Tanking for Dummies


Another interesting heroic group has led to the 2nd post in the “Dummies” series. The offender was once again of a class and spec that I am fairly familiar with. Today, I’m not going into the specifics of each tanking class, but I will point out the basics that all tanks should know.

Before I dissect basic tanking principles, I’ll share with you the inspiration for this post. A former guild member, and fellow rogue wanted to run heroic Gundrak. He had already found a tank, so we needed 2 DPS and a healer. I had recently respecced Retributrion on my Paladin, and I didn’t want to roll against my friend, so I took Anabelle, and grabbed my wife to heal as well as a hunter from my guild.

I’ll admit things weren’t too bad until just before the second boss, but that’s when things went south. I was going to write about it here, but its long enough to warrant its own post. To sum it up, neither skill or gear were on this person’s side, and after he left before the 3rd boss, I successfully tanked all but the last boss, despite the fact that I was Ret. My wife commented that I was easier to heal. We had our guilds main tank come in for the last boss, as he hit me for 6-10K per hit, though we did manage to get him 13% with me tanking. It was a 1 shot with the main tank, and the fiasco over.

What follows is a detailed description of the basics of tanking. Due to the depth of the subject, it is rather lengthy; it’s probably the longest post I’ve written.  However, if you are new to tanking, or even a veteran that wants to read another’s perspective on the subject, it’s there for you to peruse.

– Tanking for Dummies –

There are 4 basic rules to tanking:

  1. A Tank should establish and hold threat on mobs
  2. A Tank should position mobs to prevent or reduce damage to other party members
  3. A Tank should be immune to critical hits
  4. A Tank should be mitigate as much damage as possible

Tanking may sometimes require other skills, and each tanking class is different, but 95% of how to tank is covered by those 4 rules.

A Tank should establish and hold threat on mobs

A tank’s main job is to keep the attention of all mobs while the DPS kills them, and the healer keeps everyone alive; this is called holding threat, and is the facet of tanking that most people are familiar with.  Threat is a numerical value for how interested in a player that mob is. Each player acquires threat by dealing damage, receiving damage, or healing. Some classes have abilities to transfer threat to others, and most have a way of either lessening threat or even reducing it to zero.

All mobs have a threat list, consisting of each player’s threat value, organized from highest to lowest. The player with the highest threat value is who the mob will attack. The are two exceptions, mobs or abilitiesthat target random players, or special abilities that target players with a specific position on the threat list, such as second or last. The tank’s job is to hold the highest position on the threat list.  For someone to pull threat, or gain the mob’s attention, they need to exceed 110%  (melee) or 130% (ranged) of the tank’s threat value.  If this happens, and the mob isn’t immune to it, the tank should perform their taunt to regain the top threat.

Some situations will require the tank will hold threat on a single target, while others will require the tank hold threat on multiple targets. For a single target the tank needs to stay at the top of one threat list. In multi-target tanking the tank should stay at the top of the threat lost of each mob. A tank must damage a mob (or mobs) or receive damage from them to generate threat. On a single target, a tank will usually produce enough threat to hold the mob without much difficulty. If you are having trouble generating enough threat on a single target, you are either under-geared compared to your companions, or not using all of the abilities you should. There are many great resources on the Internet that can help you with both problems, such as Tankspot(general) and Maintankadin (Paladin).

Holding threat on multiple targets is harder than keeping threat on single targets, though not by much. All tanks can hold threat on multiple targets without switching between the targets, although it is admittedly hardest to do as a warrior tank. The safest way to clear a group of mobs is to kill them one at a time. The group leader should look at a group and decide what order to kill them in. This person can either mark the mobs with a kill order, or have everyone assist them on their target (usually better for a DPS). If you have the ability to produce enough threat on each target, it is usually more efficient for the DPS to use any multi target abilities they have to kill all of the mobs at the same time.

A tank should position mobs to reduce or prevent damage

Some tanks hold great threat and believe the job ends there. In reality, protecting your party from danger extends past the scope of threat. This is accomplished by positioning mobs to prevent some of their abilities from harming your party. Positioning mobs is completely situational, and an artform in itself.

Many mobs have abilities that damage anyone standing in front of them. After pulling one of these mobs, you’ll want to stay stationary once the mob stops moving unless there is a need to rotate the mob away from the group. If there is a wall you can put your back against, back into it. This should prevent any need for adjustment. Other mobs may cause damage to your party by leaving objects behind them, or by spawning objects that follow them. These bosses must be kited. If you are unfamiliar with the term, kiting means to strategically lead a mob around by moving yourself.

The Drakkari Colossus is a boss in Gundrak. He has two forms, the second of which is a Water Elemental. In this form, the boss leaves poison puddles on the ground where ever he goes. The tank cannot stand still, as it will certainly kill any melee DPS, as well as themselves. The tank is required to kite the boss in a pattern that will keep the party from having to run through the puddles, minimizing the damage that the group will take from the ability. In these cases, it is possible to plan your route ahead of time.

Unfortunately, your kiting pattern cannot always be planned ahead of time. Bosses such as King Ymiron in Utgarde Pinnacle have the ability to spawn items, in this case an orb, that home in on the boss. In this scenario, the tank must kite the boss in the space available avoiding the “orbs” without getting backed into a corner.

A Tank should be immune to critical hits

Critical hits cause 200% of normal damage, and can wipe out your health very quickly.  If you are facing a boss who normally hits you for 5k-7k damage, a critical hit would be for 10k-14k.  The game engine uses a Random Number Generator or RNG to calculate how an attack lands or misses.  The RNG creates a number for each attack; for instance,  the values of 1-5 are always considered a miss.  If the RNG comes up with the numbers 3, 1, and 5 in a row, the boss will miss you 3 times.  This can happen with critical hits too, but instead of missing you 3 times, you would take 30k to 42k damage in a matter of seconds.  Both cases are rare, but it does happen.

Fortunately, all tanks can become immune to critical hits.  This is accomplished through your defense skill.  The maximum base defense skill of a level 80 character is 400; however, to be crit immune, you either need to have 540 defense, or be a druid with 3 of 3 points in the Survival of the Fittest talent.  Assuming you tank in plate, not fur, you will need to stack the defense rating stat to raise your defense skill to 540.  It takes several defense rating to equal one skill, so you will need at least 689 defense rating to reach crit immunity.  Please not that a defense skill of 535 is will make you uncrittable for Heroics, and that crit immunity for any regular instance depends on the level of the instance.  If you are tanking a regular instance, crit immunity is helpful, but unnecessary.

A Tank should mitigate as much damage as possible.

In addition to holding threat, positioning and being crit immune, a tank needs to make themselves as healable as possible. This is accomplished through mitigation, which is the reduction or prevention of incoming damage. Damage can be mitigated by armor, talents, abilities and consumables.

Armor is a static mitigation statistic. If you look on your character page, there is a place that lists your armor value. If you place your cursor over this number you will see a number expressed as a percent. This percentage is how much of a normal melee attack your armor absorbs. The more armor you have, the more damage you mitigate; however, armor suffers from diminishing returns.  This means that the mitigation percentage each point of armor gives you decreases as your armor value increases.

Another way of mitigating damage is through passive abilities you have, both base and trained.  Dodge, parry, and block are all base talents that characters have without training.  Druid tanks can only benefit from dodge, as they can not parry attacks, nor can they or Deathknights use shields.  Some trainable talents reduce damage by percentages or increase dodge, parry or block.

Dodge and parry are known as pure avoidance stats, as they will completely negate an incoming melee attack.  Every mob has a 5% chance to miss you, so if you add that with your dodge and parry, you can calculate the percent of melee attacks that a should miss you with.  By using gear, gems and enchants you can increase your dodge and parry where mobs will have a difficult time hitting you.

Block has two components, rating and value.   Block rating increases the chance you have to block, whereas block value increases the amount you block for.  Block rating is not as useful as a pure avoidance stat such as dodge or parry, but it is still important to have.  A successful block will mitigate up to your block value in damage; this value can be found my moving your cursor over your block percentage on your character page.   If you have a combined 102.4% chance to dodge, parry, block and miss (only achievable by Warriors and Paladins through abilities), mobs and bosses can’t hit you with regular hits.  The only damage you will receive will be blocked hits or non- melee attacks.  If you can reach and maintain this percentage, stacking block value will give you the greatest mitigation.

Active abilities are abilities that you have to use for them to work.  Some active abilities increase your passive abilities, such as dodge, parry or block for a short period of time.  If these are on a relatively short cooldown, as in 10 secs or less, they should be used whenever possible.  Abilities that are on longer cooldowns that either reduce or prevent damage can, and should be, saved for instances where you know that you will be receiving a high amount of damage.

There are also a variety of consumables that you can use to increase your mitigation.  Any scroll, flask, elixir or potion that increases your armor, dodge, parry or block can be used to decrease the amount of damage you take.  Note that if you have achieved 102.4% dodge/block/parry/miss, that you should buff your stamina or armor, as anything over 102.4 is wasted.

–  –

Those are the basics of tanking.  I did not include other topics such as how to pull mobs, because as of this sentence, the post has eclipsed 2000 words.  Perhaps I will post about anything I feel that I’ve left out at a later time.  I hope that this either brought you the knowledge you were seeking, or a perhaps a laugh if you found it too basic.

– Sam

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