#0 - 2007/02/01 05:18:47 PMTankadin 101
-Gestalt, the Warrior formerly known as Zalkir
2-28-08: Gear section posted, new builds in talents section, minor edits throughout
Dedicated to the Tankadin Community, who made this possible through continuous discussion, support, and help.
For the Knighted Owls, for their continued amusement.
Huge props to the gang at MainTankadin, for continued support, research, and advocacy.
The game has changed in many ways since TBC and one of the most dramatic of these has been the opening up of tanking roles. Back when Onyxia was scary and people gathered around to see the guy with the epic mount, you had lots of options for DPS, healing, etc, but when you were looking for a tank you were probably looking for a warrior. That's changed: the warrior, druid, and paladin are all capable of filling a tank role, both in 5-mans and in raids.
The three tanking classes: overview
All three classes are CLOSE on overall mitigation and single target threat. Any of the three are suitable for tanking 5-mans, offtanking raids, or maintanking raids. Every boss that has been killed has been tanked successfully by warriors, druids, and paladins. The three tank classes are roughly interchangable on most content, though each go about the job in a different way, allowing different strategies and approaches. I've been stunned as I've been going through familiar content with each of the tank classes: a fight I knew inside and out seems brand new, as the approach and strategy for each class is quite different, posing different challenges and advantages. Understanding those differences will help players adjust their strategies according to the tank on hand.
Specs matter, much moreso than before. While a Resto Druid, Holy Paladin, or a Fury Warrior CAN tank in some situations, they're missing many vital tools that help them do the job. Tanking can be a rough job, especially on unfamiliar content, so having a tank that is well suited to the task at hand is important. Good tank selection will help the run progress smoothly, and also ensure that the tank doesn't get frustrated by tackling a job they're ill-suited for.
Spec and gear are particularly important for the Hybrid-class tanks. Paladins and Druids have a broader range of gearing options than Warriors, to the point that some specs may not be carrying any melee-oriented gear at all. While they may still be able to step up to the plate in a pinch, they're going to have to work much harder to maintain control over a pull. Any time an off-spec or off-gear Hybrid is willing to tank, let them know you appreciate their willingness to help out where it's needed.
While this guide is for Tanking Paladins, it's not really possible to discuss Tankadins without a look at tanking in general and where they stand in comparison to the other tanking classes. World of Warcraft is now a game built around COOPERATIVE tanking, so you're going to need at least a rough understanding of how the other two tanks function.
A brief comparison
Let's take a look at some of the key differences between the three tanking classes. While we're making these comparisons we're going to be assuming that these tanks are wearing at-level TBC gear. I'm mostly referencing 64-66 greens and blues, but will note when there is a substantial difference at a different level of gear.
Warriors will have a slight mitigation advantage over the other two tanking classes at most levels (though this evens out a bit and stays pretty close through most of the raid game). Their threat generation is innate to skills, so they don't have to spend any of their gear budget on threat. The downside to this is that gear upgrades have little impact on their threat output: it's mostly a fixed quantity (though their weapon and shield do provide some improvement). As they level they will see improved threat generation from new skills trained and better rage generation (allowing them to use their skills more often). Their single-target threat is good, though they may need lead time in some situations (the habitual "wait for sunders"). They run into some problems when trying to tank multiple targets.
Warriors have a great variety of debuffs they can apply, the best selection of "Oh NO!" panic buttons, and fantastic mobility. Overall, at most level ranges Warriors will have the best staying power of any of the tanking classes, somewhat offset by relatively limited threat generation. Thier overall staying power, situational tricks (like Spell Reflect), and great variety of panic buttons continue to serve them well.
Druids have comparable mitigation to the other two tanks by virtue of their high Dodge and high Armor values. Their large HP pools are great for absorbing large hits that can't normally be mitigated (like spell damage), and they have some unique abilities that help them deal with AoE damage. Their overall mitigation is slightly less effective than the plate-wearers over time, but not so much so as to cause problems in most situations. They have good single-target threat generation (slightly superior to warriors), and good threat generation on up to three targets.
Druids as tanks have two features of note. First, they are holding aggro by dealing substantial damage: a tanking druid is doing a great deal to help a boss die faster, and not just by holding aggro. In addition to very solid damage-dealing (even when tanking), the druid is providing some great DPS buffs to their party. The second, and truly unique, feature of druids as tanks is that when their tank target is down they still have a lot to offer the party. Unlike warriors and paladins, druids don't need to swap gear to switch from a tanking role to a melee dps role. While a gear swap would help them crank out a bit more DPS, they are still making a substantial contribution if they're in cat form wearing their tanking gear (much moreso than a Prot warrior or Prot Paladin).
Paladin mitigation is roughly comparable to warriors (they're mostly wearing the same gear), reduced by the need to allocate a few gear slots for int/spellpower/mp5 (though not many... paladin itemization is pretty complicated and beyond the scope of this general overview). They have a few "panic buttons", but these are more situational than the ones available to the warrior. The aspect of the paladin that really shines is threat management. Paladins generate threat through spell damage, much of which is applied through passive procs, DoT's, and stacking effects. The upshot of this is that Paladins will generate slightly superior single target threat to warriors, comparable threat to druids on up to three targets, but on more than three targets they are vastly superior. Their use of mana rather than rage also means they can "frontload": start a fight by throwing a lot of high-threat abilities, allowing DPS to start immediately.
Like Druids, Paladins are holding aggro by dealing large quantities of damage. Unique to the Paladin, however, is that most of this damage happens when a mob hits them. Paladins really WANT to get hit, as most of their abilities trigger on hits taken (and these abilities operate independantly of the global cooldown). On single mobs that hit very slowly, however, many of these skills take a backseat. They also have a lot of utility in a tanking role, providing a great variety of buffs, debuffs, and decursing. Their threat management options are second to none: Blessing of Salvation and Blessing of Protection are very powerful tools for reducing the threat of other players in the party.
When you've got more than one...
This won't happen often in 5-mans, and for 5-man content any of the tanking classes will be able to do the job very well.
Occasionally, though, there may be more than one possible tank within a group, and the group will have to make decisions about who will tank what. While I'll be going into greater detail on this subject later on, there are some simple things worth considering right off the bat.
First, Protection Warriors and Protection Paladins are very limited in their contributions when they are not tanking a target. The Protection warrior is geared and talented to act as a damage sponge: they can generate moderate DPS when not tanking, but nothing compared to a Druid. The Protection Paladin likely has a small mana pool and a limited amount of spellpower, and will lack real staying power in a healing role (and doesn't do a lick of damage if they're not getting hit).
When multiple targets are present and multiple tanks are available, the general rule for kill order should be Druid, Paladin, Warrior. Killing the Druid target first allows the Druid to continue contributing by doing substantial DPS, and killing the Warrior target last will insure that they have the lead time necessary to build a threat lead. In a situation such as this, if there are more than three targets, it is generally safe to give the Warrior the biggest (since their mitigation over time functions very well), the Druid the one that needs to die first (due to special abilities, etc), and the Paladin multiple tanking targets (since their threat and mitigation actually get better the more often they get hit).
Blizzard has designed the TBC raid game to actively encourage multi-class tanking strategies, even to the point of optimizing certain stages of a specific boss for a specific class (i.e. Druid tank phase 1, warrior tank phase 2, paladin tank phase 3), as well as having some bosses that strongly favor one tanking class over another. Cooperation is key, and the beginning of cooperation is understanding.