Dark Knight Tank Rotation, Openers, and Abilities — Shadowbringers 5.5

Last updated on Nov 27, 2021 at 17:30 by A Pile of Cats 1 comment

On this page, you will learn how to optimise your opener and rotation in both single-target and multi-target situations. We also cover the use of your cooldowns, to ensure you can achieve the best use of them every time as a Dark Knight Tank in Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers (Patch 5.5).


Dark Knight Rotation Overview

Dark Knight's rotation is one that evolves with the player's skill level and confidence with the job. Initial concerns while learning are simply to avoid losing any Blood or Mana to overcap, and to use your offensive oGCDs as many times as possible. Skilled play revolves around shifting potency into buffs provided by other party members for greater returns.

The typical structure of Dark Knight's damage output is a burst phase every minute, a larger burst on every other minute, and filler phases in between. These burst windows should include between 2-5 casts of Edge of Shadow Icon Edge of Shadow, 5+ casts of Bloodspiller Icon Bloodspiller with the aid of Blood Weapon Icon Blood Weapon and Delirium Icon Delirium, plus Carve and Spit Icon Carve and Spit and two casts of Plunge Icon Plunge. Every other minute should also have Living Shadow Icon Living Shadow and two casts of Shadowbringer Icon Shadowbringer. Salted Earth Icon Salted Earth and its followup Salt and Darkness Icon Salt and Darkness operate on 90-second timers that will coincide with the minute-aligned burst windows on every other use.


Dark Knight Opener

As Dark Knight focuses on resource management rather than a strict rotation, the opener is somewhat flexible. The sequence below is the standard opener, which is specifically arranged to take the greatest advantage of common buff timings. Trying to get the entire opener exactly right can be a bit overwhelming at first, so focus primarily on using Living Shadow Icon Living Shadow as soon as possible and dumping all of your offensive cooldowns after the 4th GCD. The exact order of your offensive cooldowns matters much less than whether you press them or not in the first place.

  1. Approximately two seconds before the pull, use The Blackest Night Icon The Blackest Night on whichever tank is pulling the boss.
  2. Shortly before the countdown hits 0 (ideally about 0.6 seconds), begin running toward the boss and use Blood Weapon Icon Blood Weapon.
  3. Hit Hard Slash Icon Hard Slash as close to 0 as possible and then use Edge of Shadow Icon Edge of ShadowDelirium Icon Delirium.
  4. Syphon Strike Icon Syphon StrikeGrade 5 Tincture of Strength Icon Grade 5 Tincture of Strength
  5. Souleater Icon SouleaterLiving Shadow Icon Living ShadowSalted Earth Icon Salted Earth
  6. Hard Slash Icon Hard SlashEdge of Shadow Icon Edge of ShadowShadowbringer Icon Shadowbringer
  7. Bloodspiller Icon BloodspillerEdge of Shadow Icon Edge of ShadowCarve and Spit Icon Carve and Spit
  8. Bloodspiller Icon BloodspillerEdge of Shadow Icon Edge of ShadowPlunge Icon Plunge
  9. Bloodspiller Icon BloodspillerEdge of Shadow Icon Edge of ShadowShadowbringer Icon Shadowbringer
  10. Syphon Strike Icon Syphon StrikeSalt and Darkness Icon Salt and DarknessPlunge Icon Plunge

This opener counts on auto-attacks from the boss to break The Blackest Night Icon The Blackest Night. If the shield will not break on pull, you can adjust either by simply removing the first The Blackest Night Icon The Blackest Night cast, or by pushing Blood Weapon Icon Blood Weapon back until after the first Hard Slash Icon Hard Slash. The first option will cause you to waste 800~1200 mana due to overcap and may cause you to lose a cast of Edge of Shadow Icon Edge of Shadow depending on killtime. The second option delays Living Shadow Icon Living Shadow and pushes 1-2 hits out of buffs. It also requires some additional adjustment in replacing the Salted Earth Icon Salted Earth weave with Delirium Icon Delirium and then replacing an Edge of Shadow Icon Edge of Shadow cast with Salted Earth. Overcapping mana is usually better in full uptime fights with no chance to re-align the cooldown of Living Shadow with buffs; delaying Blood Weapon is typically better when there is some sort of intermission or the end of the encounter before the second or third use of Living Shadow.

Pulling with Unmend Icon Unmend is not recommended because it delays Living Shadow Icon Living Shadow. If you must use Unmend, insert it about one second before the pull begins to account for travel time and do the opener as usual.


Dark Knight Single-Target Priority/Rotation

Following the opener, Dark Knight's single-target rotation is mainly repeated Souleater Icon Souleater combos while keeping an eye on resources and building toward your next burst window. These burst windows will differ slightly from your opener according to your resources and available cooldowns. It is important to use your offensive cooldowns as soon as they are available so that they will not come out late against a punctual buff provider and eventually miss buffs entirely.


GCD and Combo Management

  • Hard Slash Icon Hard Slash and Syphon Strike Icon Syphon Strike allow up to 30 seconds to press the next button in the sequence before the combo times out on its own. Because of this extended timer in Endwalker, you can keep your combo going through many brief intermission phases. Make sure to attack the boss as soon as it becomes targetable again in these situations by holding down your target keybind and pressing the next step of your combo in advance.
  • If you are forced to disengage from the boss, using Unmend Icon Unmend is an option as it no longer breaks your combo. Unmend can be freely used in longer forced disengages, but be aware of just how long you need to be out of melee range; if you are able to return to the boss while your GCD is still rolling, it's better to cut the Unmend cast in favor of your next combo action.
  • Bloodspiller Icon Bloodspiller also does not break your combo, and the extended timeout period allows you to use as many in a row as you can cast without worry. Be wary of long strings of 15-second timeout gives just enough time to use the five free casts from Delirium Icon Delirium and resume at no loss. Note, however, that adding a sixth Bloodspiller just before or after Delirium will cause your combo to time out.

Blood Management

An important note for Blood Weapon Icon Blood Weapon: make sure to use it late in your GCD cycle. Ideally, you will be using your next GCD as soon as the animation lock casting the skill is over. Imagining your skill icons as clock faces, this means pressing Blood Weapon around 7:30 or 8 o'clock. It is a timed buffs, and using your next GCD as soon as possible after applying it means using your last GCD in the window as soon as possible as well.

  • As a first priority, always make sure you have enough Blood for Living Shadow Icon Living Shadow. Living Shadow has the highest potency of any single button press outside Limit Breaks in a normal raid environment, so avoiding losing casts and keeping it aligned with buffs is crucial.
  • Your main focus otherwise should be on avoiding any overcap. Blood can and should be banked for raidbuffs where possible, but only as long as no gauge is wasted in the process.
  • Every second use of Delirium Icon Delirium will line up with every third use of Blood Weapon Icon Blood Weapon. A common mistake is to enter Delirium with a nearly-full Blood gauge when this happens and overcap because Delirium prevents any Blood expenditure. When these cooldowns overlap, pay special attention to your gauge and make adjustments beforehand.
  • As you get comfortable with a given encounter, note any spots where the boss becomes untargetable and pay attention to which combo GCD you usually end on. If you usually end on Hard Slash Icon Hard Slash with 50+ Blood, using Bloodspiller will allow you to end with a completed combo instead. Conversely, if you usually end on Syphon Strike Icon Syphon Strike with 0-50 Blood in your gauge, holding a Bloodspiller will end the phase on a completed Souleater Icon Souleater combo.

Mana Management

Mana is the most complex and demanding portion of Dark Knight's single-target rotation. At a basic level, you should aim simply to keep at least 3,000 Mana on hand at any given moment in order to use The Blackest Night Icon The Blackest Night if needed, while using Edge of Shadow Icon Edge of Shadow during buff windows as much as possible. The following points lay out the process of managing your Mana with an eye on greater effectiveness.


The Mana Economy

  • You generate about 12,000 Mana every minute in a full-uptime scenario via passive regen, Syphon Strike Icon Syphon Strike, Blood Weapon Icon Blood Weapon, Carve and Spit Icon Carve and Spit, and Delirium Icon Delirium.
  • Your Mana bar maxes out at 10,000, meaning it can hold up to three uses of Edge of Shadow Icon Edge of Shadow at once, and will take most of a minute to refill once emptied.

Extending Your Mana Pool

  • The Blackest Night Icon The Blackest Night grants a Dark Arts proc if the shield breaks rather than expires, allowing free use of your next Edge of Shadow (or Flood of Shadow Icon Flood of Shadow). This proc does not stack, but lasts indefinitely. Holding this proc in addition to the 10,000 capacity of your Mana bar allows you to use Edge of Shadow up to four times in succession.
  • Blood Weapon Icon Blood Weapon grants 3,000 Mana over its duration with the expected five hits. By timing Blood Weapon so that it coincides with the application of raidbuffs, you can gain all of that Mana in the duration of the buffs and then immediately spend it. In effect, this means holding your second use of Blood Weapon for about three GCDs and then using it promptly on cooldown afterward. Doing so will align it with the start of buffs and allow another method of using Edge of Shadow four times within a short timeframe.
  • Either of these techniques allows for the effective storage of 13,000 Mana, or slightly more than one full minute's worth. Any mana not immediately spent within a burst window can then be held for the next one, allowing for four Edges in each potential set of buffs. This so-called "4/4 Plan" is the basic goal for intermediate-level Dark Knight players.

Further Mana Optimization

  • By using both a stored Dark Arts proc and the delayed Blood Weapon timing together, you can effectively bank 16,000 Mana, or five Edge of Shadow uses, at once. While you still only generate about 12,000 Mana per minute, the extra capacity allows you to use only three Edges in one minute in order to use five Edges in the next.
  • This is useful because not all buffs are created equal. All except for Trick Attack Icon Trick Attack now come in two-minute intervals, meaning that raidbuffs on even minutes will be especially strong in the overwhelming majority of raid compositions. By spending three Edges on odd minutes and five in even minutes, this "3/5 Plan" shifts potency out of weaker buffs and into stronger ones.
  • The 3/5 Plan is also effective when your party lacks any buffs at all between two sets of two-minute cooldowns. In these cases, the three Edges do not necessarily need to be used together with your other 60-second cooldowns.
  • One final optimization involves paying attention to your Tincture windows. You will almost always want to use a Tincture of Strength in your opener, and then again later on in the encounter. Because Tinctures last a full 30 seconds, you can generate an extra Edge of Shadow over their duration. This means a total of six Edges in one burst window, followed by two in the next, before settling back into the regular 3/5 schedule.

Defensive Cooldowns

  • Your first priority with defensive cooldowns is to avoid dying. Mitigation stacks multiplicatively, so the best efficiency against consistent damage is to spread them out, but many tankbusters in high-end content will kill you outright if you do not stack multiple cooldowns together.
  • Your second priority is to smooth out non-lethal damage to make your healers' lives easier. Boss auto-attacks often comprise the majority of your damage taken, and mitigating them if you know you will not need the cooldown to avoid death elsewhere can help quite a bit.
  • The Blackest Night Icon The Blackest Night is an extremely strong tool and should be used wherever necessary to ensure the safety of a party member. This usually does not conflict with the idea of shifting Mana expenditure into raidbuffs, but takes precedence when it does.
  • Oblation Icon Oblation is similarly versatile with the ability to target any party member. While not extremely strong on its own, it is a welcome addition to any circumstance requiring damage reduction on one or two specific party members.
  • Prioritize using Dark Mind Icon Dark Mind for incoming magical damage. Doing so can free up Rampart Icon Rampart or Shadow Wall Icon Shadow Wall to cover a different source of damage.
  • Reprisal Icon Reprisal shines against raid-wide damage, as it can mitigate as much damage as a healer's shield prevents. Coordinate with your co-tank to cover as many raid-wides as possible. Reprisal can also be used against tankbusters or other periods of heavy tank damage if the incoming damage is especially high or raid-wides are already comfortably mitigated.
  • Living Dead Icon Living Dead requires special attention from healers, so plan its usage ahead of time. Despite the resource drain, it is still a very strong tool for negating entire tankbuster sequences or surviving hits when other mitigation skills are on cooldown.

Dark Knight Two-Target Priority/Rotation


GCD and Combo Management

  • Use Unleash Icon Unleash into Stalwart Soul Icon Stalwart Soul instead of Souleater Icon Souleater combos. In lower-level content (<L72) where Stalwart Soul is not unlocked, use Souleater combos instead.

Blood Management

  • Living Shadow Icon Living Shadow is even more important than on single targets because several of its skills will cleave both targets
  • Continue using Bloodspiller Icon Bloodspiller to spend your Blood gauge.
  • As Dark Knight's AoE combo GCDs are classified as spells, they are unaffected by Skill Speed and will have the default 2.50-second recast time. In order to get a full 5-GCD Blood Weapon Icon Blood Weapon, you will need to use Bloodspiller Icon Bloodspiller at least three times over its duration, and preferably four - the recast timer on the last hit does not matter, as Blood Weapon will wear off shortly after it lands. You can achieve this by using Delirium Icon Delirium before Blood Weapon, and then using Bloodspiller three times, followed by another Bloodspiller if you had at least 20 Blood banked beforehand or a Stalwart Soul Icon Stalwart Soul combo GCD if not, and then continuing with your normal AoE rotation. This means waiting on only only 2.50-second timer in the worst case, which is tighter than usual but doable with decent ping.

Mana Management

  • Continue to use Edge of Shadow Icon Edge of Shadow instead of Flood of Shadow Icon Flood of Shadow to spend Mana.
  • Mana generation is slightly faster due to having a two-step combo rather than a three-step combo. Current encounters with prolonged two-target phases also include heavy tank damage, so focus on surviving with The Blackest Night Icon The Blackest Night more than setting up a perfect 3/5 Plan.

Defensive Cooldowns

  • As mentioned above, The Blackest Night Icon The Blackest Night has a higher priority in existing two-target phases. Otherwise, mitigating incoming damage is not radically different with two targets instead of one.

Fighting Three or More Targets as a Dark Knight

Generally speaking, large multi-target situations mainly arise in dungeons, though some bosses will summon a good number of usually pretty weak adds.


GCD and Combo Management

  • Use Unleash Icon Unleash into Stalwart Soul Icon Stalwart Soul instead of Souleater Icon Souleater combos. In lower-level content (<L72) where Stalwart Soul is not unlocked, simply spam Unleash.

Blood Management

  • Living Shadow Icon Living Shadow has even greater value because of its AoE actions. Do not save it for bosses in dungeons, and consider holding it for the following trash pull if a boss is about to die.
  • Use Quietus Icon Quietus to spend your Blood gauge.
  • The same 5-GCD Blood Weapon Icon Blood Weapon plan as listed under the two-target priority is doable with Quietus instead of Bloodspiller.

Mana Management

  • Use The Blackest Night Icon The Blackest Night as much as possible in trash pulls, as long as it will break. Flood of Shadow Icon Flood of Shadow can be used to dump mana at the start of a pull, as your natural generation will outpace what you can spend on The Blackest Night, but should be saved for when you have a Dark Arts proc after that.
  • You regenerate Mana much more quickly while not engaged in combat, so try to spend Mana before you finish off a pack to avoid overcapping while running to the next one.

Defensive Cooldowns

  • Spreading out your mitigation gives the best value. You want to spend as much time as possible taking less damage than your healer can heal.
  • Do not forget to use Arm's Length Icon Arm's Length. The slow in its description means an attack speed slow, and it applies to enemies which strike you even when not negating a knockback effect. This makes it nearly as effective as Rampart Icon Rampart for reducing incoming damage.
  • Abyssal Drain Icon Abyssal Drain now shares a recast timer with Carve and Spit Icon Carve and Spit. While Abyssal Drain is damage-efficient at four or more targets, the main value it provides is the healing per target hit. Use it as a heal that also does damage rather than a damaging cooldown that also heals you.
  • Living Dead Icon Living Dead can be used as a last resort in pulls, but generally has very little value. If your healer is a White Mage, you may benefit from planned usage thanks to their Benediction Icon Benediction, but using conventional cooldowns is usually still better.


  • 27 Nov. 2021: Guide added.
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