So, you’ve decided to become a tank. Whether this is the first time you’ve played an MMO, or you’re transitioning to the role after playing Final Fantasy XIV as a damage dealer or healer, we welcome you. It’s your turn to stand on the frontlines of every dungeon, trial, and raid, taking the biggest hits with only a few actions and your fellow healers to save you.
What follows is a full look at everything you need to know about tanking. We’ll talk about Enmity, pulling, mitigation, and even take a look at how the four tank role jobs in FFXIV differ from one another. Welcome to the school of hard knocks — you’re gonna take a lot of hits.
Choosing Your Tank
Your first step in becoming a tank is to actually pick one of the four Jobs within the tank role: Warrior, Paladin, Dark Knight, and Gunbreaker. All four are equally adept at taking hits and can head up any party, but they also all have their own slight niche. Warrior starts as a Marauder and Paladin starts as a Gladiator, and both evolve to their Job at level 30. Note that Dark Knight starts at level 30 and is available once you’ve made it to Heavensward, and Gunbreaker starts at level 60 and is available if you own the Shadowbringers expansion and have another Job at level 60.
Warrior: This meaty fighter wields a massive axe as it strides into battle. The Warrior has some of the best personal damage mitigation and self-healing actions while also dealing damned good damage themselves. Warrior is the more selfish tank though, with fewer tools to help the Light Party or Raid.
Paladin: In contrast, this sword-and-board soldier is more defensive than their fellow tanks. The Paladin has personal defensive tools but also brings some party-wide defense to the table. Add in the ability to heal and the strongest “oh shit” emergency mitigation tool — albeit on a long cooldown — and the Paladin comes out as a stalwart defender, even if their attacks aren’t as flashy and their rotations are pretty boring.
Dark Knight: The Dark Knight looks damned cool, but it’s one of the weirder tanks in terms of placement. Depending on the fight, they can surge ahead or fall behind their fellow counterparts. Core to their function is the ability called The Blackest Night; an excellent barrier that they can drop on themselves or another party member. For magic-heavy fights, Dark Knights have the best skillset around, but for more physical encounters, their tools are slightly lacking.
Gunbreaker: The newest tank to join FFXIV, the Gunbreaker focuses a little more on dealing damage. Their rotations are a bit more freeform than the rest, leaning on priority rather than linear sequences of abilities. The Gunbreaker has softer mitigation tools that are meant to be used more often and strong windows of burst damage. For the Gunbreaker, it’s all about surviving the fight and making sure the enemy dies quickly rather than standing toe-to-toe forever.
All four are good at tanking. While one may pull ahead in certain situations, you should make the choice based on your personal preferences in terms of playstyle and aesthetics. In terms of ease of play, Warrior and Paladin are probably in the top spot, followed by Dark Knight and then Gunbreaker. Again, the gulf between the four isn’t huge, but this might help you make your choice.
Enmity – Make Them Hate You
Once you’ve chosen your tank, you need to get familiar with the mechanics of the role. The first thing on your plate is Enmity. Also known as aggro, threat, or hate in some other MMOs, this is the amount of focus an enemy is paying towards you.
Every attack and heal causes some amount of Enmity for every enemy in combat. It’s a series of invisible meters related to each party member that’s specific for every enemy. Imagine a monster saying, “That healer just cast Cure III, so I hate them the most!” That’ll give you some idea of what’s going on. Enmity is calculated per action, based on the strength of that action and multiplied by any buffs or positive status effects. For healing actions, barriers, and buffs, the Enmity is spread out among the entire group of enemies. Some tank jobs actions also deal increased Enmity.
On the user interface (UI), there are a few ways to gauge your Enmity. In the default UI, in the top-left of the screen underneath the job icons for each party member, you’ll see a small white/blue bar. This is the enmity of your current target. If it’s full and reddish, then you have the max enmity from that target. If you’re not the tank, that’s bad. There’s also some text next to these meters: “A” means you’re the main target of the enemy, while the numbers represent enmity priority beyond that. Why “A” instead of “1”? Well, because you’ll occasionally have bosses that will choose a specific target for their attacks rather than whoever is on top of their Enmity list.
Underneath the party list is the enemy list, which also gives you a solid idea of the current Enmity situation. If the bubble next to an enemy’s name is red, they are attacking you. If it’s orange, they are about to focus on you because your Enmity is high. If it’s yellow, you’re rising up the Enmity ranks. If it’s green, you’re nowhere near being their most-hated target. As a tank, you want to live in the red.
Your job as the tank is to have the most Enmity on every enemy in combat so that they attack you and not the rest of the party. This used to be a bit harder in practice, but Square Enix has now made it quite easy. You just need to have your Tank Stance on. Every tank has its own Tank Stance action, which boosts the Enmity of every action a great deal. For each tank, this ability is:
- Paladin: Iron Will
- Warrior: Defiance
- Dark Knight: Grit
- Gunbreaker: Royal Guard
These actions are all toggles. Activate them once to turn on the buff, and activate it again to turn the buff off. If you’re tanking, leave it on. Generally, if you’re having trouble keeping enmity on enemies, you probably have your Tank Stance off.
Pulling – Bring Them to You
Being a tank is really about control. Getting the enemies to focus on you is about controlling the direction of their attacks so the DPS can focus on doing what they do. Pulling is the act of grabbing the Enmity of your chosen targets. This generally comes in three flavors, all of which I’ll talk about below.
The first is the ranged pull. This is using a ranged action to pull a specific enemy or a group of enemies towards you. Similar to the Tank Stance, every tank has a specific action that’s ranged and deals increased enmity.
- Paladin: Shield Lob
- Warrior: Tomahawk
- Dark Knight: Unmend
- Gunbreaker: Lightning Shot
I must stress that these actions are single-target. If a group of enemies aren’t linked (denoted by the curved lines stretching from enemy to enemy when you select them), using one of these actions will only pull a single enemy and only increase Enmity on that enemy. If you’re trying to pull an enemy from the pack, this is great. If you’re ranged pulling an entire group, you will need to follow-up immediately with an area-of-effect (AoE) attack in order to gain Enmity on the entire group.
Why would you want to do a ranged pull? Let’s say there’s a group of enemies and you need to thin the pack before fully engaging. Early floors of Palace of the Dead are a good example, where you’ll run into rooms full of unlinked enemies that you might not be able to survive pulling the entire room.
The technique here is to use your ranged pull action, and then line-of-sight the target. This is gaining Enmity on a target and then moving out of its line-of-sight — usually moving around a corner — so that it comes towards you. Why? Because certain enemies have ranged attacks that can only be cast if they see you. If you don’t line-of-sight them, then they’ll stay where they are, and you likely wanted a ranged pull to move them elsewhere.
This type of pull sees you and the party simply running into the group of enemies. In this case, you’ll run directly at the group, and then use one of your AoE actions. Every tank tends to have a set of two AoE attacks that combo, so use those. There are also other AoE attacks that can be used to gain Enmity on the entire group.
Here’s a list of AoE attacks available to each tank, including upcoming Endwalker actions:
- Paladin: Total Eclipse → Prominence, Circle of Scorn, Holy Circle, Confiteor → Blade of Faith → Blade of Truth → Blade of Valor, Expiacion.
- Warrior: Overpower → Mythril Tempest, Steel Cyclone/Decimate, Chaotic Cyclone, Orogeny, Primal Rend.
- Dark Knight: Unleash, Flood of Darkness/Edge of Darkness, Salted Earth/Salt and Darkness, Abyssal Drain, Quietus, Stalwart Soul, Shadowbringer.
- Gunbreaker: Demon Slice → Demon Slaughter, Bow Shock, Fated Circle, Double Down.
Once you’ve settled into your tanking groove, it’s time to look at the wall-to-wall pull. This is essentially pulling multiple groups of enemies before AoE-ing them to death as a group. The “wall-to-wall” in this case is, generally, the beginning of one section of a dungeon until the next boss room. WARNING: Before you decide to do this, please make sure you’ve talked to your healer and know they’re comfortable with your pulling speed.
This involves doing a standard pull but never stopping. Reach one group, hit your AoE attack, and keep moving until the next group. In fact, you might as well just AoE every time you have it available to make sure the enemies’ Enmity stays focused on you. Once you’ve reached the end of the sprint, you’ll want to keep AoE-ing and likely use some of your active mitigation actions to minimize the damage. More on active mitigation later.
Positioning is a key part of controlling enemies on the battlefield. I’ve already talked about pulling and line-of-sight, techniques that are there to move the enemies exactly where you want them.
Whether you use a ranged or standard pull, you need to position enemies correctly when it’s time to kill them. Correct positioning means aiming the enemy towards yourself and away from the rest of the party so they can stay relatively safe at the rear. Why? First, enemies and bosses aim their standard attacks in specific directions based on where they’re facing. You need to have them facing in a consistent direction so that your fellow party members know where to move in order to dodge certain attacks. As an example, certain enemies and bosses have frontal cone attacks called cleaves, which hit every party member in front of them. As a tank, you want to be the only member in front of the boss.
Second, a number of DPS jobs have positional attacks. Assorted Ninja and Monk attacks do more damage from the flank of an enemy, so you need to make it easy for them to deal their maximum damage. So, when you pull a group of enemies, your best bet is to walk directly through them. There’s no collision, so you don’t have to worry about running into them — you’ll just cruise right through. Then, they’ll all be facing towards you while the rest of the party remains where you started.
Confused about exactly where the enemy is facing because their face is a butt and vice versa? Look towards the targeting circle. The circle is more of an arc that is divided into four quadrants, with the rear section being missing. Opposite to the rear section is the cleave zone, where more cleave and cone attacks hit. Then, there is either flank, where the center of each is denoted by the smaller arrows on the targeting circle. Sometimes, there will be flank attacks, so be cognizant of that and have your target fully facing away from the rest of the party.
Mitigation – Talking Down the Damage
While you’ll be running dungeons, trials, and raids with a healer or two, you’ll want to lower the incoming damage as best you can. Each tank has a number of actions that are purely there to mitigate damage from enemies and bosses. These actions are there for when you know there are a lot of attacks heading your way.
One important type of incoming damage you need to be aware of is the Tankbuster. This is the colloquial term for very strong, single-target actions that exist to do massive damage to the tank. Tankbusters keep you on your toes, and many dungeon and raid bosses have one. If you see the Tankbuster being cast, you should use one of your mitigation abilities. Previously, you had to know the encounter in order to know what the Tankbuster was ahead of time, but it seems that Endwalker is introducing a more consistent way of indicating Tankbusters with a glowing red icon.
Not only are there Job-specific actions, but you’ll also find Role actions shared between all four tanks. We’re only going to talk about two of them in this section and detail the rest later. The first is Rampart, a role action gained at level eight. Rampart reduces damage taken by 20 percent with a 90-second cooldown. This is pretty good, as it’s just a flat damage reduction with no other caveats. It should go on your bar next to the Job actions below.
The second role action that’s important is Reprisal, which you’ll gain at level 22. It reduces damage dealt by nearby enemies by 10 percent for 10 seconds. This is more useful in wall-to-wall pulls and raids, where you can lower the incoming damage from a number of enemies or a boss.
Now, onto the mitigation actions for each class. The following list is in descending order of usefulness and strength.
Sheltron – Block incoming attacks for six seconds. This is Paladin’s standard mitigation action, lowering damage taken by 20 percent and costing 50 points from the Oath Gauge. Use it when you got it. With Endwalker, this will be upgraded to Holy Sheltron, which buffs you with Knight’s Resolve (a flat 15 percent damage reduction) and Knight’s Benediction (a heal-over-time for 12 seconds).
Rampart – Explained above.
Sentinel – Reduces damage taken by 30 percent. An upgraded, Paladin-specific version of Rampart with a flat damage reduction for 15 seconds.
Hallowed Ground – Renders you impervious to most attacks. Certain boss actions that are meant to be one-hit kills still work, but everything else? You’ll just shrug it off. 10-second duration, but a lengthy 420-second (seven minutes) cooldown. The cooldown is the real drawback compared to its fellow counterparts.
Divine Veil – Gives a barrier equal to 10 percent of your maximum HP to all party members within 15 yalms. The trick here is you have to activate Divine Veil and then be healed by yourself or a party member. This activation need is why this action is in a space by itself.
Clemency – A 1,200 potency heal. Heals you with 50 percent of the HP restored if used on a party member.
Raw Intuition – Reduces damage taken by 20 percent for six seconds. Pretty standard, but it’s notable that it shares a recast timer with Nascent Flash. This is changing in Endwalker, reducing damage taken by 10 percent and giving you healing with every weaponskill. It also becomes Bloodwhetting at level 82, adding the additional buffs Stem the Flow, which reduces damage taken by 10 percent for four seconds, and Stem the Tide, which creates a barrier around the Warrior that absorbs damage equivalent to a 400 potency heal for 30 seconds.
Rampart – Explained above.
Thrill of Battle – Increases maximum HP by 20 percent and restores health by the amount of the increase. Also increases HP recovery of your healing action by 20 percent for 10 seconds.
Nascent Flash – Absorbs damage dealt as HP for six seconds — meaning it’s a pretty meaty self-heal. With Endwalker, this will get the same attack-based healing effect as Raw Intuition. There’s also an upgraded version at level 82, offering the same buffs as Bloodwhetting.
Vengeance – Reduces damage taken by 30 percent and delivers an attack with a potency of 55 every time you suffer physical damage for 15 seconds.
Holmgang – Prevents most attacks from reducing your HP below 1 for eight seconds. Also chains your target in place.
Equilibrium – A straight 1,200 potency instant heal with a 60-second cooldown. Not really mitigation per se, but great for wiping away incoming damage.
Dark Missionary – Reduces magic damage taken by self and party members within 15 yalms by 10 percent for 15 seconds.
Dark Mind – Reduces magic vulnerability by 20 percent for 10 seconds. Similar to Paladin’s Sheltron or Warrior’s Raw Intuition, but only for magic damage. Quite situational.
Oblation – This action is being added in Endwalker. At level 82, it reduces damage taken by yourself or a party member for 10 seconds. The keen bit is that it has two charges.
Rampart – Explained above.
The Blackest Night – Grants a barrier around yourself or a friendly target totaling 25 percent of the target’s maximum HP. This barrier lasts seven seconds. If the barrier is consumed for its full amount within the duration, it gives the Dark Arts, which lets you use Edge of Shadow or Flood of Shadow without MP.
Shadow Wall – Reduces damage taken by 30 percent for 15 seconds.
Living Dead – Buffs you with the Living Dead buff for 10 seconds. If your health is reduced to 0 while under the effect of Living Dead, you get the Walking Dead buff. For 10 seconds, most attacks won’t lower your health below 1 HP. The drawback is you need to be healed to full health to wipe away Walking Dead. If you aren’t healed to full, you’ll be killed at the end of 10 seconds. Macro this so your healers know it’s coming.
Brutal Shell – This is base-level mitigation for the Gunbreaker. It hits you with a 200 potency heal and creates a 30-second barrier nullifying damage equal to the heal.
Heart of Light – Reduces magic damage taken by self and party members within 15 yalms for 15 seconds. Very situational.
Camouflage – Increases parry rate by 50 percent and reduces damage taken by 10 percent. 20-second duration.
Heart of Stone – Reduces damage taken by target by 15 percent for seven seconds. If you have the Brutal Shell buff active, you’ll pass that to your target. Generally, you’ll use Heart of Stone on yourself, but it’s not bad for party mitigation either. In Endwalker, this upgrades to Heart of Corundum at level 82. The new version now grants Clarity of Corundum, reducing damage taken by 15 percent, and Catharsis of Corundum, restoring HP when HP falls below 50 percent or after 10 seconds.
Nebula – Reduces damage taken by 30 percent for 15 seconds.
Superbolide – Renders you impervious to most attacks for eight seconds. (This has increased to 10 seconds in Endwalker.) The issue is that it also reduces your HP to 1. Unlike Dark Knight’s Living Dead, it won’t kill you, but you will need healing to survive once the buff wears off. Macro this so your healers know it’s coming.
Aurora – Grants a 200 potency regen over 18 seconds. An upgraded version in Endwalker gives you two charges of this skill.
It’s worth noting that every tank has a “Break Glass” action to prevent catastrophic damage. Hallowed Ground, Holmgang, Living Dead, and Superbolide should generally be saved for when all is lost. If things are going really bad, you might use a break glass action and targeted mitigation on your healer, keeping both of you alive in a clutch. You’ll learn the best use of these actions over time, but their cooldowns are fairly long.
Other Role Actions
Outside of Rampart, there are other role actions that are shared across all tanks. All of these abilities are useful in their own way, filling out the tanking tools available to you.
The first and most important of these is Provoke. Yes, your Tank Stance and basic attacks should be enough to keep enemies attached to you, but occasionally you’ll miss one or they’ll break off for another reason. Provoke is here to fix that. This action moves you to the top of your target’s Enmity list. As a follow-up, you will have to hit them with an attack or risk losing your position on the enmity list once again. Provoke is a ranged action, so you have space to use it without moving from your position.
Shirk is the opposite number of Provoke. When you pick a target party member and activate this action, 25 percent of your Enmity will be diverted to them. Why would you want to do this? The first reason is you’re off-tanking in a raid. You can send some of your enmity to the main tank, while still staying pretty high on the list due to your own Tank Stance.
The second reason is the Tank Swap. Some bosses have attacks that hit you with debuffs that can’t be removed by your healers. These debuffs can sometimes stack as well, and a tank can only have a certain number of stacks before they immediately die. The tank swap occurs when the main tank has the off-tank step up and become the main tank until the debuffs disappear.
How does this work? First, the off-tank uses Provoke to shoot to the top of the Enmity list and follows that with an attack. (Any hard-hitting or enmity-plus attack works.) At the same time, the main tank stops attacking for a moment, uses Shirk on the off-tank, and then begins attacking again.
The last three actions aren’t as key, but still useful. The first is Low Blow, which is a stun that lasts five seconds. Paladin has another stun with Shield Bash, but it’s a good standard ability for the rest. Then there’s Interject, an interrupt that prevents casting. This is quite useful. Melee DPS will usually take care of interrupts on bosses, but it’s good to have it around. Finally, there’s Arm’s Length, which creates a six-second barrier that nullifies most knockback and draw-in effects.
Knowing Is Half the Battle
While the tools and techniques above are useful for tanking, the most useful tool is knowing the fights ahead of time. Any time you head into a dungeon, trial, or raid, it’s best to know what you’ll encounter. This includes trash mobs on the way to the boss and the specific attacks and mechanics the boss is going to use against you.
You can find visual guides for most dungeons and raids on YouTube. MTQCapture and MrHappy are two of the better YouTube channels to go to for specific guides. Their videos are quick and to the point, and you get a good look at what you’re up against as well. Forewarned is forearmed.
Now, it’s up to you to head out into Eorzea and let monsters hit you. Hopefully, you’ll survive the encounter. Tanking is really about experience; with a few hours behind you, either your confidence will be solidified or you’ll know if tanking is really for you.