Bard Leveling Guide
Guide Info
Last Updated: 10 Jan, 2023
Patch Applicable: 6.3

Bard Leveling Guide


Always use the gear with the highest dexterity available to you. This is more important than any secondary stat - you should not worry about those until endgame.

Aside from some early quest rewards and vendor gear bought for gil, a piece’s item level correlates to its Dexterity. So you can just use the highest item level gear and you’ll be good to go.

Bards use “Aiming” gear, so if you see that label on a coffer quest reward, that one is for you.

Your Role

As a ranged physical DPS, you deal a little bit less damage in exchange for complete freedom of mobility.

Your job is to take full advantage of this. If it can be dodged, you should be dodging it. If someone needs to be across the room to deal with some mechanic out there, that someone should be you.

That said, party-wide heals have a range, so you don’t want to be way out in the distance for no reason. Try to stay roughly near the party as much as possible. If you outrange a heal and die, that’s your fault, not the healer’s!

And of course, never stop attacking. Your global cooldown - that is, the 2.5s cooldown of Heavy Shot, Straight Shot, and other weaponskills (aka GCD skills) - should always be spinning. This takes practice for other roles, but as a ranged it should be very easy. So long as your keybinds let you move while attacking, there’s nothing to stop you.

Lastly, the ranged role action Head Graze can interrupt enemy casts with a shaking red bar. Don’t worry about the fast ones, but slower casts are generally meant to be interrupted. Keep an eye out for them!


DoT - Damage over time. DoT skills add a debuff to the enemy that deals damage every three seconds.

AoE - Area of effect. AoE skills are skills that hit all targets in an area. An AoE situation is one in which you’d be using AoE skills.

GCDs, oGCDs, and Weaving - As a physical job, Bard’s GCD skills (skills that share a 2.5 second base cooldown) are called Weaponskills. Everything else is an Ability with its own independent cooldown. Such skills are often called oGCDs.

Normally, you have enough time between GCD skills to use two oGCD skills. If you aren’t already, get used to the pattern of (GCD - up to two oGCDs - GCD - up to two oGCDs - GCD - etc.).

Also, note that you can press a GCD skill a little in advance, and it will fire as soon as possible. Use this fact to make sure your global cooldown never stops spinning.

Skill usage by level

Bard has a priority-based skill kit. In other words, your skill use boils down to “Use your basic attack repeatedly, until there’s another one you need to use.”

As you level, you gain more weaponskill (GCDs) options, and abilities (oGCDs) you can use between them.

Levels 1-29


Your single-target priorities in these early levels look like:

  1. Use Venomous Bite if it is not on the enemy.
  2. Use Straight Shot if it’s available.
  3. Use Heavy Shot otherwise.

In other words, press Heavy Shot most of the time, but hit Straight Shot when it triggers. A random effect like this is often called a “proc”. Then at the start of each fight and every 45 seconds after, use Venomous Bite and get that damage over time rolling.

Damage over time in this game deals its potency in damage every three seconds. So Venomous Bite does 100p initially, then 15p another 15 times for a total of 325p. That’s more than double your Heavy Shot! So long a boss is not about to die, you want this on it.


You also have a few abilities in this range. Abilities can be used between GCD skills (hence oGCD or “off the GCD”). You normally have time to fit up to two of them. So they rarely compete enough to need prioritizing - simply use them when you’ve got them.

Raging Strikes is a simple damage buff, but is best used before Venomous Bite if you need to apply it. This is because buffs like Raging apply to the full damage over time - even long after the buff has worn off.

Bloodletter is a basic damaging ability with two charges. The charge system “stores” uses, so you can use BL twice, and then every 15 seconds you’ll get a use back. This lets you get the most out of the skill without strict timing. So long as you keep it from sitting at the full two charges, you won’t lose out on any uses.

Role actions

The role skills Leg Graze and Foot Graze are neat when solo questing but that’s about it. Peloton is welcome by groups to get from one fight to the next a bit quicker, or to charge a boss a little faster. It does not work in combat.

Second Wind is a simple self-heal. In group content, it’s best used when you take damage you could have avoided, or miss an area heal for whatever reason. You also get Head Graze in this level range.

Area of effect (AoE)

Against two or more enemies, you can switch to spamming Quick Nock instead of your usual GCDs. Don’t forget to use Raging Strikes and Bloodletter, even if the latter is single target. Free damage is free damage.

Levels 30-51


Your single-target priorities change little here, only adding Windbite:

  1. Use Windbite and Venomous Bite if they aren’t on the enemy.
  2. Use Straight Shot if it’s available.
  3. Use Heavy Shot otherwise.


The main change at these levels is that you become a Bard! This introduces the song mechanic.

The skills Mage’s Ballad and Army’s Paeon put you in a song for the next 45 seconds. During a song, every three seconds (at 42, 39, 36 etc. on the timer) you have an 80% chance to get some “Repertoire” effect. You also give the party a small buff for the duration.

The effect in Mage’s Ballad is to recharge half of a Bloodletter / Rain of Death. So, you’ll use those skills more often during this song. Army’s Paeon triggers make your global cooldown a little bit faster, up to four times. Make sure you keep up!

For most of your leveling, Mage’s Ballad is the stronger of these two songs, so use that one first when you have a choice. Try to have some kind of song running as much as possible.


You get a couple of potent abilities in these levels.

Barrage gives you a Straight Shot proc, and triples your next single-target weaponskill. Naturally, you should use this on the Straight Shot that it gives you.

Battle Voice is a powerful party buff on a two-minute cooldown. Use it with your other two-minute skills (Raging Strikes and Barrage) to get the most impact.

For example, you might use Raging Strikes, then Windbite (+Mage’s Ballad +Battle Voice), then Venomous Bite (+Barrage +Bloodletter) into a triple Straight Shot (+Bloodletter) to pack a lot of damage into a short window.

You also get The Warden’s Paean. This utility skill cleanses or (usually) prevents debuffs with a white bar over their icon. The last role skill, Arm’s Length, stops an attack from pushing or pulling you. It can also slow down field mobs when solo questing.


Your multi-target damage gets a big boost from Rain of Death, an AoE version of Bloodletter. It’s a shared cooldown, so Mage’s Ballad gives you more uses of either. Otherwise, you’re still spamming Quick Nock for your GCDs.

Levels 52-55

The Wanderer’s Minuet

At level 52 you get your third and final song, The Wanderer’s Minuet. Its random effect gives you stacks to spend on a new ability, Pitch Perfect. Use PP at three stacks, unless the song is about to end, in which case burn whatever you’ve got.

This is your strongest song, and enables you to keep a song running at all times. Make a two-minute cycle out of it, so that your big two-minute cooldowns always land around the start of WM.

  1. The Wanderer’s Minuet for 42+ seconds
  2. Mage’s Ballad for 42+ seconds
  3. Army’s Paeon until Wanderer’s is available again (repeat)

Empyreal Arrow

Level 54 brings Empyreal Arrow, a simple 15-second cooldown ability that deals damage. Because it’s so short, forgetting about it for a few seconds is a more meaningful loss. So try to get used to staying on top of it, as it will get more important later.

Levels 56-75

Iron Jaws and an Opener

With Iron Jaws at level 56, you have all the core pieces of Bard’s kit. Later levels do add skills, but they slot in cleanly without changing your core flow.

Your GCD priority now looks like:

  1. Use Windbite and Venomous Bite if they aren’t on the enemy.
  2. Use Iron Jaws if the above are close to falling off.
  3. Use Straight Shot if it’s available.
  4. Use Heavy Shot otherwise.

As for Iron Jaws itself, note that it acts like a brand new appplication of your DoTs. This means that we want to use it under a lot of buffs to make those next 45 seconds of ticks extra strong.

This leads into the standard “opener”. An “opener” is a skill sequence you want to start a fight with. The goals are to maximize initial burst, and set up your timings for the long term.

Each line here is a GCD plus up to two oGCDs you’d use before the next one:

  1. Windbite (The Wanderer’s Minuet + Raging Strikes)
  2. Venomous Bite (Empyreal Arrow + Bloodletter)
  3. Heavy Shot (Battle Voice)
  4. Heavy Shot / Straight Shot (Barrage if Straight Shot is not proc’d)
  5. Heavy Shot / Straight Shot (Barrage if Straight Shot is not proc’d)
  6. Heavy Shot / Straight Shot (Bloodletter)
  7. Heavy Shot / Straight Shot
  8. Heavy Shot / Straight Shot (Empyreal Arrow + Bloodletter)
  9. Iron Jaws (Pitch Perfect)

Note that you’ll have other Pitch Perfect uses scattered around through this. The last one is to spend stacks before your buffs (Raging and Battle Voice) run out. This is worth doing, even though you get less potency per stack.

This opener will be the standard all the way through level 90. You’ll add a couple more oGCDs and go through some skill upgrades, but the structure does not change.

Later GCDs

Stormbite and Caustic Bite are simple upgrades of Windbite and Venomous Bite. Use them in all the same ways and enjoy the animations.

Refulgent Arrow is likewise an upgrade to Straight Shot. The buff for the proc is still named “Straight Shot Ready”, but it enables Refulgent Arrow now instead. Once again, use it the same way you did Straight Shot and enjoy the animation. (Note: This is the last skill that comes from job quests.)

Shadowbite is like Refulgent Arrow, but for AoE. Each Quick Nock will have a chance to proc it. Note that it has a much smaller hit area than Quick Nock - a small circle around the middle of your targeted enemy. So you may want to skip using it if the enemies aren’t tightly gathered.

oGCDs and traits

Sidewinder is a basic damage oGCD. Press it every minute (including in the opener under buffs), free damage is good.

Troubadour is Bard’s version of the MCH/DNC skills Tactician and Shield Samba. It’s a very good party-wide defensive cooldown, use it if you expect the team to take a lot of damage.

Nature’s Minne is a handy support skill that boosts healing received by party members in range. Use it to help out when there’s a lot of healing needed.

At level 68, you get the trait Enhanced Empyreal Arrow. This causes Empyreal to trigger a Repertoire, making it even more valuable. In Wanderer’s Minuet, if an upcoming Empyreal might overfill your Pitch Perfect stacks, use a two-stack Pitch Perfect to clear the way.

Levels 76-89

Updated song cycle

At level 76, your Heavy Shot upgrades to Burst Shot. This potency increase makes Army’s Paeon slightly better than Mage’s Ballad. As such, your new song cycle should be:

  1. The Wanderer’s Minuet for 42+ seconds
  2. Mage’s Ballad for 33+ seconds (change once the timer is at 12 or less)
  3. Army’s Paeon until Wanderer’s is available again (repeat)

This is not a big deal, so don’t worry if you mess it up from time to time at first. It’s only a little bit more optimal.

At the same time, your proc rate for Refulgent Arrow will increase, and can also trigger off of your DoT skills. It’s not worth it to use Refulgent between Stormbite and Caustic Bite should it proc; get the other DoT up first.

Apex and Blast Arrow

Apex Arrow and the Soul Gauge unlock at level 80. The gauge simply goes up any time you get a Repertoire proc. Blast Arrow at level 86 adds a follow-up attack, provided you spent 80 gauge or more.

The gauge fills around once per minute on average. So the best way to time Apex uses is to try to land them under your two-minute buff windows.

That means using Apex at some point between windows. A good rule of thumb is to try and fire it before you hit 18 seconds left in Mage’s Ballad. Using it early if your gauge fills early is fine too. Then sit on the gauge (even if it fills) until all your two-minute buffs are active.

Adding them into our GCD priority:

  1. Use Stormbite and Caustic Bite if they aren’t on the enemy.
  2. Use Iron Jaws if the above are close to falling off.
  3. Use Apex Arrow and Blast Arrow at the appropriate times.
  4. Use Refulgent Arrow if it’s available.
  5. Use Burst Shot otherwise.

In AoE situations, Apex Arrow especially is very strong, so try to line it up to hit as many targets as you can.

Other Skills and Traits

The Enhanced Army’s Paeon tooltip is a lot to parse out. In short, it gives you a weaker version of the Army’s buff for the first 10s of your next song (even if Army’s expired). This next song will normally be Wanderer’s Minuet.

From 82-88, you’ll get the Quick Nock upgrade Ladonsbite, a third Bloodletter charge, and a shorter Troubadour cooldown. While nice, these have little gameplay impact outside of more initial Bloodletters.

Next is level 90 - congratulations! Check out the endgame basics guide for a complete overview of Bard at level 90, much of which you’ve already read here. When you’re more comfortable, you can check out the advanced guide for some finer details and small optimizations. Thanks for reading!

  • Have any questions?
    Sana Cetonis
  • 26 Oct, 2021
    Created page
    4 Jul, 2022
    (finally) Updated for Endwalker
    10 Jan, 2023
    Updated for 6.3 changes