Whether you’re delving into a dangerous dungeon or fighting against a fearsome foe, someone has to take the lead. In Final Fantasy XIV, this role goes to the tanks. If you’re familiar with MMORPGs, you probably already know what a tank is. For those less acquainted, a tank is a player who draws the attention of enemies and takes big hits for the rest of the team. They are typically beefy classes with lots of health or abilities that mitigate damage.
Playing a tank is all about making sure the rest of your party members are safe, and FFXIV does a great job of incorporating this in both its gameplay and narrative. Several characters of great import to the story have tank jobs, and the poster-jobs for several expansions have been tanks. When you’re doing it right, tanking can be amazingly rewarding.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy — at least, not in the beginning! Many players remark that they suffer from “tanxiety” that keeps them from playing tank jobs. We’re here to tell you not to worry! Tanking is certainly scary to a beginner, but it’s much easier than it seems once you get the hang of it.
In this FFXIV Tank Guide, we’re going to cover all the basics of tanking and then get into some of the nitty-gritty details. Let’s get into it!
Picking a Tank
Final Fantasy XIV currently offers four tank jobs: Paladin, Warrior, Dark Knight, and Gunbreaker. The first two are available as the Gladiator and Marauder starting classes, respectively, while the latter two are unlockable at later levels. You can pick up Dark Knight once you reach the Heavensward expansion and have access to Foundation, the Holy See of Ishgard. Gunbreaker can be unlocked once you reach Level 60.
The four tanks all have very distinct identities and play styles, but it isn’t terribly hard to pick one up after you’ve learned another. Even though each job has its own actions and abilities, the basics of tanking doesn’t change.
Paladin (starting class Gladiator) is by far the easiest tank to pick up and learn. It’s available as a starting class, so you can learn the job from Level 1.
Paladin is the literal knight in shining armor of FFXIV. It’s also the poster-job for Endwalker, meaning it’s getting treated really well in the current patches. Paladins use a shield, so they come with built-in damage mitigation. As a result, they have less personal mitigation abilities than the other tanks, but much more party-wide mitigation. Their job is centered around the valiant protection of others, and they’re so selfless that they even have a few healing abilities.
Paladin is for players who are either beginner tanks looking for an easy intro to the role, or ones who simply want to raise their shields to protect their comrades.
See our Paladin Job Guide for info on leveling, rotation, and more!
If the Paladin is poised and selfless, the Warrior (starting class Marauder) is wild and — dare I say — a bit greedy.
Maybe protecting others isn’t your thing — at least, not in the traditional sense. Your protection comes from the brutal elimination of the threat. Through blood and sweat, you will harness your inner beast and cleave your enemies in half with your massive axe. That’s what the Warrior job is all about.
With the advent of Endwalker, the Warrior can also self-heal through almost anything. Warrior has abilities that give back the damage it takes, and others that restore its HP in the process.
Warrior is for players who enjoy unleashing their primal rage on their enemy and having a lot of HP restoration waiting in the wings. If Paladin seems a little too uptight for your first FFXIV tanking experience, let loose with Warrior!
Dark Knight is FFXIV’s original emo kid and probably one of the most beloved and lauded jobs in the game due to its masterfully written job questline. If you only level one tank, we’d really recommend this one if only for the story it tells.
Dark Knight’s role as a protector stems from their inner darkness — their grief. They will do anything to see violent justice done to those who deserve it. Their abilities harness that inner turmoil and turn it outward, drowning their enemies in blood and darkness. This is only fitting for the poster-job of Shadowbringers.
Dark Knight is going through a rough patch with Endwalker. The expansion’s stat adjustment has made a lot of their damage mitigation weak, and they’ve become incredibly squishy in high level content. This will certainly be adjusted at some point in the future, though how far away that will be is anyone’s guess. On the upside, that same stat adjustment has left them doing obscene damage for a tank, so they’re somewhat of a glass cannon.
Dark Knight is a great tank job for anyone really invested in the narrative of FFXIV, or anyone who just wants to be as moody and edgy as possible.
See our Dark Knight Job Guide for info on leveling, rotation, and more!
Gunbreaker is known for being the DPS of tank jobs. This is because it’s fast and smooth and hits pretty hard. It doesn’t feel like a tank sometimes due to its bodyguard-styled job identity.
Much like the Warrior, Gunbreaker’s protection comes from eliminating the threat in question. If you aren’t interested in donning heavy armor and swinging a big sword (or axe), pick up the gunblade instead.
Gunbreaker will especially appeal to the Final Fantasy VIII fans. Yes, you can put together an entire Squall cosplay if you really feel like it. No one is going to judge you.
What is Enmity?
Now that you’ve selected your ideal tank, it’s time to cover the basics of the role. The first and most important thing to understand is enmity. Enmity is how much an enemy hates you and wants to attack you. That sounds scary, but you always want to have as much enmity as possible when tanking. It’s your job to hold their attention and take their hits.
In other games, enmity is referred to as aggro or hate. You may even see other players say this in FFXIV instead (aggro especially is a widely used MMO term). You can see an enemy’s enmity status by looking at the Enemy List, which displays colored markers beside each enemy name.
A red square means that the enemy is focused on you. A blue circle means that the enemy is focused on someone else. You can also see who in your party is drawing the most enmity by looking at your party list. The player with an “A” beside their name is at the top of the enmity ranking, and the numbers show you who is below you and in what order.
How do you generate enmity? Before anything else, make sure you turn on your tank stance. Each tank has its own special stance, but in short, it’s a button you press that makes the enemies hate you. You should turn it on at the start of any dungeon and not turn it off until you’re done. Otherwise, enemies will stop paying attention to you and go hurt someone else — usually your poor healer.
Occasionally, your DPS may generate more enmity than you if their damage is exceptionally high. This will draw enemies away from you, but attacking them once or twice is usually enough to pull them back. Some of your attacks explicitly generate more enmity, but it’s not important to remember what these are. The only enmity-related abilities outside of your tank stance you should remember are the role actions Provoke and Shirk, which we’ll discuss in the next section.
Tank stances for each job are as follows:
- Paladin: Iron Will
- Warrior: Defiance
- Dark Knight: Grit
- Gunbreaker: Royal Guard
Tank Role Actions and Limit Break
All tanks share the same set of role actions. You get two mitigation abilities — Rampart (LVL 8) reduces damage taken by 20% for 20s, and Reprisal (LVL 22) places a debuff on enemies that reduces their damage dealt by 10% for 10s.
Low Blow (LVL 12) stuns a target, and Interject (LVL 18) interrupts a target’s action. Interject is meant to be used on enemy abilities that have a flashing red cast bar.
Arm’s Length (LVL 32) prevents you from being knocked back or drawn in by enemy abilities, but keep in mind that it doesn’t work on all of them.
Provoke (LVL 15) puts you at the top of a target’s enmity list; in other words, this is an aggro-grabber. Shirk (LVL 48) diverts 25% of enmity to another party member. Both of these are primarily used for tank swaps in eight-man trials and other high-level content with more than one tank. We’ll go more into detail on those kinds of situations later.
We’ve used the word “mitigation” quite a bit already. If you see someone talking about mitigation in FFXIV, they’re referring to any abilities a tank has that reduce damage coming from the boss, whether they’re personal shields, partywide shields, or debuffs placed on the boss.
Knowing how to properly use mitigation actions is the real hurdle of learning to tank and something that definitely comes with time. Here are a few basic tips to help you learn how to protect yourself:
- Don’t use all of your mitigation at once. There’s no point in overlapping shields or using them at the same time as debuffs.
- Mitigate during dungeon pulls. This is a very common mistake that new tanks make. As long as you’re not overdoing it, your mitigation will come off cooldown before you hit the boss. Pop those shields during pulls, and your healer will thank you.
- If you see a boss cast bar, mitigate. This is not a catch-all, but if you don’t know what you’re doing in a boss fight, it’s a good rule of thumb to protect yourself if you see a bar. Particularly if the boss is facing you and doing an obvious wind-up. That’s probably a tankbuster.
- Endwalker has added very obvious target markers for some tankbusters, so if you become surrounded by red circles, that’s your cue to use a shield.
- Know what your mitigates do. While they all stop the boss from hurting you, some of them have very specific use cases (like Dark Knight’s The Blackest Night, which is meant to be broken to trigger another attack).
Physical and Magical Damage
You may find that some mitigation abilities specify that they defend against or reduce magical or physical damage. Final Fantasy XIV doesn’t explicitly tell you when something is magical or physical damage. There are no clear cut visual cues or ways to determine this on the fly.
As a general rule of thumb, don’t use magic mitigation during dungeon pulls. Most enemies are just doing physical damage to you in those situations. Magic mitigation is for boss fights, raids, and trials. Some boss attacks are very obviously magical in nature, but you can also assume that any room-wide attack is magical.
This is something you’ll get used to over time, and there are detailed guides for encounters that sometimes tell you when which type of damage is at play. Use your best judgment!
Every tank comes with its own invuln ability. This is your tank panic button that you press when you think you’re about to die. Tanks have these abilities because if they die, it becomes a problem for everyone else when the enemies or boss start wailing on them instead. Tank deaths tend to mean a full wipe if the healer can’t rez you quickly enough.
The catch here is that an invuln doesn’t save you. It’s more of a red flag for your healer to save you. If there are any healers reading this, study up! You should know what tank invulns look like and what they do so you can help them out.
In line with keeping things simple, the Paladin’s invuln, Hallowed Ground (LVL 50), just makes them invincible against most attacks for 10s. This gives the healer a good deal of time to get your health back up to speed, or for the party to kill whatever was causing trouble.
Holmgang (LVL 42) is the Warrior’s invuln. It prevents most attacks from reducing you below 1 HP for 10s and halts a target’s movement with chains. Very simple and similar to Paladin.
Things get rough for the Dark Knight. Living Dead (LVL 50) lasts 10s and grants you a status effect that will change to Walking Dead if your HP drops to zero. If your HP isn’t fully restored in 10s, you’ll die. This one puts a lot of stress on your healer and really shouldn’t be used if you can tell that their MP is super low. They won’t get you back to max health, and you’ll find yourself on the ground.
Gunbreaker is similar, but without the auto-death. Superbolide (LVL 50) reduces your HP to 1 and renders you invulnerable to most attacks. Your healer doesn’t have to get you back to 100% health to keep you among the living, but they still need to get a substantial amount back to you. Again, take a glance at their MP before you use this.
How to Pull
In Final Fantasy XIV, pulling refers to the act of drawing an enemy’s enmity, or “aggroing” them. You’re basically “pulling” the enemy’s attention toward yourself.
Anyone can technically pull enemies, but this is the tank’s responsibility. If a DPS or healer pulls, the tank has to do extra work to pull that enemy off of them. When you aren’t tanking, let your tank do their job and don’t rush ahead to pull for them.
Being responsible for pulls means that tanks set the pace of dungeon runs. You’ll often see people talking about pulling “big” or “small” or “wall-to-wall” in dungeons. In FFXIV, enemies roam dungeons in small clusters or “packs.” These packs are positioned far enough apart so they won’t usually aggro a second pack if you pull the first. However, you can grab the enmity of one pack and continue forward to pull more packs if you can handle them all.
A small pull may mean just one pack, or possibly two. A big pull may mean pulling upwards of two, depending on the dungeon. Pulling wall-to-wall means running through the dungeon and grabbing enmity from all the enemies until you run into a wall, then having your party take them down all at once.
When you’re just starting out as a tank, it’s good practice to let your party know that you’re new. They will expect small pulls and usually offer help if needed. Pulling small as a beginner is totally fine and expected, because overpulling can lead to unnecessary deaths. At low levels, most tanks don’t have tons of mitigation and healers typically lack the spells to get them through large pulls. Keep things simple and slow, and you’ll be fine.
As you gain more experience and enter higher-level content, it’s expected that you start learning to pull bigger. However, if you notice that either you or your healer are struggling, communicate with your party about doing smaller pulls. Trying to pull big and dying over and over will slow you down more than taking the dungeon one or two packs at a time.
Tanks should also always pull bosses in dungeons, trials, and raids. Once again, a DPS or healer pull just creates more work for the tank. It’s also good manners to wait for the rest of your party to enter the boss arena before pulling.
How to Position
Another important element of tanking is learning to position enemies. When you have enmity, enemies will follow you around (unless they are stationary). This means that you can position them to your liking.
As a tank, moving around too much creates problems for the other members of your party. Melee DPS roles have positional requirements that they need to hit. Some jobs have stationary ground AOEs. Healers can drop ground AOE heals. This is particularly important for dungeon pulls, as you don’t want to drag a pack of enemies out of someone’s AOE attack. That being said, positioning packs of enemies is a lot less important than positioning bosses.
Many bosses in FFXIV have mechanics that require you to move them around the arena, or have phases in which they cannot be moved. Some of them are totally stationary, so positioning won’t apply at all. We can’t cover every single encounter, but we can give you a few basic tips:
- When in doubt, tank north. This means running straight through the boss, spinning them around, and pulling them to the opposite side of the arena (usually cardinal north).
- Always point the boss away from your party. You should never intentionally stack up on a DPS or healer. Bosses have invisible AOE cleave attacks that should only hit you. Standing next to other players is dangerous for them.
- Don’t overcorrect for other players. In direct contrast to the above point, do not try to fix your positioning if another player keeps running in front of the boss. If you’ve moved a couple times to get them out of the way and they keep coming back, that’s on them.
- Dodge AOEs and do mechanics. You may be the tank, but you’re not invincible. You still need to dodge AOEs, do stack ups and spreads, and so on.
- Pull bosses out of puddles. There are a few bosses that heal themselves from standing in AOE puddles. The game usually communicates this pretty well. Keep them out of the goop!
Tanking Raids and Trials
Raids and trials have a different set of rules for tanking than dungeons. This is due to the eight-man parties in these kinds of content that have two tanks.
In these situations, one of you will be the “main tank,” or MT, and the other will be the “off tank,” or OT. How is this decided? It varies. If you’re queuing into content with a random group, MT goes to whoever turns their tank stance on first. Those who aren’t comfortable with being MT should leave their tank stance off.
The MT is the tank that pulls and holds the boss. What the OT does varies greatly from fight to fight. In general, expect to pick up adds (additional enemies) so that they don’t wail on the DPS and healers.
In high-end content, fights will include tankbuster attacks that leave debuffs on the MT. In these situations, you will have to perform “tank swaps.” Remember Provoke and Shirk? That’s where those come into play. If you’re the MT, target the OT and use Shirk to divert your enmity to them. The OT will Provoke the boss and take over, becoming the MT. This isn’t something you’ll have to do very often in general content. Tank swaps are easier to pull off when playing in a premade party that discusses mechanics beforehand.
Tanking trials and raids in roulettes can be rough if you don’t know what fight you’re loading into. You also won’t know for sure if you’ll be MT or OT. Even if you’re inexperienced and would rather OT, your other tank may be in the same boat, and one of you will have to step up. If you want to tank this kind of content, we recommend studying fights and being very open to accepting advice from other players.
Tanking Baby Steps
Final Fantasy XIV has a very kind and welcoming community, so do not be afraid to tell people if you are new to tanking! At low levels, other players will probably also be new to their roles. Any veteran running this content is likely to offer you assistance. Even as an experienced tank, if you queue into something you’ve never run before, it’s good to let your party know so they can help out if needed.
As we mentioned earlier in this FFXIV tank guide, tanks are in charge of setting the pace and pulling in dungeons. If you have a party member trying to rush ahead when you’re uncomfortable, don’t try to adjust for them. On the other hand, if your healer tells you they aren’t comfortable with big pulls, don’t try to rush them. They’re telling you that they aren’t confident in their ability to keep you alive, and true efficiency for tanks is avoiding unnecessary deaths.
Communication is key for tanks, particularly when you’re new. If you let people know what to expect, they won’t get as frustrated if you make mistakes.
Tanking is shouldering a responsibility for your party, but it’s really not as hard as it seems! Starting out is a bit daunting, but with practice and time, you’ll get comfortable with the role and be able to tank just about anything.
Playing a tank also helps you gain a better understanding of how to play other jobs. If you main a DPS or healer, you’ll get to see a completely different side of the game. You’ll return to your original job knowing a little more about how certain fights work, and you’ll be a better player for it.
It’s a tankless job, but somebody’s gotta do it!
Join the High Ground
Whether you’re picking your starting class in Final Fantasy XIV or looking to delve into an alt job, we hope we’ve helped you better understand how tanking works in this FFXIV tank guide! For more thorough information on tank jobs, check out our guides for Paladin and Dark Knight. Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media for even more FFXIV guides!