Or, the tactics of archers. This is the first in what promises to be a series of general tips for the various classes in Final Fantasy XIV. This one concentrates on the Archer class, before it transitions to Bard. (So for the dungeons from level 15 to 30.)
Archer is not the straight-forward class it first appears. An archer doesn’t do enough damage to knock out enemies on its own, but can still generate enough enmity to draw enemies onto itself. Since an archer can be some distance from the tank, an angry enemy can leave the zone that the tank can control.
The archer’s challenge, therefore, is to do damage without drawing the enemy onto itself.
With that in mind, the skirmishes for archers tend to proceed in four phases:
The battle begins when the tank draws aggro. At this point, the archer’s objective is filling his enmity list. The key action here is Quick Nock. Target the tank’s target, and let loose. The easiest way to do this is to set up the following macro:
/ta <2> /ac "Quick Nock" <tt>
Translation: target (/ta) party member two (the tank, unless you are the tank), and then fire (/ac) Quick Nock at the target’s target (<tt>).
Depending on how smooth your timing is, you may need to repeat this after the next phase.
Quick Nock is not available until level 18, so a lower-level archer faces a choice. You can either skip this phase, and use the next one to fill the enmity list manually; or you can cheat with two levels of Conjurer. Conjurers learn Cure at level 2, and casting Cure on your tank will fill your enmity list more efficiently than Quick Nock. The macro:
/ac "Cure" <2>
(If you haven’t seen the enmity list before, it’s because Square Enix defaults it to the side of your screen. Open the System Menu, select HUD layout, and move the list to just to one side of your character. At that point, you can’t miss it.
(As for editing macros, the macro editor is found through the System menu, and you can drag a macro icon into your action bar like any other action.)
In this phase, step through your enmity list, and hit each enemy with Venomous Bite. If you’ve got another damage-over-time action, make a second pass through the enemy’s ranks applying that one. (Archers get Windbite at level 30, but don’t have to wait that long. Marauder learns Fracture at level 6.)
This is the phase most archers neglect. Attending to this phase keeps your share of the enmity low, but still generates aggro on the entire enemy force. You offset the enmity that’s being generated by your healer’s heals.
If you do not do this, then your tank will lose control of the battle as enemies chase the archer and the healer. It’s entirely the fault of the archer, but the tank will get all the blame.
The archer continues to cycle through their enemies, but this time with their direct-damage actions: Bloodletter, Straight Shot, and Heavy Shot. Continue to watch the enmity list, skipping enemies with higher aggro, and lingering on enemies with lesser aggro.
(The enmity list has a “Christmas Tree” indicator for level of enmity, ranging from green — for the least aggro — through yellow and orange to red. If the indicator is red, then the enemy is chasing you. Great for tanks, bad for archers.)
As the archer cycles through enemies to attrit, enemies will drop below 20% health. When you spot such enemies in your enmity list, it’s time to finish them. Select the enemy in the enmity list, and hit them with Misery’s End and/or Bloodletter, depending on which is available. At this point, you may draw their attention, but they’re going to die before they can hurt you too badly.
Or, “what do I do if things don’t go as planned?”
Generally speaking, the worst thing that can happen is that you’ve drawn the attention of an enemy or two. Archers are conditioned to run away from trouble — it works great when soloing — but that’s running away from help in a dungeon. Counter-intuitively, what you want to do is run at your tank. A good tank will be watching his own enmity list, and he’ll have seen that one of the bad guys is no longer red, and he’s looking to help. If the archer drags the enemy to the tank, the tank can use one of his good hate-generating actions.
Obviously, this is a little trickier with ranged enemies, but the principle is the same.
(I actually remove Repelling Shot from my bar when a-dungeon. It causes more problems in a dungeon than it solves.)
There’s one last caveat: certain monsters will require you to deviate from this script. They’re enough of a threat that you’ll need to focus fire and ignore the others. I’ll leave determining which monsters as an exercise for the reader.