How To Prog As A Caster

FFXIV 5.5

Authors

Elevation Xx
Elevation Xx Contributor | NA | Gilgamesh

Additional Information from: Melo Arkwind [Radiance], Mugi Scarlet (Goblin)

Introduction

Hello, my name is Elevation (IGN: Elevation Xx), and I’ve been raiding in FFXIV since patch 3.3.

While many people may know me as a Summoner theorycrafter and my various resources for rotation optimisation, I’ve also been a world prog raider for nearly 3 years now and am currently a part of Team Tempest in Radiance FC.

Throughout that time, my teams and I have made several strong placements in the world races including:

With additional high placings in content such as Baldesion Arsenal (World 1st), Delebrum Reginae Savage (World 4th), and multiple 2nd/3rd places for Extreme Trials.

During the entire history of my raiding in FFXIV, I have always played the Caster DPS role while progging, including all 3 Caster jobs ( BLM, RDM and SMN).

Over the past few years, jobs have received countless numbers of optimisation materials teaching players how to properly execute a rotation, however, very few (if any) resources seem to exist to help teach players how to improve in a progression environment, and the different mindset that players develop.

With this guide, it is my hope to provide a foundation for players to learn from, and explain the necessary components to becoming a good progression player on the Caster DPS role.

What Does The Caster DPS Role Provide?

In order to fully understand what we should be doing during raid progression, we must first understand what a Caster DPS job provides to a raid composition.

Throughout multiple expansions, Caster DPS jobs have remained as a staple in raid comps for it’s strong utility skills with role actions, as well as being the only DPS archetype that is capable of battle raising party members.

While it’s a common thought by many players that physical ranged DPS jobs are “support jobs”, the reality is that Caster DPS jobs also play a strong support role during progression.

In some situations, playing a Caster DPS could be the 2nd most important role during progression, as the ability to use it’s battle raise utility proficiently can result in multiple hours of progression saved with proper recovery. However, the battle raise utility is only available to Red Mage and Summoner.

Along with battle raise, the Caster DPS role brings the role class action: Addle.

Addle applies a debuff to a target, reducing the amount of magic damage dealt by the target (or some relating actors) by 10% for 10s on a 90s cooldown. It has remained a very important mitigation spell as fight design in recent years has primarily focused on magical raid wide damage instead of physical.

Furthermore, each job also provides their own unique utility skill(s):

Black Mage

  • Manaward - oGCD that creates a barrier that nullifies damage totaling up to 30% of maximum HP for 20s, with a 120s recast.

Red Mage

  • Vercure - 350 potency GCD heal on any party member (or yourself). Vercure scales with Intelligence, allowing you to provide a heal comparable to a WHM’s Cure 1, but also procs the Dualcast buff. Due to this interaction, you can hardcast a Vercure + use the Dualcast proc to cast a 2nd Vercure instantly afterwards.
  • Verraise (Battle raise) - GCD that will resurrect any downed party member. Verraise also utilises available Dualcast procs, allowing the RDM to always have the ability to use their battle raise within a ~2.5s window.

Summoner

  • Earthen Armor - Egi-Assault 1 while Titan-Egi is summoned. Earthen Armor creates a barrier around you that absorbs damage totaling 30% of your maximum health with a 30s duration. Since this action is tied to the Egi-Assault 1 command, Earther Armor may be used every 30 seconds as each charge of Egi-Assault 1 becomes available.
  • Everlasting Flight- cast by Demi-Phoenix whenever Firebird Trance is activated. Everlasting Flight is a passive party wide buff, healing self and all party members by 100 pet-adjusted cure potency (closer to 80 player potency) per tick for 21s. In total, Everlasting Flight will provide ~24,000-26,000 HP in healing over its full duration at i535 BiS.
  • Resurrection (Battle raise) - GCD that will resurrect any downed party member. Resurrection also benefits from the 2.5s cast time reduction during Dreadwyrm Trance and Firebird Trance windows, meaning if a trance cooldown is available, the SMN can use this duration to help reduce the time it takes to raise party members if Swiftcast is not available.

Understand Your Job Kit

Now that we’ve established the various utility abilities that the Caster role can bring, it’s important that you understand the job kits for the specific job you may be playing, and how those utility actions can be used.

One of the biggest and most common mistakes that happens is that, as Casters, players assuming that their only responsibility as a player is their DPS contribution. In assuming this, the additional utility actions their job brings is neglected.

These additional utility actions are tools that can be used to help your party during progression, and as a Caster DPS player, your responsibility should be seen as more than just pressing your DPS actions. Even just a basic understanding of your full job kit is fine, just have the willingness to adopt that mindset and spend a little bit of time to think about how you can use your full kit to your advantage during progression pulls.

Raid Awareness is Key

The next step is knowing when to use your support abilities at the correct time, and this primarily boils down to having good raid awareness. But raid awareness can be a very broad term, and encompasses a very wide variety of factors.

Since this resource only pertains to Caster DPS players, and in an effort to simplify things, I will provide a list of some of the more common and relevant situations that the Caster DPS role should be aware of:

Deaths of Party Members

One of the most common and important situations that you should be aware of during progression pulls. As a SMN or RDM player, you should ALWAYS be aware when a party member dies, as you can directly use your own battle raise to immediately recover, and in many cases will be the first priority for handling this recovery (we’ll discuss this more in-depth later).

Healer MP Pools

This may not appear as obvious right away, but being aware of your Healer’s MP pools can also help aid you in your decision making regarding recovery during a pull.

While Healer’s should generally have awareness of their own MP bar and consumption, it’s also very easy to lose track of this information during a prog pull. After all, healers still have to focus on executing the same mechanics, while also focusing on formulating a proper healing and mitigation plan while progressing through the fight, and when you add needing to also recover a pull to that mix, it can be easy to forget about it in the moment while you’re focused on just keeping the party alive.

This is why, as a Caster DPS, having the additional eyes on their MP bar can help aid your healers avoid scenarios where they may spend the MP on a battle raise that they can’t afford to. If you happen to notice your healers hovering around 3000 - 4000 MP only, then you should have the initiative to prioritise battle raising in place of your healers as much as possible.

Remember that Healers still need MP to heal effectively, and GCD healing can be costly. Allowing your healers the breathing room to be able to cast multiple GCD heals if the situation calls for it should be prioritised.

Communicating your Battle raise

On top of being aware of party members dying, you should also emphasise communicating your battle raise usage.

Even knowing that you are generally the first priority to pick up the raise, communicating your raise is just to help reduce the risk of multiple party members attempting to raise the same person, thus throwing away the additional MP.

Remember that Healers also have a battle raise as well, and in many cases, will instinctually think to raise under similar circumstances. However, this may also be expanded to additional situations such as multiple party members dying at the same time, or SMN + RDM compositions.

If multiple party members are dead, then it may require both Caster DPS and Healer resurrections to recover the party. In this scenario, be willing to take the initiative and make the call yourself on who you are attempting to raise and communicate this to your party so your Healers can make the appropriate decision(s) on their end as well.

Know Your Party’s Raise Priority

As we alluded to above, there should be priorities around who should be utilising their Battle raise action first, which usually results in the Caster DPS being prioritised first.

We can discuss the reasons for why many groups will prioritise in this way, as well as the situations where the priorities around raising may change.

Healer MP Is Much More Important Than Your damage

One of the primary reasons for prioritising raise responsibilities on the Caster DPS is to help healer’s maintain their MP economy.

Resurrection spells are still costly in terms of MP consumption (2400 MP, nearly ¼ of your max MP), and healer jobs will generally run MP negative (especially in progression environments where healing will not be optimised).

The vast majority of your progression pulls will not be boss kill attempts, or even enrage pulls, therefore the need to maintain your healer’s MP is far more important than your damage output. Remember, your damage DOES NOT MATTER until you’re attempting to kill a boss.

Healers Needing To Prioritise Party Healing First

Another reason are situations where a healer(s) need to immediately prioritise party wide healing.

While there are plenty of examples that could be used here, the general idea is any situation where the party has taken significant raid wide damage, and needs to be topped/mitigated quickly as another source of raid wide damage is upcoming. If a party member (or multiple) have died to the prior source of damage, then your raise is the best option as healers will need to focus on healing first.

DPS Efficiency

During boss kill attempts, this is where the priorities around battle raise responsibility may be changed, with comparing the damage cost per GCD among each of the jobs.

First, we can break down what this opportunity cost is:

Astrologian

  • Malefic IV = 250 potency
  • Swiftcast raise would cost 1 GCD, therefore 250 total potency
  • Non-swiftcast raise would cost 3.2 GCDs (8 second base cast time), therefore we can treat it as 750 total potency

Scholar

  • Broil III = 290 potency
  • Swiftcase raise would cost 1 GCD + Ruin II in place of a 2nd Broil, therefore 380 total potency
  • Non-swiftcast raise would cost 3.2 GCDs (8 second base cast time), therefore we can treat it as 870 total potency

White Mage

  • Glare = 300 potency
  • Swiftcast raise would cost 1 GCD + Dia in place of a 2nd Glare, therefore 420 total potency (not including possible losses of DoT clipping)
  • Non-swiftcast raise would cost ~3 GCDs (8 second base cast time), therefore 900 total potency

Red Mage

  • Veraero/ Verthunder = 370 potency
  • Verfire/ Verstone procs = an additional 20 potency.
  • Veraero/ Verthunder generate 11, Verfire/ Verstone generate 9 mana vs. the 3 + 3 split from Jolt 2
  • Verraise would cost 1 GCD (due to Dualcast proc), therefore:
    • Minimum GCD cost = 370 potency, Maximum GCD cost = 390 potency
    • Associated mana loss can also translate into a potency loss, though much more difficult to quantify.
    • Delayed melee combos can be problematic around specific mechanic/fight timings.

Summoner

  • Ruin III = 200 potency
  • Swiftcast raise would cost 1 GCD + Ruin II in place of a 2nd Ruin III (assuming no Trance to provide the instacast to weave), therefore 240 total potency.
  • Non-swiftcast raise would cost 3.2 GCDs (8 seconds base cast time), therefore we can treat it as 600 total potency.
    • Under the effect of Dreadwyrm Trance or Firebird Trance, this cast time is reduced to 5 seconds and would cost only 2 GCDs; therefore 500 total potency (if losing Ruin IIIs)
    • Raising during your Demi-Bahamut or Demi-Phoenix window increases the potency cost of raise, as each GCD cast targeting an enemy would also result in a Wyrmwave or Scarlet Flame cast. Each WW/SF cast lost is ~121 potency.
    • Raising during your Firebird Trance increases the potency cost of raise, as your Ruin spells are replaced with Fountain of Fire (250 potency) and Brand of Burgatory (350 potency). In this case, the minimum potency cost would be 350 potency (Cost of FoF + losing a BoP proc and replaced with a FoF later) + ~121 (Scarlet Flame) = ~471 total potency. Without swiftcast, this increases to ~842 total potency.

By prioritising raise responsibility in terms of DPS efficiency, Summoner will generally be the most efficient priority, as Ruin III is simply the weakest GCD among all choices, although be mindful of the costs during Trance and Demi-Summon windows.

Red Mage will be the most costly, due to having the strongest GCD + the loss of mana generation that could translate into further loss if this causes a lost melee combo later on (or complications with getting a melee combo off around specific fight timings).

However, this is only if DPS efficiency is the only factor we care about in a vacuum. In reality, DPS efficiency should generally be the last priority with raise responsibility, while the other factors regarding healers should ALWAYS come first.

If you are a Red Mage or Summoner in a single Caster composition, you should generally prioritise picking up raises whenever you can, regardless of your perceived potency losses.

Double Raise Caster Compositions

In double raise Caster compositions that have both Red Mage and Summoner together, the priorities can be split as into non-boss kill attempts and boss kill attempts.

Non-boss kill attempt:

If you aren’t at the enrage and ready to kill the boss, then priorities around raising should simply be using communication together to pick up raises as fast and efficiently as you can. This does not mean that one person should always dictate this responsibility to the other.

Since Red Mage can always use Verraise off the Dualcast proc, this will make it more time efficient for Red Mage to raise, as you can always avoid having to hardcast raise vs. Summoner that relies on Swiftcast to provide an instant raise, assuming MP levels are high enough.

Boss kill attempt:

If you are at the enrage and ready to kill the boss, then priorities around raise responsbility would generally rest on the Summoner.

On average, the cost of Red Mage raise will be higher, as the specific cases of Bahamut and Phoenix windows for Summoner only make up ~⅓ of their full rotation.

Furthermore, with the potential misalignment of mana generation for RDM, I’d also personally recommend prioritising raise in this way to allow the Red Mage to keep a consistent rotation alignment.

Communicate Addle Usage

As you progress through an encounter, using your Addle mitigation will also be important to help provide mitigation against various raid wides and other magic damage sources. It is also important that you communicate your Addle usage, as well consulting your healers about where to use Addle for future pulls.

Sometimes healers may be less inclined to give a direct answer on where they want to use it (or may lack experience with formulating their own mitigation plans). In this scenario, try your best to be aware of your party’s mitigation for various raid wide damage sources and try to place your Addle where you feel would gain the most value. However, be sure that you are using it, you should NEVER have a pull where your Addle is never used (outside of early wipe pulls).

Once Addle has been committed (or at least planned) to be used in specific places, it is important that your Addle timings remain consistent across consecutive pulls as an unexpected loss of 10% mitigation at minimum item level can lead to deaths.

You can check out our Caster Mitigation Guidelines page for more details on good Addle uses for content as of Shadowbringers.

Be Aware Of Damage Types

As you’re progressing through an encounter, try your best to be aware of what sources of damage are magical, physical, percentage based and breath - ones that ignore magical and physical mitigation (more typically referred to in the community as darkness damage). Having this knowledge will allow you to better manage your Addle cooldown, and figure out how to get the most value out of using it.

This will also help you in situations of recovery, if you’re put in a scenario where a healer or tank is dead and you’ll be missing some form of mitigation from them.

Watch Your Own HP Bar Leading Up To Incoming Damage

While progressing through a pull you should always be aware of your HP bar in the seconds leading up to taking a source of damage (either from a raid wide or personal mechanic). As each Caster DPS job also brings it’s own personal defensive ability, all 3 jobs are capable of mitigating a potential death from occurring due to a lack of healing output.

Regardless of whether it’s the fault of the healers for not healing enough, or situations where a healer dies and a source of raid wide damage is coming up in the seconds after, you should never accept dying when your own defensive utility could save your life if the situation calls for it.

If you die to a source of damage and you neglected to use your Manaward/Earthen Armor/Vercure, or even recovery potions, this mistake is, at least partially, on you.

Memorise Fight Timelines

As you progress through a fight, try your best to memorise the fight timeline on your own. Memorising fight timelines will help you make more proper choices when needing to make adjustments or recover pulls.

Remember that recovery is not just raising dead party members, but also preparing for the next upcoming mechanic. This means that in some situations, it’s not just raising whoever died, but rather the need to prioritise raising a specific person to help deal with the next upcoming mechanic that is only moments away.

Prog Clip Example - E9S: Cloud of Darkness Clear

An example VOD to help visualise how much of an impact having good awareness can have on assisting your group during recovery attempts. This specific clip is from Tempest’s E9S prog, which became the same pull that we eventually cleared on, but required multiple recoveries from mistakes to keep the pull alive.

The above clip shows a situation in which 4 players die as a result from a failed protean spread. Among the 4 players that died are both tanks, as well as the DNC and SAM.

As the players died, the immediate reaction from both myself and the RDM were to raise the tanks as soon as possible, as the next upcoming mechanic is a tankbuster within only a matter of seconds. Despite the fact that the RDM was relatively low on MP, he still made the conscious choice of raising immediately while I had my next swiftcast cooldown within ~2 seconds. This initial reaction was good for the following two reasons:

  1. We weren’t aware of the cooldown of tank invulns at this specific point in time, so under the assumption that we needed both tanks alive immediately to provoke and tank swap, the RDM forcing his raise (despite his own MP situation) was still a good play. Even if his damage is temporarily impacted, the only important thing here is making sure we recover without any additional deaths, especially since early floor bosses don’t enforce high DPS requirements.

  2. Knowing that the AST was also in a critical MP situation, the bulk of the raise responsibility has to be from myself and the RDM here. The WHM does eventually cast a raise as well to assist, but we don’t want a situation where both of our healers have a minimal amount of MP to work with while needing to GCD heal a Living Dead debuff + topping the party afterwards for the next raid wide that comes soon after.

After the initial raises are used, knowing I have aggro on the boss, I move to ensure I’m pointing the boss away from any party members in the event they sack me to the tankbuster (and due to the initial call over voice chat to do just this, I dumped as much potency as I could to not waste my DWT cooldown before dying).

Fortunately, the DRK was able to make a great play to provoke and had his invuln available, and once I realised he was able to provoke, I just needed to be aware of his positioning so I don’t get clipped by the beam. The final raise will also be mine as I’m aware of the healer’s MP situation, as well as the priority of healing the party for the upcoming raid wide before the 2nd tiles phase.

For more experienced and higher skilled groups, this may look like a standard recovery and one you’d expect to make, but for a lesser experienced group this could easily snowball into a wipe by lacking awareness and not making decisions to the benefit of your group.

Note how my “DPS rotation” ends up being a colossal mess throughout all of this, because my sole focus was just to make the best play I could to keep the pull going and allow my group to fully recover.

Be Proactive with your Utility Actions

A key piece of advice I can give is learning to be more proactive with using your utility actions as opposed to only being reactive.

By being proactive, you’re placing yourself in a better position to be prepared in the event a mistake (or multiple mistakes) occur during a pull, and thus reducing the risk of those mistakes snowballing into wipes. This isn’t to say that being reactive is inherently “bad”, but if you only react once a mistake has already occurred, you may find it more difficult to properly recover from it.

Prog Clip Example - E12S: Oracle of Darkness Pull

We can use another clip from Tempest’s E12S prog to show an example of making proactive choices.

The first take away from this clip (before we discuss what occurs) is that I’m not casting anything but Egi-Assault 1 with Titan-Egi. By doing this, I’m making the proactive choice that it’s more important for me to only focus on mechanical execution and reducing the risk of dying, and putting myself in a better position to help recover the pull if something goes wrong.

As we play through the clip, we see the BLM make an early mistake by getting clipped by the boss, which then leads to my side soaking with only 3 players. Due to this 3-man stack, both myself and the healer stacked with me will be taking ~83,000 - 84,000 damage from Dark Water III. However, just prior to this, all party members are also taking damage from the Darkest Dance knockback, which is dealing ~45,000 - 47,000 damage to any Caster.

As I had Earthen Armor already applied, this knockback instead only deals 6,673 damage to me, giving me plenty of HP to also survive the 3-man stack damage without any healing adjustment to save me. The SCH on the other hand is forced to react quickly to save himself, using his remaining Aetherflow gauge to cast a Lustrate + Sacred Soil to also help mitigate the damage we’ll be taking.

What would have happenened if I wasn’t proactive or if the SCH doesn’t react appropriately?

If I take the Darkest Dance damage without Earthen Armor, I would also take the full damage as the SCH did, dropping me to just over 71-72k HP. From this point, the only way for the SCH to save us both is if either his Indomitability cooldown is available, or if he reacts quickly enough to cast a Lustrate on both himself and me. Relying on the SCH to make a reactive play is still a bit of a risk, because while good healers will likely be able to (or should be able to), not everyone will.

If instead the SCH does not react quickly enough and dies to the stack damage, then we’re in a more serious situation. By ensuring I survive here, then recovering even with a SCH death is still fairly easy, as I can communicate to the AST to only focus on healing the party for the upcoming Shockwave Pulsar raid wide while I swiftcast raise the SCH and then hardcast raise the BLM in time for Basic Relativity.

However, if I also die here, then the AST is now put into a position of having 3 party members dead (including the other healer) and only himself available to battle raise while still needing to top the party for upcoming raid wide damage. In this case you’re likely snowballing into a wipe.

The key take away from this example is that even the smallest mistakes can have larger impacts on a pull, and you never know when such a mistake may occur. By being proactive and abusing the strength of your utility actions, you can better prepare yourself for when or if such a mistake occurs and reduce the risk of small mistakes snowballing.

This also applies to Red Mage as well. Vercure is still a utility action that can be used more proactively if you recognise a party member is at a risky HP percentage, or if your healers just happen to be behind on healing.

Don’t Forget About Ethers And Potions

While these may seem a bit insignificant at first glance, Super-Ethers and Super-Potions are still additional resources that can be used to help replenish your MP or HP in times of need.

Super-Ethers in particular can be great for Red Mage and Summoner if you’ve already consumed the bulk of your MP pool to help raise dead party members during a pull.

HQ Super-Potions have a reduced cooldown timer, allowing you to have a free 6,000 HP heal every 67 seconds. 6,000 HP may seem small considering DPS jobs are now scaled over 100,000 HP now, but 6,000 HP can still be the difference between surviving and dying.

Additional Thoughts

Just to provide a bit of context to my own decision making when I’m progging through a raid tier. Much of my decision making just comes down to a simple mindset:

Reducing the risk of losing pulls to simple mistakes, and making the lives of the Healers and other party members as simple as possible.

Risk is a big factor that I think is lost on many players, but is also a very broad term that can be used to describe an array of situations. Greed is a form of risk, but so is not being prepared to help recover and adjust around others’ mistakes.

I’d start with the following question:

Why not try to always put yourself into a guaranteed (or as close to guaranteed that you can be) position to survive during prog?

After all the point is to try and clear content, and in the build up to doing so, putting in the necessary pulls so all 8 of you can learn mechanics and execute them correctly. So why take the risk of losing a pull because you either wanted to “test your limits” or weren’t prepared to recover when someone else made a mistake? Taking risks doesn’t help you accomplish the goal of clearing content.

Trying to simplify everyone else’s job during prog is also important. At the end of the day we’re all human, we’re not perfect and we’re going to make mistakes. Everyone in a raid group has to learn the same fight, learn the same mechanics, and execute their own rotations while doing so. All it takes is just the right moment for a player to become disoriented during a pull, and this will happen for even the very best players.

When we discuss things like raise responsibility, while the factors discussed earlier are genuine, it also simplifies what your healers need to focus on during a given pull.

Every player in a group has a role to play during progression, and in my mind, I just want to play that role as best I can. It is a common thought that “good healers make good groups”, and while there’s truth to that statement, a good Caster can also make a huge positive impact on a group too.

As a Caster, you’re able to directly impact your group’s ability to recover from mistakes, and continue pulls to help accelerate your progression just as much as your healers can. And if you happen to be in a group where your healers aren’t exceptionally skilled, you can still help compensate for that by performing your own role better.

Change Log

29/06/2021: Release of this page