A Healer’s Guide To Paper Tanks

The Duty Finder can be a wonderful place, full of juicy EXP and perhaps some funny moments or really good players.

But where there is sun, there is also shadow.

As a healer, nobody will understand this quite the way that you do.  Healers have a target that can easily make the next 20-30 minutes of their gaming life a dip in the river Styxx.  And no, it’s no boss in Aurum Vale, it’s the parties tank.  And no tank causes more panic heals than the paper tank.

Paper Tank: a tank that is usually either A. not using cooldowns, B. squishy due to low gear, or, in a nightmare scenario, C. both.  PSA to tanks: update your gear and use your cooldowns.  This is important to how your class plays and to save your healer from having a heart palpitation.  

Paper Tanks can also be tanks that are very high DPS-oriented, but these tanks generally know what they’re doing and will have creative and set cooldown rotations to handle whatever they’re pulling.  Still, running an instance with ANY kind of paper tank with absolutely no warning can be…an interesting experience.

  1. Talk to them.

Note that my first advice if you’re having enough of an issue with someone’s play that it’s causing you to have a poor experience will ALWAYS be to talk to them.  The FFXIV community is still pretty darn good, so give people the benefit of the doubt.  Be specific, as kind as possible, but firm.  If you’ve already done this with your paper tank, you reaction will likely be one of the following:

  • They take the advice and their play is improved (I’m an optimistic fellow, but I will admit there’s not an incredibly high chance of things going this way for you).
  • They get defensive and start blaming you/the other DPS/lag/the imaginary cat on their keyboard who was hungry and meowing something fierce.
  • You are completely ignored.

If your tank reacts by improving their play, well done!  The community is still good, right!?  Buckle up and receive those player comm’s, you mediator of Eorzea!

But let’s just entertain the idea that there’s probably a 70% chance one of the other two options were selected from your PT’s dropdown menu.  So here’s a few other ways to handle this.

2. Heal aggressively

I really only recommend this for healers who are pretty well-seasoned, as I don’t at all condone ruining the experience for your two DPS buddies if they aren’t doing anything wrong – remember, they likely waited double the time for this queue!

What I mean by healing “aggressively” is essentially scaring your tank into using cooldowns by using your cooldowns efficiently.  This kind of healing is sliiiiiiiightly passive-aggressive, which goes against my nature, but I can’t argue with results.  Letting your tanks drop uncomfortably low multiple times will likely light even a small teeny fire under their chainmail rumps to throw out a gosh darn Rampart here and there.  Either that, or you’re just going to get yelled at for being a “bad healer.”  Happy Opposite Day!

3. Stay out of Cleric Stance

This is pretty unfortunate for those of you who, like me, get joy out of being able to throw out high DPS while healing to make everything go nice and fast, but the reality is, if the tank isn’t willing to work with you, you still need to keep them alive.  Sabotaging the group by suddenly being a bad healer just because you’re salty is wasting everyone’s time, including your own.  Staying out of Cleric Stance for 2+ mob pulls is going to buy you some insurance too against being blamed for being the problem: if a tank or DPS dies while you’re in Cleric Stance, it will certainly be viewed as your fault, and if you had just gotten done “complaining” about the tank not using cooldowns, well, that certainly isn’t going to bode well with your dungeon buddies.  Seriously, just turn yourself on auto-pilot and Cure spam, it’ll save you some awkwardness.

4. Keep an eye on everyone’s aggro

“Aggro,” or who done pissed off that there mob, will likely be all over the map if you’re dealing with an under geared tank.  Try to fly under the aggro radar so as to not die yourself, but make sure you’re quick to heal any DPS that might steal it as well.  Avoid too much AoE healing if it’s trash mobs – 95% of the time, mob damage can be handled by spot heals on DPS, provided the whole room isn’t out for their biscuits.  Also, feel free to commend those tank DPS at the end of the run for doing decent damage and popping  their teeny weeny defensive CDs while also tanking mobs.  They’re the real heroes of this whole scenario.

5. Offer advice

If you do get someone who is even remotely responsive to you, make sure that you can offer some tangible advice when they say, “So what should I be doing?”  It would be kind of silly if you were healing and a tank questioned your healing and when you asked what you could do to improve, they just said, “IDK be better?”  Not helpful.

Thing is, you might not BE a tank.  So here’s an additional short and nifty checklist for you if you have a PT that wants to go towards the light:

  • Are they wearing the correct gear for their class?  I.E. not DoM gear (happens more often then you’d think).  Is the gear semi up-to-date, at least on the left side?
  • Are they using ALL of their cooldowns at the same time?  Are they using none at all?  Tanks should be rotating their cooldowns, using them even for trash mobs and not just holding on to them for boss fights.
  • Do they have a job stone?  Are they able to access one?  All classes should get their job stone as soon as possible.
  • Are they pulling too many mobs?  Too few?
  • Are they spec’d into VIT?  Meaning that they’re using their bonus points from leveling exclusively for VIT, which will increase their maximum HP and help with their aggro.  Are they wearing VIT accessories if possible?

There is, of course, a lot of other advice you could probably give a PT in terms of aggro and such, but everything listed above are tips for survival as a tank.  It might be good to tell them that there are also bad healers (can you believe it?), and that this list is a great way to ensure that you as the tank are not the problem in future runs with healers who AFK and spam Medica for no reason.

Paper tanks are unavoidable, but as a healer, they don’t have to cause you grief.  And while it might be a fleeting joy to silently complain about how “bad” a player is, lots of people are really just unaware and are actually eager for advice and learning how to be a better player.  So remember this: there is a balance of power in the party, and often it is either the tank or the healer that will control the flow of battle.  If it has to be you because the tank is unseasoned, follow this guide and you will guide all of your teammates to that epochal FF victory fanfare!


Or whatever.



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