So you’ve decided to pick up tanking? Good! We need more competent tanks and we’re going to show you how! Wanting to learn how to be a better tank is the first step to being a great tank. We will go over the basics of tanking as well as some things everyone, not just tanks, should watch out for. Along with teaching you how to tank properly, we hope to shed some light for those who have not tanked before to better understand how to play as a team.
Table of Contents
- Choosing Your Class/Job
- How to Initiate Pulls
- How to Read Enmity
- Stance Dancing
- Tanking Anxiety
- Final Thoughts
So What is Tanking?
The role of the tank is essentially the leader of the group. You set the pace and is in charge overall by making sure your team stays alive by keeping the enemies’ attention on you. Simple in theory, but execution can be tricky. You have plenty of tools at your disposal to assist you so don’t be afraid of wiping; it happens and it’s part of the learning process. No one is perfect and things can happen. A good tank never points a finger at anyone but themselves.
There are three tanking classes: Gladiator/Paladin (GLD/PLD), Marauder/Warrior (MRD/WAR), and Dark Knight (DRK). **Dark Knight can only be unlocked once you get into Heavensward content.** They each have their distinctive play-styles and we will give a brief overview of each, but the basics of tanking is still the same. Pick whichever you like best, the only real requirement is getting Gladiator to level 22 for Provoke.
Gladiator (GLD)/Paladin (PLD)
Considered the introductory tank and most beginner friendly, it is highly suggested to start with Gladiator in Ul’dah to at least get a feel for tanking. You become a Paladin at level 30 once you complete the quest Sylph-management and to have a level 15 Conjurer. Paladins are essentially the model students of tanking, but not without their own flaws. They are the masters of physical defense but hit like a wet noodle. They utilize the traditional sword and shield.
- Highest physical defense and mitigation tool set.
- Closest to true tanking style as any other MMO (i.e. meat shield).
- Has good support skills (i.e. Cover, Convalescence, Clemency, Divine Veil, Provoke).
- Has ability to block incoming physical attacks in addition to parry.
- Does not get tank stance until level 40, 10 levels after the other tanks which makes it a bit more difficult to hold enmity.
- Sword Oath and Shield Oath are on global cooldown, making it more difficult to stance dance.
- Has lowest damage out of the tanks.
- Struggles the most against magic damage.
Marauder (MRD)/Warrior (WAR)
Marauder is the other tank option when you first start and are accessed through Limsa Lominsa. You become a Warrior at level 30 once you complete the quest Sylph-management and to have a level 15 Gladiator. Warriors are a force to be reckoned with and is essentially a one man army. The Warrior is akin to being the Paladin’s older brother: they both know the basics but the Warrior has more experience but ultimately uses a different approach – brute force. They wield greataxes.
- Their stances do not share global cooldown, making it easier to stance dance.
- Toolkit makes them very self-sufficient with damage mitigation and self-heal skills .
- Largest HP pool of all tanks.
- Highest damage of all tanks.
- Can run out of TP very quickly if not careful, making you a punching bag.
- The skill Berserk boosts your damage significantly, but gives you a Pacification debuff when it ends.
- Pacification only lasts 5 seconds, so you probably won’t get Esuna/Leech/Exalted Detriment from your healer. Just relax.
Dark Knight (DRK)
Dark Knight can only be accessed through the purchase of the expansion Heavensward in Ishgard. They start at level 30 and if you are completely new to tanking, we recommend starting with one of the other two first since Dark Knight requires more resource management. They burn through mana faster than a Black Mage on crack. Dark Knight is the brooding brother – usually sulking, quick to anger, and a bit reckless. Play style-wise, DRK is basically a magical defense version of PLD with life leech skills of WAR. They pass judgement with their really big sword.
- Highest magical damage mitigation .
Can use defensive stance (Grit) along side with offensive stance (Darkside).
- Able to cross class skill from BOTH tanks (PLD and WAR).
- MP management is challenging
- Many skills require the use of Darkside (constantly draining MP) to activate.
- Many skills require the use of Dark Arts (uses 1/4 of your MP bar) to buff a skill.
- Lowest physical defense.
Enemies generally come in groups of 3-4 which comprises one mob. Regardless of how many you aggro, you must make sure that they face you. You cannot block or parry attacks that come from behind you. This is how you get your ass handed to you.
Target/Aggro Lines and Patrols: These lines show you which enemies are tied to each other and will all attack you even if you aggro just one. Patrol enemies wander a set path and are usually not tied to other groups (no aggro line) and thus should be pulled individually using your ranged attack. Having these lines turned on in options allows you to plan ahead on how you will pull regarding positioning and target priority.
Chain Pulling, Ranged Enemies, and Line of Sight
Chain Pulling is important for EXP (timer bonus) as well as minimizing down time in between pulls. To start, pull a mob and proceed as normal. When the last enemy is about to die, pull the next group and let the ranged classes or DoTs (damage over time) kill the remaining mob as you aggro the next group of mob. Be mindful of your party composition and how much damage is done to help time pulls. Don’t chain pull if you have no ranged classes in your party.
Ranged enemies can be tricky to deal with. You want to pull toward ranged enemies so that your team can AoE the group (YOU run to the ranged mob instead). Not doing so causes unnecessary damage to you and your team and allows the ranged enemy to mock you from a safe distance. Solution: bring the ruckus to them. Another method of pulling ranged enemies is to Line of Sight (LoS) them after establishing initial aggro. Use the environment and objects (walls, pillars, corners, etc.) to LoS an enemy, causing them to chase you instead. It’s like hide-and-seek, except they get a sword/axe to the face and you always win.
Target Markers, Waypoint Markers, and Enemy Priority:
Target markers are extremely useful in early dungeons because it helps you maintain enmity as long as everyone knows how to count to 3. You can mark high priority targets so they get burned down or even use it for mechanics later on.
Waypoint Markers are useful in communicating where you want others to stand for mechanics or just positioning- don’t be a lazy tank, use them. People generally go towards shiny things. Enemy priority if the enemy that poses the biggest threat and needs to be burned down first. For example, the bees/wasps in Temple of Qarn have a move called Final Sting which one shot anyone besides the tank (deals roughly 1600 damage), making them high priority. You can mark up to 3 targets, and it helps if you create a macro for it but honestly you really just need to mark 1, maybe 2 enemies. These markers can be found under the party menu of your HUD.
AoE Tanking: So we have now learned how to pull one mob efficiently and marking targets- it’s time to play with the big boys. AoE tanking is when you pull more than 1 mob at a time. There are a few requirements that needs to be met before attempting larger pulls:
- Gear check yourself: See equipment section below
- Party composition: Do you have AoE classes? If all your dps’s can only hit single targets, you’re going to have a bad time.
- Communicate with your healer: Are they able to heal through the damage? Don’t assume they can just because you can.
Once these conditions are met, there shouldn’t be any issues with doing big pulls. This will drastically speed up dungeon runs and makes everyone feel like a champ. If you happen to wipe, consider it a trial by fire, go back to normal pulls/chain pulling and have a laugh.
Using Your Cooldowns: One of the bigger issues with tanks is that they never bother to use their cooldowns. You see these bad boys? Use them! **These are just some skills on my Paladin. Different tanks have different skills.** There’s no need to be bashful about it. They will help keep you alive and assist with boosting your damage. Most have relatively short cooldown timers (60 sec. – 90 sec.) so they will be up again by the next pull. Your healers will love you and your DPS will bow to you for allowing them to go ham.
So we have used the word enmity quite a bit already, but what exactly is it?
Enmity is the amount of threat/hate you generate on a target. As a tank, you must always hold enmity/hate/threat. DRK have no problems here as they naturally hate everything (they are actually pretty good at holding hate). You get your enmity combo pretty early (1-2-3, count with me) and it is your bread and butter for the majority of your career. There are two ways to tell enmity levels: The bar left of your name in the party list (Your name should have an A next to it) or the icons in the enemy list (which should be red). Enmity will list from A (person who is holding aggro), 2, 3, and 4 in rank. Enemy list will go from red square (currently holding hate), orange triangle, yellow triangle, and green circle in descending order. Might be a bit counter-intuitive at first since red is usually bad but learn it or wipe.
Focus Target: In certain fights, it is important to use Focus Target in case you deselect the main target and need keep an eye on it. Primarily used in end-game content for tank swapping, but we won’t get into that now. This is useful even for boss fights that spawn multiple adds, allowing you to keep a watch on the boss while picking up adds or dealing with mechanics. Enemies have cast bars so you can see when you can interrupt them while keeping track of their debuffs. You can already test this out in Tam-Tara Deepcroft’s final boss, the second dungeon you access! **Default keybinding for Focus Target is shift + f.**
Provoke is a skill that is misunderstood by a lot of players. Can’t really blame them though, since the description doesn’t exactly tell you how it works mechanically. Provoke puts you at the top of a target’s enmity list, and what it actually does is it matches your enmity with the highest and adds 1. However, without following up with another enmity generating attack, you will lose aggro again since you were only 1 above the other player. Typically, Provoke is paired with your ranged attack as it allows you to remain in your physical position and generates enough enmity for the enemy to come crawling back to you without changing its mind halfway. Usually.
At low levels, maintaining enmity is challenging – especially for Paladins. Both Dark Knight and Warrior get their tank stance at level 30, as mentioned before. What this does is it naturally increases the amount of enmity generated by your attacks. Paladins, for some reason, do not get their tank stance (Shield Oath) until level 40 and are given their offensive stance (Sword Oath) at level 30 instead. Yeah, we don’t know why either. Maybe because PLD hit like a wet noodle so they thought it was a good idea to upgrade to a straw.
So lets go over how to initiate pulls one more time:
- Target/mark enemy and use ranged attack (Shield Lob/Tomahawk/Unmend).
- Run into the center of the mobs, use AoE skill once (Flash/Overpower/Unleash).
- Then, run through the mobs and use AoE skill again to establish hate.
What comes after the opener is what really keeps the team together and prevents chaos: spread your enmity combo across the enemies. Remember those enmity bars we just covered? Make it a habit to tab through the enemies and check on their individual bars because honestly, the indicators in the enemy list don’t tell you anything until it’s too late. If you notice someone is targeting an enemy other than what you marked or are focusing on, check that enemy and give it a good thwack to keep its attention. If you are unfortunate enough to have an entire team that can’t work together, be prepared to use your AoE enmity skill (Flash, Overpower, Unleash) a few more times in the middle of the fight to maintain control and manage your resources. Most importantly, do not panic – if you panic and spam your AoE skill to try and steal aggro back from all the mobs, you will have a bad time and you will run out of MP/TP, making you useless. **Side note: Flash generates about as much enmity as a Fast Blade > Savage Blade combo.**
- Paladin: Fast Blade > Savage Blade > Rage of Halone
- Warrior: Heavy Swing > Skull Sunder > Butcher’s Block
- Dark Knight: Hard Slash > Spinning Slash > Power Slash
There is no need to freak out if someone happens to rip an enemy off you. Check the HP of the enemy and your party member. Can they kill it before they get killed? Cool, no problem. They have self-healing and defensive skills too. On the other hand, if your party is facing certain death, target the enemy and use Provoke > Tomahawk/Shield Lob/Unmend. If you need to pick up adds that spawned, grab their attention with a ranged attack and use your normal opener to establish enmity.
Knowing where to place yourself and the enemy is important. First thing’s first: when you approach a mob, be sure to run through them and get to the other side, with the mobs facing you and you facing the rest of the team. This helps minimize the damage taken by the party as a whole and allows for maximum DPS because they rely on positions for damage (looking at you, Monks. Got you covered). You will be in the cleave zone 99% of the time. The 1% is when you have to move for mechanics or dodge an AoE. Cleaves are wide frontal attacks enemies do (specifically for bosses).
Leave the flank and, if possible, the rear open and face the rest of the team at all times. Finally, DO NOT TWITCH. A twitchy tank is a DPS’ worst nightmare, especially so for Monks since all of their attacks depend on proper positioning. Stay completely still once you have established aggro, only moving out of AoEs or for mechanics but do your best to return to exactly where you were or assume a new and proper position. Pro-tip: Use the arrowhead on the target ring as a personal marker.
With ranged enemies, there are two methods to deal with them: pull the melee enemies towards the ranged and run to them or break the line of sight and force them to come to you. This decision is primarily made by your surroundings. If they simply refuse to cooperate, don’t fret. Deal with the melee enemies first and then move on to ranged. Your healer can handle.
Stance dancing is when you switch between defensive and offensive stances for either holding aggro or burst damage. The cost of doing this is losing the 20% damage reduction buff and increased enmity in favor of increased damage output and full damage intake. Although similar in theory, it is quite different in execution for each tank. PLD is really the only tank that has to stance dance since it chooses either Sword Oath or Shield Oath, which are both on the global cooldown. Both WAR and DRK have skills that can be activated while in tank stance to help negate the damage reduction for a short time. For these two, it’s more cooldown management. The purpose of stance dancing is to maximize damage output whenever possible.
Equipment is pretty important, because if your party members are extremely geared you will struggle to hold aggro. The game uses a synchronized system where if you surpass a certain level, all your personal stats and your equipment stats will be equalized. You should never be more than 5 levels above your equipment, starting with your weapon as your highest priority since more damage means more enmity. After that, your left hand side of character equipment is prioritized next, followed by your right hand side which are accessories. Make sure in the class description for equipment it specifically states your class, not “Disciple of War.” It must say “Class: GLD/PLD/WAR/MRD/DRK” in there. Don’t be afraid of the market board or asking some friends who have crafters to help you out!
This is a pretty serious issue but honestly is bigger than necessary. We all need to learn and mistakes will be made in order to achieve that. Just let the party know at the beginning that you are new to tanking or new to the dungeon. Generally, people are quite friendly and patient and will be glad to explain a few things to you. Of course, there will also be jerks occasionally but just ignore them. If they give you a hard time, you can report them for harassment (if things escalate) or just vote kick and move on. Don’t start or join the blame game; nothing good ever comes from pointing fingers and making excuses. Own up to mistakes and people will generally either reassure you or give you some pointers. Watching some video tutorials also helps tremendously.
Don’t let a few bad eggs or wipes discourage you from tanking. Yes, it can be a stressful role sometimes but it should be an enjoyable learning experience. Wanting to learn more and get better already puts you a step above the rest. You might even be giving out a few pointers yourself soon. Gain experience and be confident but don’t be an asshat that refuses to listen. Make mistakes and learn from it.
Communication is key to a good team, even if it is a pick up group (PUG). Far too many people don’t bother talking, only wanting to complete the dungeon and move on. Don’t be afraid to break the ice and let them know what’s up. Are you new? Let them know. Not sure about pacing? Ask if they want bigger pulls and if the healer can handle it. If they say they can and you end up wiping, just go back to normal sized pulls , joke about it and move on.
Make sure you communicate with your healers, especially for EX Trials and end game content. Avoid dumb situations where for example, the PLD casts Hallowed Ground which renders you impervious to most attacks for 10s while at the same time your WHM (White Mage) panics and casts Benediction [Instant Cast; Restores all of a target’s HP; 300 second cooldown] when he/she could be healing someone else. These situations can be avoided by macro-ing your defensive skills to let your healers know.
So a quick recap for pulling:
- Take note of surroundings (look for patrols) and initiate pull (Ranged attack > AoE) while marking high priority targets.
- Move yourself into proper position (re-position as needed) and establish solid aggro and pop some cooldowns.
- Maintain enmity by checking enemies individually and attacking wherever necessary.
- Respond to that text message you got 5 minutes ago that you forgot about *stares at Sebie*.
- Repeat from the top.
Remember, you control the pace of the dungeon. If things get chaotic, don’t panic; use your skills and cooldowns to maintain control. If you wipe, just try again with a different approach. The timing and flow of each tank class is a bit different, so experiment with each to see which suits you best! Whatever you do, just remember to have fun. Take a break and try another class or role to relax when you need to and appreciate all the hard work your tank is putting into it to keep you alive.
Thank you all for reading! Back to top
See you in game! -DecoyEC, Kojiro, and Sebie have logged off.