A bit about tanking
So, you have decided you want to try tanking in Elder Scrolls Online, but you may not know where to start. Perhaps this is your first-time tanking in any game, or maybe you are coming from another MMO and want to know the differences. Whether you are a veteran tank, or brand new, or just want to know what your tanks go through, welcome to ESO tanking. Here I will explain the basics, the differences, go over some gear, and get you started into a journey that is extremely fun, and a bit crazy. I hope you enjoy!
Tanking in an MMO is the role in which you as the player are managing the enemy mobs by forcing them(taunting) to attack you VS the other members of your team. In order to be successful at this, a tank should be able to absorb a high amount of damage, manage the mobs, and be able to situate the enemy mobs to where it is benefiting the group. Heavy armor, high health, ability to keep themselves alive as much as possible while managing aggro are some of the key elements to tanking.
Aggro/Taunting: In many MMOs, the role of the tank is to manage all mobs. This is typically done with large AOE taunts that hit an area either in front of, or around the tank. in ESO, there are no AOE taunts, so the difference is priority tanking. Priority tanking is managing the mobs that are the most dangerous to the group. They will smack your team around, 1 shot them, or just cause the most problems in general. The other mobs, (or adds) are generally a low priority and your team can manage to kill these on their own as they do little damage and have low health.
Aggro: Contrary to some, Aggro is not the same as taunting. Whereas taunting can force aggro, aggro does not force an enemy to you. Aggro is being the highest on the threat list at that current time. If an enemy is hitting you(or anyone else) that enemey thinks you are the highest threat. If you hit an AOE skill that has a taunt (such as WW leap with Tormentor, Rush of Agony, etc, you single taunted with aggro.
Taunts: A taunt is an aggro management skill that forces an enemy to focus on you as the tank. ESO has multiple taunts for you to use and usually have specific buffs/debuffs attached to them which make them ideal to use in certain situations. Taunts need to be maintained on the strongest mobs because once a timer runs out and your taunt falls off, it is going to attack the highest threat (typically a DPS or healer), so watch your timers!
What is Tanking
Puncture (base skill) is one of the most popular taunt skills in ESO. It is in the sword and shield line and, depending on the morph, applies a damage reduction buff to you (Ransack), or additional debuffs to the boss (Pierce Armor). Personally, I choose Pierce Armor, but you may choose your route
Inner Fire is the most popular ranged taunt in ESO. It is part of the Undaunted Guild skill line (so open that up ASAP), and has a long duration for the taunt. Majority of players use the Inner Rage morph to balance out magicka usage and the guaranteed synergy
Destructive Clench is a taunt that is specific to requiring an ice staff (which is standard for a tank), and used is specific situations. The draw for this taunt is due to its application of Major Maim. The drawback is the immobilize if you are attempting to group mobs together as you will end up having mobs immobilized away from your group of enemies.
There are some gear sets available that provide a taunt upon a specific action such as above. Using a chain ability, a "gap closer" or a leap will taunt the enemy you used the ability on. This is typically used when using specific builds like a Werewolf tank, however you can find other uses for these sets as well. Keep in mind: The only taunted enemy is the one you targeted. Tormentor does NOT create AOE taunts as per ZOS in 2022. If you feel that after you hit a AOE leap and multiple enemies attack you, you have witnessed a single taunt with AOE aggro. See defenitions above for more info.
Overtaunting: Overtaunting is a situation where you have two tanks, and one tank taunts an enemy that the other tank already had a taunt on. The result of this is the enemy that was taunted becomes "immune" to taunts for 15 seconds. This will happen after 5 applications of taunts between tanks
Enemy Placement & Facement: Yes, I made that word up in this context. Enemy placement is finding a location that will benefit yourself and the group for the most benefit of success. This means finding a corner where you won't get knocked off a ledge, moving the mobs off to one side to avoid large AOE blasts hitting a group, etc etc. Sometimes mobs cannot move, so you don't have this choice, but if possible, find a good location to benefit the group. Enemy facement means facing enemies (especially dangerous ones) away from your group. Majority of the time, the enemy should be between you and the group with the enemies back turned to your group. This is for multiple reasons. First, this protects your group from any frontal heavy damage that the boss will do. Second, the group can do more damage to enemies from behind. Third, any synergies that help you will your regeneration, or lively hood travel your direction. This will not always be possible as there are some fights where enemy facement is not controlled by you, but anytime you can face an enemy away, do so. Part of your job as a tank is to manage the "tanking area" as well. Some group leaders will want to manage this themselves, but in my opinion, the tanking area is your zone, and you manage it. This means that if someone is in your area to where they are putting themselves, yourself, or your group at risk, it is your responsibility to ask them to re-locate. Tanking does require some confidence, so don't be afraid to request someone to move away from your area if neede
Main Tank/Offtank: There are typically two types of tanks in larger content (and sometimes three). Main Tank, who is usually managing the main enemy boss, and the Off-Tank who is managing additional enemies, known as Adds. Do not be fooled into thinking that the Main tank is more important because of the "main" title. Both tanks are equally important and, in many cases, the job of the off-tank is more taxing and dangerous than the main tank.
Survivability: Survivability is a very important aspect of a tank. Surviving and managing your life during a fight is done by a multitude of ways. Proper gear and weight is your first necessity in survival. You want to make sure you are wearing heavy armor and sets that improve your main stats of Health and Resistances. If your resistances are too low, you are going to take large amounts of damage which will put too much strain on yourself and your healers, and likewise if your health is too low. Prioritizing health and resistances first will allow you to maintain your survivability while you learn the additional world of tanking. The next active step you take in surviving dangerous fights is blocking and dodge rolling.
Block: In many other MMOs, avoidances can be built in as part of your gear and is a "passive" addition to your stats, meaning you do not have to actively press a "block" button to activate. in ESO, blocking is active, so you physically have to press a button to block. Blocking is VERY important to tanking as it adds an additional mitigation on top of your current resistances allowing you to survive strong attacks. In veteran fights blocking an attack will quite literally be the difference between life and death as a tank. For example. In Veteran Cloudrest, Z'Maja has a special attack called Nocturnal's Favor. If it hits you as the tank and you are not blocking, you are pretty much dead. If you block the attack, you will only take a small portion of the damage and can continue on with the fight. Dodge Rolling is another mechanic that can help you survive.
Note: Blocking an attack costs stamina, and holding block reduces/eliminates your stamina regen so only block when you need to. Don't hold perma block or you are likely to run out of resources quickly
Dodge Roll: There are times where blocking does not help or there is an additional mechanic added to the attack that you don't want so dodge rolling is the best option. Remember, as Mr. Miyagi said in Karate Kid, "best way to avoid punch, not be there"
Self-healing/Damage Shields: Another great resource for survivability is adding at least a self-heal and/or a damage shield to your skill bars. There are times where you will not have a healer at your disposal or in many cases, they are busy managing the other members of your group. Taking some of the stress of your healers and being able to maintain yourself as much as possible is something that sound simple but can elevate you into the great tanking status. It can be as simple as a class skill heal, or vigor from the assault line. Ideally you want this heal to be low cost and typically a heal-over-time so that you do not have to constantly spam it.
A damage shield is also ideal as you want to have the max amount of damage absorbed as possible. As most tanks use the sword and shield line, using defensive posture and either morph (I prefer absorb missile for the heal it gives) is a great skill. Dragonknight tanks have a large array of shields available which is one of their draws for tanking. Overall having at least one damage shield is a good skill to have on one of your bars
Resistances: As stated before, health and resistances are your primary stats you want to look at first. With low health and resistances your chances of survival during a spicy fight drop considerably. Heavy armor, mundus stones, attributes for health, and gear sets that will help improve your resistances are ideal for harder content.
Communication: This is not an in-game stat, but a methodology and a skillset that can set you apart as a great tank! Being a tank means that your job is to take damage and keep everyone alive but working with your other tank and helping to properly manage aggro, placement, and situational awareness is a key skill. Grabbing literally everything and flex tanking doesn't make for a great tank even if you survive. Why? because the idea behind a good run is to bring everyone to their potential and not just you. If the general idea is for one tank to have a specific task and the second tank to have another, but you pull both sets? You have not succeeded as a prime tank. So, work with your group, work with your tanks, work with everyone to unlock the group dynamic
Tank gear can get very complex depending on how deep into end game you are planning on going. Majority of content can be completed with only a minimal amount of gear sets, however if you are looking into getting into veteran dungeon achievements, veteran trials, or trifecta groups, you will find yourself running a large inventory of different gear. Also keep in mind that new gear sets get released with every update and there are good chances that you will be farming for new gear while retiring more dated sets. Some very popular tank sets are below (Note these are most popular. There are many other sets that can be used as well):
As of High Isle U35:
Claw of Yolnakriin
Crimson Oath's Rive
Archdruid Devyric's Visage (If you don't have Turning Tide)
Encratis's Behemoth (Note: this set requires a fire damage skill as fire weapon enchants will not proc)
Spaulder of Ruin
Q: What is the minimum health I should be aiming for to tank?
Ideally you want to be at a minimum of around 40K health. Many tanks sit between the 46K - 52K for harder content. You also don't want to go too high as healers can only heal so much at a time. So if you are sitting in the 60K+ range, your healers are going to burn out trying to keep your health up.
Q: How much Physical and Spell Resistance should I have?
You want to be around a minimum of 26K - 28K unbuffed. Unbuffed meaning before you add resistance skills, or in combat group buffs take effect. During combat you will be between 33K - 36K resistance which is within the cap of ESO.
Q: I always see tanks running ice staff. Is there a reason for that?
Yes! Ice staff passives are the biggest reason why tanks run ice staves. There are other ways to run, but the most popular is Ice Staff on their back bar and here are the specifics to why:
1) Tri-Focus Passive: Fully Charged Ice Staff Attacks grant you a damage shield and blocking costs magicka. This allows you to balance your resources a bit better
2) Elemental Force Passive: This allows you to easily add the Chilled status effect applying damage reduction by the enemy, and brittle increasing crit damage done
3) Ancient Knowledge Passive: Block reduction with ice staff and increases the amount of damage you can block
4) Elemental Blockade skill: Grants you group damage shields and immobilizes chilled enemies.
Q: I feel like I am running out of resources quickly. How can I manage my resources better?
A very good question. There are a few ways you can go about maintaining resources which will train you to work resource management better.
Option 1) Resource management gear. Running a secondary set that gives you returns on your resources is a great starter way to see how your resource management is doing. Running Engine Guardian monster sets, Hircine's Veneer for stamina recovery, or Worm's Raiment for magicka recovery will help you maintain your resources while you learn how your skills work, how to manage your rotations, and eventually move you on to more tank specific sets.
Option 2) Balance your attributes around where you largest draw is. As I answered in a previous question, you can successfully tank lots of content with 40K - 42K health. With tank gear, health enchants. and some health attributes you can get there pretty quick. Once you hit that 40K health, start moving additional attributes into stamina or magicka depending on where you are burning the most. Once you train yourself on resource management, you can slowly start moving those points back into health.
Option 3) (recommended practice) heavy attack for heavy attack. The majority of the time, your resoruces will be the most drained during long fights like boss fights. During those fights, bosses will do a heavy attack. You will see this animation by yellow sparks shooting out from the mob and typically a combat animation of some sort. Once you block this attack, immediately heavy attack once or twice back to regain your required resource (stamina - be on your sword and shield bar, magicka be on your ice staff bar)
Q: How much stamina and magicka should I have?
A good question. I recommend at least 20K stam and mag each. Tanks use both mag and stam regularly, so you want these pools to be decent enough that you don't run out often. You also want your recovery of each to be at least 1K or higher. If your group is managing synergies well, you will be able to regen quickly with Orbs or shards from a templar, but it is always best to be able to self-rely as much as possible. There are skills available to help you with regen such as equilibrium from mage's guild but regen is something to have good practice with.
Common Tanking Questions
Tank Build Links
Example of block animation
"Chain skills" or "pull skills" will single target pull a mob to you which will taunt them as long as they do not have another taunt on them already. This is a change coming with update 37(Scribes of Fate) in early 2023.