If you’ve played Final Fantasy XIV for any length of time, you’ve probably come across a dungeon or trial. The first dungeon players can access, Sastasha, is a good introduction for how the rest of the game will play out — a group of players venturing into unknown depths to complete a quest. This cannot be achieved without a Healer, the cornerstone of any party.
Perhaps you want to give healing a try, but are confused on where to start or whether you have the basics down. Perhaps you’re a veteran coming back from a break and want to brush up on the best practices. Or perhaps you are curious but intimidated; after all, the role comes with a lot of responsibility — arguably the most out of any other role in the game. If you want to get started, this is the place to do it. Welcome to our comprehensive guide on being a Healer.
Choosing Your Healer
Healers come in two flavors: “Barrier” Healers (Sage and Scholar) and “Pure” Healers (White Mage and Astrologian). The key to understanding the differences can be boiled down to a single choice: do you want to focus on protecting the party from damage or healing the party from damage inflicted? The choices aren’t mutually exclusive, as all Healers can do a bit of both, but the core mechanics of each Job lean toward one of the two specialties. While all four Jobs are well-equipped for healing in all normal-level content, this is important to keep in mind.
Note that Astrologian starts at level 30 and is available once you have reached Heavensward, and Sage is available if you have another Job at level 70 and have purchased Endwalker.
White Mage: The original Healer, dating back to Final Fantasy I. This Job is jam-packed with instant-cast heals that do not activate the global cooldown (GCD), and boasts the highest area-of-effect (AoE) healing power out of the four choices. It’s possibly the easiest Job to learn healing with, so if you are a total beginner, this is the choice for you. You’ll start as a Conjurer then evolve into a White Mage at level 30 through its Class/Job quests.
Scholar: One of the two Healers available since A Realm Reborn, Scholar is a Barrier Healer. The Job specializes in throwing up shields around teammates and centers around a fairy that supplements your healing via autonomous actions. Scholar is more proactive than White Mage. Instead of relying on a robust set of direct heals, you’ll focus on recognizing incoming attacks and shielding the appropriate target to succeed with this Job. It starts as Arcanist, and at level 30 you can either choose to be a Summoner or Scholar. Regardless, you’ll effectively level up both Jobs in the process, so this is good if you also want a DPS Job to boot.
Astrologian: A Healer with serious support abilities introduced in Heavensward, this Job has been tweaked to be more of a pure Healer in Endwalker. The Job revolves around drawing and playing cards that buff your team and increase DPS output while also laying down heals to keep everyone alive. This is possibly the hardest Healer to learn, as there are a lot of moving parts involving card management.
Sage: Have you ever wanted to be a Gundam pilot? Well, there are other games for that, but FFXIV gives us the opportunity to give it a whirl with the Sage Job. It’s also a Barrier Healer, but one of the Job’s main features revolves around “marking” a party member with Kardia and healing them through dealing damage to the enemy. Its full skillset involves throwing up barriers, adding effects after they break, and altering your spells to maximize damage and healing potential. This Job is also fairly difficult to learn compared to the alternative Barrier Healer.
All four healing Jobs can handle every bit of content in the game, so it really comes down to what feels good for you to play. If you are aiming to do harder content, such as Savage raids, playing something that feels naturally fun for you is important.
Micromanaging Your Expectations
I’m not going to sugarcoat it — this is, in terms of on-screen things to worry about, the most demanding role in FFXIV. All Jobs have to worry about positioning, enemy attacks, rotations, and boss-specific mechanics, as well as personal cooldowns — but Healers have to do all that while also keeping people alive. While certainly not the only way to do this, I will outline how I play Healers, starting with the UI.
One of the best ways to improve your healing output is to rearrange your UI in a way that highlights the most important thing — your Party List. This is how you will be able to see the health of your teammates the easiest and how you will mainly be healing. By clicking on the party member you wish to heal via the Party List, you’ll be able to quickly select who needs healing and change targets on the fly. It’s a good idea to place the Party List near the center of your screen so that you can easily see your team’s health bars (and also see any incoming fire you’re supposed to avoid).
In the screenshot above, I can clearly see around my character while retaining easy access to my Party List. This provides the most information while not cluttering up your screen too much. Gamepad players can utilize a similar set-up to reduce onscreen clutter while being able to monitor health bars.
The next step to being a more efficient Healer is to arrange your Action Bars (or hotbars) in a way that is comfortable and makes sense to you. I play with mouse and keyboard, but this applies to gamepad players, as well. Using my setup above, everything is centered around the WASD keys — allowing me to piano my keys to use the right tool when I need it, while still being able to move around. However you place your actions, make sure you practice where they are so that you’re not accidentally casting Cure III instead of Medica II, for example.
(For help on how to best setup your keyboard and mouse, be sure to check out our FFXIV hotbars and keybinds guide.)
If you play with a Gamepad, you can do a similar thing! While I do not play with Gamepad, a tip would be to group your hotbars by category. For example, your L2/LT hotbar could be all of your Single-Target heals while your R2/RT hotbar could be AoE and utility spells. Memorizing the placement of your heal buttons allows you to focus on avoiding dangerous attacks, so make it as comfortable as possible.
One more option that could improve ease-of-use would be to use keybinds to target specific party members. Be aware that this could create hotbar button bloat depending on how you arrange your keys. But setting keybinds to target specific party members before casting a spell can be more efficient for some players. By default, party targeting is set to the F1 through F8 keys. Regardless, be mindful of how your party is always arranged on the list by default:
- Player 1 = Yourself
- Player 2 = Tank 1
- Player 3 = DPS 1 (Light Party) / Tank 2 (Full Party)
- Player 4 = DPS 2 (Light Party) / Healer 2 (Full Party)
- Players 5 to 8 = DPS 1 to 4 (Full Party)
Keep in mind that, if you’re using macros, you should never put spells that affect the global cooldown into a macro, as this prevents you from queuing up spells — and this will kill your party. Targeting party members, however, works just fine.
Now that your initial set-up is complete, let’s get into the meat and popotoes of healing — crisis management and triage.
Don’t Panic, Except When You Need To
If you’re new to healing, you will likely start out by playing Healers in a very safe manner — watching health bars like a hawk and being on it the instant even a slight pixel is missing. This is, sadly, not a good use of your time or resources. Instead, you should be focusing on dealing damage and healing only when you need to.
The biggest reason for this is that if you are not following your ABC’s — Always Be Casting — you are missing out on damage. Healer damage is significant in FFXIV, and at the upper levels of play, can account for a hefty 10% of a bosses total HP. In short, if you aren’t doing damage, you are causing the fight to last 10 percent longer. It is good practice to get in the habit of dealing damage while monitoring your Party List, and healing/shielding when necessary.
The key to healing properly is responding properly, and that’s where a “triage mindset” can come in handy. Triage refers to assigning mental values, or grades, to your party members as they get damaged. If your Paladin eats a tankbuster, but had mitigation up and is only missing 30% of their health, a small heal is all that is required to get them back into the safe zone. But if your Black Mage gets swiped accidentally and is at critical health, that requires a much bigger, and more immediate, response. We’ll go over those responses now, starting with a few key abilities from each Healer Job and their Role Actions to help illustrate what you can do.
Key Healer Job Abilities
Medica II: A massive AoE heal that also applies a Regen effect. With the full duration of the Regen calculated, this is your second highest potency healing tool behind Cure III. Speaking of…
Cure III: An even-more-massive AoE heal, but only within a very tiny radius around your character. Useful for Akh Morn-type attacks where everyone is stacked up.
Afflatus Solace and Afflatus Rapture: Single-target and AoE heals that only cost 1 Lily to activate. These are instant cast, and should be your priority if you need to heal since you can only stockpile three Lilies at once!
Tetragrammaton and Divine Benison: Single-target spells that heal or shield but are MP-free, instant-cast, and do not trigger a cooldown. Use these when available!
Assize: This should be used as a DPS cooldown, but it has a secondary effect of healing everyone in a massive radius around you. While this can help stave off periodic AoE damage, it should primarily be used as a free DPS attack.
Adloquium: Single target shield for 180% of a 300 potency heal. This shield lasts for 30 seconds and, if desired, can be applied to the entire party well in advance of any damage.
Succor: AoE version of Adloquium.
Excogitation: Places a buff on a target that heals immediately for 800 potency when the target’s health falls below 50%. Usable every 45 seconds and lasts for 45 seconds, so this needs to be used every cooldown!
Expedient: Grants a Sprint effect to everyone while also reducing damage received by 10% for 20 seconds.
Deployment Tactics: Copies a shield effect on a party member and duplicates it to the entire party. Extremely good if you get a critical on Adloquium!
Essential Dignity: Heals for 400 potency, but gains potency up to 1,100 depending on the percentage of the target’s missing HP.
Draw: Draw cards and use Play to apply the various buffs to the right party member. There are six cards, split into two categories:
- Blue-outlined cards: The Arrow, The Balance, The Spear — Grants 6% damage buff to Melee DPS and Tanks (and 3% for other roles) for 15 seconds.
- Purple-outlined cards: The Bole, The Spire, The Ewer — Grants 6% damage buff to Ranged/Magic DPS and Healers (and 3% for other roles) for 15 seconds.
You want to try and gather 3 different “signs,” which are granted by playing a unique card from Ewer/Arrow, Bole/Balance, and Spear/Spire, as this will give you access to the best version of an ability Astrodyne, which will increase MP regen, reduce cooldown by 10%, and boost damage and healing by 5% for 15 seconds.
Lightspeed: Reduces cast time of all of your abilities by 2.5 seconds. You become a machine gun of healing and damage for 15 seconds.
Aspected Benefic and Aspected Helios: While Astrologian has a number of oGCD spells, both of these GCDs will come in handy. Aspected Benefic is an instant-cast with a Regen effect. Aspected Helios is the AoE version with a 2.0-second cast time (best used alongside the ability Horoscope). When you pair these with Neutral Sect (see below), they also apply barriers.
Neutral Sect: Temporarily become a Barrier Healer! This adds a barrier effect to your Aspected Benefic and Aspected Helios heals. These shields can stack with other shields from Scholars and Sages, but Neutral Sect itself only lasts for 20 seconds.
Earthly Star: A detonation-style AoE attack that simultaneously heals the party when triggered. Waiting 10 seconds before setting it off will also yield much more damage and healing.
Kardia: Grants a party member “Kardion,” allowing them to be healed when you deal damage with certain magical attacks.
Diagnosis, Prognosis, and Eukrasian Diagnosis/Prognosis: Single and AoE heals, similar to Cure and Medica — but when Eukrasia is applied, these spells turn into more potent shield versions. Be aware that this shield effect does not stack with other Sage or Scholar shields!
Dosis and Eukrasian Dosis: These are your damage spells like White Mage’s Glare and Dia. They also trigger the Kardion heal on whoever is your linked target.
Panhaima: Creates a shield around every party member for 150 potency. However, when the shield is used up, a new one is created for another 150 potency — up to five times for a total 750 potency!
Icarus: Dash to a target party member, similar to Black Mage’s Aetherial Manipulation.
(For more on this new Job’s full skillset and playstyle, check out our hands-on preview of Sage.)
The actions below are shared amongst all Healers. While they do not directly provide any healing, they are essential tools of the trade and should be slotted accordingly on your hotbar.
Swiftcast: This is your most essential role action. It turns your next, immediate spell cast with a cast bar into an instant cast. You can use this to Raise someone, or dump massive healing or shields on the party instantly!
Lucid Dreaming: This is your MP Refresh action. I recommend using it once your MP reaches 75% and then using it again on cooldown, if needed.
Surecast: This action prevents you from being moved by the boss. Extremely useful if you’re out of position or simply don’t want to move to maintain good uptime on your DPS!
Rescue: This action ruins friendships. Use it if you want to be yelled at or if you just really dislike the Dragoon.
Next, we’ll go over some of the key abilities of each Healer. Please be aware each Healer has a plethora of tools available to them (too many to list all in one article) and you should absolutely check out the in-depth articles we have for all Healer Jobs!
Healing Smarter, Not Harder
Healing is a role based around using the right tool for the job. You don’t use a sledgehammer to hang pictures up on walls, and you wouldn’t use Benediction to heal someone from an auto-attack. Spacing out your heals and not overreacting allows you to deal more damage, conserve more MP, and overall be more effective at healing.
Ideally, for non-raid healing, you want your non-Tank party members at or around 80% before deciding to heal them, depending on what is coming next in the fight. Your Tank can sustain a lot of abuse before needing a heal, so they should be prioritized only if a tankbuster is about to come out or if their health falls to around 60%. Meanwhile, your other party members cannot take abuse as readily, so they will need healing earlier. If you’re only healing incidental damage, a simple Medica II-style spell is all you really need. If a Tank just beefed it and is sitting at 30% life, that’s when you need to use your bigger tools, like Benediction, Essential Dignity, or other similarly potent heals.
Best Practices for Healers
Healing is a role that, as mentioned earlier, involves monitoring a lot of moving parts in the most efficient way possible. Here’s a list of things to keep an eye out for while you practice keeping your team alive:
Wall-to-wall pulling: This is when a Tank pulls all the mobs from where you are currently to where progression of the dungeon stops. If the Tank is slightly undergeared, this can be doubly scary for you since you’ll have to expend magnitudes more MP to keep them alive. Until the Tank stops moving — or in other words, completes the “pulling” part — try to avoid healing more than a quick heal to avoid pulling enmity. When the Tank stops and begins to DPS, roll your cooldowns into a single, long train — start with mitigation abilities, a Regen or Barrier on the Tank, big heals when needed, and then your AoE damage ability to contribute to getting through the mob. Stop doing AoE damage when the Tank hits about 60% and start healing again, spacing out your cooldowns so that you have gas in the proverbial Tank to last until the end.
If you are a new Healer, however, wall-to-wall pulls will be tough to handle. It’s hard to train yourself to do this in the heat of the moment. If you feel you can’t handle it, there’s nothing wrong with telling your Tank you are new or might not be able to deal with it yet. They might even help you out!
Positioning for AoE abilities: Attempt to position yourself between the Tank and your ranged DPS, if applicable. Your AoE heals have a maximum range, so you don’t want to accidentally miss healing the Bard at a critical point. However, boss mechanics come first, so if you have to move out of position to avoid wiping the party, do so!
Having Swiftcast handy: Swiftcast is primarily used as an “oh shit” button to immediately cast Raise on a dead party member. Starting out, there is nothing wrong with stockpiling it until you need it. However, as you get more proficient at your Job, you will learn when you can Swiftcast a different spell for more efficiency.
Raise priority: There is a raise priority list: Tanks > other Healer (in eight-player parties) > Red Mage or Summoner > everyone else. Tanks often die while tanking something extremely dangerous, and getting them back on their feet immediately is a priority so your enemy doesn’t kill everyone else. While other Healers are present in trials and raids, they should be raised second to stem the flow of deaths/damage. Red Mages and Summoners are raised next because they also have the ability to raise, and can assume the role for you if healing is required.
When to use Limit Break: Finally, in raids, you do not use your Limit Break outside of a specific circumstance — when a majority of the party is dead in an eight-player party and you are one of the few people still alive. LB3 revives and fully heals the entire party, but at the necessary cost of a very valuable tool — the Melee DPS LB3. You will know when you need to use LB3 because the party will usually say something like “healer LB3.”
In conclusion, responding with the right spells at the right time, over a sustained period of time, will put you up there with the rest of the Healers. With practice, you will soon be able to breeze through dungeons and raids with ease, only periodically glancing at your party list. And remember: a good Healer gets the party through the dungeon, but a great Healer does so while speeding up the dungeon run with excellent DPS. It might be stressful at times, but you’ve got this. Best of luck, Warriors of Light!