Wisdom of Nym: The state of Final Fantasy XIV’s tanks

    
33
Here comes trouble.

I don’t generally like “ranking” classes. The best tanking option in Final Fantasy XIV is the one that you like playing the most, and if you don’t enjoy tanking, none of the options here will turn you around on the idea. But one of the cool parts about Heavensward is the way that you have three tank options, all distinct, yet all more than adequate to tank pretty much everything the game has to offer.

More simply – there might be optimal configurations for Alexander Savage, but pretty much everything else it won’t matter.

I do really enjoy looking at differences between classes, so this is just the kick-off to something that will likely be a regular thing. Let’s take a look at the classes currently sitting in the tank role, see what they specialize in, what their tricks are, and what weaknesses you have to know about in advance before you play one.

Paladin

All tanks modeled by one of my characters, because I could do that and it amused me.When the revamped Final Fantasy XIV relaunched, Paladin was designed as the basic tanking class. Not the only one, but the one that was clearly meant as the point of comparison for any and all other tank classes. And it hasn’t become all that different in Heavensward, either – it lacks the mechanical management of the other two tank classes and focuses more heavily on just being a solid defensive option.

That having been said, there’s no other tank that’s so party-focused. Paladin can produce solid, appreciable threat without doing damage, can cut damage on party members with Cover, heal allies with Clemency, and solidly avoid damage all the way along. They lack the mechanical complexity of their fellow tanks, but they work well just the same.

Niftiest Ability: Sheltron looks boss, but it’s also kind of a poster child for Paladin as a whole. It’s not mechanically complex, just an automatic block with a bit of MP restoration tied to it – and yet that makes it useful when you’re using Clemency on your party members, spamming Flash in big group pulls, or even just intercepting a big boss attack. It’s a solid workhorse ability that requires little understanding to use properly, but when it is used properly it has great returns. That’s Paladin in a nutshell.

Lamest Ability: Awareness. Yes, it has situational use, and in the strictest sense it’s a damage cut. But it’s not fun to use, and it comes surrounded by so many other Paladin cooldowns that it’s hard to be even remotely affectionate toward it. As a Gladiator skill it gets more use when playing Warrior than as Paladin, even.

Biggest Weakness: Paladin is the most solidly defensive of the game’s tanking options, which also means it’s the most incapable of mounting any sort of offense. Heavensward helps this a bit by giving the class a couple of offensive combos, but it doesn’t match Warrior or Dark Knight in this category. Its relative lack of central mechanics beyond rotating cooldowns can also feel a bit bland compared to its fellows; the start of some mechanical identity focused upon healing spells can be found there now, but I wouldn’t say that’s really a central thing at the moment.

Dark Knight

This shot looks very cinematic, I am proud of it.Welcome to being the most fragile tank! Dark Knight lacks the solid defense of Paladin or the huge HP soaks of Warrior; what it has instead is avoidance, lots of modularity in its abilities, and the ability to produce very solid AoE threat without much effort. It also makes great use of mechanics designed to claw back health, which combines with its draining-but-vital MP to make the tank a perpetual emptying cup that the healer struggles to refill.

The trick to playing the class well is to embrace that, to use its short cooldowns and flexible options to fight a constant battle against yourself as much as your targets. One of the central methods of doing so, of course, lies in what I would honestly call the signature ability of the class and one of the niftier mechanics in the game in general.

Niftiest Ability: Dark Arts. It’s not just that the ability is a very short cooldown that applies a buff for about a quarter of your max MP, it’s the fact that this ability modifies so many of your existing abilities in a significant way. Dark Arts turns your two biggest defensive cooldowns into big defense boosts, makes your threat combo much more aggressive (and allows you to rely more heavily on your Souleater combo), even completely changes one attack between MP recovery and a big damage burst. It basically allows Dark Knight to operate in two different modes, and it’s a single press.

Lamest Ability: Sole Survivor. This skill does have utility, especially in boss fights with lots of adds dying, but it doesn’t actually wind up being much fun to use and it’s not reliable or fast enough for its restoration mechanics to feel impactful. If I were being harsh, I’d say that it’s a kludge to fix how quickly DRK can run out of MP while dealing with big packs of little things if Blood Price is on cooldown, never mind that an intelligent DRK wouldn’t be in that situation in the first place.

Biggest Weakness: Oh, are you ever burdening the healer. No other tank empties and refills like DRK, and while you mitigate as much as you can a lot relies on parries, knowing whether you’re facing magic or physical damage, and the occasional dodge. It doesn’t help that you can empty your MP really quickly if you’re using most of your big tricks, which means that you’re always dancing on the edge.

Warrior

In the before times.Warrior’s status has altered a lot over the course of its life, but the fundamental design hasn’t changed too much – it’s the soak tank. Instead of relying on damage avoidance or high mitigation like DRK and PLD (respectively), Warrior just has incredible amounts of health, gets bigger heals, and otherwise tanks through dogged refusal to ever run out of HP.

The big mechanic of the job is managing your stacking buffs between your tanking stance and your damage stance; the fifth stack allows you to unleash a variety of powerful abilities, and while you could theoretically keep it on there for a higher critical chance, in practice you probably want to burn it promptly. And with good cause.

Niftiest Ability: Equilibrium. It’s a little thing, just a small functional cooldown on a one-minute timer, but it so perfectly works with both sides of a Warrior’s goals and it’s useful no matter what. The modularity of it means that it gives Warriors reason, while tanking, to swap between Defiance and Deliverance smartly, meaning that the whole Deliverance line of skills and abilities doesn’t simply become “off-tanking or soloing skills to avoid you being bored.”

Lamest Ability: Decimate. Oh, look, it’s an AoE for use in Deliverance! Except most of the AoE situations you would encounter will be when Defiance is all but mandatory, and its potency doesn’t make up for the fact that Steel Cyclone is functionally close enough. Any AoE situations where that extra potency is vital from the tank are probably situations when the group is dying anyway. It’s not a bad ability, but it’s kind of lame, and it sure doesn’t manage as a spiffy 60 ability.

Biggest Weakness: My wife mains as a Warrior, and I have lost track of how often I hear her ask me for a Goad as a Ninja. TP is your only resource, you burn through it at an alarming rate, and you have no ability to restore it in Defiance. Resource management in general is problematic as a warrior, and it’s very easy to run empty and be left just holding the bag.

As always, feedback is welcome in the comments below or by mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Unless that feedback starts and stops at arguing over class/job terminology; in this case, it doesn’t really matter, because no one in the world is tanking as a Gladiator or Marauder post-30. Next time around, we’ve got a new event running at long last, and thus I want to talk about the event, anniversaries, and the history of events as the game has used them.

The Nymian civilization hosted an immense amount of knowledge and learning, but so much of it has been lost to the people of Eorzea. That doesn’t stop Eliot Lefebvre from scrutinizing Final Fantasy XIV each week in Wisdom of Nym, hosting guides, discussion, and opinions without so much as a trace of rancor.
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Eliot_Lefebvre
Guest
Eliot_Lefebvre

xania I’ve actually gotten great mileage out of Living Dead as a “we’re wiping, I’m about to die, maybe I can make this happen anyway.”  Off goes Grit, out comes every damage ability I have.

Dope_Danny
Guest
Dope_Danny

Valkyriez I’d take that over back in 2.0 where there wasnt enough and you had to go grind fates to finish hitting 50 :p

Valkyriez
Guest
Valkyriez

I’m trying to unlock DRK by getting thru the MSQ and get to Ishgard. So far I’m level 53 and upto patch 2.3 content as I only started playing about two weeks ago as a MNK. Can’t wait but jeez there’s a lot of MSQ. I haven’t done a side quest since level 7.

Krenian
Guest
Krenian

Having leveled Paladin and Dark Knight to 60 (And I’m Maining as DRK) and now am level 56 with my Warrior, a few things I’ve noticed:

1) Paladin has had added value and finally has a decent damage rotation but it’s still a basic tank class like Elliott said. Clemency, however, I find is extremely situation-based. When you are healing someone else, it’s either one of your healers is cooked and the other needs help, or you’re pretty bored and want to empty your mana. Rarely do I ever see any use out of Clemency, honestly. It’s one of those boring skills added for some flavour but doesn’t really jive with a tanking class due to the cast time. If they reduced the cast time at the cost of say, potency, I might see better stuff. I would argue Divine Veil is actually a more fun skill and much more interesting than Sheltron, as it was pointed out: It’s a one time guaranteed block on a 30 second CD. I think it’s a bit underwhelming, personally, when you have a class that has a shield that can block more than enough times without an automatic block. 10 seconds? Sheltron would be a lot more useful as you’d definitely increase the amount of mitigation a Paladin would do. 30 seconds kinda seems like a long time.

2) I have NO idea where people get that DRK is a squishy class or a fragile class. I’m running with 14k health in pure Str Accs gears and my wife WHM gets bored enough that she DPSes while I take little damage. Furthermore, DRK is one of the few tanks that can literally drop their tanking spec for a long time and still keep up threat against the strongest of DPS classes. The fundamental problem with people playing DRK is that they honestly do not know how to properly use their CDs that they have. They don’t soak the big damage or they don’t use their CDs enough. I’m astounded by the annoyance my wife has as a healer with a DRK and then she plays with me that has less health than previous DRK and drops Grit which is 20% reduction damage at all time and gets bored because of it. (Note: This was tested in everything but Savage which scares me to even consider dropping Grit. I cannot speak for that.)

3) Warrior still is the odd beast out for me. It plays odd and has an AoE attack that requires the mob to be in melee so you have to actually plan on the target you choose and build the group around that. So I will agree that DRK and PLD have much better AoE management tools. But once Warrior can finally set up without having to deal with the idea of mob management, Warrior can get up there easily with their damage. I’m going pure STR Accs here too and with the extra health that Warriors get through Vengeance, people have had little issues keeping me up. Warrior feels the most solid, but due to that AoE problem, I have a hard time. (Especially after dealing with PLD and DRK being so simple to get aggro threat. 

Out of all three, they have their quirks and quarrels. But they can all achieve exactly what you need in a tanking situation if you actually understand their shortcomings and adapt. For PLD, their AoE damage is a bit low so I increase the Flash use and mix my rotation around. For DRK, I understand that I only have Parry as a defensive passive and as such, make sure that mobs are always facing me and that I’m constantly using my defensive cooldowns and my health regeneration skills. For Warrior, it’s mob management and ensure that you are aware that everything should be packed around the casters and overpower twice and use your AoE attack with. 

Play what you like to play. But no, all classes have their challenges and it’s up to you as a player to fight against said disadvantage to minimize it.

xania
Guest
xania

Hallowed Ground is very obviously PLD’s niftiest ability. It’s the only oh shit please live button that is good in all situations. Huge pull? No problem, healer has 10s to adjust. No MP? No need to heal for a bit. Lots of stuff going on? Takes the focus off you until things get less hectic. Super safe, super versatile. 

Holmgang isn’t bad for surviving if you have good timing and a target. But your healer will have a heart attack, it doesn’t stop damage so it’s useless as a cooldown unless it’s preventing guaranteed death (very few things in life are guaranteed), and like I said needs a target. It’s super clutch, and I suppose that’s its job, but it pales in comparison to Hallowed. Not to mention Hallowed lasts 10s and Holmgang only 6. I’ve seen it used more to trap enemies than defensively.

Walking Dead is awful in literally every way. If you’re using WD, it’s because your healer can’t heal you properly – so obviously the gimmick should be if you don’t get healed you die! So damn backwards. It has never saved me. It’s Holmgang but somehow worse. The only good thing about it is the animation.

wolfyseyes
Guest
wolfyseyes

Agreed. I was kinda hoping it would be a neat little trick, but it ended up being lamer than anticipated and if things ever got so bad that I would need to use it, the fight’s a wipe anyway.

wolfyseyes
Guest
wolfyseyes

I admittedly have found Dark Arts to be lacking in my rotation. Granted, my threat setup is large, but I hardly have trouble keeping threat.
I typically start a fight with an Unmend, then Plunge to the target, get Blood Price running, fire off an Unleash (which could be free with the Unmend passive), then line up a Dark Passenger and then an Abyssal Drain. By this point I usually have all the threat and can just cycle targets with my threat combo or the Siphon Blade combo…and if I’m running a bit low on MP, then a Carve and Spit usually gets me in a safe zone.
Granted, since Abyssal Drain factors in heavily I could probably load up Dark Arts on that one…but I have never really had seen a healer have too much issue keeping me propped up. Maybe because I put all the points in Vitality, I dunno.
It’s a very busy class that requires me to pay attention to myself as much as the mobs I’m collecting, and I kinda love that about it. Coupled with the thematics and a lore that directly lines up with how my character operates IC’ly, and I don’t know that I’ll ever play anything else.

Rahzel
Guest
Rahzel

nyttyn This is spot on for PLD. The class is so woefully lackluster in Heavensward’s meta. It’s the reason I’ve switched to DRK for tanking. At least DRK tanking is more fun anyway.

starcallerasterei
Guest
starcallerasterei

I’ve been maining DRK and all while lvling it, my healer partner kept commenting he couldnt believe how sturdy I was. I MT our Alex groups a lot too, with my PLD friend, and the healers are never ‘struggling’ to keep me filled. The issue is people not playing it right.

It does lag behind PLD in defensiveness, and WAR in HP, but it’s hardly to the extent this article makes it sound. It has enough cooldowns that it can always have SOMETHING up, Reprisal procs are common enough that you can have it up everytime it comes off cooldown, delirium helps with magic mobs, and it practically never loses or struggles for enmity. The issue is the amount of DRKs out there that are in STR builds and DPS gear, not using Grit or cooldowns, not parrying because their gear has no parry on it, etc. Sometimes we’ve had to take in a fillin healer to alex, and they’ve groaned when they’ve seen a DRK, then admit after they must have just dealt with a lot of bad DRKs before.

All three new jobs are getting a bad rep just from people not playing them right, which coincidentally is what happened to SCH and SMN when they were new too. My healer partner is an AST and never had any issues with him. I’ve been leveling MCH (just hit 50 yesterday) and every single dungeon except one, I’ve out dps’d everyone. Our top DPS drg in our static lvled MCH and same deal- because he’s playing it right, he’s top DPS in each he goes into.

Also, sole survivor is hardly lame. Making use of it is what an intelligent DRK would do- so you emptied out your MP, rather than work in an extra siphon strike to top it up more, just put sole survivor on something and top it off. No its not that useful in boss fights, but you wont have the same issues in boss fights when you arent having to use unleash/unmend as often to grab a dozen different adds.

Dope_Danny
Guest
Dope_Danny

Too late to edit do i notice how poorly this is written, its 1am, thats my only excuse :p