of as just phases that you cycle between when you perform your rotation. Simply put, fire spells generate Astral Fire which increases the damage and MP cost of fire spells, and when you run out of MP, you use ice spells to switch to Umbral Ice to regenerate to maximum MP, at which point you can switch back to Astral Fire to use fire spells again, and so on and so forth. The higher the stack of the buff, the more potent it is (higher stacks of Astral Fire will deal more fire damage and cost significantly more MP, while higher stacks of Umbral Ice will regenerate more MP). The goal of the job is to be in Astral Fire for as long as possible to dish out as many fire spells as you can because they are your most potent spells, before switching into short phases of Umbral Ice to regenerate the MP spent, only to quickly switch back to Astral Fire to repeat the process.
You will cycle between two buffs in your rotation. Astral Fire, which increases the damage of your fire spells at the cost of more MP, and Umbral Ice, which regenerates MP.
Switching between Fire and Ice
There are two main ways to switch between Astral Fire and Umbral Ice:
1. If you are in Astral Fire III, casting Blizzard III will immediately grant you Umbral Ice III. Similarly, if you are in Umbral Ice III, casting Fire III will immediately grant you Astral Fire III.
2. Using Transpose while under the effect of Astral Fire or Umbral Ice will grant you 1 stack of the opposite buff.
You will 99% of the time use the first method to switch between fire and ice, as it will immediately grant you the maximum number of stacks of the opposite buff as well as HALVING the cast time of your Fire III or Blizzard III cast, depending on your buff. Being comfortable with switching between the buffs using this method will be crucial to being effective and efficient at your rotation.
The usage of Transpose in the second method will be discussed later.
Also, NEVER try to switch between the buffs by trying to cast the opposite element spell that is not of the 3rd tier (3rd tier being Fire III and Blizzard III). For example, you should never try to cast Blizzard while in Astral Fire, because it will simply remove Astral Fire and grant no stacks of Umbral Ice.
If you’re in Astral Fire III, cast Blizzard III to switch to Umbral Ice III, and vice versa.
With Heavensward, the BLM job was introduced with another buff that we have to juggle around, Enochian. Simply put, Enochian is a 60-second cooldown buff with a 30-second duration that allows you to use your most potent spell, Fire IV. It also allows you to use your most potent ice spell, Blizzard IV, which is used to keep Enochian active throughout the minute of its cooldown.
It is important to note that Fire IV is only castable when under the effects of both Astral Fire AND Enochian (vice versa for Blizzard IV). So, not only do you have to keep an eye on your AF/UI buff, but also your Enochian buff, throughout the entirety of the encounter. This may seem daunting at first, but I promise it is not that complicated and will get much easier after some practice.
With Enochian, the goal of the job now is to cast as many Fire IVs as possible while keeping up Astral Fire with Fire (since Fire IV doesn’t refresh the Astral Fire buff, but Fire does), and when your MP is depleted, you switch into Umbral Ice to regenerate MP and cast Blizzard IV to extend the duration of the Enochian buff, then you switch back to Astral Fire and repeat the process.
Since Enochian has a 30-second duration and a 1 minute cooldown, you are given the ability to refresh its duration via Blizzard IV. While under the effects of Umbral Ice and Enochian, you can refresh the duration of Enochian by casting Blizzard IV. However, every time it is refreshed, the duration is reduced by 5 seconds, and the duration is not added to the old but replaced with the new duration. So the buff lasts for 30 seconds at the initial cast, then 25 seconds when you refresh it, then 20 seconds when you refresh again, etc.This means you will be casting Blizzard IV two times throughout the minute to keep the buff up until Enochian is off cooldown so you can use it again for its 30-second duration. The whole routine of casting Enochian, then refreshing exactly two times with Blizzard IV, then recasting Enochian, is crucial to having a smooth rotation and getting comfortable with it is of utmost importance in sustaining high DPS.
There are rare times where refreshing Enochian for a third time to the 15-seconds duration is beneficial in keeping up Enochian. This will be discussed later.
Enochian allows the use of Fire IV and Blizzard IV. Casting Blizzard IV refreshes the duration of Enochian, but its duration is reduced by 5 seconds every time it is refreshed.
Firestarter and Thundercloud
Firestarter and Thundercloud are both traits of the BLM job and they change (in a rather big way) how you play the job. They are pretty simple in writing:
Firestarter: When you cast Fire (a simple spammable nuke), you have a 40% chance to trigger Firestarter, which causes your next Fire III to be instant cast and without MP cost.
Thundercloud: Whenever any of your thunder spells (DoT spell) tick, it has a 10% chance to trigger Thundercloud, which causes your next thunder spell to be instant cast, without MP cost, and its full DoT damage added to its initial damage.
A quick note on Thundercloud. In our kit we have Thunder, Thunder II, and Thunder III. They differ in that the higher the tier, the higher the initial potency and the longer the DoT duration (as well as longer cast time and higher MP cost) but because Thundercloud works for any of the thunder spells, you want to use the highest tier thunder spell (Thunder III) for the proc so the initial damage is higher and the DoT lasts longer. Also, since higher tiers have longer cast times (but the same DoT potency), it makes sense to use just Thunder (shortest cast time) to apply the DoT, and when you get Thundercloud you spend the proc with Thunder III. Now, you may ask, where might Thunder II fit into all this? Nowhere. Your best option is to take the spell off your hotbar. It’s useless, really.
These procs are important because they are of the few instant cast spells that you have, and instant cast spells mean you are free to move around for the GCD you used the proc on. Since BLM is a turret-style job, these procs are very valuable and using them efficiently will greatly benefit your ever-on-going goal to reduce downtime from movement in an encounter. How best to use these procs will be discussed later.
Fire has a 40% chance to proc Firestarter, which is a free and instant Fire III cast. All thunder spells’ ticks have a 10% chance to proc Thundercloud, which is a free and instant nuke (best spent on Thunder III) that also reapplies the DoT.
Putting it Together
Having covered some of the basics of the BLM job, we can put together a simple pseudo-rotation of a 1-minute cycle for Enochian.
- Activate Enochian (30-sec duration) and cast fire spells until MP is depleted
- Switch to ice phase to regenerate MP and refresh Enochian (25-sec duration) with Blizzard IV
- Switch back to fire phase and cast fire spells until MP is depleted
- Switch to ice phase and refresh Enochian (20-sec duration) once again
- Switch back to fire phase and cast fire spells until MP is depleted
- Enochian is off cooldown and you activate it again to repeat the rotation
SPELLS AND ABILITIES
Core Spells and Abilities
Blizzard III – Deals ice damage with a potency of 240. Grants 3 stacks of Umbral Ice. Long cast time, but short when you’re in Astral Fire III. Your main spell to switch into ice phase.
Fire – Deals fire damage with a potency of 180. Grants 1 stack of Astral Fire. Medium cast time. 40% chance to proc Firestarter. Your main spell to refresh Astral Fire stacks, aside from Firestarter procs.
Fire III – Deals fire damage with a potency of 240. Grants 3 stacks of Astral Fire. Long cast time, but short when you’re in Umbral Ice III. Your main spell to switch into fire phase, and the spell you’d spend your Firestarter procs on of course.
Enochian – Increases magic damage dealt by 5%. Allows the casting of Fire IV and Blizzard IV. 1-minute CD, 30-second duration. Kept up throughout the minute via Blizzard IV.
Fire IV – Deals fire damage with a potency of 280. Can only be used under both Enochian and Astral Fire. Medium-long cast time. Does not refresh Astral Fire. Your most potent spell and is what you will try to spam.
Blizzard IV – Deals ice damage with a potency of 280. Can only be used under both Enochian and Umbral Ice. Medium-long cast time. Does not refresh Umbral Ice. Used generally 2 times throughout the minute to keep Enochian active.
Thunder – Deals lightning damage with a potency of 30. Technically your only DoT. 18-second DoT, 40 potency each tick. 10% chance after each tick to proc Thundercloud. You will try to keep this up by casting it at the start of each of your ice phase.
Thunder III – Deals lightning damage with a potency of 70. 24-second DoT, 40 potency each tick. Procs Thundercloud the same way Thunder does. You will almost never hardcast this, it is exclusively used for Thundercloud procs.
Convert – Converts 20% of your max HP to restore 30% of your max MP. 3-minute CD. This is used exclusively in your burst phases in order to cast two more Fire IVs before switching to ice phase.
Swiftcast – Makes your next spell instant cast. 1-minute CD. Very useful ability, plethora of uses. Ideal usage detailed in the “Using Swiftcast” section.
Scathe – Instant cast, low-damage, spamable spell which deals damage with a potency of 100. 20% chance it will double in potency. Used when you cannot stand still to cast and have no other way to fill your GCDs.
Sharpcast – Ensures proc effect for your next cast of Scathe, Fire, or Thunder spells. 1-minute CD. Used in conjunction with Enochian and Fire to proc Firestarter, or with Enochian and Thunder to proc Thundercloud when there are two or more targets. Casting Sharpcast for Scathe’s proc is not used.
Flare – Deals fire damage to and around the target with a potency of 260 for the first target, 10% less for the second, 20% less for the third, 30% less for the fourth, 40% less for the fifth, and 50% less for all remaining enemies. Very long cast time. Depletes your mana to 0. Generally used after a couple of Fire IIs. While Flare does spend all of your MP, it needs a minimum amount (884 at level 60) of MP in order to be eligible to cast.
Blizzard II – Point-blank AoE around character which deals ice damage with a potency of 50. Short cast time. Grants 1 stack of Umbral Ice. Very weak AoE spell used to build Umbral Ice stacks while dealing some AoE damage. Higher DPS than Blizzard when 4 or more enemies. Used in very specific AoE situations.
Quelling Strikes – (cross class, lvl 34 ARC) – Reduces threat generation for 15 seconds. 2-minute CD. Used in opener.
Aetherial Manipulation – Move to a target party member quickly. 30-second CD. Important in maintaining DPS uptime.
Apocatastasis (apul-kaTAS-tuh-sus) – Reduces magic damage taken of a party member by 20%. 12-second duration. 3-minute CD. Helpful when the tank needs extra mitigation for tank busters, but otherwise use common sense and cast on party members when you think they need it (i.e. weakened or low HP before a big hit).
Surecast – Ensures your next spell cannot be interrupted by damage. Uhh..just take this off your bar.
Virus – (cross class, lvl 12 ACN) Reduces target’s STR and DEX by 15%. Another Virus cannot be cast on the same target for 1 minute after effect ends. 10-second duration. Can be helpful for reducing physi-
cal damage dealt by target, but generally unused since SCH and SMN has a better Virus.
Lethargy – Inflicts target with Slow and Heavy by 20%. 30-second CD. 12-second duration. Very niche uses in raids. Used if an encounter has adds that need to be heavied but somehow your raid isn’t able to (e.g. A3S, A6S and A7S).
Physick – (cross class, lvl 4 ACN) A weak ass heal. I mean, if this saves your raid…by all means.
Widely accepted to be the optimal opener and used by the general BLM community (albeit with slight modifications to the order of buff activations). Versatile and reliable, even though the second Fire makes it a little less predictable. An advantage to this opener is that you can freely move for one GCD into a desired position after starting the opener via the guaranteed Firestarter.
Note 1: The second Fire III is only there for if you get a Firestarter proc. If you didn’t get a proc, skip it.
Note 2: If you have low spell speed and Swiftcast does not need to be used in the next minute, you can use Swiftcast after the second Fire to comfortably fit in 5 Fire IVs inside the INT potion, in which case you would be using Convert right after the swiftcasted Fire IV instead.
Fire III opener
An alternative to the Sharpcast opener. Yields higher potency than the Sharpcast opener when its Firestarter doesn’t proc, but lower otherwise. If you have low spell speed, you may want to pop Raging Strikes after Fire so it fits into all 6 Fire IVs. This opener is also the shortest and most predictable compared to the rest, which may be advantageous for fights with short beginning phases. A disadvantage in using this opener is you have to wait for an MP tick after Blizzard III before you can cast anything else.
Cookie’s Thunder opener (advanced and unconventional)
Self-developed opener that I believe has the highest potency output and highest potential potency, though only usable under considerable spell speed and ideal conditions.
The idea: Normally you wouldn’t have enough MP to cast all of the abilities in the opener, and you would end up having enough MP for only 5 Fire IVs in the end. But there’s a trick. Since your MP regeneration ticks at the same rate as server ticks, you can exploit that in your opener. If you time your first Thunder cast in such a way where a server tick happens JUST before the actual thunder animation lands on the target, you gain back the MP you spent on that thunder cast and will start combat at full MP, thus being able to cast all 6 Fire IVs, all the while having a free Thunder cast in the beginning with a chance at Thundercloud procs.
To pull it off, simply pop Sprint before a pull, wait for a server tick for your TP, and as soon as you see it tick start casting Thunder to start the opener. This should ensure that you regain the MP back.
Unfortunately however, as you may realize, this opener only works if you are in control of when the tank pulls (or get lucky with the server tick timing). An early pull or mistimed Thunder will result in insufficient MP to pull off 6 Fire IVs, resulting in a loss of DPS. It is possible to use an Ether potion to make up for a failed MP tick, but of course this would also put the INT potion on CD as well. This opener also burns Swiftcast, so it is not advised to use this when you need it in the next minute. While risky, it is very rewarding when done right.
Comparing the Openers
Cancelling out the spells with identical potencies within each opener, we can see the differences in potencies for each. The below potencies ignore potion and take into account only the spells that differ in each opener (Fire, Fire III, Firestarter, and Thunder). Without delving too much into the maths, using potency values provided in this sheet, we get:
Sharpcast opener without proc: 941.04
Sharpcast opener with proc: 1,485.36
Since Firestarter proc is 40% chance, the average potency for the opener is 1,158.77
Fire III opener is a flat 1,192.56 potency.
Cookie’s Thunder opener without Thundercloud proc: 1,474.56
Cookie’s Thunder opener with Thundercloud proc: 2,117.16
With a 46.85% chance (100-0.96 x 100) that each Thunder can proc at least 1 Thundercloud, if you let the DoTs run its course throughout the opener, that adds an average of approximately 301.06 ((390+40×3) x 1.05 x 1.2 x 0.4685) potency assuming 3 ticks of Thunder from Thundercloud until the end of the opener. That totals the average potency for the opener to be 1,775.62, which is much higher than the other openers. However, that looks nice on paper until you take into account the PPS (potency per second) of the opener, as it does require 1 extra GCD (or two, if Thundercloud is proc’d) to complete and effectively lowering the actual DPS of the opener slightly. As such, you need to judge for yourself whether the opening phase of the fight allows for the longer opener.
Each opener has its own perks and downfalls, but all are viable.
Pick your poison.
The General Rotation after Opener
After finishing the opener, you should be starting your 25-second Enochian rotation by going back into fire phase with Fire III. A typical fire phase consists of 2 Fire IVs, followed by a Fire to refresh Astral Fire stacks, then another 2 Fire IVs before running out of MP (use Firestarter proc here if you got one), at which point you’d cast Blizzard III to go into ice phase, followed by Thunder as a filler while your MP regenerates, then Blizzard IV to refresh Enochian into the 20-second timer, and finally Fire III to go back into fire phase.
It is worth noting that with enough spell speed, it is possible to fit 3 Fire IVs between Astral Fire stack refreshes, and even 4 Fire IVs while in Ley Lines. Naturally, you can also refresh Astral Fire stacks early and still result in the same abilities executed. This flexibility allows you to control when you want to use your Firestarter proc or the shorter cast time of Fire, and this is important because you can time your movements to the instant cast proc or shorter cast spell, respectively, so as to minimize downtime in DPS.
As previously stated, being able to consistently execute the aforementioned rotation (4 Fire IVs and 1 Fire) for every fire phase is vital to keeping up Enochian and in turn maintaining high DPS, exceptions being when mechanics sometimes cut your fire phase short due to tight timings with Enochian and that’s fine. However, you should not make it a habit to interrupt the flow of your rotation by cutting your fire phase short intentionally and refreshing Enochian before depleting your MP when there is still plenty of time left on the timer. Part of being able to execute the rotation with little to no interruption also highly depends on how well you position/ move yourself for mechanics, which will be discussed later.
BLACK MAGE GEAR
Using Dervy’s stat weights for BLM:
Weapon damage: 11.884
Spell Speed: 0.283
We can see that the order in which the stats should be prioritized is:
Weapon damage -> INT -> Spell Speed -> Crit -> Det
You also need to meet the accuracy cap of 592 for Creator Savage and most of the recent content before worrying about min-maxing stats.
Your current BiS food is Flaugnarde. But if you’re cheap or broke, Apple Strudel or Sohm Al Tart are alternatives.
Some Notes on Piety
To allow for a smooth rotation, I HIGHLY recommend reaching 284 Piety under party bonus (8 Piety bonus) by the means of melds/Anima/character stat reallocation. How much you need depends on your race. As a Raen Au Ra myself, I need 13 extra Piety, so the current optimal way to reach that is by 1 Piety V meld and 2 points of Piety on the i275 Anima. Here is a great Reddit thread going into the details of why it is important to have 284 Piety: https://redd.it/4ch4wh
In summary, having 284 Piety allows you to have enough MP to cast Blizzard or Thunder as you enter ice phase, without having to wait for an MP tick. This nets you many more Thunder casts and will result in an increase to DPS.
Best in Slot
For the above reason, all the following sets include a Piety meld in a ring, but you can replace it with a crit meld if you don’t want 284 Piety. Generally speaking, a lot of players will want to aim for the second set until you have A12S on farm.
Absolute BiS (all savage gear included)
This set assumes you have access to all savage gear, and is based around the Alexandrian coat for meeting the accuracy cap. http://ffxiv.ariyala.com/Z5M9
Less Savage Gear BiS (more accessible)
This set excludes gear from A12S and is more accessible to players. Based around the Shire coat and uses accuracy melds. If you don’t have the A11S pants, the Dun Scaith pants are a good substitute. http://ffxiv.ariyala.com/Z5N7
Advanced gcd min/maxing
Your cast times for spells are based on your GCD, and your GCD is based on the amount of spell speed (SS) you have. The higher the SS, the lower the GCD, and the faster your casts. However, since GCDs are based on milliseconds, there are certain values of SS you need in order to reduce your GCD by 0.01 second. For example, if 1,000 SS gives you a 2.70 sec cast time for a spell, and the threshold for 2.69 sec is 1,025 SS, then it is suboptimal to put yourself between 1,001 to 1,024 SS, as those stats will be wasted and are better put elsewhere.
Some of such thresholds can be referred on this sheet (thanks to Tyria Aubrey in my FC for providing the data). My BiS set above features 1,308 SS. If you refer to the 3.0 sec cast time columns, you can see that 1,305 SS puts the cast time at 2.56 sec. This means my set is actually wasting 3 SS, therefore it is technically more optimal to allocate 3 point of SS from the Anima into Det (though it would be 1 point in my case if I were to meet 284 piety, as the other 2 points would go to piety).
HOW TO THINK LIKE A BLACK MAGE
Keeping Enochian active in any particular fight isn’t difficult, but it does require fight knowledge and a certain mindset. Once you have invested some time into a fight, you should already have a general idea of how your cooldowns line up to certain phases. At this point, a couple things to keep in mind when attempting to plan out where to cast Enochian:
Break the fight down into its scripted phases, then break those phases down into “Enochian minutes” by drawing your experiences from memory, visualizing roughly at which points in the fight Enochian is off cooldown.
For every Enochian minute, try to stick as close to its intended rotation as possible for each of the Enochian cycles (i.e. 3 cycles per minute, 4 Fire IVs and 1 Fire per cycle). The priority is being consistent with its cycles (even while doing movement-intensive mechanics) and not refresh too early. Cut short a fire spell if you need in order to allow for at least 5-6 seconds to cast Blizzard III and Blizzard IV, but try not to make this a habit.
Do not cast Enochian when a phase is about to end. Instead, refresh it again to its 15-second timer if you need the extra duration to end the phase.
Once you have a good idea of how many times Enochian should be activated in a phase and where in the phase you should activate it, it’s only a matter of applying small adjustments to its activation timings to cater to the fight’s dynamic. For instance, if a new phase is about to start and you’re on your 20-second Enochian timer (i.e. Enochian is about to be off CD), it may be more optimal to end that cycle early and recast Enochian so that you can do a full opener, as well as lining up with your party’s buffs such as Foe’s Requiem and Battle Litany.
A general good rule of thumb is to try to have Enochian ready to be casted at the start of each phase.
Possibly one of the most important techniques to master as a BLM. Slide-casting, or stutter-stepping, refers to the technique where you can move near the end of a cast and not interrupt it. Since almost every BLM spell is a cast, it is important to be comfortable with slide-casting for making small positional adjustments whenever mechanics demand it so the time you spent in casting is not wasted. Cast interruptions can contribute to a large part of DPS loss, and this is often due to one of two reasons. One, you are not slide-casting when you need to make small adjustments (e.g. dodging AoEs), or two, you are not pre-positioning yourself for upcoming mechanics and end up having to sprint across large distances.
It is tempting to move from an AoE as soon as it lands on you so you give yourself a good window of safety to move out of it, but that often results in interrupting your current cast. Many AoEs in the game have the same delay before the position check happens for whether you are hit by it or not. As such, you should have an idea of how long you can delay your dodge. This lets you try to finish your cast first before moving out of it quickly by slide-casting.
Long story short, try to play BLM as if they are crippled and can only move 2 steps every so often by slide-casting.
Mapping Your Movements
If you were asked to map out every step you take in any particular encounter, you should be able to do it with no problem. The goal for a BLM is not only to minimize movement until you feel satisfied, but is to use every ability in your kit to your advantage and devise ways to handle mechanics in order to achieve near-zero downtime. Any downtime can include not casting at all due to movement, or interrupting your rotation and lose any number of fire spells (in order to save Enochian), or even Scatheing in order to move to where you want to be. Having the mindset of zero downtime and applying that to your knowledge of the fight minimizes those occurrences. A big part of “knowing the fight” as a BLM is knowing exactly where you need to be at every second of the fight, as if you are drawing out a mental “movement map”.
Almost all mechanics in the game give you ample time to pre-position yourself before the mechanics themselves are resolved. In addition, not many mechanics in the game require you to be always on the move (and in turn not being able to cast at all for a couple of seconds) while the boss is targetable. As such, knowing what mechanic is coming up and knowing where you need to be for that mechanic, you can slowly slide-cast (stutter-step) to wherever you need to be while performing your rotation uninterrupted.
You can apply this mentality to any mechanics that requires you to be in a specific position at a predictable time. In my experience, it is possible to perform almost every mechanic in the game without compromising DPS by pre-positioning yourself correctly and using efficient methods for quick adjustments. This includes combining both slide-casting and other methods that help in positional adjustments (e.g. procs, Swiftcast, Aetherial Manipulation, Sprint).
Managing Offensive Cooldowns
Thankfully, BLM’s offensive CDs are fairly simple to manage, as there are not too many of them and they all follow a 90-second interval.
Since both Raging Strikes and Convert have a 3-minute CD, ideally you should always use them together in the same opener (preferably with Ley Lines). If you run with a Bard, Foe’s Requiem and Battle Voice should also be used during this opener. If you run with a Dragoon, Battle Litany can be lined up with this as well.
As with everything else, knowing the fight lets you determine when best to use Raging Strikes and Convert. This is your burst phase, and as such you should line them up with your other abilities as well. As a general rule, you should be using them in conjunction with Enochian, Sharpcast, Ley Lines, and INT pot if available. You should also communicate with your raid to line up this opener with Foe’s Requiem with Battle Voice and Battle Litany, as they all share a 3-minute CD. As you can probably tell, this is a full opener, and as such you never want to pop them when you know you can’t stand still for at least 20 (preferably 30) seconds. The key is determining a part of the fight where you think you can stand still for that long, usually in the beginning of phases. While you shouldn’t let your cooldowns be unused for too long, you can however delay them for longer if you know the fight is about to end and you can only get more cast off of it. As such, sometimes you shouldn’t pop them as soon as they come off of cooldown, but instead wait until the other cooldowns are up as well so you can execute the full opener.
As for Ley Lines, generally speaking you want to use it where you think you can stand still for a while to make use of its full duration. While its proper positioning is priority and waiting for a good moment to cast it is important, waiting too long may offset the cooldown lineup with Raging Strikes and Convert too much. Since Ley Lines is on a 90-second CD, you should be casting it 2 times every 3 minutes roughly, so that it will line up nicely when you want to do a full opener again.
What Makes a Good Black Mage
It is a job that is unlike any other, but having the right mentality is key to mastering it. Summarized below is a list of things behind the thought process of a Black Mage:
Always be casting something. More specifically, always be trying to perform your cycles without interruption (Scathe is considered an interruption). If the boss is active, you should be casting.
Know the fight inside out. Every boss mechanic that you have to deal with should be known and predictable to you, including phase changes, AoEs, and upcoming mechanics.
Enochian must be kept up. The key is to try to have it off cooldown at the start of phases and do the cycles while doing mechanics without refreshing early, even when things become stressful. At some point, this should become second nature so you can focus on optimizing other things. As a general rule, doing more than 1 cycle of your 2.x rotation in any fight is considered too many, and on nearly all fights you should not be doing that rotation at all (provided it wasn’t a death that caused you to lose Enochian).
Pre-position yourself for the upcoming mechanic. Once you know the boss’s ability rotation, you should know where you need to be at for the next mechanic at any given moment. You should slide-cast (or use other methods if timing is tight) to position yourself.
Slide-cast everything. As a general rule, interrupting more than 3 casts per fight is considered too many. You should typically have 0 interruptions if you know the fight well.
Ley Lines should be strategically placed. There is no fight in the game that forces you to leave it un-
occupied for more than 5 seconds out of its 30-second duration.
Plan your burst phases. You should know exactly at what times in the fight you do a full opener, preparing yourself to pop all the necessary cooldowns and lining up with party buffs.
Come up with your own strategies. Your raid may have their own strategy in dealing with a mechanic, but it doesn’t mean you have to follow. If said strategy involves too much moving and/or induces DPS downtime, find another way to handle the mechanic on your own. You would be surprised with how little movement mechanics actually require when handled efficiently.
Handling Mechanics the Black Mage Way
As a job that does not like to move at all, sometimes you have to be greedy and let your raid members do the work so you can maximize your own DPS. Below are some tips you should consider when trying to find ways to handle specific mechanics:
- First and foremost, your raid should assign you for responsibilities and positionings that require the least movement from you to handle mechanics. For example, the first Temporal Stasis in A12S, assuming your Shared Sentences are assigned to stack north, your Defamation spot should be east or west, and you should not be assigned the floater. Another example is A11S, where you shouldn’t be as-
signed a clock position for Optical Sights where you could be out of range of the boss.
- Sprint prior to handling mechanics that demand movement.
- Finish your cast before doing mechanics. You should know how long you can prolong yourself before needing to move to the appropriate position.
- Stacking mechanics sometimes do not require all the available players to stack. Thus, if attempting to stack is a DPS loss due to movement, you can stay out of it.
- Do not interrupt your cast for spread mechanics. Instead, pre-position yourself beforehand or let your raid members spread away from you.
- Move only as much as it is needed to complete a mechanic. Since taking any number of steps is a luxury, you should be moving jus enough to dodge something, slidecasted of course.
- If you need to move to a far location quickly, you can try waiting for your raid members to be there first then use Aetherial Manipulation on them.
- You can stand at one edge of your Ley Lines to bait an AoE then dodge to the other side so you never leave your Ley Lines.
- You can also walk out of your Ley Lines for one cast to bait a big persistent AoE then walk back in after, though the only time I found a need to do that was for the fire puddles in A6S’s Vortexer.
- If you are expected to be hit by something that may interrupt your cast, you can try mitigating the damage with Manaward or Manawall.
HOW TO PROPERLY USE YOUR ABILITIES
With its short 30-second CD, Sprint should be considered your primary tool for minimizing downtimes when movements are necessary, and it should be your most used ability in terms of determining a method in handling a mechanic. Most people pop Sprint as a way to cross large distances to dodge attacks and in some cases that is true, however, the way you use it to dodge attacks goes deeper than that.
Simply put, assuming the boss is attackable, Sprint is merely a tool to help you slide-cast better. As previously mentioned, you should not be interrupting your casts despite needing to move. With Sprint active, you are able to be more greedy in terms of prolonging yourself before dodging an attack, ultimately giving you more time to finish your cast before slide-casting away. Sprint also allows you to slide-cast farther than you normally can and in turn reach your desired position faster. What you want to avoid doing is popping Sprint and continue to sprint for longer than one GCD, as that would induce a large DPS loss. In my experience, assuming the boss is attackable and the situation is not dire, I have never needed to sprint for longer than one GCD to handle any mechanic in the game that in turn results in losing more than one GCD worth of DPS.
This concept can be applied to pretty much any predictable mechanic that requires you to dodge quickly. A good example would be A10S’s Double/Triple Charge. The mechanic is designed to force you to move in and out of the boss quickly and it may pose difficulty in casting spells in between its charges. This can be handled by popping Sprint before the mechanic begins. With good timing, this allows you to cast spells with a much less chance in needing interrupt it since you are given a bigger window in slide-casting in and out to dodge.
Pre-positioning yourself for upcoming mechanics by slide-casting is important, but sometimes fights don’t give you enough time to slowly get to your desired position. This is where Sprint becomes very useful. An example would be A11S’s Optical Sights. Popping Sprint there allows you to slide-cast farther which with good timing, can help you dodge perfectly with very little downtime.
Since Sprint lasts for 20 seconds (assuming full TP), you can preemptively pop it at an opportune time in your rotation without compromising DPS. The best time to pop it is right after Fire III or Blizzard III, because their cast time is slightly lower than your GCD (assuming you are not hardcasting it) and thus will result in the least DPS downtime caused by its animation delay.
Swiftcast is a powerful ability that seems to be misused and/or overused among many BLMs. Its usage can be broken down into two categories: planned, and unplanned (emergency).
This is where you plan to always use Swiftcast at certain times in the fight where you think you need it in order to maintain/maximize DPS, whether it is for movement purposes, meeting a DPS check, a quick Fire IV before an enemy dies/jumps, or insta-casting a Flare. I do not recommend burning Swiftcast for a Fire IV when movement is not a concern and there is sufficient duration on Enochian, as you will still yield the same number of casts in the end, only now you are just slightly ahead in the rotation.
Some BLMs may disagree with me, but in my opinion it is important to keep in mind that while planned Swiftcast is very helpful in handling mechanics that demand movement, you should not try to rely on it, but rather see it as a resort to not being able to slide-cast for the mechanic. In other words, you should always try to see if you can slide-cast or pre-position better for a mechanic before resorting to burning Swiftcast to handle it, for the reason below.
As previously mentioned, Swiftcast is a great tool for handling movement-intensive mechanics. However, I believe that it is better used for emergencies. Emergencies can include unexpectedly needing to burn/kill an add quickly, dealing with RNG mechanics, saving AF/UI or Enochian, unexpected movements due to mistakes made by raid members, quickly recovering from a death, or just in general adapting to a particular pull for an encounter.
Most mechanics can be handled with no loss to DPS uptime by slide-casting and/or pre-positioning, and thus burning Swiftcast for such mechanics is unnecessary and wasteful. In addition, frequent and inefficient uses of Swiftcast increase the chance that it will not be available on the occasions where you may not expect to need it, and as a result such tendencies could lead to Enochian downtimes. In my opinion, being reliant on Swiftcast indicates apathy for optimizing positioning, and ultimately neglects one of the main aspects of how a BLM should be played.
Using Aetherial Manipulation
One of the main tools you have in crossing large distances quickly without compromising too much DPS. Using Aetherial Manipulation (AM) does cause a little bit of downtime due to how long it takes for the animation to finish, but its unique utility makes up for it when used correctly.
This is, by design, an ability that allows to turret more while still being able to do mechanics in a fairly efficient manner. However, like Swiftcast, I do not recommend relying on it to make up for laziness in optimizing positioning, because of the aforementioned long animation delay, which everso slightly interrupts your rotation. Below are some examples of where I may use AM:
- In Zurvan Ex, after the first Southern Cross, if Biting Halberd is casted next, you can wait for someone to dodge behind the boss first while you finish your cast then AM to them, going through the boss’s hitbox.
- In Zurvan Ex, after Broken Seals is resolved, if Biting Halberd is casted next, you can AM to a party member on the other side instead of walking through.
- In A10S, where the boss jumps far away for an “in” charge and leaves behind its clone, you can wait for your raid members to run in for the charge while you finish your cast, then AM to them.
- In A11S, where the boss casts a “bait” Optical Sight pattern, you can wait for your party to stack to prepare for the bait then AM to them.
- In A11S, where the boss casts back-to-back Optical Sights, if the first pattern is clock positions, you can AM to the party afterwards for the Shiva pattern.
- In A12S, during the first phase where the boss spawns Gravitational Anomaly AoEs, you can finish your cast while waiting for your raid members to fan out to a safe spot, AM to them before the AoEs resolve then adjust yourself after for the appropriate Sacrament pattern.
- In A12S, during the first Temporal Stasis, if you receive the Shared Sentence debuff while you were in position for Defamation, you can AM to the healers already stacking at the roughly correct positions and adjust yourself afterwards before time stop starts.
- In A12S, after an Inception, where you have to stack and bait Gravitational Anomaly AoEs, depending on your raid’s strategy, you can stand elsewhere and AM to the group when they dodge to the center.
This is your only instant cast spammable spell, meaning this is what you will cast when you have exhausted every other method in handling a movement-intensive mechanic and have to fill your GCD with something. However, most of the time you should not be using it for that purpose. There are two main reasons for casting Scathe:
Target is about to disappear/die. This is where the majority of your Scathe casts should come from. You will often find yourself in a situation where after finishing your current cast, the target becomes invulnerable or dead and thus could not fit in another spell. In these cases, you should cast Scathe as a last GCD just before the target disappears.
Unable to cast due to movement. If you find yourself needing to move for longer than one GCD, you can cast Scathe to maintain some DPS uptime. Having said that, there are not many cases where mechanics force you to use this method, and as such should be considered the very last resort. In fact, if you find yourself casting Scathe often for this reason, you should try to pre-position yourself better and/ or use other methods that do not interrupt your rotation, as casting Scathe too often does lead to DPS loss. In this raid tier, I found two places where I may need to Scathe due to excessive movement: In A11S when my casts sometimes line up badly with certain Optical Sights; and in A12S when I need to run in after Temporal Stasis or Tetrashatter.
Using Thunder and Thundercloud
A couple of things to get out of the way first:
You should only try to cast Thunder right after Blizzard III.
You should never cast Thunder in your Astral Fire phase.
You should take Thunder II off your hotbar as you will never use it.
Thunder III should almost never be hardcasted.
Always spend Thundercloud procs on Thunder III.
Many BLMs underestimate how good Thunder is. On top of it being a great filler spell during your Umbral Ice phase, it has good DoT damage and grants you the chance for Thundercloud procs. Depending on how well you execute your Enochian cycles, you usually have enough duration left on Enochian for both Thunder and Blizzard IV after entering an ice phase, unless you got lucky with procs in which case you may replace a Fire IV with them. Casting them in this order ensures you go back to fire phase with full MP with a chance at Thundercloud procs. If you are tight on timing with Enochian, you can even cast Blizzard IV first then Thunder and will still result in better DPS. There are, of course, situations where mechanics have caused some downtime and you cannot afford to cast Thunder before refreshing Enochian. In that case, you should skip Thunder. Otherwise, keeping Thunder active on the target is greatly beneficial, and you should cast it even when you get a fast MP tick. With sufficient Piety (284+) discussed previously in the gears section, you should almost always have enough MP to cast Thunder as soon as you enter an ice phase.
If Thunder is not applied on the target, your filler should be Thunder, assuming your target will be alive for at least 12 seconds (4 ticks), otherwise your filler should be Blizzard. Neglecting Spell Speed, 4 ticks of Thunder totals 160 potency, which is 20 less than using Blizzard as your filler, but it is in my opinion worth casting because Thundercloud procs are very powerful. Having said that, if you need to burn a target down ASAP and there are no other targets (e.g. boss at 1%), you should use Blizzard as your filler instead.
The best time to spend a Thundercloud proc is right when you enter an ice phase, essentially replacing Thunder as your filler. Otherwise, you can weave in the proc in your fire phase taking care not to drop Astral Fire. Replacing a Fire IV with Thundercloud is often a DPS increase, and it is something I recommend you do, provided you’re not clipping the existing thunder DoT too much. Also, you should never let a proc fall off, as the initial nuke + DoT + potential proc are often too much to lose out on.
As one of the few instant cast spells you have in your kit that isn’t a cool- down and does not compromise your DPS, Thundercloud is one of the best tools you have in maintaining DPS uptime while being able to move. While its proc is unpredictable, you can often make quick micro-decisions when you do get one. You should be able to adjust yourself quickly to using the proc as a tool to move freely to handle mechanics, especially when you don’t have Swiftcast available or want to save it. Simply put, you should save the Thundercloud proc if you are expected to move in the next 12 seconds, then use it when you need to move.
Thundercloud itself is a great nuke and can sometimes save your raid by helping to quickly burn down a priority target. You can also spend the proc immediately if there is a second target, so the DoT damage is doubled, though you should avoid spending it on a target that won’t live for long.
The answer to when it is okay to clip Thunder differs depending on who you ask. It is not as simple as refreshing the DoT when it is about to expire, because it depends on factors such as if the DoT was applied through a hardcasted Thunder or an instant-casted Thunder III via a Thundercloud proc. Thunder is also not a spell we can cast whenever we feel like refreshing the DoT, as there are optimal places in the rotation to cast it. Outside of potency calculations, you also have to consider if you are able to take advantage of a Thundercloud proc for movement purposes, and thus would have to clip more or less depending on the timing. As with all DoTs, the less you clip the better.
While the math behind it can be quite elaborate, I tend to settle on a few rules that minimizes the DPS loss from clipping:
If you are reapplying the DoT by casting Thunder, you can clip when its duration is less than 6 seconds.
If the Dot was applied by Thunder and you are reapplying with Thundercloud, you can clip when its duration is less than 6 seconds.
If the DoT was applied by Thundercloud and you are reapplying with another Thundercloud, you can clip when its duration is less than 15 seconds.
Pretty simple, just follow these rules:
Sharpcast should always be used along with Enochian. In most cases, you will be using it for Fire for a guaranteed Firestarter proc to ensure a smooth opener.
Sharpcast can be used for Thunder when there are two targets that will be alive for a while.
Sharpcast should never be used for Scathe.
Using Ley Lines
Possibly the ability many BLMs have the most trouble with because they feel they are often forced to move out of it in order to handle mechanics, essentially making it useless. More than any other ability, thorough knowledge of the fight and your movement map are necessary to be able to use Ley Lines to its full potential.
There is no easy way to say this but, use your common sense. Like previously mentioned, there is almost no mechanic in the game that forces you to be out of it for more than 5 seconds total. As far as when you should use it, you can typically find a good spot to place it down very soon after it is off cooldown (the start of phases is a good time). If you know the boss is about to be invulnerable or you have to move out of it soon due to mechanics, don’t use it.
After figuring out when is a good time to use it, finding a good spot to position it is much more complicated. For every Ley Lines you place down, you want to make sure while you are standing in it you are able to perform all of the boss’s mechanics that happen in the next 30 seconds. Often times you need to slidecast a little bit to dodge something, and placing your Ley Lines where you think is the safest from those danger zones lessens the chances you need to move out of it (e.g. A10S, Steamroller). Many mechanics also force you to be at one spot to dodge something, then move into the previous danger zone to dodge something else soon after, and placing your Ley Lines where it covers both danger zones means you can dodge both mechanics while slidecasting inside your Ley Lines (e.g. A10S, Double Charge and “Buttons”; A11S, Energy Swords). Some mechanics are RNG based and there are no spots where it is completely safe, in that case you want to consider all the different possibilities and where you plan on dodging for each of them, then place your Ley Lines where it requires the least movement for the most possibilities (though if it is too random, you may want to hold off on using it). Any time you are unable to find a spot where you can stand in it for at least 25 seconds, you should wait until the movement-intensive mechanic is over before using it, even upwards of 30 seconds.
An advanced way to strategically place down Ley Lines is by doing a mechanic in a drastically different way from the rest of your raid. For example, in A12S after you run in for the first Inception-Tetrashatter-Radiant Sacrament combo, all of your cooldowns should be available. Most groups stack at one spot to bait the upcoming Gravitational Anomaly then dodge to a safe zone as they go out. If you place down Ley Lines where they stack to bait the Gravitational Anomaly AoEs, you will end up moving out of your Ley Lines for an extended period of time every time. A better way to handle the mechanic is place your Ley Lines near the center of the room (where it is 100% safe), stand at the outside edge of your Ley Lines to bait a potential AoE, then dodge to the center for one GCD before moving back inside your Ley Lines. If the boss picks you for a Gravitational Anomaly AoE to bait, you lose 1 GCD outside of Ley Lines. But if the boss doesn’t pick you for one, depending on where exactly you placed your Ley Lines, you may not need to move at all.
Many mechanics can be handled in a more efficient manner if you think outside the box, and being able to come up with such strategies is crucial in getting the most out of your Ley Lines. Remember, every GCD that you can squeeze out inside your Ley Lines is a DPS gain. That means don’t cast it seconds before the boss becomes attackable, or if there is a lot of downtime while your Ley Lines is active.
It is worth mentioning that as with many other oGCDs and buffs that you may need to pop, the best time to pop Ley Lines is right after Fire III. As the cast time is lower than a GCD, weaving in this manner minimizes downtime and starts off the fire phase more strongly.
Transpose seems to be misused and/or overused among many BLMs. So, below are the ways I think how it should be used without negatively impacting DPS.
You will only use Transpose under one of the following strict conditions:
- You are in Astral Fire and the boss is about to jump/invulnerable, you use Transpose to switch to Umbral Ice to regenerate MP to maximum while the boss is invulnerable.
- You just used Flare and is left at 0 MP, you use Transpose to regenerate MP.
- You have depleted your MP pool and still have a Firestarter, but your Enochian is about to run out so you can’t afford to spend a GCD on using the proc, so you switch to Umbral Ice to regenerate MP. Assuming Firestarter is still active when you’re about to switch back to Astral Fire, you use Transpose for 1 stack of the buff and use the proc.
- Swiftcast is down, your Enochian duration is about to run out (around 4 seconds left) and you need to switch into Umbral Ice asap to refresh it, you use Transpose to get 1 stack of Umbral Ice so you can quickly cast Blizzard IV.
With those conditions listed, this means that if you use Transpose in any other situation, you are, in my opinion, using the ability incorrectly and will result in a loss of DPS. One common mistake is using Transpose when you feel like you have to walk a long distance in fear of losing your buffs. Firstly, if you do that, you have to rebuild 3 stacks of AF/UI through a very long cast and that will undoubtedly lower your DPS and interrupt your rotation overall. And secondly, you shouldn’t need to walk a long distance if you have pre-positioned yourself correctly, or by refreshing buffs prior to moving or have procs/Swiftcast at the ready to keep the buffs active and rotation uninterrupted while you’re moving.
It is worth noting that if you find yourself in the 4th situation where you are forced to use Transpose in order to keep up Enochian, you fucked up your rotation. It is only listed here as an option to deal with an emergency or recover from a mistake. You should be able to see the remaining duration on your Enochian and plan out GCDs accordingly so that doesn’t happen.
You should AoE only when there are 3 or more targets in range, otherwise your single target rotation yields higher potency. The typical AoE rotation for dungeon content can’t really be applied to a raid setting because adds usually aren’t alive for a very long time, as packs are usually dead after a full rotation of fire and ice. Which rotation you choose to use depends on how long a pack of adds will be alive for, how well the rest of your raid can AoE, and if there is a priority target at any moment. If there is a priority target at any point, it is not uncommon to switch between casting AoE spells and single target spells. Swiftcast is also often used for Flare as it is the spell with the longest cast time, so you may want to save Swiftcast for it.
The answer to whether or not to pop Enochian while AoEing depends on if you need to do your single target rotation somewhere in the next minute. It is not worth it to refresh Enochian if you are doing purely AoE, so you should pop it in the beginning and just let it fall off if you have no need to single target for a while. However, if you do need to single target after a wave or two of adds, you should instead save Enochian until so (e.g. Zurvan EX after first wave; A12S after first wave). Having said that, it is all up to the duration and type of packs in the add phase, as sometimes you may want to pop Enochian in the beginning so it is back up when the next phase begins (e.g. Sephirot EX).
Due to the reasons above, I propose several modified rotations (all rotations below assume AF3 and full MP):
1. Packs that live for a very long time (not very common). This is the typical AoE rotation. It requires at least 3 adds to be alive until you hardcast Fire III and cast more AoE spells after to be optimal. Cutting short a Fire II in order to cast another Flare to finish off a pack can yield higher DPS, but this is the general rotation.
2. Packs that live for a medium amount of time (the most common). Adds usually do not live long enough for another Fire II and Flare combo, therefore casting Freeze twice can yield higher DPS as you are doing a fair amount of AoE damage as well as building Umbral Ice. An advantage in using Freeze is its ability to freely cast on any area without targeting an enemy. That means you are able to gain Umbral Ice stacks as long as it hits at least one enemy, this is useful because sometimes it is difficult to determine which add will be alive by the end of your cast if said cast was a Fire III or Blizzard, while doing your AoE rotation.
3. Packs that live for a very short time (not common, though this depends on raid DPS). This rotation essentially holds the same idea as the second rotation, but since Blizzard II has a shorter cast, it is easier to build Umbral Ice stacks for packs that are close to dying. It is worth noting that since Blizzard II has a potency of 50, it requires at least 4 targets for it to be more DPS than Blizzard. However, the purpose of casting Blizzard II is for its short cast time and targetless advantage.
MY PERSONAL BEST TIP: Know the fight and map your steps accordingly.
A Couple of Small but Important Things
- Every GCD matters. Learn to slidecast to dodge everything and aim for zero cast interruptions. You should feel like you have near-zero downtime when completely optimized.
- Firestarter is one of the best method in helping you move while still performing the rotation uninterrupted.
- Every second counts when it comes to offensive buffs. You should try not to waste any duration on potent buffs. The ideal order to activate them is Sharpcast -> Enochian -> Ley Lines -> Raging Strikes -> INT potion.
- Planning with your Bard to determine when to use Foe’s Requiem and Battle Voice can make a big difference in your DPS.
- oGCDs such as Ley Lines, Raging Strikes, Aetherial Manipulation, and Sprint are best cast right after a quick Fire III or Firestarter, and Blizzard III as well in the case of AM and Sprint. For the same reason, you are allowed to move a bit after Fire III/Blizzard III for small adjustments with negligible DPS loss.
- You should never return to a fire phase with just one tick worth of MP, except for when you know the boss is about to jump/die and you won’t be able to spend all of it in time. This means you should be very good at predicting your second MP tick as you cast Fire III.
- Finishing a phase with Blizzard III allows you quickly start the next phase with Fire III and full MP. A recent (and often overlooked) example is Zurvan EX transitioning into second phase.
- Hardcasting Fire III or Blizzard III should be avoided. Instead, use either Swiftcast or Sharpcast, or refer to above tip.
- If the target is about to jump/die (e.g. last GCD on the boss), you can cast 3 Fire IVs without refreshing AF. You can also deplete your MP pool completely by casting another Fire IV. At the very last moment, you can Scathe for another GCD of damage.
- You shouldn’t start a cast on an add that is about to die. It is likely that you will either not get the cast off in time or the damage you deal will result in an overkill, in both cases a DPS loss.
- If there are multiple adds that need to be killed, fast target switching allows for the flow of casts to be uninterrupted. To minimize downtime, if you are about to switch target, you should be switching your target to the next target while the cast for the current target is being casted.
- If mechanics force you to be unable to engage with the boss for an extended period of time, casting Thunder on them beforehand keeps some DPS on it while giving you a chance at Thundercloud procs.
- Standing in AoEs isn’t encouraged, but sometimes it can lead to higher DPS. You can Manaward or Manawall to mitigate the damage so your cast doesn’t get interrupted.