Overview of Tanking and All Tank Specs
Does your party need a tank for dungeons? Do you like having control over the pace of a 5 man? Looking to try out a new role, one that revolves around group utility and subjective decisions? Want faster queues? Then it might be time to give tanking a try! With these quick tips, you'll be the master of dungeons in no time.
Learn about the unique qualities of each tank in World of Warcraft Battle for Azeroth so you can decide which class is right for you!
Introduction to Tanking
Picking up Enemies
As the tank, it’s your job to pick up any group of enemies before the rest of your party gets hit by them. Use an AoE skill once you’re within range to quickly bring all the mobs to you. You might also want to use a mobility tool to get to trash before the rest of your party. Whatever you do, never leave your back turned to a group of enemies for long. You cannot dodge or parry attacks that land from behind.
Some examples of Aggroing Enemies
A protection warrior uses
to charge into a group and hits
A brewmaster monk uses
from range and
when the enemies get close.
A blood death knight drops
on a group and follows up with
After you grab a trash pack, you will probably want to use a defensive ability to reduce incoming damage. Abilities that heal or reduce damage are commonly called “active mitigation”. Each tank has a cheap active mitigation ability that they can use almost immediately after pulling a group.
Each tank class has a unique active mitigation toolkit. Some can reduce damage really well, some can heal really well, most are somewhere in the middle. Learning to manage your resources and use your abilities when they’re most needed is key to mastering a tank.
Some examples of Active Mitigation
A vengeance demon hunter uses
at the beginning of a trash pull to smooth incoming damage.
A guardian druid builds up rage to use
before a boss finishes a deadly cast.
A protection paladin saves
so that when their health drops low so they can quickly heal.
Enemies rarely behave exactly as you wish, but as a tank it’s your job to try to get them to do just that. Here are some common scenarios you might encounter:
: If an enemy is out of your range and gets attacked by someone else, it’s likely that enemy will forget all about you. When this happens, taunt that enemy back to you and hit it with your strongest abilities.
: If an enemy that can attack from afar won’t come to you, you can either interrupt it, line-of-sight it, or, if neither of those work, throw your own ranged attacks on it to at least keep it from aggroing your party.
: If there’s more than three or four enemies in a pull, you should consider crowd control. You might have to ask your party to help you out, or you could just depend on your own abilities. Some tanks have crowd control that can be used before the pull, like a demon hunter’s Sigil of Misery, and some tanks have abilities that can be used in the middle of combat, like a monk’s Leg Sweep. If no crowd control is available, use a strong defensive cooldown at the beginning of the pull.
Common Dungeon Mechanics
As a tank, there are a couple patterns you might notice when running dungeons.
Check the Dungeon Journal!
There's always a quick summary of each fight in the Dungeon Journal that will tell you the important things to watch out for.
: Some enemies can hit all targets in front of them. This is usually telegraphed by a pie-shaped ground effect or a slicing spell effect. To combat this, keep enemies facing away from your party.
Active Mitigation check
: Some bosses have a special ability that is greatly reduced by using damage reduction before the ability lands. This mechanic is often telegraphed by a cast bar that can’t be interrupted. React to this by using your abilities that grant damage reduction.
: Sometimes a group of trash or a boss will summon more enemies. Ensure your strong AoE abilities are available for these moments.
: Most of the time, if there’s something on the ground, you should not step in it. Try to tank enemies outside of these effects so that both you and your party can attack them in relative safety.
: Similar to ground effects, some enemies will cast a spell that marks the area of effect with a circle or pie-slice. Run out of the area before their cast finishes to avoid deadly damage.
: Some bosses hit progressively harder the longer the fight goes. Ensure your strongest defensive cooldowns, like Shield Wall or Fortifying Brew, are available for these moments.
: Many enemies will try to hit you or your party with a casted spell. If a cast bar doesn’t have a shield on it, it can and probably should be interrupted.
Which tank you should play is a personal choice. While different tanks excel at different mechanics, balance is close enough that you can safely choose whichever class best suits your desired playstyle.
Blood Death Knight
Blood Death Knights wield the powers of the San'layn, using their abilities to control their blood and harness the life force of their enemies to sustain themselves.
Blood DKs use Runes and Runic Power as a resource. Using abilities such as
to generate Runic Power, which is spent on Blood's main mitigation ability,
The Blood Death Knight signature spells are
, which applies
. Using these spells and
allows them to mitigate damage and heal back the damage they have taken, making them more self-sufficient tanks.
Blood Death Knights have several defensive cooldowns with tailored uses.
is your main defensive cooldown. This increases your health as well as your healing received from all sources. You also have a unique defensive in
, which increases your parry chance and summons a rune weapon that duplicates your spells.
is your strongest defensive cooldown overall, and is often your last line of defense.
is a strong cooldown against magical damage, and more significantly prevents the application of debuffs applied while it is active.
DKs gain 3 unique mounts to their class.
Vengeance Demon Hunter
: A demonic elf who uses the magic of the Legion against them. A vengeance demon hunter is an aggressive, fast-paced tank that rips souls from the enemy to use for their own benefit.
: Pain, generated via attacks. Soul Fragments, which are minor healing orbs that spawn far from the demon hunter and are consumed by various abilities.
, which increases your armor and increases your chance to avoid attacks.
, pain spenders that cleave enemies and heal you, as well as Soul Fragments.
to pick up adds. Fill empty spots in your rotation with
(When not taking Fracture). Using souls on
for damage and healing.
, which is a ground targeted leap on a short cooldown.
, a strong single target defensive ability on a short cooldown.
, an offensive and defensive ability that increases health and Pain generation.
: Agility leather
: A ferocious bear that wields the brutality of nature and claws to survive large amounts of damage. Very little can get through a guardian druid’s thick hide, and whatever does can be healed with nature magic.
: Rage, generated via attacks (both auto-attacks and special attacks), used for active mitigation.
, which increases armor to reduce most physical damage.
, heals you for a percentage of your maximum health.
to pick up a single target.
to pick up adds, use on cooldown.
on cooldown. Fill empty spots in your rotation with
, a short-range charge and interrupt.
, a group-wide sprint.
, a strong damage reduction on a moderate cooldown.
, a small damage reduction on a short cooldown.
: Agility leather
: Strong physical damage reduction and healing capabilities. Can fill multiple roles, like healing and damage dealing, in a pinch.
Learn more in our guardian druid guide!
: A master of martial arts who excels in smoothing damage. A brewmaster is always prepared, using the resources they have on hand to decide how to survive.
: Energy, which is spent to generate Brews, a resource shared between their damage reduction abilities. Ox Orbs, which are a unique healing resource.
to smooth damage intake and to reduce damage taken.
drops healing spheres around the monk, providing a strong heal when walked over. They can also use
to draw the
orbs to them without walking over them.
on cooldown and to pick up adds, and spend extra energy on
. Both of these will generate brew resources for active mitigation. You can also use
to pick up adds, and fill empty places in your rotation with
, which provides a flexible and frequently usable quick burst of movement.
, which is a teleport that requires planning ahead for quick long-distance movement.
, a particularly strong defensive ability on a long base cooldown, but can be greatly shortened through active play.
, a great tool to deal with damage on a long cooldown, but harder to time against instant abilities. Other options are available through talents.
: Agility leather
: A classic holy warrior who combines light magic and a shield to defend themselves and allies. A protection paladin excels at timing their defenses precisely, weaving in intricate rotation of spells to protect themselves and allies.
: Protection paladin resources are unique in that while they have mana, it isn’t important for their primary spells. Instead, most of their abilities are cooldown limited, like
, and some of those cooldowns are reduced by other abilities, like
, which is a short-lasting but powerful damage reduction tool.
, which is a heal on a moderate cooldown that recovers more health the lower your current health is.
to pick up adds, repeat on cooldown.
on cooldown. Fill empty spots in your rotation with
, a very fast sprint on a moderate cooldown (where you ride a horse).
, a powerful damage reduction ability.
, a moderate damage reduction cooldown combined with a life-saving element.
, a very strong healing ability with an exceptionally long cooldown.
: Strength plate
: Paladins have special mounts--
from the Argent Tournament, and two mounts for each race (
for Blood Elves, and
for Blood Elves and Humans).
. Sold by
in Light's Hope. Horde paladins can also get
: A traditional plate-wearing knight who uses their sword and shield to block damage and control their enemies. A Prot warrior is a master of the shield, using it to prevent and inflict large amounts of damage.
: Rage, generated via attacks and taking damage, used for active mitigation.
, which reduces damage taken from autoattacks.
, which absorbs damage.
: Very little baseline healing, limited to
, which is a large heal only usable soon after killing a target.
to pick up a single target, continue to use on cooldown.
to spend excess Rage. Fill empty spots in your rotation with
. Some of these attacks can directly grant Rage, and all of them can reset the cooldown on
, your standard charge to an enemy or friend.
, a ground-targeted leap on a longer cooldown.
, your the ultimate damage reduction tool.
to increase your health.
, an AoE defense on a moderate cooldown.
: Strength Plate
to burst into flames,
to make your Thunder Clap call down lightning from the heavens, and
to look bloody.
About the Author
Sunnier writes about tanks (primarily Brewmasters and Vengeance) on her blog,
Sunnier's Art of War
, and talks about tanks on her podcast,
Sunnier's Art of War
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On my DK, I've been able to tank heroics all to easy (I heard they were going to be hard? lol) I haven't tried lfr (maybe I should) but blood DKs seem really easy and I love to play one.
With regards to Protection Warriors "Holding Aggro", you've got it wrong on one point, and a bit misleading on another. While Revenge and Shield Slam
key abilities, it's Devastate and Revenge that will hold your Single Target threat and Thunder Clap (Deep Wounds) for any sustained AoE.
Revenge is good burst damage and threat, but what's really going to hold mobs on you in AoE is the Deep Wounds bleed applied by Thunder Clap, which should be used on
multi-target encounters - not just "large groups". Basically, don't
use Revenge on small groups, which is what you're seeming to say. In addition, Heroic Strike with Glyph of Cleave should be woven in as well whenever you have extra Rage to dump (if you have it Glyphed, of course).
Shield Slam actually does pitiful damage. It's Devastate combined with Revenge and Heroic Strike, plus the Deep Wounds bleed that it applies, that do your ST damage and threat. Not to mention Execute if Sudden Death is talented. Shield Slam is
for damage/threat; it's for generating Rage to use with other abilities.
I know this isn't a full guide and just intended as a "primer" for new and returning tanks, but you might as well have the info be accurate if you're going to tell people ability usage and priority.
So, here's a "Fix'd" version of your
on cooldown to generate Rage, and whenever their cooldown gets reset. Use
, when available, along with
between those cooldowns on Single Target. For AoE, use
on cooldown to keep the
Bleed on all targets, and
Glyph of Cleave
You could probably make that a bit more consicse, but it's far more accurate than what the guide currently has.
For some odd reason the Markup Tag doesn't work for Heroic Strike, Devastate, Execute, Deeps Wounds, and Glyph of Cleave... but works for Shield Slam, Revenge, and Thunder Clap? Weird.
New blood dk is such a disappointment. I guess they couldn't be on top forever.
"A protection paladin saves Light of the Protector so that when their health drops low so they can quickly heal."
A Tankadin wants to use LotP on cooldown. Over typical 5 minute boss fight, you can get a potential of 20 LotP casts (more if you talent Righteous Protector). I know the temptation is to save it for when you are low because it heals for a percentage of lost health, but we still have Lay On Hands for that big emergency heal.
In addition, once you get your Artifact, the major trait Light of the Titans adds a small HoT to the LotP which you will want to keep rolling by frequent casts.
"Excellent group utility, like blessings,"
Protection and Holy Paladins no longer have access to group buff Blessings, but do have situational Blessings (Freedom, Spellwarding, Protection).
Consecration is an important element to your Active mitgation as your ShotR is 20% stronger when you are standing in your Consecration.
Great read. Also been following your blog for a while now.
Only thing I am missing is "Tank positioning" in relation to everyone else.
Turning mobs/bosses away from the rest of the group seems to have gotten lost more and more since they "removed" hitrating and expertise.
Also taunting a boss and then positioning yourself (or not), has found his way into even some of the Mythic raids I have been in.
The whole "Stack on top of your co-tank & then taunt off" seems to slowly disappear.
Which has caused personal annoyances I have to admit. Specially on Tyrant Velhari, with the contantly moving of the boss and the add everytime there was a taunt swap. When all they need to do is stand on top of eachother and do the swap.
Anyways, enough ranting.
Looking forward to reading more on your blog!
Nice guide, good and fast read.
Minor suggestions: if you can write the advantages (and weaknesses) of each tank spec, even just a few words is great.
And under prot paladin healing there seems to be a broken wowhead link leading to some healing themed spell.
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