David Bacalus, Death and Taxes <DnT>, Gilgamesh, Updated 9/16/2017
Welcome to my guide for AST! Though there are many AST specific sections, this is also a general healing guide and as such will cover a wide range of topics. If you’re new to healing in this game, WELCOME! The following discussion may contain terminology you don’t quite understand or haven’t encountered before but don’t worry! I will explain everything in other sections of this guide! Please read through this passage and try to get the basic argument and points, continue on to the rest of the guide to familiarize yourself with the job and role, and then come back to read this part again. I promise everything will make sense! Welcome to FFXIV :D
Some Words on Playing Healer in FFXIV
TL;DR: Healers must DPS when healing is not needed. The game is designed for healers to use their GCD just as much as every other class. If you disagree then continue reading.
So what does it mean to heal in FFXIV? Well, encounters in FFXIV including primals, raids, and even four-man content, are all scripted fights. Another way to say this is that FFXIV has such a low amount of unpredictable burst damage in PvE content that reactionary burst healing is almost nonexistent. The damage enemies deal to party members is all planned: raid wide AoEs, tank busters, ground AoEs, party stacks, debuffs, and even auto attacks are all scripted. Therefore any healer playing end game content can “preplan” where heavy healing is needed and plan shields, regens, and precasted heals accordingly. You can precast a Benefic 2 on a tank when a tank buster is going out because you already know how much damage that tank buster will do. Even more, the need for those moments of healing is rather low, on average from my own experience (as both a raid healer and solo healer) about 70%(ish) if I had to give a rough estimate. This leaves a significant amount of room to do damage. But wait, should healers DPS? Expanding a little further and that question becomes: should a healer, in endgame content, be required to DPS by the rest of the party when able. The TL;DR answer is "absolutely", but let me explain why.
The argument over healer DPS has formed from a number of different factors. The first and really most prevalent, especially among new players, is that FFXIV is the only MMO I am currently aware of which uses the “trinity” of tanks/healers/DPS and gives healers significant opportunities to DPS. Fights are scripted, that’s a fact, so the required heals are known ahead of time assuming it’s not your first time progressing. If it is then of course you should play safe until you see where the damage lies, but this argument is not about blind prog; it’s about what it means to fulfill your role as a healer within FFXIV.
Many advocates of a “pure healer” play style (only cast heal spells in instanced content and deal 0 damage) will point to the developers who have repeatedly spoken on the topic of healer DPS. In an interview leading up to 4.0, Yoshi P said “I firmly believe it shouldn’t be mandatory and we do NOT have the expectation of them to DPS.” Notice the key word in that statement: believe. It is not the developer’s intent for healers to DPS and I do not think anyone is arguing that. To emphasize this point they do not factor healer DPS when balancing fights like primals and raids: “For development, such as with Bahamut's Coils, the development team assumes what the item level should be for general equipment on players when they clear a raid. They sum up the basic DPS for four DPS and tanks at that assumed item level and cut that by about 10-15% for the minimum clear DPS. Healer DPS is not taken into account when this is set.” But there is a major difference between intent and actual game design. Though the developers may not intend for healer DPS to be required, the design of the game does in fact require healers to DPS.
Now before any “healer purists” freak out let me explain. I am not saying that if you don’t DPS you suck and you should uninstall the game, I’ll leave that to the /r/ffxiv. There could be reasons why you don’t DPS and I wrote this guide to help both veteran healers and new or uncomfortable healers. However, if you refuse to open your mind and just will not listen to anything I say past this point because you think “healers should only heal” then neither I nor this guide can help you.
So why does the design of the game require healers to DPS? Well let’s start by looking at the driving force behind PvE content: the global cooldown, or GCD for short. The GCD is the amount of time it takes to use weapon skills or spells, roughly between 2.2-2.5 seconds depending on the specific job and other factors not important for this discussion. The fact that the GCD is directly linked to the basic ability to use actions means that it is the single largest impact on any job’s performance. “Sitting on your GCD,” a term for when your weapon skills/spells are available for use during combat but are unused for any reason, is the absolute largest waste of combat resources. Casters in this game have a saying: “Always Be Casting” (ABC). If you’re not continuously activating your GCD and keeping it on cooldown (using it as soon as it becomes available every 2.2-2.5 seconds), you are losing the largest portion of your total possible party contribution. That loss could be a BLM not casting Fire 4, a DRG not using Chaos Thrust, a PLD not using Rage of Halone, or yes even a healer not using cure. It’s all related to the GCD. If you do not make continuous use of your GCD you are not contributing adequately to your party, no matter what job or role you are filling. Someone, anyone, even if they have terrible gear and have no idea what they’re doing, will be a bigger asset to the party than you if they are always “casting” (or w/e you want to call the melee equivalent of a cast) and you are not.
This of course does not apply to moments when you are "precasting" a heal to hit at an exact moment, like right after a tank buster or a hard hitting raid wide AoE. These moments where you are sitting on your GCD for short periods of time in order to heal through heavy damage are a natural part of healing in this game and will happen frequently in some fights. Basically, you're sitting on your GCD but you have a good reason for it. That's not what this argument is about. The above argument is only for sitting on your GCDs for long periods of time (more than roughly 4 seconds) and waiting for people to take damage knowing full well no damage is coming.
But what the hell does this have to do with design?? Well…If PvE content is designed around the GCD, then healers participating in PvE content must follow the same “rule,” or design, that the other job types follow. OK so you’re supposed to be casting, but what do you cast? Well if you think healers should only heal and nothing else then your answer would probably be…heals. But think about what you’re actually saying. Yes you absolutely should be casting heals if the party or just one person needs them, but there is not a single fight in this game which requires 100% healing uptime. Not even the two most difficult fights currently in the game to heal (A4S pre echo and T8S lvl synced) require 100% healer uptime, yet they, like every other fight in this game, require significant GCD use for successful completion. So we go back to the question: what do you cast if you need to be using your GCD but don’t need to heal? You use your DPS skills. With the abolition of cleric’s stance it is now easier and safer than ever to maintain not only your DoT(s), but also to make use of your “spam ability” “which for AST is Malefic 3” to aid your party.
Note: If you’re reading this and thinking “but there’s just no time to DPS” or “I’m using my GCD constantly but it’s only for heals I can’t afford or risk anything else” then DON’T WORRY that is totally ok! This is why you’re here! There are sections of my guide which cover these types of issues. Healing is a great place to learn how to optimize your healing output, DPS teaches you the ins and outs of balancing healing vs dps, and under Advanced I’ve included a very large amount of helpful information. For example, if you feel as if there’s just too much to heal and you don’t have time to DPS, I personally recommend Healing Threshold under Advanced.
So now we come to the conclusion some may not be happy about: for those of you looking for a MMO with a “pure healer” play style, you will be disappointed with healing in this game. Even if you were to only heal and say "screw my GCD" you would quickly see that there’s just not enough for you to do in PvE content and you might even question paying a monthly sub. Seriously, only using healing spells in this game will lead to boredom fast. It also means that to contribute fully to your four/eight man party, or “pull your own weight,” you must learn how to balance healing and DPS. You can think of healer DPS as healer utility: a tool to benefit your party. It can be the same as a caster’s virus or a tank’s reprisal: they benefit the party, and the loss of that utility is noticeable.
As a fun little challenge, can you name a single main title Final Fantasy game where there was a pure healer character who only healed and nothing else?
Recommended Role Actions
AST needs to make up for the abilities it lost once 4.0 launched. Largesse will make up for the loss of the healing buff on Synastry, and stronger heals means less MP needed to heal the party and more MP available for dealing damage. Swiftcast is essential, not just for raises but also for mobility; a swiftcast aoe heal as you’re moving/adjusting can do wonders. Lucid Dreaming replaces Luminous Aether and is an absolute MUST for both MP and aggro management. Eye for an Eye helps in both 4 man and 8 man situations and if a boss or any enemies deal physical damage. Clerics is clerics: it’s a dps boost that can help buff up AST dps numbers which are on the low side compared to the other two healers.
What about the others? Protect is vital and Esuna is good in situations where debuffs must be taken off, but again healers were kind of screwed with role actions. If you want to regain some of what you lost going into 4.0, you don’t have room for Protect or Esuna. If you’re in 4 man, just use Protect at the start and replace it with Cleric Stance. Personally I would say if a fight doesn't need esuna you're better off taking e4e and your co healer taking protect (so you both can keep clerics) thanks to your ability to extend e4e's duration with time dilation. If a fight needs Esuna then both healers will need to each cross class one skill. In Omega Savage there are mechanics where if someone screws up and gets a debuff (paralysis/ice/fire in V3S AoEs for example) you can actually esuna them. But this falls under the category of "seriously...do the mechanic....stop fucking up." If they want to stand in the bad then they can deal with the paralysis, you just pop clerics and make up the DPS loss from their stupidity.
Rescue has its uses but the usefulness depends on your strat for the fight (like o4s). Use it if you need it otherwise if you're holding on to it in case someone screws up and not for a strat I would recommend taking a more useful action.
Finally, Surecast has a use in O4S Exdeath on Vacuum Wave. You can take off e4e or protect if your co healer can cover it.
Note about Eye for an Eye: Despite what the English tooltip says, E4E does NOT proc off of magic damage, so magic based raid wide AoEs will not proc e4e if you place it on a party member that is not the tank or spread it as a SCH.
Spread will show to the left:
Minor Arcana will show to the right:
This section will be continuously updated when new information becomes available and new gear is released.
Please read this note before reading the rest of this section: I've seen a lot of discussions about different BiS options and different mentalities, and I will cover why I agree with some and disagree with others, but in the end it doesn't matter. Healer BiS is not quite like other job/role BiS sets: healer BiS is "fluid." You can max out CRIT, or DET, or Spell Speed, or hell meld full piety for memes and it won't make you a god tier, top of fflogs, no one dies on your watch healer. Healer performance is linked entirely to...well just that...your performance. Secondaries on healer are not nearly as influential as people sometimes think they are and I hate seeing people get all worked up over BiS lists when they should be working on improving their heal timings, dps casts, MP management, etc. Now please don't get me wrong, I absolutely have secondary stat preferences and a BiS build I will share. What I'm trying to say is that, unless you're trying to get the fastest speed kill on a savage fight, your secondaries don't hold as much significance as you may think, and if you disagree with the BiS I give below that's ok. You do you. Do you have the amount of piety you need for your current skill level? Do you have as much MND as possible (not counting crafted items discussed below)? Good.
4.05 Stat Priority
Weapon Damage > MND > (PIE to your comfort level) > Crit > DH (melds) > DET > SpS.
A Note about CRIT vs DET
Before I had said that CRIT will be the better stat in the future but for now DET is best. While technically this is true due in large part to ASTs being unable to reach a high enough CRIT amount, in practice the difference between CRIT and DET is so small that it really doesn't matter. Seriously. If you're progressing content yeah you should probably aim your melds towards DET (and some VIT on your right side), but now that I have the current raid on farm I find that CRIT pairs nicely with my DH melds. Basically I don't need the extra healing DET provides to keep my party alive, and the DPS gains from CRIT benefit me and my party much more. So yeah...DET is technically better...but meh. I know it can be confusing which is why I included that note at the top. Don't stress out because you might not be the "true BiS" it really doesn't mean shit for healers.
The importance of this stat depends entirely on your personal play style and comfort level. I can’t tell you how much piety you need in a four man dungeon or an eight man raid. Personally I aim for a large amount of piety during savage progression and scale it back as content becomes farmable. If you're solo healing in 8 man content, or if you're party does not have a BRD or MCH, you should aim for a high piety pool. You're looking for an amount of Piety that will allow you to be self-sustaining when no deaths occur and require zero Ewers on yourself.
Critical Hit Rate
As noted above this is my go to stat now, but DET and CRIT are very close together.
For progression this will be a better stat than CRIT.
Personally I try to avoid this stat. Yes it's not as bad as people may think, and some BiS builds exist using Spell Speed, but unless you're running a BRD/MCH comp you will likely blow through your piety way too fast. I recommend optimizing the savage fights first before you even consider spell speed. Until then you will be better off with CRIT or DET.
If you want a spell speed build I recommend asking someone going for a spell speed build what they're using and if they're using crafted gear and all that stuff.
Direct Hit Rate
So I was wrong about this one. After playing with it DH is actually a very good stat to meld simply because of its potential DPS gains. Yes for prog you should stick with melds that impact healing, but honestly once you start killing you'll realize just how little you actually need that extra healing power. My rule is this: whatever build you're going for meld that stat first, and then when you can't meld that stat meld DH. Going for Crit? Meld crit as much as you can and then meld DH. Melding DET? Go for it then fill in with DH. However, if you're melding Crit into a slot and it will only give you +35 instead of +40 because of stat limits, then meld DH instead. Never waste a stat.
I also just want to emphasize that if you're still learning a fight DH melds will be of little help to you. Stick with melds that also impact healing.
Omega Savage Crit BiS i340:
Synastry – Great if you need to heal two targets at once, like an add phase where each tank is tanking a different enemy. Can also be used on other party members if a mechanic calls for it. If you don't need to heal two targets at once, and you know you won't need to for the next 90 seconds, you can use it as a single target healing buff similar to Largesse. When you use Synastry on a target, then heal that target, they actually receive your full original heal plus 40% of that original spell. So, for example, if a Benefic heals for 10k then the heal received by a target with Synastry would be 14k total.
Largesse – Use it whenever it’s up and you need to heal for stronger regens/shields aka more time for you to dps or even focus on movement. The more powerful your regens are the more you can move and adjust for mechanics without needing to worry about your tank’s/party’s health.
Lightspeed – This is a powerful cooldown meant for either extreme AoE damage or AoE damage while you need to move. This gives you an incredible amount of mobility and reduces you MP consumption so do not sit on it. However, I would not recommend using the entire lightspeed duration to heal single targets because in most fights there will always be certain aoe heavy sections where lightspeed can have more of an impact. You can also use it for DPS during sections where you have a ton of off GCDs to use (see DPS).
The primary method of healing for two of the three healers in ffxiv. Trust your regens. For example, there is rarely a time where you need to aoe heal on top of an Aspected Helios. Those times exist absolutely (A11S pyretic phase, Susano EX Ukehi) but they are the minority. Let me explain using some simple math, starting with AoE healing:
And this is the big thing about healing in ffxiv: everything is scripted, so you know if there is going to be enough time for your regens to work. This is THE factor that separates good healers in this game from bad healers. Knowing when to top the party or tank’s HP is crucial to healing efficiently. If you know you don’t need to spam helios after casting A. Helios, you save that MP and those GCDs and you can put them to much better use DPSing (more about this in Advanced – Healing Threshold).
Note: All AST regens will stack with themselves (your regens) and other healers (WHM/EOS) but will not stack with other AST player regens. I thought this was obvious but I want to make it very clear: if you are in a party with another AST one of you MUST use Diurnal Sect and the other MUST use Nocturnal Sect. Period.
Now let’s look at single target healing and regens. It’s a little different but the basic principle is the same:
Healing with a SCH
SCHs have a very diverse toolkit spread between themselves and their fairy. They are capable of high sustained DPS, high burst healing, powerful shields (if they crit), and significant fairy utility. The first thing you need to do when you load into an 8 man instance with a SCH is determine which fairy they are starting with and which fairy they will be using for the fight. This can significantly impact how you handle healing as a Diurnal AST so let's cover the two fairies and what they bring to raid. Note I am only covering the healing abilities that impact you as well, nothing else with the SCHs toolkit.
Shared Fairy Abilities
Embrace - basic heal the fairy will be spamming when someone takes damage. An important thing to note is the reliability of this heal depends soley on the skill level of the SCH. If a SCH doesn't control their fairy then the fairy will heal anyone who is not at high health (I think it's like less than 90% HP) and not just the MT or the person taking more damage. Some SCHS like mine will actually control embrace during sections with intensive AoE damage so the fairy focuses the MT while we handle the party. It's not something that all SCHs need to do, but just be aware that sometime the fairy will not heal who you want her to heal.
Fey Union - a more powerful single target heal through a tether but the fairy will not be able to do anything else while this is active. Great for fights like O3S when the tanks are each taking heavy damage and the party is also getting hit pretty hard. This will require the most coordination with your SCH because he can't just use it whenever. It requires a gauge resource and it can deplete rapidly.
Eos - Healer support
Whispering Dawn - an incredibly useful aoe regen that is completely free and can be used every minute. This, especially when paired with Fey Illumination (below), provides so much healing that in many situations you won't even need to worry about the party. Throw your own AoE regen on top of this to take advantage of Illumination and just relax as you watch the regens do all your work for you.
Fey Illumination - A powerful tool used to increase the power of all healing spells. While it's a fantastic tool the cooldown is unfortunately quite long so you and your SCH will need to plan for when you want this buff. I should mention this now: when you're healing 8 man content, especially savage raids (and maybe EX primals), these buffs are yours to use even though they're coming from the SCH. As a Diurnal AST you will naturally be taking care of a larger portion of the healing (notice I didn't say ALL) so the SCH can maximize his outgoing damage and shield when necessary. So unless there's a big hit coming out and a SCH needs to buff his shields as much as possible (looking at you a4s), you should be deciding where Illumination, Whispering Dawn, and possibly even covenant should go. Want to burst DPS a certain section? Have your SCH Illuminate/WD and use Fey Union on the tank and Malefic 3 as much as you want. Of course in many fights it's a little more complicated than that, but hopefully you get the picture.
Fey Covenant - Another very powerful and useful ability that unfortunately suffers from a long cooldown. This increases the magic defense of nearby party members by a whopping 20%. Most AoEs in this game are magic based, so this can come in handy for mitigating AoEs that would be difficult to heal due to movement/mechanics/etc.
Selene - Dps Support...and not much else :/
Fey Wind - a very powerful dps boost every 60 seconds. Think of it kind of like a weaker version of Arrow which can be used more consistently. When healing with Selene you need to know that this is it. Other than the share abilities above this is what you got to work with. Additionally, Wind shares a cooldown with Illumination (yes it makes no sense but do lilies make sense? Does lightspeed reducing DPS make sense? exactly) so if a SCH starts with Selene Fey Wind and then swiftcasts to Eos right before the pull, Illumination won't be available for 2 minutes.
Physick - basic heal that hopefully the SCH never has to use unless recovering.
Adloquium - A SCH's single target shield best used for tank busters or when spread to the party (more on that later). The thing is, this shield's power will double when the heal crits which can make your job of topping off the tank after a buster or healing the party after a raidwide MUCH easier. However, SCHs can't force a crit, so it's entirely rng based and I would never count on crit adlos, and instead just treat them as a nice little surprise.
Succor - basic Aoe shield. Does not heal for a lot but will provide a shield equal to the amount of HP restored. This is NOT a spamable ability for every AoE. It costs too much mana and reduces the amount of time a SCH can spend DPSing. Plan when you need a succor for which section or mechanic. DO NOT expect succors for every bit of damage the party takes.
Deployment Tactics - A very powerful ability used to spread an adlo to the entire party (if in range). This is fantastic for very hard hitting AoEs or during moments of recovery if you're still progressing a fight. And remember if the adlo crit then everyone gets that insanely powerful shield.
Emergency Tactics - used to eliminate the shield portion of the next Adlo or Succor cast and instead apply that shield as an extra heal. Basically the succor or adlo will heal twice with no shield. It's good if you need help or if you die and the SCH needs to take care of upcoming damage solo.
Lustrate - a very powerful instant single target heal that the SCH can use a maximum of 3 times roughly every 45 seconds. It's important to note that all of the following abilities rely on Aetherflow which is a finite resource: 3 stacks every time they use Aetherflow. Also note that everytime a SCH uses one of these healing abilities, they lose potential DPS from Energy Drain, a DPS and MP restoration tool that also requires a stack. I am in no way saying that a SCH should never use his healing abilities because of energy drain, but in order to play optimally you don't want to depend on these healing abilities to do your work for you. Plan out how a SCH uses lustrate/excog/indom/soil ahead of time so you can maximize healer combined DPS.
Excogitation - A single target heal slightly more powerful than Lustrate but will only heal the target when they fall below 50%. Great for tank busters but also requires a stack.
Indomitability - a powerful and instant AoE heal on a 30 second cooldown and requires one stack.
Sacred Soil - The SCHs version of Collective Unconscious, but does not apply a regen to the party and can be placed anywhere. It also does not immobilize the SCH so it is a fantastic tool to make use of for high levels of raid wide damage. Requires one stack.
The primary method of healing for Nocturnal Sect. Shields do not stack, so if you are playing Noct AST your co healer will be a WHM, or possibly a Diurnal AST if Duty Finder. Your job is to provide mitigation for large damage, both single target and AoE.
Aspected Benefic is your go to single target shield that is also instant cast. Use this to shield tanks from tank buster.
Aspected Helios is your AoE shield. Use this for large raid wide aoes whenever your co healer needs the help.
When do you shield? First you need to determine if any party member has enough HP to survive any upcoming damage. If they won't survive without your shields, then obviously yes shield them. However, as a shield healer it is important to communicate with your co healer and understand how they're healing certain damage.
Just a hypothetical example, let's say there's a raid wide AoE coming up, and your party is at full health. 10 seconds later another raid wide will come out. First thing you need to ask yourself is "Do I need to shield this first AoE or can I continue DPSing or healing the tank (etc.). Assuming the party members have enough max HP to survive the hit, you look to your co healer (most likely a WHM). Will the WHM be casting Medica 2? Will he follow it up with Assize? Does he already have a medica 2 running and just throw out a cure 3? How is he using Plenary Indulgeance. Does he plan his healing rotation at that moment around my Earthly Star? Is he going to heal at all or is he going to get that OP WHM DPS and I need to heal aka do I need my own shields? Let's say that he heals the AoE by refreshing Medica 2 and an Assize, but that was not enough (and will not be enough with the regen ticks) to heal the party to where they need to be for the next AoE in 10 seconds. So in this scenario you would most likely not need to shield the first AoE and you would need to shield the second one or just use your Earthly Star (or you could shield the first hit but not the second one etc...). But this was a completely made up hypothetical that can't replace talking to your co healer in real fights. The point is you don't need to shield every single bit of incoming damage, and doing just that will result in a huge personal DPS loss, a rapid depletion of MP, and unnecessary overhealing.
(See the next sections if those questions just confused the hell out of you)
Both single and aoe shields last for 30s so you have ample time to plan ahead. However, when you are shielding the main tank remember that auto attacks can weaken or completely remove the shield, so make sure you place your shields at just the right time (during a tank buster cast and not before, for example).
All other aspects of the ASTs toolkit are the same as Diurnal so those tips apply here as well.
Healing with a WHM
A WHM is a very powerful healer capable of outputting uncontested heals and personal DPS. A WHM has a very simple but very powerful toolkit which can make fights a breeze. But just a quick note before we get into their healing kit: just because they have the ability to solo heal any content without breaking a sweat doesn't mean they should. A WHM's personal dps is an extremely valuable asset and should not be wasted especially if your group is struggling to meet a dps check. If allowed to go ham a whm can break 2000 easily. Of course WHM is a healer and should be helping out when you need it, but keep in mind their party contribution comes from their own DPS; they don't have utility the way ASTs and SCHs do. Note I am only covering the healing abilities that impact you as well, nothing else with the WHMs toolkit.
Regen - Single target regen, pretty self explanatory. This will most likely be on MT for the majority of the fight.
Medica / Medica II / Cure III - GCD AoE heals each with their own use. Medica is similar to your Helios, Medica 2 is an AoE regen similar to a Diurnal AST's Aspected Helios, and Cure 3 is an extremely powerful but extremely costly short-range AoE used only in specific situations or if certain cooldowns are available. WHM AoE heals also have an added effect of granting Confession stacks ( Confession) to every party members healed by their AoEs.
Indulgence - A free instant AoE heal every minute, the potency of which depends on how many confession stacks a player has. If a player has no stacks they don't receive the heal
A Note about Lilies and Confession Stacks: you must remember that in order for a WHM to make use of these tools their heals MUST ACTUALLY HEAL. For example, if you cast a benefic 2 on the tank or any party member to top them off, then the WHM can't proc a lily off of them. Nine times out of 10 this is fine, but every so often WHMs depend on lilies and confessions at certain points for benison, shorter assize cooldown, less AoE heals needed, etc. Just be aware of what your WHM is doing.
Assize - A very powerful and useful Instant AoE heal that costs no MP, restores MP, and also does a considerable amount of damage. Depending on Lilies this can be used every 48 to 60 seconds.
Tetragrammaton - An instant single target heal every 48-60 seconds depending on Lilies. It is a straight 700 potency heal unlike your Essential Dignity.
Benediction - The most powerful single target heal in the game. Instantly heals the target to full and can be used every 3 minutes. Some WHMs use it as an emergency heal, some WHMs use it on cooldown letting the tank drop to low so they can use it. It's crucial that you know how your co healer uses Bene since if you start panic healing when they're just going to bene anyways you just wasted valuable GCDs. If there is a DRK in the party the WHM will be taking care of all Living Deads so you don't need to worry at all.
Devine Benison - An instant shield that costs no MP, but requires at least one Lily to use. It's a powerful shield on a relatively short cooldown but since the WHM needs to have a Lily to use it so you'll often see WHM's sit on it for specific situations. An example I can think of is the tank busters on O3S, specifically Books Phase. A Whm will already most likely need to help keep the tanks alive, so they'll already have lilies for the tank buster. Again, this is all dependant on your specific co healer and you need to know what they're doing and when.
Asylum - A free AoE regen the WHM can place on the field. Not nearly as powerful as they regen for Collective Unconscious and the players must be inside the regen field to receive the heal, but it does allow the WHM to move and do other things. WHMs will use this ability differently, some only using it on the party, some only on the main tank, and some mix it up depending on the fight. You just need to see when the bubble is out and who it's hitting.
Presence of Mind - Make the WHM cast fast. It's pretty self explanatory, but what isn't is how your co healer is going to use it. For example I'm a greedy f*ck and I use PoM as a DPS ability and my co healing AST covers the slack. But some WHMs like to save it for faster AoE heals. Both methods are fine for different reasons and each method will shine in certain fights/situations, so...again...TALK TO YOUR HEALER.
Thin Air - A VERY powerful cooldown every 2 minutes which reduces the MP costs of ALL spells to 0. This includes all heals, DPS, and even raises. To give you an idea of just how powerful it is let me ask you a question. If a WHM uses Prescence of Mind, Largesse, Thin Air, and then spams Cure 3 is it possible for anyone in the party to ever die? Well the answer is yes (the dumbass standing at max range cus he's a caster and "muh immersion") but just think about how powerful that combination is, and it didn't cost the WHM any MP. Yes obviously those three cooldowns will not always align and enmity issues are a whole different beast, but the point is this is a f*cking powerful ability.
Your single target DPS rotation on AST is relatively basic compared to the other healers. You have one DoT Combust II which last for 30 seconds, and Malefic III. Combust 2 should be maintained at all times and you will find that it’s very easy to use up one GCD every 30 seconds to reapply, even if you’re in the middle of healing a tank or the party. If the tank or a party member is starting to take heavy damage and your combust is about to fall off, you can use Essential Dignity or the Lady of Crowns card to weave an instant heal into your GCD. Example: Combust II > Dignity > Aspected Benefic > Lady of Crowns gives you a heal potency totaling at least 1100 over 2 GCDs and you reapplied Combust 2 and got an additional regen potency totaling 840.
Cleric Stance - A Role action that, if you have it selected, increases your dps by 5% for 15 seconds every 90 seconds. Generally you want to use it on cooldown. But the best use for it would be when your Combust 2 has about 10-12 seconds left. Use Cleric's Stance, spam Malefic 3 for about 10 seconds, then refresh Combust II > Swiftcast > Malefic III. If you need swift for something else, or it’s on cooldown, just continue casting malefic (Celestial Opposition extension will add even more dps – see advanced).
Openers, GCD clipping, and Lightspeed
A lot of people have been asking me about the "best opener" to use, but openers on AST are in no way concrete and there's really no point in me giving anything more than some general guidelines. Each fight will change the opener, sometimes significantly. For example, sometimes you can get away with using swiftcast in the opener to weave in more oGCDs without clipping, but if you need swiftcast within a minute of the start of the fight for movement or a planned heal...well that opener's moot. Your opener will also change depending on how soon after the start of the fight you need to heal (like Neo Exdeath), so when you're just starting out on a fight don't worry too much about your opener. Just make sure you start with Cleric Stance (if you have it) - Malefic III (pre cast) - Combust II (lands on pull) - held/drawn.
Before the fight you can, and should, be putting up both your regens and your shields, regardless of which stance you use for the actual fight. This will reduce the amount of healing needed at the start which can increase healer burst DPS as the tank and/or party won't need to be healed as much. Basically it's free and only benefits the party so why not?
GCD clipping will happen in both your opener and really throughout the fight, but that's ok. ASTs have so many oGCDs that GCD clipping is going to happen, but you want to be careful how much you do it. The rule is 1 oGCD per GCD. For example, Malefic 3 -> Draw -> Malefic 3 -> Shuffle -> Malefic 3 etc etc. You want to keep the clipping to a minimum, and doing something like Draw and Shuffle in between the same GCD will keep your GCD up for far too long, and you will start losing potential casts.
But if you want to reduce GCD clipping (at least in the opener) you can use Lightspeed. Why the Lightspeed opener if it reduces the damage of your DPS spells? So the idea behind it is that, even though you're reducing the damage done by Malefic 3, you're completely eliminating GCD clipping and can get out the ridiculous amount of oGCDs in your opener resulting in a much more fluid and faster rotation while making up for the damage reduction by again reducing GCD clipping. Now of course this is not always practical if you need Lightspeed early on in the fight. I also wouldn't recommend extending Lightspeed for the opener unless it's also a healing intensive section (like o4s Neo first Almagest if you're solo healing that one and want Lightspeed there) because you won't need Lightspeed for 20 seconds if you're just DPSing.
To be completely honest, I make up my opener as I go along for each fight. I also don't find myself using Lightspeed for the opener that much mainly due to muscle memory, but I would still encourage you to consider using it as more than just a healing cooldown. For fights with sections containing large amount of movement like o1s or o4s Lightspeed can be a fantastic tool for maintaining uptime on the boss. A weakened DPS cast is better than no DPS cast. Just please make sure you won't need Lightspeed for healing soon after! Lightspeed is a healing cooldown first, then a DPS tool.
When should you DPS?
Whenever you’re not healing. Are regens out on the group and the Main tank and there is no immediate upcoming damage? Remember, you can and should let your regens do their job so even if the party is not at max HP you can still cast some malefic 3s until the need to heal arises. Also remember that your co healer is there to help. While it's true that your co healer can most likely DPS circles around your limited DPS kit, each healer has ways to quickly and effectively heal (Indom, Assize, lustrate, benediction, etc etc). For example, if you're healing with a WHM, you can try and alternate your instants on the tank: let the MT get low and use essential dignity, then next time MT gets low the WHM can use Tetra. you can do the same with your AoE heals too if you need to, but just remember that cast per cast your co healer can output higher damage than you. Don't get greedy with the DPS if it's at the expense of your co healer's uptime.
Royal Road Effects
Every card, when royal roaded, will give you a certain buff which impacts the next card you use. There are three types of royal roads. Note: all cards should be used with a royal road effect unless an emergency requires some improvisation. Those emergencies are few and far between.
Ok…so which Royal Road should you use? If you’re interested in the math there is a tab under “Advanced” where I walk through it but here I’ll just give the basic rules.
TL;DR for cards: Use Balance/Arrow/Spear in that order, use Bole only if an emergency, Royal Road/Minor Arcana Spire/ewer 99% of the time.
The Balance - This is your go to card and the defining card of the AST toolkit. It increases the damage dealt by anyone under its effect by 10% before factoring in Royal Road. When dealing with single target Balances it’s generally best to use extended because it ensures that all classes will have some sort of additional buff from their own toolkit on top of the balance. There are, however certain classes that can benefit greatly from Enhanced royal road if you know where they are in their rotations (MCH during wildfire for example). Just make sure that if you use Enhanced Balance you extend it with Time Dilation.
The Arrow - Reduces GCD recast time and auto attack delay for anyone under its effect by 10% before royal road. This is one of your alternate DPS cards: not as good as balance, but more consistent than Spear (see advanced for a more detailed explanation). If you have a BLM in the party, they are the best option for single target, with the same single target rules as single target Balance. In fact, on BLM single target arrow is actually better than single target balance. If no BLM, you could also reasonably use it on a SMN, MNK, or a dpsing healer (including yourself) though it won’t have as much of an impact since Arrow reduces GCD recast time which is not the same as increasing Spell Speed nor does it impact oGCDs.
The Spear is your other secondary DPS card and is in a weird spot right now. Because of Crit's predicament right now Spear is in many ways the weakest of your 3 dps cards. We just don't have enough crit to see that 10% base potency, or 5% aoe potency, do much at all, not to even mention the lower duration Spear has when compared to Balance/arrow. If you have a BRD, DRG, and SCH in your party Spear becomes much more valuable when their buffs are up (I raid with all 3 so I can attest to this), but still it comes up short due to the rng nature of crit combined with our low crit values. Spear is still "ok", but for now your mileage may vary depending largely on your party comp. I find it's best to use single target on a class which benefits from crit like BRD in these early gear stages, but more on that under Advanced.
The Bole - Reduces damage taken by 20% before royal road. This is a very powerful mitigation card, but it should have limited use. For starters, the DPS gain you see from a tank being able to switch into DPS stance while under its effect (30% max), or the increase in healer DPS by reducing the amount you need to heal either the MT or party, is significantly less than the DPS gain you would see from a balance, arrow, or possibly even spear. Additionally, due to the rng nature of cards, you and/or your tanks cannot rely on you having a single target or expanded Bole for specific parts of the fight unless you play so sub optimally that I will not even entertain it in this guide. So when do you use it? In 4 man content it can help if a under geared tank is doing massive pulls for fast clears, but again a balance on a dps player with a good AoE toolkit can arguably offer better utility. In a raid setting it’s mostly used as an “oh crap” moment, like when a powerful raid wide AoE or tank buster is coming out and you're behind on heals . Bole is a difficult card to optimize and know exactly when to use it if you draw it, but while you’re learning if you limit your use to only the most ABSOLUTE emergencies, eventually you’ll understand how many other options you have instead of just relying on bole.
I am combining these two because they have very similar uses. The Spire restores TP and The Ewer restores MP. However, you will rarely find yourself using these cards for their actual utility. These two are much more commonly used (I’d estimate about 98-99% of the time) as Royal Road fodder to get that oh so sweet AoE royal road.
Converts the card currently drawn into Lord of Crowns or Lady of Crowns. Lord deals a significant amount of single target damage to the enemy of your choosing, and Lady heals a party member for a respectable amount of HP with no MP cost. The Minor Arcana you're given is completely random, and the card you converted has no impact on the minor arcana produced. You can hold one minor arcana indefinitely, but you cannot convert another card to minor arcana until you use the one you have and wait for the 5 second cooldown.
Once you get Minor Arcana it should replace Undraw in your card use. Any card that you would have undrawn pre lvl 66 should be converted post lv 66. If you get Lord of Crowns do not hold onto it just use it unless you're holding it for a Trick Attack or other raid buffs and those raid buffs will be coming up soon. If you get Lady of Crowns use it on anyone who needs a heal (most likely MT). Minor Arcana is completely random and therefor should not be relied on in any way, so the heal you get from Lady should never be the planned difference between a party member living or dying. Just use it the first chance you get.
TL;DR: Use it on cooldown immediately following Draw, no matter if you have a card spread or not. Read if you want the reasons why.
Sleeve Draw will fill in any open slots in your array of card utility: Draw, Spread, Royal Road, and Minor Arcana. The most optimal time to use Sleeve Draw is when you already have the card you want held (The Balance or The Arrow). However, if you only use Sleeve Draw this way you are missing out on a huge potential increase in your overall card output. Essentially in order to use it effectively you must gamble and hope for the best.
This is because sleeve draw will reset the draw cooldown, meaning that even though draw just went on cooldown it will still give you a card. Even if you don't get a Balance, you're given a Royal Road and a card in your Draw slot, so you are guaranteeing a Royal Road for the next draw AND increasing your chance that the Royal Road is expanded. What's even better is if you draw a balance or have one put in your spread.
If you use Sleeve draw and get something useless in your spread (Bole/Spire/ewer) you can simply remove the spread buff with Undraw Spread, but spread will also go on cooldown so you can't spread the card Sleeve Draw put in your Draw slot.
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TL;DR: You do not need to keep your party members at 100% HP at all times, and doing so is a waste. Work on lowering the HP percentage you're comfortable letting the party fall to (suggestions on how below).
The amount of HP you can let your party members drop to before you need to step in and heal them. It is usually represented as a percentage measuring your personal skill level, not the difficulty of the content. This can actually be a very difficult concept to discuss largely due to the varied skill level of healers reading guides like this. This guide is focused on “raid styles” of healing but is meant for a much wider and general audience since every healer, whether casual or hardcore or just an alt, should be aiming to play with the same level of quality as a raider. I strive to be the best at my job no matter what the content, and I expect all my readers to do the same. That being said, not all healers are currently at the same level of comfortably and I get that!!! It’s totally ok for you to be nervous or even scared; that’s what this guide is here for. So without anymore more stalling let’s dive into more advanced concepts, starting with some comments on “healing threshold”.
This is FFXIV, not any other MMO, and healing in ffxiv is very different, so if you are coming from playing healer in another MMO you must adapt to a new healing playstyle… as you may have already noticed in the earlier sections.
To repeat an earlier statement I made, all damage in this game is scripted and predictable, it is largely not reactionary burst healing. It is planned healing: If a tank buster is coming up, you know to precast a Benefic 2 because you know exactly how much damage that tank buster will do. Sure every now and again a dps will be hit by an aoe they were supposed to dodge, etc, but you cannot factor that into your planning!!!!! You can’t wait for people to be bad. This is where healing threshold begins.
Let’s say, for example, a BLM stood in an AoE that spawned on him so he could keep casting. Let’s say he has 25k max health, and the AoE did 20k damage. What do you do? If you answered “immediately heal him to full” you are WRONG in terms of ffxiv healing. Sure, his health may have dropped to 5k (20%) but did you even ask yourself the following two questions: “When is the next unavoidable raid wide AoE going out and how much damage will that do?” If there is no immediate raid wide damage coming out, the BLM is going to survive whether he has 5k, 25k, or even 1 HP. If he doesn’t need to be healed, you can spend that time DPSing or focus on someone who actually needs heals (like the MT if there’s a tank buster coming up). Immediately healing the BLM to full health would not change or benefit anything except your own peace of mind, and that’s what we need to eliminate. We do that by increasing your healing threshold.
I remember when I first started healing in this game. I was a CNJ and I was terrified. My threshold at the time was about 90%: I could not let the tank’s health fall below 90% without healing him. Many healers, especially new healers, are the same way. But even if we ignore “optimization” and “efficiency” for a moment, having such a high threshold is still a problem. I remember a certain Haukke Manor run where I was panic healing as usual and I had a lvl 30 PLD tank. Back then PLDs didn’t have Shield Oath at lvl 30, so I was constantly stealing aggro because I was healing too much. That poor tank tried so hard to stay on top of the aggro list but my cures got the best of him every single mob. The 3 boss fights took forever, not because I was watching Netflix, not because I thought healers should only heal, but because I was terrified when anyone took damage and thought I was too busy to DPS. I was wrong. I. WAS. WRONG. I didn’t understand, through no fault of my own, just how scripted ffxiv is and that it’s ok if someone takes damage and doesn’t get topped immediately.
I don’t expect healers to all of the sudden lower the HP they look for before they start healing immediately after reading this. It took time, patience, and practice for me to get to where I am today because this is a MMO and MMOs are work plain and simple. If you want to improve your healing the first thing you must do is realize when you need to heal. Currently my threshold for savage content is roughly 30% maximum HP for the MT and roughly 20% for the rest of the party. In “normal” content and 4 man dungeons my threshold is about 10% for all players. Again, this is after much practice and a deep understanding of damage in this game. You do not need to queue into a dungeon and force yourself to wait for 10%. But if you want to improve I have some tips to speed up your learning.
In this game, you absolutely must have confidence in order to effectively play any healer. You are expected, through the design of the game, to both heal and DPS to aid your party. Reducing your threshold and putting the needs of the party above your own peace of mind is crucial so work hard and don’t give up! Even if you make a mistake while you’re trying to reduce your threshold and become a more efficient healer, it’s ok you’re learning. If a tank or DPS yells at you then they either never leveled a healer or don’t remember how it was for them. You can make mistakes even if your party gets upset as long as you learned from the experience. All healers start out the same, but the good healers are the ones who shake off salty DF tanks and continue improving even if they make a mistake here and there.
Just one final note concerning “salty DF tanks” (lol). As you lower your threshold, you will notice that many tanks are stuck around the 90% threshold. Hell I’ve seen more tanks than I care to admit who crap their pants every time their HP goes below 100%. That’s not your problem, you are doing your job. I cannot stress this enough: in this game if they don’t die you did your job as far as healing goes. If they’re upset that you’re dpsing instead of keeping them at 100% HP that’s their problem. That’s it end of story. Don’t get discouraged if a vocal tank complains about your “weak heals.” Did they die? No? Then they can shut up. If they did die say sorry and that you’re trying to improve and if they keep at it send them my way I’ll tear them a new one.
TL;DR: Overhealing means nothing in this game as long as your aggro is under control, you're maximizing your dps, and you're properly managing your MP.
In ffxiv overhealing is a word you will hear thrown around a lot, but from my own experiences it seems like a lot of people don’t understand what overhealing actually means. They assume these very negative implications, most likely due to the increased use of FFlogs which displays overhealing as a number without making other factors obvious and easy to see. So let’s take a look at what overhealing refers to and why it’s not as bad as people think.
Overhealing in ffxiv refers to the healing received by a player who is already at max health. This includes all forms of healing including AoE, single target, regens, and oGCD/instant cast “free” heals. This also applies to all members of the party including yourself, not just the tanks. It is also important to note that overhealing does not happen only when a player is already at full health, but any heal which exceeds maximum HP.
So why is it considered bad? Well, if you have a high percentage of overhealing it can imply that you spent too much time casting unneeded heals on targets at or near full health and instead you could have been dpsing aka a much better use of your time. It’s also argued that overhealing is very MP inefficient and when you run out of MP quickly you’ll need extra party support that a similarly geared non-overhealing healer would not need.
But I think, just from the example I gave above, you can see why overhealing is not actually a horrible thing in certain situations. Sure, if you’re just spamming unnecessary heals on the party instead of contributing to the DPS then yes you’re overhealing in the worst possible way and it will show. But in the above example you used a very MP efficient heal and just happened to have it crit: something that happens quite often in this game. It’s still overhealing, but you had no major loss of MP, no huge spike in aggro, and you were going to use that one GCD to heal anyway. You can’t control if that one GCD crits or not.
This also applies to regens, which is where the majority of overhealing comes from for both Diurnal ASTs and WHMs. Let’s say a raid wide AoE goes out, but you already know that there won’t be any more raid wide damage for at least 30 seconds, so you use a single Aspected Helios buffed with Largesse. Maybe you also throw a single target regen on the MT if he needs one...but then go right back to dpsing. The problem is, if it only takes 20 seconds worth of regen ticks to heal the party back to full health (remember you’re going to have a SCH co healer, so their fairy will be healing the party as well), then those last 10 seconds of ticks, roughly 3 ticks, all count towards your overhealing. But in reality you didn’t lose any additional resources, just the initial MP cost of Aspected Helios which you were going to spend anyways.
To be clear: if you are casting unnecessary heals and wasting your GCD and MP then yes overhealing is BAD. But overhealing from an extra HoT tick or a crit heal means NOTHING.
Celestial Opposition & MP Management
TL;DR: Celestial Opposition has many uses, some better than others...read to find out more.
Celestial Opposition is the “hidden gem” of the AST toolkit and, in my opinion, the most important part of playing AST at a high level. It extends the duration of any and all buffs on the AST, not just cards on players. This includes Lucid Dreaming, Largesse, Lightspeed, Synastry, Cleric Stance, Eye for an Eye...etc, as well as all regens placed on a target or the party by you. Now things get a little more complicated: do you use Celestial Opposition on cards or on your own personal buffs? Well the answer is both…when you can. It honestly depends on the fight.
If a fight has an intense amount of healing required, or the fight phases last for long periods of time with no down time, you are going to want to line up Lucid Dreaming with Celestial Opposition to get extra ticks of MP. Over the course of a long fight with few breaks those extra MP ticks every two minutes can really add up and potentially reduce the need for an ewer or mana regen from the ranged. Keep this in mind as we go through the other uses, and then we can look at a possible opener with it.
Try to line up Celestial Opposition with every fourth card use (every two minutes). It’s best if this is an expanded card, but any extension will see some benefit.
Celestial Opposition will extend MND pots as well, so you absolutely want to extend the first potion with Opposition to get even more benefit.
It also extends Regens, but there’s a catch. The range of Opposition is small (10 yalms) so you need to make a choice: do you extend the regen on the MT, or extend the card duration on the rest of the party including the ranged which typically stands farther back. Hint: chose the ranged unless you have all 3 regens up on the tanks buffed with Largesse and the tank is taking heavy single target damage.
(Fun side fact: Opposition will even extend your sprint! There is literally no practical use for this…it’s just kind of cool.)
So now let’s talk about Lucid Dreaming and MP Management in general. First I’m going to say that I don’t usually sync up Lucid Dreaming and Opposition. I have a large amount of experience healing in this game and I am very comfortable with my MP management. There are specific fights where I will absolutely keep them synced (like A7S), but in general no I do not. However, if you’re new to healing in this game, I recommend that you keep them synced even if it means losing possible benefits elsewhere. Until you become comfortable with healing and lower your Healing Threshold you are going to need that extra MP.
TL;DR: Time Dilation is situational but is best on single target DPS cards or extending all three of your regens on the Main Tank.
Similar to Celestial Opposition, Time Dilation can extend more than just cards; it can also extend regens placed on party members. So now the question is which do we extend: Cards or regens? Well, once again, the answer is situational (by now you should notice a pattern with AST).
If you placed a single target The Balance on a DPS player, then your choice is simple: extend the Balance.
If your MT has at least two of your 3 regens and they were applied with Largesse you should consider dilating them. It all depends on what damage is coming up. Will the boss be auto attacking frequently? Is there a tank buster coming up and you want the regens to last through the buster to help heal the MT back to full health? If yes, and there are no single target Balances in play, then sure use Time Dilation. But will there be a phase change soon where the boss becomes untargetable? Is a tank swap coming up? Is there an add phase coming up where multiple high powered regens could risk you gaining aggro? If yes to any of those questions, then no you should not Dilate and instead find another place to use it.
There are other situations, like The Arrow on a blm or The Bole on a tank, where Time Dilation can work. Same concept as single target balance just different card (thought I should mention it just in case).
But what about expanded cards? You want to be careful when extending an expanded card on one player since you could end up in a situation where the next expanded card will overwrite the TD extension. In a situation where you know this will be the case (double expanded) then consider extending your regens on the MT for more personal DPS uptime or consider holding Dilation for the second expanded card.
TL;DR: The regen portion of this ability is in most cases more important than the shield.
This one’s a tricky one. It’s a very powerful ability, but how to use it confuses a lot of people. Unlike a SCH’s Sacred Soil or a WHM’s Asylum, the AST cannot place Collective Unconscious on the field but instead must physically be in the desired location. The AST also cannot move or do any actions while Collective Unconscious is active. This presents a problem.
Because Collective Unconscious renders you unconscious (teehee) it’s not always a good idea to use it as a shield the way SCH can use Sacred Soil.
There will be fights where the regen Collective Unconscious applies will be more beneficial than the mitigation of the actual shield.
You should consider using the shield just for the regen if you are trying to conserve MP but need to top off the party, want additional regen power on the MT, need the mobility but still want part of the Collective Unconscious utility (EX: A11S tower phase lasers + photon + whirlwind), or are currently in a phase of a fight that has constant raid wide damage (EX: A11S pyretic phase).
Additionally, unless you’re participating in world prog, the mitigation that the shield provides in Diurnal Sect will most likely not be the deciding factor between living and dying to a mechanic. Of course if your co healer has weakness or double weakness then yes the mitigation can help, but even then the loss of mobility or using other actions can cause serious problems.
The reason I specified Diurnal Sect above is because when you are in diurnal sect in 8 man content you are either healing with a SCH or a Noct AST. Both of these classes provide powerful shields/mitigation, and SCH’s Sacred Soil offers the shield of Collective Unconscious without compromising the SCH’s mobility or other actions. If you are in Nocturnal Sect then the shield portion of Collective Unconscious could be more important, but in all honesty the above statements still apply. Your Aspected Helios in Noct sect is unbelievably powerful and should be your go-to for AoE shields.
NOTE: The regen application is server based so the regen will not apply immediately when you use Unconscious but instead will wait apply on the next tick. Make sure the regen has applied to everyone in the bubble before you cancel the shield. It is possible (and I have done it quite a few times) to activate the shield and then deactivate it too soon, causing you to lose your regen and have Unconscious still go on cooldown.
Benefits of Balance vs Arrow vs Spear
Before I dive into the math, I want to make sure everyone understands a few key concepts about these cards.
Ok now that we got that out of the way let's start figuring out what the f*ck to use.
Since Balance is a flat damage increase it's value is exactly what the tooltip says: 5%, 10%, 15%.
Arrow...is not so easy. Arrow reduces the recast time of the GCD so the GCD will be reduced by 5%/10%/15%, but that's not the actual damage increase because we need to convert the GCD reduction to an actual potency. So let's look at how to do that
So if we assume the GCD to be 2.5 seconds:
And now we can figure out the actual value of Arrow:
Spear is horrible to figure out. Please bear with me and try to follow my logic. Remember, we're assuming no other buffs and no specific job.
So what does it all mean?
For Balance, it's still your go to. Unless your DPS comp is 4 BLMS, Balance will see higher returns even though arrow is weighted higher. Many jobs rely on oGCDs and Dots or huge damage increases, and it's important to know how the jobs in your party benefit from cards.
For Arrow it's still not a bad option and honestly if you already have an expanded royal road and draw an arrow first draw I would just use it instad of risking trying to get a Balance. You will still see a significant and consistent damage increase, but oGCDs and DoTs will again not be impacted.
The best thing to do with Spear right now is, if drawn first, just shuffle it and hope for a balance or arrow. If you draw a spear on a shuffle you have to look at your party. Does your party have a DRG, SCH, and BRD? If yes and their crit buffs are up or coming up in like 5 seconds then sure use it you will see a DPS increase. If not, or your party is not CRIT focused, then just convert it to minor arcana and hope for a Lord card.
How to Use Single Target DPS Cards
TL;DR: You need to read this one. You're an AST...don't take shortcuts when learning about card use.
One of the most difficult parts about playing AST effectively is knowing exactly how and when your single target cards will have the highest impact. Now of course in 8 man content you want as many expanded balances and arrows as possible, but due to the rng nature of cards expanded won't always be an option. Let's say you reach a dps check or a burn phase and your Draws don't give you any expanded...you should know how to make the best use of what you have.
If you're in a PF party or DF, you need to inspect everyone’s gear before the fight starts. Here's a general rule: if you’re going to single target balance/arrow/spear you must take into consideration everyone’s gear, especially weapon, before you consider specific jobs. A DPS with a higher weapon ilvl means higher weapon damage so that DPS gets all single target cards unless they suck. Yes, you need to be paying attention and be able to say, even if it’s to yourself, that another player objectively sucks and his/her job.
Please Note: I don't talk too much about Spear and instead just give a general priority list at the end. Because of spear's current predicament you really should be avoiding single target spears outside of maybe BRD or MNK. Now let’s go down the list:
PLD: Bole if an emergency, otherwise they should not be getting cards.
DRK: Same as PLD
WAR: Bole if MT and an emergency, otherwise they should not be getting DPS cards with one exception. If you have no BLM in the party and you, for some odd reason, need to use a single target arrow, you can use it on the WAR if he/she is in deliverance and see some gains from it.
Why no dps cards on tanks? Because if you absolutely must give a single target dps card to someone it should be a class that’s capable of putting out the highest amount of damage. If any one of your tanks is dealing the most damage in a fight then you have much bigger problems.
SAM: Hands down one of the best class to give single target balance to. No matter if it’s enhanced or extended you will absolutely see returns at any point in the SAM’s rotation. Be careful giving SAMs arrow it can mess up their cooldown timings relative to their combos depending on their build (high or low skill speed). Theoretically yes SAMs are great with arrow because SAMs do a shit ton of damage, but this would be one to ask your SAM about (like how they play, are they doing a Skill Speed build? etc.)
MNK: MNKs get an extra bonus when they crit, so you want to plan around this. Whenever Internal Release is active a Balance wouldn’t be a waste as long as you remember their crit benefit is RNG based. If you have a BRD in the party the rng reduces slightly. Using it during their riddle of fire buff is also ok, and they can use it every 90 seconds. However, the best place to use single target on a MNK is when they’ve activated Brotherhood. During this buff they have the highest chance of building stacks for multiple forbidden chakras, so if you take the risk you could see a phenomenal reward. MNK's also benefit greatly from Arrow due to their complete lack of TP issues in 4.0. The best time to use it is also during their riddle of fire buff.
DRG: When they’re in their Life of the Dragon state (they’ll be glowing red). This is when they can use a very powerful oGCD Nastrond, and a good DRG will get 3 of those off in a 30 second window, so perfect for balance. Otherwise it’s too difficult to time when they’ll have most of their jumps up during balance. The only other time you should consider single target balance on a DRG is if they use their tether on another player (a red line will be visible between the two) since it buffs their damage. However, since it also buffs the partner’s damage, if the tether partner is a SAM you should give the SAM the balance. Do not give them arrow.
NIN: generally ok to give nin single target balance but not the best option for most party comps unless they are (as stated above) the highest DPS in your party or if you don't parse they have the highest weapon damage. Try to avoid giving them single target arrow. Arrow does not impact auto attacks enough to make the increase in Ninki worth it when compared to the gains a caster or even mnk/sam could see. Ninki gauge takes roughly 29 seconds reach 80 ninki, and 10% from a normal arrow will reduce that time by about 3 seconds, and 15% from enhanced will reduce by about 4.35s (rough math). So it is technically an increase, but chances are there is another DPS in your party who would benefit more.
So for melee the priority system for single target balance, assuming equal gear and skill level, is: SAM > MNK > NIN > DRG with NIN and DRG being very close depending on where they are in their rotation.
BRD: Honestly any time in a fight you put a single target balance on a BRD you will see a benefit. A specific time you can aim for is when the BRD is singing Mage's Ballad or Wanderer's Minuet; about 30 seconds every 80 seconds for both they do not stack). If a BRD is singing foes that’s also good, but since foes has a beneficial effect for everyone in the party, and expanded balance would be much better. Arrow is ok for BRD, but since it doesn't impact DoT ticks or oGCDs it can be sort of meh (as in another class ight benefit more). If you use arrow try to avoid enhanced because BRDs have a lot of weaving to do in between their GCD and you don’t want to shorten that window between two GCDs too much.
MCH: Probably the hardest class to use single target balance on effectively. Your best bet is to have balance already active when a MCH is uses Wildfire (10 seconds every 60 seconds). It’s a difficult window to hit, and if your MCH is the most geared or just the best DPS player in your group, you would need a good amount of communication. However, even outside of wildfire a good MCH can make use of a Balance, so if your MCH is top then don't hesitate giving them cards. Arrow is in the same spot as balance for MCH.
SMN: Best time is during their Dreadtrance/tridisaster to both increase the potency of their dots and let them do some serious damage with Ruin 3/4 spams buffed. Another great time is when the SMN is about to summon Bahamut since they'll do even more ruin 4 spams. You can use the balance as soon as the smn summons Bahamut (a giant blue dragon) but be quick about it. Arrow is fine on a SMN not amazing but not bad.
BLM: Generally, anytime is a good time to balance a BLM as long as Enochian is active. They are a very high damage class and when movement is not an issue they are basically a fire turret. Just make sure than movement, whether it's for mechanics or anything else, will not be an issue for the duration of the balance. Anytime a BLM needs to reposition it decreases the total uptime of a single target balance. Arrow is the best card to use on BLM. Period.
RDM: Your best bet with RDM is when they have a high amount of black and white mana and are about to go into their enhanced melee combo and finish with Verholy/Verflare. Since this incredibly difficult to time (you cannot personally see when a RDM is about to do this) communication is key. If you’re unsure or unable to communicate a balance on a RDM still has value anywhere else in their rotation as they are able to output a large amount of damage. RDMs are also much more mobile than BLM so movement for mechanics will not hinder a RDMs performance to the same extent. Arrow is, for the most part, ok on a RDM, but again remember their oGCDs will not be impacted.
For Ranged the priority system, assuming equal gear and skill level, is: BLM > RDM > BRD > SMN > MCH. Avoid MCH unless they are by far the most geared and they don't suck.
AST: Balance? Lol no. Arrow? No. Even if your party comp is full of shit DPS your co healer would be a better option (provided they're actually DPSing and doing more damage than the actual DPS). AST has the lowest DPS potential of any job in the game. An AST who gives themselves a dps card in an 8 man party is a bad AST.
WHM: Balance? No. Arrow? Yes IF no other dps player can benefit, your WHM is not low on MP, and he/she is currently stone 4 spamming and will continue to stone 4 spam.
SCH: Balance? No. Arrow? Yes if the same conditions as whm are met (with SCH using Broil 2 instead of Stone 4)
So the overall priority system for single target balance, assuming equal gear and skill level, is: SAM > BLM > MNK > RDM > BRD > NIN > SMN > DRG > MCH >> PLD > DRK > WAR >> WHM > SCH > AST.
For single target Arrow it's: BLM > MNK > SMN > RDM > SAM > BRD > NIN > MCH > DRG >> PLD > DRK > WAR >> WHM > SCH > AST
For single target spear it's: BRD > MNK > BLM = SAM > RDM > NIN > DRG > SMN > MCH >> PLD > DRK > WAR >> WHM > SCH > AST
Royal Road: An In-depth Explanation
TL;DR: math behind my statements in the Royal Road section under Cards.
In the previous RR section I gave a basic guideline to follow when trying to optimize Royal Road and cards. Let’s now look at the math behind it. Keep in mind that this math only applies to Balance, Arrow, Spear, and Bole aka the tfour cards you will be using the most, in the order they’re listed. Since Spire/Ewer will 99.9% of the time be used as Royal Road fodder and are completely situational we will not include them.
So let’s use Balance as our example:
8 Man Parties
So we have Enhanced giving 1.5, Extended giving 2, and expanded giving 3.125. Expanded clearly comes out as the better choice, but the other two are not bad options! While you should be aiming for, and in many cases fishing for, an expanded Royal Road there will be times when RNG just is not on your side. You need to adapt and make a decision during the fight of when to switch to a single target card. I personally recommend that balances should not be held for more than a minute of royal road buffs. This means that if you were to draw and then spread a balance and you already have a royal road (but it’s single target), you must use that balance on the next draw cycle even if you don’t get an expanded royal road. If you spread a balance without a royal road, you can hold it for two draw cycles, though of course you should use your own judgment based on the specific dps needs of a fight.
If you are holding a balance, have a single target royal road, are searching for an expanded, and draw another balance: use that balance with the single target even if shuffle is available. This should be fairly obvious but I thought I should mention it.
I would personally recommend that if you use enhanced balance (or arrow on an appropriate class) you should extend that duration with Time Dilation or even Celestial Opposition to make it slightly more competitive. You don’t really need to do the same with extended, but hey it can’t hurt.
4 man parties
I would like to mention something that was brought up by reddit user /u/1ndigoo. The TD/CO combination on an enhanced Balance is actually significant and when extended, and enhanced Balance becomes the better single target card to use (the math is below). However, TD/CO will not always be available for every enhanced card, and I strongly advise against holding TD and/or CO just for the possibility of an enhanced Balance/Arrow.
Math taken from reddit and all credit goes to /u/1ndigoo: