Dark Knight Advanced Guide
Guide Info
Last Updated: 9 Nov, 2019
Patch Applicable: 5.05

An In Depth look at Dark Knight - Shadowbringers Edition

An advanced guide to the class

Last Update: 11/09/2019 - E3S, E4S added. Additional information on Salted Earth added.

Hi! Emiin Vanih [Lamia] here. Myself and my companions have developed a compendium of information that will hopefully help you take your Dark Knight playstyle to a new level. While tanking is easy to learn, with the right know-how, you can excel at the role, and lead your group to victory.

Available Translations: Chinese from 包子皓的爸爸———摩杜那

Disclaimer

  1. This guide will talk about Dark Knight at raiding (Level 80, 8-man) level. Some topics will be addressed that will spread towards other avenues of play within FFXIV, but raiding will be the primary focus.
  2. Tooltips and basic skill potencies will not be addressed unless mathematically necessary. I expect anyone reading this guide to be able to understand how to read tooltips.
  3. Potencies listed do not include the Darkside modifier, to simplify the math therein.

Part 1

Part 1: The Changes from Stormblood to Shadowbringers

With the release of the expansion, Dark Knight has radically changed. The playstyle has shifted from an oGCD active, speed oriented class, to a high-potency heavy hitter, focused on Burst potential as opposed to consistent damage. Here’s a description of the major changes that have happened to the job.

Here is a link to the Official Job Guide released by Square-Enix. It has basic potencies listed, as well as information on combo rotations.

  1. Enmity combos have been removed. Instead, Grit now has a raw threat modifier of 10x damage. Provoke has also changed to a raw 2000p threat on top of being placed first on the threat table.

  2. Dark Arts and Dark Passenger - In their base essence, they have been removed. However, both abilities have been replaced with Edge of (Darkness)Shadow and Flood of (Darkness)Shadow respectively. Edge of Shadow is used similarly to how Dark Arts was used, however its damage is no longer tied to the GCD. It also deals a significantly larger amount of damage, and you will no longer be using it as often as you used to. Flood of Shadow can also be used as an AoE cleave with the frequency of Edge of Shadow. Of note, this means that all abilities which previous interacted with Dark Arts no longer have that requirement.

  3. Blood Weapon - Blood Weapon has lost the haste component of the skill, and is purely for mana/blood generation. It also only lasts for ten seconds (five GCDs).

  4. Delirium - No longer costs blood, or augments Blood Weapon. Delirium is now a 90s cooldown which allows for free uses of Bloodspiller or Quietus for ten seconds (or five GCDs).

    Shown: The GCD “Sweetspot” of when you should activate BW or Delirium in order to attain all five GCDs.sweetspot

  5. The Blackest Night - Increased to 25%, and more importantly, the use on others is also 25%, instead of 10%. A massive boost to its use potential. In addition, the blood gain aspect has been removed, and instead grants a “free” use of EoS/FoS. The shield has also changed to target’s HP, instead of only your own.

  6. Plunge - At 78, Plunge gains an additional “Charge” - meaning that you can potentially store two uses of the ability for offensive purposes, or save and use them as necessary.

  7. Salted Earth - The cooldown has been doubled, and the ability only does 60pot/15s (360 potency with the Ground AoE change). A massive nerf to the ability, lessening the burden of ensuring timely, efficient uses.

  8. Abyssal Drain has been changed to an oGCD AoE move and heal. In its place are the new AoE combo moves of Unleash into Stalwart Soul (72).

  9. Sole Survivor has been removed.

Dark Knight still maintains the general feel that it used to from Stormblood, however it has lost the haste that it once had with Blood Weapon. Casts per minute has gone down from an average of 45 to 37, hopefully alleviating some of the issues that many people faced in the past. The general progression of GCDs still remains, with Souleater combos and filler Bloodspillers whenever available.

The change of Dark Arts to Edge/Flood of Shadow is an interesting quality of life change for many - instead of a small addition to our GCDs, we get a huge oGCD potency. The main difference people will see from Stormblood to Shadowbringers is a severe hit to our mana resource generation - what was once a fast spam class, has turned into a pure pool then dump concept, as your mana regeneration is fickle, even during Blood Weapon windows.

Hopefully players will be able to adjust accordingly, and enjoy the class to its fullest!


Part2

Part 2: The Basics - General Tips and Tricks

General rundown for anyone somewhat new to Dark Knight. If you’ve played the class to 80, you should have a general idea of what to do.

Offensive -

  1. Always be casting. The most important rule for any job is to ensure that your GCD is always rolling, and your character always attacking. GCDs will be your primary source of damage and resource generation.

  2. Use all offensive OGCDs on cooldown (Plunge, Blood Weapon (BW), Delirium, C&S, Salted Earth, Living Shadow). Ensure that Blood and Mana will not cap while using Blood Weapon or Delirium.

  3. Never allow either your Mana or Blood Gauge to cap out (10000 Mana, or 100 Blood respectively). Prevent Mana capping by utilizing E/FoS or TBN; Blood capping by using BS or Quietus, depending on single or AoE targeting.

  4. Use Flood/Edge of Shadow as soon as possible, to ensure that all of your future attacks have the Darkside self buff. Use these abilities accordingly in order to maintain this buff.

  5. Cleave Damage (Two targets)

    • At two targets, Unleash > Stalwart Soul becomes more DPS than your 1-2-3 combo, both in Potency per GCD (PPGCD) and resource generation. For Blood, you will still be using Bloodspiller, however for Mana, Flood of Shadow is more effective than Edge.
  6. AoE Priority (3+ targets)

    • TBN for the shield, and to enable free Flood of Shadow Casts. TBN used on AoE is explicitly a DPS gain due to relieving healer burden and allowing them more DPS GCDs.
    • Living Shadow for efficient Blood Gauge use - Abyssal, Flood, and Quietus are all AOE moves from the LS, and are more potency than your own personal Quietus.
    • Unleash > Stalwart Soul combo to build mana and Blood.
    • Salted Earth when your group has settled, and Abyssal Drain for added damage / healing potency. Abyssal is a minor potency gain, so it may be best to use it purely for the heal to ease the healing burden.
    • Delirium > Quietus spam
    • Flood of Shadow (2+ targets) - always save mana for TBN.

Defensive -

  1. If Main/Primary tanking, ensure that Grit is on at all times. Since the damage penalty has been removed, there is no reason to not have it on (unless threat manipulation is necessary).
  2. Ensure that you always have a cooldown prepared for a tank buster. Shadow Wall is the typical “Buster Fodder” cooldown, but Dark Mind can also be used on magical busters to allow for more tank busters to be taken.
  3. While learning (and for hard hitting content), always use The Blackest Night in addition to the defensive you have already used. Ensure that you save mana for its use.
  4. Dark Missionary for Magical AoE damage to the raid.

Note that this list is a generic quick-list guide, and is not meant for optimization. This list will simply ensure that you go into any sort of content with a general understanding of how to play Dark Knight efficiently.


Part 3

Part 3: Map Your Cooldowns - Defensive utilization

Defensive cooldowns can be interestingly utilized, and for the most part, are completely variable based on the fight, your co-tank, and what is best for your raid group. One static progressing through a fight will have a completely different skill rotation used compared to yours, and it may be just as viable. Work with your team in order to find out what works best for you.

Dungeons and Grinding

With the loss of the cross-role “filler” cooldowns, we have a few less tools for defensive optimization when it comes to AoE packs in dungeon runs, as they are typically more dangerous than the bosses throughout dungeons. The core concept of efficient dungeon pulling is to always have cooldowns available for the next pull. Here’s some general tips in order to ensure that you don’t overburden your group.

  1. Use the first pull to gauge your DPS and healers. I usually at least pull two packs of enemies in order to see what type of group I have. If this proves to be too much for the group, you’re struggling, or things are taking too long, then you can use this information for the rest of the dungeon.
  2. Lead the fight with The Blackest Night. This allows your healer some breathing room, and spreads out your own personal mitigation tools. TBN should always be on cooldown when tanking packs of enemies - it will almost always break, and significantly reduces healer load.
  3. Rarely stack two cooldowns (not counting TBN). Fights in dungeons are about long-term mitigation as opposed to burst mitigation, and having more overall duration of cooldowns is typically better than instant burst of safety. If you have a planned large pull that will take coordinated healing and mitigation, stack cooldowns as you and your group feel is necessary.
  4. Use Abyssal Drain to recover in between cooldown lulls. Depending on the group, Abyssal can easily heal half of your health pool in one sitting - make sure not to waste the timing of a use on strictly damage.

The Blackest Night

The Blackest Night, when used effectively, has a significant impact on the damage you receive from Tank Busters, or spots where healers cannot heal you effectively. It is a 25% HP shield that is taken into effect after other mitigation has been applied, meaning it gets stronger when used with other cooldowns. Cleverly used, this can help a great deal in reducing the amount of incoming healing required on you. Play with effective usage of TBN, and see how your healers can use the shield effectively, if at all.

Over time, TBN use on cooldown can have both effects, however damage intake as well as healer output needs to be gauged in order to judge this properly.

Progression vs. Optimization

Progression and Optimization are two different beasts entirely with regards to how this game plays, and should be treated as such. In progression, safety and learning mechanics is the goal. The Blackest Night will have extensive use in progression, as it is a massive boon to safety on multiple occasions. Be it mitigating raid-wides or times when healers are distracted, extensive use of TBN can be plentiful.

Used on cooldown can be incredibly helpful for progression, however the primary argument with regard to TBN and optimization has always been twofold:

  1. Does this save my life?
  2. Does this use prevent healing GCDs from being used?

Over time, TBN use on cooldown can have both effects, however damage intake as well as healer output needs to be gauged in order to judge this properly. In optimization, the tertiary effect of TBN must be analyzed - the loss of Edge of Shadow uses within raid buffs.

The current situation with TBN with optimization is to “save” a use of Edge of Shadow within Trick/Burst windows, as Dark Knight generates about 12,000-13,000 mana per minute. Saving this use will allow you to maximize your potential in raid buffs.

Dark Knight currently does 277 Potency per Second (a simplified measure of Damage per Second). Using one TBN to force an E/FoS outside of a Trick Attack window, you only lose 0.83 PPS, or about a 0.3% DPS loss for that minute alone. This is negligible to the point of ignorable.

TLDR: TBN should always be used defensively before offensively. Plan your cooldowns according to the needs of the fight. Optimization of DPS is secondary to raid survival.

Raiding - Cooldowns, Mitigation, and You

A tank’s primary role will always be the defensive, and how to mitigate your incoming damage. It’s important to plan, learn, and optimize their use in order to improve the success of your raid group and support them to the best of your ability.

Your primary tools for tank buster mitigation fall within planning and use of Shadow Wall and Dark Mind. Ensure that you always know what type of damage is incoming in order to utilize Dark Mind to its fullest potential Typically, I prioritize Shadow Wall > Dark Mind for Magical Tank Busters, then AoE damage, then fluff damage, allowing for Rampart to be used otherwise. Rampart can be used as a backup tank buster cooldown if the fight is majority physical damage.

A powerful tool in your arsenal would be to develop a Cooldown Map, which can be used to effectively plan your cooldowns throughout an encounter in order to best plan your defenses, as well as properly support your team. Understanding the damage that is incoming in a fight, when to use cooldowns, tank swap, and what cooldowns are best utilized where are signs of a good tanking team. A good tank uses their cooldowns effectively so that their healers are able to learn the encounter, and perform their best.

Here’s some additional tips with regard to using your personal defenses to the best of your ability.

  1. Mitigating damage isn’t only about mitigating Tank Busters. While they are the highest single-instance sources of damage, they are not the only damage that is present within a raid. The constant threat of auto-attacks and AoEs also pose a significant threat to tank survival, just not an immediate one. Make your healer’s lives easier, and mitigate some auto-attacks as well. Mitigation around high-spike damage (spam AoEs and autoattacks) also has incredible value.
  2. Living Dead is, in effect, up to 8-10 seconds of invulnerability when used properly. While the initial buff is active, your healers can completely ignore you. So long as you “die” within the 10s timeframe, you require no healing until Walking Dead, where a few healer GCD+OGCDs can typically bring you to full (Or, Benediction). A strong benefit to the ability is that it activates when you “die,” as opposed to when the skill is activated, allowing for slight flexibility with its use. A panic Living Dead can be a pain to healers - make sure your uses are planned and communicated properly.
  3. Delete the thought of always Main Tank and Off Tank. Both tanks in an optimized setting will share equal burden. Main Tank and Off Tank terms should be used as a “Who is currently tanking the boss,” similar to how other languages use “First Tank” and “Second Tank.”
  4. Shirk can be thought of also as a defensive tool, and not just for tank swapping. Sharing the tanking burden will allow for both tanks to effectively use their cooldowns, making the lives of your raid and the healing requirements easier. Optimize your tank swapping, and cooldowns with your group in order to get their maximum effectiveness.
  5. An additional option for tank swapping would be the manipulation of Tank Stances. Simply having the current MT turn off tank stance and turning yours on before a provoke swap will allow you to easily overtake them in threat, while maintaining close threat to each other should the need arise.
  6. Your DPS have mitigation abilities as well. All Melees have Feint (-10% phys), Ranged have a Troubadour variant (-10% DMG), Bards have Nature’s Minne (+20% healing), and Casters have Addle(-10% magic). Discuss mitigation options with your raid group for optimal play.

Assisting Your Team - Secondary Tank and Raid Mitigation

Shadowbringers brings two valuable tools to a Dark Knight’s “Raid Mitigation” arsenal - The Blackest Night received a massive buff to it’s alternate-target use (also being 25%), as well as the addition of Dark Missionary, a raid-wide damage mitigation cooldown.

For Secondary-Tank use, TBN can be used similarly to using it on yourself (either on-cooldown, or optimized as discussed in the TBN Section. It has exactly the same effect on your personal DPS whether used on yourself when primary tank, or your co-tank.

Dark Missionary should be planned along with your raid group for optimal use. Develop a map along with the rest of your raid group in order to get the best use of this skill. Depending on the fight, multiple uses of small cooldowns may be better than stacking them, in order to spread out the safety of the encounter.

Cross Role Actions

Rampart is a raw self-damage reduction as it has always been. Rampart is best used as a Tertiary cooldown after Shadow Wall and Dark Mind have been mapped, in order to either fill in gaps in defenses, or allow for additional mitigation in extra parts of an encounter.

Reprisal with it’s short duration, single target limitation, and longer cooldown is best used for Tank Busters, or raid-wide damage. With both tanks having access to them, you effectively have two uses per minute which you can plan with your raid group.

Arm’s Length should be the default cooldown for knockbacks, as it allows Plunge to be used more offensively. It also comes with an added Slow effect on targets that are susceptible to it, allowing for a small cooldown for dungeon packs, should you be inclined to use it.


Part 4: Offensive Optimization Tips

Dark Knight joins a niche similar to Warrior, with the changes to Delirium allowing for multiple gauge-spenders to be used freely. With both pooling and spending resources in raid buffs, and the use of Delirium granted Bloodspillers, Dark Knight leans more towards Burst Damage Offense.

The most important part of ensuring that you are able to perform well on Dark Knight is the proper pooling and dumping of your resources. A Dark Knight will generate 12,000-13,000 mana per minute, and ideally, all of this mana will be used when you are able to abuse raid buffs. Edge of Shadow and Bloodspiller are both incredibly high potency in relation to the rest of your kit, and should be maintained and manipulated appropriately in order to make the best of your new damage role in the raid. Here’s some optimization tips which should be able to help you perform to the best of your ability.

Dungeons and Spamming

Much has been changed so far as the AoE game with regards to Dark Knight. While the resource management and adjustment is gone, there’s still some interesting ways to maximize your DPS in a dungeon encounter, and ensure you contribute more than simply keeping threat.

  1. Using The Blackest Night on cooldown allows you both to mitigate damage and allow your healer to DPS, as well as give you “free” uses of Flood of Shadow. Two birds with one stone.

  2. Blood Weapon is slightly unique with AoE, as it is slightly more difficult to perform all 5 hits while using Unleash and Stalwart Soul (they are spells, unaffected by Skill Speed). In order to combat this, you have a few options available to you in order to get maximum effectiveness -

    • Utilize Blood Weapon with Delirium-Quietus spam, allowing for at least 4 hits to be physical-based.

    • Pre-build 100 blood and then activate Blood Weapon

      • Quietus x 2
      • Unleash, Stalwart
      • Quietus
  3. Ensure that you do not over-spend mana on Flood of Shadow, as it will limit the amount of TBN uses you have in a set encounter. Being without an available cooldown in a dungeon pack is typically worse than squeezing that extra DPS out - especially if your targets are still very much alive.

A successful dungeon run does not only rely on the DPS to dish out the damage - it relies on everyone to do their part. After you’ve mitigated what damage you can, ensure that you’re supporting your team with added damage.

Edge of Shadow

edge of shadow

Your only uses of Mana in fights is Edge/Flood of Shadow, and The Blackest Night. As stated before, Dark Knight only generates 12,000~ mana, meaning that you are able to use E/FoS only four times per minute. Ideally, these uses will all be in Trick Attack, or other raid buffs. This is possible for two reasons -

  1. Darkside lasts for 60 seconds, meaning that your first cast in Trick, and your prior cast in the previous Trick are only 50 seconds apart.
  2. TBN can effectively “store” one use of Edge of Shadow to be used in Trick Attack.

FoS being 300 potency means that it should always be used on two or more targets instead of EoS, even if targeted buffs are on your main target.

Should you not have Trick Attack in your raid group, your resources are only limited to the 2m/3m raid buff timers, and you will need to cast E/FoS outside of raid buffs more often. The downside to the current build of Dark Knight is that it only allows one TBN use per minute before it is technically a DPS loss (with a ninja). Luckily, the DPS loss is incredibly minor, as spoken about in the defensive section here - The Blackest Night

Delirium and Bloodspiller

Delirium’s change allows for Dark Knight to have two distinct burst windows - Trick Attack, and Delirium. While these windows sometimes overlap, they are for the most part separate. The larger peaks are Trick Attack windows, with Delirium acting as a sort of DPS smoothing effect over time.

As an added bonus that is useful for maintaining cooldowns used effectively, Shadowbringers extended the combo upkeep timer (Combo maintenance - if you stop attacking an enemy, your combo holds for 15 seconds, instead of 12 seconds). Because of this, it is technically possible to pause your current combo with Delirium and suffer no loss. If you have higher ping, this may be an issue as the window is actually fairly tight. If you are having trouble, don’t worry - simply finish your current combo and then Delirium.

As always, with self-buffs, ensure that you’re using them at the tail end of your oGCD window, in the “second slot,” shown here.

tailend

Living Shadow

living shadow

In order to effectively use Living Shadow, we must understand how Living Shadow works. Initially, it appears to act independently of you, using random attacks on the enemy target. However, what the ability actually does is act autonomously, attacking your target with the same potency seven times.

  1. The abilities that Living Shadow uses are mimics of your own, but with a static potency.

    • Abyssal Drain, E/FoS are magic damage. All others are Physical.
    • Abyssal, FoS, and Quietus are AoE damage. All others are single target. Because of this, Living shadow is the most valuable Blood Gauge expenditure in AoE packs as well - three AoE moves around 350~ potency vs. your Quietus, which is only 210.
    • All buffs will the corresponding abilities - Embolden/Brotherhood will buff physical damage.
  2. The Living Shadow copies all of your buffs actively throughout its duration. If you gain a buff while LS is active, it too will gain the buff (It does not gain Darkside).

  3. LS’s attacks all react properly with enemy debuffs, such as Trick Attack.

  4. LS currently acts as a pet, and has awkward scaling with AP on how powerful it is.

Currently myself and my fellow friends in The Theoryjerks are working on nailing the equations down for your use. TLDR: LS scales better than you do with STR. The ideal time to summon LS is before raid buffs are applied, as Living Shadow has a six second “Activation delay” before it starts attacking, The secondary goal is to activate before Trick Attack/Chain Stratagem. Achieving this dynamic can be difficult, but in general using Living Shadow before raid buffs activate should be your priority. If there is a disconnect between your raid buffs, adjust accordingly.

Raid Buffs and how to use them

Here’s a brief display of raid buffs which will affect your damage. Plan your uses of E/FoS and oGCDs accordingly. It is important to remember what parts of our kit are what types of damage so we do not use wrong abilities accordingly.

Magic Damage -

  • Edge/Flood of Shadow
  • Abyssal Drain
  • Salted Earth

All Damage -

  • Divination (AST) - 4-6% damage, 15s duration, 120s CD
  • Trick Attack (NIN) - 5% Damage, 15s duration, 60s CD
  • Technical Finish (DNC) - 5% Damage, 20s duration, 120s CD
  • Devotion (SMN) - 5% Damage, 15s duration, 180s CD

Critical/DH Rates -

  • Chain Stratagem (SCH) - 10% Crit rate on target, 15s duration, 120s CD
  • Battle Litany (DRG) - 10% Crit rate, 20s duration, 180s CD
  • Battle Voice (BRD) - 20% DH rate, 20s duration, 180s CD

Physical Damage -

  • Embolden (RDM) - 10%-2% Physical damage (drops 2% per stack), 20s duration, 2m CD
  • Brotherhood (MNK) - 5% Physical Damage, 15s duration, 90s CD

As you can tell, not everything will line up perfectly, but there are some windows you can focus on for pooling mana and blood effectively to increase damage output.

  1. Opener (10-15s) - Openers will be listed in a future section, but are designed around maximizing all buffs, potions, and setting you up for success.
  2. (60s) Trick Attack window - Flat 10% increase 10s, every minute. This should land four GCDs at a minimum, and ideally four E/FoS, Abyssal Drain, Carve and Spit, and 2 Plunges.
  3. (90s) Brotherhood - As it is only 5%, our focus can be spent here, however in 30s, Trick Attack will be back.
  4. (2m) “Second” opener - Trick, Embolden, Technical Finish, Divination, and Chain Stratagem will be active for this window.
  5. (3m) - Trick, Battle Voice, Battle Litany, Brotherhood, Devotion.

Part 5: Openers and Substats

Openers (updated 08/08/19)

The opener listed here is fairly good for all content currently, however, you may wish to alter your opener to the fight and your raid buffs. This Tank Opener Calculator is designed to help you alter your opener as you see fit, with options for pull timings, buff timings, and different raid groups.

Opener opener text

This opener is designed around two concepts - Maximizing the use of Living Shadow, and maximizing the Trick Attack windows (In this image, it is active at 10.62 seconds). Note - this image has not been updated for 5.2 Ninja, but Living Shadow activation is the same.

Living Shadow requiring six seconds of “setup” means that we have to activate it as close to five seconds on the pull as possible. The only way to do this is to get 50 blood in three GCDs - which is only possible with the setup listed in these images. Ideally, this means that LS will get up to four hits in Trick Attack, and all of its initial physical damaging abilities will get the best use of Embolden, etc.

The secondary concept is the proper utilization of Trick Attack. As Dark Knight is now a class centered around the 60 second window, it is important that we make the most of it, and utilize our own skills to maximize output. The opener listed attempts to alleviate some of the burden of future alignment with Trick Attack specifically.

As we have three different cooldowns which focus on the 60s cooldown, we have to finagle our skills as best as we can in order to ensure they will continue to line up in future buff windows, and not only the opener.

Carve and Spit should be your primary goal in Trick alignment throughout the fight. Plunge and Abyssal are secondary - if you need to drop one from a window, then by all means, they should be the first to go. In this opener image, the initial Plunge has been shifted to the left of Trick Attack in order to allow for (less) mana overcapping in the opener. There will be a tick or two stray, but it’s much better to lose the extra 20~potency on Plunge, over a portion of a future Edge cast.

In the near future I’ll add additional openers to this list - Optimized Main Tank openers, Single weave/High Ping openers, and other options. For now, this opener proves to be the most universally optimal. If Main Tanking, simply throw a provoke before the Blood Weapon.

Currently, with only primals and dungeon content, it may prove tricky to get your TBN to pop successfully. The adjustments on the right table should allow you to do similar DPS in most standard compositions.

Salted earth is moved earlier to allow for Edge of Shadow usage to prevent overcapping, as well as land in potentially more buffs within our opener window. The overall difference is minimal, so you shouldn’t have to worry too much about your opener lagging behind.

spreadsheet spreadsheet 2

5.05 BiS

If you wish to see what your current gear can do for your personal DPS, this Tank DPS Calculator tool will be able to help you with any gear or melding decisions.

  • All sets are simulated with NIN/DRG, BRD, SMN, WHM/SCH. Different party compositions may have different effects on gearing options.

Maximum DPS set - Credits to Layla Bell and Raffter Senpai for this build

https://ffxiv.ariyala.com/1A7T8 AVG DPS - 9856.73 / 300s

This set will be your go-to for all gearing options. This set is built slow, running at a 2.43 speed, which may be tricky for some for Delirium, and more notably Blood Weapon. If it’s tricky for you, you can do a number of things in order to augment your GCD tier.

  • Swap the chest piece - If you remove the SKS melds from the weapon, you’ll drop down to 2.40, a very comfy GCD for universal use on Gunbreaker as well as Dark Knight.
  • Couple the above change with keeping the SKS melds, and using Popoto Salad, landing you in the 2.38 GCD tier which would be more comfortable for the faster build Paladins, and Warriors alike.

A few additional gear choices can be found here (they are focused on Paladin, however they can be used for Dark Knight as well), however, most changes can be made to personal preference based on gear and melding choices. Play around with the DPS calculator, and meld what you want to meld!

Stats, and Reasoning

For the most part, Square Enix has worked hard balancing the playstyles to adapt to different SKS tiers. Across the board, the variables on substats have been greatly altered in order to incentivize a greater “Gear how you want” style between substats. With an increased effect of Materia melding and their share on the substat amount, having a choice in your gear has greatly changed from Stormblood. If you wish to see what changes of substats will do for you personally you can use this Gear Calculator to give you a fairly accurate read on any changes you may make.

Should your goal be optimization instead of adjusting your playstyle to your own choices, the substats can be “ranked” in this manner -

Comfy Speed Tier > Crit >= DH > Det = SKS > Ten

What is “Comfy Speed?” - Comfy speed is simply that - the speed tier at which you are the most comfortable with playing the class. It’s a completely subjective gauge, and no one will ever have the right answer. Personally, I value a speed around 2.38, as it is a solid speed at which to ensure Delirium and Blood Weapon always have five hits. However, your mileage may vary. Experiment with different tiers, your ability to manipulate self buffs, and how they interact with cooldowns in order to make a personal judgment call.

There is also the argument of a fight-per-fight basis for comfortable speeds. What may be possible in some fights at a certain skill speed, may not be possible otherwise - such as greeding that extra GCD before a mechanic forces a disengage. If you find some mechanics tricky to maintain uptime, try changing up your speed levels and see if they are more comfortable.

Crit is back? - On the initial release of Shadowbringers, Crit was lagging behind Direct Hit as far as DPS optimization. However with the release of Savage (and most notably, having the option for Critical Hit on every single piece of gear), we are able to meld Crit wherever we can for a minor DPS gain. If you’re still stuck in Direct Hit land (I know I am), you will not lose much DPS at all by simply melding Direct Hit instead. The difference is only a few tens of DPS. However, you get more !!s in your combat log. Whatever floats your boat.

Why not Tenacity Stack? - Tenacity is an efficient stat for what it is, both increasing damage and mitigation at a nominal rate. Tenacity is currently regarded as a progression stat, in a similar vein to Vitality melds of old - helpful on occasion and can save your life, but not enough to warrant continuous, future use. The gain of Tenacity is not in reducing healer load. The gain is in the “insurance policy.” Tenacity could be useful. It could save your life. But you won’t see tangible benefit from Tenacity until that moment where you almost die.

That being said, if you like Tenacity, then by all means, meld it. You will lose a bit of damage. But there are some pulls where you’ll survive. (Granted, I was going to die anyways, but my health here is a direct result of Tenacity).

SKS buff, and Speed tiers- Skill Speed has always been a tricky stat to wrap your head around. With the increased AA potency, as well as our rotation not being locked specifically to rotational buffs, it has garnered some merit of thought. However, the same issues lie with SKS as they always have -

  1. What GCDs are gained, if any, throughout the fight?
  2. Does a fight have a large amount of downtime?
  3. How badly will we clip our GCD with double-weaving OGCDs?
  4. Does SKS allow me too land Blood Weapon or Delirium more consistently?
  5. SKS will not affect the amount of GCDs used for Delirium.
  6. SKS does not affect a large portion of our burst damage - Edge/Flood, or Living Shadow

TL;DR - It’s tricky to put a proper weight on SKS. Gained GCDs are always huge, but if the extra GCD is not hit with increased SKS, then half of the value has been completely lost. Gaining an extra GCD within a phase or jump transition is huge, but not gaining that GCD means that the extra SKS was potentially wasted. Equip and gear SKS at your discretion. I personally would not recommend melding for SKS past your personal comfort level of play, however, if you enjoy playing fast, then by all means, play fast!


Frequently Asked Questions, and Fight Optimization

F.A.Q.

Should I hold Plunge or use it on Cooldown?

With the change to how Plunge works in Shadowbringers, we now have Charges of plunge, instead of a raw cooldown. There are now two use-cases for Plunge for competent use

  1. DPS Optimal - two plunges every Trick Attack.
  2. Whenever saving a use would allow you to maintain uptime (Any GCD gained is more valuable than a use in raid buffs).

An important question to ask yourself as well is whether Arm’s Length do the same job, or do you need a gap closer specifically. If Arm’s Length is sufficient, then you are free to use Plunge optimally.

How can I effectively use Salted Earth?

A common misconception with using Salted Earth effectively is assuming extra casts mean more DPS. What you should be looking at moreso, is do I gain additional ticks. The cast count itself does not matter, but whether or not you used the casts effectively. Poor positioning or poor timing can lose you ticks that you could have gained by either waiting a few moments, or adjusting your cast. Salted Earth by itself is worth 360 Potency. Use it well.

Because of the heightened cooldown in Shadowbringers, coupled with the smaller potency, efficient uses of Salted Earth as not nearly as valuable as they were before.

Macros can be effective for Salted Earth usage if you are unable to target place it properly. Personally, I use both a target and a self target macro in order to more effectively place salted while moving, while double weaving or other issues. Self target macros are more effective when the boss is large and fixated (Leviathan and Titan Savage for example).

Examples of the macros I use are below.

/ac "Salted Earth" <t>
/ac "Salted Earth" <t>
/ac "Salted Earth" <t>
/ac "Salted Earth" <t>
/ac "Salted Earth" <t>
/ac "Salted Earth" <t>
/ac "Salted Earth" <t>
/ac "Salted Earth" <t>
/ac "Salted Earth" <t>
/ac "Salted Earth" <t>
/ac "Salted Earth" <t>
/ac "Salted Earth" <t>
/ac "Salted Earth" <t>
/micon "Salted Earth"
/merror off

Simply replace the <t> with <me> should you desire to make a self-targeting macro. “/micon” is used to see the cooldown on the macro itself, and “/merror off” prevents you from being spammed with the macro errors, should it not go off. The multiple lines are due to FFXIV’s unique programming which sends a line per frame rendered (and only that frame), meaning that macro skills cannot be queued. The lines help to ensure that Salted will always go off.

Who should pull in my party comp?

There is no definite answer to this one in Shadowbringers. Due to the removal of Tank Stance and threat combos as a damage loss, any tank can effectively pull. Choose whichever is more comfortable for the fight, and your raid group.

Dark Knight ideally is on the last of the tier of pulling, as its skillset requires Blood Weapon to be used before Hard Slash for Living Shadow manipulation. If you need to pull for your group, an honest face-pull scenario might be best for your personal DPS output.

I can’t land the 5th hit in Blood Weapon/Delirium! Help!

There are two potential reasons that you’re unable to land those hits -

  1. You’re not activating BW/Delirium on the “second oGCD slot” as shown here
  2. You don’t have enough comfy SKS to perform the rotation adequately.

Some light testing has shown that Blood Weapon does not have the same leeway as other buffs, meaning that it does not last that extra bit of give that similar buff timings such as Delirium or Inner Release have (this needs to be verified and might take a while to be accurate, however personal testing across multiple people has shown this to be the case). The good news is that losing a hit on Blood Weapon is not as damaging as losing Delirium, however, multiple uses throughout the fight can add up to lost potency. If you’re having issues, a light investment in Skill Speed might be the way to go.

Fight Specific Optimization and Tips

Eden Savage

Eden Prime

  • Eden’s Gravity and Dimensional Shift appear to be percentile based damage, and not raw magical damage, based on logs. The Blackest Night and healer shielding is effective on this damage. Dark Missionary does not see a lot of play in this fight, however you can use it on the shared Tank Busters for double effectiveness. Otherwise, you can save it for a strong use during Delta Attack for the Fire 3 damage. (A very strong use can be found in Phase 2, for the Fire + Thunder 3 busters).

  • Vice and Virtue is Magical, and Spear is Physical. Will be spending the next few attempts in Eden to verify if the transferred Healer Prey is magical, but it appears to be affected by Dark Mind. Personally, my cooldown suite for the first tank buster gamut was as follows:

    • Early pop TBN, Rampart for Vice (Cotank Reprisal)
    • Sentinel, Reprisal for Spear
    • Early pop TBN, Dark Mind and Dark Missionary for the Prey
    • If your healers are having difficulty, you can use a third TBN to soak bleed damage later, as it will absorb bleed damage ticks.
  • The Jump which precedes Pure Light can be baited, similar to how Umbra Smash was baited in O9S (He jumps to the farthest corner). When pulling Eden, pull her slightly off center in order to ensure she goes to your prefered corner.

  • The adds in the fight do not tether together, however, they do cleave. Position yourself with your co-tank in a manner which allows you to stack both, and allow your group to do cleave damage to the enemy.

    • If your killtime is over nine minutes (a slower pace), save your second Living Shadow cast for the adds, and summon it as the dropdown markers appear. The first Abyssal cast from Esteem should land on both targets, as well as the rest of his AoE. Similar to Salted use of old, ensure that Esteem gets more hits over the encounter, as opposed to the more useful cleave hits here. Adjust your uses depending on killtimes throughout progression and farming in the future.

Voidwallker

  • All of Voidwalker’s tank busters are Magical. Dark Mind will be available for every buster, and you can swap between Shadow Wall and Rampart for added mitigation, should you wish. There are a few spots where he only spams auto-attacks, should you wish to drop the Rampart uses elsewhere.

  • Doomvoid Cleaver is Physical. All other AoE damage is Magical. Dark Missionary can see a lot of play here if cleverly timed and used throughout the fight.

  • There are only two to three auto attacks before the first mechanic cast, which may cause The Blackest Night to not pop. Personally as the first tank, I shifted to using Unmend instead of facepulling in order to ensure I would be the first one hit for TBN, as well as ensuring both auto attacks would land on me.

    • Another option would be to allow your cotank to pull, should they used ranged attacks.
    • You can also use the no-pop opener adjustment listed in the openers section, should you still have difficulty. It is a small potency loss, but overall more comfortable.
  • If you are off-tanking, remember that you aren’t taking autos after tank busters happen. Make sure that you use TBN on your cotank, as opposed to yourself (so long as you are using your other cooldowns appropriately).

Leviathan

  • Rip Current is Magical. Most groups will use invulnerabilities in order to bypass the shared nature of the tank buster; do what’s best for your group. At least one cast will have to be shared in the fight.

  • Because of the nature of a fixed boss, Unmend/ranged pulling is normally not done. Because of this, you’ve probably noticed your TBN doesn’t always pop before Leviathan starts casting his AoE. There’s a few options in order to still perform your opener effectively -

    • The No-TBN pop listed earlier in this guide
    • Placing TBN on a hard-opening DPS (such as Machinist, which opens with Reassemble > Drill), which typically guarantees an easy pop on the first auto-attack.
  • Rampart usage for this fight is essentially free, so make sure that you use them in the most effective places that you can. Personally I try to pair them with Tidal waves/rages. Tsunami isn’t terribly effective, as it is only one hit, and the boss stops autoattacking during the mechanics.

Titan

  • The only sources of Physical Damage throughout the fight are Stonecrusher, Megalith, and Titan’s auto attacks in Phase 1 and 3. All other damage is Magical, and will allow you to use Dark Mind to the best of its ability.
  • Orange markers have their damage snapshotted slightly earlier than Yellow markers in this fight. You can use this too your advantage in some scenarios where movement is necessary (such as following Titan during his Car movement). Be careful that you don’t interrupt melees attempting to do the same!
  • TBN will pop with every Y/O/B marker explosion, and will take two auto attacks to pop otherwise. Make sure you’re using your TBNs effectively throughout the encounter to reduce your healing load.
  • Titan’s hit box is quite large in Phase 2. Because of this, if you are attacking the forward healer gaol, you can cleave the gaol and the boss with Flood of Shadow and Unleash>Stalwart combos for more overall damage for the fight (if your healer isn’t in danger, of course!)

Extreme Trials

Titania

  • The opener will be incredibly tight at slower speeds in order to execute properly, as she begins casting Rune during your Delirium window. You have a few options on how to deal with this -

    • Change your opener to Delirium one GCD early. This will allow for the greeded GCD to be Syphon > Souleater, instead of Bloodspiller > Syphon, no longer risking losing your combo.
    • Equip more Skill Speed in order to greed the extra GCD before disengage, allowing you to finish Souleater beforehand.
    • Simply allow the Souleater to drop (loses some DPS overall but not as painful as the lost Delirium).
  • All of Titania’s busters are Magical. The adds later in the fight are Physical.

  • With clever positioning, you can use Flood of Shadow on the adds while they are giant in order to hit two of them at the same time for some bonus damage. You can also place Salted Earth in between them.

  • Your Third Living Shadow will come up just before Titania summons her adds. Hold this summon until just before she leaves, in order to get maximum uptime on the adds.

    • Remember that Living Shadow has AoE moves as well - you can attempt to position yourself in between your tank target and another in order to benefit from this.

Innocence

  • All of Innocence’s attacks are Magical. Dark Mind can be utilized for Auto-attacks or magical AoEs here, and Shadow Wall can be saved for the busters alone. Rampart can also be used liberally.
  • If you’re really feeling randy, Beatific Vision (the room split > distance AoE) does around 140,000 damage raw. If mitigation is used on yourself, you can take this to the face and maintain uptime. I highly don’t recommend doing this if you’re actively tanking, as he has a tendency to also auto-attack at the same time, despite being temporarily untargetable.

Credits

Emiin Vanih - Lodestone || FFLogs || Twitch || Twitter || Discord - Emiin#0178 Find me on my Discord Server! Feel free to message me for any questions on this guide, or things you’d like added.

Paladin Guide

Tofurkey Meepers [Lamia] (Co-tank buddies4lyf) Raffter Senpai [Ragnarok] Voxfall Valerie [Ragnarok] Layla Bell [Gilgamesh]

Mox Xinmagar [Ragnarok] Ny Cro [Gilgamesh] Sarangerel Ura [Ragnarok] Nemekh / Velinas Dar’Korsalar [Exodus] Chrono Rising [Gilgamesh] Nalar Demon [Ragnarok] Reverie Shirokami [Ragnarok]

Images obtained and used with permission from the following: Sugu Sugu [Sargatanas] Udra Virias [Faerie] Tessan Twintails [Phoenix] Eleanor Havok [Phoenix]

  • Have any questions?
    Authors
    Emiin Vanih
    Emiin#0178
  • 27 Oct, 2021
    Added
    27 Jun, 2019
    Original release (Not public)
    6 Jul, 2019
    Additional information added, public release to The Balance.
    11 Jul, 2019
    Primals added.
    8 Aug, 2019
    E1S updated, E2S added. BiS added.
    11 Sep, 2019
    E3S, E4S added. Additional information on Salted Earth added.