Giant hats, staves, and a whole lotta firepower — that is the calling of the Black Mage. If White Mages are the Final Fantasy series’ staple healer, Black Mages are absolutely the series staple damage dealer. Notorious for being glass cannons, Black Mages dole out a whole lot of hurt from a distance with every elemental affinity imaginable, and Final Fantasy XIV is no different. Black Mages enjoy superior ranged firepower at the expense of mobility and survivability. If you’re interested in learning all about how to play this Job, look no further — here’s our guide to Black Mage.
Editor’s note: This guide was written in conjunction with Fanbyte editor and FFXIV section head Michael Higham.
The Basics of FFXIV’s Black Mage
That bit up above about being a glass cannon is no joke — Black Mages have the lowest maximum health of any Job in the game and only really have one survival ability (with a pretty lengthy cooldown). What’s more important to understand is by nature of being a caster, finding time to stay in place to get spells off, while accounting for enemy AoE attacks, will be a constant challenge.
But fear not, Black Mage makes up for its drawbacks with impressive damage output and satisfying explosions. The general goal of playing Black Mage is to lay down DPS on your target better than any other Job in the game. This isn’t terribly difficult to achieve, but it’ll take some time to get the hang of it — Black Mages do have a number of tools at their disposal to, well, dispose of enemies.
Black Mage plays in a very particular manner, and its rotation relies on doing the right actions in the right phase, and fitting those actions in specific timing windows. It can be a lot to take in as a newcomer. But we’ll distill the key aspects of its skillset, how these actions work in harmony, and how to best wield them in battle. First, let’s take a look at the actions, shall we?
Black Mage Main Job Actions
Main Single-Target DPS Actions
- Fire: This is your main damage spell until level 60 (when you learn Fire IV). Has a 40% chance to grant the Firestarter proc, which would give you an MP-free instant-cast Fire III. It will also be key to maintaining Astral Fire before level 90, as you’ll see later.
- Fire III: The main purpose of this spell is to kickstart and/or convert to the full strength of the Astral Fire phase. It is MP-free to cast when under Umbral Ice, but it is not a spell to be spammed for damage purposes because of its MP cost while under Astral Fire.
- Fire IV: Upon reaching level 60, you will learn Fire IV, more commonly referred to as *explosion* for its beefy sound effect, animation, and damage potency. This is your core single-target damaging damage spell that you will be spamming often. It can only be executed while under the effect of Astral Fire.
- Blizzard: This spell is only really used to fill damage uptime while in Umbral Ice and waiting for MP to recover. It becomes obsolete when you learn Blizzard IV at level 58.
- Blizzard III: The main purpose of this spell is to kickstart and/or convert to the full effect of the Umbral Ice phase. It is MP-free to cast when under the effect of Astral Fire, but it should not be used for damage-dealing purposes. It is simply used to get into Umbral Ice and start regaining the MP you spent casting high-DPS Fire spells.
- Blizzard IV: This spell does a decent amount of damage, but its main purpose is to grant you three (3) Umbral Hearts (more on that later — just know that it’s important).
- Despair: This is a big nuke spell, dealing major damage. The catch is that it can only be used while under Astral Fire and uses up any remaining MP you have left. However, it refreshes your Astral Fire counter, giving you extra time to convert back to the Umbral Ice phase for MP regen.
- Scathe: This is a non-elemental, instant-cast spell that does minor damage. However, since Black Mages are not very mobile, this is a good spell to have handy when you need to move. Some damage is better than no damage!
Area-of-Effect (AoE) DPS Actions
- Blizzard II / High Blizzard II: This is the go-to spell for starting, or converting to, your Umbral Ice phase for situations against three (3) or more enemies.
- Freeze: This spell does decent damage but it’s main purpose is to grant you three (3) Umbral Hearts. It can only be cast while under the Umbral Ice phase. It’s essentially the AoE version of Blizzard IV.
- Fire II / High Fire II: In situations of three (3) or more enemies, this will be your go-to DPS spell. It starts and converts you to Astral Fire and should be cast while under Umbral Ice and after gaining three (3) Umbral Hearts.
- Flare: This is a big nuke spell for multiple targets, essentially the AoE equivalent of Despair. Should be used to close out an Astral Fire phase when dealing with mobs, though it does have a few unique quirks that let you squeeze out some extra DPS (more on that later).
Damage-over-Time (DoT) Actions
- Thunder / Thunder III: The element of Thunder encompasses your DoT spells. In general, you want to apply this as the fight begins, and reapply it as necessary so it never falls off. There is a 10% chance per tick of damage to “proc” Thundercloud — this makes Thunder instant-cast and inflict damage equal to the full DoT amount upon initial hit on top of the normal DoT effect. With Sharpcast, you can guarantee the Thundercloud proc in your rotations (more on that later).
- Thunder II / Thunder IV: These are AoE versions of your Thunder DoT. These are most effective when dealing with mobs of three or more. Generally, if there are two targets, it’s best to stick to single-target spells.
Conditional DPS Actions
- Xenoglossy: This is a huge nuke you learn at level 80 that does massive damage to a single target. It’s instant-cast, but it requires one count of Polyglot (more on this later).
- Foul: This is essentially the AoE version of Xenoglossy. It requires one count of Polyglot and does significant damage. You also learn it earlier at level 70.
- Paradox: This is another huge nuke spell and Black Mage’s final action learned at level 90. Paradox can only be executed after you swap to the opposite element while under full Astral Fire or Umbral Ice. You will see an red and blue diamond on your Job gauge to signify it’s ready. The original Fire and Blizzard actions will change to Paradox when this occurs. There are additional effects depending on which element you swap to and from. But generally, if you see this ability pop up, use it.
Critical Support Actions
- Manaward: Give yourself a shield worth 30% of your maximum HP. It’s an invaluable spell, as it is Black Mage’s self-mitigation tool.
- Manafont: Restores 30% of your maximum MP. This is useful for squeezing in a couple extra spells while under Astral Fire (after using Despair) before you swap to Umbral Ice.
- Aetherial Manipulation: Warp over to target party members’ location. Useful for repositioning, but be aware that you aren’t safe in mid-animation if the enemy finishes its cast at your previous location before you land.
- Ley Lines: Creates a circle on the ground that reduces cast time and recast time by 15% while standing inside of it. This is extremely useful when Triplecast is on cooldown.
- Between the Lines: Between the Lines gives you a one-time warp back to your Ley Lines if you were forced to move away from it. Ley Lines is effectively a major DPS increase, so use it whenever it’s safe — but always abandon it to dodge enemy AoEs. Your healers will thank you.
- Triplecast: Here’s a game-changer. This makes your next three spells instant-cast. You want to use this every cooldown to pump out DPS fast and efficiently. It’s best paired with Fire IV and / or Despair (more on this later).
- Sharpcast: Ensures that your next Thunder, Fire, Scathe or Paradox will always trigger its additional proc. Very useful when you want to squeeze some additional damage in. Most commonly used right before casting Thunder.
- Amplifier: This spell grants you a free count of Polyglot.
- Transpose: Immediately swap to the opposite element while under Umbral Ice or Astral Fire — resets the counter in the new phase, but only grants a single count for that element. It can be used in an emergency to make sure the counter doesn’t drop. There are also more advanced rotations that integrate Transpose.
Magic DPS Role Actions
- Swiftcast: This makes your next spellcast instant-cast. This is typically used to squeeze in an additional Fire IV during your Astral Fire window for extra damage.
- Addle: This should be used on cooldown to reduce enemy damage.
- Surecast: This prevents knockback and draw-in from certain enemy attacks and ensures your cast is not interrupted for 6 seconds. It’s primarily used in Savage raiding.
- Lucid Dreaming: Restores MP gradually over time — however, due to how Black Mage’s MP management is designed, it does not serve a practical purpose.
If you read through our explanations for the aforementioned spells, abilities, and actions, you may have noticed many “more on that later” addendums. That’s what we’re getting into next. We’ll go over the core gameplay mechanics of Black Mage like its Job gauge, the dynamic of Umbral Ice and Astral Fire, Enochian, Polyglot, and procs.
Understanding Astral Fire and Umbral Ice
Generally, when you cast a Fire or Blizzard spell, you go into what’s essentially a stance or phase — Astral Fire with Fire and Umbral Ice with Blizzard. Being under Astral Fire significantly boosts damage for Fire spells but also increases the MP cost of Fire spells — the challenge here is to manage your MP properly. On the other hand, being under Umbral Ice replenishes your MP quickly. The core gameplay loop of Black Mage is spending your MP casting as many Fire spells as possible, and then swapping to Umbral Ice with a Blizzard to refill your MP bar, then doing it all over again. Think of it as an infinite loop that you need to keep going.
Of course there are nuances to doing this properly. Particularly, Fire III and Blizzard III are your go-to spells for swapping or starting phases. While under the opposite elemental phase, these two spells cast faster, cost no MP, and convert you to the strongest version of their phase. You then follow this up by cramming in your high-damage spells before swapping phases. You’ll see this in more detail in our sections on Black Mage’s openers and rotations.
Each phase only lasts 15 seconds, but the timer can be refreshed by certain spells or after swapping elements. Not only is this crucial for keeping up DPS, but this ties into our next topic, Enochian, which requires you to continually maintain these phases without letting them drop.
Keeping Up With Enochian and Polyglot
Enochian is a passive trait obtained at level 56 that triggers every time you enter Astral Fire or Umbral Ice. It comes with a hefty magic damage bonus. But more importantly, it serves another purpose at level 70. For every 30 seconds you continuously maintain your phases, you gain one count of Polyglot. Polyglot are essentially tokens that let you use your most powerful spells: Xenoglossy and Foul. They are free and instant-cast, so using them is essential for your damage-dealing capabilities.
You should always be mindful of your Polyglot count and never overcap, otherwise you’ll waste precious DPS potential.
Understanding Umbral Hearts
At level 58, you gain the ability to accumulate Umbral Hearts by using the spells Blizzard IV or Freeze. You get three (3) Umbral Hearts after casting either spell. One (1) Umbral Heart is used up whenever you cast a Fire spell while under Astral Fire. Umbral Hearts negate the MP increase that comes with casting a Fire spell while in Astral Fire. It also cuts the MP cost of Flare, allowing you to fit two (2) Flare casts before having to swap back to an Umbral Ice phase (or use Manafont) — this is important for the AoE attack rotation, which is detailed further down this guide.
Programmed Random Occurrences (Procs) And You
Finally, we have procs (an action or effect that activates on a percentage chance). There are two that you need to worry about: Firestarter and Thundercloud. When these occur, you will see the affected action icons with a glowing dotted outline to indicate they’re ready.
Firestarter occurs with a 40% chance when you cast Fire I, and makes your next Fire III instant-cast and MP-free. This is important in the earlier levels when you’re relying on Fire I to lay down most of your damage. This can also help keep Astral Fire going in more advanced rotations, which you’ll see later in this guide.
Thundercloud is the more important proc, though. It occurs at a 10% chance with Thunder / Thunder III (single-target), and a 3% chance with Thunder II / Thunder IV (AoE). With Thundercloud, your next Thunder spell of any kind will be instant-cast and MP-free, and it’s initial hit will do damage equal to the full DoT damage on top of the DoT itself. You typically want to use Sharpcast before using a Thunder spell to guarantee the proc pops to use for your next Thunder (more on that in the next section).
There’s a third proc for Black Mages, and it’s for Scathe. You typically won’t need to think about this proc since this spell’s only use-case is for when you’re on the move. If the proc pops up, cool. If not, no worries.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of Black Mage, let’s get into the actual gameplay flow.
Black Mage Opener and Rotation (Level 90)
As with any DPS Job, there is an optimal sequence of actions to maximize damage output. Black Mages in particular need to adhere to some core principles — failure to maintain Astral Fire, Umbral Ice, and Enochian results in a severe DPS loss, and it can be hard to get back into rhythm.
Here, we’re going to walk through the foundational Black Mage opener at level 90. Although you’ll be juggling a few different actions, it’s pretty straightforward:
Sharpcast (pre-pull) -> Fire III -> Thunder III -> Triplecast -> Fire IV (x3) -> Swiftcast -> Fire IV -> Triplecast -> Despair -> Manafont -> Fire IV -> Despair -> Blizzard III -> Xenoglossy -> Paradox -> Blizzard IV -> Sharpcast -> Thunder III
This opener is a bit of a tight squeeze in terms of getting those Fire spells off before the Astral Fire window closes. But with practice, it’ll become natural. Since Despair refreshes the Astral Fire phase, you get extra time and an opportunity to use Manafont to restore enough MP to get off an extra Fire IV and Despair.
Going into the Umbral Ice phase with Blizzard III starts your MP regeneration and also gives you time to use Xenoglossy for high damage. Blizzard IV gets you Umbral Hearts, which is necessary to have longer and effective subsequent Astral Fire phases. And another Sharpcast-ed Thunder III will keep your DoT going for proper damage output.
Once you cast that second Thunder III, your rotation begins in earnest, and it’ll look something like this:
Fire III -> Fire IV (x3) -> Paradox -> Fire IV (x3) -> Despair -> Blizzard III -> Blizzard IV -> Sharpcast -> Thunder III -> Paradox -> Repeat
You should also slot Ley Lines in between the Triplecast-ed Fire IV spells to help get your follow-up spells off faster. And remember to Sharpcast before Thunder III spells to ensure you continuously get Thundercloud procs.
Always Triplecast before your Fire IVs when it’s available for the best burst of damage, and keep in mind that you can move during Triplecasts. Xenoglossy should be used whenever you have it, typically during Umbral Ice — but remember it can be used when you need to move. And be sure to use it before you overcap on Polyglot stacks.
(The fine folk at The Balance Discord helped me understand the intricacies of Black Mage for Endwalker and Patch 6.0 openers and rotations. If you’re interested in diving deep into Black Mage at an expert level, including variations on openers and rotations for certain situations, The Balance has number-crunchers and expert players who have created a wide range of resources. That extends to every Job, even Crafters and Gatherers.)
Black Mage AoE Rotation
When dealing with three or more enemies in a mob, your rotation will look considerably different (and much simpler). However, the same core principles still apply — managing Astral Fire, Umbral Ice, and Enochian. The Black Mage AoE rotation looks something like this:
Sharpcast (pre-pull) -> High Blizzard II -> Freeze -> Thunder IV -> High Fire II (x3) -> Flare (x2) -> Repeat (but be sure to use Foul when available)
As with the single-target rotation, using Sharpcast to make sure you get Thundercloud with every subsequent Thunder IV is important for DPS output.
Your opening High Blizzard II spell gets you into Umbral Ice, then Freeze gives you three (3) Umbral Hearts — these are paramount for your Fire spells. The first High Fire II swaps you to Astral Fire, then the next two will spend two Umbral Hearts. You should always leave the last Umbral Heart for Flare to cut the MP cost which will leave room for a second Flare before swapping back to the Umbral Ice phase. And with Foul being the big AoE spell from Polyglot stacks, be sure to use it when you can (typically during Umbral Ice).
This is essentially the Black Mage AoE rotation from level 58 onward. It doesn’t really change, except for when you learn Foul and get Polyglot at level 70. You learn Thunder IV at level 64, and High Fire II and High Blizzard II at level 82, but they all function the same as their predecessors.
You can use support actions like Triplecast, Swiftcast, and Manafont to either gain some mobility or squeeze out an extra Fire spell in an Astral Fire phase. But since you’re typically dealing with relatively easy mobs when running dungeons (or some raids), it might be best to hold onto those actions for boss fights.
Black Mage Rotation at Level 80
If you’re at level 80 or doing level-synced content, note that your opener and rotation is slightly different than above. However, core concepts are the same. Since you do not have access to Paradox yet, slotting in a Fire I in its place during Astral Fire will keep the phase rolling so you can squeeze out more Fire IV before exhausting MP with Despair. You may also get a Firestarter proc to get an instant-cast Fire III to use for the next elemental swap.
Black Mage Rotation at Level 70
Before reaching Level 80, your rotation still has the same philosophy. Since you won’t have Xenoglossy until level 80, you’ll have to settle for using Foul when you have a Polyglot stack.
You won’t get Despair until level 72, so if you’re doing level-synced content, you’ll have to account for that. While Despair lays heavy single-target damage, your option at this point is to also settle for its AoE counterpart, Flare. It functions the same by refreshing the Astral Fire and laying down good damage, but take note of its higher cast time if you’re hardcasting it.
Black Mage Rotation at Level 60
If you’re at level 60 or doing synced content at this level, things are quite different. You’ll have the perks of Enochian but no Polyglot. You can forget about Triplecast since you learn it at level 66, but at least you can still use Swiftcast.
What effectively happens is that your opener looks closer to your rotation since you’re not squeezing in instant-casts through Triplecast or managing Polyglot spells. So, at this level, you may want to opt for a Blizzard III opener — this way, you can make use of Umbral Ice and Umbral Hearts to create a nice, meaty Astral Fire phase. Your opener will look something like this.
Sharpcast (pre-pull) -> Blizzard III -> Thunder III -> Blizzard IV -> Fire III -> Swiftcast -> Fire IV (x4) -> Fire I -> Fire IV (x2) -> Flare -> Manafont -> Fire IV -> Flare
Wherever you place Swiftcast in this opener is up to you, and you may want to save it for mobility purposes. But as long as you get out seven (7) Fire IV casts in total, you’re good.
The key principle is that Manafont affords you an extra Fire IV and Flare; Swiftcast and Ley Lines help speed everything else up, but don’t necessarily change the windows of opportunity to fit spells in.
With utility on cooldown, you’ll have to make a few adjustments; in that case, your rotation will look something like this.
Blizzard III -> (Sharpcast) Thunder III -> Blizzard IV -> Fire III -> Fire IV (x3) -> Fire I -> Fire IV (x3) -> Flare -> Repeat
It’s pretty straightforward, especially once you get the hang of managing your Astral Fire phase and understanding MP management. Of course, the challenge will always be figuring out how to avoid enemy AoEs while staying in place to get your spells off in time.
General Best Practices
So you have your opener and rotation down and you’re familiar with your skillset — here are some best practices to follow so you can play Black Mage more effectively. Remember that you are a caster, and a squishy one at that. You should be at range whenever possible to give yourself the time to finish your long casts. Stand in your Ley Lines whenever possible, but never at the cost of taking a hit. Make good use of your Aetherial Manipulation to zip out of danger, and don’t be afraid to pop Manaward when you feel you’re about to die.
Unlike melee Jobs, who can play DDR on their movement keys all day, you have to stand still to squeeze out the best damage. Make as little movement as possible — move out of danger, but only just slightly so you can go back to casting. Get used to “slidecasting” — when a cast is 90% complete, you can input a movement command without breaking the cast. Use this to scoot around the arena as necessary.
Once you understand how Black Mage’s mechanics function, you can start playing around with where you place certain spells. It’s all about maintaining the continuous loop of Astral Fire and Umbral Ice phases, making sure they don’t drop off while fitting in as many hard-hitting spells as your utility and MP allows.
We have a few things that can help you when playing Black Mage, which we may have not mentioned yet.
- During downtime, you can use Transpose to keep your phases and Enochian timer running. Transpose is a utility action that swaps your elemental phase to the opposite and resets the counter.
- If you have trouble reading boss mechanics and avoiding AoEs, you can keep Aetherial Manipulation handy to quickly move over to a fellow party member.
- Amplifier is a good skill to weave into your rotation when there’s room to do so. Giving you a free Polyglot stack to cast an extra Xenoglossy is huge.
- Because of the way cast times and GCD counters work, weaving is a bit trickier. That said, think of weaving opportunities after an instant cast spell or a fast-cast (such as Blizzard III when swapping to Umbral Ice in the rotation). This way you can use actions like Sharpcast, Manafont, Amplifier or Ley Lines without losing uptime on your main spells. Don’t worry too much about getting this right if you’re still learning the ropes of Black Mage, but making it a habit will make you more efficient as you get better.
- Think of ways to adapt to a fight’s mechanics if they interrupt your typical attack rotation. This will feel more natural as you get familiar with Black Mage mechanics. Consider instant-cast spells as opportunities to move if you need to (Triplecast-ed Fire IV, a Swiftcast spell, Xenoglossy/Foul, or a Thundercloud/Firestarter proc).
As with any caster Job, remember your ABC’s: Always Be Casting. If you mess up your MP management for whatever reason and don’t have the MP to cast another Fire spell, immediately hit Blizzard III and start your Umbral Ice cycle. Any damage is better than just sitting there trying to remember the next step in a rotation. You won’t break any records, but you will still be contributing to your party.
Black Mage Stat Priorities, Materia, Food, and Potions
Stat priorities and Materia melding only really matter in the endgame. This will help maximize your potential when running raids and Extreme trials. For Black Mage in particular, you’ll want to make sure you have Spell Speed up to a certain point. Right now, it’s suggested to have upwards of around 1300 in Spell Speed, then fully emphasizing Critical Hit because of how it scales for DPS gains. Determination and Direct Hit can be boosted if you have no other choice with your gear and Materia melds.
When it comes to food for Black Mage, make sure you have Pumpkin Potage (HQ) or Thavnairian Chai (HQ) on hand. Either one is a solid choice, but Thavnairian Chain in particular gives a better boost to Critical Hit while also providing a boost to Spell Speed. Pumpkin Potage emphasizes Determination and Critical Hit. It’ll depend on which stats you focus on with your endgame build.
When it comes to potions, the Grade 6 Tincture of Intelligence is the only one you’ll need since this boosts Intelligence, the main stat that affects magic damage.
Good Luck With Your Pointy Hats and Staves
That’s a wrap on Black Mage. Enjoy raining hellfire down on the various monsters you’ll encounter in FFXIV. Feel free to let us know if you have any questions. If you’re interested in learning a new Job, why not check out any of our other Job guides on The Linkshell!