The Gladiator is one of two tanking classes in Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn. For the first 15 levels, you don’t need to party at all, so the Gladiator is basically a damage dealing class that simply doesn’t deal much damage. At level 6, you gain the Fight or Flight ability, which increases damage dealt by 30 percent for 20 seconds, but for the most part, you’re just hacking away at enemies until you reach level 15 and hit your first dungeon.
Once you start partying, there are a number of abilities that are essential to your success. Rampart (level 2), Flash (level 8), Convalescence (level 10), Shield Lob (level 15), and the Savage Blade and Riot Blade combos. Rampart reduces damage taken by 10 percent for 20 seconds, and should be used at the start of a fight whenever it’s available (90 second recast). Shield Lob is how a Gladiator should start every engagement. Use it to attack the first enemy as soon as you’re within range to use it.
Flash is an area of effect (AoE) spell that generates enmity on all enemies within a small radius. It should be your first choice after Shield Lob, and once the enemies are all within range. Early on, Gladiators don’t have a lot of tools to generate hate (enmity), so Flash is very important to use at the start of every fight, and throughout if you have trouble holding hate. It uses MP, but once you have control over the hate of a group of enemies, you can use the Riot Blade combo to replenish your MP before the next battle.
The Riot Blade and Savage Blade combos have specific purposes while tanking. Both combos start with Fast Blade. If you follow Fast Blade with Savage Blade, the second attack generates a large amount of enmity. If you follow Fast Blade with Riot Blade, it restores a moderate amount of MP. Your general rotation at the start of a fight should be: Shield Lob > Flash > Fast Blade > Savage Blade > Flash > Fast Blade > Savage Blade > Fast Blade > Riot Blade > Fast Blade > Riot Blade. This will vary depending on the length of the fight, but the basic strategy is to use the Savage Blade combo until you have control of the hate (usually by the time the first enemy in a group is down), then switch over to the Riot Blade combo until you replenish all of your MP.
Convalescence should be used if you have a healer struggling to keep you healed. It increases the amount of HP restored by healing spells and actions, which means that each Cure spell used by a Conjurer will heal you for more than it normally would. Any time you’re below 50 percent health, use Convalescence to help the Conjurer prevent your death.
As you approach level 30, you gain three more abilities that are extremely helpful while tanking. At level 18 you learn Shield Bash, which temporarily stuns an enemy. This should be used when you see an AoE attack coming (indicated by a glowing shape on the ground). If you’re fast enough, the Shield Bash will stun the enemy, preventing the AoE attack. Be careful not to overuse it against a single enemy, as most enemies build up resistance to stun.
At level 22 you learn Provoke. Now, if you’re a Final Fantasy 11 player, it is very important to note that Provoke DOES NOT work the same way it did in that game. In FF11 Provoke was used to generate enmity and to pull enemies (similar to Shield Lob). However, in FF14 it requires a second action to generate enmity. Using Provoke basically places you at the top of the hate chart, pending your next action. If you do nothing that generates enmity after Provoke, it will have very little effect. You need to use Savage Blade, Flash, or Shield Lob (or Rage of Halone once you have it) immediately following Provoke. This does not mean a standalone Savage Blade. If you choose to use that attack, you should use Fast Blade, then Provoke, then Savage Blade so you generate maximum enmity.
If you use Provoke correctly, the action that follows will automatically move you to the top of the hate chart, taking the hate from anyone who currently has it. Once again, if you use Provoke then an attack that doesn’t generate much enmity (Fast Blade), it will have virtually no effect. Do not pull with Provoke, because it has a 40 second recast, and it’s sole use is to take hate from another party member. Considering the fact that the enemy will likely move away once another party member has the hate, Provoke followed by Shield Lob is a good combo.
At level 26 you learn Rage of Halone, which becomes the third attack in the Savage Blade combo (Fast Blade > Savage Blade > Rage of Halone). When used at the end of the combo, Rage of Halone generates more enmity than any other action in a Gladiator’s arsenal. Even used as a standalone action, it generates a moderate amount of enmity. Once you have Rage of Halone, your rotation should change to: Shield Lob > Flash > Fast Blade > Savage Blade > Rage of Halone > Flash > Fast Blade > Savage Blade > Rage of Halone > Flash > Fast Blade > Riot Blade. Use Flash more frequently if you have trouble holding hate against Arcanists or other party members who use AoE attacks and spells.
Once you reach level 30 and make the transition to Paladin, things start to become a little easier. You learn Shield Swipe and Sword Oath at level 30, Awareness at 34, Cover at 35, Sentinel at 38, Shield Oath at 40, Tempered Will at 42, Spirits Within at 45, Bulwark at 46, and Circle of Scorn and Hallowed Ground at 50. Awareness lowers the chance of suffering critical damage by 25 percent, while Sentinel reduces damage taken by 30 percent. Alternate using both of these and Rampart at the start of a fight. So at the start of the first fight, use Rampart. Defeat all of the enemies, then use Sentinel at the start of the next battle. Defeat those enemies, then use Awareness at the start of the next fight. Use them more frequently during boss battles, or if the fights are lasting long enough that two actions are available.
Shield Oath is by far the most important ability in a Paladin’s arsenal. It reduces damage received by 20 percent, lowers damage dealt by 20 percent and most importantly, drastically increases enmity. This ability remains active until death, or you use Sword Oath (which increases the damage of your auto-attack). It should be used at the start of every dungeon, and every time you recover after a death. If you do not have Shield Oath active, there’s a very good chance you will lose hate to another party member. However, once you have hate control, you can switch over to Sword Oath for the damage boost. Just remember to switch back to Shield Oath once the fight is over (or if you lose control of the hate).
Hallowed Ground is your emergency action. It can only be used once every seven minutes, but you become completely impervious to almost all attacks for 10 seconds. Use it when you’re near death and the healer is out of MP, or can’t keep up with the damage you’re taking. It doesn’t last very long, but it should be long enough for the healer to get your HP up again.
The other actions are all meant for very specific situations. Cover is used when you’ve lost hate and Provoke is down. It takes all physical damage of the target party member for 12 seconds. Use this time to regain the hate. Shield Swipe gives the effect of Pacification to an enemy, but can only be used immediately after blocking an attack with your shield. It’s best used in conjunction with Bulwark, which increases your block rate by 60 percent. Pacification essentially stops an enemy from using its AoE attacks or TP moves. However, some enemies are completely resistant to it, especially bosses.
Tempered Will cures Blind and Heavy status ailments, but is primarily used to prevent knockback or draw-in for 10 seconds. Some enemies have attacks that knock you back or draw you in. Use Tempered Will when you expect once of these attacks. Spirits Within deals a good amount of damage, but the damage is directly proportionate to your HP. The lower your HP, the less damage it inflicts. More importantly, it immediately silences an enemy for one second. Use this to stop an enemy from casting a spell.
Last but not least, Circle of Scorn is an AoE attack that inflicts damage over time (DoT) to any enemy within range. It does not generate much enmity, so do not use it in place of Flash. It should be used after you have generated enough hate to hold the enemy in place. If you use it when you do not have proper hate control, you may lose hate to another party member.