Embracing the Darkside: A Guide to Dark Knight
By Aurius Rosnsathsyn
Dark Knight is a tanking class that introduces many new mechanics which some veterans and newly aspiring tanks may be unfamiliar with. They have to manage both TP and MP, DOTs, OGCDs (Off-Global Cool Downs), and CDs that improve their efficiency with DARK ARTS. It’s a very involved and engaging job that requires pre-planning, and on-the-spot decision making to maximize it’s potential. Dark Knight has a unique tool kit that includes numerous abilities that depend on taking damage to deal damage, regenerate MP, or even reset CD timers, making Dark Knight the superior choice for the main tank role in many fights.
Dark Knight Essentials:
This is one of the main mechanics that Dark Knights have to work with. It increases all damage dealt by 15% and constantly drains MP (every server tick, or every 3 seconds). Your goal during an encounter is to have it up at all times when you can damage the boss. Due to the fact that MP regen effects (such as MAGE‘S BALLAD or the Ewer card) do not increase your MP regeneration while DARKSIDE is up, you are 100% self-reliant on your own MP regen toolkit to keep it up. Turning off DARKSIDE during a phase shift, or low damage/invulnerability phase allows you to take advantage of these aforementioned MP regens, though, so disabling it during these times can give you more MP for the fight ahead.
When it comes to decisions with low MP, always remember that losing DARKSIDE is rarely worth it, as it costs an additional 442 MP to reactivate it if drops. Eventually, you will get used to having a lower amount of available MP reserves, and confidence in your regen abilities will allow for very aggressive play. It just takes practice!
This is your tank stance. GRIT takes a GCD to activate and costs a good chunk of MP, so swapping in and out of tank stance is not as easy for DRK as it is for the other two tanks (although PLD is close).
It’s your responsibility to make sure you have enough MP to turn GRIT back on when it’s needed, either for high incoming damage, or to maintain enmity. This will become easier as both you and your group get more comfortable with specific encounters.
It’s worth noting that the MP cost of GRIT is almost the exact same as the MP recovery you get from SOLE SURVIVOR, if there happens to be an add that you can proc SOLE SURVIVOR with. Work with your group to learn optimal stance dance times to maximize damage and unnecessary MP expenditure from multiple swaps back into GRIT.
Total Potency: 670
MP regen: 0
Dark Arts Effect: Power Slash –
Increased Enmity (5.5x to 6.5x)
The POWER SLASH combo is your single target enmity combo. POWER SLASH can be buffed by DARK ARTS to increase its enmity multiplier from a 5.5x to 6.5x, but this small increase in enmity is generally not worth the DARK ARTS MP cost. POWER SLASH should be used only in GRIT. The enmity generated outside of GRIT is miniscule, requiring more POWER SLASHES, and the MP regen loss for using multiple POWER SLASHES is a DPS loss.
Bottom Line: Power Slash is great for generating enmity on single targets, but should be used as few times as possible due to the lack of MP regen or any additional utility. Try to gauge how many Power Slashes you need in your group by monitoring your enmity gauge, and start going ham on DASE (Dark Arts Soul Eater)/Delirium spam ASAP.
Total Potency: 660
(800 with Dark Arts)
MP regen: 884 MP
Grit Effect: 100% Lifesteal
Dark Arts Effect: Soul Eater – Potency increased from 260 to 400
The SOUL EATER combo should be treated as two different combos. A regular SOUL EATER combo, without DARK ARTS, should never be used. It’s your lowest damage combo, and using SOUL EATER without DARK ARTS is 100% avoidable when you have a good grip on MP management. DARK ARTS SOUL EATER should be part of every Dark Knight’s optimal rotation due to its high damage. As a baseline, you can typically alternate the DELIRIUM combo with DARK ARTS SOUL EATER, as the MP regen from those two combos (2 SYPHON STRIKES equal 1768 MP) gives you the MP for DARK ARTS.
Bottom Line: Soul Eater should only be used with Dark Arts. It‘s your highest potency attack and, with good MP management, can be used frequently throughout the fight. If you find yourself too low on MP to do Dark Arts Soul Eater, use a Delirium combo instead to maintain MP.
Total Potency: 680
MP regen: 884 MP
Added Effect: 10% Intelligence Down
The DELIRIUM combo not only hits harder than your POWER SLASH combo, but it also restores MP and applies your INT down debuff (which does not stack with MNKs DRAGON KICK). This makes it your go-to combo anytime you need the INT down utility, or MP is too low for DASE.
Bottom Line: Delirium is great raid utility, DPS, and MP regen. Delirium and DASE will be your two most used combos. If you need to spam Delirium to recover MP to a safe spot then that’s perfectly OK.
MP Regen Abilities
BLOOD WEAPON: Reduces GCD and Auto Attack Delay by 10% and converts physical attack dealt into MP (238 MP per physical attack dealt), while reducing TP cost by 20%. Cannot be used in GRIT. Duration: 15 seconds. Recast: 40 seconds. A powerful offensive buff, this skill is the reason why you don’t want GRIT on beyond what is needed for mitigation or enmity. Be careful that the shorter GCD does not lead to GCD clipping when weaving oGCDs.
SOLE SURVIVOR: Marks a target and restores 20% of your maximum HP and MP when that target is KO’d in battle. Duration: 15 seconds. Recast: 120 seconds. Use this if the fight has an add that will die in the next 15 seconds for a nice HP and MP boost.
Using the MP Regens
While there is more than one way to regain this valuable resource, there are a few unwritten rules of Dark Knight MP management.
NEVER USE AN MP REGEN ABILITY WHILE AT FULL MP. Every tick of MP you recover at max MP is wasted, so use an MP dump like DARK ARTS/DARK PASSENGER first to maximize the benefit of your MP regen abilities.
BLOOD PRICE ONLY WORKS IF YOU’RE TAKING DAMAGE, so don’t use it if the boss is about to jump, or a phase where you take no damage is approaching. If adds are about to spawn and you will soon be getting hit by more than one enemy, save BLOOD PRICE for that to maximize your MP gains.
BLOOD WEAPON and BLOOD PRICE have a 15 second duration, and a 40 second recast. This means you have 30 seconds of steady MP regen every 40 seconds. To keep MP regen consistent, I generally alternate the two with a 5 second break in between, which guarantees steady MP flow throughout a fight.
SOLE SURVIVOR IS A SEVERELY UNDERUTILIZED SKILL. It’s essentially free MP and HP for killing something that needs to get killed anyway.
LOW BLOW: Delivers an attack with a potency of 100 and stuns the target for 5 seconds. Recast: 25 seconds, with 30% chance that your next parry will reset the recast timer. DRKs only stun ability, and is great for extra damage anytime a stun isn’t needed.
REPRISAL: Delivers an attack with a potency of 210 and lowers target’s damage dealt by 10% for 20 seconds. Can only be used immediately after parrying an attack. Recast: 30 Seconds. Extra damage and reduced incoming raid-wide damage, but requires a parry to use.
DARK ARTS: Potency and effects vary based on accompanying skill used. MP cost: 1,768 MP. Recast: 3 seconds. Requires Darkside to use. Your high MP cost DPS/CD buff.
CARVE AND SPIT: Delivers a threefold attack with a potency of 100. Also restores 884 MP if used while not under the effect of DARK ARTS. DARK ARTS EFFECT: Potency raised to 450, no longer regens MP. Recast: 60 seconds. Can be used as a hard-hitting single target attack, but against 3 or more enemies, it is best used as an MP regen tool (to allow for more Abyssal Drain use).
SALTED EARTH: Ground-targeted AoE dealing 75 potency of damage per tick to all enemies in a 5 yalm radius. Duration: 21 seconds. Recast: 45 seconds. This is a hard hitting AoE DoT. When it ticks for its full duration, it is your highest potency attack (7 ticks = 525 potency).
ANIMATION LOCK (LONGEST TO SHORTEST)
PLUGNE (never attempt a double weave)
SALTED EARTH (this is if you apply it as soon as the marker appears)
CARVE AND SPIT
DARK ARTS/LOW BLOW (both are extremely short animation locks)
DARK PASSENGER (virtually no animation lock)
DARK ARTS CARVE & SPIT
DARK ARTS SOUL EATER
Uses everything else on cooldown
SALTED EARTH: Explained in the oGCD section.
SCOURGE: A 100 potency initial attack with a 40 potency DoT that lasts 30 seconds (500 total potency). Your second hardest-hitting attack (when it ticks for the full duration), this should have almost 100% uptime.
Area of Effect and Ranged Abilities
UNMEND: Deals unaspected magic damage with a potency of 150. Range: 15 yalms. MP cost: 353 MP. Additional Effect: Increased Enmity (3x multiplier) and 30% chance that next Unleash will cost no MP. Use this for pulling single targets.
UNLEASH: 100 potency circular AoE dealing magic damage to all enemies within a 5 yalm radius. MP cost: 795 MP. Additional Effect: Increased Enmity (6x multiplier).
ABYSSAL DRAIN: Deals unaspected magic damage with a potency of 120 to target and enemies near it. Range: 15 yalms. Radius: 5 yalms. MP cost: 972 MP. Additional Effect: Increased Enmity (5x multiplier). DARK ARTS EFFECT: 100% damage dealt recovered as HP. DRKs number one AoE DPS option.
AOE OGCD PRIORITIES (3 OR MORE ENEMIES):
DARK ARTS DARK PASSENGER
DARK ARTS CARVE AND SPIT
DARK ARTS SOUL EATER
Using CARVE AND SPIT for it’s MP regen is a DPS increase if there are 4 or more enemies present, as the additional MP can be used on ABYSSAL DRAIN (AD x 4 targets = 480 potency).
For dungeon pulls, turn on GRIT, turn off DARKSIDE. Use UNLEASH as you run past the mob, making your way to the next group, then use it to tag the new groups and move until you’ve reached the lockout. When you reach the last group, activate DARKSIDE, drop SALTED EARTH, and use ABYSSAL DRAIN. ABYSSAL DRAIN generates the same enmity as UNLEASH and does more damage, so it’s your go to AoE skill for both damage and enmity. With 3 or more mobs to hit, ABYSSAL DRAIN spam is higher potency than your single target rotations.
Once you’ve gathered the group, if you have a White Mage, wait until the stun lock from Holy wears off, and then pop BLOOD PRICE. With a large mob, you’ll regain MP so fast, that you can’t use it fast enough. Alternate using ABYSSAL DRAIN and DARK ARTS ABYSSAL DRAIN until you have about 3 seconds left on Blood Price. When there, use DARK ARTS DARK PASSENGER to do a 250 Potency AOE that blinds the whole group, then pair that with DARK ARTS DARK DANCE for more mitigation.
The key is to get the Blind effect on the mob just as BLOOD PRICE falls off and pair it with DARK ARTS DARK DANCE for an MP dump (normally you’ll be sitting near full MP, mob size and attack frequency depending).
Openers and Rotation
As a Dark Knight, you don’t have a set in stone opener, or even a set in stone rotation. It’s entirely dependant on the application of damage increasing buffs, party composition, desired debuffs, boss positioning, movement, and enmity management.
You have to treat it as a priority system, based on these factors as well as your comfort of a fight, MP recovery, and current MP. It changes, and this is where experience and familiarity with the job is of critical importance.
Through proper enmity management in your group, you can avoid doing more than one POWER SLASH in your opener. In my group, through the use of QUELLING STRIKES, SMOKESCREEN, SHADEWALKER, AND ELUSIVE JUMP, one POWER SLASH is all that is needed. If the boss has to be moved to a specific location for mechanics, pull with UNMEND. If the boss is stationary and cannot be face pulled (ie. A9S), UNLEASH will provide more hate. It’s even sometimes possible to omit UNLEASH/UNMEND in these openers entirely – monitor your enmity and see what you can get away with in your group.
Pulling with a Ninja
Unmend> Dark Dance>Hard Slash> Low Blow>Spinning Slash> Reprisal (if it procs)> Power Slash> Potion> Grit Off> Scourge> Dark Arts+Blood Weapon> Hard Slash> Carve and Spit> Syphon Strike> Salted Earth + Dark Arts> Soul Eater> Plunge> Hard Slash> Dark Passenger> Dark Arts> Syphon Strike> Soul Eater
Only use this rotation if you don’t need DELIRIUM for incoming Magic damage early in the encounter. This rotation puts two DASE, both DoTs, and the majority of your oGCDs in the Potion/BATTLE LITANY/ HYPERCHARGE window. TRICK ATTACK only lasts for 10 seconds, and is normally applied just before SCOURGE.
Pulling With No Ninja
Unmend> Dark Dance>Hard Slash>Low Blow>Spinning Slash> Reprisal (if it procs)> Power Slash> Dark Passenger> Hard Slash> Spinning Slash> Power Slash> Grit Off> Potion> Dark Arts> Scourge>Salted Earth> Carve and Spit> Hard Slash> Blood Weapon> Dark Arts> Syphon Strike>Plunge> Soul Eater
If there’s no Ninja to give you SHADEWALKER, you need the extra time in GRIT. Two POWER SLASHES will give you a solid lead, though on longer encounters you may need to jump back into GRIT later to POWER SLASH again.
Warrior Pull Slave
Hard Slash> Low Blow> Dark Arts > Syphon Strike> Souleater> Dark Arts> Potion> Hard Slash> Carve and Spit> Blood Weapon> Syphon Strike> Dark Arts> Souleater> Salted Earth> Scourge>Plunge>Hard Slash> Dark Passenger> Syphon Strike>Dark Arts>Souleater>Hard Slash>Grit on >Provoke> Spinning Slash> Low Blow>Power Slash> Grit off
Having the Warrior pull using UNCHAINED costs them zero dps (literally), and allows you to inherit a huge threat lead over the rest of the party when you PROVOKE off of them. If you have a Ninja, they can SMOKESCREEN the Warrior after their PACIFICATION wears off, making it even easier for you to swap with them. This Tank swap can be done outside of GRIT, but only if a single POWER SLASH is needed. This opener should only be done if it does not interfere with any required tank swaps or other mechanics.
A common mistake I see made by newer Dark Knights is the use of POWER SLASH as a DPS combo when they are off-tanking. Not only is this a DPS loss, but it lacks the MP recovery of the other combos, which then leads to less DASEs, and even more lost DPS. DELIRIUM or DASE should be used, instead, and the general rule of DELIRIUM vs DASE is that if you have enough MP to DASE without losing DARKSIDE and still being able to use your oGCDs, then use DASE. If using DASE threatens the use of DARK PASSENGER or DACS on CD then use DELIRIUM, instead.
SHADOWSKIN: Reduces damage taken by 20%. Duration: 20 seconds. Recast: 90 seconds. Long duration and short recast make this an extremely valuable CD. Works on all damage types.
SHADOW WALL: Reduces damage taken by 30%. Duration: 10 seconds. Recast: 180 seconds. Stronger than SHADOWSKIN, but half the duration and twice the recast time, so plan accordingly.
DARK DANCE: Increases parry rate by 30%. Requires DARKSIDE to use. Duration: 20 seconds. Recast: 60 seconds. DARK ARTS EFFECT: Evasion increased by 20%. A good physical mitigation tool, and helpful for proc’ing REPRISAL, but since you can never guarantee a parry, its use as a defensive CD is unreliable.
LIVING DEAD (AKA “GOING ZOMBIE”): Duration: 10 seconds. WALKING DEAD Duration: 10 seconds. Recast: 300 seconds. DRKs version of “god mode”. If your HP reaches 0 while LIVING DEAD is up, your status changes to WALKING DEAD, and your HP cannot drop below 1 while it is active. Before the WALKING DEAD timer runs out you must be healed for 100% of your HP or you will be KO’d, so proper timing and coordination with your healers is necessary to maximize this skills potential.
Cross Class Skills
CONVALESCENCE: Increases HP recovered by Healing magic by 20% for self. Duration: 20 seconds. While increasing your healing received does not reduce incoming damage, it does make it a lot easier for your healers to keep you alive.
AWARENESS: Makes you immune to critical hits. Duration: 15 seconds. A highly undervalued CD, as some adds/bosses have skills/abilities that automatically crit.
BLOODBATH: Recover 25% of the Physical damage you deal as HP. Duration: 15 seconds. Line it up with BLOOD WEAPON for faster attacks and more heals. Does not work with Magic attacks.
MERCY STROKE: Delivers an attack with a potency of 200. Can only be used when target‘s HP is below 20%. If delivered as the killing blow, up to 20% of your max HP will be restored. The extra damage is nice (and can proc BLOOD WEAPON), but don’t count on the killing blow heal. Ultimately, it‘s a toss up between BLOODBATH and MERCY STROKE. Personally, I take MERCY STROKE for the extra DPS it provides.
Stat Weights and BiS Gear
This gear set requires Priestly Omelettes to reach accuracy cap, but overall has the best stat combination from gear available.
Dark Knight has a lot of technicalities, and it’s mix up of damage types can lead to a lot of confusion. I hope this guide helped to clarify some of that, and removed some common misconceptions of the Job. If you have difficulty keeping Darkside up, stance dancing, weaving oGCDs, don’t give up. It will come to you. Just keep trying, and Embrace the Darkside!