Like big swords and big damage? Welcome to Dark Knight.
Do you know that weird situation, when you put in all that effort to be the best. Yet when that's actually a topic of conversation, people will only bring up your flaws? Like how you have to rely on the help of others. How your signature move, (which is actually the best of its kind) is still considered the worst? How you only like what you're doing because of that big sword and that you are sniffing copium? Well, that's just par for the course as a Dark Knight.
About Dark Knight
On paper, Dark Knight offers a bunch of utility and big damage. Only downside being, thanks to intended game design that you have to rely on your healers. So when you hear someone complain about how bad Dark Knight is, it's not a complaint that the job itself is not well designed. Just that in context... all the other tanks won't force healers to do their secondary job that often, (keeping you alive.)
The healer however having to put in more work keeping you alive, is made up for by the fact that you do a good chunk more damage. Welcome to Final Fantasy game balance discussion. Just play what you like, and if you like big swords and Batman. Go for Dark Knight.
Some Dark Knight Lore
Time for a little history lesson then. The Dark Knight was introduced all the way back in Final Fantasy II with the character of Leon. Who was an enemy turned friend later on. The job itself is probably most known for its outing in Final Fantasy IV. Here protagonist Cecil starts out as a Dark Knight before changing careers to become a Paladin.
In Final Fantasy XIV, the Dark Knight was introduced with its first expansion, Heavensward. It would later also be the poster child of the third expansion, Shadowbringers. In Final Fantasy XIV's lore it continues to be a dark inflection of the Paladin. The job is mostly tied to the city of Ishgard and its troubles. The job of the Dark Knight came to be, when some knights of Ishgard saw the corruption festering within the church. A knight could not bring nobles and members of the church to justice. But a Dark Knight could. They are the heroes of the common folk, priding themselves with being able to do what is necessary. So yes, they are basically fantasy Batman.
Becoming a Dark Knight
Lucky, or unlucky for you, Dark Knight is one of the few jobs locked behind the Heavensward expansion. While it is included in the free trial, you need to finish all of A Realm Reborn and its patch content. Enter Ishgard and have to be on a character that is at least level 50. There are no additional requirements beyond those. Here you'll find the Dark Knight job quest which will start you out at level 30 with some basic equipment. As always it is recommended to do the job quest as you level up, since it rewards you gear and new skills. Plus, it also comes with the caveat of being one of the best quest lines in the entire game.
How to Tank as Dark Knight
We have a general guide to tanking in Final Fantasy XIV here. But it can't hurt going over the basics right? Your most essential tool is the skill Grit, which you will get from simply unlocking the job. Whenever you are in group content you should have that activated. You do a pull with multiple enemies by using the skill Unleash, an AoE attack that hits multiple enemies. Later you'll get Stalwart Soul which is your combo ability. You want to use those whenever there is more than one enemy for you to attack. Use Unmend, your ranged attack, to pick up any enemies you didn't get or pull them from far away. You can check your enmity or aggro on the enemy list. In an ideal case those symbols next to the enemy names should always be red. That mean's that you're their top priority right now.
Once you have your pull, group them up to allow the rest of your party use their AoE attacks. Also, always face them away from the party and of course, dodge as many ground targeting attacks as possible. Depending on how confident you are, you can either pull one enemy group at a time or pull wall to wall in dungeons. This is usually two to three groups of enemies at once. Of course your healer has to keep up with you so check with them, but as a general rule, use your damage mitigation and you'll be fine.
Single target encounters work just a little differently. Do your regular rotation and try to keep the boss steady in the middle of the arena. Face the boss away from the party and ideally facing north. Now different bosses can require different strategies but this is a safe default.
Damage Mitigation as Dark Knight
Dark Knight relies heavily on their lifesteal ability of Souleater. On top of that, it's the only tank that specializes in magical attack defense. Which kind of sums up most of Dark Knight's specialization. It's a job that rewards fight knowledge; knowing exactly when to play which ability for maximum effect. Its signature ability is the level 70 skill, The Blackest Night, which is on a very short 15 second cooldown. It applies a shield that makes up 25% of your total health, and should that shield break. You get a free Edge of Shadow/Flood of Shadow prog out of it. Most of Dark Knight's damage optimization comes from knowing when to chose The Blackest Night over the damage of those two skills.
Just like the other tanks, you should always use Arms Length on pull to give your healers a little breathing room. Afterwards you're free to choose between Reprisal, Oblation, Rampart and Shadow Wall. But we do recommend starting out with Shadow Wall, since its your strongest defensive buff. And damage will be decreased as enemies thin out. Through all of that, keep using The Blackest Night.
On single target, all of this looks a little bit different. Our bread and butter for damage mitigation are Shadow Wall and Rampart, use those for casts and try not to waste them on the bosses auto attacks. Oblation is for in-between when you need to mitigate damage for yourself, or your co tank for whatever reason. You can use it liberally, but it's good to keep one charge just in case. Dark Mind looks like a very strong cooldown, but do keep in mind that it only applies to magic damage. It can be hard to identify magic damage, but you can usually tell by the bosses cast bar, or the animation. However, this isn't always the case so if in doubt, check the boss mechanics.
As mentioned above, The Blackest Night is a balancing act — you have to know if that shield will break or not while it's up. And while all damage mitigated is good, you'll trade those 3000 MP for damage and a recharge of your damage buff. Besides that, use Reprisal on partywide damage and coordinate it with the other tank, since the effect doesn't stack. Dark Missionary has a similar use, but it's for magic damage only. But don't worry, most stack mechanics or partywides with a castbar are magical damage.
We should probably talk about Living Dead, because it works a little different from other tank invulnerability skills. Living Dead requires some communication with your healers, since the skill allows you to basically die and live beyond death. After 'dying' you have 10 seconds to fill up your HP again, during that time your HP can't drop below 1. While being under the effect Walking Dead, which is applied after you 'die' every Weaponskill you'll throw out will now heal a massive amount of HP. But you still might require a little assistance from your healer. Its not as great for cheesing tank mechanics as other abilities, but it can save a raid from a wipe, be it by just taking a stack mechanic or double tank-buster solo.
Combat as Dark Knight
Here we come to the meat of what it means to be a competent Dark Knight. It comes down to keeping a buff up, managing two resource meters while also keeping your cooldowns rolling throughout a fight. First and most importantly you should keep Darkside up at all times. You do that by using either Edge of Shadow for single target, or Flood of Shadow for multiple targets. Those two will increase the Darkside damage buff by 30 seconds for up to a minute. Since they use MP, and the only other skill in your arsenal that uses MP is The Blackest Night, you should not worry about over capping that damage buff. You should rather worry about keeping an eye on that MP bar and keeping that spare 3000 MP for The Blackest Night. Luckily, both Edge of Shadow and Flood of Shadow are fairly easy to weave in between your regular abilities. So it should be easy to regulate that.
As for your other damage related off global cooldowns, weave them in, and keep using them as soon as they come up. Nothing should go to waste. That also means you can definitely use Blood Weapon and Delirium at the same time. And use both of them to their maximum benefit without wasting anything (but we'll get to that in a bit.)
In multi target situations, you always want to open with Blood Weapon + Unleash to get the global cooldown rolling. Then weave a Flood of Shadow, maybe a second one should you feel like it and then go on to Stalwart Soul. Another Unleash followed by two Flood of Shadow's and another Stalwart Soul before you pop Delirium. Now you should also be able to use Living Shadow and weave it after Stalwart Soul before you go on to spam Quietus three times. In between those you use Abyssal Drain, Salted Earth, Salted Darkness and your two Shadowbringer's. Now you can go back to combo Unleash and Stalwart Soul while spending your MP on Flood of Shadow. Make sure to never overcharge your job meter or MP bar and pop your cooldowns when they come back up.
In single target situations, we just have to replace a couple of skills from the multi target rotation and we should be good. Just always keep in mind to spend your MP and job meter to not waste any resources. Choosing between the safer option of using The Blackest Night, which might not break, or Edge of Shadow is one of Dark Knight's core mechanics. But lets go over the opener and proper rotation.
First you need to make a choice, you can either use Delirium and Blood Weapon at the same time, or use Delirium after the next global cooldown to space them out a little. After Hard Slash, use Edge of Shadow. Now use Delirium if you haven't already, followed by Souleater. After this, weave Living Shadow and Salted Earth, followed by Bloodspiller. Now weave a Shadowbringer and an Edge of Shadow, then Bloodspiller again, followed by Carve and Split and Plunge. Then the final Bloodspiller of Delirium's effect, followed by another Shadowbringer + Edge of Shadow Combo. Now restart your normal combo, weave an Edge of Shadow and Salt and Darkness after Hard Slash. After Syphon Strike, you weave another Plunge and Edge of Shadow and you have finished your opener.
Now you'll have to wait for your cooldowns to come up, so you're allowed to have fun again. Spend your MP with Edge of Shadow and The Blackest Night to make sure it never fills up. And spend your job meter by using the occasional Bloodspiller. Just make sure you have 40 or less on it before Blood Weapon comes up again. And also make sure to have around 50 on it before Living Shadow comes up. Congrats, you now only have to juggle cooldowns in-between.
The Dark Arts of being a Dark Knight
Time to impart some forbidden knowledge upon you. If you find yourself over geared in content there is one cursed method to get your The Blackest Night shield to break. Which is to have at least one, or two vulnerability stacks on you. Since tank privilege is a thing you can easily get away with one or two of those without the entire fight going south. With The Blackest Night now guaranteed to break, you'll mitigate most of the damage anyways and get the damage from a free Edge/Flood of Shadow out of it. Great right? Oh and you can also use The Blackest Night on other party members.
So, Dark Knight is actually pretty fun, not as busy as one would expect and it makes a great support/main tank. While it's true that even with all its mitigation that the job has to rely a little more on healers than other tanks That will be made up by your damage output along with the way you can assist your party with several forms of mitigation. Something even Paladin can't quite compete with.
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