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FFXIV Bard Guide: Sing Songs, Sling Arrows

Sing a song of triumph. Inspire your party unto victory. The role of the Bard in Final Fantasy XIV is two-fold: fill the chaotic void of combat with beautiful music to inspire yourself and others, and rain as much razor-sharp hell as you can on your foes. In this FFXIV Bard Guide, we’ll cover both sides of that formula and more as we take a look at everything the melodic and powerful Bard class is capable of.

Sound like fun? Let’s dig into the Bard together with High Ground Gaming’s FF14 Bard Guide.

Bard Class Quests

A Bard firing a magic-infused arrow - FFXIV Bard Guide
Image: Square Enix via HGG / Mitch Gentry

Imagine how difficult it is to fire a bow accurately and sing a ballad besides. Frankly, you won’t be a Master of the Bardic Arts right out of the gate — no matter how pitch-perfect you sing in the shower.

All Bards in FFXIV start life as a humble Archer. Whether you create a new character as one or sign on with the Archers’ Guild, you must first learn to master the chief tool in your toolbox: the bow.

Keep up with your class quests. Once you complete the Level 30 Archer quest “The One That Got Away,” then “A Song of Bards and Bowmen” will be your next step. After completion, you’ll net yourself a shiny new Soul Crystal with the Soul of the Bard within. It’s here that you bid goodbye to your simple Archer’s life and enter the wonderful world of the Bard.

Time to broaden your horizons.

A Bard considers the path before him - FFXIV Bard Guide
Image: Square Enix via HGG / Mitch Gentry

Keep up with your class quests. Did I say that already? From here on out, the most potent Bardic abilities will be issued to you through them. The first Song, Mage’s Ballad, will be dispensed on completion of “A Song of Bards and Bowmen,” with the rest to come. Other key abilities like Rain of Death (Strong AoE damage off-global cooldown), Empyreal Arrow (Burst damage off-global cooldown), and Iron Jaws (Reset DoT timers) are also class quest rewards.

It cannot be overstated: keep up with your class quests. They’re the keys that unlock the kingdom, no matter which class you’re playing.

Playing the DPS Role as a Bard

A Bard in the midst of a Trial with his party - FFXIV Bard Guide
Image: Square Enix via HGG / Mitch Gentry

The Bard is a DPS class, which means your main goal is to blow up the battlefield. But it also uniquely represents the more cooperative nature of all classes in FFXIV by adding some key party-buffing abilities into the mix.

The key formula for playing the Bard looks a little something like this:

  • Once the Tank — perhaps a Dark Knight — has aggro on a crowd, start getting your DoTs up.
  • After you have a handful of DoTs, start a song. It should begin to proc almost immediately.
  • Re-up your timers with Iron Jaws as needed, then start raining holy fire on anything with an enemy colored nameplate.
  • Sprinkle your rotation of global cooldown abilities with potent off-global abilities like Emperyal Arrow and Bloodletter.
  • Rinse and repeat until you and your party are all that’s left standing.

Spell Slinging, Song Singing

As a DPS class, positioning is key. Take advantage of flanking to deal extra damage and maximize your effectiveness. And you’ll need to be dancing in and out of the attack telegraphs lest you get one-shot to oblivion. Many of your abilities are instants, which means you don’t have to worry about interrupting a cast to reposition. Keep floating around the battlefield, dropping DoTs on newcomers to the fight while resetting the rest with Iron Jaws, and slam your targets with interwoven rotations of your global cooldown and off-global abilities to keep the damage pumping.

You also have a personal pocket heal, Second Wind, to help manage your own health pool. Not to mention Troubadour, which offers 10% damage mitigation for yourself and your party, and Nature’s Minne, which increases healing potency by 20% on yourself or a friendly target. With smart usage of these abilities, you can take a bit of the moment-to-moment burden off the Healer and keep everyone in the fight.

Due to the friendly buffs, healing-related spells, and straightforward burst damage, Bard is the perfect example of a class that’s “easy to learn and difficult to master.” You can play Bard with just the core damage rotation and Netflix on a second monitor to make your way through a good chunk of FFXIV’s content. But if you take an active approach to playing Bard, predictively placing Nature’s Minne on the party members that need it or focusing burst damage on the biggest threat in the room, you may well be the difference between victory and a wipe in endgame content.

But enough of the overview. Now it’s time we dug into the gritty specifics of the abilities you have on tap as a Bard, starting with your songs.

Bard Core Skills & Rotations

In this part of our guide, we’ll focus in on the Bard’s rotation and the skills you will be using most frequently in your adventures.

Warm Up Your Voice

A Bard playing a song
Image: Square Enix via HGG / Mitch Gentry

We touched on a few key abilities in the previous section. As you might imagine, your songs are core to your image. There are three key songs you’ll learn: Mage’s Ballad, Army’s Paeon, and The Wanderer’s Minuet. Each one deals a bit of damage and serves to buff both yourself and the party in unique ways.

  • Mage’s Ballad — Deals 100 unaspected damage; Grants Mage’s Ballad to all party members within 30 yalms, increasing their damage dealt by 1% for 30 seconds.
  • Army’s Paeon — Deals 100 unaspected damage; Grants Army’s Paeon to all party members within 30 yalms, increasing their direct hit rate by 3% for 30 seconds.
  • The Wanderer’s Minuet — Deals 100 unaspected damage; Grants The Wanderer’s Minuet to all party members within 30 yalms, increasing their critical hit rate by 2% for 30 seconds.

Bardic Inspiration

The songs offer bonus buffs or unique abilities as well so long as you make the most of your DoTs. Your two DoTs, Venemous Bite/Caustic Bite and Windbite/Stormbite, are key to empowering your songs. Like other abilities and attacks, they have a chance to trigger a critical hit, which in this instance we call a “proc.” Any active song during a DoT proc gains a “charge,” and every song handles those charges differently.

  • Mage’s Ballad will reset the cooldown timer for the off-global cooldown abilities Bloodletter and Rain of Death.
  • Army’s Paeon will reduce weaponskill and spell cast and recast time, as well as speeding up auto-attacks, up to four charges.
  • The Wanderer’s Minuet turns procs into charges for Pitch Perfect, an off-global cooldown burst damage ability. Up to three charges can be stacked, with each charge increasing the amount of damage dealt by Pitch Perfect.

Keeping your songs up and charged with procs is essential to maximizing your DPS. Free casts with Mage’s Ballad, fast recasts with Army’s Paeon, and burst damage with Pitch Perfect directly translate into aggro-stealing damage values. And your fellow party members benefit from the slight edge granted by the buffs as well. Also keep Peloton on your hotbar to pull out a flute and play a little ditty that grants you and nearby party members a little speed buff. It’s the simple things that make playing an MMO a nicer experience for everyone, don’t you agree?

Singing your songs is only half the battle in this FFXIV Bard Guide, however. The other half is violence.

Per Second Damage

A Bard fires a magical volley of arrows
Image: Square Enix via HGG / Mitch Gentry

As far as your core rotation goes, being a Bard doesn’t just imply that you sing a mean song, you can also sling a mean arrow. And you will. Brutal, heartless arrows which lay low your foes and forge new legends to be immortalized in song.

Heavy Shot, becoming Burst Shot in Shadowbringers, is your opening salvo. It offers a chance to gain the buff “Straight Shot Ready,” with a chance of 20% to proc for the former and 35% for the latter.

  • Heavy Shot/Burst Shot
  • Attack Potency: 180/250
  • Range: 25 yalms
  • Recast: 2.5 seconds
  • Additional Effects: 20%/35% chance to become Straight Shot Ready

Straight Shooting

Straight Shot Ready enables you to cast Straight Shot, which upgrades into Refulgent Arrow in Shadowbringers while still leveraging Straight Shot Ready. Refulgent Arrow Ready has a nice ring to it, though — definitely a missed opportunity.

  • Straight Shot/Refulgent Arrow
  • Attack Potency: 200/340
  • Range: 25 yalms
  • Recast: 2.5 seconds
  • Additional Effects: Can only be executed when Straight Shot Ready

At Level 4, you unlock Raging Strikes, which increased damage dealt by 10% for 20 seconds with an 80 second recast timer. Combine that with Barrage, which can make any single-target weaponskill fire as a triple burst attack, and you can deal some serious burst damage. Oh, and did we mention that Barrage grants you Straight Shot Ready as well? Straight Shot/Refulgent Arrow are weaponskills, after all….

Venemous Bite and Windbite are your DoTs. They upgrade into Caustic Bite and Stormbite respectively at level 64. As we previously discussed, they form the beating heart of procs that empowers your songs. Keeping them up — especially resetting their timers with Iron Jaws starting at Level 56 — is key to achieving victory. The late-game abilities Sidewinder and Shadowbite also scale in potency for attacking targets with one and two DoTs.

Sprinkle in some off-global cooldown action with Empyreal Arrow, Bloodletter, and AoE attacks like Quick Nock and Rain of Death to round out your deadly repertoire.

Stay Vertical

A Bard standing tall with his party
Image: Square Enix via HGG / Mitch Gentry

Being a DPS is equally about the damage you don’t take as it is the damage you deal. For the awkward moment you end up inside an attack telegraph or focused by the boss, you have a few options to help yourself stay in the fight.

Second Wind is a Role Action that gives you back a bit of missing HP. It has a long cooldown, and isn’t particularly potent, but it may mean the difference between life and death in a pinch.

  • Second Wind
  • Cure Potency: 500
  • Range: Self
  • Recast: 120 seconds
  • Additional Effects: Instant cast

If you or a loved one would like to take less damage when grinding duties, ask your doctor if Troubadour is right for you. While it doesn’t last particularly long, any damage mitigation is good damage mitigation, and when properly timed it may grant the Healer a mana breather.

  • Troubadour
  • Damage Mitigation: 10%
  • Range: Self, nearby party members
  • Recast: 120 seconds
  • Additional Effects: Effect cannot be stacked with Machinist’s Tactician or Dancer’s Shield Samba

Last but not least, Nature’s Minne makes healing actions 20% more potent for yourself or a friendly party member for 15 seconds. Drop this on a tank when they get slammed by a tankbuster and watch their health refill in a hurry. It has a cooldown of 90 seconds though, so make sure to save it until you need it. Stay within 30 yalms of likely targets if you aren’t casting it on yourself.

Bard Leveling – Solo and Grouped

Whether you’re leveling by yourself or with a group, no FFXIV Bard Guide would be complete without a discussion of how to level most effectively.

A Bard runs through Kugane on a solo quest
Image: Square Enix via HGG / Mitch Gentry

Keep up with your class quests. They’re good experience and grant some of the most important abilities for your class. The Main Story Quests are also great for making your way from Level 1 to max while enjoying Final Fantasy’s trademark storytelling and feature-length cutscenes. These will form the core of any route focused on leveling all by yourself, but as with most MMOs, there’s lots more content on the table for you if you’re willing to party up.

In practice, a well-rounded leveling path for the Bard will look something like this:

  • Main Story Quest(s)
  • Class Quest(s)
  • Duty Roulette
  • Wildcard
  • Repeat!

You can fill the wildcard slot with your choice of PvP — which is a decent amount of XP if you’re willing to play a few rounds — as well as Alliance Raids or Challenge Log farming. You’re bound to complete a handful of Challenges just for playing. Focusing on them, however, can help you grind out the rest of your XP bar at higher levels while giving you short-term goals to keep you moving.

Player vs. Player as a Bard

There are Challenges and daily Roulette rewards to guide you toward the PvP side of FFXIV. And PvP is actually a really good time — especially as a class with strong burst damage potential like the Bard. Just remember how squishy you are and let the tanks engage first.

A Bard in the midst of a PvP battlefield - FFXIV Bard Guide
Image: Square Enix via HGG / Mitch Gentry

In PvP, you get unique variants of the core abilities for your class which have been tweaked and balanced for competitive play. But in practice, they function in much the same way as you’ve become accustomed.

Player vs. Bard

You have familiar standbys like Burst Shot and Empyreal Arrow (now with charges that replenish over time) for burst damage, and the songs Army’s Paeon and Wanderer’s Minuet. The buffs work about the same with tweaked stats, although Burst Shot and Empyreal Arrow are now used to generate your procs as there are no DoTs to be found.

Nature’s Minne rolls the damage mitigation of Troubadour into the mix while remaining a single-target ability, while Sidewinder and Shadowbite shift into an opening ability role as they deal more damage the closer your target is to max health.

PvP specific abilities like Bolt for sprint and Medical Kit for self-healing are essential tools in your toolkit, and you can mix things up somewhat with your choice of two additional abilities from the list below:

  • Leg Graze — Afflicts target with Heavy +50% for 5 seconds
  • Foot Graze — Binds target for 3 seconds
  • Concentrate — Increases potency of next weaponskill within 5 seconds by 50%
  • Recuperate — Restore own HP at 3,000 potency and remove Heavy, Bind, and Holmgang effects
  • Peloton — Increases speed of self and nearby party members for 10 seconds

This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list of all your PvP abilities as a Bard — it is an FFXIV Bard Guide and not a PvP guide, after all — so you’ll just have to head over to the Wolves’ Den Pier and check them out for yourself!

Wrap-up – FFXIV Bard Guide

A Bard attacks a giant chameleon - FFXIV Bard Guide
Image: Square Enix via HGG / Mitch Gentry

The Bard is an excellent DPS class that offers stunning burst damage, an “easy to learn and difficult to master” rotation with plenty of party buffs, and lots of flexibility in the leveling rotation whether you’re flying solo, with a group, or throwing your hat into the PvP ring. As with all classes, keep up with your class quests and you’re bound to have a good time with this solid damage-dealer.

Maintain your DoTs to proc your songs, and you’ll have plenty of new songs in turn to sing chronicling your victories.  

Join the High Ground

We hope that whether you’re a new or returning Bard, you found something helpful here. If you liked this guide and want more content like it, be sure to give us a follow on Facebook and Twitter. Questions, comments, or concerns? Voice them in the comments section below. 

If you need us, we’ll be leading the Maelstrom to victory in PvP Frontlines. See you in the next guide!

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