Welcome weary travelers to the Meatshield Chronicles! This is a weekly column I will be putting out dealing with all things related to tanks (or as I like to call them: meatshields)! Why a meatshield? Well, we take the role of facing the denizens of dungeons head on in order to take all the damage to allow our party to output maximum carnage. I will gladly sacrifice my body and welfare for the good of the group! This first column will be a very (read: extremely) basic introductory column, but should whet your appetite for the more exciting columns to come.
What can I expect from this column?
Well, I should really focus on what you should not expect from this column. You will not get bombarded with elitist points of view and a mentality of “this is the only way to play a tank!” Because, let’s face it, there are many ways to play a tank in ESO and I will try and hit all facets of tanking for every class (but I’ll start with the Dragon Knight since that is what I am currently playing)
Do you even tank, bro?
Yes, I do. I may not be the kind of guy that has been tanking bosses since EverQuest, but I am the guy that has been doing raids since EverQuest. Through most all of my MMO gaming life (A little over 15 years), I have played a damage dealing rogue/assassin type character. However, during my favorite expansion of any MMO (Wrath of the Lich King) I rolled a Paladin Tank and had a complete blast. I main-tanked Naxx through ICC and it was awesome. Later, during Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria I played my Rogue since I was much less hardcore during that time period. I think the reason I enjoyed WotLK so much is because I was tanking that expansion. So when Elder Scrolls Online came out, I knew I would go back to playing a Tank.
Umm… what’s a tank?
So I had an epiphany last weekend. I was playing ESO with my brother-in-law and he has never played an MMO before, but is a huge Elder Scrolls fan. To him, a tank is a character with heavy armor, a big axe and goes around slaying demons. While that is correct in some aspects, there are major points that are not covered. Elder Scrolls fans have no concept of “aggro” or “controlling a fight.” Instances, Best in Slot, Raid, CC, Damage Spike, DPS: all these terms may as well be in a different language to a non-MMO gamer. And, believe it or not, there are thousands of players out there playing ESO that have never played an MMO before. So as a kick-off for The Meatshield Chronicles, I have decided to start at the most basic of all levels. A solid foundation is required in understanding late-game and advanced tanking tactics. If you have been playing MMOs since their birth, this column may not provide you with any new information. That is understandable, but it could also be used as a refresher for the MMO gamer that has been out of the MMO cult for a while. For all of you Elder Scrolls fans that have never played an MMO before, this article is for you. But don’t worry hardcore MMO fans, I have much more in-store for you in the coming weeks.
The tank character in ESO is nearly a necessity in group dungeons and, while no one has done this content yet, it is my solid belief that a tank (possibly 2 or 3) will be required for 12-man and 24-man PvE content.
The tank is more than just a character with heavy armor. In ESO, the tank is necessary to control a boss fight. They will be the character keeping the boss focused on them, interrupting any possible spell casts and providing support to the group. Unlike other MMOs, the ESO tank will also be in charge of keeping himself alive. Sure, there are healers in the game to mitigate some damage, but it is overall the tank’s responsibility to keep him or herself alive.
How does that work? Well, it is simple. There is a mechanic commonly referred to as a “damage spike” in most MMOs. This is a high damage attack that is, generally, unavoidable and causes the tank to take major damage. Healers often pre-cast a big spell when they know it is coming, or continually spam heals to heal through it. With ESO, a majority of heals are Heals over Time (HoT) or if they are lump heals, they are not able to target a specific player. Thus, heals become less reliable for these damage spikes. Luckily, every damage spike in ESO is avoidable and if the tank is taking damage spikes, there is no one to blame but himself or herself.
What is this “Aggro” I hear all the time?
Aggro is a slang term in an MMO, also sometimes referred to as “threat,” which causes enemies (referred to as mobs) to attack a player. The more “aggro” a player has accumulated, the more likely the mob is to attack that specific player. Obviously, tanks are going to need to have a way to accumulate aggro. One of the easiest ways to accumulate aggro is to use a taunt: a specific skill that causes a mob to attack the tank. This, however, is not permanent aggro and after the taunt effect resolves, the mob goes back to attack whichever player is at the top of his “aggro chart” (an illusionary representation of which players have accumulated the most aggro). Are you confused yet? I hope not. It is all quite simple in practice.
The other popular way to establish large amounts of aggro is to cause the most damage. A tactic like this may be much more useful for a basic high defense tank (such as a Dragon Knight with heavy armor and a shield) than a more exotic tank build (such as an avoidance medium-armor Nightblade). This is true since a Nightblade tank may have to put an extra damage mitigation skill on his hotbar since he cannot rely on his raw defenses, unlike an orthodox Heavy Armor and Shield based build. Therefore, the heavy defense tank can utilize an extra skill slot to add a solid damage producing skill rather than an extra survivability skill that another “softer” tank would require.
The Hammer Metaphor
So far, from what I have seen in ESO, the tank build is very similar to the hammer metaphor. By gripping a hammer at the end of its handle, you have a ton of power but little control. Grip the hammer closer to the head and you produce much less power but greater control. The more control you have of a fight, the less damage you produce and the less control of a fight you have, the more damage you produce. This situation is not necessarily a bad thing and I use it simply to define a point. Many of the early dungeons the tank can be much less in control of the fight as long as he or she is producing solid damage per second (DPS). In fact, I have played a Templar through the first six dungeons and did not even have a taunt on my hotbar. However, when I utilized more skills to control a fight (such as taunts, snares, damage shields, etc) I found the fights went a little longer but there were very little (or no) panic moments or unnecessary deaths. As a tank it is your responsibility to take a hard look at your skills and determine if you want to try and keep up with the offensive damage dealers in your group at the cost of their lives or if you want to be a more control/support orientated tank ready for anything the dungeon may throw at you. Or will you find a perfect medium of the available skills to keep everyone safe and secure while you go toe-to-toe with your enemies while pushing out maximum DPS?
When do we start?
So hopefully this article has confirmed your decision to be a tank or perhaps it persuaded you from your current specialization to start looking to be the main meatshield of your guild. I understand this was very basic, but as I said before, it is of the utmost importance to have a solid foundation and thought process when deciding if you truly want to spend your time taking damage and (most likely) getting blamed for group deaths. Next week I’ll be taking a much more in-depth look at the available classes and races for the Tank (in fact, I’ll look at every race and class) as well as dive a little bit more in-depth with allocating skill points and some necessary skills for all tanks. I advise you to check around the different skills available with the classes and come back next week and see if your thoughts on proper tanking classes and races jive with my own. And if they do not, I always enjoy hearing alternatives. Just remember: every class and race can make a formidable tank and it is the devotion and knowledge of the player that determines the efficiency of the meatshield.
Would you like me to answer a specific question about tanking in this weekly article? Simply type it in the comments or send a message to @Dr_Chainsaw. I will input a Question/Answer section at the bottom of each future article for this purpose.