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FFXIV Bard Job Guide (Patch 6.5)

Pump up the jams and your party.

The physical ranged DPS role in Final Fantasy XIV may have the least amount of jobs compared to other classes, but their contribution to a party is just as impactful. While other jobs of this role came with later expansions, the Final Fantasy staple, Bard, has dealt damage from afar since FFXIV's inception.

Bards use a bow to attack enemies from a distance while incorporating songs that grant party-wide buffs. Their playstyle revolves around maintaining damage-over-time (DoT) effects that trigger additional abilities throughout their songs' duration. A skilled Bard is required to react quickly and accordingly to the many skills in their repertoire.

How to unlock the Bard job in FFXIV

To unlock Bard, you must first acquire the Archer class by either choosing it as your starting class when creating a character or by taking the quest "Way of the Archer" from Athelyna in New Gridania (X: 15, Y: 12).

After reaching level 30 as an Archer, progressing through its class quests, and completing the Main Scenario Quest "Sylph-management," speak to the Archer Guildmaster Luciane in New Gridania (X: 15.4, Y: 11.9) to take the quest "A Song of Bards and Bowmen." Completing the quest will reward the Soul of the Bard job stone to equip, advancing your Archer class to the Bard job.

An introduction to Bard in FFXIV

Bards don't utilize a standard GCD combo found in other jobs. Instead, they have a single "main" attack to loop while incorporating and prioritizing available oGCD abilities into the mix, managing the upkeep of two separate DoT effects. Playing as a Bard can certainly feel chaotic when trying to keep track of every ability available, making you feel like you, the player, are the masterful performer instead of the Warrior of Light as you scramble to hit every skill on your hotbar. Here is a breakdown of Bard's abilities that you should know to improve your playstyle:

  • Heavy Shot/Burst Shot: Heavy Shot is the primary ability Bard uses between oGCDs and reapplying DoT effects to enemies. Heavy Shot upgrades to Burst Shot at level 76, increasing the attack's potency.
  • Straight Shot/Refulgent Arrow: When using the ability Heavy Shot or the upgraded Burst Shot, there is a chance it will trigger the buff Straight Shot Ready. Straight Shot, along with its higher-level version, Refulgent Arrow, is only available under the effect of this buff, offering an increased attack potency over the attack it's triggered by. It should be used as often as possible when available.
  • Bloodletter/Rain of Death: Bloodletter is an oGCD attack intended to weave between other abilities. It shares a recast timer with Rain of Death, which is an identical skill but for multiple-target situations. You can hold up to three charges of these abilities, and using either one takes a charge from the other.
  • Venomous Bite/Caustic Bite: The first of your two attacks responsible for applying DoT effects, Venomous Bite deals little damage outright but applies the Venom effect to the target for 45 seconds. At level 64, it becomes Caustic Bite, increasing the potency of the attack and the DoT effect. Caustic Bite also has the chance of triggering the Straight Shot Ready buff.
  • Windbite/Stormbite: Windbite adds another DoT effect to enemies and does even less damage than Venomous Bite as an attack alone. It does, however, boast a slightly more powerful DoT effect that also lasts for a duration of 45 seconds. As with Venomous Bite, Windbite upgrades to Stormbite at level 64 with similar benefits, increasing attack and DoT potency while potentially triggering Straight Shot Ready.
  • Iron Jaws: Up until level 56, when a DoT effect threatens to run out, the player will have to use its respective skill to reapply it to restart the 45 second timer. Iron Jaws delivers a minor attack, but if the target suffers from Caustic Bite's or Stormbite's effects, their duration will be reset. This will prevent you from having to use both attacks individually and reset both DoT effects together. Both effects must remain active, as Iron Jaws only resets the timer, not apply the DoTs themselves.

Upkeeping your DoT effects is your priority. Do whatever is necessary to upkeep them, and use your primary abilities when no oGCDs are available.

Outside of those core abilities, Bard also has a few buffs and oGCD attacks that aren't tied to DoTs or songs but should be used when available:

  • Raging Strikes: Raging Strikes applies a 20 second buff that increases damage by 15 percent. It has a two minute recast timer, so you'll have time to plan accordingly to unleash a flurry of attacks within that buff window.
  • Barrage: Barrage grants a 10 second window that will cause the next single-target attack to strike three times instead of once. It only applies the initial attack damage, so you can't add three separate stacks of your DoT effects. Barrage immediately triggers Straight Shot Ready upon use, making Straight Shot or Refulgent Arrow the prime combo ability for single-target situations. Barrage also massively increases the potency of the AOE attack, Shadowbite, making it useful even during trash pulls.
  • Battle Voice: Battle Voice is a buff that increases the direct hit rate of you and any nearby party members, allowing the party to dish out a little extra damage.
  • Empyreal Arrow: A powerful oGCD attack with a 15 second recast timer. It is one of your most actively used abilities to weave between your GCD attacks.
  • Sidewinder: Another oGCD attack, boasting an even higher potency than Empyreal Arrow, it should be used off-cooldown once its 60-second recast timer expires.

FFXIV Level 90 Bard Opener

Bard’s rotation contains plenty of skills to weave between one another. However, its fundamentals are strong – apply your DoTs, play your song, and Burst Shot. Refulgent Arrow should be prioritized over Burst Shot at any point in the opener when it is available. Certain steps of your opener will change, albeit only slightly, depending on if Straight Shot Ready procs. Using Barrage if Straight Shot Ready is active wastes the free proc that it supplies, so the latter half of the opener will rearrange abilities to keep optimal DPS while not wasting resources.

  • Peloton (Pre-pull)
  • Pot (-1.5s)
  • Stormbite
  • The Wanderer’s Minuet
  • Raging Strikes
  • Caustic Bite
  • Empyreal Arrow
  • Bloodletter
  • Burst Shot (or Refulgent Arrow)
  • Radiant Finale
  • Battle Voice
  • Burst Shot (or Refulgent Arrow)

If Straight Shot Ready doesn’t proc after step 12:

  • Barrage
  • Refulgent Arrow
  • Sidewinder
  • Burst Shot
  • Burst Shot (or Refulgent Arrow)
  • Burst Shot (or Refulgent Arrow)
  • Empyreal Arrow
  • Iron Jaws

If Straight Shot Ready procs after step 12:

  • Sidewinder
  • Refulgent Arrow
  • Barrage
  • Refulgent Arrow
  • Burst Shot
  • Burst Shot (or Refulgent Arrow)
  • Empyreal Arrow
  • Iron Jaws
Image via Fanbyte

You should use Pitch Perfect from The Wanderer’s Minuet at three stacks of Repertoire as often as you can, and use Bloodletter when available.

Understanding Bard’s songs and Song Gauge in FFXIV

Bards can play three songs with unique effects. These songs activate effects and other abilities for the player while giving buffs to the entire party for their duration. Each song changes the job gauge in unique ways. All three use Repertoire, a resource potentially earned with each tick while the song is active. You'll need to know how each works and which to prioritize if multiple songs are available.

Mage’s Ballad

Unlocked at level 30, Mage’s Ballad grants you and all nearby party members a one percent damage increase for 45 seconds. While there is no indicator for Repertoire for its Song Gauge, each resource gained shortens the recast timer for Bloodletter or Rain of Death by seven and a half seconds, allowing you to weave the ability into your rotation more often than normal.

Image via Square Enix

Army’s Paeon

Army's Paeon at level 40 grants a buff to the party, increasing direct hit rate by three percent. Its golden job gauge shows four musical notes, which indicate the total amount of Repertoire you can hold for this song's duration. Repertoire for Army's Paeon isn't an expendable resource, but each stack reduces the cast time and recast time of your abilities and your auto-attack delay.

Image via Square Enix

The Wanderer’s Minuet

When performed, The Wanderer's Minuet increases the party's critical hit rate by two percent and is the only song that gives access to a new ability. The attack Pitch Perfect is tied to The Wanderer's Minuet's Repertoire, first becoming available with one stack and increasing in potency as more are earned. Repertoire caps at three during this song, so don't hold on to the ability for too long, or you will waste potential damage. This song should be prioritized if available when beginning a single-target encounter.

Image via Square Enix

Soul Voice Gauge and Coda

At level 80, each time you gain Repertoire, a secondary gauge known as the Soul Voice Gauge is filled by five. When this gauge reaches 20, you can spend the Soul Voice Gauge on the GCD attack Apex Arrow. Apex Arrow will increase in potency the more the meter is filled, as the attack uses every bit of the resource available at the time. At level 86, if Apex Arrow is used when the gauge is at 80 or more, you can use the follow-up attack Blast Arrow to deal even more damage.

With each song played at level 90, Bards gain another resource, Coda, indicated on the right-hand side of the Job Gauge. One Coda is earned for each song, and they are used by the ability Radiant Finale. Radiant Finale increases damage dealt by the party, its effect increasing the more Coda you have.

Image via Square Enix

Bard food, pots, and gear - current for Patch 6.5

Even if you become a master at rotating your songs and managing the various abilities Bard offers, you’ll still need to keep yourself prepped with the best gear, high-quality food, and tinctures you can access. The best-in-slot (BiS) gear for Bards is a mixture of Ascension and Augmented Credendum gearsets earned by completing the latest Savage Raids. For details on each item and recommended melds, take a look at Etro.

As of Patch 6.4, Bards make the best use of Grade 8 Tinctures of Dexterity. When best to use a tincture is situational, but you can see the general recommendation in the job’s opener. Regarding food, if you’re still working on achieving the BiS gear, high-quality Baked Eggplant is your best bet. Once you’re geared up with the appropriate melds, however, Baba Ghanoush is an even better fit.

About the Author

Mills Webster

Mills is a freelance writer and lifelong fan of the Final Fantasy franchise. After playing Final Fantasy VIII for the first time in the distant year of 1999, he's enjoyed every game in the series since. He's played Final Fantasy XIV since 2016, clocking over 6,000 hours and earning his in-game mentor crown.