Welcome to this FFXIV Bard guide, freshly revamped for the Shadowbringers expansion. This guide will cover concepts of Bard gameplay, from the very fundamentals to the limits of optimization, as well as serving as a pocket reference for all aspects of Bard.

With the launch of Shadowbringers, Bard received changes that didn’t compromise its core identity nor feel of gameplay, but were still substantial enough to deserve major guide revisions. In addition, we’ve wanted to rewrite the Bard guide to make it less daunting and more accessible to beginner players, to reflect the fact that Bard is a fairly straightforward job to pick up and run with.

Glossary

AA/ApexApex Arrow
APArmy’s Paeon
BLBloodletter
BSBurst Shot
BVBattle Voice
CBCaustic Bite
DoTDamage over Time (for Bard, inflicted by Caustic Bite and Stormbite)
EAEmpyreal Arrow
GCDGlobal Cooldown (for Bard, this means Weaponskills)
IJIron Jaws
MBMage’s Ballad
oGCDoff-Global Cooldown (for Bard, this means Abilities and Spells)
PPPitch Perfect
ProcOriginally short for “special process”, it’s an MMO term that refers to events with a random chance of happening. For Bard, this means Straight Shot Ready and Repertoire.
RARefulgent Arrow
RoDRain of Death
RSRaging Strikes
QNQuick Nock
SBStormbite
SnapShort for snapshot, refers to capturing buffs onto DoTs using Iron Jaws.
SWSidewinder
TroubTroubadour
WeaveUsing oGCDs in between GCDs. Using two of them in a single window is called double weaving.
WMWanderer’s Minuet

Basic Gameplay

The three most characteristic qualities of Bard gameplay are that it uses a priority system, it’s reactive, and it’s flexible. I’ll explain what those mean:

  • Priority system: In FFXIV, there are some classes which have very static rotations. What that means is that you can map out exactly when to press buttons over a couple-minute duration, and the rotation is just a loop of that exact sequence. Bard is the exact opposite of those classes. Its different skills are loosely interconnected, rather than strictly ordered like combo-based classes. In fact, Bard has no GCD combos at all! Instead, as a Bard, you’ll be managing uptime on songs and damage over time skills while responding to procs. This also means you can learn Bard in steps. I’ve heard Bard described as an onion, with layers of complexity.
  • Reactive play: Arguably more than any other class (only Dancer and Black Mage are even in the question), Bard’s priority system is heavily shaped by RNG. It’s one of the classes that makes the most choices during the fight. Even on the same fight, every pull will feel just a bit different.
  • Flexibility: There are really few hard and fast rules of Bard gameplay. As you gain expertise, you’ll get a better sense of what guidelines/priorities you can break. The priority system can be molded to fit fights with adds phases, downtime, etc. as needed.

This section will cover the basics of playing Bard on a single-target fight.

Priority System Overview

If this seems daunting, don’t worry about taking it in all at once! Bard is meant to be learned in steps, which are explained below. You can think of this more like a cheatsheet. These are not hard and fast rules! It’s a general guide.

GCD Priority – keep your GCD rolling!

  1. DoTs not up? If not, StormbiteCaustic Bite.
  2. DoTs about to run out (<3s left)? Iron Jaws.
  3. Apex Arrow gauge maxed? Use it.
  4. Straight Shot Ready? Refulgent Arrow.
  5. GCD up, and nothing else to do? Burst Shot.

oGCD Priority – do between GCDs

  1. Do you have a song playing? If not:
    1. Wanderer’s Minuet.
    2. WM on cooldown? Mage’s Ballad.
    3. WM and MB on cooldown? Army’s Paeon.
  2. In Wanderer’s Minuet? Use Raging Strikes.
  3. In Raging Strikes, Barrage up, and not Straight Shot Ready? Use Barrage.
  4. Pitch Perfect at 3 stacks? Use it.
  5. Bloodletter up in Mage’s Ballad? Use it.
  6. Empyreal Arrow up? Use it, and be ready to weave a proc.
  7. Other oGCDs up? Use them. 

Always be casting & basics of weaving 

One of the strictest rules of Bard is also one of the most important rules of playing FFXIV classes well in general. Always be casting! Pressing buttons in the wrong order is usually better than pressing nothing. This is doubly true on Bard, which doesn’t have combos and instead has a powerful filler GCD in the form of Burst Shot!

GCD stands for Global Cooldown, and refers to weaponskills. For Bard, all these skills share the same cooldown, which is 2.5s and drops as you acquire Skill Speed. Bard’s skills do not have cast times, so in between using GCDs, you can usually use 1 or 2 oGCDs (off-GCDs), which are skills that are not weaponskills. This is called weaving.

It’s important to keep your GCD rolling. If a GCD is available, you should be pressing something, and you should avoid pressing oGCDs if your GCD is about to come up in <0.7 seconds. This is called clipping, and you’ll notice it because even if you mash your GCD after, it won’t be used immediately when it comes off of cooldown. Using more than 2 oGCDs between two GCDs will almost always cause clipping.  Don’t do it. Depending on how good your internet is, you may not even be able to use 2 during Army’s Paeon or Army’s Muse, so in these cases you should generally pick the lower priority oGCD and delay it.

Your filler GCDs, which you press if you don’t need to use any other GCDs, are Burst Shot (BS) and Refulgent Arrow (RA). Use RA if you have Straight Shot Ready, and BS if not.

DoTs 

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Just about everything else in Bard’s kit is built on top of your two damage over time skills.  These two are Stormbite (SB) and Caustic Bite (CB).  Together, they contribute a major amount of Bard’s damage, in addition to unlocking the song procs (foreshadowing!)  Against a single target enemy, it’s almost always best to have both always up. Most of the time, you will lead off on targets with SB into CB.

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After initially applying DoTs to an enemy, instead of manually reapplying them, use Iron Jaws (IJ) to refresh the timer as it gets low (<3s or so).  Even though IJ seems weaker, it only costs 1 GCD. IJ → BS is stronger than SB → CB.

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One additional thing to know about DoT skills is that the damage over time calculates damage based on the buffs & debuffs on you and the target when the DoTs were applied or reapplied.  So when you use IJ (or SB or CB), the buffs (Raging Strikes, Resistance Up…), and debuffs (Vulnerability Up, Weakness…), on both you and your target get “snapshotted”. These snapshotted buffs and debuffs affect the DoTs for their entire duration until they run out or are reapplied. This makes IJ very powerful when you have raid buffs stacked up.

Note that all three of these skills can also proc Straight Shot Ready, so be watchful of your buff bar or RA button!

Song Rotation + Procs 

Next, we get to the lifeblood of Bard – songs. Bard has 3 songs, which have different effects (Repertoire) that have a 40% chance to trigger every time a DoT deals damage to a target. All DoTs in the game deal damage every 3 seconds, so you have 2 proc chances every 3 seconds on a single target. All song skills and their procs are oGCDs.

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Wanderer’s Minuet (WM) is the strongest single-target song. It stores up to 3 procs, which can be expended on a powerful oGCD called Pitch Perfect (PP). Use PP only at 3 stacks, unless your WM is about to run out. It plays a noise when it hits 3, so you don’t even have to watch it.

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Mage’s Ballad (MB) is the next-strongest. It doesn’t store anything. Instead, when a proc happens, the cooldown of Bloodletter (BL) is reset. It’s normal to mash BL during MB, but take care not to mash BL when your GCD is coming up, or you will clip!

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Army’s Paeon (AP) is the weakest. It stacks up to 4, and as you accumulate stacks, your GCD time speeds up. It also grants a buff when you switch out of it, depending on how many stacks you had.

The order of using songs is WM for 30s → MB for 30s → AP for 20s (cutting it short to begin the next WM). This is the 80s cycle, and is the only part of Bard that you could really call a rotation. You should always have a song going, as they provide a lot of Bard’s damage.

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Empyreal Arrow (EA) grants a single Repertoire proc. It should be used more or less off cooldown. Note that it can cause clipping, because it may make your other oGCDs available. It’s better to delay EA by a GCD to avoid this, than to clip.

Wanderer’s Minuet + Raging Strikes + Barrage Alignment 

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Barrage is our most powerful single oGCD, transforming our next filler GCD into a triple-damage RA. Raging Strikes (RS) is our only self-buff. WM is our most powerful song. Conveniently, all three have a cooldown of 80 seconds, so we use them all together.

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When entering WM, you should also use RS (more advanced usage is discussed later in the guide). Use Barrage as soon as possible within this window, taking care not to use it when you already have Straight Shot Ready. Note that other single-target GCDs (not Apex Arrow) can consume Barrage, so you have to use RA as your next GCD.

Other Offensive Skills 

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Apex Arrow should be used at 100 Soul Voice, or dumped if the fight is imminently ending and you have more than 60 Soul Voice. It will fill every 60 seconds on average if you keep your DoTs and songs up and use EA on cooldown.

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Bloodletter (BL) should be used on cooldown when not in MB. Don’t use Rain of Death against a single target.

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Sidewinder (SW) should be used on cooldown to maximize uses. Don’t use Shadowbite against a single target. If you have a good Ninja, it will naturally align with Trick Attack after the opener in this guide. Note that DoTs have a bit of a delay before they are counted by Sidewinder and Shadowbite, so wait a moment between using your second DoT and using Sidewinder/Shadowbite.

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Battle Voice (BV) should be used on cooldown to maximize uses.

Changes from Stormblood

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In roughly decreasing order of importance:

  • The big one. Song procs are no longer dependent on crit, rather having a fixed 40% proc rate per DoT. This means we are no longer thirsty for every possible source of crit. It won’t be nearly as necessary to party with a SCH or DRG, our gear won’t come down to “pick the crit piece”, and it’s much less valuable to snap crit buffs.
  • Barrage grants a free guaranteed RA proc, so there’s no more need to hold EA for barrage backup. EA should be used on cooldown whenever possible!
  • All single-target GCDs have a 35% chance to proc RA, except for RA itself. This includes SB, CB, IJ, BS. There’s never been a better time to stick a double-size RA button in the center of your screen.
  • The filler GCD has become stronger, with HS → BS being 150 → 230 potency and old RA → new RA being 300 → 340 potency. So the cost of snapping is higher, and it’s much less valuable to double snap. It’s also a bigger loss to clip.
  • Straight Shot is no longer a self buff, which changes the opener and removes one thing to manage. It’s basically a mini RA now.
  • Apex Arrow has been added. The tooltip is misleading, it only hits 500 potency at max gauge, so it gives 5 potency per gauge spent. As a rule of thumb, use it at max gauge (can be OK to delay or use early 1-2 ticks in order to hit a buff window).
  • Army’s Paeon now grants a lingering speed buff for 10 seconds after switching into the next song. In practice, this is a “flat” bonus that doesn’t scale that hard with how long we’ve spent in AP, so it reinforces the 30-30-20 song cycle that we know and love.
  • EA is no longer a weaponskill, so its cooldown isn’t reduced by SKS or Army’s Paeon.
  • Foe Requiem, the passive song crit buff, and Refresh have been removed entirely. 🙁 Battle Voice now gives 20% DH chance, which is a consolation prize.
  • Certain potencies have been updated. BL 130 → 150, RoD 100 → 130, SB (initial use) 120 → 100, SB (dot) 55 → 60, CB (initial use) 120 → 150, CB (dot) 45 → 50, QN 110 → 150, RA 300 → 340, PP2 240 → 250, PP3 420 → 450.
  • Troubadour’s duration has been halved to 15s, but now doesn’t require a song and reduces all damage by 10%. Minne’s cooldown has been doubled to 90s, but now affects oGCD healing.
  • Arm’s Length has been added.
  • Lots of new AoE skills and traits, QN can reset BL in any song, AoE sidewinder, Apex Arrow.

Opener

Prepull RS (recommended)

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Opener comparison:

  • Strongest opener in general.
  • This opener may not be usable at very high skill speed, since the BL and end-of-song timers will collide with the GCD timer as the first WM ends. It may also not be usable at high ping (see the note about the triple weave). Try it out!
  • Is slightly harder to pull off.

Things to note:

  • RS should be used prepull (slightly after the 1 appears in the countdown), so that the SB can be used exactly when the countdown hits 0.
  • I recommend delaying the WM by a fraction of a second. At the end of the opener WM, if you have PP stacks and your DoT tick is slightly after the end of WM, you will likely be triple weaving BL PP MB in order to keep song and EA rolling as quickly as possible. You should test and make sure that you can actually pull off the PP in the middle there. If not (likely for ping reasons), you can instead do PP BL and then MB the next GCD. For those that can pull off the BL PP, it has a hidden benefit of letting you use up all your WM stacks even with a last-minute tick.
  • If you have a potion, use it before RS (a bit before the 2 appears in the countdown)
  • All Burst Shots are filler. If you get a have an RA proc, use RA instead of BS.
  • Do not use RA in between SB and CB if you get a RA proc from the SB. Just let it go.
  • If you have an RA proc when it’s time to IJ, you should still IJ. Let the RA proc go.
  • If you have an RA proc ready when you would be using Barrage, instead use RA → Barrage → SW → RA → BL → IJ → EA etc. Do not use a BS between the Barraged RA and IJ in this case.
  • Prioritize getting the 2nd BL on cooldown when it’s available (i.e. if you have a PP3 on that GCD, use the BL first unless you could lose a proc)
  • Barrage timing can be flexibly moved earlier depending on party buffs. It’s important to catch all the raid buffs, but the earlier the better within that window. The timing in the opener is set to catch Trick Attack, but if there is no NIN, it can be done earlier with no harm. The IJ should not be moved earlier unless you have prepull cards, in which case you may need to do it before Barraging. The Barrage and IJ cannot be safely moved later without potentially causing the IJ to fall outside RS.
  • Battle Voice cooldown is flexible if the party has classes that burst later.
  • Sidewinder cooldown can be moved forward if the party has no NIN, but prioritize using other oGCDs and don’t clip for it.

Prepull RS (ping-friendly)

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Opener comparison: 

  • A prepull opener variant that is a tad weaker, but more compatible with higher SKS and more forgiving on ping.
  • More familiar to those who played in Stormblood.

Things to note:

  • If you have a potion, use it prepull (a bit before the 2 appears in the countdown).
  • All Burst Shots are filler. If you get a have an RA proc, use RA instead of BS.
  • Do not use RA in between SB and CB if you get a RA proc from the SB. Just let it go.
  • If you have an RA proc when it’s time to IJ, you should still IJ. Let the RA proc go.
  • If you have an RA proc ready when you would be using Barrage, instead use RA → Barrage → SW → RA → BL → IJ → EA etc. Do not use a BS between the Barraged RA and IJ in this case.
  • Bloodletter cooldown is more forgiving in this opener, so if you have a PP3 when your 2nd BL comes off cooldown, use the PP3 first.
  • Barrage timing can be flexibly moved earlier depending on party buffs. It’s important to catch all the raid buffs, but the earlier the better within that window. The timing in the opener is set to catch Trick Attack, but if there is no NIN, it can be done earlier with no harm. The IJ should not be moved earlier unless you have prepull cards, in which case you may need to do it before Barraging. The Barrage and IJ cannot be safely moved later without potentially causing the IJ to fall outside RS.
  • Battle Voice cooldown is flexible if the party has classes that burst later. If you use BV later, move the first EA forward to double weave with WM.
  • Sidewinder cooldown can be moved forward if the party has no NIN, but prioritize using other oGCDs and don’t clip for it.

Utility Cooldowns

Battle Voice: Unless otherwise mapped out, it’s best to use this on cooldown and together with the final burst.

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Troubadour: As of Shadowbringers, Troubadour no longer requires any particular song. It always gives 10% dmg reduction, but only for 15s. Due to its very long cooldown and very powerful effect, it’s useful to map out this skill with your healers. Ask them where they want it.

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Nature’s Minne: As of Shadowbringers, Minne now works on oGCD healing in addition to GCD healing. It’s still excellent for powering up deploy Adloquium, but can also be used in a pinch when a tank is about to eat several repeated hits.

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Second Wind: Its heal amount is thankfully not based on our MND, so it actually heals for a decent amount. Great for healing up while doing long-range baited mechanics (e.g. Liquid Hell in Twintania).

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Arm’s Length: It has a bit of an activation delay, so be sure to use it slightly before the knockback hits. Doesn’t work on all knockbacks.

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Warden’s Paean: Debuffs that can be cleansed by Warden’s Paean have a glowing blue bar above the debuff icon. They’re not very common in higher level content, but keep an eye out for them. You should be first priority on cleansing debuffs because Warden’s is free to weave, compared to Esuna which is a GCD.

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Head Graze: Anything that can be interrupted will have a pulsing red castbar.

Advanced Gameplay

RS Alignment Choice

After the opener (i.e. starting from the 2nd RS), you can elect to either align RS with the beginning of WM or the end. The tradeoff is that WM tends to have back-loaded damage, but Army’s Muse makes it easier to deal 9 GCDs under RS.

Aligning RS with the beginning of WM is the easiest choice, but is slightly worse for damage. It ensures that you get 9 GCDs under RS without needing any special delays, due to the speed buff from Army’s Muse. In particular, this plan is probably a good choice at low skill speeds. It’s also the easiest to remember.

You can float RS, using it 2 GCDs into WM and letting it slide farther back if your Barrage is forced back by natural RA procs. I recommend this option. It’s still pretty easy but is a significant gain over using it at the very start of WM, and is almost as good as the hardmode option. This catches some of the more valuable time of WM, while still easily hitting 9 GCDs in RS due to partial help from Army’s Muse. You will still need to delay RS within the GCD.

Aligning RS with the ending of WM is the hardest and riskiest choice, also requiring some minimum skill speed. The end of WM, especially the very last DoT tick, tends to have more PP usages, and you can also catch the 100 potency cast of MB itself. To do this, you use RS about 12 seconds into WM (around when it has 18 seconds remaining), in the second oGCD window of a GCD. If you do it early within the GCD, you risk missing the 9th GCD under RS, and if you do it late, you risk clipping. If either happens, you wipe out most if not all of the gains. Also, if you lose significant RS time at the end of the fight, that wipes out all the gains as well. Based on some early logs of mine, it seems that RS now applies to self faster, making it extremely hard/impossible to get 9 GCDs under RS at 2.47 or slower GCD without the help of Muse. If this is the case for you, you should choose another option.

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Late RS also has some less obvious tradeoffs with respect to buff alignment. It potentially makes the 4 minute alignment worse, especially if you drift your song rotation. However, it makes the 3 minute alignment better, since 3 minutes is 20s into the 3rd WM. Also, if you have a NIN, doing 2nd RS late gives you a tight window to snap the 2nd and 3rd tricks, whereas 2nd RS early means you will probably early snap as the 2nd RS is falling off and miss 3rd trick.

Iron Jaws

With the added chance to proc RA, there is now a choice of when to use IJ. If you plan to always use it on the last possible GCD, you risk wasting a RA proc chance. If you plan to use it on the second-to-last GCD, you end up using more IJs over the course of the fight. It turns out these two plans are almost exactly equal in dps. So, if you know that an early snap is coming in the future, you should plan to IJ on the second-to-last GCD of DoTs, and if you want to extend DoTs as much as possible to hit a buff window, you should plan to IJ on the last GCD of DoTs.

Deciding whether to snap buffs is a tradeoff decision between buffing DoTs, which tick for 1100 potency over 30 seconds, and using additional IJs, which cost slightly more than 130 potency each (because you lose a buffed BS). These are general guidelines, and could vary depending on what buffs are coming up later and what buffs are already on your DoTs:

  • The most straightforward rule of thumb is that if your DoTs aren’t already buffed, and there are no buffs coming soon, for every 1% of buffs that are about to fall off you can snap your dots 2s early.  So, for example, Brotherhood can be safely snapped for a gain just before it falls off, if your DoTs  have ~10s or less left on them. The less time your DoTs have when you would snap, the bigger the gain.  If your DoTs already have buffs on them, or there are new buffs coming up soon, it’s less of a gain to early snap.
  • If your DoTs don’t already have any buffs on them, you should almost always snap 10% damage buffs or pairs of damage buffs once, either naturally or as they are falling off. All such buffs last at least 10s, so if you snap at the end, you’re at most adding ⅔ of an additional IJ. ⅔ * 130 < 110.
  • Even if your DoTs have ~5s left on them when RS goes up, double snapping RS is basically not a gain, since you’d be expending two RS slots that could be BS. Even if this only causes an extra half an IJ over the fight, it’s about even with adding 6 ticks of RS (compared to single snapping RS). If DoTs end right after RS goes up, and there are no other buffs at all, it’s a small gain to snap RS again as it goes down.
  • Crit buffs can be approximated as being about .5% damage for every 1% crit chance.  So Chain and Litany are roughly as good as 5% damage buffs.

As a minor note, the devs seem to like putting 25s+ downtimes in fights. In such cases, if you have an RA proc going into the last GCD before downtime, it’s better to RA and then manually reapply DoTs after downtime. Otherwise, IJ on both ends.

Procs in WM

Unlike in Stormblood, there’s no way to raise the proc chance above 60%, so in general you should use Pitch Perfect at 3 stacks. Like in SB, use PP2 early if you know you have an EA coming up next GCD concurrently with the DoT tick, or if the song is imminently ending. This is especially important if your 2nd EA in WM is in the last few seconds, so you have PP available to make use of the guaranteed proc. If you are using EA very close to on cooldown, this will happen during your second WM! Be ready to use a PP2 at ~5s left on that second WM.

Note that because EA should be used on cooldown in every song, the EA timer will not be at the same time during every WM. If you would use an EA <1s before transitioning from AP to WM, instead hold it for after the WM. This is to prevent you from getting a guaranteed proc and being unable to use it at the end of the song.

There’s no longer a need to triple weave Barrage EA PP. Avoid that triple weave by delaying EA in general, or delaying Barrage if you’re near the end of the fight (it risks delaying twice and messing up alignment due to the chance of a RA proc).

Procs in MB

MB is a delicate dance between not losing procs, using EA on cooldown, and not clipping. At the very least, it’s important to understand how the DoT timer works relative to the GCD timer.

DoT ticks happen every 3 seconds, and the GCD timer is 2.5s or slightly less, so you can think of the tick as happening 0.5s “later” within the GCD every GCD, until it skips one entirely. It’s useful to learn to keep track of where the DoT timer is, relative to the GCD. If possible, try to do this through the WM to MB transition.

Make sure not to mash BL during the last ~1s of a GCD to avoid clipping. If a BL proc were to come up that late, the next GCD may not have a DoT tick at all, so it is perfectly safe to delay the BL to the start of the next GCD.

Using EA in MB can be tricky if you want to avoid losing procs. Here’s where it can be extremely valuable to know the DoT timer. If it’s early, it’s fine to use BL EA BL triple weaved (this is one of the only acceptable triple weaves). If it’s extremely late, you can mash EA BL fast enough that the DoT tick happens later. If the DoT timer is in the middle of the GCD, it’s acceptable to wait up to 3 GCDs for the DoT timer to move later. You shouldn’t need to wait more, even 2 GCDs is almost always enough, and the less you have to wait the better. Don’t wait on the first EA in MB if it would push it past the midpoint (i.e. if you would only get 1 EA in that MB).

Song Transitions 

Due to the addition of Soul Voice, it’s more important than ever to minimize the amount of songless time, and avoid letting DoT ticks fall in songless time.

WM to MB transition: If the DoT tick timer is very close (<.5s) to the end of the song, or you use a PP3 less than 3 seconds before the song ends, you can transition into MB early if it’s available. This is ping dependent, and at low ping it can be easier to make use of the last DoT tick in WM.

MB to AP transition: Unlike the WM to MB transition, MB procs (BL) can be used after the song ends, so avoid cutting it short if there would be a DoT tick at the very end of MB. Other than that, just try to minimize songless time without clipping.

AP to WM transition: Weave BS → WM → BS → RS → BS… if you’re doing early RS, or just BS → WM → BS if you’re doing late RS. In either case, do the transition when your MB cooldown is 30s or less, and your AP cooldown is 60s or less. Wait at least 0.25s between the BS and WM to ensure you get 5 GCDs in Muse. At low skill speed (~2.47 or slower GCD), ideally wait even longer, up to half a second. This should set up nicely for a PP MB double weave 12 GCDs later on the WM to MB transition, assuming full stacks of Army’s Muse. 

Be careful about double weaving during Army’s Muse.  Depending on your ping, it can cause clipping and cost you GCDs under Muse or GCDs under RS.

To reiterate from above, if you have an EA very close to this transition, save it for after the transition.

Extending AP

This overlaps somewhat with the Fight Mapping section, but since this is the most common way to manipulate the song rotation, I wanted to spend some extra time on it.

Extending AP beyond 20s can be used to push back WM/RS/Barrage phases to line up with bursts. You can think of it as pulling song time from the end of the fight/phase and moving it into the current AP. You will also effectively move EAs into AP (where they are weakest). If you would end the fight in AP, you can usually do this mostly for free, potentially costing yourself some portion of Muse. Pulling time out of MB is acceptable if it gets you better alignment or some other gain (see below). I do not recommend losing WM/RS time unless you have a very good reason.

As an example, consider a fight that lasts around 7:45. Your party may elect to use 3-minute buffs at 0:10, 4:10, 7:10 and 2-minute buffs at 0:10, 2:10, 4:10, 7:10. In this case, you would want to line up WM with both the 4:10 and 7:10 bursts. You can do this by extending AP to the full 30s between 4 and 7 minutes. At the cost of some MB time, you align your last WM/RS/Barrage with a powerful potion window.

Aside from alignment, there are other unplanned reasons to want to extend AP:

  • Your BL timer is ~2-3s when you would enter WM. This will cause you to also have a BL timer of ~2-3s when you enter the next MB. But if you extend AP by ~4s to use BL before WM, you can buy yourself almost an entire Bloodletter.
  • You aren’t at 4 stacks of AP at 20s in. The difference between a 4 stack Army’s Muse and 3 stack Army’s Muse can be over 100 potency, or even more if it causes you to lose a GCD under RS.

  • Your EA comes off cooldown ~19s into AP. You would have to delay EA to avoid having an unusable PP proc. Delaying AP instead can cause you to make the PP usable.

  • Your Barrage/RS has somehow drifted very far back within WM.

Note that if you planned your song alignment around raid buffs, extending AP could skew it slightly. But if multiple of the above cases are true, especially the first two (those are much bigger), it can be worth it to sacrifice some alignment.

Refulgent Arrow Procs

Don’t hold RA procs for even a single GCD to catch upcoming buffs. The difference between a buffed RA and a buffed BS is too small. 

If you have an RA proc as Barrage comes up, delay the Barrage unless it would fall outside of Raging Strikes. With proper gameplay, this shouldn’t happen on a fight of reasonable duration.

While manually applying DoTs, don’t use a RA proc if you get one from the first SB.

Apex Arrow 

Apex Arrow charges to full roughly every 60s (20 DoT ticks, average 4 gauge per DoT tick from both DoTs combined, plus 20 gauge from 4 EA).

While in general, it’s best to use Apex Arrow at 100 gauge, there is some flexibility in its usage. It’s OK to use early at 95 gauge if hitting a 10% buff, or to delay up to one DoT tick to hit a 10% buff. This will most commonly occur with a Ninja.

Also, if you’re on the last Apex Arrow of the fight (under ~30s left in the fight, so not long enough to charge a worthwhile Apex Arrow), you can delay as long as you like in order to fit it into buff windows.

Around adds phases, save Apex Arrow if it full charges and an adds phase is coming up within ~20s. As an add is dying, use Apex Arrow if you are at more than ~50 gauge (beware of overkill!). These numbers have a LOT of dependence on the wait time, number of adds, lifetime of adds, and the duration of the fight after the adds phase ends. Optimally, it should be mapped out on a per-fight basis. Test it yourself – if you notice yourself waiting nearly long durations and then dumping a low-gauge Apex Arrow at the end of the adds phase, consider burning the Apex Arrow instead of waiting.

If you enter an adds phase with 100 gauge, on 2 targets you should usually apply DoTs first and then use the Apex Arrow. With ~3-5 targets, apply a single DoT to each and then

Apex. On adds phases with a large number of targets, Apex Arrow first, then DoTs. Again, this is fight-dependent, and especially dependent on the lifetime of the adds.

Fight Mapping

Mapping a fight involves coming up with song timings and IJ timings to fit downtime, adds phases, and party burst phases. Things to consider:

  • In general, the priorities are to avoid going songless, then maximize the amount of time spent in WM, and then maximize the amount of time spent in MB.
  • The most straightforward way to adjust the song rotation is by extending AP beyond 20s duration. See the Extending AP section.
  • MB (and to a lesser extent, AP) should be lined up with adds phases that have at least 3 targets. WM and MB should be lined up with adds phases that have 2 total targets.
  • If you’re playing in a static that is optimizing, you can usually set all buffs except AST cards to happen at fixed times. This allows you to plan the entirety of your IJs out for the fight.
  • If you could gain an extra Barrage by misaligning RS from WM on a short fight (e.g. Kefaust), it’s usually good to do so.
  • If at all possible, ensure that 2nd (and 3rd) potions, which will likely be on raid buff windows, line up with both WM and Barrage, unless it costs a use of WM/Barrage.

AoE

Against 2 targets, the relative song strength is WM > MB > AP. Against 3-6 targets, the song strength order is MB > WM > AP. Against >6 targets, the song strength order is MB > AP > WM. This isn’t necessarily the order you should use your songs in dungeons, it depends on the pull sizes.

In dungeons, in MB, double DoT just about everything that will live for nearly the full DoT duration. Mix in Apex Arrows as gauge gets above 90 in pulls of about 3 mobs, above 85 in larger pulls. Once enemies are too low to get most (more than ~24s) of a DoT duration, switch to QN as filler.

In AP/WM, double DoT pulls of up to 6 mobs. With larger pulls, apply just a few DoTs instead (including double DoTs on the center mob for Shadowbite) and go straight to spamming QN.

If you’re doing a multi-pack pull, it’s best to double DoT everything while walking. Make sure you have a song up while this is happening, preferably AP or WM, so you can generate Soul Voice.

Don’t forget that there’s a bit of a delay after you use your second DoT before it gets counted by Shadowbite, so wait a moment before using it.

Clarified Tooltip Reference

FFXIV Bard Guide - Updated For Shadowbringers 26

Tooltips here are rewritten from the official translations to clarify some portions that aren’t obvious in the official job guide.

GCDs

 Burst Shot (BS)Delivers an attack with a potency of 230.

Additional Effect: 35% chance of becoming Straight Shot Ready for 10s.
Refulgent Arrow (RA)Delivers an attack with a potency of 340.

Can only be executed when Straight Shot Ready.
Stormbite (SB)Deals wind damage with a potency of 100.

Additional Effect: Deals wind damage over time, with a potency of 60 every 3s for 30s.

Additional Effect: 35% chance of becoming Straight Shot Ready for 10s.
Caustic Bite (CB)Delivers an attack with a potency of 150.

Additional Effect: Deals damage over time, with a potency of 50 every 3s for 30s.

Additional Effect: 35% chance of becoming Straight Shot Ready for 10s.
Iron Jaws (IJ)Delivers an attack with a potency of 100.

Additional Effect: If the target is suffering from a Caustic Bite or Stormbite effect inflicted by you, the effect duration is reset to 30s.

Additional Effect: 35% chance of becoming Straight Shot Ready for 10s.
Apex ArrowConsumes all Soul Voice to deliver an attack with a potency of 5 per Soul Voice expended (up to 500) to all enemies in a straight line before you. 15y range.

Minimum Soul Voice Gauge Cost: 20.
Quick Nock (QN)Delivers an attack with a potency of 150 to all enemies in a cone before you.

Additional Effect: 30% chance the recast timer for Bloodletter and Rain of Death will be reset

Songs + Repertoire

Wanderer’s Minuet (WM)Deals unaspected damage with a potency of 100.

Additional Effect: For the next 30s or until another song is used, 40% chance to grant Repertoire when damage over time is dealt by Caustic Bite or StormbiteRepertoire Effect: Allows execution of Pitch Perfect.Can be stacked up to 3 times.

Recast time: 80s
Pitch Perfect (PP)Delivers an attack with a potency of 100 when Repertoire stack is 1, 250 when Repertoire stack is 2, and 450 when Repertoire stack is 3.

Can only be executed when the Wanderer’s Minuet is active. Consumes all Repertoire.

Recast time: 3s
Mage’s Ballad (MB)Deals unaspected damage with a potency of 100.

Additional Effect: For the next 30s or until another song is used, 40% chance to grant Repertoire when damage over time is dealt by Caustic Bite or StormbiteRepertoire Effect: Resets the recast timer of Bloodletter and Rain of Death

Recast time: 80s
Bloodletter (BL)Delivers an attack with a potency of 150.

Shares a recast timer with Rain of Death.

Recast time: 15s
Rain of Death (RoD)Delivers an attack with a potency of 130 to target and all enemies nearby it.

Shares a recast timer with Bloodletter.

Recast time: 15s
Army’s Paeon (AP)Deals unaspected damage with a potency of 100.

Additional Effect: For the next 30s or until another song is used, 40% chance to grant Repertoire when damage over time is dealt by Caustic Bite or StormbiteRepertoire Effect: Reduces weaponskill cast time and recast time, spell cast time and recast time, and auto-attack delay by 4%Can be stacked up to 4 times.

Recast time: 80s
Enhanced Army’s PaeonDuring Army’s Paeon or within 30 seconds of Army’s Paeon ending, using the Wanderer’s Minuet or Mage’s Ballad will grant Army’s Muse for 10s. Army’s Muse reduces weaponskill cast time and recast time, spell cast time and recast time, and auto-attack delay, depending on the number of Repertoire stacks in the previous Army’s Paeon.
1 Repertoire: 1%2 Repertoire: 2%3 Repertoire: 4%4 Repertoire: 12%
Empyreal Arrow (EA)Delivers an attack with a potency of 230. Grants the effect of Repertoire if used during the Wanderer’s Minuet, Mage’s Ballad, or Army’s Paeon.

Recast time: 15s

Other oGCDs

BarrageTriples the number of strikes for the next single-target weaponskill used within 10s. Additional effects are not tripled.

Additional Effect: Grants Straight Shot Ready for 10s.

Recast time: 80s
Raging Strikes (RS)Increases damage dealt by 10% for 20s.

Recast time: 80s
Sidewinder (SW)Delivers an attack with a potency of 100.Additional Effect: If the target is suffering from a Caustic Bite or Stormbite effect inflicted by you, Sidewinder potency is increased to 175 for one effect, or 260 for both

Shares a recast timer with Shadowbite.

Recast time: 60s
ShadowbiteDelivers an attack with a potency of 100 to target and all enemies nearby it.Additional Effect: If the primary target is suffering from a Caustic Bite or Stormbite effect inflicted by you, Shadowbite potency on all targets is increased to 160 for one effect, or 220 for both

Shares a recast timer with Sidewinder.

Recast time: 60s

Utility

Battle Voice (BV)Increases direct hit rate of all nearby party members by 20% for 20s. Does not affect the user.

Can only be executed while singing Mage’s Ballad, Army’s Paeon, or the Wanderer’s Minuet.

Recast time: 180s
Troubadour (Troub)Reduces damage taken by self and nearby party members by 10% for 15s.

Effect cannot be stacked with machinist’s Tactician or dancer’s Shield Samba.

Recast time: 180s
Nature’s MinneIncreases HP recovery via healing actions for self or the target party member by 20% for 15s.
Recast time: 90s
Second WindInstantly restores own HP.

Cure Potency: 500
Recast time: 120s
Arm’s LengthCreates a barrier nullifying most knockback and draw-in effects for 6s.

Additional Effect: Slow +20% for 15s when barrier is struck

Recast time: 120s
Head GrazeInterrupts the use of a target’s interruptible action.

Recast time: 30s
Repelling ShotJump 10 yalms away from current target. 5y range.

Cannot be executed while bound.

Recast time: 30s
The Warden’s PaeanRemoves one cleansable detrimental effect from self or target party member. If there are no such effects, instead adds a barrier that absorbs the next cleansable detrimental effect within 30s.
Recast time: 45s

Closing thoughts on this FFXIV Bard guide

Hopefully this guide was helpful, if you play Bard, please let us know in the comments below!

Have fun, and keep on singing!