The Meatshield Chronicles II: The Racial Draft


Welcome back! If you are reading this you must have either liked my other article and you are dying to hear more about tanks, you stumbled across the website for the first time and decided to click around on the links or you are an internet troll that hated my last article and just want to bash everything I say. Whichever one of those you are, welcome! I do not discriminate. As I promised last week, I am dedicating this Meatshield Chronicles to the different races of Tamriel. Which one will you pick as your dedicated damage taker and which ones provide the best racials? Well, hopefully we can figure that out today. Let us get started!

The Weapon/Armor Racial:

So you’re thinking, “Oh, Redguards and Imperials gain more experience with one hand and shield, they must be the best race for tank!” Sure, you could look at it that way. Obviously, as you are leveling that little extra boost helps you out and gives you a slight edge. But what about when you reach level 40 and your one hand and shield is already at level 50? You are gaining experience, but it is going nowhere. So while that racial is nice for leveling, there will come a point when your weapon/armor affinity is useless. Do not pick a race based on your weapon racial; pick it based on your other racials. To me, a weapon/armor affinity is essentially useless and only slightly helpful during the leveling phase. In fact, if you choose a Nord tank and play him through most of the game with One hand and Shield, when you go back to level your 2Handed skill in veteran content, the progress will be quicker and less painful. That being said, I will ignore the weapon/armor racials during the following discussions of the races.

Endless Pools of Health: The Classic Tank

So there are quite a few races in ESO that provide that classic tank feel because of their massive racial boosts to health, stamina or armor (and most likely a mix of two).

imperialImperial – Now, before I get accosted by trolls, let me preface this race: I know they are a Collector’s Edition only race. I am not going to get into if I believe in paying for a race, because that is not what this article is about. If you have the Imperial unlocked, good for you. If you do not, there are a bunch of other great races for tanks! Imperials get two two really great racials: Conditioning and Tough which increase max stamina and health to up to 12% respectively. Just having massive pools of resources is always helpful, and with Red Diamond, their third racial, they have a 10% chance to replenish health with melee hits. Take advantage of this awesome racial by building a tank with 5/2 Medium and Heavy armor and a weapon enchanted with weighed to increase melee attack speed. Utilize the set bonuses from the two crafting stations that give +100 armor along with sturdy and armor increasing jewelry and you can easily have a soft-capped medium armor tank that self-heals. That would be fun! Or you could simply go full heavy armor and take advantage of your already large resource pools.

orcOrc – Now we’re talking! Give me that big, ugly brute that can smash mobs and take mauls to the face like it is his job. Well, it is his job, he’s a meatshield! The Orc is similar to the Imperial, but instead of two separate racials that give health and stamina, the Orc has theirs locked to one: Brawny which increases health and stamina to a max of 6%. That is convenient, since it leaves a spot for an extra racial: Robust which increases health regeneration in combat by 15%. So while the Imperial is gaining health on melee hits, the Orc is continually gaining health even while blocking or standing out of the AoE. I have not done the numbers, but I would imagine in the long run these two racials will provide similar health replenishment (since the Imperial racial has an internal timer while health regeneration does not). The final racial is Swift which increases sprint speed and reduces cost of sprint. This can be helpful for battlefield mobility. Spending less time away from the mob or boss equates to higher damage and a constant building of aggro. Overall, the Orc provides the big brute classic tank that I like to see.

nordNord – Before I made my current tank, I was tossing around the idea of making a Nord Dragon Knight Tank. Just like the Orc, the Nord gains increased health regeneration while in combat, but there are two other racials that are unique. First, is the resist frost which increases Cold Resistance and Max Health by up to 3% I like this racial for the spell resistance, as it is unique. Sure, there are quite a few different spell types, but having a resistance to one can only be beneficial. Lastly, the Nord provides extra armor rating. This is the only class that provides that. I like this racial since as you crawl through the dungeons and kill trash mobs, the tank is likely going to be using a secondary weapon and not have his or her shield and one hander. This extra armor rating provides better survivability during trash pulls, and higher armor during a boss fight is never a bad thing.

The Stamina Machines: Less Classic, but still Practical Tanks

These builds tend to make better off-tanks, since the player has most likely chosen the following races to be damage dealers. With the Khajit and Wood Elf, they make great Nightblades. Unfortunately, Nightblades do not make the best main tank since you are wasting a lot of awesome skills in favor of less desirable tank skills, but they can still make some decent avoidance off-tanks without much change to the hotbar.

redguardRedguard – I like this race as a tank. In fact, I absolutely love it. You min/maxers out there probably do not like this class as much as me, but in a game like ESO, min/maxing your character has a little more leniency. All of the Redguard racials revolve around stamina, which I love. Sure, as a tank health is incredibly important since it keeps you alive. But, I like stamina since most of your skills on your hotbar will require stamina as well as non-skill maneuvers such as how you will need to sprint back to the boss when you dodge roll (also requiring stamina) out of the AoE and blocking and bashing require stamina. Having higher max stamina due to conditioning (12%), higher stamina recovery (9%) and your melee hits replenish stamina on every melee swing makes you a stamina machine. By using having these racials on my tank, I am able to put few attribute points into raw stamina and I do not need to enchant for extra stamina. Also, during trash pulls when I use either my 2hander or dual wield build, the extra stamina boosts my overall DPS and allows me to use more weapon skills at a time.  I can then enchant all of my gear and use crafting set bonuses for major boosts to my health without worrying about depleting my stamina pool.

khajit1Khajit – Now we start to look at some less interesting races for tanks. The remaining races are more off-tank material. The Khajit is a prime example of a great DPS race that one could put a few points into heavy armor and 1hand and shield and be able to off tank in 12-man content. The only useful tank racials are Robust (+15% heath regeneration) and Carnage which increases critical chance and damage. Utilize a dagger with a shield, some reinforced medium armor with heavy armor on the chest and leggings and you have yourself a decent off-tank. I certainly would not build a Khajit main tank build running head on with some major bosses, but if you’re a skillful player and know the mechanics of the boss fight, you could probably still handle some major tank fights.

woodelfWood Elf – The Wood Elf falls into the same category of Kahjit: possible off-tank, but not quite main-tank material. Wood Elves offer extra stamina recovery in Vigor (+9%) and some extra disease and poison resistance combined with stamina increase in Resist Affliction. If you chose a Wood Elf, you probably had no intent on tanking anyway, but if by chance you do find yourself called upon to off tank just build up some heavy armor and 1hand and shield skills and you could offer a possible solution in an extreme event.

argonianArgonian – The final “last resort” race for tank is the Argonian, which actually has some pretty clever racials that could be utilized effectively in a tanking situation. Amphibious increases swim speed which is useless in a tank, but it does offer a +15% to effectiveness of potions. That could be incredibly helpful if you have some health, armor or stamina increasing potions on your quickslot. Argonian Resistance gives you some extra health and poison and disease resistance, which is never a bad thing. The most interesting racial the Argonians have is Quick to Mend, which offers +6% to healing received. I would really like to see this racial on a more tank specific race, but being on the Argonian is interesting as it increases their survivability.  Furthermore, when combined with the increased potion effectiveness the racials can really help you out of tough situations when drinking your health potions. Overall though, you probably did not choose the Argonian for a tank, but if by some chance you did, you could still pull through in a pinch.

The Oddballs : Did you really just roll that Breton Tank?

I guess the Breton is the only real oddball. The other 2 races actually make good magicka driven tanks and can be just as good as the classic meatshield when played by a skillful and dedicated player.

dunmerDark Elf – The Dark Elf makes a very good possible option for a tank for this reason: the Dark Elf has most racials aimed at fire skills and so they are (most likely) playing a Dragon Knight. The Dragon Knight has a ton of skills that are classic tank skills and the Dark Elf could have easily put points into heavy armor and has himself a magicka heavy Dragon Knight tank build (Which is totally rad). The Dark Elf also has Dynamic, which increase magicka and stamina, which would enable him or her to use 1hand and shield skills more effectively. I do not hate the idea of the Dark Elf Dragon Knight tank, in fact I think it is pretty great.  The Dragon Knight is a great tank class but when focused around a magicka build it becomes slightly more difficult so whoever is playing it must be sure he or her knows what they is doing.

highelfHigh Elf – This is another race similar to the Dark Elf. The High Elf makes a perfect Sorcerer, and Sorcerers, believe it or not, make decent tanks. This would be an issue of spending large amounts of points on magicka skills in the sorcerer skill line to fill up that hotbar and putting some enchants on your armor to increase health and stamina. I have seen quite a few High Elf Sorcerers play tanks and they do a great job. This is a perfect solution to the player that wants to play a tank, but does not want to play that standard meatshield.  The Sorcerer in ESO seems to be “jack-of-all-trades” class as they make awesome tanks, healers and DPSers.  I will go into much further detail later on how awesome a Sorcerer really is.

bretonBreton – Yeah, I did just roll that Breton tank! So what if all of the racials are aimed towards magicka and magicka skills. They do give you a spell resistance increase, even though most of the damage a tank will be taking is melee hits. Chances are, the guy or gal playing the Breton chose a spell casting class and put zero points into any tanking abilities or morphs. So basically, if a Breton comes up to you and wants to tank, pat him nicely on the shoulder, tell him, “Aww, that’s cute” and then go find yourself a big, bad Redguard.  But seriously, they are very similar to Sorcerer or Dragon Knight builds, but there are better races suited for those classes.

The Racial Draft

So there it is: my opinions on which races make great tanks. Obviously, these are not “right” as they are opinions, but I feel I have opened the doors to great ideas when it comes to choosing that race for the tank. The bottom line is, nearly any race can make a good tank. The stamina tanks with high dps are more useful for that off-tank role (except for the Redguard), while the heavy magicka tanks can provide great alternatives to the classic meatshield.

Coming Up:
Alright, so I’ve covered basics and races. If you are still reading this, I am sure you are ready to get into it! Well, do not worry. Next week I will take all four classes and discuss them in great detail, as well as provide you with four different character builds (one for each class). Until then, see you in Tamriel and happy meatshielding!

Elder Scrolls Online Guide - Killer Guides
  • Valwe

    `Thanks, Keihndeth. I guess that solves the mystery. Hopefully he'll be back at some point.

  • Valwe

    Hey, Dr. Chainsaw. I really loved the first two installments in your series, and I've been awaiting the third. Is it coming out soon?

    I am a DK, and I see a lot of builds out there that focus on light armor and our ability to deal major fire damage, not just in PvP and as PvE damage-dealers, but as tanks as well. I only see a few builds (such as Phazius' "The Wall" that focus on maximizing health and damage mitigation. I think this is fairly understandable given the state of the game and the class, but personally I am going with an Imperial DK tank, 5 heavy/2 light, 1H+S and 2H. I would love to hear your thoughts on more traditional tank builds for ESO.


  • theHollow

    Yes, I agree, we need Part III. I have been left hanging on what the next steps are for tanking :). Maybe release it in Part IIIa and Part Iiib, if your co-writers are still slacking.

  • D3n.Mathews

    What's with the VERY long pause? Where's part 3? 😉

  • HeroOfEvbof

    I agree that tanking in ESO is something that needs to be practiced early. The things to learn early as an ESO tank
    1) Do not to panic when the boss unleashes a mechanic that ignores the taunt and goes after the rest of the party. Get over there and as soon as the mechanic is done, taunt him and kite him back to the point in the room that you were supposed to keep him
    2) Learn which mechanics you are not going to heal through. Some bosses have mechanics that simply burn down melee. Get some things on your second bar to keep you contributing in the fight. Fighters Guild, Mage Guild and Undaunted have some interesting powers that a tank would find useful on a second bar.
    3) Collect rings of resistance. I have every damage type covered in my bag and as I collect rings I beef things up. Look around at the names of the mobs and see what types of damage they will throw at you. Not as important with pure trash pulls but many dungeons have mini-bosses. These will be longer, more intense fights and rings of resistance can be a big help.

  • picasso trigger

    I approve the redguard love.

    I actually re-specced my redguard tank for more stamina at lvl 40, blocking is a serious drain on stamina but there's been boss fights in dungeons where I've held my shield the entire fight only pausing to reapply the taunt.

  • Cruxio

    And some comments about how to start out as a tank….

    Being a tank (main or off) is the hardest role in a group, and I'm saying this as primarily a healer myself (my tanking experience comes from progression/ranked main tanking in WoW for a year). The tank needs to know each fight mechanics the best, has to keep their gear in tip top shape, and know the general game mechanics that help achieve the first two points. Being a tank means that you are the de facto leader of a group.

    I don't say that to scare you away. I say that to empower you and give you a sense of reality. If you don't like being in leadership roles, or putting forth the extra effort in learning the ins and outs of both game and fight mechanics, then you will never be a great tank. You'll have to settle for good in that case.

    If I can leave you with just one thing about what to focus on to start being and excelling at the tank role is this….. Situational Awareness. That is the #1 skill that any good tank must have to succeed (notice I didn't say great… great is the mechanics/gear/leadership aspects). Keep your head on a swivel. Know what's going on around you at all times. You must embrace the support role and put yourself in the line of fire instead of someone else. In order to do that, you need to make sure that every enemy is accounted for and nothing slips through your front line of brawn!

    One of my favorite experiences in an mmo group, as a support character, is that when you can bring back a group from near death by stepping in to purposely take a hit (or purposely draw agro as a healer) knowing that it will mean my death. But that death is in place of another character, which buys enough time for everyone else to finish off the enemy! Those moments are epic and it's what I live for as a support character (tank or heal). 🙂

  • Cruxio

    Adding on to what an "off-tank" is….

    While it's true that they're typically not as well gear'd as the "main tank", they occupy what can easily be the hardest job within the raid. While the main tank is typically put onto the hardest hitting enemies (typically the primary boss), the off tanks' job is to grab the attention of everything else. What this means is that the off tank has to be the most situationally aware person in the raid; keeping their head on a constant swivel. They are, arguably, the only role in a raid who actually has to, on-the-fly, change roles and play styles from fight-to-fight; switching from tank on multi-target pulls to dps (as much as a tanky gear'd character can dps) on a single target fight; even mid-fight when the adds are down and it's just the boss that is left. Basically, like healers, they are the unsung heros of the group and a great off tank can mean the difference between success and failure in any given encounter. 🙂

  • D3n.Mathews

    Love your writing style Chainsaw. Looking forward to more of this awesomeness.

  • Dr_Chainsaw

    Thanks for the response and the questions. I'll go more into detail next week, but I'll answer those now.
    1. For the off-tank, in simplest terms it is he 2nd tank in a group. Typically used to maintain aggro on "adds" during a boss fight, or used to tank swap with the main tank. They typically have less superior skills or gear to the main tank and are used to help control the fight when the main tank cannot handle all the mechanics by himself. You see this most often when a mechanic requires you to switch tanks during a fight because the boss puts on devastating de-buffs, or when the adds during the boss fight hit like mini-bosses.
    2. There are always going to be trolls that spread hate through MMOs. Chances are, the players that are talking stupid to anyone who isn't an elite tank has either never tanked before or "knows a guy that knows a guy that used to main tank back in vanilla wow." The best tip of advice is to just jump right into it, really. Read my articles (self plug!) and find a good group of players that are not going to judge you as you learn the ropes. When you see a guy walking around in game that obviously looks like a badass tank, send him a message and ask him a few questions. Good tanks and players in general are always willing to help out. And I advise you not to wait until VR ranks to start tanking, do it right away. Learning the ropes in a low level dungeon is much more forgiving than deciding you want to tank at VR5 and you head to a veteran dungeon and get owned because you have not learned basic mechanics early on.

    Hope that helps!

  • kjostarr

    Love this series! I do have two main questions:

    1. Can you discuss exactly what an "off-tank" is next week? I have a basic idea but I would like more detail.

    2. So I'm someone who's never really tanked in any MMO I've done ever. I've always been nervous to because there are other games that need not be mentioned where if you are not perfect as a level 15 right away you get very much hated on. I've even seen my own friends who are big into other MMOs fall pray to yelling at others for their less than ideal choices and equipment. Any commentary about how to get started in tanking?