In Final Fantasy XIV, dealing damage is the name of the game. You’re constantly under threat from the enemy while it’s still alive. No matter what type of content you’re running, whether it’s dungeons, trials, or Alliance raids, the goal will always be to kill the enemies attacking you before they kill you first. The best way to do that is to do as much damage as you can as quickly as you can. This all happens in between the synchronized swimming of dodging enemy mechanics, moving out of dangerous markers on the floor, and generally not dying during combat.
DPS, or damage per second, rules much of the gameplay in Final Fantasy XIV. Ideally, everyone in the group will contribute as much damage as they can. Even non-DPS jobs, like tanks and healers, are more than capable of dishing out damage. The following tips apply generally to any job in the game. You’ll want to already have an idea of some basics, like upgrading your gear for better stats and more DPS. This guide is more about helping you better understand how the game works, and using that information to your advantage. So long as Final Fantasy XIV doesn’t fundamentally change its core mechanics, this guide should be relevant for a long time to come.
It is an open secret that some PC players parse themselves while playing, meaning they use plugins such as ACT to calculate their DPS. Final Fantasy XIV’s Terms of Service technically doesn’t allow parsing. But the devs have historically looked the other way, so long as players don’t use the information to shame low-performing party members. If you’re on PC, it’s up to you if you’d like to install and use these plugins yourself, as they are tremendous tools for self-improvement. Just don’t turn into a jerk and use parses to harass other players, and you should be fine.
Tip #1 – Pick a Job You’re Comfortable With
While there is a “meta tier” of jobs that do more DPS than others, it’s not always a good metric to follow. These tiers often fluctuate between patch updates with balance changes. Plus, for the most part, every job in Final Fantasy XIV is well-balanced. There are rare, niche occasions where you’ll find jobs excluded from content, and even then, these situations tend to only happen in hardcore Savage and Ultimate raids. Not your everyday Duty Finder and Party Finder content. The devs work hard to make sure no one’s left out for preferring one job over another. If they do find any discrimination going on, they do their best to buff the affected jobs in the next set of balance changes.
With that said, pick a job you like over the one that may seem more useful. You’re almost guaranteed to deal better and more consistent DPS on a job you enjoy over something else. Take a look at the official job guide on the Lodestone. Watch some current guides on YouTube with an overview of the jobs you’re interested in. Or unlock them yourself and try them out in-game. Maybe you enjoy casters over melee DPS, or ranged physical DPS instead. Maybe you really like Reaper because of how it feels, but you’re not that into Dragoon or Ninja. Or you just enjoy dealing the most damage, so you’ll go for the top job: historically, as of the Endwalker expansion, Samurai and Black Mage tend to shine in this department. Or you just like what looks cool. Find whatever you enjoy and stick with it.
Tip #2 – Read Your Tooltips
Your weaponskills and abilities all help you deal damage. You have to place each of these skills on your hotbar. But unless you know what these skills do, and in which order to press them, you’ll end up running blind. Blindly pressing buttons is okay when practicing on a striking dummy. In order to understand your job and when to press your buttons, you need to read your tooltips. Your tooltips are complete explanations of what an individual skill does, viewable when hovering over the ability with your mouse or controller cursor. You can hover over them on your hotbar, or from the Actions & Traits window from the main menu. Be sure to check out your traits and your role actions as well, viewable from their respective tabs in the window.
When reading your tooltips, look out for whether a weaponskill works on a single enemy or multiple enemies. Check to see if an ability powers up your strength for a short time, or allows you to cast multiple spells in a row while moving. Especially be on the lookout for weaponskills that combo one after the other, meaning you have to press certain buttons in a sequential order to maximize your damage. If a skill does more damage from the rear, then you’ll ideally want to move your character behind the enemy when pressing the button. If a skill does more damage from the flank, then be on the side. This type of information is invaluable, but you’d be surprised how many people simply skip over it without reading anything. Preparation is half the battle, and understanding your toolkit is part of the challenge. If you’re familiar with your skills, you’re well on your way to improving with the job over time.
Tip #3 – Always Be Casting (Or Pressing Buttons)
For most jobs, you want to ensure you’re following your combos. It’s typically easy to follow along even if you forget, as the next skill in the combo will light up on your hotbar. Even when you know which weaponskills to use and why, you still might mess up on occasion. You could suddenly blank out in the middle of a boss fight, or you need to dodge something ASAP before you fall to your death. It’s okay to press the wrong button in your combo, dealing less damage, instead of pressing nothing and dealing zero damage. As long as you don’t accidentally press your gap closer to rush to the enemy when you’re supposed to be moving away! It’s perfectly fine to forgive yourself for messing up, as long as you’re pressing something, and as long as you’re learning. If you’re a tank or a melee DPS, get in the habit of using your ranged weaponskills to attack from a distance if you absolutely have to. Then continue your combos once you re-engage the enemy up close. Tanks and melee DPS have the unique challenge of needing to minimize this as much as possible. Physical ranged DPS, casters, and healers don’t have to worry about it.
On a more technical side, Final Fantasy XIV spells and weaponskills operate on a Global Cooldown (GCD). This cooldown simply means there’s a certain amount of time between when you can use a weaponskill, and the next time you can press the button again. Whenever you use a weaponskill, for example, you usually have to wait a couple of seconds before all the weaponskills on your hotbar tick back down again, allowing you to press another one. This is the global timer, or the cooldown between skills. Keeping the GCD spinning on your hotbar means you’re always pressing something as soon as it’s available. You’re Always Casting, even if you’re not a caster. By keeping your GCD going, this means you’re doing as much DPS as you can in the time allotted by the game’s systems.
So what can you do in between GCD waits? A couple of seconds might not sound like a lot of time. Or it’s too much time if you’re coming from other MMOs with faster GCD windows. To fill the gaps, you have your Off-Global Cooldown abilities (oGCDs). These are abilities that have their own set cooldowns in their tooltip descriptions, like 30 seconds or 90 seconds or even 180 seconds. You press the oGCD, and then you can’t use it again until its separate timer comes back up. Get into the habit of using your oGCDs in between GCD wait times. This is called “weaving.” You’re “weaving” one or more oGCDs in between GCDs, always pressing buttons where you can.
Just like with reading tooltips, someone who weaves their oGCDs in between GCDs is ahead of the pack. You don’t want to leave any dead space with button presses unless the enemy is completely untargetable. Even then, some jobs have abilities to power themselves up while waiting for a boss to return to the field. Take advantage of these if you have them.
Tip #4 – Learn and Master Your Opener
There is always a rhyme and reason to the buttons you press on any job in the game, whether you’re a DPS, a tank, or a healer. When approaching a single enemy, such as a boss in a trial, you have what’s called a single-target opener. This is a specific set of GCDs and oGCDs to best press in order to maximize your opening burst of damage against a single target. After finishing your opener, you continue your combos until it’s time to repeat your opener again, or doing a re-opener. The same applies in an AoE situation where you’re probably in a dungeon, and it’s time to burn down packs of enemies your tank has pulled. In this case, you would use your AoE opener instead.
The general idea for openers is that you will deal as much damage as you can at the start of the fight, using your abilities in a specific order. Whatever order this is will depend on your job. Mastering your opener is a natural progression to mastering your job. Once you understand what goes in your opener and why, you will know how to adapt your abilities to pretty much anything the game throws at you. So practice your opener on a striking dummy. Head to Stone, Sky, Sea at your appropriate level range and test yourself there. Compare your parses if you’re using a plugin like ACT. Learn your opener until it becomes muscle memory and you don’t even have to think about it.
Openers change all the time. They vary from patch to patch, and most of them are situational. There are also a ton of complicated-looking infographics out there with ability icons listed in a sequence, and you’re just expected to know what they are. For current, up-to-date openers on your chosen job, head over to YouTube and do a search, making sure to prioritize videos that are for the updated patch. An opener for Monk way back in 3.0 is no way relevant to the job today, as Monk has undergone drastic changes in the years since. Prioritize recent information.
Tip #5 – Don’t Die in Combat
This one may seem obvious, but it’s an important tip nonetheless. When you die, you receive a weakness penalty, which reduces your damage dealt among other things. Dying again with weakness inflicts you with a doubled weakness status, further reducing your DPS. You may even receive a damage down ailment when failing to step out of an attack in time, even if it doesn’t kill you. These ailments tend to wear off after a few seconds. They’re nowhere near as bad as the long-lasting weakness ailment from dying. Not to mention, a dead player does zero DPS.
To stay alive, do your best to not stand in danger markers on the ground, such as Titan’s Weight of the Land circles. DPS jobs have no reason whatsoever to take damage outside of unavoidable damage that hits the entire party, or other types of damage you can’t avoid for some reason or another. If you can avoid taking damage as a non-tank job, it’s in your best interest to do so.
Yes, the party will have a healer or two, and it is their responsibility to keep you alive, and to raise you if you die. But it’s also your responsibility to not make the healer’s job more difficult than it needs to be. No one wants to be the Dragoon constantly standing in exploding damage, falling to their death, then yelling at the healer for something they could have avoided on their own. Everyone in the party has a personal responsibility to keep themselves alive. This means avoiding avoidable damage, or even popping self-healing abilities wherever possible. Being a nuisance and standing wherever you want, wherever you want will typically land you in hot water with even the most patient of healers.
Maybe you’re new to a fight and you’re struggling with the mechanics. That’s okay. You can always get the hang of the fight with more practice, or looking up a guide on YouTube for a complete visual explanation. Ignore anyone giving you a hard time for being new. They were new once and they’ve likely forgotten how it feels. Plenty of times your party members will volunteer some helpful tips as long as you ask. Once you’re more comfortable with a fight, you’ll naturally increase your DPS as you learn what you’re allowed to do and when. This will lend itself to “greeding,” or getting just one more GCD in before you have to disengage from the boss. Greeding for more DPS may lead to untimely deaths, so you’ll need to decide if it’s worth it or not. There’s also “melee uptime,” where melee DPS or tanks will purposely stand in avoidable damage that will not kill them, taking the hit to their health without moving away from the boss. More organized static groups or friends will tend to agree on melee uptime strategies together.
Tip #6 – Know When to Use the Limit Break
The glowing yellow bars on your screen indicate the Limit Break progress. In PvE content, these bars are collectively for the entire group of eight players. When one bar lights up, you get to use the first Limit Break, or LB1. Two bars are for LB2. Three bars are for LB3. Every job has their own unique Limit Break animation. Each role (tank, melee DPS, ranged physical DPS, casters, and healers) has their own unique effect when using the Limit Break.
LB1 is the weakest effect. It’s generally a waste to use it over waiting for the bars to keep filling up instead. LB3 will be the strongest and most effective once it’s available, but sometimes an LB2 will work if you need it now and cannot wait. A well-timed LB can save the party from certain death or kill the boss in a pinch. A poorly-timed LB or an accidental use ends up wasting the ability for the entire party. Knowing when to use it, and if you should use it, is critical to your group’s success.
- Tank Limit Break: Provides a powerful defensive buff for the entire party, boosting their survivability to attacks that would normally kill them. Only lasts for a few seconds, so timing is important.
- Melee DPS Limit Break: A strong attack against a single target. Most useful when whittling down the final percentage points of a boss’ HP pool.
- Ranged Physical DPS Limit Break: A powerful AoE attack spread out against all enemies caught in a frontal line. Best used against multiple enemies at once if you can fit everything in the AoE.
- Magical Ranged DPS Limit Break: Like physical ranged, but the AoE is a gigantic circle instead, with a wider range.
- Healer Limit Break: LB1 and LB2 will heal your party members in range. These are generally useless. Best saved for LB3 instead, which revives all party members to full HP with no weakness penalty.
Limit Breaks are often powerful and useful, but you have to be careful with them. Each job has their own special LB, as mentioned. But when using your fancy Limit Break, you’ll suffer an animation lock where your character cannot move in the middle of their flashy attack. You need to time your Limit Break so that you don’t get caught in avoidable damage. When facing a single target, your party members will expect you to LB for damage if you’re a melee DPS. Against multiple targets, ranged and magical DPS will have priority for the Limit Break. When multiple party members are dead, the healer will want to use LB3 in a pinch.
You also need to be mindful of when not to use it yourself. If you know there’s a strong attack coming up where the tank will need to LB3, don’t use the LB for damage. Not unless you absolutely know the bars will restore themselves in time for the tank to use. If you’re a DPS and you see your party members dying left and right, consider saving the LB for the healer to use for the auto-revives. There are even cases where your fancy Limit Break animation ends up blinding your party members’ entire screens, causing them to miss dangerous mechanics and die. This is mostly an issue for ranged and magical DPS Limit Breaks. Be mindful of your timing, and whether or not to save the LB for something or someone else.
Tip #7 – Understand Enrage Timers and How to Beat Them
Finally, let’s go over enrage timers for hardcore raids. Enrage timers are essentially the time you have to defeat a boss before it decides to auto-kill your group. Regular dungeons and trials don’t have enrage timers, so you might not have encountered them depending on the content you’re familiar with. Extreme trials, and Savage and Ultimate raids all have enrage timers. These can be around ten to fifteen minutes or so, depending on the encounter. You’ll have this set amount of time to quickly kill the boss before it kills you, varying from fight to fight.
Enrage timers demand the best DPS from your party. If you’re at the start of a raid tier, and everyone only has basic gear, then it’s that much harder to clear the enrage timer. Aside from the basic expectations of understanding your job and your opener, you’ll need to employ a few more tricks to get these down.
- Use Food and Potions: It’s good practice to use food when tackling Extreme-difficulty fights and above. Find whatever food is most up to date and gives you the best stats for your chosen job. With potions, you’ll want to prioritize the stat for your role, like Strength for melee DPS and Intelligence for casters. Guides for your job’s openers will usually specify the best time to use potions. These can get pricey for non-crafters, so consider leveling Culinarian and Alchemist to make your own supplies.
- Weaving and Clipping: Going back to GCDs and oGCDs, it’s important to keep these rolling. We went over weaving, but there’s also the concept of clipping. Clipping is when you weave more oGCDs than necessary in between GCD casts. This causes a delay with your GCD rolling, causing your GCDs to continue rolling late. Things like high latency or just plain weaving too many oGCDs at once can cause clipping. Players with high latency will have to settle for only weaving one ability in between GCD casts. Double-weaving, or using two oGCDs between GCD casts, is pretty good if you can manage it. Anything more will likely lead to clipping issues.
- Melee Uptime and Slidecasting: We went over melee uptime earlier when we discussed greeding. If your group is okay with it, melee uptime strategies can give you an edge in DPS to beat those enrage timers. Slidecasting is a similar concept for casters and healers instead. This involves casting your spell, and then moving your character at the tail-end of the GCD, just before the spell goes off. You can use slidecasting to move around the field and dodge mechanics without needing to halt your casts altogether.
- Lining Up Raid Buffs with Your Party: Do your best to strategize with your oGCD buffs and other raid buffs. You’ll always do more damage during your openers and re-openers when synchronized with everyone’s free buffs for the party. Communicate with your group or just be on the lookout for the respective icon buffs.
While this isn’t an exhaustive guide, all the tips above will set you well on your way to improving your game in Final Fantasy XIV. As mentioned, these are general tips that will likely always be relevant. They’re part of the game’s foundation, and they’ve been around since A Realm Reborn back in 2013. Unless the devs decide to throw another meteor down on Eorzea, you can count on these tips no matter when you find them. Above all, keep practicing and keep improving.