FAQ & Informal Tank Comparison


90 Night Elf Death Knight
Over the course of the last several months, the tank board has seen a huge increase in the number of repetitive questions as well as requests for explanations and summaries of the different tank classes. In order to reduce the amount of work we have to do repeating ourselves, I've put together a FAQ and guide for new tanks that will hopefully help them reach a greater understanding of what tanking is and how to have the most fun doing it.


1. What's the best tank?
The tank that does research, gears properly, plays well, and understands fight mechanics. In other words, there isn't a “best tank” that you can pick that will make you better than somebody else. Tanking is very well balanced this expansion, with player skill and gear mattering far more than class balance.

2. Really?

3. You're sure?
I'm sure.

4. Prove it.

5. HA! Which tank is best?
See FAQ Question #1.

6. Fine. Does that mean all the tanks are the same, then?
No. The tanks are actually remarkably different in how they fulfill their role, but all of them are viable. If you want a detailed explanation of the pros, cons, quirks, and playstyles of the different tank classes, head down to the second part of this document and give the playstyle overview and pro/con sections a read.

7. Okay, so I can play what I want. Tanking is hard, though. Which tank is the easiest?
The short answer is that it's subjective. If you want my personal opinion, I find Brewmasters to be the hardest and Paladins to be the easiest.

The long answer is that it's the wrong question to ask.

Usually, when somebody asks “what tank is the easiest” they're asking “what tank class can I play that lets me get the best results for the least work” or, even worse, “which tank is the most powerful.” The problem with these questions is that with the advent of active mitigation, the best tank is the one that puts in the most effort. You can't win by picking the right class at character creation any more.

Thus, the real answer to this question is “play what you feel you could put the most effort into, because not only will it be fun, you'll be willing to do it more.” If you need help picking a tank, I suggest that you take a read through the later sections of this document.

8. Tanks in PvP. What's the deal?
What about it?

If you're asking about tank specs, we have a niche in flag carrying and to a lesser extent in point guarding. They're not going to go back to the environment where tanks were one-man armies with PvP-stacked vengeance, so don't waste your breath asking.

While all the tanks are perfectly capable of picking up a flag and running with it, and in fact all have them have their own advantages in PvP, most RBG groups are more selective. They usually only use Warriors, Druids, and to a lesser extent Death Knights to carry flags. Point guards are typically Death Knights.

9. Help! I'm squishy!
This is actually a question we can help with, but we need you to do a few things to enable us to help.

First, you should be making sure you're playing correctly. There are a lot of guides around for the different tank classes – if you can't find one here, check your class board. Do this before you post a thread asking us for help, please!

Second, please describe your problem as accurately and directly as possible. Hyperbole will not help, and blaming the class won't make us want to work with you. Remember: The classes are balanced, and all of them can perform well in all the fights in the expansion so far.

Third, log out in your tank gear. We don't armory troll, but we can't judge if your gearing is the cause of the problem if we can't see what your gear is.

Lastly, get logs! If you have a log – preferably a worldoflogs.com record – of your fight it's much easier to identify the problem you're having, be it bad play on your part, DPS failing, healers out to lunch, or simple bad luck.

10. Okay, I'm tanking and everyone is mean to me and blaming me for their own failures!
Welcome to tanking. As a remedy, I personally suggest alcohol and sociopathy.
Edited by Krinu on 2/17/2013 3:07 PM PST
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90 Night Elf Death Knight

This is meant to be a brief overview of the general rotational flow and “style” that each tank spec uses. It is not meant to be a definitive guide to which tank is easiest, hardest, or most fun, as those are largely subjective judgments. This guide is also, by necessity, a somewhat subjective summary – while I try to be as neutral as possible, it is inevitable that some of my biases will slip in here.

TL;DR: Caveat emptor.

Warriors: Mobility & Offensive Utility
A warrior is a commanding and dynamic presence on the battlefield, dictating the flow of combat while shrugging off the mightiest of attacks.

Thematically, warriors are all about control and mobility: Control of the battlefield, control of their opponents, and control of their position. A warrior's toolkit – detailed below – is very offensive-oriented. While they do have a few tools that affect the group members, by and large a warrior is focused on what the enemy is doing and how to stop them.

Warriors are fueled by rage, which starts at zero and builds up to 100. Warriors generate rage by critically blocking and using their short-cooldown rotational attacks. Warriors can spend rage to deal slightly more damage or to fuel their active mitigation system.

Warriors use block, critical block (exactly what it sounds like – it's like a block, except it stops twice as much damage), and shield barrier (a damage absorption shield) as their active mitigation system. Warrior active mitigation is entirely proactive, requiring the Warrior to anticipate incoming damage, unlike the other tanks which generally have at least one way to heal damage back after taking it.

Warriors use a fixed 1.5 second global cooldown, with their active mitigation buttons off the global cooldown.

TL;DR: Play a Warrior if you want to zip around stopping enemies from doing things.

Paladins: Healing & Defensive Utility
A paladin is a holy crusader, shielding herself and her allies from harm and protecting them from enemy attacks.

Paladins are the defense to the warrior's offense. Where a warrior will stop a foe from harming an ally by disarming it or knocking it aside, a paladin will stop the foe by shielding the ally or healing the injury the ally sustains.

Paladins use Holy Power as a resource, which is a combo-point like system that starts at 0 and builds up to 5 on the paladin, instead of on the target. Holy power is generated by some of the short-cooldown rotational attacks the paladin has, and can be spent to heal the paladin and her allies or on their active mitigation system.

Paladin active mitigation consists of a choice between gaining a short-term percentage reduction in physical damage taken or healing themselves (or others). Additionally, paladins can passively block attacks, but cannot critically block and have no special mechanics that interact with blocks.

Paladins use a haste-scaling 1.5 second global cooldown, with their active mitigation buttons off the global cooldown.

TL;DR: Play a Paladin if you want to directly help your party while tanking.

Druids: Evasion & Flexibility
Druids are masters of evasion and flexibility, both in their niche and in combat on the battlefield.

Druids subscribe to the axiom that the best-mitigated attack is the one that never lands in the first place. Druids are focused on evading attacks, and reducing the damage from the attacks that they do take. Druid utility is very flexible, and they can chose via talents and spell choices what kind of options they wish to have for any given battle.

Druids, like Warriors, use rage as a resource. Unlike warriors, however, druids generate the vast majority of their rage from autoattacks and critical hits on their enemies, and only gain rage from a single one of their rotational abilities.

Druid active mitigation is slightly different, in that their Mastery increases their passive mitigation, with their active mitigation remaining fixed. Druids have two forms of active mitigation: They can gain a 45% increased chance to dodge incoming attacks for a short period of time, or the can opt to heal themselves. Druids may also spend rage to slightly increase their damage and reduce the damage dealt by their target.

Druids use a fixed 1.5 second global cooldown, and their active mitigation mechanics are off the global cooldown.

TL;DR: Play a Druid if the idea of being able to adapt to anything appeals to you.
Edited by Krinu on 2/17/2013 12:39 PM PST
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90 Night Elf Death Knight
Death Knights: Self-healing & Personal Defenses
Death Knights are lone vanguards, independent and unstoppable. Where others rally their team, Death Knights rally themselves. A Death Knight knows that to support a group, she herself must first be strong.

Death Knights take the exact opposite approach to mitigation that Druids do: Where a Druid will evade or reduce attacks, a Death Knight laughs and takes the full brunt of them head on. Death Knights have huge reserves of stamina, and compensate for their weak mitigation by healing themselves after taking damage instead of reducing the size of incoming blows. In terms of utility, Death Knights are almost exclusively focused on themselves: While a Paladin will help healers in a high-damage situation by reducing the damage the group takes, a Death Knight will use an ability to make them much harder to kill, allowing the healers to focus on the rest of the group.

Death Knights use a two-part resource system: They have a pool of runes, which behave like three separate energy bars, and a rage-like resource called runic power that starts at zero and caps at 100. Spending runes grants runic power, and spending runic power speeds the regeneration of runes. Death Knight attacks are not limited by individual cooldowns, but are instead restricted by the runes that the death knight has available. Death Knights may spend runes and runic power on their active mitigation system, or may opt to use them on utility spells or simply doing more damage.

Death Knight active mitigation is simple compared to most other tanks, as much of their complexity comes from managing their resources instead of their mitigation. Death Knights have a single source of active mitigation, Death Strike. Using Death Strike heals the death knight for 20% of the damage she has taken in the previous five seconds, and then grants a physical damage absorption shield based on the amount healed.

Death Knights use a fixed 1.0 second global cooldown, and their active mitigation is on the global cooldown.

TL;DR: Play a Death Knight if you want lots of control over your own survival and don't care about your party.

Monks: Self-healing & Evasion
Monks are masters of balance. A monk is evasive and controlled, using a staggering array of tools to remain unruffled at the center of a tempest.

Mechanically, monks are a complicated tank built around the manipulation of damage. They are similar in a sense to Druids, but with a finer grain of control: A monk is constantly trading off between not taking a hit, deferring the damage taken from a hit, or healing themselves after taking a hit.

Monks use a two-part resource system. Their first resource is simply energy, and they regenerate it over time. Their second resource is chi, which is, for all intents and purposes identical to Holy Power. It is a combo-point like system that builds up on the monk that the monk uses to fuel abilities. Different monk abilities have different costs, some in chi, some in energy.

Monk active mitigation is by far the most complex of any of the tanks. Monks have a two-part active mitigation system. First, by attacking foes, monks build up charges of Elusive Brew. They can then use an ability to consume these charges to increase their dodge chance by 30% for a number of seconds equal to the charges consumed. The second part of their active mitigation is built around a mechanic called staggering. Whenever a monk is struck by a physical attack, they take a portion of the damage immediately, and the rest as a DoT. This DoT stacks, but can be removed completely by an ability that costs chi. Monks have to balance their resources carefully based on what they're fighting to ensure that their various mechanics that increase their stagger amount are active as well as their abilities that reduce their chance to be struck.

Monks use a 1.0 second global cooldown and their active mitigation is off the global cooldown.

TL;DR: Play a monk if you like having lots of control over how you survive foes.
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90 Night Elf Death Knight

Tank advantages and disadvantages are ephemeral: They change from tier to tier, and even from hotfix to hotfix. Any such advice regarding tank pros and cons thus must be either very broad, or very frequently updated. Since I would rather not update this guide every time a hotfix goes out, this is intended as the former instead of the latter.

Note also that the number of items here does not indicate any endorsement or condemnation of any tank, and that not all line items are equal in value. More entries simply means there are more separate points of note.

This is a work in progress but if I don't start posting things I'm never going to get it done. Druids, Paladins, and Warriors up. Working on Monks and Death Knights.

  • Small AoE performance: Warriors gain a cooldown reset on Revenge, a major resource generator and source of damage, when dodging or parrying.
  • Mitigation: Warriors mitigate large amounts of damage via strong passives, shield block, and shield barrier.
  • Mobility: Warriors are very, very good at getting from point A to point B quickly.
  • Enemy control: Warriors have a large toolkit with many options for stopping an enemy from doing things. From stuns, to silences, to disarms, to knockback effects, a warrior is very powerful when it comes to hindering the actions of a foe.
  • Smooth damage intake: Warriors have very high passive damage reduction, and their active mitigation leans toward a longer, weaker effect relative to other tanks. This makes them take very consistent damage, which reduces healer stress. Happy healers are effective healers!

  • Self-healing: Warriors have no active mitigation healing option, and their utilities that restore health are relatively weak. Warriors will take little damage if played well, but damage they do take must be tended to by a healer.
  • ”Streaming add” handling: While nowhere near as large an issue as it has been in the past, the Warrior tools for handling a constant stream of foes are both weaker and less flexible than those of other classes.
  • Ranged threat: Warriors have few options for generating threat on a target they are not engaged in melee combat with. While Warriors are excellent at getting to a target to engage it, they are required to do so to produce significant threat.

  • Team support: Paladins are the pinnacle of team players. Between their Hand spells, their ability to use their active mitigation on raid members in addition to themselves, and their potent groupwide cooldowns, Paladins are the best team support tanks around.
  • Strong active mitigation: Paladins have one of the broader active mitigation systems, providing a very general on-demand percentage physical damage reduction.
  • Self-healing: Even after the nerfs with patch 5.4, Paladins possess significant amounts of self-healing, enabling them to go without attention from healers for a long period of time if necessary.
  • Streaming add handling: Paladins are one of the few classes that have access to a 100% uptime ground effect, ensuring that they're always able to grab newly arrived enemies.

  • AoE damage: While paladins are more than capable of holding AoE threat, they don't have the AoE damage capability of, say, a monk.
  • Loot difficulties: Paladins currently favor Haste/Mastery plate. While not a major drawback, this does require "gaming" the current individual loot system to get, as Paladins place little value on avoidance.

  • Flexibility: A Druid can, through talent and glyph choices, adopt nearly any of the advantages available to other tanks. If the team needs more mobility, a Druid can take glyphs that improve that. If the Druid needs more personal mobility, there are talents for that. If the raid needs healing support during a heavy damage phase, a Druid can take talents that support that.
  • Passive mitigation: Of all the tanks, the Druid has the highest passive mitigation. Between very strong passive magic defenses, the largest stamina multiplier of any tank class, and a mastery that increases armor, Druids have a very strong "worst case."
  • Self-healing: Druids can out-heal even a Death Knight, and on some fights it can be very useful to do so.

  • Weak and random active mitigation: In contrast with their potent passive mitigation, Druids have a weak active mitigation system. It has restricted uptime, random effect, and low impact.
  • Optimization requires planning: In order to make full use of a Druid's toolkit, the player must have fairly extensive knowledge of the fight at hand, as some of the more potent options require the Druid stop actively tanking for a short period of time.
Edited by Krinu on 12/4/2013 5:59 PM PST
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90 Night Elf Death Knight
Death Knights
  • Self-healing: Death Knights produce an incredible amount of self-healing, often to the point of absurdity.
  • Personal defenses: Death Knights have more personal defensive cooldowns than any other class, and the cooldowns that a Death Knight possesses are often more powerful.
  • Multi-target AoE damage: Death Knights diseases are potent, long-lasting, and trivial to maintain on multiple targets, enabling Death Knights to do impressive damage whenever a large number of enemies are present.

  • Spike Damage: Death Knights have the weakest passive mitigation of all the tanks, and a poorly played Death Knight will die quickly and messily.
  • Proactive defenses: While a Death Knight can put up a weak physical defense in advance of an attack, he or she sacrifices a large amount of total mitigation to do so. Death Knight mitigation is almost exclusively a reactive tool, in contrast with a warrior's proactive kit.
  • Weak team utility: While 5.4 brought some improvements, they're talents that come at the cost of potent personal cooldowns, and the only baseline team cooldown a Death Knight can offer is Raise Dead.

  • Consistent active mitigation: Monk active mitigation is fairly to maintain, and a weak version of it is active at all times. This means that monks are never without benefit from their mastery.
  • AoE damage: Monks are, even after the nerfs, still capable of the highest AoE DPS among the tanks. They are also competitors for the top single-target damage as well, although recent balance changes have led that competition to be much more dependent on gear selection than on class choice.
  • Spike damage handling: Monks have several tools that enable them to cope with spike damage better than most tanks.
  • Snap threat / add handling: Monks are arguably the best tank at grabbing new arrivals to a fight. Between Rushing Jade Wind, Dizzying Haze, and Keg Smash, monks have powerful snap threat at melee and range.

  • Small cooldown selection: Compared to other tanks, monks have fewer cooldown buttons to push. This is offset by their stronger rotational options, but still can come into play if the rotation is botched for some reason or a fight strongly leans toward one kind of threat.
  • Weak passive mitigation: Despite the near universal uptime of their active mitigation, monks are very weak when it isn't available - say, on the pull. Until a monk gets his or her rotation rolling, the monk is vulnerable to spike damage.
  • Complexity: Monks are the most complicated tank to play, and suffer more from incompetence and ineptitude on the player's part. Monk tanks need to keep track of more buffs and debuffs than other tanks.
Edited by Krinu on 12/5/2013 10:31 AM PST
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90 Night Elf Death Knight
More questions and answers! Because you keep asking them.

11. What about Shaman and Warlock and <Insert Class Here> tanking?
The short version is "if you're not one of the five tank specs, you're not a tank."

The long version is "it's complicated."

Game design is iterative. Right now, there are a few non-tank specs that have part of the toolkit needed to tank. This appears to be intended as a kind of "emergency backup" measure, akin to an arms warrior putting on a shield and swapping to defensive stance when the normal tank dies. For purposes of LFD and LFR, however, you aren't a tank.

This may change in the future. They may choose to add tank specs to the game in the future. They are unlikely, however, to turn your current spec into a tank spec because many people enjoy using the spec as it exists now.
Edited by Krinu on 6/2/2013 12:35 AM PDT
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90 Draenei Warrior
How to set up logs?


I only mentioned because you mentioned putting in logs would be helpful and I thought it would be helpful to put in a small how-to in setting up logs

... mostly because I can't make heads or tails on how to put in logs
Edited by Sedori on 2/17/2013 6:20 AM PST
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90 Night Elf Death Knight
Euuugh. You're right, I should do that. Maybe after midterms -.-
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90 Pandaren Monk
- go to www.worldoflogs.com
- create an acc.
- download their client
- ingame, before the raid starts type /combatlog (you'll get a chat msg saying it will generate a txt inside the logs folder of wow) .. keep in mind that if you DC or reload UI, it's good to type again just to check if it's still recording (basically whenever you type that you toggle it on/off)
- after the raid is over, run the world of logs java client, (find the wow folder and log in the 1st time)
- click on "open a Wow Log"
- just confirm the following window

and it will upload.

Important note:

Delete the combatlog.txt file after uploading it

If you upload with wow closed it will ask about deleting it anyway, so just confirm ... if wow is still running it wont let you delete since the game will still be using the file.

you kinda have to do that because wol doesn't recognise logs that have more than a day difference on the time stamp. For example, if you record on tuesday and you don't delete the file and record again on wednesday. If you try to upload it, it will give you an error msg saying the recording time is too big.

and boy trust me .. you won't be able to open the txt file. Which means you'll lose both days.

notepad or any other program will simply crashs when trying to open the txt file .. ~40-50mb of raw text is a bazilion of lines and codes.

Just remember to always delete (or move it to a backup folder) the file before starting a new recording.
Edited by Leeflow on 2/17/2013 6:51 AM PST
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90 Pandaren Monk
02/17/2013 06:43 AMPosted by Leeflow
notepad or any other program will simply crashs when trying to open the txt file .. ~40-50mb of raw text is a bazilion of lines and codes.

Try downloading and using Scite. It is great for large files that make notepad choke.

Also, Krinu, what are the steps on actually becoming a sociopath? You know...just wondering. No real reason...
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90 Dwarf Priest
One thing that I think is probably worth mentioning: Warrior active mitigation is entirely proactive, rather than reactive, unlike the other tanks. They've got no self healing outside of the tier 2 cooldowns. You do generally need to be thinking ahead, because Shield Barriering after you've taken a huge hit is usually not going to do nearly as much as Shield Barriering before it.
Combat tables, diminishing returns and you!
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90 Night Elf Druid
That's actually.....surprisingly accurate.
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90 Night Elf Death Knight
This is a great guide and should help to answer some of the basic questions that are frequently asked.

Thanks for putting this together and sticky requested.
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90 Blood Elf Priest
This'll be handy. Sticky requested.

One nitpick, though:

02/17/2013 05:28 AMPosted by Krinu
shield barrier (a physical damage absorption shield)

It works on magic, too.
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90 Pandaren Warrior
Also in regard to not clearing logs, if you forget you can just use split and zip option, and the find and unzip that nights section.

But its a pain.
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67 Draenei Death Knight
Barrier isn't just physical, in fact it was probably created because warriors sucked at magic and impale.
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90 Human Monk
Krinu, this is great I appreciate the time you took to create this!

Though to comment on our society, how inept are we becoming in decision making?
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90 Night Elf Death Knight
02/17/2013 10:03 AMPosted by Nerfheals
It works on magic, too.

WHOOPS. You're right. I'll fix that.
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90 Night Elf Death Knight
02/17/2013 07:31 AMPosted by Chellar
One thing that I think is probably worth mentioning: Warrior active mitigation is entirely proactive, rather than reactive, unlike the other tanks. They've got no self healing outside of the tier 2 cooldowns. You do generally need to be thinking ahead, because Shield Barriering after you've taken a huge hit is usually not going to do nearly as much as Shield Barriering before it.

That's a good point, Wan. I'll see about working that in to the tank playstyle summary.
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90 Human Warrior
woooo this is good!

You have a sticky vote :D
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