Player's Blog

Player’s Blog: The Hidden Art of Dark Knight’s 2/6 Rotation

A Foreward From the Editor...

In SaltedXIV’s Player’s Blog, we invite players from all over to discuss any gameplay topic of interest to them across all levels and styles of play. For our inaugural post we’ve invited top EU Dark Knight speedrunner Keelan Strike to talk about his unique Dark Knight “2/6 Rotation” — a rotation known only to Keelan until just before the end of patch 5.4.

The idea of a rotation being completely unknown to everyone else in the entire Final Fantasy XIV community is a novel one that surprised and delighted our Dark Knight theorycrafters. Under normal situations, Dark Knights generate around 12,000 MP a minute. This combined with Edge of Shadow (in single target situations), which costs 3,000 MP, allows for 4 uses of “Edge” per minute. With raid buffs in mind, Dark Knights aim to use these under the raid buff window when damage increasing buffs like Trick Attack and Chain Stratagem are applied. Many raid buffs operate on one minute or two minute cycles, with there being more damage increasing buffs active during the two minute “buff window.” 

Using some rotation shifting trickery, Dark Knights can delay their second Blood Weapon (after the opener one). Along with this, by abusing the Dark Arts Effect from The Blackest Night Dark Knight’s could “shift” one Edge from within the 60 second buff window into the two minute buff window when more damage increasing buffs are applied, allowing for greater multiplicative stacking and higher overall damage. This shift is known as the “3/5 Rotation” and is what all other high-end Dark Knight players sought to execute.

But Keelan isn’t all other high-end Dark Knights, and deduced a way to get an impressive six Edge of Shadows under this two minute buff window, in what’s now known as the 2/6 Rotation.

More than ever this savage raid tier, top speedrunners kept their execution logs listed on FFLogs hidden until just before the patch 5.5 maintenance to keep their carefully designed strategies and ideas from being used by competing groups. FFLogs is a site that allows players to assess their performance in Final Fantasy XIV encounters. They partition logs and rankings per major patch cycle, or per other major gameplay changes that notably shift game balance. Meaning, the performance rankings for this set of savage fights would “lock in” with the end of 5.4. It wasn’t until this partition was looming that Keelan’s raid group, My Lidl Academia, made their logs publicly viewable and spectators noticed the previously unheard of rotation.

Videos of Keelan running through each fight are featured throughout this article too, check out his rank 2 12s “Door” boss kill of Eden’s Promise!

We’ve asked Keelan directly to discuss the discovery and refinement of his brand new rotation, and the remainder of this article is provided by him, with mild revisions for clarity and headings added to break up the sections. Basic understanding of how Dark Knight functions will help reading, and you can learn more about how to play the job with the Dark Knight guide right on this site:

Origin Story

Originally, the goal was to pop Living Shadow earlier in my opener. Living Shadow takes roughly 7s before it begins doing damage, so I wanted to use it as early as possible to get as many of its attacks as possible in the raid buff window. Doing so required using Blood Weapon earlier too, because the blood gauge generated from Blood Weapon is needed to get Living Shadow out as soon as possible.

However in trying to do that, because I’d have a full MP gauge and blood weapon generates MP on each GCD hit, I would overcap in MP and waste the 600 MP gained on my first GCD. To negate that, I was forced to TBN pre-pull.

When using TBN pre-pull, I started having 600 more MP than usual, because of an extra MP tick outside combat before the pull started. It was then that I realized the 2/6 opener would be possible. But then I couldn’t repeat that process for the two, four, and six minute raid buff windows with just the additional 600 MP; I needed 600 more.

So I asked myself if I could save up more than 600 MP, without overcapping my MP gauge.

To solve that, I then went for a solution to get two pre-pull MP ticks (1200 MP) by using a 4s pre-pull TBN, while being synced with server ticks. This allowed me to have MP ticks at -3.5s, and -0.5s pre-pull. Having “too much” MP with this 1,200 generated, I started having serious overcapping issues for raid buff windows, and it was at that moment manipulating TBN allowed me to bring an extra 6,000 MP to every two minute raid buff window.

Theory & Testing

At first, I planned with an excel sheet to show the theory. Then we started speedkill runs of E9S, and that’s where I first got to practice it and prove the concept.

Mastering the Execution

Every Dark Knight burst window depends entirely on the TBN uses and timings to prevent an overcap of MP. They also depend on actual party raid buff window timings which can change depending on a fight. Some raid buff windows took one try to master this new approach, while some others may have taken me up to two lockouts (editor’s note: one “lockout” is usually 1.5 hours) to be proficient at, for example E10S’s five minute burst window.

For some difficult spots in fights, it took a while to find a solution to the problems faced.

The best example is the opener, every fight was different in our approach to pull the boss, and we had to adapt depending on how each boss’s auto attacks varied, the damage of said auto attacks, or even if the boss would double auto attack right at the start (editor’s note: where the player who first aggros the boss is hit with two auto attacks immediately).

Flexing Keelan’s Dark Mind

To be honest I don’t really understand how it wasn’t discovered earlier. I actually first discovered enjoyment with Dark Knight following patch 5.3 when speedrun group INHAMEZ opened my eyes on this job and its potential for speedkills. I do think overall there aren’t enough Dark Knight players this expansion, and the lack of players surely doesn’t help the job to show its full potential.

Dark Knight is very good when used in the right environment, that being speedkills mostly.

That’s where you find this kind of optimization. And nowadays, the best Dark Knights are often Gunbreaker or Paladin mains who rerolled (swapped jobs) for their speedkill group (as I did). I think with more players, this rotation would have been found last tier.

Issues & Caveats

Some of the challenges this rotation faces:

  • Situations where pre-pull TBN couldn’t be used, either for planned mitigation shortly after the opener, or because the TBN shield wouldn’t be consumed.
  • Need to know who is taking the first auto attacks because there will only be 3s remaining on TBN (when used 4s pre-pull).
  • Usually in the first three seconds the boss does two auto attacks. For this rotation, TBN must be consumed naturally during this window, but as some bosses can attack with two auto attacks immediately on pull, this can result in TBN being consumed before you get to spend any MP, meaning your MP gauge is too full to store the extra MP generated.
  • Need to have a great co-tank. Really, this wouldn’t have been possible without Kaysher Einzbern. It was a real duo-work every new pull to find solutions to increase the chances of TBN proc’ing correctly to avoid our group having to jump during the opener when it didn’t.
    (At this point I need to point out a time loss for the group, averaging dozens of minutes per raid session (4-5h), because of failed TBNs on pull)
  • Need to know the precise GCD in which TBN will break.
  • In E11S we had an MP tick issue with our BLM. I wouldn’t recommend trying to replicate my E11S rotation as we noticed an error way after the fact.
    Our BLM lost some Fire IVs because of server tick sync issues, which for some reason only happened to us in E11S.
    The solution would have been to let the BLM pull so that he wouldn’t lose any cast time, and do the Dark Knight opener as usual, with the only difference being to aim for one MP tick (600 instead of 1200). This isn’t as much of an issue for this specific fight since a 2/6 rotation isn’t possible for every burst with a raid buff window at 4:30 with pots due to the downtime phasing. (And, I couldn’t get TBN to proc at that timing, at least not with how our alignment was set up.)
 
Editor’s Note: Here’s that 11s run he’s talking about:

The Math & Theory

The 2/6 rotation aims to start with a bonus of 600 or 1,200 MP (preferably 1,200 as 600 is only possible with perfect raid buff applications on Chain Stratagem and Divination). Usually, executing 6 Edge of Shadows in raid buffs isn’t possible because when raid buffs are fading after 15s, you wouldn’t have the last 600MP for a final Edge in the buff window.

The goal is then to keep that net MP bonus throughout the fight by using 2 TBN per two minute raid burst cycles.
Here’s my personal sheet demonstrating the rotation and math:

The How-to Part

Make sure you know which precise GCD TBN will break on. This requires being intimately familiar with the fight and with your party’s mitigation planning.

Steps :

  • Use a server MP tick tracker
  • The Blackest Night -4s pre-pull = 2 MP ticks = 1,200 MP bonus
    MP total 8200
  • Edge of Shadow once before The Blackest Night proc = 3,000 MP used
    MP total 6000
  • The Blackest Night breaks
  • MP reaches 9,800 > 7,000; MP doesn’t overcap
  • Do the opener & spend all MP
  • At the one minute burst window = use 2 Edge of Shadows + 1 The Blackest Night
  • The hard part is over. Now we need to keep this lead of 1,200 MP throughout the rest of the fight to execute the 2/6 rotation properly.

TBN will be used everytime we reach the critical threshold, 9800 MP. Even sometimes precisely at 10000 MP when we know no server MP tick will occur by the time we use our MP.

The idea is:

9400+ MP
+ 2 The Blackest Nights
+ Blood Weapon
+ Server MP Regen
+ Syphon Combo/Delirium (each Bloodspiller giving back 200 MP) 
= 6 Edge of Shadows.

You can execute this setup from between 9,400 to 10,000 MP. Two TBNs need to be used in the setup for this rotation.

As for how to execute the 2 TBNs:

More than 15s before the raid buff window, to store a Dark Arts proc:
At 9400+ MP use The Blackest Night
First The Blackest Night breaks

Right before upcoming raid buff window, to set up:
at 9400+ MP use The Blackest Night > GCD > GCD
(this TBN cannot break early)

As raid buff window begins:
Use first Dark Arts proc on Edge of Shadow > GCD > use Edge of Shadow -3000MP
Second The Blackest Night breaks > GCD > Use 2nd Dark Arts Proc on Edge of Shadow
GCD > Edge of Shadow > continue spending MP on Edge of Shadow between GCDs  …

Where and When to Use it?

The better question would be “when to not use it?” To me, the first thing to do is discuss with your Black Mage, assuming you have one, because you are both using the server tick for optimization. Then, as stated earlier, having a great co-tank to execute different pull shenanigans greatly increases your chances of executing it. Lastly, it depends on you and your endurance to keep trying to execute it; it can be tedious.

Don’t forget this cannot be done outside of speedkills (or controlled log runs), as you’ll need to know your killtime precisely beforehand to know what possibilities are on the table. It will also obviously depend on your group’s raid buff alignment.

Bonus

You can make a copy of my Excel spreadsheet and use it as you wish. Please keep in mind this excel sheet was originally made just for personal use, and some formulas are not automated and some are even incomplete (crit/dh handling, rdps/adps, highest/lowest results..) for approximation.

While this crazy rotation isn’t realistic for well over 99.9% of the player-base, it’s always fascinating to discover how players are pushing the boundaries of what we know is possible with the game and forging the path for new techniques! Be sure to check out Keelan’s gigantic brain in his videos, and if you want to talk more in-depth about the rotation hop into The Balance discord server and chat with any of our Dark Knight mentors!

Keelan also let slip that a 2/7 Rotation can be possible in some niche scenarios to get 7 Edge uses inside your pot window! We’ll be looking into covering this 2/6 and 2/7 rotations more in-depth in a Dark Knight optimization-focused guide to help players better understand the advanced theory touched on here, so stay tuned! 

This was the original screenshot Keelan provided for the article…

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