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Group Roles

Leader Leader

Primary Function

Tank Tank
Healer Healer
Damage dealer Damage dealer

Secondary Function

Crowd control Crowd control
Main assist Main assist
Puller Puller
Rezzer Rezzer
Scout Scout


Hybrid classes
Meeting Stone
Pickup group

This article is about the game term. For other uses, see Tank.

A tank is a character whose primary role is to absorb damage and prevent others from being attacked. Tanks are "meatshields", so to speak, putting themselves between the mobs and the more vulnerable party members. An often-used abbreviation for tank is "MT" (main tank). The tank's role must not be confused with the "MA" (Main Assist). The other main roles in most groups are damage dealer/dps and healer.

The tank's task is to hold aggro of the mobs to keep them off the other group members. With everyone nuking the same target (directed by the main assist), it makes the tank's job of holding aggro a lot easier. This, in turn, makes it more likely that other party members won't draw aggro on themselves. An added bonus is that mobs go down faster if everyone focuses on one mob at a time instead of group members targeting different mobs. There are times, however, when damage dealers should do AoE damage. This should generally only be done when there are at least two mobs and the tank has so much threat on the mob group that he will still hold aggro on all or almost all mobs.

In a classic tank-and-spank fight, the tank should be the only one taking damage, and therefore be the only one who needs healing. Even in more complex fights, healers should be able to concentrate mostly on the tank. If all group members need a lot of healing, either the tank is not generating enough threat or the other players generate too much. This is a common problem in inexperienced groups, one of the most frequent reasons for wipes.

Tanking basics

Tanking is heavily tied in with the Threat game mechanic. Most mobs determine the target or focus of their attacks by using Threat. For every enemy player or pet, the mob keeps a numeric value how much it dislikes that enemy (= Threat). The enemy with the highest threat value is the one it usually attacks. Threat is mainly caused by three things - damaging that enemy, healing, and using special abilities that cause extra threat (such as [Thunder Clap] or [Mangle]). Each mob has its own threat table.

A tank has to do three things, in this order:

  • Keep the Healer alive
First and foremost, tanks must generate more threat than the healer on all targets. Almost all healing spells generate threat, which causes mobs to attack just as much as if they were taking damage. The usual ratio is that a healing a group member will generate half the threat of damaging a mob. If the healer does get attacked, it's the tank's responsibility to re-focus the attacker.
  • Keep yourself alive
Survival is (at minimum) a two-person job, and both the tank and the healer are responsible for this. For the tank, survival comes either by avoiding hits, reducing the severity of incoming damage, establishing a vast pool of hit points, or self-regeneration (healing from items or abilities).
  • Keep the party alive
Generate enough extra threat on the current 'kill' target to allow the damage dealers to kill it effectively without changing its focus. A mob attacking a damage dealer not only threatens that player, it also unnecessarily prolongs the fight and places the outcome in jeopardy by removing a source of damage.

If one DPS player dies, the outcome of the fight is not necessarily in jeopardy. But if either the healer or tank dies, there is an excellent chance that the the battle is lost.

One measure of tank quality is the amount of threat he can produce - the more threat, the more damage can be dealt to the mob. At the same time, it's also the damage dealers' job to make sure they stay below the tank's threat by using threat reduction abilities or even holding back their fire if necessary.

Sufficient threat generation is what separates good tanks from mediocre ones. Awareness of the threat generated by other members of the party (and mitigating it) is what separates good tanks from great ones.

Primary Tank Classes

There are five combinations of class and spec which can truly be considered main tanks: Protection Warrior, Guardian Druid, Protection Paladin, Brewmaster Monk, and Blood Death Knight. Many other combinations of spec and class may substitute as tank in certain situations, but they are generally unable to tank most of the same-level content.

The following criteria define a tank's performance:

  1. Health (Total hitpoints)
  2. Damage Mitigation (Avoidance, Block, and Armor)
  3. Threat Generation
  4. Survivability

Each class has its strengths and weaknesses; and, in end-game raids, each of them find easy and difficult bosses. Generally, Protection warriors are considered the best single-target tanks, while Protection paladins are easily the best mass-aggro AoE tanks. Feral Druids are best in situations where high amounts of physical damage are incoming, while Death Knights are the best at handling magical damage.

See also: Comparison of tank classes.

Note that on certain Raid-level encounters, unusual classes may be required to tank (for example at High King Maulgar a mage has to serve as tank on one of the adds).

Protection Warrior

Main article: Warriors as Tanks

Protection-specced Warriors with appropriate gear are the classic boss-encounter tanks in the game. In Vanilla, they actually were the only valid tank class for many encounters. They have great damage mitigation vs. single targets, and a large and versatile array of tools for tanking, which include: threat-generating tools such as Revenge, Shield Slam, and multiple taunts; many mitigation abilities; and finally a few panic buttons like [Shield Wall], [Shield Block] and [Last Stand]. A warrior tank has the fairly useful ability to break fear effects at will. Warbringer makes warriors the most mobile tanks in the game.

Problem areas include AoE threat generation. Warriors are certainly capable at this, but they must work for it. They lack a spammable or fire-and-forget ability (although [Sunder Armor] is usually available to a tanking warrior because there is no cooldown and does not cost much rage). Warriors also tend to have somewhat smaller health pools than other tanks.

Guardian Druid

Main article: Druids as Tanks

Guardian Druid tanks feature the highest hit-point values of any class in the game. They formerly also had the highest armor, but changes in Wrath eliminated most of this advantage. Besides the basic allotment of tanking skills (taunt, high-aggro moves, etc.), guardian tanks are immune to Polymorph and can shift out of rooting and snaring effects.

Guardian Druids have the advantage that even in tank gear and with a tank spec they can deal decent damage in Cat form. This makes them attractive off-tanks in raids, as they can switch to Cat form after their tanking targets are dead and help DPS.

Protection Paladin

Main article: Paladins as Tanks

Paladins use mana and build threat with spell damage, with the key to their threat-generation being [Righteous Fury]. They can wear plate armor. They excel in pulls with many mobs, with abilities such as [Consecration], [Holy Shield], [Retribution Aura] and [Avenger's Shield], enabling them to keep many mobs on themselves more easily than a Warrior or Druid. Previously, a large proportion of their threat generation was reactive, making them poor secondary aggro tanks or tanks for casters. With the new [Hammer of the Righteous] and [Shield of Righteousness] in WotLK, this is less of a problem now. In addition, as a large amount of the mobs encountered in WotLK are undead, the spell [Holy Wrath] has also become a useful tanking-tool. However, they are vulnerable to mana-burn abilities and rely on magic-based threat, making it difficult to gain aggro on mobs that Silence.

They have less health than other similarly geared tanks, but in return have better damage-mitigation than other tanks. Ardent Defender is the strongest ability of its type in the game, letting paladins cheat death every two minutes without needing to be activated. Weaknesses include a lack of an ability to quickly close distance with a mob, but a paladin tank can still force ranged mobs to focus on him by using ranged taunts such as [Hand of Reckoning] and [Righteous Defense].

Blood Death Knight

Main article: Death knights as tanks

Death Knights have the best mitigation against magic users of any tanking class. DKs wear plate armour but cannot use a shield, instead using two-hand weapons; the only option suitable for their tanking tree, Blood. They use [Blood Presence] to increase their armor to make up for the lack of shield, and this also increases threat generation.

As of Patch 4.0.1, DKs have a dedicated tank talent tree, Blood. DKs generate threat using a variety of abilities, such as diseases, melee strikes and direct damage spells.

Death Knight tanks are different from other tanking classes in that their primary survivability mechanic is self-healing. While other classes have abilities and talents that reduce or avoid damage taken, the Blood talent tree has many options to augment [Death Strike] and provide other self-healing utilities like [Rune Tap]; it is these bonuses that make Death Knight tanks competitive.

Brewmaster Monk

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Main article: Monks as tanks

Monks survive by having extraordinarily high avoidance, primarily through dodging and parrying attacks using [Stagger] and is generally considered the best inherent avoidance of any tanking class. Like Druids, Monks wear leather armor and cannot use a shield, but instead use two-hand or off-hand weapons. The only option suitable for their tanking tree is Brewmaster. As unique among tanking classes the Brewmaster Monks lack a powerful defensive cooldown, and rely heavily on maintaining [Keg Smash] buff.

Secondary Tank Classes

Several other classes have limited tanking abilities, mostly as off-tanks or tanks the 5-man instances below the level cap. Secondary tank classes generally require special builds to tank effectively. All other combinations of class and build except the main tank types fall under this category.


Main article: Shamans as tanks

The Shaman is probably the best tank-replacement class. Wearing mail armor and being able to use a shield, they have access to the second-best type of gear. They have no problems at all with one half of tanking - aggro generation. Beyond the threat generated by melee attacks, Shamans can cast [Frost Shock] which creates extra threat, use self-heals to add healing aggro, and finally use [Chain Lightning] for AoE situations.

However, the other half of a tanks job is damage mitigation, and in that department Shamans are severely lacking. They lack the good damage reduction abilities/talents of the other primary tanks, and their gear has no avoidance/mitigation stats.

If acting as healer or ranged damage dealer, a Shaman is in a good position to pull aggro from cloth wearers in an emergency. Even with caster gear, Shamans are not quite as "squishy" as most other caster classes (Shamans may survive two or even three hits when cloth wearers are one-hit kills), but they should still avoid melee combat as much as possible.

Moonkin Druid

With [Moonkin form] granting an additional 400% armor, and significant threat through DPS, Balance Druids have recently gotten attention as alternative tanks. While they lack a taunt in Moonkin form, Moonkin Druids have successfully main-tanked heroic instances and some raid content[1], however it is not feasible for a moonkin druid to become immune to critical hits, severely limiting their usefulness as proper tanks in raid content their level. The ability of moonkins to heal themselves more sustainably than paladins or feral druids is an advantage in situations where the moonkin is able to shift out to heal.

Minions as Tanks

Some pets can actually serve as tanks. In the early game (prior to the level cap), pets can even sometimes replace a full tank. In such a situation, the healers should always remember to heal and buff the pet.

Pets usually can tank a single mob adequately. Theoretically it is possible to have several mobs on one pet by switching targets, but in practice the threat generation of pets will not be high enough to keep aggro off the healer for an extended period of time.

Hunter Pets

Hunters can have an assortment of beasts as pets, and some of them can actually serve as tanks quite well. All pets have a taunt-like ability [growl], and hold aggro reasonably well. The use of the pet often allows the Hunter to solo various group quest bosses without the help of other players.

With Pet Talent Trees, introduced in Wotlk, tanking even level 80 instances is possible. With 4 hunters and one healer, killing Coren Direbrew was not so hard. But remember, using pets as a tanks in "real" bosses is not recommended, since they dont have such large health pools and avoidance stats as real Tanks.

Pets can also use the [cower] ability, which reduces damage taken. This will give the main tank (or offtank) a better chance of taking threat back from the pet before it dies. This is very handy in a pinch.

Tenacity family pets are the best for tanking, both due to their extra health and armor and their available talents. Turtles and Warp Stalkers are the best at tanking tough enemies due to their Shell Shield and Warp abilities mitigating damage. Bears and Gorillas are the best multi-target pet tanks due to Swipe (pet) and Thunderstomp (pet) that lets them hold multiple targets easier, and are on a short cooldown.

Gimmick hunter builds and gear (stacking stamina, and resilience for crit-immunity) can yield a surprisingly capable tanking pet, though at the cost of completely crippling the hunter's DPS. Pets have actually tanked raid bosses, though more as a stunt than anything else. Pets can get certain abilities that would be hugely imbalanced for a "proper" tank, like a 40% increase to all healing received

Warlock Minions

The Voidwalker minion is designed as a tanking pet. Although the Voidwalker lacks a true Taunting ability, it does have two abilities which generate rather high amounts of threat: single-target, fast cool-down [Torment]; and [Suffering], which generates threat against all enemy targets within 10 yards, but has a relatively long cool-down and can be resisted.


Even though Hunters can wear the same armor types as Shamans, they cannot use a shield and thus their damage mitigation is even worse. In a group, Hunters should only draw aggro when they are kiting, or as an emergency measure to ensure the survival of a healer. Similar to Shamans, Hunters have many abilities which help them create and hold aggro ([Distracting Shot] is a shot with very high threat, and [Aimed Shot] creates high threat by damage).

[Deterrence] can be used to become effectively immune to damage, but without causing enemies to attack someone else like similar abilities such as [Divine Shield], however this ability only lasts for 5 seconds. Marksmanship Hunters with [Readiness] can also use Deterrence twice in rapid succession, effectively allowing for 10 seconds of Deterrence.

It should be emphasized that although emergency flash-tanking for wipe prevention can be a key element of the Survival role, such tanking can only be viably performed on an extremely temporary basis. Survivalist melee should be employed as part of a hybrid strategy which incorporates at least equal, and probably preferably greater, amounts of ranged combat. Attempting to rely primarily or exclusively on melee for extended periods can result in a dead Hunter.


Main article: Rogues as tanks

Rogues can temporarily increase their damage mitigation greatly and survive tanking through abilities such as [Evasion] and [Cheat Death] (sometimes known as "evasion tanking"). These have a short duration, however, and Rogue tanking should be very temporary. Rogues have no threat generation abilities, meaning aggro must be achieved through superior DPS. Rogues wear leather armor, which is pretty weak, so they must tank by relying almost entirely on avoidance rather than mitigating damage.

The first phase of the Reliquary of Souls encounter in the Black Temple is the most notable endgame bosses where Rogues shine as tanks.

It was formerly possible to accumulate enough agility as a Rogue to become unhittable, but this could only be achieved with [Insect Swarm], [Scorpid Sting] and the [Quickness] racial. This combination allowed a rogue to tank certain bosses (including raid bosses) who mainly deal melee damage. However, threat generation was much lower than that of a regular tank (as he is not specced and geared for DPS), and with such low health he had no hope to survive bosses that do significant spell damage. Therefore, it was generally not something worth trying except for the amusement.

Learning to Tank

Learning to tank is an interesting challenge, particularly for Warriors and Paladins, because the excellent damage output abilities they've used for solo/small group play are so poor at generating threat. The threat article has some basic numbers on which abilities create good threat. That aggro article also has good information regarding how mob targeting works, and is a valuable resource for understanding how NPCs decide who to beat up.

In vanilla, levelling a tank was quite a chore, with dual-spec and the group finder, it has actually become enjoyable - tanks are the most sought-after class in the group finder. Low-level instances are more of a challenge for a tank than most people think. The primary challenge is actually to deal with inexperienced players who tend to just want to DPS anything that moves, rather than work as a group. Luckily at lower levels enemies are less deadly and damage dealers' own defensive abilities may keep them up provided they don't go too crazy. As always the important thing is to protect the healer.

As with most skills, there's no substitute for experience. Doing some solo PvE may help to develop skills that are useful later when tanking in instances (like the proper use of the panic buttons).

  • For Warriors:
    1. Practice staying in Defensive Stance (Stance changing is no longer necessary) and using [Thunder Clap], [Shield Block] and [Revenge] as much as possible.
    2. For low-level Warriors, practice throwing Sunders on each of 2, 3, or 4 targets in turn (be careful not to over-pull and kill yourself!) - at higher levels, substitute Shield Slam, Revenge, and/or Devastate for Sunder.
    3. Practice switching stances for different abilities. Stance changing is not necessary for some critical abilities like [Intercept] and [Berserker Rage], but can be useful at times, such as [Execute] to finish a fight or [Hamstring] to prevent certain mobs from getting away.
    4. Practice to keep the global cool-down ticking.
  • For Druids:
    1. Practice Lacerating alternating targets with 2, 3, or 4 targets. (Be careful not to over-pull and kill yourself!)
    2. Practice to keep the global cool-down ticking. [Mangle] at every cool-down, [Lacerate] when Mangle is not up, also keep Faerie Fire up.
    3. Practice pulling with [Faerie Fire] when the room has too many mobs to only grab a few at a time, or use a spell to pull like [Starfire] or [Hurricane].
    4. Use [Swipe] and [Maul] for tanking multiple mobs, but be sure to get in a few mangles on the main target.
    5. If one pull ends with you having low Rage, shift out and cast [Thorns] on yourself for extra threat generation since you can't lead off with [Swipe]. Best used in combination with a spell pull.
    6. [Nature's Grasp] doesn't break from and is a good way to keep to keep melee mobs at your side, or let you CC a few and back off to help get health back up.
    7. Keep in mind that breaking form loses all your rage, meaning any spell or self heal has a rage cost of your current rage -10 (Furor), as well as GCDs without the armor bonus.
    8. [Furor] can be used mid-combat for a ""mini-[Enrage]" when you hit 0 by dropping and restoring Bear Form. As dropping your current form for Caster Form doesn't cause GCD, a well timed double click on Bear Form resets your Rage to 10 with no period of armor loss, and is often undetectible to other players except for a small puff of smoke. But beware, as a poorly timed try will leave you in caster form for all your enemies to pummel.
  • For Paladins:
    1. Make sure to pull the mob/group yourself; much threat stems from blocking via [Holy Shield].
    2. Make sure to have [Righteous Fury] up at all times!
    3. Use a one-handed weapon and shield (using a two-hander at low levels may work with a capable healer, but it's not recommended).
    4. To tank multiple targets, use [Consecration]. Be careful not to break CC.
    5. Seal of Command for multiple targets if it's available. Seal of Vengeance/Corruption for single targets at higher levels. Seal of Righteousness otherwise.
    6. In Ret spec, Crusader Strike and Divine Storm are quite good for building threat.
    7. Use line of sight or Avenger's Shield to pull casters.
    8. While bubbled, Mobs ignore the paladin; use a Macro to bubble/unbubble to get rid of fear or other forms of crowd control like this Tanking Divine Shield.
  • For Death Knights:
    1. Use Frost Presence.
    2. Use Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle/Rune of the Nerubian Carapace (or at lower levels Rune of Sword Shattering). Unlike other tanks DKs have the luxury of free weapon enchant swapping, just Death Gate to Acherus, rerune the weapon and teleport back.
    3. Use [Death Grip] or line of sight to pull casters.
    4. Remember that [Death Grip] is not the primary taunt, [Dark Command] is! It's less flashy, but the cooldown is much shorter. Save Death Grip for pulls and emergencies. To some players, Unholy Command seems to be a good idea because it reduces the secondary taunt's cooldown, but it is actually not needed and those 2 points are better spent elsewhere.
    5. Use [Pestilence] (once the target is fully diseased!) and [Blood Boil], along with [Death and Decay] (be careful not to break CC), to tank multiple targets.
    6. In Frost spec, get Glyph of Howling Blast and use Howling Blast for sustained AoE threat. To open, use Deathchill right before the pull, and drop Death and Decay after the runes refresh from casting diseases. The threat from a Howling Blast crit is sufficient enough to not have to drop DnD right away.
    7. [Strangulate] serves a twofold purpose: it can be used to protect against harmful spells, and it will force a caster mob to run into melee range of its target.
    8. [Rune Strike] is the main runic power dump for Death Knight tanks. Use [Death Coil] and [Frost Strike] sparingly, if at all.
  • For ALL Tanks:
    1. Keep an eye on the healer's mana and do not pull more mobs if they are too low.
    2. Make sure to keep the camera zoomed far back in order to get higher situational awareness.
    3. Practice moving while hitting mobs, both backing away and strafing away or around.
    4. Practice toying with caster mobs and a nice wall, rock, or corner to get a feel for how line of sight pulling works.
    5. Stay aware of patrolling mobs and be ready to rescue group mates with some quick threat generation moves if someone unexpectedly pulls.
    6. If there's a choice between rescuing the healer or any other party member, always pick the healer. It is possible, if the healer has enough mana, to kill a mob pack without DPSers. Make sure that the healer is alive and full of mana at all times.
    7. Watch for various kinds of normal or cone AOE attacks that mobs use and position yourself and the mobs to prevent as much of their potential damage as possible.
    8. Learn which mobs use fear and which mobs run at low health. These are probably the most common cause of adds, and thus wipes. The best way of dealing with both is to pull well back, so feared players won't run into new groups.

Also, visit the Warriors as Tanks, Druids as Tanks, Paladins as Tanks, and Death knights as tanks articles for additional detail for each of these classes.

For Fun

  • Try chain pulling, if the healer is good. If things go really well, try to pull several groups at once - this allows the damage dealers to use AoE. Well geared healers can sustain this for quite some time, but still be careful. Some healers tend to forget to check their own mana pool...


See also

External links

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