In Stormblood, mitigating damage and keeping the party alive is no longer exclusively the healer’s responsibility. Healer tools like Disable and Virus were removed, and every job in the game now has access to some form of mitigation or defensive utility, either through their job’s unique abilities or through the new Role Actions system added in 4.0.
It is now the responsibility of each and every party member to pay attention to – and participate in – the defensive dimension of the fight. Good cooldown management obviously requires teamwork, communication, and planning, and it’s extremely helpful if everyone has a good idea of the mitigation tools other raid members have at their disposal, and how to coordinate them effectively. How seriously your particular group takes this will depend entirely on how committed they are to optimizing, and how well the other members know their individual jobs and the details of the encounter.
In normal mode encounters, and even the first few savage fights, effective use of the available party utility can significantly reduce the amount of healing that’s necessary, but it isn’t exactly required in order to clear the fight. Healers can pretty much brute force heal their way through a lot of the curcrent content even without defensive assistance from the rest of the party if they absolutely have to (which they don’t). But when you get to Neo Exdeath in O4S and see your first Almagest you’ll quickly realize that coordinating the available party mitigation is no longer optional, it’s required. If you want to be successful healing in fights like O4S you’re going to need the help of your fellow party members. This guide will provide an overview of the most important mitigation and defensive utility abilities available from the other members of your group, so you can plan out your groups mitigation strategy.
Let’s get started.
The tanks in your party are your best allies when it comes to mitigating damage. Not only do all three of the tank jobs have multiple raid mitigation tools, but understanding damage types and planning/coordinating mitigation is already a required part of their job, and something they should be proficient at.
Lowers target’s damage dealt by 10%. Duration: 5s. Recast: 60s.
Works on both physical and magic damage. Two tanks means this can be used twice per minute, but they don’t stack, so tanks need to coordinate who’ll be using it when.
Each of the three tank ultimates follow very different rules, and healers need to understand how each of them work so they can react accordingly.
Hallowed Ground (PLD)
Renders you impervious to most attacks. Duration: 10s. Recast: 7 mins.
Zero damage for 10 seconds = No healing required. The most straightforward of three and the easiest to heal, downside is the ridiculously long 7 minute cooldown.
Draws target towards caster, and binds both. Duration: 6s. Most attacks cannot reduce your HP to less than 1. Recast: 3 mins. Range: 6y.
The WAR will still take damage, but won’t actually die (just goes down to 1 HP). The 6s duration is the shortest of the invulns (be careful not to use it too early!), but the very short 3 min cooldown makes it arguably the most useful, as it can be used multiple times in most fights. Conveniently, the 3 min CD aligns perfectly with WHM’s Benediction.
Living Dead (DRK)
Grants the effect of Living Dead. When HP is reduced to 0 while under the effect of Living Dead, instead of becoming KO’d, your status will change to Walking Dead. Living Dead Duration: 10s. While under the effect of Walking Dead, most attacks will not lower your HP below 1. If, before the Walking Dead timer runs out, HP is 100% restored, the effect will fade. If 100% is not restored, you will be KO’d. Walking Dead Duration: 10s. Recast: 5 mins.
The most complicated of the tank invulns, by far. It’s a 5-minute cooldown with two components. The first component is the Living Dead buff: when activated, the Dark Knight has 10 seconds to “die”: they won’t actually die but they will fall to 1 HP (much like Holmgang). From that moment, the Walking Dead buff kicks in: the tank needs to be healed for an amount equal to their max HP within 10s, or they will die for real this time. Pay attention to the wording: if the tank has a maximum of 50,000 HP, they need to be healed for 50,000 HP during that time, but they don’t need to be at full HP at any point.
If a healer sees the Living Dead buff, they should stop healing, start DPSing and let the Dark Knight fall to 1 HP, otherwise the skill will be wasted. Make sure that the “death” happens within the allotted time! From the moment the gray Walking Dead buff appears, you have 10 seconds to do the required amount of healing. Benediction is perfect for this. Otherwise, 3 heals of the caliber of Cure II/Benefic II should just be just enough – but that can become 2 with the help of crits, a SCH fairy, or other healing buffs. The Dark Knight can use Convalescence to help them out. Excogitation is also great, but only if the DRK will go from upwards of 51% HP down to 1 HP with only one hit, otherwise it’ll be counterproductive and possibly make Living Dead go to waste.
Job Specific Abilities
Several job specific tank abilities are similar in design between the tank jobs, but others obey specific, unique rules and deserve to be described in detail. Let’s take a look at them.
Reduces target party member’s damage taken by 10%. Duration: 6s. Additional Effect: Increases damage reduction by another 50% of the effect of Rampart or Sentinel if either are active. Oath Gauge Cost: 50. Recast: 10s. Range: 30y.
The Blackest Night (DRK)
Creates a barrier around self that absorbs damage totaling 20% of your maximum HP, or around a party member that absorbs dam- age totaling 10% of your maximum HP. Duration: 5s. Increases Blood Gauge by 50 when full 20% (10%) is absorbed. MP Cost: 2400. Recast: 15s. Range: 30y.
Intervention and The Blackest Night both provide single-target mitigation for a chosen party member. The main difference between the two is their resource cost. Intervention costs 50 gauge to use and The Blackest Night costs 2,400 MP (but rewards 50 gauge points if used effectively).
Most of the time these abilities will be used on the other tank for tank busters, but a DRK can also use TBN on themselves. However, there are times when it’s very helpful to use them on other party members, if they are going to take more damage than others. Examples would be Grand Cross Omega in O4S, where the healer with Allagan Field can benefit greatly from taking reduced damage from the stack; or Shinryu Ex, on either of the two people that take the Earth Shaker mechanic; or any time one player has lower HP than others, due to a mistake, or maybe when they have been resurrected but haven’t received Protect yet.
Shake it Off (WAR)
Creates a barrier around self and all nearby party members that absorbs damage totaling 8% of maximum HP. Dispels Thrill of Battle, Inner Beast, Vengeance, and Raw Intuition, increasing damage absorbed by 4% for each effect removed. Duration: 15s. Recast: 90s. Range: 15y. A raid-wide shield equal to 8% of the targets HP, and can be buffed by an additional 4% for each tank CD active when SiO is used. The active cooldowns are removed when SiO is used, so it’s best to plan ahead and use SiO once you’ve already received most of the duration of the active CDs.
Divine Veil (PLD)
Upon HP recovery via healing magic cast by self or a party member, a protective barrier is cast on all party members within a radius of 15 yalms. Duration: 30s. Barrier Effect: Prevents damage up to 10% of your maximum HP. Duration: 30s. Effect ends upon additional HP recovery via healing magic. Recast: 120s.
When a PLD activates Divine Veil they gain a 30s buff, and if they receive healing during this duration the buff is consumed and everyone except the PLD receives a shield equal to 10% of the PLDs max HP, that lasts 30s. The proc requirement isn’t ideal, but the 30s duration of both the buff and the subsequent shield provides some flexibility, and Veil can be used well in advance of the damage you intend to mitigate with it.
Divine Veil and Shake it Off are both AoE shields and once again the main difference is in how they’re cast and activated. Only GCD heals and Fairy Embraces count for the activation of Divine Veil (WHM’s Regen doesn’t count because it doesn’t have an upfront heal, but only a HoT.) While I understand the temptation to use Clemency to active it for yourself, you shouldn’t do it unless it’s a matter of life and death. Healers should learn to recognize the Divine Veil icon, but it’s not as critical as it may seem. Ultimately, it’s best if Divine Veil is cast so that its activation happens naturally through heals that would have been cast anyway, as opposed to requiring an unnecessary additional heal just to proc the shield.
While SiO and DV can be stacked, it’s often overkill, and it’s often much better to spread them out. Between the two, they can be used to mitigate most big AoE damage in any given fight.
Passage of Arms (PLD)
Increases block rate by 100% and creates a designated area in a cone behind you in which party members will only suffer 85% of all damage inflicted. Duration: 18s. Effect ends upon using another action or moving (including facing a different direction). Cancels auto-attack upon execution. Recast: 120s. Range: 8y.
Often referred to as “wings” because of its animation, PoA protects players behind the Paladin, reducing damage taken by 15%, but the tank cannot auto-attack, move, or use any other skills while it’s being channeled. PoA suffers from the same server tick issues as all similar area of effect shield skills, like Collective Unconscious and Sacred Soil, in that the game only checks if you’re
in it every server tick (every 3 seconds). If you’re unlucky or just not paying attention, you may lose more than a GCD (and auto-attack time) waiting for it to register. It’s a reasonable price to pay during progression, or if you prefer to play it safe, but as you optimize you should try to minimize its use. However, there’s no opportunity cost to using it when the boss is untargetable.
Take all damage intended for another party member, suffering only 80% of it. Duration: 12s. Recast: 120s. Range: 10y.
Transfers damage from the intended target to the PLD, instead, and reduces it by 20%. It’s also important to note that if you take no damage from an attack, you often won’t suffer its additional effects, either (like the knockback in Exdeath). This makes Cover an even more amazing ability, and one you can really get creative with. One obvious use is to have the Paladin take a tankbuster without requiring a tank swap and also benefiting from the 20% damage reduction that Cover provides. In the current raid tier Cover is commonly used on a BRD or MCH to prevent the knockback effect of Exdeath’s Vacuum Wave, and used on the regen healer during the Aero III + Earthshakers on Neo Exdeath, removing the need to fight against healer aggro during a healing-intensive moment of the fight.
See this awesome post for more information around Cover and its interactions, although be mindful that at the time Cover didn’t have the damage reduction component. Everything else
Physical Ranged DPS
Reduces physical damage taken by a party member by 20%. Duration: 10s. Recast: 150s. Range: 30y.
Mitigates physical damage on a single target. Best used to mitigate physical tank busters, such as Critical Hit in O3S, and Double Attack and Earth Shakers in O4S.
Adds an additional effect to the song currently being sung. Duration: 30s. Can only be executed while singing Mage’s Ballad, Army’s Paeon, or the Wanderer’s Minuet. Recast: 180s. Range: 20y.
Mage’s Ballad Effect: Increases maximum HP by 15%. This is rarely used, and it can actually be detrimental if used at the wrong time. For example, since it gives max HP but doesn’t heal for that amount, it can make you fail the heal check of White Hole in Exdeath. Or it can kill you.
Army’s Paeon Effect: Reduces physical vulnerability by 10%. Typically used for Neverwhere in Neo Exdeath, one of the few physical AoE attacks.
The Wanderer’s Minuet Effect: Reduces magic vulnerability by 10%. This is generally the most used and the most useful, as most AoE damage is magic.
Lowers target’s damage dealt by 10%. Duration: 5s. Recast: 60s. Range: 25y.
Mitigates all damage and is useful on tank busters such as Critical Hit in O3S and Aero III in O4S, as well as raid-wide AoE damage such as Roar in O1S and Almagest in O4S.
Magic Ranged DPS
Lowers target’s intelligence and mind by 10%. Duration: 10s. Recast: 90s. Range: 25y.
Only mitigates magic damage. Best used on magical raid-wide AoE damage, such as Roar in O1S, Dimensional Wave in O3S, and Almagest in O4S.
Reduces a party member’s magic vulnerability by 20%. Duration: 10s. Recast: 90s. Range: 30y.
Mostly used on a tank who’s about to take big magic damage, such as during the White Flame add in O3S, or Aero III in O4S.
Lowers target’s strength and dexterity by 10%. Duration: 10s. Recast: 120s.
Only mitigates physical damage. Best used on hard-hitting tank buster type attacks such as Critical Hit in O3S, Double Attack and Earthshakers in O4S.
One important thing to keep in mind when using your abilities: buffs and debuffs need to be applied before the skills that they are meant to affect. When using your defensive utility abilities, you need to be proactive and sometimes cast them several seconds prior to the damage you’re attempting to mitigate, in order to ensure that the desired effects are active when the damage lands.
When using skills and abilities that affect your enemy, the debuff needs to appear on the target before the cast bar fills up, regardless of when damage actually goes out. Be proactive with buffs and debuffs, and if you’re not sure when the best time for a skill is, don’t be afraid to ask your healers and coordinate with the rest of your party.
Several defensive utility skills either reduce the damage dealt by a target or reduce the damage taken by an ally. Many of them work on every source of damage (Reprisal, Dismantle), and some of them only work on either physical damage (Feint, Palisade) or magic damage (Addle, Apocatastasis).
“But, Miss Melody, which attacks are physical and which ones are magic?” Great question, imaginary kid. The answer is that there is no easy way to find out short of trial and error (or external tools). However, there’s a rule of thumb that works most of the times, and it relies on paying attention to the animation and name of the attacks: if a boss is hitting you with a stick or with their fists, it’s probably physical; if it acts like a spell, smells like a spell and walks like a spell, it’s probably magic. If you follow these simple rules, it should be easy to determine which is which for
all but the occasional edge case.
Reprisal, Feint, Palisade and Addle should be considered mandatory choices for their respective roles, as long as there is at least one physical attack on which Feint and Palisade can be used. However, be mindful that two of the same skill do not stack, so make sure you coordinate their use to make sure they don’t overlap. Make sure you have every major tankbuster and AoE damage covered, but also keep in mind that while extra mitigation is always good, you don’t want to blow all the available mitigation on one attack and then have nothing left to use for the next one.
Do not underestimate the usefulness of these skills. Many people feel that 10% damage reduction is not a big deal, but 10% is the difference between 40,000 damage and 36,000 damage, which is the difference between living and wiping. Even better if mitigation is stacked. And aside from that, it really really helps healers. All other things being equal, a properly mitigated Almagest requires 0 heals, whereas an unmitigated one requires at least 4 heals. And if you have to heal, you can’t deal damage, and it adds up. The largest difference between an okay group and a great group is healer dps, which of course depends on the skills of the healers, but also on how much they’re allowed to dps, and good mitigation goes a long long way towards allowing that to happen.
And there you have it. I hope this was a useful tour of the main tools available to your other party members to help mitigate incoming damage and deal with the defensive aspect of the fight.
May it lead you to many exciting clears.
By Melody Asheran of Odin, with precious input from Caur Orben of Odin.
Thanks to my static and Oldbear for patiently giving me tips while writing this.
You can contact me on Discord, Melody#3594