David's Astrologian Guide
David Bacalus, Death and Taxes <DnT>, Gilgamesh


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. To the veteran FFXIV healers: the following discussion is lengthy but is ensures we're all on the same page. Skim through it if you need to then continue on to the rest of the guide.

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, this move is essential for both healers.  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.  In 8 man with a SCH, the SCH can fit Protect into their role actions, so all Protect responsibility after deaths during prog will fall to them (same with Esuna).  If your co healer is a WHM you two need to discuss it amongst yourselves because WHM is in the same position as AST.  I recommend the whm taking Cleric's and you taking Protect due to whm’s much higher damage potential.  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.

Note about Eye for an Eye: Despite what the English tooltip says, E4E does NOT proc off of magic damage, so 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.

Job Gauge

Draw will show up in the middle, Royal Road will show up top to the left of Draw:


Spread will show to the left:


Minor Arcana will show to the right:


Weapon Damage > MND > (PIE to your comfort level) > DET > Crit > SpS.

A Note about CRIT vs DET

So CRIT will actually be the better stat in the future: CRIT has exponential scaling whereas DET does not. Basically, the more CRIT you have the more powerful the stat becomes while the more DET you have, the less powerful it becomes. What this means for us is that, even though CRIT will eventually be the best secondary for pretty much every class, right now we do not have enough CRIT available to make it better than DET. As of right now with the math I've seen every 170-200 DET will give you 1% increase in healing and DPS, which currently equals 220 CRIT. Once you reach 2700 CRIT (according to current calculations) then DET takes a back seat. My guess is when 4.2 launches and we have access to the next raid tier CRIT will surpass DET. So yeah...DET is technically better for now, but tbh with healer secondaries it really doesn't matter as long as you have the most amount of MND possible and enough piety to meet your needs. To quote Yoshi P, "Calm down."

Piety

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 will be your most important stat eventually but for now DET is better. Crit is still not a bad option for healing/DPS.

Determination

The best stat as of 4.01. Based off initial calculations I've seen, it's anywhere from 170-200 DET to see a 1% increase in your damage and healing. If you're forced to chose between the two and piety is not a factor, then chose DET for now.

Spell Speed

Since Diurnal Sect’s change in 4.0, many ASTs might need to stack some extra spell speed to get back to a level that feels normal for them.  Just make sure you are not sacrificing mind or a significant amount of Crit or DET to do so. It is possible we will see this stat become more important as more SpS becomes available but for now it should be your "filler" secondary.

Direct Hit Rate

Do not meld this stat into your gear. Direct hit does not impact heals so every time you cast a heal DH becomes a useless stat. Unless you can maintain probably >90% dps uptime DH is a waste and spoiler alert: probably >90% of healers will not be able to do that for V4S. And what, are you going to meld your gear with DH 6 every time you go in to V1S or Lak "EX", and then unmeld and remeld with useful stats everytime you go into a more difficult fight like v4s? Nope you're not.

Omega Savage BiS: http://ffxiv.ariyala.com/11GN1 This may change once I see exactly how much piety V4S needs

Healing Cooldowns

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 – Do not use this for DPS.  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.

Diurnal Healing

Regens

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:

  • Aspected Helios has a 200 potency initial heal, and a 40 potency regen that ticks for 30 seconds, and costs 1800 MP at level 70 not counting any buffs like largesse or Diurnal Sect buff
  • In ffxiv, all DoTs and HoTs (Heals over Time) tick every 3 seconds, meaning that a 30 second regen will tick a total of 10 times
  • So the total potency of Aspected Helios is 200 + (40 * 10) = 600 potency, 400 of which comes directly from the regens over a 30 second period
  • A standard Helios heals for 300 potency total and costs 1440 MP at level 70.
  • So Aspected Helios heals for double the total potency of Helios over a 30 second period.  But Aspected Helios costs almost half as much as two Helios
  • It is much more MP efficient to just let your regen heal the party to full health after a strong raid wide AoE AS LONG AS THERE IS NOT SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE COMING OUT BEFORE THE REGENS CAN WORK THEIR MAGIC

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:

  • Benefic is 400 potency and costs 480 MP (spoiler alert: this is your go to single target heal)
  • Benefic II is 650 potency and costs 1080 MP
  • Aspected Benefic is 200 + (140 * 6) = 1040 potency and costs 1320 MP at level 70
  • Benefic is efficient, but Aspected Benefic will allow you to focus on other tasks as the regen works its magic.
Single Target
  • Benefic is your most efficient single target heal and will be your go-to
  • Typically what I like to do is attach an Aspected Benefic at the end of a benefic cast if the regen needs refreshing
  • It’s generally a good idea to keep at least you’re Aspected Benefic regen active on the MT as long as he/she is taking damage
  • It is unusual to single target regen other players unless there is a specific mechanic that calls for it.  A great example would be prey markers in A12S or Judgment Nisi in A4S.
  • Benefic II is great for emergency moments like if someone needs to be healed significantly in a short amount of time.  A great example of this is healing a tank buster which is followed by either a cleave or auto attack (like A12S, or really any other high level fight)
  • DO NOT use a Benefic II proc every time you get it.  The guaranteed crit is great, but Benefic 2 is much too MP inefficient to use the proc as it comes up.  (do not be confused with a WHM’s Cure 2 proc, which does not guarantee a crit but instead grants a free Cure 2.  That should be used every time it procs)
  • Essential Dignity is a powerful instant heal great for maintaining DPS as well as conserving some MP
AoE
  • Aspected Helios is your go to heal if you don’t already have an A.Helios regen ticking
  • Helios should be used only when you need to heal a large amount of AoE damage in a short amount of time, roughly <20 seconds
  • Never cast more than two Helios at a time if a regen is also running (again, this is just a general rule and there will of course be situations you need to cast more than two….but they are not the norm).
  • Collective Unconscious has an incredibly powerful regen attached to its primary effect and it’s completely free!  I will talk more about Collective Unconscious in the “Advanced” tab of this guide because it deserves its own discussion
  • Earthly Star is an insanely powerful free AoE heal.  Don’t make the mistake of using it as an emergency heal by placing it and immediately activating it.  Instead you should plan at least 10 seconds ahead so you can place the aoe where you know it will hit at least the MT but preferably most of the party, it will hit at least the boss to deal damage, and it will heal for the full 720 potency.  It has a small radius so just be mindful of where your party is positioned.

Nocturnal Healing

Shields

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

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

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 > Essential 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.

  • Malefic III is your filler spell.  Is Combust 2 ticking on the boss?  Is Draw on cooldown?  Is everyone’s HP where you need it to be?  Are regens out on at least the main tank?  If yes, then you should be spamming Malefic 3 on the boss.
  • Your AoE rotation is even more basic: Gravity spam as much as your MP allows.

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)

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.

Who should dps?

This depends largely on your healer comp.  There has been a lot of talk about a shift away from “main healer” and “off healer” but a lot of those statements are misguided.  While it’s true that both healers should be DPSing and healing during every fight, there is still a main healer and an off healer.  Allow me to explain a little bit.  Every healer has a slightly varied toolkit for both healing and dps, and every healer has the ability to completely solo heal every fight just in different ways.  However, the three different DPS kits are much more varied in terms of potency and sustainability.  Potency refers to the damage potential a healer has based on their DPS skills (including burst and standard rotation), while sustainability refers to how long the healer can maintain DPS without running completely out of mana.  By looking at both potency and sustainability, you can determine which healer in a two person healer comp should take the primary healer responsibility, and which healer should take the primary dps responsibility.  Again, BOTH healers should dps since there is no fight which requires 100% healing uptime from either healer, but for now we’re looking more in depth at which healer should dps more.

Diurnal AST/SCH

  • SCH will be the primary DPS healer due to its higher potency potential and its far superior sustainability.  While in terms of potency the AST isn’t that far behind, the SCH absolutely crushes AST in terms of sustainability, while the AST actually crushes SCH in terms of healing potential.
  • Also remember that SCH provides constant healing support in the form of their fairy which gives the AST even more opportunities to DPS as well, making SCH an incredibly valuable co healer

Noct AST/WHM

  • Again, in this situation WHM will be the primary DPS healer.  But there’s a catch: though WHM absolutely destroys AST in terms of potency, sustainability is much closer.  With Assize being a 60 second cooldown and thin air/lucid dreaming every two minutes WHM does slightly come ahead in terms of dps sustainability, but a Noct AST has significantly lower healing sustainability due to the nature of shield healing in this game (discussed in Healing).
  • If in a PUG group pay attention to how your co healer is handling MP and help as needed, but in a static you should talk to your co healer and have a clear understanding of when and how you (the Noct AST) needs healing support.

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.

  • 8 man parties: Expanded RR is the best, followed by Extended
  • 4 man parties: Extended is the best, followed by Expanded only if you and the tank are doing a considerable amount of damage!  You should be, so really it falls on how the tank is contributing.  Extended goes on the person doing the most damage in the dungeon.  So if that’s you or the tank give em a balance.
  • There will of course be exceptions and you can read more in depth under advanced if you’re looking for more than just the basics.

Cards

TL;DR for cards: Use Balance and Arrow, use Bole only if an emergency, Royal Road/Minor Arcana all Spears no exceptions, Royal Road/Minor Arcana Spire/ewer 99% of the time.

The Balance

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

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.  It’s best used as an expanded RR if you have no other option (think of it like a Fey Wind from SCH) but it also has some limited single target uses.  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.  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 (spell speed increase can impact the rate at which DoTs tick).  There are two things to note however: Arrow will never under any circumstance be as useful or beneficial as Balance, and you need to be careful with TP and MP management.  Too many arrows, both single target and expanded, can negatively impact every job’s TP/MP management except for BLM which has an unlimited MP resource.

The Spear

The Spear is your other secondary DPS card and is in a weird spot right now. First, and let me just get this out of the way now, SPEAR AS A CRIT BUFF IS 1000000000X BETTER THAN FUCKING COOLDOWN REDUCTION!!!!! I'm so FUCKING HAPPY about this change! ...And now, the not so good.

Because of Crit's predicament right now (see Stats/Gear: A note about crit vs det) 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. 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. Don't get me wrong, in 4.4 I could see Spear actually surpassing Balance and becoming the new go-to DPS card, but for now your mileage may vary. I find it's best to use single target on a class which benefits from crit even in these early gear stages, but more on that under Advanced.

The Bole

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.

The Spire/Ewer

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.

Minor Arcana

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. If you get Lady of Crowns you can hold onto it for a short period of time but I would say no longer than the 30 seconds it takes for your Draw to come back off cooldown. 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.

Sleeve Draw

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.

Here's an example. You start a fight with a spread The Balance, an expanded royal road, and a Lord of Crowns. Literally perfect. Let's say you Draw and Redraw as the pull macro is counting down and you get nothing...like a The Spear or some shit. Before they had Sleeve Draw ASTs would use their held Balance, Royal Road the spear, and 30 seconds later Draw/Redraw again and hope they get something. If they got a Balance they would have to decide between spreading it and fishing for an expanded Royal Road (delaying the balance), or use an extended balance (worse than an expanded balance).

With Sleeve Draw you eliminate this delay by essentially removing that 30 second wait. This is due to Sleeve Draw not following the cooldown of Draw. So in that same scenario above you would use your expanded Balance, use your Lord of Crowns, wait until you can use Minor Arcana again and convert your drawn Bole, then use whatever that Minor Arcana was. Now you have a clean slate that you can fill with Sleeve Draw. 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 doubling 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.

The small risk is absolutely worth the reward. There are more possibilities and more ways to handle your outcome but by now hopefully you get the picture of how I personally use the mechanic. All I can say is that this increases our card output by an insane amount over the course of a fight and I love it!

Select a category below to view details.

Healing Threshold

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.

  • Every day when you do your roulettes, reduce your threshold by 10%.  If you’re normally at 90%, day one you should let the party drop to 80%.  Then the next day 70%, then keep going each day after that.  In the beginning you don’t even need to do anything else: just observe.  Notice how much free time that extra 10% gives you and how long it takes for a party member to reach that lower 10%.  If you do roulettes every day you’ll be shaving 70% off of your threshold which is a lot so if you suddenly feel like it’s too low increase by 10% until you feel comfortable.  Then once you get your confidence back start decreasing again.
  • In content that requires two healers, especially statics tackling primals and savage raids, TRUST YOUR CO HEALER.  Talk to him/her and get to know how they play.  Perhaps their threshold is much lower and that could scare you at first; I know I scared the shit out of my SCH when we started raiding together.  BTW, if you’re co healer is a SCH then wonderful!  You’re the luckiest healer in the world because a SCH’s fairy, especially that EOS, can heal circles around you without breaking a sweat.  Consider her your “3rd cohealer” and make her earn her spot in raid while you malefic spam!

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.

  • I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been gravity spamming and tanks start typing in chat for me to heal them not understanding that Essential Dignity gets stronger the lower they go.  How low can they go?  If they bitch at me then we’re gonna find out lol.  Oh and the plds casting clemency on themselves when they’re above 50% HP…not realizing I’m a WHM and Benediction exists for a reason.  Lol it’s entertaining to me, but I also know how damaging it can be for newer healers. Relax and do not let them get to you!
Overhealing

TL;DR: Overhealing means nothing in this game as long as your aggro is under control 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.

  • For example, let’s say a tank takes 8k damage and you need to bring his HP to full quickly for an upcoming Tank Buster.  You will most likely cast a single Benefic and if a regen is already running you would rely on one tick to finish the job.  But let’s say the benefic crit for 9k.  That 1k extra healing (9k heal - 8k below max HP=1k) and that one regen tick you were counting on will both count towards your “overhealing.”

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.  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.

The short version is: if you’re relying on regens and only healing when needed based on my recommendations in this guide and your own personal healing threshold, then overhealing does not matter.  If you are balancing healing vs dps as well as managing your MP, yet you still get called out for “overhealing on FFlogs,” then just link that idiot this guide and tell him to do some research before repeating terms he heard like an uneducated trump supporter.

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.

Do not hold Cleric Stance for it to line up with Celestial Opposition.  You are keeping Cleric's Stance unused for 30 seconds every two minutes for only 10 seconds of additional duration; it’s not worth it.  However, if Cleric's comes off cooldown but you are not ready to use it for whatever reason, it is ok for you to wait to use the buff until it lines up with Opposition, as long as it’s within 10 seconds of Opposition becoming available.

Celestial Opposition will extend MND pots as well, so you absolutely want to extend the first potion with Opposition to get even more benefit.

Largesse lines up with Celestial Opposition every other use, and there is no harm in extending this buff.  This can be valuable for heavy healing situations.  It should always line up.

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.

  • at lvl70, ilvl 314, Lucid Dreaming will refresh MP at about 960MP per tick for 21 seconds, so about 7 ticks
  • Celestial Opposition adds 10 seconds: about 3 extra ticks
  • 960 * 7 = 6720 MP without Opposition
  • 960 * 10 = 9600 MP with Opposition
  • That's an extra 2880 MP which translates to two Helios, one Aspected Helios with MP left over, 6 Benefic....you get the picture. It's a significant amount of extra healing or extra DPS.

Celestial Opposition Opener: Regen MT at 3 seconds to pull > expanded card + Clerics + Pot > Com2 > Celestial Opposition Keep in mind that if you wish to use the advanced CO opener and also sync CO and LD, you will need to activate LD during this time and will lose at least one tick of LD.  It’s not a huge deal, but it is technically inefficient.

Time Dilation

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.  But there is one situation you never want to use Dilation, and yet I see people do it all the time.  DO NOT dilate someone with an Expanded Balance or Arrow just to extend that card duration.  It’s just not worth since the potency of the card is reduced by half and your next expanded card could overwrite the dilation anyways.  If you’re in a situation where you have an expanded card in play and you will most likely have an expanded card in play after the next draw, then consider setting up a Time Dilation regen combo.  You’ll see much more benefit from the increased healer and possibly even tank DPS than one person getting a weakened card extended by 10 seconds.

Collective Unconscious

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.

  • The main reasons for this are that the regen is extremely powerful, costs no MP, stacks with all other regens, stays on every player inside the Unconscious area even after you cancel/finish, and it can be extended with Celestial Opposition if needed.

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.

How to use single target cards (especially Balance/Arrow/Spear)

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.  As an AST it is your responsibility to not only know the inner workings of your job, but also every other job in your party.  On top of this, you also 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.  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[u] then you have much bigger problems[/u].

SAM: Hands down one of the best classses 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.  Do not give SAMs arrow it can mess up their cooldown timings relative to their combos if their skill speed isn't low enough.

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.  Do not give them arrow. Arrow does not impact auto attacks enough to make the increase in Ninki worth it. 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). In no way is that enough of an impact to warrant using arrow on NIN over any other dps in an 8 man party other than SAM and maybe DRG. So unless your 8 man party is just a NIN and 3 SAMs you're going to see better returns from other classes. In 4 man parties the same applies unless your two DPS are NIN/SAM or NIN/DRG. And to be honest in those situations I would recommend restricting your arrow use and searching more for balances.

So for melee the priority system for single target balance, [u]assuming equal gear and skill level[/u], 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 increase DoT ticks it’s not really recommended.  If you use arrow make sure it’s not enhanced because BRDs have a lot of weaving to do in between their GCD (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, and it currently has very low damage output compared to the other DPS jobs.  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.  If you’re not in a static but rather a farm party or and DF content, then you either need to really pay attention to what your MCH is doing or just use single target balances on another member.  Generally, you do not want to Arrow a 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 great 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. The same goes for Arrow: BLM is the best class to use arrow on as long as they can sit in place and turret. Even if they can't arrow still is best on BLM.

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 you need to be careful and make sure that the RDM has the MP to support that arrow.  RDM has the weakest MP management out of the three casters so you do not want to be giving him/her multiple arrows. Overall I would say this class is the "SAM of casters" because you know you'll be getting max benefit no matter what.

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 DPS classes that don’t benefit from arrow, your co healer would be a better option.  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 > RDM > SMN > BRD > NIN > DRG > MCH > SAM >> PLD > DRK > WAR >> WHM > SCH > AST

For single target spear it's: MNK > BRD > 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, and Bole aka the three 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…and spear is useless.

So let’s use Balance as our example:

  • Balance is 20% for 30 seconds without RR
  • You should never use balance without a royal road.  We’re just using it as a base to judge the impact of the other 3 balance possibilities.  We will consider the base potency (20%) to be 1.

8 Man Parties

  • Enhanced: 30% for 30 seconds is just that.  You get a 150% increase off the base 20% potency but it’s the same duration.  If we’re setting the original balance as 1 then enhanced balance is 1 x 1.5 = 1.5 (50% increase)
  • Extended: 20% for 60 seconds is the same potency but twice the duration.  So if the boss is targetable for a minute and the player has near 100% uptime then the potency value becomes 40%.  You are doubling its duration, so you get double of the base potency over a 60 minute window.  If we’re calling the base 1 then extended would be 1 x 2 = 2 (double).
  • Expanded: This requires some estimation.  10% for 30 seconds to everyone within 20 yalms.  But we can’t just do 8x.5 and be done with it (8 being the party members and .5 representing half of the base balance).  The same reasons why you do not usually give a tank or a healer a card apply here: they don’t do as much damage as a dps, even if they’re doing a decent amount of damage.  So the best solution is to just estimate.  Let’s say a MT can do about half of what a DPS does, and an OT can do about 75%.  For healers it depends on the party and how well everyone knows the fight and/or uses their utility, but to generalize let’s say 50% of a DPS for each.  So instead of counting the two tanks and two healers as 4 party members we now count them as 2.25 party members, giving us a total party of 6.25 members.  Now we can do our normal math.  Since Expanded reduces the potency by 50%, we take that 6.25 and reduce it by half (6.25 party members each receiving half of the original benefit) so 6.25 x .5 = 3.125.

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

  • The only RR which sees a change is expanded because now there are less party members.  Even more, using our previous estimations, we now on paper only seem to have 3 party members (1 DPS + 1 DPS + .5 Tank DPS + .5 Healer DPS).  So the new math would be 3 x .5 = 1.5, making it the same as enhanced balance and losing to extended balance.
  • However, don’t be so quick to fish for extended royal roads.  On paper using the same estimation methods we came to .5 healer and tank dps, but ASTs have a significant AoE DPS presence, and that can really alter numbers.  On a single target boss yes extended is your best bet provided at least one of your dps knows what they hell they’re doing.  But in trash pulls between bosses when you’re spamming Gravity and the tank is spamming his AoE an expanded balance or even arrow can be more beneficial.

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:

  • TD on an enhanced Balance makes the effective weight 2.25 (1.5 base * 1.5 duration)
  • With TD and CO, enhanced Balance has the effective weight of 2.75 (1.5 base * 1.8333 duration)
  • TD/CO on an extended Balance is most likely a waste, since a new card will probably be ready within 60s. This is especially true if Sleeve Draw is up.
  • Thus we can draw the following conclusion: If TD/CO are off cooldown and are not needed for other things, enhanced has ~37.5% more utility than extended
07/22/2017
  • Updated several sections for patch 4.05:
    • Stats & Gear: Note about Crit v Det
    • Stats & Gear: Crit rate
    • Stats & Gear: Direct Hit
    • Stats & Gear: Added Omega BiS
    • Abilities: Role Actions
    • Cards: Balance
    • Cards: Arrow
    • Cards: Spear
    • Cards: Bole
    • Cards: Sleeve Draw
    • Advanced: How to use Single Target...
    • Advanced: Some bonus math proving why Spear sucks.
07/09/2017
  • Changed the description for using cards on NINs in "Advanced: How to use single target DPS cards"
06/30/2017
  • Guide created for patch 4.0 (Stormblood expansion).
07/07/2017
  • Made correction to best time to use DPS cards on BRD under "Advanced: How to use single target DPS cards..." (Credit to Redditor /u/cindercrab)
  • Made correction to The Arrow's usefulness for MNK under "Advanced: How to use single target DPS cards..." (Credit to Redditor /u/knilmirak and DNT's Erza Lockhart)
  • Removed a reference to old Weakness debuff which reduced VIT (but no longer does).
  • Fixed some math in "Advanced: Some Bonus Math Proving How Useless Spear Is"
  • Added note about Eye for an Eye in the Abilities section
  • Added note about AST regens stacking with WHM regens, but not with other ASTs (unless self)
  • Made another change concerning the weakness debuff in the section "Advanced: Collective Unconscious"
  • Added some math regarding TD/CO when used simultaneously. (Credit to Redditor /u/1ndigoo)
07/03/2017
  • Reduced the amount of xivdb links.
  • Adjusted wording in a few sections.
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