Is 2018 the Year of the Dragoon?
I’ve had a long, complicated relationship with Dragoon. The first character I made in FFXIV — during the 1.0 beta, in fact — was a lancer. Years later, when I returned to the game, I made the same again. Yet for the longest time, I couldn’t really stick to it. I leveled lancer, and then it successor, Dragoon, to 60 when that was the level cap during the Heavensward era, but quickly gave up.
Then, when Stormblood was being previewed and the battle system changes were being shown, I said that Dragoon looked like it was going to be a powerhouse. It was already awesome, with party buffs and a piercing debuff that single-handedly defined the optimal DPS composition, and with Dragon Sight, that was only going to get better. I tried once again to like Dragoon, making it one of the first jobs I got to 70 — and this time, I did.
Let’s say you’ve never played Dragoon, either in this game or in a previous Final Fantasy. The lore says you’re a dragon-killer, so you can jump really, really high to engage them. These jumps (and, of course, your spear) form the core of your offense. It’s a rigid job that doesn’t allow for much deviation in terms of its rotation, but there’s a lot of oGCD abilities and movement options that make it really dynamic. You’re always pushing buttons, and, thanks to those aforementioned support abilities, you boost your party’s DPS just by being there. It feels fantastic.
The job is now my main, usurping Samurai, and having spent a month or two at the helm I can comfortably say it’s probably better than it’s ever been. It’s been a bit of a rocky ride, and not just for me, as the way the job changed in 4.0 was not terribly well-received. A new long-term stack-building mechanic was introduced, Dragon Eyes, and it polarised people.
Building eyes up is a major component of your DPS, but it used to take about a minute and a half to max the gauge out — and only seconds to lose it, if you died or ended up being forced to disengage for a long time. It made learning fights demoralising, and Stormblood’s initial offerings, particularly Susano didn’t really seem to accommodate the mechanic very well.
But since then Dragoon’s had something of a renaissance. Maxing out eyes is faster, and the range of Dragon Sight — which lets you tether to a friendly target and boost both of your damage — has been boosted so you no longer have to be handcuffed together for it to be fully effective. Its overall DPS has been strengthened, too; it used to be a lot of work to and you’d still be left in the dust by every other melee job, but now, Dragoon pulls its weight and then some.
More than that, Omega has so far accommodated Dragoons beautifully. Raiding always has done, really; as long as you need ranged DPS, and taking one along is practically mandatory, it makes sense to have a Dragoon to get the most out of them (piercing damage buffs affect Machinists and Bards). But Dragoon felt like it made sense in the Deltascape. None of the bosses felt like they were designed to spite you (with the exception of Halicarnassus’s escape room, which thankfully doesn’t appear in Savage) and for the most part are fun to optimise. Shinryu, too, was a huge step beyond the extreme trials that came out with Stormblood; it’s nice to not be forced to build your opener and manage your cooldowns with one moment of forced downtime in mind.
Don’t get me wrong — ditching Samurai wasn’t easy. That job feels incredibly slick, and with no stacks to manage, you spend less of a fight kicking yourself for dropping them. But Dragoon feels just as impactful, and supporting your party’s DPS leaves you feeling more like an asset and less like someone who’s just focusing on themselves. It’s kind of hard to see where Samurai will go in the long term, too; selfish DPS just doesn’t seem to fit into XIV’s raid groups, which are so small that one individual with a good set of buffs can make the world of difference. I don’t think buffing its damage is the answer, but I’m not sure what is. On the flip side, it feels like Dragoon has a place, and it’s not a chore to fill it.
There is, obviously, a lot that could change that might send me back or to another job entirely. The next raid tier isn’t especially far away, and if it’s as much of a headache as Susano or the Old One boss in the Drowned City of Skalla is, I could see Dragoons being just as frustrated as they were when Stormblood released.
The job still seems to be steadily getting stronger with every patch, which is great, though I wouldn’t get used to it because the pendulum could easily swing the other way. It was once unthinkable that Ninja would lose Goad, the TP-boosting party buff, but they did; I could see a reality in which Dragoon lost its monopoly on the piercing debuff, because it’s just such an asset. Of course, Goad is far less useful today than the piercing buff is right now — but then, Goad was once one of Ninja’s greatest assets, and now it’s in public ownership.
That’s all conjecture, though — the final word has to be that Dragoon is an excellent job. It’s a world away from the Lancer I messed around with in the XIV beta, and if you’re looking to change things up or you ditched it after Stormblood came out, I’d really recommend revisiting it. If you’re looking for a place to start with it, Eve Malqir’s A Dragoon’s Life for Me is an excellent and hugely comprehensive guide. Driving a spear through a vengeful dragon god never felt so good.