Sword/Shield guide (melee only, no Sword Mage)

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Sword/Shield Guide

There are many ways to play this skill because it is a very flexible skillset. It does suffer a little from being a jack of all trades, but there are ways to play SS as a damage dealer, support/healer, and tank. You can be defensive, balanced or go on attack at the drop of a had (or troll head - whichever comes first)

GENERAL NOTES
Sword/Shield (SS) is a difficult to master class because you are not as strong with individual attacks as LongSword or Axe, and not as good a tank as a Spear player. You lack group buffs, and group support skills. The skill set is all about the individual player. That makes SS ideal for a lone wolf who wants to be a survivor and have the ability to play many roles. This guide is just a guideline, it represents my theory on how to best play this skill. KOSMOS has played SS wince WKCIE, and has never really played any other skillset, though she dabbles with the Bow and occasionally the Spear.

Sword has effective attacks in all three types of physical attack and also Air/Fire elemental attacks. There are 3 weapon types available to the SS player; swords, daggers and cleavers; each weapon has an affinity to one physical attack type, slash, strike or pierce which differs from weapon to weapon. This attack affinity is most useful when building combos.

For players of GR25 and lower, you have a wide range of swords and cleavers to choose from. Players should only focus on daggers if they are attempting a sword mage build. Cleavers have a critical bonus but the weapons are like Katanas in that they break faster and require repair. The critical bonus is very nice to have though. At GR26 and higher, the Lux and True King (TK) weapons create a situation where there is no real need for the cleavers. Both Lux and TK have a critical rate bonus (reported to be +7% at the Japanese master wiki). This equals the best bonus on the cleavers, and also Axes and Hammers. Therefore once you are GR26, you should switch to Lux, and at GR30 switch to TK if you can.

Many players recommend the use of elementally enhanced weapons, If you can form the materials, I am inclined to agree that a +20 Lux with no element and a +20 Lux with +2 elemental and +18 neutral enhancements for each element is a nice set up to have, but takes a long time to get, and you only ever switch weapons for a boss fight. With the True King weapons, just achieving +20 with neutral enhancements is a major achievement, and it's unlikely that anyone will ever have a complete set of 5 +20 TK swords. I have found that a strong elementally neutral weapon is generally the easiest to manage in play. So I would recommend concentrating your enhancement efforts on your best neutral blade, and only create an elemental weapon once you have the best neutral one you can make.

The damage done by an attack does not increase directly in proportion with the MP used. Backslash only costs 4MP, but Furious Blade which costs 5 times as much, only does between 2½ and 3 times the damage. The higher MP attacks are generally multi-strike attacks and have longer animations. Balancing the attacks cost, strength/damage, animation length and your turn speed is an important aspect of playing SS.

SKILLS

Make sure that your skillset includes everything needed to get the TwinBlades skill. Mana Leech is a skill that should be considered mandatory, and of the 4 stances, you only require the warlock stance if you are playing Swordmage. Otherwise, it is a complete waste of the skill points.

SS has only two elements covered, you have limited command space, and devoting 2 or 4 slots to element based attack skills means you lose other skills on the command bar. You will also save the skill points that you would otherwise use on these skills, since they are seldom used, and you can have elementally enhanced weapons, save the skill points (I should add, that I recently rebirthed KOSMOS to experiment a bit more with the elemental attacks).

Arm breaker and shield breaker should be taken, along with Provoke. The breaker skills are about as effective as Mollify and Fatigue, but you are very rarely interrupted while executing them, unlike casting Fatigue or Mollify. Provoke allows the Sword player to attract the attention of an enemy, and is a skill that allows the Sword player to act as a tank in a battle.

Mantra should not be taken, it takes as long as heal 3 to use, is only as effective as heal 2 (at best) and is interrupt-able, just like the spells. It's more effective to carry and use Heal 3/4 potions.

COMMAND BAR

My default
Moonslash, Raid, Raging Blade, Sky Smasher, Wind-up Thrust, Arm Breaker, Shield Breaker
Furious Blade, Twin blade, Twin Aura, 5 AC Slash combo (with CC bonus), mana leech, sentinel stance, Slow
Heal 3, Heal 3+, Refresh, Raise, Fortify+, Mana Barrier+, HolyLight

2nd bar
backslash, Sky Cleaver, Helm Buster, Crescent Moon, Wind-up Thrust, Arm Breaker, Shield Breaker
Moonslash, Twinblades, Sonic Shock, sentinel stance, guardian stance, daredevil stance, mana leech
Heal 3, Heal 3+, Refresh, Raise, Fortify +, Mana Barrier +, HolyLight

Tanking
Moonslash, Raid, Raging Blade, Sky Smasher, Wind-up Thrust, Arm Breaker, Shield Breaker
Provoke, Mana Leech, Guardian Stance, Sentinel Stance, Sonic Shock, Slow, Fate's Favor
Heal 3, Heal 3+, Refresh, Raise, Fortify +, Mana Barrier +, Angel's Favor

Attack

Moonslash, Raid, Raging Blade, Sky Smasher, Wind-up Thrust, Arm Breaker, Shield Breaker
Furious Blade, Twin blade, Twin Aura, 5 AC Slash combo (with CC bonus), mana leech, DareDevil, Slow
Heal 3, Heal 3+, Refresh, Raise, Fortify+, Mana Barrier+, HolyLight

STATS/GEAR

Currently using a TK+15 sword, TK Shield, Light Agility top, Ashura hands & feet, robin skirt, Ring (either Swordsman, Breaker or Scout), Royal Tiara.

I favor DEX over STR, and AGI needs to be at least 150. AGI increases your dodging making you harder to hit, so you take less damage over time, I believe that it also increases your blocking %.
The minimum DEX should be 135. DEX contributes to accuracy (your attacks miss less), criticals (higher DEX = higher critical rate) and Damage.
STR contributes to ATK and DMG, but in my experience, it's better to have a higher DEX because any misses strike in a multi-strike attack hurts the damage far more than any strength boost can compensate for.

The general rule for DEX & STR is if your damage is capped, increase your STR. This is a good guide to follow if you already have a high DEX (150+). However, experiment with your stats and see what works best for you. A lower DEX will decrease accuracy, critical rate and have a small decrease in the damage you can do. A higher STR will do more base damage when an attack actually lands.

I mentioned turn speed, and attacks earlier. You want to balance the animation length of your attacks with the time taken for the turn circle to fill. If you get the balance right, you won't ever feel you are waiting to attack. With a combination of 3 medium and 1 light, my turn speed is perfect for chaining 10MP attacks together without delay, and just about right for the 4MP attacks. If I switch in a second light piece, my turn speed increases just enough to chain the 4MP attacks with no delay.

I carry 3 light pieces of armor that I can switch to for more speed and greater RES, and generally carry the Spectral Armor top. With my enhancement level my DEF is approximately 970 with the Spectral top, ashura hands and feet, Robin Skirt, TK sword and shield, ring and tiara.

I use the Swordsmans Ring, Breaker Ring and Scout Ring along with the different armor pieces to help me change up my stats to meet whatever the need is.

I carry 10 Heal 3, 10 heal4, 10 heal drop 4, 10 mana3 and 10 mana 4. If I am going more support I will leave out some of my extra armor and accessories and substitute some panecea, and revival items.

ARK

The current 'fashion' is to use buffing Arks, and I can see why, when buffed by a buffing Ark, I do 25%+ more damage. However, Arks are part of the fun of the game. So unless you want a buffing knight, set up however you want, but make sure that if you have a buffing ark user in the party that they are aware that you'd like to Verto for fun.

GENERAL PLAY

In general play, the flexibility of this class lets you switch from attack to defense, to support and tanking. Your debuff skills and provoke let you maintain aggro quite effectively, and carrying a shield reduces the damage taken when you are hit because of the effect of blocking. Guardian and Sentinel stance make the SS player a lot more difficult to hurt during battle also.

When you want to go on the attack, you can easily change your stance, command bar and even some equipment to transform from a heavy tank to a much lighter attacker very quickly.

TANKING

This is typically considered to be the role of the Spear player, however the SS player has the Provoke skill which is a single target aggro attractor. Spear can more easily cover multiple bosses, and has specialist party support skills, however their attack strength and speed generally is not as good as that of a SS player. Even so, The SS player can very usefully tank one or more bosses - especially with the cooperation of the test of the team. With a combination of the Provoke and the arm breaker/shield breaker skills, you can gain and maintain the aggro of one or more large enemies. Switching targets and alternating between provoking and using debuffs. I also find that Holy Light, Slow and Mana Leech can all help maintain aggro as well.

Keep your shield on, use Guardian and Sentinel stance. For a bounty fight, make sure you can use Fate's favor and Angel's favor during the fight. This applies to boss battles like Hades and Argyros at the end of Fright of Dragons 2. With properly enhanced armor, you can happily stand in the way of major attacks without suffering more than 100-150 dmg at most. You don't have the support skills of the Spear class, but you can use group heals, group Fortify and group mana barrier to help the team. The group heal items and other healing items can also be thrown quickly while tanking allowing you to maintain the aggro you're holding and still assist the team. Group heals and buffs also gain aggro, so as well as healing your friends, you help keep that enemy's attention.

Of course many of the skills and tactics used when tanking can be used at other times to assist the party. If a fight starts to go badly for the party, the SS player can change tactics immediately and go defensive to diminish the risk to them self and work on party support. So, be ready to change tactics as required. There are more ways to win the battle than being the best damage dealer out there. Sometimes it takes 1 player who is left standing after a bad AoE wipes everyone else out being able to maintain their own health and heal others to get the party back on it's feet. The SS player is sometimes overlooked by classes that deal high damage - but are slow, or by Spearmen who'd superior class skills for tanking appear to outmatch the Sword player. In the end though, the Swordsman has a unique capability - changing tactics so completely within just a turn or two.
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KOSMOS
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Excellent guide. Almost makes me want to play SS again. XD
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Tanking notes

When tanking you are wanting to do one of several things. Keep the attention of your target(s), support the party, and debuff everything and anything you can. Actually, you really want to do all three of these things.

My original command bar for tanking could usefully be altered from

Moonslash, Raid, Raging Blade, Sky Smasher, Wind-up Thrust, Arm Breaker, Shield Breaker
Provoke, Mana Leech, Guardian Stance, Sentinel Stance, Sonic Shock, Slow, Fate's Favor
Heal 3, Heal 3+, Refresh, Raise, Fortify +, Mana Barrier +, Angel's Favor

to

Backslash, Helm Buster, Wind-up Thrust, Fatigue+, Mollify+, Arm Breaker, Shield Breaker
Provoke, Mana Leech, Guardian Stance, Sentinel Stance, Slow, Fate's Favor, Angel's Favor
Heal 3, Heal 3+, Refresh, Raise, Fortify +, Mana Barrier +, Haste (the + version if you have it)

These changes reduce the MP cost of the attacks you keep, but they are still annoying to enemies, they are quick, so do not cause a delay and build AC quicker. Fatige+ and Mollify+ are group debuffs that mirror the effect of the Arm Breaker and Shield Breaker debuffs. Not only will they attract attention, but they will debuff several enemies at once, which is quite useful.

If you are going to use this tanking command set, I would advice having a more general purpose command bar set as the one you switch to, something like;

Moonslash, Raid, Raging Blade, Sky Smasher, Wind-up Thrust, Arm Breaker, Shield Breaker
Furious Blade, Twin blade, Twin Aura, 5 AC Slash combo (with CC bonus), mana leech, sentinel stance, Slow
Heal 3, Heal 3+, Refresh, Raise, Fortify+, Mana Barrier+, HolyLight

You may notice that my command bars always follow a similar format;

slash/strike/thrust attacks, Arm Breaker, Shield Breaker
big attack, twin blades, ranged attack, mana leech, stances, debuff
heal, group heal, raise, group buffs

That way, no matter which role I am taking, my commands are always where I expect them to be.
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