- This article is about the game term. For other uses see Tank.
A tank is a character whose primary role is to absorb damage and prevent others from being attacked. Tanks are "meatshields", so to speak, putting themselves between the mobs and the more vulnerable party members. The tank assumes the aggro of the mobs and tries to keep them off other group mates. With everyone nuking the same target (directed by the main assist), the mobs go down faster and there is less damage done to the group.
Because of the constant abuse upon their armor and weapons, high repair costs are a fixture in a tank's life. An often-used abbreviation for tank is "MT" (main tank). The tank's role must not be confused with the "MA" (Main Assist). Also used to contrast from a damage dealer or a healer.
In a classic tank-and-spank fight, the tank should be the only one taking damage, and therefore be the only one who needs healing. Even in more complex fights, the healer should be able to concentrate most of their healing on the tank with healing on the rest of the group being significantly lighter most of the time.
If the healer is healing everyone in the group, then either the tank is not generating enough threat or the other members in the group are generating too much threat by dealing too much DPS and pulling aggro off the tank. This has to be watched or the group will likely wipe.
Tanking Basics Edit
Tanking is heavily tied in with the mechanic called Threat. Threat is the numerical value of how much an NPC dislikes each of its enemies, and the player or other creature with the highest threat is the one that the NPC will usually attack. Threat is mainly caused by three things - damaging that enemy, healing, and using special abilities that cause extra threat (such as Thunder Clap or Mangle). Each NPC has a separate threat table.
A tank has to do three things. First and foremost, they must generate more threat than the healer on all targets. The healer will generate threat on all enemies when they heal the tank, and it's the tank's responsibility to keep the enemies off the healer by staying ahead of them. Second, they must survive. Survival is (at minimum) a two-person job and both the tank and the healer are responsible for this. For the tank, survival comes either by avoiding hits, reducing the severity of incoming damage, establishing a vast pool of hit points, or self-regeneration (healing from items or abilities). A tank's third responsibility is generating extra threat on the current 'kill' target to allow the damage dealers to kill it effectively without attracting the monster's attention (all damage dealers should focus on the same target for this and other reasons). A good tank will try to produce as much aggro as he can. However, it is also damage dealers' job to make sure they stay below the tank's threat by using threat reduction abilities or even holding back their fire if necessary.
The first two of these are the most important as if they fail at them then the tank or the healer will die and the group will wipe very shortly after. The third is also important in the long run, as if the damage dealers have to hold back too much then the enemies will die too slowly and the healer will run out of mana.
Primary Tank Classes Edit
There are four combinations of class and spec which can truly be considered main tanks: Protection Warrior, Feral Druid, Protection Paladin, and Death Knights who have chosen tanking talents. Many other combinations of spec and class may substitute as tank in certain situations, but the limits of their abilities will not be enough for most instances and bosses their level.
The following criteria define a tank's performance:
- Damage Mitigation (Avoidance, Block, and Armor)
- Threat Generation
Each class has its strengths and weaknesses; and, in end-game raids, each of them will find easy and difficult bosses. Generally, Protection warriors are considered the best single-target tanks, while Protection paladins are easily the best mass-aggro AOE tanks. Feral Druids are best in situations where high amounts of physical damage are incoming, while Death Knights are the best at handling magical damage.
Protection Warrior Edit
- Main article: Warriors as Tanks
Protection-specced Warriors with appropriate gear are the classic boss-encounter tanks in the game. They have great damage mitigation vs. single targets, and a large and versatile array of tools for tanking, which include: threat-generating tools such as Revenge, Shield Slam, and multiple taunts; many mitigation abilities; and finally a few panic buttons like Shield Wall and Last Stand. The only problem area for warrior tanks is initial aggro generation. However, in long fights, all four main tank types actually create comparable amounts of aggro.
- Main article: Druids as Tanks
Feral Druid tanks feature the highest armor and hit-point values of any class in the game. Besides the basic allotment of tanking skills (taunt, high-aggro moves, etc.), feral tanks are immune to Polymorph (shapeshifting makes a druid immune to polymorph) and Mind Control because they are considered beasts (not humanoid) while tanking in bear form. This makes them the tanks of choice for encounters like Jin'do.
Feral Druids also have the advantage that they can switch from tanking to damage dealing without changing their build. This makes them the best off-tanks in raid, as they can switch to Cat form after their tanking targets are dead and help DPS the main tanks' targets.
Protection Paladin Edit
- Main article: Paladins as Tanks
Paladins are tanks that use mana and build threat with spell damage. They can wear plate armor. They excel in pulls with many mobs, with abilities such as Consecration, Holy Shield, Retribution Aura, Blessing of Sanctuary and Avenger's Shield, enabling them to keep many mobs on themselves with far less trouble than a Warrior or Druid. Previously, a large proportion of their threat generation is reactive, making them poor secondary aggro tanks or tanks for casters. With the new Hammer of the Righteous and Shield of Righteousness in WotLK, this is less of a problem now. However, they are vulnerable to mana-burn abilities and rely on magic-based threat, making it difficult to gain aggro on mobs that Silence.
- Main article: Death knights as tanks
Death knights have the best mitigation against magic users of any tanking class. They wear plate armor but cannot use a shield. Their tanking strengths and weaknesses, as well as their tanking style, will vary, depending on what talent tree the specialize in. Frost tanks generally have the best over-all mitigation, while Unholy tanks have great AoE aggro, and Blood tanks can increase the amount of healing they receive. Unholy and Frost Death Knights are the best at damage, however, Blood Death Knights will heal themselves constantly and let the priest or other healer focus on a support tank or another party member.
Secondary Tank Classes Edit
Several other classes have limited tanking abilities, mostly as off-tanks or tanks the 5-man instances below the level cap. Secondary tank classes generally require special builds to tank effectively. All other combinations of class and build except the three main tank types fall under this category.
There are exceptions; Shamans and Moonkins have both tanked raid bosses and some heroic instances , and pets and minions have tanked pre-BC raid bosses; however, this is usually done with high-tier gear not generally available to those trying to run such an instance.
- Main article: Shamans as tanks
The Shaman is probably the best tank-replacement class. Wearing mail armor and being able to use a shield, they have access to the second-best type of gear. They have no problems at all with one half of tanking - aggro generation. Beyond the threat generated by melee attacks, Shamans can cast Frost Shock which creates extra threat, use self-heals to add healing aggro, and finally use Chain Lightning for AoE situations.
However, the other half of a tanks job is damage mitigation, and in that department Shamans are severely lacking. They lack the good damage reduction abilities/talents of the other primary tanks, and their gear has no avoidance/mitigation stats.
If acting as healer or ranged damage dealer, a Shaman is in a good position to pull aggro from cloth wearers in an emergency. Even with caster gear, Shamans are not quite as "squishy" as most other caster classes (Shamans usually survive two or three hits when cloth wearers are one-hit kills), but they should still avoid melee combat as much as possible.
Moonkin Druid Edit
With Moonkin form granting an additional 400% armor, and significant threat through DPS, Balance Druids have recently gotten attention as alternative tanks. While they lack a taunt in Moonkin form, Moonkin Druids have successfully main-tanked heroic instances and some raid content , however it is not feasible for a moonkin druid to become immune to critical hits, severely limiting their usefulness as proper tanks in raid content their level. The ability of moonkins to heal themselves more sustainably than paladins or feral druids is an advantage in situations where the moonkin is able to shift out to heal.
Minions as Tanks Edit
Some pets can actually serve as tanks. In the early game (prior to the level cap), pets can even sometimes replace a full tank. In such a situation, the healers should always remember to heal and buff the pet.
Pets usually can tank a single mob adequately. Theoretically it is possible to have several mobs on one pet by switching targets, but in practice the threat generation of pets will not be high enough to keep aggro off the healer for an extended period of time.
Hunter Pets Edit
Hunters can have an assortment of beasts as pets, and some of them can actually serve as tanks quite well. All pets have a taunt-like ability growl, and hold aggro reasonably well. The use of the pet often allows the Hunter to solo various group quest bosses without the help of other players
Pets can also use the cower ability, which reduces threat, to shed aggro if needed; this sometimes makes life easier for Warriors. A hunter can have a pet growl to draw aggro when the main tank is in trouble, then cower to let the MT return to duty after recovering.
Tenacity family pets are the best for tanking, both due to their extra health and armor and their available talents. Turtles and Warp Stalkers are the best at tanking tough enemies due to their Shell Shield and Warp abilities mitigating damage. Bears and Gorillas are the best multi-target pet tanks due to Swipe (pet) and Thunderstomp (pet) that lets them hold multiple targets easier, and are on a short cooldown.
There have been instances where a Hunter could spec and gear himself for pet tanking, however, it comes at the expense of personal DPS.
Warlock Minions Edit
The Voidwalker minion is designed as a tanking pet. Although the Voidwalker lacks a true Taunting ability, it does have two abilities which generate rather high amounts of threat: single-target, fast cool-down Torment; and Suffering, which generates threat against all enemy targets within 10 yards, but has a relatively long cool-down and can be resisted.
Even though Hunters can wear the same armor types as Shamans, they cannot use a shield and thus their damage mitigation is even worse. In a group, Hunters should only draw aggro when they are kiting, or as an emergency measure to ensure the survival of a healer. Similar to Shamans, Hunters have many abilities which help them create and hold aggro (Distracting Shot is a shot with very high threat,and Aimed Shot creates high threat by damage).
Deterrence can be used to boost damage mitigation by 25%, however this ability only lasts for 10 seconds. With sufficient Agility, Aspect of the Monkey, and 5/5 Deflection, (which boosts parry chance) during Deterrence a Survival Hunter's overall damage mitigation can approach 100%. Survival Hunters with Readiness can also use Deterrence twice in rapid succession, effectively allowing for 20 seconds of Deterrence.
It should be emphasized that although emergency flash-tanking for wipe prevention can be a key element of the Survival role, such tanking can only be viably performed on an extremely temporary basis. Survivalist melee should be employed as part of a hybrid strategy which incorporates at least equal, and probably preferably greater, amounts of ranged combat. Attempting to rely primarily or exclusively on melee for extended periods can result in a dead Hunter.
Rogues can temporarily increase their damage mitigation greatly and survive tanking through abilities such as Evasion and Cheat Death (sometimes known as "evasion tanking"). These have a short duration, however, and Rogue tanking should be very temporary. Rogues have no threat generation abilities, meaning aggro must be achieved through superior DPS. Rogues wear leather armor, which is not as strong as plate, so they must tank by relying almost entirely on avoidance rather than mitigating damage.
It was formerly possible to accumulate enough agility as a Rogue to become unhittable, but this could only be achieved with Insect Swarm, Scorpid Sting and the Quickness racial. This combination allowed a rogue to tank certain bosses (including raid bosses) who mainly deal melee damage. However, threat generation was much lower than that of a regular tank (as he is not specced and geared for DPS), and with such low health he had no hope to survive bosses that do significant spell damage. Therefore, it was generally not something worth trying except for the amusement.
For more information on rogue tanking, see Rogues as tanks
Learning to Tank Edit
Learning to tank is an interesting challenge, particularly for Warriors and Paladins, because the excellent damage output abilities they've used for solo/small group play are so poor at generating threat. The WoWWiki article on threat has some basic numbers that can clue you in on which abilities to use to pump out the threat you need to hold aggro. That aggro article also has good information regarding how mob targeting works, and is a valuable resource for understanding how NPCs decide who to beat up.
While it might be true that you won't level as quickly as with other builds, if tanking is something you really want to do, you can start speccing Protection right from level 10, and leveling primarily within instances.
Low-level instances are more of a challenge for a tank than most people think, and your primary challenge will actually be in learning to deal with other inexperienced players who tend to just want to DPS anything that moves, rather than work with you. Luckily at lower levels enemies are less deadly and damage dealers' own defensive abilities are usually sufficient to keep them alive provided they don't go too crazy. As always the important thing is to protect the healer.
As with most skills, there's no substitute for experience. However, it has been suggested that drilling yourself in solo PvE play could help you develop skills that will be useful in tanking in instances.
- For Warriors:
- Practice staying in Defensive Stance and using Thunder Clap, Shield Block and Revenge as much as possible.
- For low-level Warriors, practice throwing Sunders on each of 2, 3, or 4 targets in turn (be careful not to over-pull and kill yourself!) - at higher levels, substitute Shield Slam, Revenge, and/or Devastate for Sunder.
- Practice switching stances regularly to improve your reflex response to a need for an ability in another stance (e.g. Intercept or Berserker Rage).
- Practice keeping your global cool-down ticking.
- For Druids:
- Practice Lacerating alternating targets with 2, 3, or 4 targets. (Be careful not to over-pull and kill yourself!)
- Practice keeping your global cool-down ticking. Mangle at every cool-down, Lacerate when you can't Mangle, keep Faerie Fire up.
- Practice pulling with Starfire or Hurricane, but be sure to shift to Bear Form before the mobs arrive.
- Use Swipe for tanking multiple mobs, but be sure to get in a few mangles on the main target.
- For Paladins:
- Make sure you pull the mob/group; most of your threat is from blocking (Holy Shield and Blessing of Sanctuary).
- Make sure you have Righteous Fury up at all times!
- To tank multiple targets, use Consecration. Be careful not to break CC.
- Use line of sight to pull casters
- Mobs don't attack you while bubbled; you can use a macro for bubble/unbubble to get rid of fear or other forms of crowd control.
- For Death Knights:
- For ALL Tanks:
- Make sure to keep your camera zoomed back whenever possible to keep your visibility to unexpected situations high.
- Practice moving while hitting mobs, both backing away and strafing away or around.
- Practice toying with caster mobs and a nice wall, rock, or corner to get a feel for how line of sight can be used to make mobs come to you.
- Stay aware of patrolling mobs and be ready to rescue your group mates with some quick threat generation moves if someone unexpectedly pulls.
- Watch for various kinds of normal or cone AOE attacks that mobs use and position yourself and the mobs to prevent as much of their potential damage as possible.