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The Elder Scrolls Online: Beginner's Guide to Tanking

Updated on June 28, 2017

Support Role: Tanking

Since the launch of The Elder Scrolls Online, there has been a tank shortage. So much so that, you will notice how convenient it is to create your own for situations where it's possible to find one. However, it's not particularly surprising why that is— in a group setting, tanks often suffer a lot of pressure. A group heavily relies on their tank, just as much as they rely on their healer, to keep them alive. When creating and leveling your first tank, it can often be frustrating, and even a bit complicated. I hope that after reading this simplified beginner's guide, you will not only understand the basics of tanking, but also feel more comfortable and confident when doing so!

Your First Tank

Within all roles and classes, there is a lot of room for experimentation and flexibility, especially for the average player. That isn't quite the case at end-game, but until you're concerned with trials, know that there is room for whatever the heck you're trying to do. My favorite tank build, which I played religiously, was the iconic "Sap Tank" on a Magicka Nightblade. Although arguably not viable in end-game, I was able to take it through all dungeons, including DLC hard-mode versions, without a scratch.

Nevertheless, I find that when it comes to tanking, it helps a lot to start with a fool-proof build that is very classic, very basic, and easy to execute - at least the first time around! In that case, I would recommend picking up a Dragonknight and selecting a race that offers supplementary passives, such as a Nord. Furthermore, your first tank will wear all heavy armor, be focusing primarily on high health, enough stamina to taunt and block successfully, and just enough Magicka to cast Magicka-based abilities. In regards to character stats, you will be focusing on physical and spell resistance, as well as health recovery. For abilities, aside from your taunt, you will seek out anything to reduce the damage you're taking, as well as casting shields that "eat" or absorb damage. I will discuss this a bit more as we progress through the article.

Leveling, Questing, and Grinding

When leveling your first tank, it will probably feel like torture, especially if you're used to playing a damage-dealing role. This is why I would suggest picking up a pair of daggers (or swords, or axes - it's up to you!) and going duel-wield on one of your bars. Did you know that you can gain experience in any particular skill line, including another weapon, by simply putting those abilities on your primary bar (the bar you will be spending most of your time on)? For example, even if you have duel-wield equipped, you can still slot a few sword and shield abilities on that same bar in order to level both weapon skill lines simultaneously!

Additionally, you can adjust the skills on your bar before turning in or completing a quest to better control where that experience is applied. Another benefit to duel-wield is it provides the best stamina AOE (area of effect) at an early level. That means, even at level 10, you can have a single target ability, as well as an AOE! This will make fighting enemies, mob-grinding, and gaining levels, much easier, especially for those in heavy armor.

Dungeon Delving

So, you've found yourself in a dungeon with 3 other players, and you're the tank. Oh boy, I'm sure you're wondering what am I supposed to do! What is expected of me? First of all, let me tell you that you can relax. Although it would be misleading to suggest that you will never run into unfriendly folks, most, and really, a good portion of those you run into will be nice people. Personally, I have had a great experience with other players. Most are patient and understanding of those who are learning.

Your main concern in dungeons will be keeping your taunt up, which will, in turn, keep the boss focused on you. That is your primary and most important job. Your second job is, of course, staying alive. I'm sure by now you've figured out that a lot of being a tank is getting smacked around, and I suppose, looking like you don't feel it.

Moreover, in most cases, you do not need to move all over the place. You can stand in one spot and block critical hits. I know you're used to running from your enemies, but now you're face-to-face! If it helps you, it would be no problem to step aside if there is a ground attack, but for the most part, you can safely block all damage. By staying still, it will also be easier for your healer to support you. It also helps your damage dealers, especially those who are in melee range. Having to chase you or the boss around the room only makes it harder for everyone. As a tank, you're essentially the group's leader. The group reacts to your movements.

Additionally, it is imperative that you communicate with both your healer, as well as the entire group. Communication is key - I cannot stress this enough. Dungeons require teamwork.

Short Course: Damage Mitigation aka Hey! That Tickles!

I wish it weren't so, but taunting is only half the battle! You also have to stay alive! How do tanks manage to take such a beating? The reason tanks can take so many hits and it only briefly tickles them is because they're mitigating so much damage through blocking, with their armor, physical and spell resistances, and the abilities they're using. You're probably wondering what the heck I'm talking about!

Through sword and shield passives, heavy armor passives, as well as armor set bonuses, you can significantly raise your physical and spell resistance. Paired with major or minor maim, major and minor protection, and aegis, you can mitigate a huge amount of damage! Again, like I mentioned above, if you also choose the Nord race, you can also gain the "Rugged" passive to mitigate even more damage! Being a vampire may also be useful, as they also have both passives as well as skills that offer damage mitigation. The downside is you also take more fire damage.

Don't forget you can also apply damage shields that will absorb incoming damage. It is often recommended to not only save on resources but also as a quick save during "oh shit!" moments when you find yourself low on health. Having a shield active can often be the difference between a group wipe or victory. By shielding yourself, you can resurrect an ally, preferably the healer, and ultimately save your group.

Last but not least, and perhaps the most obvious, is to simply block! Heck, tell your DPS and Healer to block as well!

Armor Sets For First-Time Tanks


Hatchling's Shell / Shadowfen
Akaviri Dragonguard / Eastmarch
Meridia’s Blessed Armor / Coldharbour
Mark of the Pariah / Wrothgar (REQUIRES DLC)

Hist Bark / Craftable
Alessia's Bulwark / Craftable
Song of Lamae / Craftable

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