Playing Tanks

The hordes gather in the distance. You and your companions exchange glances. Everybody knows the drill. This is the first time you’ve done this with them. With a surge of adrenaline, you rush forward ahead of the team in a seemingly suicidal stunt, aiming for the center of the horde. You know your team is behind you, and you have complete trust they will do their job. You are the tank.


The tank is one of the key roles in the team. You have one simple job, and that is to keep the enemies off of your allies. The tank is the character that is designed to take the most punishment. Often, the tank has special abilities which entice the enemies to turn around to attack him. The tank is often built to wear the heaviest armor and wield the mightiest weapon, with his main stat being defense (or whatever melee stat the game offers within that category).  Here, you will learn how to play the role of the tank, and how to most effectively maximize your abilities for survival.


The strength of the tank is pretty straightforward; survivability. Designed with defense in mind, the tank is the longest-lasting class in toe-to-toe combat. The tank absorbs large amounts of punishment before death even gets close. Since the tank plays a central role in the team, it isn’t often that you won’t be able to find a team (though many players don’t think to grab a tank at first).


With the survivability factor of a tank comes a few drawbacks. The first drawback would be reduced speed. Since tanks often carry heavy equipment and armor, they often move a lot slower and attack a lot more slowly. This can make combat difficult when facing a magic-using enemy designed for range combat. Many times, the magic user will cast a spell which renders the player immobile. This window of opportunity is increased especially when the player is slow-moving, giving the spellcaster to increase the distance away from you and hit you with more spells.

Another weakness of the tank is its low damage output. As resilient is it is, the tank simply can’t output as much damage as other classes. Many times this makes leveling slower without a team. The tank is designed to rely on others for damage. The low damage output becomes a problem with regenerating enemies and in player versus player (though the tank can usually take the damage long enough to pummel the opponent into the ground).

Finally, your biggest weakness would be your slow regeneration. Since tanks are designed to resist damage, they are not designed necessarily to recover from it (although some games may implement that). This is why tanks rely most on their healers. If the tank and the healer were a k-9 unit, the tank would be the dog, and the healer would be the handler.

Key Stats

When building a tank, there are two key stats to focus on (the names will differ between games): defense and vitality.

Defense keeps the enemies from getting through to you. This is important because you want the enemy to attack you without actually hurting you. Your defensive stat determines how difficult it becomes for your opponent to hurt you, and if they do, how much. Defense reduces your chance of getting hurt and minimizes the damage that does come in.

Vitality is important because this is the number that determines how much total health your character has. Having a strong defense won’t mean much if you get knocked out on the first time an enemy slips past those defenses. Vitality keeps you alive when your armor fails you.


At the start of combat, charging directly into the group of enemies is not always the best course of action (unless you are in a hallway, cave, or some other sort of narrow corridor). In fact, many times you want to let a ranged character bring the enemies to the team (known as pulling). This allows for the opportunity to pick off small groups of enemies instead of facing all of them at once. No matter how great of a tank you are, too many enemies will still lead to a quick demise.

As the tank, you want to be standing in whichever location the most enemies can hit you, whether it be in the center of the mob (the group of enemies) or in a corner near two or three separate groups. This allows for the most opportunity to attract enemy attention and reduces how much damage is being sent to your enemies, making life easier for the healer as well. The tank needs to be able to keep an eye on every enemy and know exactly who is attacking who.

When fighting a boss, a main character, or even an abnormally strong enemy, the tank must make sure that the boss is targeting him. This is the most important role for the tank, since the boss usually has the highest damage output. Even if that means allowing the smaller mobs to attack your team, make sure the head honcho is beating your ass, and hope the healer knows what he is doing. If the team fails two or three times, it’s time to discuss a new strategy.

Whenever possible, make sure the healer is not being attacked by any mobs. The healer is your life source. With the healer gone, you can kiss you and the rest of your team goodbye.


The crucial role of the tank is not for those who want to compete for damage. The tank is primarily defensive, and thus defense should be maximized. The tank needs to keep the enemies off of his allies, and make sure the bosses are preoccupied. As the tank (or any other role for that matter), the most important person to protect is the healer. When possible, avoid battles with spellcasters, allowing the other spellcasters in your party to engage them (although battles with those mages will be inevitable anyway). Know your strengths and weaknesses, and play to survive.


2 Responses to “Playing Tanks”

  1. Nice post, it’s a great reminder of why I like to tank. Unfortunately, I’ve recently begun a shift towards healing instead when I create and play my characters in new MMOs. Healing has its challenges and I still love to tank, but find it’s becoming an increasingly thankless job, though it does depend on the gaming community in question. Add to that, tanking is one of the hardest roles in an MMO trinity, at least in my opinion anyway 😛 And if not the hardest, certainly it is one with the most responsibilities, knowing when and how to pull, where to engage, etc. Tanking used to stress me out so much.

    • Very true. Personally, I’m not really a tanker. I prefer stealth-type melee dps classes and healers. But it’s good to know how to play every role. Haha.

      People don’t really think of tanks as being needy for a team. But think about it; the tank needs the team for their survival. The two roles a team needs is a healer and a tank. If you got someone who can keep agro and a person to heal him, you’re good to go. Damage will be slow, but again, you’re good to go!

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