The Lancer and Pugilist are the only two melee damage dealing (DPS) classes in Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn. However, they play somewhat differently. Both classes require specific positions to inflict additional damage (either behind or to the side of a target), but a Lancer is built to attack relentlessly with a series of heavy-hitting combos, while a Pugilist has more utility to help the party.
As a Lancer levels up and transitions to a Dragoon at level 30, the only real changes to its play style are in the form of gaining more combo options and more abilities that allow for more damage to be dealt. Let’s take a look at the non-damaging attacks first, since most of a Lancer’s damaging attacks are more about which combo you want to use than anything else. Feint (level 2), Keen Flurry (level 6), Leg Sweep (level 10), Piercing Talon (level 15), Life Surge (level 18), Invigorate (level 22) and Blood for Blood (level 34) all have alternate purposes other than directly attacking a target.
Feint inflicts less damage than most of a Lancer’s other attacks, but it causes a 20 percent Slow for 10 seconds. In most cases, Lancers should start battles with Feint and use it again as soon as it wears off. The target will build resistance to it, at which point you don’t need to worry about it much more. Keen Flurry increases your parry rate by 40 percent for 20 seconds. This is strictly a soloing ability to lower the damage of your target (because you parry more often). It should be used as often as possible when playing solo, but it won’t get much use in parties unless the tank loses hate.
Leg Sweep inflicts damage and stuns a target. This should be used when you see a target preparing to use an area of effect (AoE) attack. In most cases the tank will handle stuns, but it’s good to have a Lancer stun as well in most situations. There will be times when the tank can’t stun. Piercing Talon is a ranged attack that should only be used as you’re approaching an enemy. In most parties you will only be able to use it after a tank pulls the first enemy, but there may be a few situations where you’re lagging behind and can use Piercing Talon as you’re catching up to the group.
Life Surge, Invigorate and Blood for Blood are three of the most important tools in a Lancer’s (or Dragoon’s) arsenal. Life Surge guarantees critical damage for the next non-magic attack, and damage dealt will be converted into HP for the Lancer. Invigorate instantly restores 400 TP, which is a crucial ability in longer boss battles when it’s easy to run out of TP. Blood for Blood increases damage dealt by 10 percent, and damage suffered by 25 percent for 20 seconds. This should be used primarily for boss battles, or whenever it’s available at the beginning of a normal fight. You don’t need to worry about the damage suffered if the tank and healer are doing their jobs, but avoid using it too much against enemies with damaging AoE attacks.
Most of the Lancer and Dragoon’s other attacks form combos and must be used from behind a target or to the side. The combos can be somewhat situational, but for the most part you use the highest damaging combo available, which is usually the most recent combo you learned. True Thrust (level 1) combos into Vorpal Thrust (level 4), which combos into Full Thrust (level 26).
Impulse Drive (level 8) combos into Disembowel (level 38), which also reduces the target’s piercing resistance by 10 percent for 20 seconds (which means you inflict more damage). Disembowel combos into Chaos Thrust (level 50), which is also a damage over time (DoT) attack. This is your primary combo to lead off a battle because it ends with a DoT attack, but you also have Heavy Thrust (level 12), which combos into Ring of Thorns (level 46), which is an AoE attack. This combo comes in handy when there are multiple enemies around.
The last important aspect of a Dragoon is their Jump abilities. Dragoon learns Jump at level 30, Elusive Jump at 35, Spineshatter Dive at 40, Dragonfire Dive at 50, and the Power Surge utility at level 45. All of the Jump abilities have equal or more range than Piercing Talon, which makes them useful as you’re approaching an enemy, but they also inflict considerable damage (although not as much as some other Dragoon and Lancer attacks). Elusive Jump moves you back (potentially away from an AoE attack), removes the status ailments of Heavy and Bind, but most importantly, lowers your enmity. This is great to use if you take hate from the tank.
Spineshatter Dive stuns a target, while Dragonfire Dive is an AoE attack. Power Surge increases the damage of any Jump attack and Spineshatter Dive by 50 percent for 10 seconds. However, it does not impact Dragonfire Dive. Use this when at least Jump and Spineshatter Dive are both available so that both attacks get the damage boost.