FFXIV: Endwalker gives Dark Knight a few new toys. With emphasis on “a few.” The first expansion tank was the poster child for the previous FFXIV expansion, Shadowbringers. Perhaps Square Enix saw fit to let the edgiest class rest this time around. Whatever the case, returning DRK players will know the score — basically only needing to add one truly new skill into their regular rotations. Let’s take a look at the specifics, though, in our FFXIV Dark Knight guide!
Note: Our FFXIV Job guides for Endwalker are based on our preview time with the new expansion. As such, we might make minor changes after the full release, based on new information or changes to the live game with Patch 6.0. Meanwhile, if you’re purely interested in Endwalker Job changes, we have a feature detailing all new tank abilities and reworks here!
Keeping Your Edgelord Edgy (with Darkside) – Main Attack Rotations
Dark Knight has one of the simplest battle rotations of all the tanks.
Base Combo: Hard Slash (Lvl. 1) → Siphon Strike (Lvl. 2) → Souleater (Lvl. 26).
Like other melee combinations in the game, the second and third blows do more damage if you perform the three-hit punch in order. However, Siphon Strike also restores mana, while Souleater restores HP and eventually fills the “Blood Gauge” with 20 points of Blackblood per hit. The vampiric third attack is obviously good on a class meant to soak up damage. But you’ll probably be much more consciously aware of Siphon Strike. Mana is a friend to the Dark Knight which, despite being a meathead, absolutely chews through the pink stuff if you’re not careful.
The main drains are Edge of Darkness (Lvl. 40) and Flood of Darkness (Lvl. 30), which upgrade to Edge of Shadow and Flood of Shadow at Level 74. Each is a potent off-global cooldown (oGCD) nuke — meaning you can use them pretty much whenever you want, even after a normal weaponskill, so long as you can pay their hefty mana costs. Doing so provides a 30-second buff called “Darkside,” the timer for which is indicated on your Darkside Gauge. This is less of an actual gauge and more of a fancy timer that shows how many seconds your Darkside buff has left.
Darkside increases the damage you deal from all sources by 10%. This, and the nearly instant cooldown on Flood of Shadow/Edge of Shadow, means every Dark Knight should have the Darkside buff active at all times (hence the need to manage your mana to make sure the skills are available). The buff lasts up to 60 seconds, but time is rarely an issue. You want to use Edge/Flood any time your mana gets too close to capping. That provides the extra nukes from the skills’ innate damage — not just a buff to refill the timer when it’s about to run out.
Edge of Shadow is more powerful but only hits one target. Flood of Shadow is the area-of-effect (AoE) version — launching a forward blast of energy that triggers Darkside and damages enemies in a line. In other words: you’ll nearly always use Edge of Shadow on bosses and stragglers; Flood of Shadow is for two or more enemies at once.
Open Yourself to the Darkness (with a Good Opener)
You nearly always start with Unmend (Lvl. 15). This is the Dark Knight’s ranged “attention-grabber,” used to draw targets close to the party when tanking. You also spam it as your only real ranged attack when standing outside of AoE attacks or doing mechanics that require you to move away from a boss. At level 84, the trait Enhanced Unmend makes this skill reduce the cooldown time for Plunge (Lvl. 54), which you can use to get back at the boss or use for oGCD damage.
After that, you should usually strive to activate Edge of Shadow or Flood of Shadow before doing anything else. Treat yourself to that 10% damage boost! Once that’s in place, you can start following up with longer cooldown skills to get them, well, cooling down. The sooner you use any skill that takes time to recharge, the sooner you can use it again.
The rub, of course, is that this applies to GCD weaponskills, as well. And certain big Dark Knight skills lose effectiveness if you use them too early (just like on most Jobs). Carve and Spit (Lvl. 60), for instance, recharges mana while dealing damage. That makes using it a waste to burn before you drain any MP (i.e. usually before using Edge/Flood twice in short order).
One opener option is: Unmend to draw aggro → Blood Weapon (Lvl. 35) to start generating Blackblood on every hit → Hard Slash to get the GCD already ticking away while you cast your next oGCD → Edge of Shadow/Flood of Shadow for the Darkside buff → and Siphon Strike to combo off Hard Slash as your next GCD. The goal here is to have both Blood Weapon and Darkside ready before your next big move. At high-level play, that move would be to pop a strength potion (for damage) or a vitality potion (for extra HP).
Most of the time, you can just follow up with Souleater. This guarantees you 50 Blackblood almost immediately. At this point, you can either burn the Blackblood with Living Shadow (Lvl. 80), which is essentially a powerful damage-over-time spell, or use another Edge/Flood before starting Delirium (Lvl. 68). Delirium is a buff that lets you spam Bloodspiller (Lvl. 62) against single targets or Quietus (Lvl. 64) against groups. These are your big nukes. Normally they cost 50 Blackblood per use. That fee is waived while you’re under the effect of Delirium.
Shadowbringers allowed you to cast Bloodspiller/Quietus as much as you wanted during a 10-second window (which added up to about five times). Unfortunately, Endwalker only allows a maximum of three such attacks during a more generous 30-second window.
Since Bloodspiller and Quietus are GCD skills, you still want to cast oGCD abilities while they cool down. This sort of “weaving” is paramount to FFXIV combat. It’s the backbone of the community’s common damage-dealing philosophy: ABC — otherwise known as “Always Be Casting.” Once you trigger a GCD (like Hard Slash), you have time to activate an oGCD (like Edge of Shadow) before the timer allows you to hit the next GCD (such as Siphon Strike). This is how you maximize your damage output without interrupting combos.
You can find a glossary of terms like weaving and such in our FFXIV glossary!
Gauge the Situation – The Blood and Darkside Gauges
oGCD attacks to weave around the basic Dark Knight combo include the same gap-closer all tanks receive (here called Plunge) as well as Carve and Spit, Salted Earth (Lvl. 52), Abyssal Drain (Lvl. 56), Living Shadow, and the Endwalker skill just called Shadowbringer (Lvl. 90). Living Shadow is extremely powerful and the only oGCD that costs Blackblood, so you may want to cast it as soon as you hit 50 on the Blood Gauge after your opener. That way, it’s cooling down and ready to fire again as quickly as possible.
The same is true of Shadowbringer, which is another forward-facing AoE like Flood of Shadow. It doesn’t cost blood, but does have two charges — meaning you can use it very early in your rotations (after activating Darkside) and start letting the next charge accrue. In practice, however, the specific order you cast your oGCD skills on Dark Knight doesn’t matter… too much. Not as long as you consistently hit your global cooldown skills the instant they’re ready to use (in the usual Hard Slash → Siphon Strike → Souleater combo).
Put another way: the proper order is pretty obvious as long as you consider your Darkside, Blackblood, and mana. You never want to gain more mana or Blackblood than you can hold, an issue known as overcapping. That’s a waste of resources, which is a waste of time, which is a waste of damage!
Dark Knight regains 100 mana passively with every “tick” of the in-game clock. They then regain another 600 per Siphon Strike (assuming you comboed off of Hard Slash) and Carve and Spit. If you’re about to hit your mana cap anyway, you should use Edge of Shadow or Flood of Shadow. The same goes if you’re at 80-90 Blackblood and about to receive more than your gauge of 100 can hold; use Living Shadow, Bloodspiller, or Quietus before that point.
The opposite is true if your mana gets low. Then, it’s time to prioritize Carve and Spit and/or Delirium. The latter skill causes your three “free” uses of Bloodspiller and Quietus to recharge mana — just like Siphon Strike and Carve and Spit. If you want to use any of these skills purely for their damage, but have too much mana, sneak in an extra Edge of Shadow for bonus damage and to intentionally consume MP! It’s just a game of pushing and pulling against your own resources to make sure every following move provides the maximum benefit.
Blacker Than the Night (with The Blackest Night)
Speaking of mana: you can tell your mana is getting low when it approaches the 3,000 mark. Every Dark Knight skill that requires mana takes that much to ask, including The Blackest Night (Lvl. 70). Ignore all those damage skills above for a moment because this is, for many players, the reason to play Dark Knight over other tanks. It’s a tremendously useful skill that lets you double as a bit of a preemptive healer while dealing damage. When cast, The Blackest Night surrounds a friendly target with a barrier for seven seconds. The barrier has 25 percent of that player’s health (making it less potent on squishier allies). But you want the barrier to break.
If it gets destroyed by damage before its seven-second lifespan is up, you receive a yellow marker on your Darkside gauge known as “Dark Arts.” Don’t bother memorizing the name. Dark Arts is basically a yellow token that appears on your Darkside Gauge, which you can cash in for one mana-free use of Flood of Shadow or Edge of Shadow. The two skills will even glow yellow to indicate you can cast them for free.
This is, naturally, great for tanks. It lets you eat more damage, potentially save a precious ally, or help your teammates by shielding the main tank (if you have multiple tanks and aren’t the one drawing aggro). Then, you get the damage and Darkside buff from your next Edge/Flood — all for the same mana cost as just one skill. Many players even open with The Blackest Night before using Unmend to draw aggro.
Personally, I like to hold onto The Blackest Night until I know it’s going to “pop.” It’s a lot of mana to use for just the barrier portion (especially if you don’t even need the entire barrier). And seven seconds is a very short window. There’s a solid chance Dark Arts won’t activate if you just cast the shield willy-nilly. Finally, with a 15-second cooldown, you risk not being able to use The Blackest Night when you do absolutely want it. It’s better to simply know a boss’ patterns and attack names, and save the skill for when it’s guaranteed to deal a lot of damage.
Salt the Earth (with Salted Earth and Other AoE Skills)
Things don’t look much different when you deal AoE attacks. One of the only major changes to Dark Knight with Endwalker is Salt and Darkness (Lvl. 86): a follow-up action to Salted Earth that makes Salted Earth… saltier. The skills basically leave a bubble on the ground that deals damage over time to any foes standing inside.
Abyssal Drain is your other oGCD AoE (damn that’s a mouthful). It fires a big, flashy orb of damage that explodes over enemies and heals you in return. Since it’s not on the global cooldown, however, you can also use it on single targets like bosses between your regular combo. The same goes for Salted Earth, for that matter.
Your two-hit AoE combo that is on the global cooldown goes like this:
Unleash (Lvl. 6) → Stalwart Soul (Lvl. 72).
That’s it. Both skills deal damage to enemies around you, while Stalwart Soul further generates 20 Blackblood per hit. It’s like a two-hit version of your single-target combo, without the healing or mana generation. Speaking of things that are like other things: this AoE combo functions just like most radial tank attacks. It’s mathematically better to use instead of the single-target combo when there are three or more enemies nearby. At which point it basically just replaces your Hard Slash → Siphon Strike → Souleater combo until you’re only fighting one or two enemies. Nothing else changes!
The same goes for Quietus; use it against groups of three or more instead of Bloodspiller when you need to expend Blackblood, or during Delirium.
Meanwhile, Edge of Shadow and Flood of Shadow are somewhat unique. Flood of Shadow is mathematically superior against just two foes or more. It’s not a huge difference, but it’s something to be aware of.
General Best Practices
The Dark Knight is a prime choice for the “off-tank” role (a.k.a. the tank that doesn’t attract the boss, instead focusing on other mechanics like additional enemies). Beyond Darkside and The Blackest Night, Dark Knight obeys most of the same laws as all tanks. Your “enmity generator” is a skill called Grit (Lvl. 10). This just toggles a passive that makes you more or less attractive to enemies. The Blackest Night lets you shield your fellow hurt-sponges from big tankbusting attacks at a distance.
Your invincibility move, Living Dead (Lvl. 50), is fussy and weird. Healers don’t always like to deal with its odd restriction of only preventing your K.O. if you get healed back to 100% hit points within 10 seconds. That puts you at a slight disadvantage in extremely dire situations compared to tanks with simpler invulnerability skills.
Oblation (Lvl. 82), another Endwalker addition, further makes for a good “backup Blackest Night.” It functions similarly, but costs zero mana and simply mitigates 10% of damage for 10 seconds. It also has two charges, like a defensive Shadowbringer or Plunge. This gives you another oGCD to use if you know damage is coming, but don’t believe it will be enough to pop The Blackest Night. Nifty!
Just be smart with Grit. If you off-tank, you can toggle off the enmity aura so as not to confuse bosses (and your healers) with split aggression. If you do, you need to then remember to switch Grit back on immediately if the main tank dies or needs to tap out, or if there are adds to pick up for the party.
Let’s say you’re not off-tanking, though. Let’s say you like taking robot fists and dragon claws to the chin. If you’re the main tank, Dark Knight has the usual suite of damage mitigation skills to keep them alive when things get spicy.
Rampart (Lvl. 8) is the same 20% damage reduction for 20 seconds that all tanks get as a role action. Next to Oblation and The Blackest Night, this will likely be your most-used defensive skill thanks to its ubiquity. Given how long it lasts, you can drop the skill any time you feel your health is dropping too low for comfort.
There’s also Dark Mind (Lvl. 45) and its AoE counterpart, Dark Missionary (Lvl. 76). Both skills only affect magic damage (a fairly unique facet of the Dark Knight). This mostly benefits Dark Missionary. Since it’s an AoE, you can cast it over your entire party right before the boss uses a big AoE spell of its own. That takes pressure off your healers by giving them less to, um, heal. Nearly every boss in FFXIV has some kind of big, magic spell that hits the whole party.
Tanks also need to protect against Tankbusters: heavy-hitting attacks meant to keep you and your healers on your toes. Note that most mitigation skills have longer recast timers, so you usually need to cycle through them. Though that’s less of an issue on Dark Knight; The Blackest Night should always be your first line of defense against Tankbusters. It’s pretty much a guaranteed proc on Dark Arts when used before such a big, single-target attack. The Blackest Night also creates a raw barrier that protects against most damage.
Dark Mind, by comparison, only protects you from the magic damage, but has a notably short cooldown at just 60 seconds.
Finally, you have Shadow Wall (Lvl. 38) for when things get really nasty. It’s a two-minute cooldown, but it blocks 30% of all damage for 15 seconds. That’s a tasty treat for any tank (and one you’ll probably save until your health bar is well below the halfway mark).
Dark Knight Stat Priorities
Dark Knight doesn’t get too fancy with stats. Dark Knight doesn’t get too fancy with anything. Such is the life of the edgiest class…
Your general order of priority should be:
Critical Hit > Direct Hit Rate > Determination > Tenacity.
Critical Hit and Determination do largely the same thing; they increase your damage and healing. Critical Hit is typically more effective than Determination, so it gets top billing. Direct Hit Rate, meanwhile, is like a slightly weaker Critical Hit that only affects damage. It’s typically still more valuable than Determination, so it gets the second spot.
Skill Speed doesn’t get “prioritized” equally among different players. Hence its absence from this layout. It was also a lot more useful before Endwalker changed Delirium; it allowed you to more comfortably land five uses of Bloodspiller or Quietus during the aforementioned buff. Now, Skill Speed mostly helps you maintain a quick tempo of GCD skills by reducing your weaponskill cooldowns. That’s still useful! Just not as much. Add as much as you feel comfortable with, while still allowing you to weave oGCD skills between the cooldowns, and then move on to the rest.
“The rest” can also include Tenacity. This is the tank-only stat that makes you take less damage, deal more of it, and receive more healing. That all sounds well and good, but Tenacity doesn’t affect healing received from healers; it only boosts the gains you give yourself. That makes it pretty iffy in practice. However, the defensive value might be worth it if you’re feeling squishy — especially since Endwalker is attempting to give healers smaller margins for error. Dark Knights also passively benefit from Tenacity more than other folks thanks to Souleater.
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.
Dark Knight didn’t exactly get shafted by Endwalker, but the tank is pretty damn similar to its previous self. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it and all that jazz. But with Warrior and Paladin being starter classes for new players, and those flashy Gunbreakers starting at Level 60, plus other classes getting tons of new defensive skills to give The Blackest Night a run for its money… The edgelords feel like they’re losing out on identity. It’s as if they’re on a precipice.
That’s just the way the goth kids like it, of course, and the smooth gameplay that took DRK through Shadowbringers is at least intact at the start of Endwalker. Learn to deal with their indomitable quirks — like Living Dead and endless mana management — and you’ll find they really have the party’s best interests at heart. Their support moves can make a huge difference when you’re living on the edge.