Note: This is an updated guide based on a previous post I did here.
I noticed recently that my bard guide has been hugely popular since the release of Endwalker, which I feel kind of bad about because bard definitely got a bit of a rework with FFXIV’s newest expansion! So today, I wanted to go back and update that guide with the latest details for any end-game bard.
So today, let's talk about the new kit for the bard.
All in all, the bard’s role hasn’t changed that much in FFXIV. It’s still got a reputation for being one of the lower damage-per-second (DPS) classes, but with the latest updates, it’s clear that the Square Enix team is trying to fix that reputation!
Even with these changes, though, the bard’s true strength still isn’t in its own damage. It’s all about utility, and that’s why it’s still on almost everyone’s must-have list for endgame raids.
A bard’s utility means it can do all kinds of things other classes can’t; things like increasing damage output, reducing damage taken, reducing recast times, and helping other players heal. To paraphrase from my previous guide:
Each of a bard's abilities has a specific time and place to be used, and a good bard will end up watching the party almost as much as a healer does.
Most people don’t like doing that, though, especially with fun new classes like the reaper out. But that just makes those of us who like to play bard that much more valuable.
Part 1: A bard's power
In my previous post, I talked about how a bard starts off as an archer, which gains two damage-over-time (DoT) abilities: Venomous Bite and Windbite. Though they’re still a great source of damage for the bard, they’re actually not a core part of the build anymore. That was one of the biggest changes in Endwalker, and honestly, one I’m still getting used to.
Instead, the bard’s build is based entirely on percentage chances now. So don’t stress it if your DoTs time out! You will do much more damage with them on, though.
Part 2: A bard's must-use skills
If the bard had a catchphrase, it would be “Let me sing you the song of my people.”
As you level up your bard, you’ll gain three song abilities, which are the foundation of your entire rotation. You’ll have all of them by the time you’re done with your lv. 52 class quest. Each of these songs lasts for 45 seconds, buffs you and your fellow party members, and unlocks a unique effect for you. These effects depend entirely on Repertoire stacks, which you gain by random chance when you have a song active.
- The Wanderer’s Minuet unlocks Pitch Perfect, an otherwise-locked heavy-hitting shot that stacks up to three times
- Mage’s Ballad can speed up the charge timers for Bloodletter and Rain of Arrows (which is a strong trash mob ability for the bard)
- Army’s Paeon speeds up your global cooldown for every stack up to four, and at lv. 78, grants you an extra speed buff for 10 seconds when you cast another song
The key with these songs is that you can only ever have one of them active at a time. This means you’ll want to time them properly—both so your party always has a buff, and so you have the right skills at the right time.
Additionally, at lv. 90, you’ll unlock a new skill called Radiant Finale, a massive party-wide buff that increases in power based on the number of other songs you’ve used. And no, it doesn’t count if you use the same one twice! They all have to be unique to work for this.
My song rotations
I have two different song rotations that I use depending on the situation.
- For trash mobs and big group fights: Mage’s Ballad › Army’s Paeon › The Wanderer’s Minuet
- For single-target bosses: The Wanderer’s Minuet › Mage’s Ballad › Army’s Paeon
They’re essentially the same rotation—they just start at different points. Mage’s Ballad is a great starting point for groups because it lets you use Rain of Arrows more frequently, and the Wanderer’s Minuet is a good opener for bosses because of the single-target damage you get from Pitch Perfect.
Part 3: A bard's situational abilities
Bards don’t just buff their parties; they have a lot of situational abilities that make them incredibly useful in raiding situations. Though I’m sure there are a few I’ve forgotten, most of them have made it onto my hotbars by now!
In general, these will be good for you to keep an eye on.
- Raging Strikes: Increases your own damage dealt by 15 percent for 20 seconds. You can save it for big spikes if you like, but in general, you want this up whenever you can.
- Barrage: Triples your damage on a single-target weaponskill. It’s got a pretty big cooldown, so I like to save it for when I trigger Refulgent Arrow.
- The Warden’s Paean: Like Esuna, but better. It removes one detrimental effect from a target party member, and creates a barrier against the next effect that party member takes. In general, you’ll want to use this on healers if they get targeted with something just to help out.
- Battle Voice: Increases your entire party’s direct hit rate by 20% for 15 seconds. Its best uses are in DPS races, or when you see a high-damage player use their own spike, like Ley Lines for a black mage.
- Troubadour: Party-wide damage reduction—for 15 seconds, everyone takes 10 percent less damage. It’s best used in big group-wide burst damage situations.
- Nature’s Minne: Boosts HP recovery from healing actions on a target party member or yourself by 20 percent for 15 seconds. I typically use this for tanks who need a little help in the damage mitigation department, or when something really unfortunate happens to a fellow DPS.
Part 4: Your Soul Voice gauge
This gauge, which was added to the bard in Shadowbringers, unlocks an additional bar below your song gauge. This bar constantly fills up as you gain Repertoire stacks from playing your songs. It’ll even fill up outside of battle if your songs are still up!
When you have at least 20 in your Soul Voice gauge, you can unleash a weaponskill called Apex Arrow, which deals 100 potency damage to everything in a limited-range line in front of you. This increases in damage the more stacks you have, though—up to 500 potency—so you’ll want to let it sit!
Then, when you reach lv. 86, you’ll unlock a second stage for Apex Arrow. If you have at least 80 in your Soul Voice gauge when you let Apex Arrow rip, you’ll trigger a buff for yourself that lets you cast Blast Arrow from the same button. Blast Arrow deals damage in a straight line of 600 potency for the first enemy and 60 percent less for the rest.
Part 5: Your area-of-effect skills
Personally, one place that I’ve always felt the bard was lacking was in its area-of-effect (AoE) abilities. Most classes have some form of this to help with big pulls, but the bard really only had two core skills for it: Rain of Arrows and Quick Nock, a lv. 18 ability.
With the changes in Endwalker, the bard finally got some updates to its AoE abilities—including an upgrade for Quick Nock at lv. 82 (which has to be the biggest gap between an original skill and an upgrade in the entire game) and a serious change for Shadowbite from a 60-second cooldown to your global cooldown.
So now, you know how to bard!
Obviously, that’s not everything involved in playing a bard, because even with the simplification Square Enix has been doing, if I went through everything we’d be here for years. But it’s definitely all the core elements, and a lot of it is stuff I wish I’d known when I first started playing. And I hope it’s enough for you to experience just how fun it is to play!
Have any tips for playing bard in FFXIV? Share them below!