The purpose of this ESO tanking guide is to explain the entire concept of tanking, dispel some commonly held misconceptions, explore why certain classes are considered the ‘best’ as tanks and elaborate on how tanking is approached in general and in endgame. The entire guide is designed to be new-tank friendly and will explain, in detail, how to start and master tanking.
Why Should You Tank?
I. Tanks are always needed in game; you will find groups a lot easier
II. Relatively easy to gear compared to DPS, since you won’t need any Maelstrom Arena gear.
II. Rewarding gameplay, especially in DLC dungeons where a good tank is vital. It is often satisfying to block a heavy attack, and to convince yourself, try tanking Grothdarr’s smash attack in Vaults of Madness.
So, what motivates the creation of the tank role? First, we consider a general fight in the game, it is often in the best interest of the group to finish the fight, or a specific part of the fight in the shortest time possible, since a shorter fight leads to less chance of wiping, and of course, for high end score pushers, the faster a fight ends, the more score they can achieve.
Thus, as with most content in the game, group composition and character setups are done entirely around the concept of finishing a fight as fast as one can, and for tanks, this splits into the following five subcategories which will contribute to this goal.
ESO Tanking Guide Fundamentals
We will now lay out of the fundamental ideas of being a tank in order of importance and explain how these ideas will contribute to our central goal of ending a fight quickly. All the following sections will be referring back to these fundamental ideas.
A dead player does not contribute to the group and takes up time for other group members to revive them.
Keeping DPS players and healers alive
A dead DPS does not contribute to damage, a dead healer will often lead to you or the DPS being dead and as the tank player, it is your job to absorb damage on other player’s perspective.
Ensuring the proper positioning of enemies, failing that, making sure that the enemy movement is predictable
A DPS do damage through a mixture of ground DoTs and single target DoTs. A ground DoT has a certain range, and when an enemy moves out of range, the DPS either has to: recast the DoT (and wasting a skill cast), or continue the rotation(and wasting the damage on that ground DoT), and both scenarios lead to a loss in DPS. Since ground DoTs do damage to every enemy inside its radius, getting more enemies inside ground DoTs will also lead into an increase in DPS. And thus, as all above, for a tank, it is imperative that you hold a boss in place and try to group up enemies together to increase DPS. In addition, many enemies have a skills that damage enemies in a cone, and as a tank, it is vital that you be predictable when tanking a boss such as that. If you dance around the boss, the DPS will be confused on where to stand, and potentially leading to death.
Buffing damage through sets and support skills
When all your other duties are done, you will have to increase the DPS of groups in other ways, and tanks do this through a combination of skills and set gears. Namely, this will include gear such as Alkosh, Torugs, Yolnahkriin and etc. I will further elaborate on this later down below.
(Advanced) Doing damage
When you are starting out, you should never be doing damage as a tank. Doing so waste resources, and the damage output you can contribute to the group will always be far outweighed through keeping the boss still and debuffing it.
However, the very endgame score pushing groups will have tanks doing this just to squeeze out that last few points of damage.
What separates a bad tank from a good tank
With the 5 fundamental principles of tanking stated, you will find it quite hard to fulfil all of them at all times, and quite frankly, it is really not expected of you do so, and how well you can satisfy the five principles will often dictate how good you are at being a tank.
If you can only satisfy Principle 1, you are probably what is known as a fake tank. A fake tank, contrary to popular belief, does not refer exclusively to DPS queueing as tanks. A player with 40k health in heavy armor spamming Carve without taunting is even worse. Being a tank will require you to draw aggro.
Most tank players in ESO will have understood the idea of taunting but many will fail to progress pass the third principle. As discussed above, tanks need to serve the group DPS and ensure optimal output and hence, every second a boss spends moving around, or a distant mob spend away from the ground DoT, or just mobs moving around in general is a second that the group DPS will be dropping.
A good tank will be able to taunt bosses, block their heavy attacks (which will knock you back, moving the boss), group mobs together and keep boss movements to a minimal, if at all.
A great tank player, and indeed most endgame players, will also be able to satisfy the fourth principle of tanking. Providing debuffs using skills such as Engulfing Flames, Blockade of Lighting, sets such as Alkosh, Torugs and Yolnahkriin, and the very best of tanks, particularly those in score-pushing guilds, will ask tanks to run some damage as well, which is represented as the last principle.
This also brings up the topics of endgame tanks vs beginner tanks and why their builds isn’t necessarily the best starting out. Most new tanks will struggle with sustain and tankiness since they won’t know the mechanics well, won’t use their resources, synergies well, and won’t have DPS and healers that amazing to group with, and this will lead to a less efficient resource consumption. Endgame tanks usually won’t have these issues and will use gear that are less oriented towards tankiness and sustain, and more towards buffing group DPS, and will make up for the loss of personal safety with their skill level and awareness.
Mechanics of Tanking
In accordance with the five fundamental principles, we will now discuss the various non-class specific skills and actions tanks can employ in order to full satisfy the five principles of tanking. Starting out, we will be first discussing the idea of taunting and blocking and then move into more advanced concepts.
Drawing aggro in ESO can often be a quite complicated matter, but taunting will simplify this matter for tanks enormously. If you are the only person using a taunt, any tauntable enemy (which is 99% of them) you hit with a taunt will be forced to attack you for as long as the taunt is active, and as a single player, you can taunt as many times as you like without fear of overtaunting (which only arises when 3 taunts are placed on the an enemy are used within 15 second from more than one player, rendering the boss untauntable for the 15 second duration).
As a tank, you will be charged with the duty of taunting so that enemies do not focus on DPS/healers [Principle 2], and the game provides you a total of 4 ways to doing so, 2 of which are, for the most part, useless.
- Puncture (first skill One Handed and Shield),
- Inner Fire (third skill Undaunted),
- Heavy Attack with a Frost Staff (With the Tri-Fcous passive slotted),
- Movement skills with the Tormentor set (Drops from Banished Cells).
Heavy attacking with a Frost Staff takes a long time to complete, and will cause you to drop block, even though it restores your resources, this won’t really serve as your main taunt [Violating Principle 1 and 3 by dropping block]. Tormentor is a set that does not provide enough meaningful tanking/buffing/debuffing bonuses and takes up a 5 piece slot for a gimmicky way to apply taunt [Violating Principles 1,4 and 5]. And we are left with only two remaining taunts. Puncture is obviously great, but Inner Fire most new players tend to ignore (most of the time due to not knowing that there is an undaunted skill line). Inner Fire is a ranged taunt that costs Magicka and having a ranged taunt is often a great benefit as it will mostly allow you to position enemies easier, and will allow you to taunt enemies faster if they are not in range whilst making sure you do not move whatever it is you are currently tanking [Principle 2 and 3]
Without any passives, blocking will reduce incoming damage by 50%, and with just the One-Handed and Shield passives, this will increase to 60%. Making it much more likely for you to survive an attack. DLC dungeons and trials are usually balanced around this fact as well, dialing up the damage to a degree such that it would be almost impossible for you to survive without blocking. In addition, most heavy attacks that you fail to block will displace you, knocking you back [Violating Principle 3] or CC you such that won’t be able to survive the incoming mechanics [Violating Principle 1]. Most people will try to advise you to block only the heavy attacks, but for someone who is starting out, I think this can be a very misguided philosophy for several reasons:
- Some heavy attack are quite fast and you won’t always have the reaction time to block it
- Blocking even the light attacks will still greatly reduce your chip damage taken, and will generally make it easier on healers if you have one, and if you don’t, it is more resource efficient to expand stamina to mitigate damage rather than expand magicka/stamina to replenish your health.
- A lot of the DLC dungeons and trials really gives you no opportunity to drop block, since a lot of the time, a single dropped block will lead to death.
This motivates Perma-Blocking, which is just to hold up block all the time in order to absorb damage and minimize mistakes, but Perma-Blocking brings an important issue of stamina sustain. You do not regenerate stamina whilst blocking and have to resort to other ways of restoring stamina, such as potions, synergies, certain passives, certain sets, and being able to manage your resources subjected to a non-regenerating stamina pool is an important part of being a tank.
Clustering and Crowd Control
All dungeons, especially arenas, and most trials will have a lot of non-boss enemies. For big spread out groups of enemies such as these, a tank can bring together enemies into one spot so that the DPS will be able to catch them all in one ground DoT and AoE skills. In addition, crowd-controlling or rooting them will also limit their movement and ability casts, reducing damage taken by the group and making them easier to kill. Tanks usually do this by using a chaining skill, a CCing/rooting skills. [Principle 2 and 3]
Buffing and Debuffing
Tanks, after clustering in enemies, taunting priority targets, will often try to debuff enemies and buff groups [Principle 4]. More of this will be later discussed in gearing and skills sections.
Light/Heavy Attacks and Ultimate
Unlike DPS, light attacking is much less important than tanks. You generate ultimate by light attacking, healing someone who had light attacked recently or blocking, and since we block all the time and is no position to do any damage, light attacks are completely useless for tanks in most situations. Unlike using skills, light attacks will also make you drop block, and so every single time you light attack as a tank, you are essentially wasting opportunities to do other more meaningful actions.
Heavy attacks, on the other hand, will allow you to restore resources with the downside for dropping block for an extended period. Recognizing when it is safe to heavy attack bosses can be a very important part of learning tanking, and for the most part in easier dungeons, you will often be safe to heavy attack. However, in veteran DLC dungeons and trials, learning when to heavy attack can be quite hard, and in general, I would recommend perma-blocking when learning newer contents and if you manage your resources well enough, you might find that you will have no need to heavy attack in the first place.
This should be the last priority of a tank, but for the very endgame score-pushing group, there is a distinct need for this, especially in easier contents. Tanks generally do not have a good resource pool, nor do they have good weapon/spell damage, and most fights won’t allow them to do a rotation like a DPS would be able to, and thus they rely on proc set to help them deal out that extra damage. Proc sets, refer to sets that do a flat of amount of damage on the tooltip after a certain condition is met (such as Mad Tinkerer, Viper, and most Monster sets), the damage of these sets will only scale on CP, some buffs and debuffs, won’t scale with your resources or weapon/spell damage, can not critically strike and does not require a rotation to take advantage of them (You won’t gain meaningful benefits from the spell damage from a set like Burning Spellweave if you don’t cast any damage skills, but you will benefit from Velidreth regardless). But since we are very limited in our gear choices, with our two 5-piece sets being devoted to buffing and debuff, we cannot sacrifice these pieces (The damage increase for the whole group using a set like Alkosh will far outweigh the damage you can do with something like Thunderbug, or Mad Tinkerer). Therefore, if you are looking to push damage, the only two choices are the Monster sets and the backbar weapon, and the common choice for these are Velidreth/Maarselok and Maelstrom Bow with Volley slotted
As a traditional tank, you are almost never expected to do group healing, but it is still important to address the topic of self-healing. Due to your large health pool, sometimes healers might struggle with bringing your health back to 100%, and sometimes healers might just not have the reaction time necessary and it is important that you know how to heal yourself. Normal healing skills however, won’t work as well as you would expect, since most of them scale off max magicka and spell damage. In order to combat this, tanks will usually run healing skills that scale off their maximum health.
Damage shields are usually not particularly effective for tanks as a mitigation tools, They do not factor in block mitigation, only resistance, and a lot of them scales with max magicka as opposed to health. There are some worth considering and a few frequently used (Igneous Shields being the main one), but they are usually used mostly for their utilities rather than as a primary way to mitigate damage.
First, we will address class selection when you are starting out.
Common wisdom holds that Dragonknights are the best tanking class, and that is 100% true for newer players due to how easy DK tanks are to use due to the following skills:
For surviving damage, DKs have access to the Iron Skin and Scaled Armor passives, increasing their block mitigation and spell resistance passively, making them passively more tankier classes.
For clustering and grouping enemies, DKs have access to Fiery Chains which will draw in ranged enemies using magicka. Other classes will have to using either Silver Leash, Swarm Mother, Frozen Portal in Warden’s case or Beckoning Armor in Necromancer’s case. Silver Leash uses stamina, which is usually reserved for blocking and taunting, and adding in the fact that tanks don’t regenerate stamina whilst blocking, Silver Leash is very costly to cast. Swarm Mother’s, Beckoning Armor and Frozen Portal are both a bit slow and unreliable at times, and thus despite the availability of other form of chaining, DK’s Fiery Chains are, by far, the best option. In addition, DK’s access to Choking Talons helps a lot when it comes to limiting movement of enemies already near you. Being able to root enemies instantly, debuffing them with AoE Minor Maim and providing a nice synergy at the same time is quite powerful, and no other class has access to a such overloaded skill like this.
For sustaining stamina whilst blocking, DKs have access to the Helping Hand Passive, which allows them to gain 990 stamina after casting an Earthen Heart ability (Usually Obsidian Shield) with no cooldown, and Battle Roar allows them to regain a huge chunk of resources after using an ultimate. No other classes in the game have resource sustain, especially stamina sustain, as potent and as reliable as DKs whilst blocking.
For buffing and debuffing, DKs have access to Engulfing Flames(Exclusive to DK), a unique debuff increasing fire damage taken by 10%, important for magicka DPS, also Minor Brutality(Exclusive), which is needed for stamina DPS. For easier contents when DPS might not be running expensive Weapon/Spell Power potions, Igneous weapons also provide cheap access to Major Brutality and Sorcery.
For self-healing, DKs have access to Green Dragon’s Blood, which is one of the rarer skills that scales with your health that costs magicka. With low spell damage and magicka, tanks have to rely health-scaling healing skills to combat huge health drops
We now compare DK tanks with other classes and see how they fail to compete with DKs:
Of course, as already stated, all classes beside DKs lack an optimal chaining skill.
For Templars, they lack a good self-heal, which is quite surprising seeing that they are the premier healing class. But all their healing skills scale with maximum magicka and spell damage, and their only health-scaling skill is a damage shield: good for preventing damage, but less effective when your health is at 20% and needs a big burst. They also lack a strong class root or access to AoE Minor Maim. However, templars have access to good sustain and resistance tools in the form Rune Focus, cleanse in the form of Cleansing Ritual, and if built less traditionally in favour of higher max magicka, templars can be a great heal tank.
For Sorcerers, they lack a good way to gain back stamina whilst blocking or a way to apply AoE Minor Maim. To make up for it though, they can be the tankiest class with Bound Armor providing 36% block mitigation for 3 seconds on activation, and their access to the Summoned Clannfear healing coupled with easy access to Major Vitality via Restraining Prison give them even stronger self-healing than DKs.
For Nightblades, they also lack a good way to gain back stamina whilst blocking or a way to apply AoE minor Maim. Their access to Minor Protection via Dark Cloak, Major Resistance buffs via the passive Shadow Barrier, Major Evasion via Blur makes mitigating damage easier.
For Wardens and Necromancers, they don’t lack anything in particular, but they are just that not as effective as DKs in most aspects. Warden’s AoE Minor Maim relies on proccing the chilled status effect, Necro’s AoE CC has a delay, both of their stamina sustain skills (Bull Netch, Mortal Coil) are less reliable than Helping Hands, and both of their burst healing skills are less effective than Green Dragon’s Blood.
And thus, in conclusion, for starting out, DKs are just so well designed for tanking that they are the easiest class to pick up the role.
For the very endgame score-pushing group compositions, this is changed significantly. The shortcomings of each class are largely compensated by personal skills and classes are reduced to the unique buffs they provide. For DKs, that’s Engulfing Flames and Minor Brutality, for NBs, Minor Savagery, for Templars, Minor Sorcery and the Minor Resistance Debuffs via Power of the Light, for Sorcs, Minor Prophecy, for Wardens, Minor Toughness, and for Necromancers, Major Vulnerability.
Meta group compositions rely mostly on the best DPS of the patch, and groups will provide as much as they can of those DPS first, and then seek to make up for the remaining buffs in the other classes. For example, this patch for the Sunspire Trial, the best DPS is Stamina Necromancers, and so a meta group will use 8 Stamina Necromancers and use the other two tanks and two healers to provide the remaining buffs. Since 8 Stamina Necromancers will cover the Major Vulnerability part well, there is no need for more Necromancers. A Templar Healer is then brought for Power of the Light, a Warden healer/tank might be brought for Minor Toughness (Or, if there is no need for Minor Toughness, perhaps another Necromancer for another source of Major Vulnerability if they other three supports can rotate their Warhorn well enough), and then since the DPS are all stamina, we will also need access to Minor Brutality and Savagery, which is accomplished by a DK tank and a NB tank/healer.
In a similar vein, last year, the best DPS for Cloudrest were magicka NBs. So groups loaded up with 8 magNB DPS, have a Templar healer for PoTL and Minor Sorcery , Sorc healer(or replacing DPS) for Minor Prophecy, and DK tanks for Engulfing Flames.
Weapons and Enchantments
For tanks, the front bar is always Sword and Board, the weapon itself doesn’t matter as they make no difference when you don’t dual wield. For a front-bar tanking weapon, Sword and Board is simply the most effective due their passives and essential skills they provide.
For the backbar however, there are a few options. Namely, another Sword and Board, Ice Staff, Lightning Staff or even a Bow. Another Sword and Board is the safest option due to, again, their passives and certain skills, but it is an already outdated option many people have moved away from, and that’s due to enchantments.
Enchantments are halved when used on an one-handed weapon, but will apply to full strength on two-handed weapons (2hander, staves and bows). Most tanks will be tasked to run Crusher Enchantments (Reducing Target resistance and increasing DPS), and you will want this enchantment to apply to full strength. Due to arbitrary balancing (that’s what happens when you balance PvE and PvP at the same time), only AoE ground DoTs can apply these enchantments when you are not on that bar(If you use a single target DoT like Rending Slash and switch to your other bar, the enchantments on your dual wield bar will not apply again even if their cooldown has worn off. But if you use an AoE DoT like Endless Hail and switch to your other bar, the enchantments on your bow bar will keep on applying whenever they are off cooldown) . Thus, on the off-bar, we have to use a two-handed weapon with an AoE DoT.
The obvious candidate is an Ice Staff, and this is one of the more common off-bar weapon. Destruction Staff passives allows you to be as tanky as using a Sword and Board, and Elemental Blockade will allow you to apply full strength crusher enchants easily. Lightning Staff is largely similar, but you won’t have the defensive passive. However, you will be able to take advantage of two group buffs Lightning Staffs can offer: concussion status effect with grants minor vulnerability (which can also be provided by a healer with Infallible Aether), and setting concussed enemies off-balanced (which is taken advantage usually by DPS who has the Exploiter CP passive).
The last candidate is a Maelstrom Bow with Endless Hail, and this is only used by most optimized meta groups looking to push out that last bit of damage.
Now we will explore the various skills important to a tank, and with all of these skills, I will assign the fundamental principles each skill accomplishes.
Puncture: [Principle 2 and 4] Your primary taunt, Ransack gives you a bit more tankiness but Pierce Armor allows you to apply Major Breach. If you know you are playing with a competent healer who will be using Elemental Drain, or a Necromancer with Unnerving Boneyard, then feel free to spec into Ransack for just a bit more tankiness.
Inner Fire:[Principle 2 and 3] Your ranged taunt. There is an option to make this cost stamina but it’s usually not taken due to how important the stamina pool is for blocking. The primary use of this ability is to either to taunt a far away enemy before it gets to the DPS/healer, or to initiate a fight in a location of your choosing. Note that Inner Fire does not apply Major Fracture/Breach, so make sure to apply those with Puncture after taunting with Inner Fire.
Heroic Slash (Morph of Low Slash, One Handed and Shield) [Principle 1, 3, 4]: Provides two very important buff: Minor Maim and Minor Heroism. Minor Heroism is a buff only tanks have easy access to, it allows you to generate ultimate faster, which means more tankiness, more buffs, and more resource sustain if you are a DK. Minor Maim on the boss will reduces their damage on you, making it easier for you to survive and reducing pressure on the healer. In addition, many boss mechanics are also affected by Minor Maim, so having a constant uptime on it will also make it easier for healers and DPS.
Defensive Posture(One Handed and Shield) [Principle 1]: Okay here we go. This, alongside Footman(Set gear drop from Dragonstar Arena), are two of the most misunderstood mechanics in the game. Both increase the damage you can block by 8%, and many people claim that the actual increase is far less than that.
This is wrong, these sets are far better in terms of damage mitigation than you think they are. (Read the following paragraphs if you want more information on this)
Previously, a lot of misconceptions regarding these sets came from various videos and posts made before the block damage mitigation formula change, and even that, is wrong.
For the old formula, using an old calculator:
This is a confusion of additive and multiplicative multiplier when applied to values below 100%. Consider this old damage mitigation calculator that was made before the current patch(https://jscalc.io/calc/fiasVNPSGsOdmsF6), and we drag all the sliders except damage shield to max, spec into all blocking passives, apply minor maim and we see a total mitigation of 91.565%, and with a 100k hit, we take 8,435.043 points of damage. The false claim is motivated by the fact that when we spec into Defensive Posture/Footman, we see a total mitigation of 92.240%, a much less than 8% increase as stated on the tooltip, and this leads to many people thinking Defensive Posture/Footman is much less effective than its tooltip.
However, this is wrong. After specing into Defensive Posture/Footman, we see that from the same 100k hit, we now take 7,760.240, and compared to 8,435.043 without Defensive Posture/Footman, we are taking (7,760.240/8,435.043=) 92% of the damage. A decrease of 8%. This rather unintuitive result arises from the confusion between additive and multiplicative multipliers.
Now for the new formula, this is the block mitigation calculation used currently in game at the moment:
1 – (0.5)*(1 – Skill.BlockMitigation – Item.BlockMitigation – Set.BlockMitigation – Buff.BlockMitigation)
We see that that the DK passives and one-handed passives, we mitigate 65% of the damage, adding in Footmans’s 8% mitigation, we mitigate now 69% percent of the damage, which means that we are taking now 31% out of 35% the damage now, which is roughly an 11.4% damage mitigation, stronger than the tooltip would actually suggest. This is due to the new blocking formula working additively instead of multiplicatively, and this actually means that Footmans and Defensive Posture gets stronger the more block mitigation you get.
Funnily, for a brief 3 weeks on the Scalebreaker PTS, it was actually possible to achieve 100% damage mitigation by stacking block mitigations.
That being said however, for endgame tanks, Footman is almost never used and Defensive Posture is situational at best, and this is due to the fact that they only benefit the tanks themselves without benefiting the group: most endgame tanks will have the skills necessary to compensate for dropping a defensive setup like this.
Crushing Shock (Morph of Force Shock, Destruction Staff) [Principle 2]: This is a fairly situational skill used for interrupting a ranged casting enemy. As a tank, you aren’t expected to do this most of the time, and most casting enemies can be taken care of by bashing, but it is good to have this in your toolbox.
Elemental Blockade (Morph of Wall of Elements, Destruction Staff) [Principle 4] : Essential for applying crusher enchants and useful for getting some initial aggro on a big group of enemies. Always try to have this up , but this will be really challenging when you are starting out.
Vigor(Alliance War)[Principle 1]: Despite our low weapon damage and stamina, Vigor is quite a decent self heal. Since it costs stamina, you do have to be quite careful not to overcast it.
Unrelenting Grip (Morph of Fiery Grip, Ardent Flames, Dragonknight)/Silver Leash(Morph of Silver Bolts, Fighter’s Guild) [Principle 3]: Your displacement skill for chaining in enemies from far away. Important for trash mob fights and fights with adds.
Spiked Armor(Draconic Powers, Dragonknight)/Bone Armor(Bone Tyrant, Necromancer)/Rune Focus(Restoring Light, Templar)/Frost Cloak(Winter’s Embrace, Warden)/Lightning Form(Storm Calling, Sorcerer)/Shadow Barrier(Passive from Shadow, Nightblade)/Immovable(Heavy Armor) [Principle 1]: These are all major resistance buffs necessary for tanks, However, all of these cost a significant amount of resources to keep up, and with the exception of Nightblades, who can get these buffs passively, these are less frequently used compared to the next skill, Balance.
Balance (Morph of Equilibrium, Mages Guild) [Principle 1]: Balance grants you the same armor buffs as above. Balance will also grant you magicka back with the downside of consuming health and reducing your own healing done. This is commonly used by tanks because it enables efficient resource trading with healers: the amount of magicka needed for a healer to heal through the health cost is miniscule compared to the amount of magicka you gain. In addition, this skill will allow you access to the important major resistance buffs while giving you magicka, instead of taking away from it. There are, however, cases when this skill can be detrimental, such as when you are not running a healer, or when the incoming damage is too intensive to sacrifice health.
Choking Talons(Morph of Dark Talons, Draconic Powers, Dragonknight)/Mass Hysteria(Morph of Aspect of Terrors, Shadow, Nightblade)/Restraining Prison(Morph of Encase, Dark Magic, Sorcerer)/Gripping Shards(Morph of Impaling Shards, Winter’s Embrace, Warden)/Agony Totem(Morph of Bone Totem, Bone Tyrant, Necromancer)/Time Freeze(Morph of Time Stop, Psjic Order) [Principle 3]: These are your AoE rooting/CCing skills, used after a group of enemies have been gathered to control them from moving around or casting damaging spells.
Aggressive Warhorn(Morph of Warhorn, Assault Skill Line Under Alliance War)[Principle 4]: The essential support ultimate, increasing group crit damage and resources. This will be your primary ultimate almost in all contents unless you have issues surviving phases of fights. In organized trial groups, the four support roles will typically have a rotation of Warhorn to ensure 100% uptime on the buff.
Frozen Colossus[Principle 4]: Unique to Necromancers, boosts group DPS significantly for a short period of time. This ultimate requires a lot of coordination in trials, so you might not be asked to run this most of the time
Shield Wall(One Handed and Shield)[Principle 1]: Cheap ultimate used in clutch situations to either get off a rez (you count as blocking when this is active, so enemy heavy attacks won’t interrupt your rez), or to survive bursts of damage whilst regaining resources (by using heavy attacks whilst the ult is active)
Other survivability ultimates: Magma Armor, Bone Goliath Transformation and etc, falls under the same idea of surviving incoming damage, but they usually are not the primary ultimates a tank would use.
Similar idea as before, I’ll be exploring some more popular tanking gear available in game.
Principle 1 sets: I have chosen to group all these following sets together, because although they are great sets for starting out, they are largely unnecessary as you improve and can progress into more buff-oriented sets. These sets can be roughly divided into the following subcategories: resources, sustain, mitigation and self-healing. In addition, since these are sets only newer tanks would use, I have only included crafted or buyable sets.
Resource sets: Plague Doctor, Shacklebreaker
Sustain sets: Seducer, Bloodthorn
Mitigation sets: Footman, Fortified Brass
Self-healing sets: Battalion Defender, Crest of Cyrodil
Ebon Armory[Principle 1 and 2]: An old favourite set that is essential in trials. Endgame groups have already phased this out for tanks and instead putting it on healers, but you can never go wrong with this on the tank in most contents.
Akaviri Dragonguard [Principle 1 and 4]: More warhorns means more DPS, and as a DK, more ultimate means more sustain. This set is a great compromise between personal survivability and group buffing. However, despite this, it is not used in score-pushing trial setups for two reasons:
- Four support roles are enough to setup a warhorn rotation, and you are usually only using warhorns in coordination as opposed to off-cooldown, making cost reduction redundant.
- There are simply better damage boosting sets.
Torug’s Pact [Principle 4]: The sole purpose of this set is the 5 piece, which boosts your enchantment efficacy. When combined with the crusher enchantment, this gives the group additional penetration, leading to more DPS.
Roar of Alkosh [Principle 4]: The most powerful tanking set at the moment with the most useless tanking bonuses. This set is the perfect summary of how tanking is approached at endgame by experienced players. The first thing you will notice about this set is that it’s a DPS set, coming only in medium armor, with 2, 3, 4 piece giving you absolutely useless bonuses. The 5 piece is the only reason you would use the set, 3010 additional penetration is the single most amount of penetration you will be able to get in the game that’s not a named buff (i.e Major Fracture/Penetration) , and this set will increase the group DPS by a very significant amount.
Since it comes in medium armor only, you will have to farm jewelry and weapons of this set, and not having any set bonuses helpful to personal survivability means that although it’s considered the best tanking set in the game, it’s not recommended for newer tanks looking to pick up the role.
Claws of Yolnahkriin [Principle 4]: The only source of Minor Courage in game at the moment and it is attached to set bonuses designed for tanks. A common setup for endgame tanks is to combine this set with Alkosh to become the ultimate DPS buffer for your team.
Monster Sets: Monster sets are considered less important for tanks than they are for DPS, since none of them provides any tangible damage buff for the group. That being said, however, many monster sets provides personal survivability for tanks, and a common practice is to make up for lost tankiness on other pieces with monster sets. Commonly used sets include: Lord Warden, Mighty Chudan, Stonekeeper, Bloodspawn, Engine Guardian, Earthgore and etc.
Example Build with 300CP
While there are many ways to set up a tank, it’s important to stick to some general guidelines, so that when you start changing up gears in the future, you know how to deck out your character.
- You will want to have at the very least 35k health, 40k if you are starting out. After that, stamina and magicka levels are usually kept at around 15k to 20k (after food buffs and the undaunted passives), with stamina slightly higher so that when you activate orbs/shards, you get more stamina back. To achieve this, you would usually use tri-stat purple food such as Longfin Pasty with Melon Sauce, and then adjusting your attributes and enchantments accordingly, and if you are rich enough, you can swap all of your body enchantments to Prismatic Defense and transmute your jewelry trait to Triune. Remember that there are no attribute distribution/enchantment rules, you are fine as long as you hit the benchmark for resources.
- Remember that you do not regenerate stamina whilst blocking, so stamina recovery is an entirely useless stat. To maintain our resources, we invest in magicka recovery and block cost reductions. Most people achieve this by using the Atronach Mundus stone, becoming a vampire, using sturdy traits on armor and glyph of shielding/magicka recovery enchantments on jewelry.
- You do not need to cap your resistance for most contents. 25K+ after major resolve/ward buff is perfectly acceptable since blocking will form the bulk of your damage reduction.
- Monster sets are your best toolbox. Your body pieces, when setup for endgame, (and indeed, even most contents), won’t allow you much flexibility, but your monster sets do. Need magicka recovery? 1 piece Shadowrend, 1 piece Chokethorn. Need resistance for the group? Lord Warden. Need the major resistance buffs but can’t use Balance? Mighty Chudan. Need all three resource sustain? Stonekeeper/Engine Guardian. Need emergency back up healing? Earthgore. Need burst damage mitigation? Vykosa. The flexibility monster sets give you is amazing.
Now we will provide an example starter build using purple quality crafted/bought gear only gear that will get you started on your tanking journey. This build will focus more on personal survivability rather than buffing group damage (and quite frankly, with crafted/bought gear, there aren’t many good ones that will boost group damage).
Where to next with this build?
- Farm up 1 piece Shadowrend and 1 piece Chokethorn from Vet Banished Cells I and Vet Elden Hollow 1 respectively to replace the two piece Willow’s Path. (Remember to get one medium and one light for the Undaunted Passive). Bloodspawn from vet Spindlecltch 2, Engine Guardian from vet Darkshade Caverns 2 are also good candidates for a starter monster set.
- Farm Veteran Crypt of Hearts 1/2 for the Ebon Armory set to replace Plague Doctor. Sacrificing a bit of personal safety for group health.
- Participate now in endgame contents to slowly build up your collection of gear.
Common Mistakes to avoid
- Moving too much: Stop moving too much as a tank! As discussed earlier, you should limit your movement to a minimum during any fights, if at all. Every second you spend moving around is a second that the boss has to chase you around, and that’s a second that the DPS will lose out damage on. Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule: for example, sometimes the boss will just move on its own and there is nothing you can do about it.
- Being too unpredictable for your group: Sometimes the boss will move on their own, sometimes they will face whenever they want, but in all cases, you will want to be predictable. Don’t change your position when unnecessary, don’t drag bosses where they aren’t supposed to be, and if you have to, try communicating to your group first. This way, DPS and healers don’t have to predict both where the bosses will be and where you will be.
- Being too afraid of red AoEs: As per above, you might have to stand inside a red AoE every once in a while to avoid moving around. Knowing which red AoE you can stand in is pretty important as a tank: that red fire Maw of the Infernal places on you in vet Banished Cells 2? Feel free, you won’t die. That growing tar pit in the last fight of vet Fang Lair? You probably want to get out of that. But generally, most of the time (especially in non-DLC dungeons), that’s not a big deal.
- Not managing adds during boss fights: Sometimes, bosses will spawn adds during fights. Most tanks tend to ignore them, or run around trying to taunt them. Usually, when these phases happen, you will want to try to either range taunt them if they hit really hard (you use range taunt here so that you won’t have to move the main boss), or chain them in and root them so that they get caught inside the DPS’s ground DoT. Managing adds are important, but you also don’t want to move the main boss due to managing these adds.
In this section, I’ll be going over some of the possible scenarios you will face running dungeons and trials.
Big groups of non-threatening adds
In the first scenario, we see groups of scattered adds, none of which are particularly threatening. In large add fights like this, taunting is less important than crowd controlling and clustering in adds: healers will be able to out-heal the chip damage, and we want the DPS to do as much damage to as many adds as possible.
So, what you usually do here, is to place down your Elemental Blockade to get some initial aggro, use Choking Talons to get minor maim up, and chain in the ranged adds, as the melee adds will usually come to you. You will notice that you will be using quite a bit of magicka with this method, and usually, it’s worth it to cast Balance several times to get back some magicka, and for low threat fights like this, it’s usually safe to sacrifice some health.
Groups of adds with priority targets
Scenarios like this occurs very frequently in DLC dungeons. Among add pulls, there are usually threatening adds that you will have to taunt, because otherwise, they can one-shot the DPS, and sometimes there are priority targets that you will have to kill first, or they might empower other adds, or deal out punishing mechanics.
Remember to always go to the priority adds first and try not to move them after engaging, as we want the DPS to kill them as fast as possible.
Melee and Ranged Enemies Taunting
Range enemies are quite a bit different from melee enemies because they won’t follow you around as long as you are within range: this gives a lot of flexibility when it comes to tanking ranged enemies, as you can dance around them, dodge out of AoEs without moving them.
To move a ranged enemy, you either have to get out of their range, or line-of-sight them (move behind a cover so that they cannot see you), and this can be quite useful when it comes to positioning bosses in certain fights.
Blocking Heavy Attacks
While you will want to block pretty much every attack as a tank, heavy attacks are the most important ones. In DLC dungeons, you will most likely get one-shot if you don’t, and even if you don’t get one shot, you will get knocked back and the boss will have to move to chase you around.
A lot of bosses tend to have a frontal cone skill that damages all targets in an AoE. Sometimes these conal skills will follow you, and this is the case for most DLC dungeons. Your job as a tank is to face them away from the group and not move during these fights (if the AoE follows you). Usually this only involves turning the boss around at the start of the fight, but sometimes, you’ll have to do it again a few times mid-fight as well.
For tanking, there are a few damage buffs you want to keep up for the group after you get comfortable with tanking. If you are starting out, you can practice first on the simpler fights. The most important buffs besides the taunts are Heroic Slash and Elemental Blockade (proccing the crusher enchantment). As seen here, I’m keeping my Elemental Blockade up as long as I can, and using Heroic Slash off-cooldown. In addition, if you are in a trial with magDPS, also consider using the Engulfing Flame debuff, but keeping it up 100% of the time can be quite hard. But note that you should not be forgoing personal survivability and taunting in favour of applying debuff.
Final Thoughts on Tanking in ESO
Hopefully this ESO tanking guide was useful to you. Whether you’re new to the game, or have been playing since release, tanking will undoubtedly be a rewarding role to partake in.
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