There’s something magical in the myth of the Paladin as a massive, armored holy warrior who strides onto the battlefield, defending and healing their allies. There’s a reason the Paladin tends to exist in some form in nearly every MMORPG; it’s just cool to be one.
In Final Fantasy XIV, the Paladin (PLD) is the most defensive of the four tanks. You won’t self-heal as much as the Warrior or deal as much damage as the Dark Knight or Gunbreaker. As Paladin, what you will do is survive — and likely have an easier time doing it. Your overall mechanics and rotations are pretty easy to pick up. If White Mage is the “standard” healer, then Paladin is your “standard” tank.
So, let’s dive into everything you need to know about Paladin.
Kneel Before My Authority – Main Attack Rotations
We’re going to start with your base rotation and its various permutations as you level up from Gladiator to Paladin and beyond.
Base Combo: Fast Blade (Lvl. 1) → Riot Blade (Lvl. 4) → Royal Authority (Lvl. 60).
Most base combos in FFXIV are one-two-three affairs. Fast Blade is your very first action as a Gladiator, and Riot Blade comes quickly after. You have to live with comboing these two actions together until level 26, when you gain Rage of Halone. This combo just does damage. That’s it. At level 60, Rage of Halone becomes Royal Authority, and that’ll be your base combo forever. Royal Authority adds some flavor to the combo by doing more than just damage. You’ll get three stacks of Sword Oath, a buff that lets you use another action you gain at level 76, Atonement. More on that later.
Damage-Over-Time Combo: Fast Blade (Lvl. 1) → Riot Blade (Lvl. 4) → Goring Blade (Lvl. 54).
The first part of this looks familiar, right? What changes is Goring Blade as the third leg of the combo. Goring Blade puts a damage-over-time (DoT) debuff on your target that ticks for 85 potency over 21 seconds. Oddly enough, you want to start any single-target encounter with this combo to put the DoT on your target. Then, you move to your base combo. Effectively, your single-target rotation is your Damage-Over-Time Combo and Base Combo, alternating back-to-back.
Prior to starting these combos, you’ll want to use Fight or Flight. This action, which you gain at level 2, is a 25 second buff that increases your physical damage by 25%. This makes every hit of the combo and the Goring Blade DoT hit harder. Harder is good!
Area-Of-Effect Combo: Total Eclipse (Lvl. 6) → Prominence (Lvl. 40).
Until you reach level 40, you only have one area-of-effect (AoE) action. At level 40, you gain Prominence, which combos off Total Eclipse for more damage. If you’re tanking in dungeons, this is how you’ll grab multiple enemies at once and keep them focused on you before switching to your single-target rotations to prioritize a certain target.
Spell Combo: Requiescat (Lvl. 68) → Holy Spirit (Lvl. 64) x 4 → Confiteor (Lvl. 80).
While the other combos in the Paladin arsenal do physical damage, this does unaspected magical damage. What’s key here is the Requiescat buff, which works as a combo starter like Fight or Flight for your physical combos, but is required here. See, the Requiescat buff increases the potency of your attack magic and healing magic, and makes your spells instant-cast for 12 seconds.
Within this 12-second window, you can cast Holy Spirit four times and cast Confiteor once, which ends the Requiescat buff and does a ton of damage. Without the instant-cast effect from the buff, Holy Spirit has a 1.5 second cast time, making it a poor use of your time. The spell combo is about maximizing the effects of Requiescat to deal as much magic damage as possible. If you’re dealing with multiple targets, you can switch Holy Spirit with Holy Circle (Lvl. 72). The latter works like a weaker version of Holy Spirit that hits multiple targets.
For single-target encounters, you’ll use Fight or Flight, then your DoT Combo, then your Base Combo. Once you use Royal Authority, that will give you three stacks of the Sword Oath buff, allowing you to use Atonement three times in a row. Then, you’ll move back to the DoT Combo to get the last little bit of the Fight or Flight damage buff. (This step is somewhat optional depending on the encounter.) After that, you’ll use the Spell Combo once, and then come back to the very beginning.
For multi-target scenarios, you can use Fight or Flight, your AoE Combo, and then the Spell Combo with Holy Circle.
With the launch of Endwalker, Requiescat is becoming a stack buff instead of a timed one. Post-expansion, when you use Requiescat, you’re given five stacks of a buff that increases magic damage by 100% and makes your spells instant-cast. The stacks last for 30 seconds, and every time you use a spell, it consumes a stack. This gives you more time to cast Holy Spirit multiple times rather than rushing through the 12 seconds.
Confiteor at the end of the Spell Combo also becomes a combo in and of itself. Use Confiteor, which turns into Blade of Faith, then Blade of Truth, and finally Blade of Valor. It’s all the same button, just adding more damage onto the end of the Spell Combo.
Gauge the Situation – The Oath Gauge
The Paladin’s Job Gauge is one of the simplest within all of FFXIV. The Oath Gauge stretches from 0 to 100 points. You begin with 0 points and every auto-attack you land adds 5 points to the Oath Gauge. You spend these points on three actions, all of which are defensive.
Sheltron (Lvl. 35) is your bread-and-butter mitigation ability. When used, it consumes 50 points on the Oath Gauge to block incoming attacks for six seconds. This is a damage reduction of around 20%, so you want to always be using it while you’re tanking. You might as well use it while playing solo to keep damage down, since you don’t have much else to spend Oath Gauge on.
Cover (Lvl. 45) redirects all damage aimed at another party member to yourself for 12 seconds. It’s got a range of only 10 yalms, but if you see your healer or another tank is about to take some serious damage, you can redirect it to yourself. Situational. Intervention (Lvl. 62) reduces a party member’s damage taken by a flat 10 percent for six seconds. If you have Rampart (Lvl. 8) or Sentinel (Lvl. 38) active on yourself, 50 percent of those damage reduction buff effects are added to Intervention. It’s another situational thing that allows you to soften the incoming damage on another player. If you’re off-tanking, it’s also helpful to use this on the main tank.
Other Actions in Your Arsenal
There are other tools that are used situationally or that can fit within your general rotation as needed. The first set of these tools are damaging abilities that are off the global cooldown —meaning you can use them as needed. Their use is not as rigid as your rotations, so the following examples are simply guidelines, not rules.
Circle of Scorn (Lvl. 50) is an AoE attack that also adds a DoT debuff to each enemy it hits. You should use it whenever it’s up. Generally, you’ll start just prior to hitting Fight or Flight and doing your standard rotations, and then use it again whenever it’s off cooldown. Spirits Within (Lvl. 30) is a single-target attack that also restores MP. A good spot for this in your rotation is before your Atonement spam and after using your Spell Combo.
Intervene (Lvl. 74) is your gap closer, shooting you forward 15 yalms and dealing damage. You have two charges, and it’s good to have one available to get back in the fight after dodging an enemy’s mechanics. That said, if you don’t need to close the gap, it’s also free damage off the global cooldown.
There are other situational actions that aren’t necessarily focused on attacking. Shield Bash is your Stun as a Paladin/Gladiator, and a good way to keep an enemy out of action for a bit. The Tank role action Low Blow (Lvl. 12) also Stuns targets.
Until you get Intervene, Shield Lob (Lvl. 15) is absolutely your best tool to pull targets from range. This allows you to pick a target, hit them with your shield, and then pull them into a more advantageous position. Shield Lob has additional enmity, so it’s likely to pull targets towards you even without your Tank Stance on. Clemency (Lvl. 58) is your primary heal as a Paladin. If you use it on another party member, it restores 50% of the amount healed to you. It’s also a very expensive spell in terms of MP, with a fairly long cast time. It’s decent for a clutch-heal in a bad situation, but you shouldn’t rely on it.
General Best Practices
As a tank, your job is to defend. This section covers the myriad available tools that are focused purely on the task of defending yourself and your party. First up, we’ll have our actions that focus on enmity, as controlling the enemies or bosses you run into in dungeons and raids is a key component of tanking.
Iron Will (Lvl. 10) is your Tank Stance. Activating it will turn on a permanent buff, which will only end up using the ability again. When Iron Will is up, all your attacks generate a ton of enmity — meaning most enemies you hit will be focused on you and not your party. If you’re tanking, this should always be on. If you notice enemies you’ve attacked are focusing on healers or DPS, you probably don’t have Iron Will on. Note: Fate Syncing actually turns this off automatically, so don’t forget to turn it back on.
If you find for whatever reason that you don’t have enmity on a target, you can use Provoke (Lvl. 15), which will make it focus on you specifically. This puts you at the top of the target’s enmity list, so you will have to use follow-up attacks to keep your hold on the target. Shirk (Lvl. 48) diverts 25 percent of your generated enmity to a target party member. This ability is meant to be used if you are an off-tank or during a tank swap, where one tank has to take over the main tanking duties for a limited time.
Then, we have the tanking actions meant to help you defend your party. These actions will reduce damage for those around you while sometimes benefiting you, as well.
Reprisal (Lvl. 22) reduces damage dealt by enemies within five yalms by 10 percent for 10 seconds, giving you a small amount of party mitigation. We mentioned Cover (Lvl. 45) and Intervention (Lvl. 62) above in the Oath Gauge section, but we’re adding them here again.
Divine Veil (Lvl. 56) is a weird action in that it doesn’t really do anything unless something else happens to you. It gives you a buff that waits for a global cooldown healing effect. When you’re healed, the buff is removed and a barrier is placed on you and all party members within 15 yalms. The barrier is equal to 10 percent of your maximum HP — given that you’re a tank, that’s a hefty amount to everyone. It’s very good if you’re the main tank and you know healing is incoming.
At level 70, the Passage of Arms action feeds into the myth of the Paladin as the bulwark standing in front of others. It increases your block rate to 100 percent and makes all party members in a cone behind you take only 85 percent of all damage inflicted for 18 seconds. As long as your party is behind you, it’s a great way to minimize damage. One issue, though, is that it’s a channeled action, so you can’t move once you start it or the effect is canceled.
You can’t protect others and keep enemies whaling on you if you’re dead. Beyond here are the actions you should use when there’s a Tankbuster, a heavy-hitting attack that’s meant to keep you and your healers on your toes. Note: these have longer recast timers, as most Tankbusters are timed, so you’ll have to cycle through them.
We listed Sheltron above and we’ll list it here again! This is your primary damage mitigation, so you should be using it as your Oath Gauge allows. Rampart, which reduces damage taken by 20 percent for 20 seconds, is actually a Tank Role Action, so every tank has this. Sentinel works exactly the same as Rampart but with a stronger effect. It reduces damage taken by 30 percent for 15 seconds.
Hallowed Ground (Lvl. 50) is the biggest button you can press as a Paladin since it negates all damage for 10 seconds. There are certain boss attacks that are instant kills no matter what; but for everything else, you’re straight up invincible for 10 seconds. And, unlike with our other fellow tanks, there are no additional quirks to worry about outside of a longer recast timer. You just straight-shrug the damage off. No harm, no foul.
Paladin Stat Priorities
To be absolutely honest, unless you’re clearing the highest level content, including Extreme or Ultimate trials or progressing through new raids, the stat performances aren’t really that important. But if you’re down here, that’s because you want to optimize your play, right?
Your general order of priority should be:
Critical Hit > Direct Hit > Determination > Tenacity.
The item level of your gear is the most important thing you need to worry about! You always want the strongest gear for your level. Not only will this give you the general stats you need to succeed, but it will also let you access certain content that is locked to ilvl.
Strength and Vitality are important, but most of that will simply come from your gear as you level up and defeat new challenges. Strength increases your physical damage, while Vitality increases your maximum HP. You don’t need to add more through materia melding. Skill Speed is also not on the list because it’s very specific: you need enough to get you to a comfortable global cooldown. This is somewhere between 2.43 and 2.4, at which point you get a little room to breathe and can ignore Skill Speed.
Capping out Critical Hit via melding should be your first focus. This increases the damage done when you land a critical hit; it also increases the chance of that happening. You’ll want to follow that up with Direct Hit. This increases the chance of your attacks being direct hits, which do slightly more damage than a standard hit. These are both damage-centric stats because, again, your main tank stats of Strength and Vitality are taken care of via your gear.
Determination is another offensive stat, but it’s not as important as the other two. It changes the amount of damage dealt by physical and magic attacks, but it’s sort of the odd man out in terms of overall usefulness. Finally, there’s Tenacity, which affects how much physical and magical damage you take. You’d think this would matter, but in actuality, it does not because your primary stats from gear make you hearty enough.
The best food and potions to use change with the tides (i.e. new recipes with each patch and what you can afford from the market board or make yourself). But generally, focus on Strength, Vitality, and that all-important Critical Hit. This made Smoked Chicken the go-to meal by the end of Shadowbringers.
Don’t let the other cool tanks sway you. The Gunbreaker, Dark Knight, and Warrior may walk on the battlefield with that edgy swagger, but no one can stand up to the calm, stoic presence of the Paladin. As a Paladin, you can handle just about anything just fine, even if there’s a rigid set of rules to most of your play.
Paladin is absolutely the standard, straightforward tank of the bunch. If you’re just beginning your tanking journey, I’d start here. And, even once you become a veteran, the Paladin will not let you down. Shrugging off any attack with Hallowed Ground, and not having to worry about an incoming heal to top you off like Dark Knight or Gunbreaker, will never stop feeling like the greatest thing in the world. And, unlike the rest, Paladin has the most abilities that help the party, not just themselves.
When everyone else has fallen, Paladin will still be standing.