Targeting with a controller in FFXIV is tricky at first. The game doesn’t give you a lot of guidance, and many of the most useful tricks are hidden away for you to discover by trial and error, likely after months of wishing there were a way to do the exact thing said trick does. Mouse and keyboard players have the luxury of clicking on things; controller players don’t. But targeting can actually be easy and effective with a controller if you know what you’re doing. This guide is a compilation of all the things I’ve spent months figuring out. It can be applied to both PS3 and PS4 controllers and will hopefully save you a lot of headaches!
This guide will cover:I. Hard Targeting vs. Soft Targeting
II. Targeting Settings
A. Target SubmenuIII. Targeting Methods
B. Filters Submenu
A. D-PadIV. Targeting Style Uses
B. L1-Modified D-pad
D. Target's Target
E. Focus Target
A. For Tanks
B. For Healers
C. For DPS
Hard Targeting vs. Soft Targeting
The first thing to know about targeting in this game is that there are two different kinds: hard and soft. Get the jokes out of your system now. I’ll wait.
Now that the giggles have subsided, here’s the differences and how they work. Hard targets are what you get by pressing X to target; soft targets are what you get by using the d-pad. A soft target can become a hard target with the press of X, but a hard target cannot become a soft target without canceling your target entirely with O first. You can have a different soft target from your hard target.
In the party menu, your hard target will have a solid blue background, and in the enemies list a solid brown background, enabling you to pick out your target in the list quickly. You keep that target until you cancel or change it or it dies or exits range.
Left: party hard target; right: enemies list hard target
A soft target will move the circular cursor over your new target, but not the targeted icon that appears over a hard target’s head. In the party menu or enemies list, your target will simply be highlighted gold; it will not have the solid border of a hard target. A soft target is only kept until you have performed a single action on it—be that casting a healing spell or performing an attack. Pressing X transforms your soft target into a new hard target.
Left: party soft target; right: enemies soft target
The differentiation between these two targets enables you to, say, target the main tank, pop down on the party list to cast one heal on the dragoon, and automatically have your target return to being the main tank as soon as you tell the game to heal the dragoon. Also, the various targeting methods in the game produce either hard or soft targets. Knowing which do which, what the types of targeting mean, and how to turn soft targets into hard targets is invaluable.
Here you can see the hard target outline over Sai's name in the party list and the indicator over Sai's head and under her feet on the field. You can also see the soft target highlight over Rowan's name in the party list and the soft targeting circle over his body on the field.
There are some settings in your Character Configuration related to targeting that will help you select the right target. These settings are located in Main Menu > System > Character Configuration under the Target and Filters categories.
"Automatically face target when using action" is helpful for melee characters, as it will automatically turn you so you can attack when you use an ability. It is useful to turn off as a healer in some content, such as the Angry Mainyu fight in World of Darkness to prevent you from turning around to stare straight into Mortal Gaze when trying to heal someone.
"Enable auto-target when no target specified" is what makes you target the first thing that attacks you when you don't already have a target.
There are two types of target filters you can enable: target cycling based on whether your weapon is sheathed or drawn, and custom filters. Whichever method you use, these filters are vital to making the most efficient use of your d-pad left/right and L1/R1 targeting methods. (*Edit: It's been so long since I had filters off, I didn't notice. It seems the L1/R1 targeting method always targets only enemies visible on your screen, regardless of your current filter setting.)
By enabling target cycling, the game will automatically limit the targets you can select with the d-pad and R1/L1 methods according to your settings here based on whether your weapon is drawn or not. This is a popular method, limiting your targeting to enemies only when your weapon is drawn, but opening your targeting options back up when it is sheathed.
The other filtering method gives you more direct control over your target filters at any given moment. You can customize your available targets for up to four settings, changeable by pressing L1+any of the face buttons. In this example, L1+Triangle is set to enable all targets, and is generally used on the field outside of combat. L1+O is set to enemies only, which is ideal for tanking and DPSing. L1+Square is custom, set to enable party and alliance members, other PCs, and pets and minions—a useful filter for healing in busy places like FATEs. L1+X is turned off. Of course, these are just examples. These filters can be customized in any way that suits you and switched easily even in the middle of combat.
Your current filter is displayed just above your status bar
These are the general targeting methods you have on a controller. Best uses for these methods, based on party role, will be described in the next section.
Pressing the d-pad left and right will cycle through any target on your screen that is selectable according to your current targeting filter. It will do so in a vaguely left-to-right pattern, but there’s no consideration for depth, so if your camera angle shows a bunch of random opo-opos in the background, you’ll be cycling through them too, even if they’re thirty yalms away. This method yields a soft target.
Pressing the d-pad up and down will cycle through your party list. If you’re not in a party, it will only target you. This method yields a soft target.
If you hold down L1 while pressing the d-pad, it will change the function of the d-pad.
Pressing the d-pad left and right while holding L1 will cycle through your alliance list. The alliance list appears in 24-man raids such as the Crystal Tower. This method yields a soft target.
Pressing the d-pad up and down while holding L1 will cycle through your enemies list. This is the list of all enemies you have currently engaged in combat that you have any aggro on; it appears under the party list by default. If you pulled the enemies or have done an AOE attack or healed, all the enemies currently engaged by your party should be on it. If not, only enemies you have attacked will be. In boss fights, all adds show up on this list automatically. Additionally, marks such as Target to Attack 1 appear next to mob names on this list. This targeting method yields a soft target.
The mark over the striking dummy appears next to its name in the enemies list
Normally, L1 allows you to change your targeting filter if you have those enabled, and R1 changes your selected cross hotbar. However, if you have L2 or R2 held down, L1 and R1 will instead cycle through targets. This method yields a hard target.
Like the d-pad left and right method, L1/R1 will cycle only through enemy targets that are currently on your screen. It will also do so in a vaguely left-to-right pattern with no consideration for depth.
This is my favorite targeting method for checking aggro on multiple enemies when I tank, and as such, I need to limit it to prevent enemies that haven’t been pulled yet from clogging up my targets. A little camera work will do this. The right stick turns your camera, and L1+right stick changes the camera depth so you can zoom in or out. Simply turn your camera in such a way that only the mobs you’ve currently engaged and possibly any approaching patrols you want to keep an eye on are on your screen. Turning your camera to a more overhead sort of position helps with this. Now you have a perfect way to cycle through every enemy you currently have engaged.
This is a macro-based targeting method. Normally, when writing a macro to, say, cast Aero, you would write it thus:
This would cast Aero on "<t>", which means your current target. If, however, you were to write it asCode:/ac Aero <t>
Aero would be cast on the target of your current target. In this picture, as you can see, I am targeting Sai. Were I to use a macro with the target set to <tt>, I would use my skill or cast my spell on the Striking Dummy.Code:/ac Aero <tt>
This method has limited use, but can be used to do things like macro together
so that, in this example, you could cast Aero on your target OR have your tank targeted for healing and still do some DPS on his target without switching off him yourself. I do not generally encourage heavy macro usage, but it's there to play with if you wish.Code:/ac Aero <t> /ac Aero <tt>
As one last note, you can also create a macro that does nothing but change your target to your target's target:
Such a macro could be hit to quickly target what the tank is aiming his Shield Lob or Tomahawk at.Code:/target <tt>
Focus Target is not just for our mouse-and-keyboard brethren, and adventurers across Eorzea rejoice. The primary use of Focus Target is to enable you to change your active target while still keeping an eye on an enemy's health, statuses (collapsed), and most importantly, cast bar. This is extremely handy as a healer, or as a DPS or off-tank needing to attack adds in a boss fight. In T5, for example, it's vital to have Twintania Focus Targeted during Twister phase so that you do not miss the Twister cast even while attacking Dreadknights.
Assign your focus target by hard or soft targeting your chosen focus target, pressing Square, and choosing Focus Target from the submenu.
Where on your screen your Focus Target appears can be adjusted in Main Menu > System > HUD Layout > Focus Target Bar. I personally recommend leaving it someplace highly noticeable, and for healers, preferably relatively close to your party menu.
This icon stays over the target's head and the focus target bar on the screen no matter what you hard or soft target. Focus target only goes away when you cancel it by hitting Square and selecting Focus Target again, when you assign a new Focus Target, or when the target dies or moves out of range.
Your Focus Target will never automatically be the target of your actions like a hard or soft target. Focus Target is primarily for informational purposes. It can, however, be used as a macro target, just like target's target. It is written with <f>, like thus:
Code:/ac Aero <f>
Assist is a function that works much like target's target (<tt>), only it is its own command, rather than the target of a command. For instance, these two macros do the same thing:
Code:/target <tt>The first tells the game to target your target's target, the second tells the game to "assist" your target—which also means switching to their target. In either case, if you were targeting your tank who was targeting the boss, the macro would switch your target to the boss.Code:/assist <t>
Since assist can't be used to specify a target in a multi-line macro like <t>, <tt>, and <f> can, its primary use is outside of macros: it can be assigned to a specific button on your controller.
Go to Main Menu > System > System Configuration > Controller and select Begin next to Button Configuration under Controller Customization.
As you can see, you can reassign Assist to a lesser-used button on your controller.
Targeting Style Uses
Now that you know the various controller-friendly targeting methods, you may be wondering which methods best suit which situations. Here are my favorite use cases, based on party role.
Enemies Only Filter: A tank rarely needs to target anything other than enemies in a dungeon, so a weapon-drawn filter set to enable only enemies or a custom filter for enemies only is a great place to start. No sense trying to Tomahawk the Dragoon.
L1/R1 + Camera Control: After you get the third part of your main aggro combo, you won't be able to just spam Flash and/or Overpower to keep group aggro anymore. Even when you have Steel Cyclone or Circle of Scorn, you'll need to be able to watch enmity meters on all the mobs you've engaged. I find it easiest to cycle through and watch aggro by turning the camera so only the engaged mobs are on the screen and using either L1 or R1 to cycle through, watching each enemy's enmity meters. If someone in the party is getting close on aggro, I'll use the next part of my combo on that enemy; if not, I'll cycle to the next one. By using only L1 or R1 while cycling, you can be sure you've looked at every enemy on your screen before returning to target #1.
Enemies List: The icons next to enemy names in the enemies list tell you your status on the aggro chain. If you ever see an enemy on there that you should be holding aggro on with any icon other than the red square next to their name, you can use the L1+d-pad up and down method to quickly target that enemy for a Provoke, Butcher's Block / Rage of Halone, or other enmity-generating move. If you'll need to hit it more than once, like if you use Provoke, press X to hard target before attacking.
Party Targeting: This is your main method of targeting as a healer: up and down on the d-pad. Remember it yields a soft target, so you can have your tank hard targeted and quickly soft target someone else for a fast heal—your target will automatically return to the tank once you've told the game to cast on your soft target. Scholars note that faerie commands like Embrace do not dismiss your soft target; only your own actions do.
Alliance Targeting: When in a 24-man raid such as a Crystal Tower raid, L1+d-pad left and right will enable you to cycle through alliance members. It's a bit clunky, as there are 16 people to cycle through, but it can help when, say, all of Alliance B's healers are dead and you need to find one to raise him, or when Alliance C's tank isn't looking so hot.
Player Characters Filter: When healing in a busy screen without the aid of party and/or alliance targeting, such as in a FATE, quickly switching to a custom filter that only allows you to select other player characters will help.
Target's Target / Assist Targeting: An assigned button for Assist or a Target's Target macro can enable you to heal the target of a boss (FATE or otherwise) before said target goes down. Some also like to use Target's Target macros on skills to minimize target switching between enemies and allies.
Enemies Only Filter: Like tanks, DPS usually don't have a reason to target anything but enemies on the field. When there are mechanics to interact with, you could quickly switch to a different filter.
L1/R1 + Camera Control: While this method was recommended for tanks to use to help them watch enmity meters, for DPS it's most useful for DoT-spreading (in an Arcanist's case, pre-Bane).
Enemies List: Now that marks like numbers show up on the enemies list, this is a fast way to zone in on a target with a specific mark on it without having to cycle through everything on the screen.
Target's Target / Assist Targeting: I do not at all recommend macroing attacks to target's target, as a good tank will be cycling through targets when you should not. However, the Assist button or a straight /target <tt> macro will make it quick and simple to target the tank's Tomahawk / Shield Lob target at the beginning of a pull, and make it easier to switch to the tank's next target when you finish off the first enemy, as he'll likely be focusing on what he intends to be target #2 at that time. All this is unnecessary if you are AOEing or the tank is marking.
Try out some new methods and figure out what's most natural for you. What works great for me might not be the best method for you, but here's everything laid out, along with some use cases. There's no need to throw your controller through the TV because you can't click on things. Happy stabbing!
A big thank you to my lovely assistant @Sai for posing her fabulous self into my screenshots for me!
This guide goes over controller targeting methods in detail. It includes helpful settings, various targeting methods, macros and focus targets, and recommended targeting methods and uses for players by role (tank, healer, or DPS). If you've ever been lost looking for the best way to target with a controller—enemies, party members, alliances, FATE bosses' targets, anything—this guide will give you the tricks.