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New Big Tanking Guide

In World of Warcraft when you are doing any kind of grouping for quests, instances, heroics, and raids there are three key class types. The three types are DPS, Healer and the all important Tank. To be fair, you need all three types to be successful, and a tank is only as good as the healer and DPS teamed with them, but for the sake of argument and my ego let’s call the tank the most critical.

Tanks are generally viewed as the character in charge of a run through anything. This may or may not be the case for any specific group, but if a random group is assembled most players look to the tank to lead. This is because the tank is the player that generally controls the pace of the group, controls pulls, manages the enemies, establishes kill order, and much more.

Tanking Stats, Enchants, and Gems
Once you have figured out your build, it is time to worry about the stats you need for tanking, which directly corresponds to the gear you need. There are various character stats that are required that you need to worry about as a tank; they include Stamina, Strength, Defense, Dodge, Parry, Block, Hit, and Expertise. The amount you require of each and the priority it should receive is entirely dependant on your class. For example as a Death Knight you don’t use a shield, therefore Block is meaningless.

The first thing you need to worry about as a tank is getting to be defense capped. This term is a little bit of a misnomer as you can not become capped in defense, it provides bonuses forever, however what it really refers to is having enough defense to remove critical hits from the hit table against you. This is the actual defense score on your character sheet, not the amount of defense you have on your gear.

An Example of a Tanking Build
The amount of defense varies based on your level and what you are tanking. There are many different calculators out there to help you figure out exactly what you need to have, but the most important numbers to know are for the current end game at level 80. To tank level 80 heroics you must have 535 defense while to tank raids you need 540 defense. For players still levelling up you require 485 to tank level 70 instances in the Outlands, and 435 to tank level 60 instances back in basic WoW.

AoE Tanking
Tanking a single target is all well and good, however you do not normally come across single targets in an instance other than bosses. Most of the time you need to hold threat on multiple enemies at once. It is your responsibility to put enough threat on all enemies you are fighting so that they do not go after the healer or any DPS player doing AoE damage. It is not your responsibility to generate enough single target threat on each and every enemy so that DPS can go full out on random targets. DPS should still focus on your main target or switch when you do.

One very simple thing you should learn to do when AoE tanking is to mark a kill target, or have a DPS player mark one for you. This gives single target DPS the knowledge as to which target you will generate the most threat on. Once tanking the group, focus mainly on that target, however target swap to other targets and hit them as well to maintain threat on the entire group. Simple target swaps is an old school, but effective, method to tanking multiple enemies as long as DPS does not go crazy on anything but the main target.

Each Tanking class also has several abilities that allow them to tank multiple enemies at once and generate enough threat to hold them. Warriors use Thunderclap and Cleave to hold aggro while also switching targets occasionally. Druids can use Swipe which hits additional targets, and they can also manually change targets. Death Knights and Paladins are the kings of AoE tanking through. Death Knights, especially Frost based ones, have access to several AoE abilities such as Death & Decay and Howling Blast that will keep large numbers of enemies locked onto them. Paladins are even better, since they have Consecrate, Holy Shield, Avenger’s Shield, Hammer of the Righteous and more to hold threat.

No matter your class you need to be able to handle multiple enemies at a time. So make sure you play around with your abilities and learn how.

Engaging the Enemy (Pulling)
An important part of any fight that you are in is how you handle things at the very beginning. More specifically, how you choose to engage the enemies makes a big difference. The priority is to establish initial threat against all of the enemies as quickly as possible. This means getting in there and mixing it up with them.

For single enemies it could be as simple as charging in and starting to beat on them with your normal rotation. For large groups it could mean running in and dropping your biggest AoE skill right off the bat. In fact for large groups of melee enemies that is exactly what you want to do. When you encounter casters or ranged enemies it changes up a little bit, but we will cover that in the following section on positioning..

No matter how many enemies you face, you need to be the one to engage and hold them. Never let a DPS player or Healer wander ahead and bump into enemies, as it makes it much harder to tank them. The only exception to this is anyone misdirecting threat back to you, like your favourite hunter.

Positioning (while fighting and pulling)
Once you are tanking enemies very often position is critical. Think of all the enemies out there (bosses especially) that have frontal cone or cleave attacks. All of these enemies need to be faced away from the rest of the players in your group, otherwise the healer will have a hard time keeping everyone alive. In addition melee DPS can avoid having their attacks parried by attacking from the enemy’s rear. This means that anytime you tank an enemy you should face their back towards your group, regardless of the enemy having a special attack or not.

Watch the Group
Since in most cases you are going to be in charge of a group’s pace, in addition to your base responsibility of their survival, you need to pay attention to them. This means that you need to pay close attention to all of their health and mana bars, and their threat status. During a fight this is critical as you need to know if your healer is about to go Out of Mana (OOM) or if your group’s top DPS player has drawn aggro and needs to be saved.

Learn to watch for DPS that draws threat, or for enemies that reset threat, and taunt back any loose enemies quickly. Once you have taunted them, hit them to re-establish threat and start tanking them again.

Watching the party is important even in between fights. Do not go charging blindly ahead without checking your group’s mana and health. Getting a large group of enemies rounded up to tank while DPS AoE’s them down is no good if your healer doesn’t have the mana to keep you alive, or the mage doesn’t have mana to burn the enemies down. Take mana breaks as required, don’t make them ask for it. If they are low and you see them sitting to drink, wait until they are above 80% mana before moving on.