In Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn, you take a class up to level 30, then you transition that class into a job. The transition from Archer to Bard is one of the biggest changes aside from Arcanist to Scholar. While the abilities of an Archer translate just fine to a Bard, your role in the party changes from damage dealer (DPS) to support, which can throw some people off.
As an Archer, you start off with Heavy Shot, which is your primary DPS tool throughout the game. At level 2 you learn Straight Shot, which doesn’t hit quite as hard as Heavy Shot, but increases your critical hit rate by 10 percent for 20 seconds. This is an ability you can always have active because the cool down for Straight Shot is only 2.5 seconds. You should start every battle with Straight Shot to get the critical boost, then use Heavy Shot until Straight Shot wears off. When that happens, use Straight Shot again to renew the effect.
At level 4 you learn Raging Strikes, which increases your damage by 20 percent for 20 seconds, but can only be used once every three minutes. Until you reach level 25 and learn Hawk’s Eye, you should make sure Raging Strikes is available for boss battles. Be-yond that, you can use it roughly every two to three battles in a dungeon. As long as it lasts an entire battle, it won’t be wasted using it as soon as it’s available.
When you reach level 6, you learn your first damage over time (DoT) skill, Venomous Bite. Once you have this DoT, your rotation should change to Straight Shot > Venomous Bite > Heavy Shot (until Straight Shot or Venomous Bite effect wears off). You want to use Straight Shot first to ensure the damage over time of Venomous Bite is aided by the critical boost of Straight Shot. In most cases you won’t need to reapply Venomous Bite because the enemy will be near death by the time it wears off.
At level 8 you learn Misery’s End and the trait Heavier Shot. Misery’s End is an Archer’s most damaging single hit attack, but it can only be used when your target has less than 20 percent HP. Any time it’s available, it should be used. In most cases it will be the fin-ishing blow to an enemy, but you can follow it with a Heavy Shot just in case the enemy is still alive. With Heavier Shot, every time you hit with Heavy Shot there’s a 20 percent chance your next Straight Shot will deal critical damage. When this procs, make sure to use Straight Shot before the effect wears off.
Bloodletter is the final piece in your standard rotation, which is learned at level 12. It inflicts the same amount of damage as Heavy Shot, but doesn’t cost any TP to use. It has a cool down time of 15 seconds, so it can’t be used freely, but you should be able to get it off at least two or three times in a normal dungeon battle. While your rotation won’t change much, Bloodletter takes priority whenever it’s available, so long as Straight Shot is active.
As you get closer to level 30, you learn a few utility skills, including Shadowbind (level 10), Repelling Shot (level 15), Quick Nock (level 18), Swiftsong (level 22), and Hawk’s Eye (level 26). Shadowbind binds a target in place for 10 seconds. This is very effective if you need to get away from an enemy, or if you’ve drawn hate away from the tank and an enemy is heading toward you. Keep in mind, the bind effect is canceled if the enemy takes damage.
Repelling Shot doesn’t inflict much damage, but you jump back while attacking. This has limited uses, but it can come in handy if you need to escape an area of effect (AoE) attack. Quick Nock is your first AoE attack, but it uses more than double the TP of Heavy Shot and Straight Shot. It attacks all enemies within a cone-shaped area directly in front of the Archer. This is effective in situations where you’re battling against three or more enemies. Your main concern when using this attack should be draining your TP. Once that’s gone, you’ll have to cease attacking for a moment to replenish it.
Swiftsong increases movement speed for you and the party, but it cancels if you engage an enemy. However, Hawk’s Eye is an important tool for any Archer. It increases your Dexterity and physical accuracy by 20 percent for 20 seconds. Dexterity is one of the main stats that determines how much damage an Archer deals with each attack. Hawk’s Eye is essentially a damage boost similar to Raging Strikes, and should be used in a similar manner. In most dungeons you should be able to alternate between Raging Strikes and Hawk’s Eye every time you engage a new group of enemies.
At level 30 you make the transition to Bard and learn Mage’s Ballad and Windbite, which is a DoT skill that stacks with Venomous Bite. You should use both at the start of your rotation, after Straight Shot. While your role as a Bard is primarily support, you can still deal a significant amount of damage. With Mage’s Ballad active it replenishes party members MP, but also lowers your damage by 20 percent. A good Bard does not wait for the mages to request Ballad. Instead, make sure you pay attention to the mage’s MP and use Ballad when it drops to roughly 20 percent.
From level 30 to level 50 you learn Quelling Strikes (34), Foe Requiem (35), Barrage (38), Army’s Paeon (40), Blunt Arrow (42), Rain of Death (45), Flaming Arrow (46), Battle Voice (50), and Wide Volley (50). At level 48 you also learn the River of Blood trait. The songs Foe Requiem and Army’s Paeon are situational. Paeon is the same as Mage’s Ballad only it replenishes TP instead of MP. Foe Requiem reduces the elemental resistance of all enemies by 10 percent. This means that Black Mage elemental spells (Fire, Thunder, etc.) inflict 10 percent more damage, but it also impacts Windbite and other elemental attacks. Battle Voice doubles the effectiveness of songs for 30 seconds and should be used when you need a quick boost or if your mage’s MP is dangerously low.
Quelling Strikes reduces enmity with each attack for 15 seconds. This should be used any time you’re close to taking hate from the tank. It’s good to use just before activating Raging Strikes, Hawk’s Eye, or Barrage. Barrage increases the number of strikes per auto-attack for 10 seconds. The number of strikes increases from one to two, but with En-hanced Barrage trait (level 44), it jumps up to three strikes. While this may not seem like much, when coupled with Raging Strikes or Hawk’s Eye, the damage adds up very fast. A good opening rotation when you want to use Barrage is Straight Shot > Raging Strikes or Hawk’s Eye > Barrage > Venomous Bite > Windbite > Heavy Shot.
Rain of Death, Flaming Arrow and Wide Volley are all AoE attacks. Rain of Death lowers at target’s evasion (basically increasing your accuracy), Wide Volley delivers the same damage as Quick Nock, but has a longer range so it can be used from farther away. Flaming Arrow is an AoE and a DoT skill that delivers damage over time to all enemies within the circle of flame.
Finally you’ve got the River of Blood trait, which grants a 50 percent chance that the damage over time from Venomous Bite and Windbite will reset the cool down for Bloodletter. This is why it’s important to have both DoT skills active at the start of a bat-tle. It’s not uncommon to get back-to-back Bloodletters repeatedly over the course of a fight because of this trait.