When you think of a “tank,” it should conjure to mind a giant, metal behemoth with a massive gun. Despite that, the first tanks in Final Fantasy XIV all had to run up to monsters and hit them with melee weapons. Enter the Gunbreaker: the tank that not only uses guns but also breaks them.
The Gunbreaker (GNB) doesn’t necessarily have as strong a niche as some of its other tank counterparts. It’s not as defensive as the Paladin, it’s not as edgy or mana-reliant as the Dark Knight, and it doesn’t have the endless self-healing of the Warrior. Gunbreaker edges out the rest in terms of sheer damage, however, even if that gulf isn’t as pronounced as it could be. That said, Gunbreaker is also the coolest tank of the bunch. Because Gunbreakers get to wear trench coats —, and trench coats look cool.
So, let’s dive into everything you need to know about Gunbreaker.
Rip and Tear, Until It Is Done – Main Attack Rotations
Let’s start with the standard rotation. It’s worth noting that, unlike some other tanks, this doesn’t change over time unless you’re in low-level synced content since the Gunbreaker begins at level 60.
Base Combo: Keen Edge (Lvl. 1) → Brutal Shell (Lvl. 4) → Solid Barrel (Lvl. 26).
Like the other base weaponskill combos, this is a simple one-two-three progression. Keen Edge is merely the starter, while the real meat of this combo is in the second and third actions. Brutal Shell is one of your primary damage mitigation tools as a Gunbreaker, with a 200 potency heal and an additional 30-second barrier equal to the heal. Solid Barrel adds one Cartridge to your Powder Gauge: the only real Job resource Gunbreaker has. Cartridges, in turn, fuel your most powerful attacks. You always start here.
Area-Of-Effect Combo: Demon Slice (Lvl. 10) → Demon Slaughter (Lvl. 40).
This is your standard area-of-effect combo with two hits (once again almost identical to the other tanks). Both deal damage, but Demon Slaughter also adds a Cartridge to your Powder Gauge. It’s worth noting that you don’t gain the Brutal Shell buff with this combo, so your standard mitigation will need to rely more on your healer and off-Global Cooldown (oGCD) skills. Otherwise, you’ll have to rotate back to your base combo occasionally.
Cartridge Combo: Gnashing Fang (Lvl. 60) → Savage Claw (Lvl. 60) → Wicked Talon (Lvl. 60).
This is the starting version of your Cartridge combo, which consumes one Cartridge from your Powder Gauge. The latter actions in the combo are inaccessible without using Gnashing Fang, which itself is unusable if you don’t have a Cartridge. Gnashing Fang does more damage than Keen Edge. However, it also gives you a buff that allows you to activate Savage Claw, which does the same for Wicked Talon.
Continuation Combo: Gnashing Fang (Lvl. 60) → Jugular Rip (Lvl. 70) → Savage Claw (Lvl. 60) → Abdomen Tear (Lvl. 70) → Wicked Talon (Lvl. 60) → Eye Gouge (Lvl. 70).
At level 70, you gain the Job skill Continuation. This is a passive skill that allows you to use additional actions after each and every attack in your Cartridge combo. These actions are all off the global cooldown, however, and ultimately just turn the three-hit combo into a six-hit combo. You do not need to use Jugular Rip, Abdomen Tear, and Eye Gouge to complete the Continuation combo, as you can drop one or all of them, but why would you? MORE DAMAGE!
Prior to using your combos, or while the first hit is cooling down, you want to use No Mercy (Lvl. 2). This buff increases your damage dealt by 20 percent for 20 seconds. Generally, this should be your single-target opener, starting with activating No Mercy, and then Sonic Break (Lvl. 54), an attack that adds a damage-over-time (DoT) effect to your target for 30 seconds. Then, you move into your Base Combo, followed by the Continuation Combo or Burst Strike.
For multi-target scenarios, you’ll do No Mercy, and then start your AoE Combo, followed by Fated Circle (Lvl. 72), your AoE Cartridge spender. Weave in Bow Shock (Lvl. 60) after No Mercy, as well. That’s an AoE off-global attack that also deals damage over time — albeit at a lower potency than Sonic Break, making it the lesser priority. Since it deals a DoT, however, you can and should “set and forget” this on single targets, as well.
Since a good number of Gunbreaker’s actions are off the global cooldown, I’ll talk more about them and combo efficiency in a later section. But what’s here is a good place to start!
With the launch of Endwalker, the major change is the ability to bank three Cartridges rather than just two. In the current game, you plan your combos around the number of Cartridges you have available. Adding another Cartridge offers additional flexibility for your actions and combos.
The Cartridge Combo is now a single-button action in the expansion, with Savage Claw and Wicked Talon automatically replacing Gnashing Fang. This largely just saves space on your hotbars — though Continuation is also allowed following any use of Burst Strike.
Gauge the Situation – The Powder Gauge
The Gunbreaker’s Job Guage has two sections, but only one that really matters. The first indicates whether or not Royal Guard (Lvl. 10) is active. Royal Guard is your so-called Tank Stance, which adds additional Enmity for every attack. If you’re tanking — particularly main tanking — this needs to be on.
The second and actually important part of the Powder Gauge is your Cartridges. You can hold two total, denoted by a light-blue glow in the upper-right circles of the gauge. A key part of playing the Gunbreaker is always making sure you’re using Cartridges. If you finish a Base Combo and gain a Cartridge with a full Powder Gauge, that means you just threw a whole Cartridge into the trash. Bad Gunbreaker! Always make sure you’re spending your Cartridges.
You want to avoid “overcapping” like this on every tank (and most Jobs in FFXIV), but it’s particularly important on Gunbreaker since this tank’s gauge isn’t as granular as its fellows. One Cartridge alone is an entire third of your resources. Don’t. Waste. Cartridges.
Here are the abilities that help you do that.
Gnashing Fang (Lvl. 60) is generally what you’ll spend a Cartridge on. This begins your Cartridge/Continuation Combo, but it’s really just this first action that consumes a Cartridge.
Burst Strike (Lvl. 30) is super helpful in regards to using Cartridges. See, Gnashing Fang has a cooldown — a rather lengthy one for a melee combo at 30 seconds. This means you can’t necessarily alternate between your Base Combo and Continuation Combo at all times, for Gashing Fang won’t be available the second time around. That’s where Burst Strike comes in. It’s a single-target attack that costs a single Cartridge and has a recast timer of 2.5 seconds. If the Continuation Combo is the focus, Burst Strike is your safety valve, letting you use a Cartridge for some damage, rather than waste it.
Fated Circle (Lvl. 72) is the AoE version of Burst Strike. It simply does damage and allows you to spend a Cartridge for AoE damage when Gnashing Fang is cooling down. If all else fails, using Fated Circle or Burst Strike is still a net damage gain over completely forgetting to use a Cartridge and then overcapping.
Other Actions in Your Arsenal
The Gunbreaker has a number of other tools 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.
This was mentioned before, but Sonic Break adds a DoT effect to your target for 30 seconds. This should be aligned with the use of the No Mercy buff to make sure the DoT does maximum damage. DoTs are typically affected by damage buffs when you cast them, so the extra damage will apply to each tick of the poisonous effect. Likewise, at Level 62, you gain Bow Shock, which is the AoE counterpart of Sonic Break and should be used in the same manner for both multi-target situations and single enemies. Sonic Break has a 60-second cooldown, so apply it near the beginning of combat and then make sure to reapply it once it’s up again.
Danger Zone (Lvl. 18) is a single-target action that deals damage off the global cooldown with a 30-second recast timer. At level 80, you gain a trait that turns it into Blasting Zone (Lvl. 80), which is… a single-target, high damage attack that’s off the global cooldown.
Rough Divide (Lvl. 56) is your gap-closer, shooting you forward 15 yalms as it deals 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. The tank Role Action Low Blow (Lvl. 12) stuns targets. If you want to pull a target towards you rather than sprint into combat — usually at the very start of a fight to draw a boss closer to your melee allies — Lightning Shot (Lvl. 15) is your ranged pull. Lightning Shot has additional Enmity, so it’s likely to pull targets towards you even without your Tank Stance on.
General Best Practices
As a tank, your job is usually to defend — but the Gunbreaker is all about that meaty damage; the defense just comes as an excellent side effect. This section covers the tools you have to defend yourself and your party, as well as how to properly use your damaging abilities.
Royal Guard is your Tank Stance. Activating it will toggle on a permanent buff that only ends upon using the ability again. When Royal Guard is up, all your attacks generate a ton of Enmity — meaning most enemies you hit will focus 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 Royal Guard on. Note: Syncing for a FATE 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), a Role Action that makes any enemy focus on you specifically. This puts you at the top of the target’s Enmity list. (Though you still need to follow up with attacks to keep your hold on the target.) Shirk (Lvl. 48) can then divert 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. Reprisal (Lvl. 22) finally reduces damage dealt by enemies within five yalms by 10 percent for 10 seconds, giving you a small amount of party mitigation.
Aurora (Lvl. 45) is your primary heal as a Gunbreaker, adding a heal-over-time effect for 18 seconds. It can be used on yourself or a party member.
Bloodfest (Lvl. 76) automatically adds three Cartridges to your Powder Gauge. This action has a 90-second recast timer and should be used whenever it’s up — except when you already have a Cartridge. Never, ever use it when you have a Cartridge because once again, you’ll be throwing perfectly good ammo away. If you can’t pop Gnashing Fang, let off some steam with Burst Strike.
Double Down (Lvl. 90) is just another oGCD damage skill that hits a single target really hard, then nearby foes for slightly less. All tanks got one in Endwalker. In keeping with the big damage of Gunbreaker, this one hits especially hard and has two charges to weave into combos.
Sonic Break, Burst Strike, and Fated Circle do not break your Continuation Combo, by the way. That means you want to weave them in! MORE DAMAGE! A good rule of thumb is to use Sonic Break, Rough Divide, Bow Shock, and Blasting Zone all together. Some put this Burst Phase before Continuation, while others start Continuation and put this Burst Phase after Jugular Rip. Your Continuation Combo also doesn’t break your Base Combo, so go wild!
Your priorities overall are:
- Use No Mercy and Bloodfest when they’re off cooldown.
- Use Blasting Zone and the Continuation Combo, your highest damage attacks, during the duration of No Mercy.
- Endeavor to use Bow Shock and Sonic Break during No Mercy, as well since their DoTs are boosted by the buff when you cast these skills under its effects.
- Always spend your Cartridges. Never use Bloodfest when you have a Cartridge, or finish a combo that gives you a Cartridge when you have two.
- Watch the cooldowns of Gnashing Fang and Sonic Break, as they’ll be slightly out of sync if you just do your rotation in the same way every time. You’ll eventually have to use Burst Strike as a damage pause to get things back on track.
Written out, a full rotation can go something like: Lightning Shot → Base Combo → No Mercy → Burst Phase → Continuation Combo → Bloodfest → Burst Strike → Rough Divide → Base Combo Start (No Solid Barrel) → Burst Strike → Burst Strike → Solid Barrel.
Here’s another that gets right to the good stuff: Lightning Shot → Bloodfest → Keen Edge → No Mercy → Brutal Shell → Gnashing Fang → Jugular Rip → Burst Strike → Sonic Break → Blasting Zone → Bow Shock → Savage Claw → Abdomen Tear → Wicked Talon → Eye Gouge → Solid Barrel → Rough Divide → Burst Strike → Rough Divide → Base Combo.
The point is to watch your priorities and cooldowns to fit the most attacks within No Mercy’s buff window. You need to think about priority more than fairly rigid rotations. Properly doing this will make you a master Gunbreaker.
If you’re dead, you’re not doing damage. Beyond here are the actions you should use when there’s a Tankbuster, a heavy-hitting attack meant to keep you and your healers on your toes. Note: These skills have longer recast timers, which is fine as most Tankbusters are timed.You’ll just have to cycle through them.
Rampart, which reduces damage taken by 20 percent for 20 seconds, is actually a Tank Role Action, so every tank has this. Camouflage (Lvl. 6) reduces damage taken by 10 percent while also increasing your parry rate by 50 percent. This has a 20-second duration and a 90-second cooldown.
Next up is Heart of Stone (Lvl. 68), which reduces damage taken by 15 percent for seven seconds and has a 120-second cooldown. This has an additional benefit, however. It spreads the Brutal Shell buff to any friendly target you choose. As of Endwalker, Heart of Stone also upgrades to Heart of Corundum (Lvl. 82), which functions basically the same! Except that it adds 10 percent damage mitigation and another heal that pops whenever the target falls below 50 percent HP (or just when the buff wears off). In essence, the Gunbreaker has its own version of The Blackest Night from Dark Knight now.
Heart of Light (Lvl. 64) is the less potent counterpart, only reducing magic damage taken by 10 percent for 15 seconds. The upside is that it affects all nearby party members.
Nebula (Lvl. 38) reduces damage taken by 30 percent for 15 seconds. This has a 120-second cooldown.
Superbolide (Lvl. 50) is your “oh shit” button as a Gunbreaker. It makes you take no damage from most attacks for eight seconds. The drawback is it also sets your HP to 1, meaning you need to let the healer know you’re using it ahead of time. It’s good to have the ability paired with a text macro for this purpose so that your healer is ready to fully heal you once its duration ends. Or you can say nothing and scare the hell out of them. This one has a 360-second cooldown.
Gunbreaker Stat Priorities
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. However…
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. On the bright side, it also boosts your healing a tiny bit. Finally, there’s Tenacity, which affects how much physical and magical damage you take while also providing a tiny bit of damage and increasing the healing you receive. You’d think this would matter more than it does. In actuality, it does not because your primary stats from gear make you hearty enough. Plus, it doesn’t affect healing received from healers; just from your own abilities. Weird!
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.
The Gunbreaker is one of the most flexible tanks around. It has rotations, but ultimately everything comes down to prioritizing your most damaging abilities and watching your Cartridges. Once you’ve gotten that down, you’re a damage monster — at least where tanks are concerned.
You’re not the self healer that the Warrior is, nor do you offer as much support as the Paladin. Ultimately, though, you look badass strolling on the battlefield with that gunblade on your shoulder. And if you can’t look awesome while tanking, what’s the point?