Are you ready to take on the hardest job in Elder Scrolls Online (ESO)? Well than welcome to our ESO Tanking Guide where we show you everything you need to know regarding tanking. This is a broad guide and for specific tank guides, make sure you check out our class guide section. Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
What’s a Tank’s Job?
The most important job for a tank is taking on the most deadly single enemy in a group. Other games have you taking on ALL the enemies, not ESO. To be a great tank in ESO, you’ll have to pick and choose your targets carefully. Generally, I’ll take on the target that can one-shot or insta kill someone. It’s usually pretty obvious who this is based on size, amount of HP, or just appearance.
- Damage Mitigation – Simply put, you’re suppose to soak up damage so other players don’t have to. Your damage dealers and healers are optimize fully towards their roles. Essentially, they’re going to be very squishy or easy to kill. That’s okay, because as tanks, we embrace the hard to kill attitude and shine when the odds are against us. What this means is, you’ll need to find a way between using your skills, gear, and play-style to mitigate damage. Most do this by avoiding hits, having heavy armor rating to lessen the damage, or shielding themselves with spells. Either way, you’re suppose to take damage so others don’t.
- Priority Targeting – “Deltia, how do I mitigate or lessen damage?” You do this by targeting that one enemy who’d ruin your day if let lose. Take this picture for example. You’ll see about eight mobs or enemies all looking to kill you. However, the Frost Giant is not only larger, but look at it’s health bar. You’ll see a little square indicating it’s a higher threat mob (elite or boss). This is your visual indicator that this needs to be your main priority out of the group.
- Positioning – Our endless mission for mitigation doesn’t stop there. Now that we’ve got the attention of the boss, it’s time to position our team correctly. Most enemies have a cleave mechanic (or area AoE damage). This is usually in the shape of a cone BIG RED and yes get out of it. After we get aggro meaning the enemies attention, turn that mob away from the group. That way when it does a big area or cleave attack, you’re allies are safe. Turning the mobs is a huge part of tanking that I see people missing all the time. With that being said, the group also needs to understand to not be in your way either.
- Resource Management – “Deltia, why is tanking so hard?” Not only is there so much going on and you’re responsible for, throw in the fact that you’re going to be using ALL resource pools and this gets very hard. Most roles either using magicka or stamina to do their jobs, not tanks. We have to use stamina to block, dodge roll, sprint, and taunt. We need magicka for shields, buffs, and healing. And if we run out of health, well everyone dies. I can’t give any better advice than this, when build your character here’s what you need to focus on stamina regeneration > everything else. Blocking is our primary source of damage mitigation and a constant drain on our stamina. If you can’t block you die, if you die, everyone dies. The point is, stamina recover, regeneration, or reduction is the priority over all else.
- Damage – Yes we as tanks still need to do damage. You don’t want be the main focal point of DPS, but your ultimates and some class abilities can really help add some needed DPS. Each class has their own strengths and weakness, and you should be relying on these advantages to take down enemies. Templar’s can drop a Nova on a crowd while Nightblades and drop a Veil of Blades on a boss. Dragonknights can throw down a needed Standard of Might while Sorcerers can lock everything down with a Negate. The faster things die, the easier your job will be.
How to Tank
Pre-Fight – Make sure everyone’s ready to go. Weapons are charged, people have ate food to get more stats, and we’re buffed up and focused. Get your mind right too, think positive and embrace your inner tank. You’ll need to react quickly to changing group dynamics. Our group constantly ask each other these questions. Also be prepared with consumable potions. These can make or break fights and have many benefits. In essences, get prepared.
Taunting – Using taunts or gaining aggro as some call it is nothing more than getting the bosses attention. Currently, there are two specific abilities for taunting, Inner Fire a ranged taunt using magicka from the Undaunted tree, and the bread and butter taunt Puncture using stamina from the One Hand and Shield tree. Ideally, you’ll want to use Puncture over Inner Fire because the debuff Puncture provides is powerful. Additionally, Inner Fire has a chance of procing a terrible synergy which will lower DPS. However, I highly recommend having both taunts on your bars somewhere. You’re not always going to be in range for a Puncture and will need a range taunt at some point.
Blocking – Now that we’ve got a mob or two’s attention, the hard work starts. Blocking provides massive damage mitigation at the cost of stamina. The more targets beating on you, the more stamina it will drain. That’s why it’s important that you don’t “over taunt.” Take on what your stamina can handle. While blocking you can, cast spells, continue to taunt, move slowly, and bash. Don’t be the tank that just stands and blocks, you’ll need to be active even while blocking and at least looking around watching for enemy actions.
Interrupts – Since I brought up bash, let’s talk about interrupts. Generally mobs cast or channel their big attacks. This registers a warning sign above their head saying “if you don’t interrupt me, you’ll die.” Thus, your job is to keep them at bay by bashing over and over. Just remember, this takes stamina too and at some point, a DPS or a Healer will need to help you interrupt. Additionally, your bash is only near targets so range members of your party are responsible for those interrupts. You can do a lot as the tank, but not all.
Weaving Attacks -One of the finer points on tanking is weaving in between blocks. The most advantages weapon glyph I’ve found for tanking is the “Hardening Enhancement.” This grants a small damage bubble on you and can be proc’d often. So yes, don’t just stand there and block keep on procing this bubble. Once you’ve become experience, you’ll understand the timely of each boss. Some take more time to charge up heavy attacks thus giving you the time to charge your own heavy. Others rapidly strike so you’ll need to get in a light attack here and there. Remember this, the less damage you take, the less healing you’ll need. The less healing you’ll need the more the healer can do damage. The more damage the group has, the faster stuff dies. The faster mobs die, the easier your job. On the surface this doesn’t seem very important, but truly it separates the good from the average.
Resources – So what separates the good from the great? Resource management. Every class, armor, and build has it’s own strengths and weaknesses. For instance, Dragonknights Green Dragon’s Blood offers tons of stamina regeneration but it takes constant magicka to cast it. Templar’s have a passive ability Repentance that increases stamina regeneration without casting. The One Handed Sword and Shield skill line offers Absorb Magic which lessens the burden of blocking and increases mitigation. So, make sure you take abilities that tune up your resources otherwise you can’t block, cast, interrupt, and will be an ineffective tank.
Tanking by Classes
If you haven’t been following my guides, I’ve played every class to at least Veteran Rank (VR) 10. I’ve tanked, healed, and DPS’d every single one of them. So each class has it’s own unique set of strengths and weakness and also easier to tank with. This list is my opinion, not the definitive answer. And I rank each class tanking with the best to worst.
The King of tanking. The Dragonknight (DK) can reflect projectiles, self-heal on command, and pull enemies at range. Their Iron Skin passive of an additional 10% blocking damage makes them the number one choice.
+ Made for blocking and crowd control (CC)
+ Massive group utility and self-sustaining resources
– Limited range
– Very slow with class specific abilities
A VERY close second is the Templar. I can’t tell you how powerful these two classes are and Templar is an absolute riot. Their the only class that can burst heal without a Restoration Staff, they can harvest corpses for endless stamina, and have the best damage shield in the game with Blazing Shield. Another amazing choice for tanking.
+ Healing and stamina regeneration King
+ Class ultimate and leap made for tanking
– Little DPS
– High magicka cost for spells
While I did beat Dragonstar Arena with my VR 8 Sorc tank, it was a challenge. The Sorc has some great bubbles but lacks healing unless stacking critical stat in conjunction with Critical Surge. This isn’t a usual tank stat and doesn’t seem that effective though the speed is amazing.
+ Speed to zoom around
+ Massive damage even when tanking
– Class abilities lack tanking needs
– High magicka cost group CC
I’ve seen and tried many Nightblade tanking builds, but still find them a bit lack luster. They have some good speed and utility the problem is they lack a burst self-heal. Moreover, they have limited group CC or slow besides Lotus Fan and I just didn’t find them effective as tanks. Though the beauty of this game is someone will show me a build after publishing this that proves me wrong 🙂
+ Great speed
+ Passive healing with siphoning
– Dependent on healers in crunch time
– Lacks group CC
Setting Up Your Bar
Above is a sample tanking build without any class specific abilities. Yes, you’ll need to swap in some class stuff but I wanted to give you a picture of a setup and why I take specific things. Let’s talk about each slot and the concept behind it.
Bar One | Melee
- Group Crowd Control – You’ll need some way of slowing down enemies or neutralizing them completely. Volcanic Rune in this spot is something everyone can get and a good CC.
- Melee Taunt – The debuff provided by Pierce Armor is a powerful one and I recommend it as the go-to taunt in ESO. Be careful with stamina usage however, because it does take stamina needed for blocking.
- Self-Heal or Shield – Every class has some type of defensive ability, and Harness Magicka is a good one everyone can get. I like Green Dragon’s Blood for the DK or Breath of Life for the Templar. Something here that is your “oh crap” button.
- Defensive or Passive – I just love Absorb Magic here and use it on nearly every character. Some ability that gives a passive boost to tanking. Another example would be Repentance for the Templar.
- Ranged DPS – You’ll need some range whether a class ability, or a leap to close the distance. I like Structured Entropy because its a small heal and it boost our health by a large margin.
- Defensive Ultimate – What’s a good tank without a defensive ultimate? Barrier is the beast mode ultimate though each class has something similar. Take it here for when things get tough.
Bar Two | Range
- Ranged Taunt – Every tank needs something with range in my opinion. Too often are fights covered with massive red circles of death. Not only does this ability get us some range taunt, but if we’re out of stamina, we can use this as a substitute while building up resources.
- Group Heal or AoE DPS – This slot I use for group utility, damage or healing. You can swap in another Sword and Shield, a Destruction Staff, or even a Two-Hander. I just like Restoration since I’m a more defensive minded tank.
- Stamina Buff – Since we have tons of stamina, we’ll need a group buff in case we’re overflowing with it. This ability adds a lot to your tanking bar and can pump up that mitigation to a whole another level. Just make sure you have stamina in reserve for blocking.
- Emergency Heal – Since your the tanking, using bar two can be risky. If you’re not using two Sword and Shields, you’ll take massive damage on a weapon swap if not timed correctly. Therefore, I suggest having a “oh crap” button on this bar as well. Preferably one that can benefit the group as well.
- Stamina Buff – Similar to our previous stamina ability though this one is for speed and breaking roots. This is a must have in Dragonstar Arena (DSA).
- DPS Ultimate – Everyone needs to do damage, and this ultimate is reserved for that. Drop it like it’s hot and nuke down an enemy.
Well our wall of text is over and now you’re a tanking expert! Okay maybe not, but at least we got the basics down. Now comes the hard part, working at it. Don’t be afraid to give it a try, go in and embrace the tanking experiences. It’s not easy that’s why people don’t do it. Though if done right, you’ll be the Captain of every Raid/DSA team out there.
I hope you enjoyed this guide, and I want some feedback on your tanking. What do you do differently?
Noah Smith says
I have really enjoyed reading your how to guide on becoming a tank, it has really helped me with my vampire DK!
Why do you suggest medium? Wouldn’t all heavy armor with a ton of heavy armor upgrades be better?
I like 5 heavy 2 light now.
Has tanking via the nightblade changed at all? I’m thinking about making a tank (really want to) but I like to pigeonhole my characters into specific roles to make me more efficient… I have a DK, but his job is 2H/Bow DPS. I have a VERY low level Templar (8) and I’d ideally like to make him a healer. I’d like to make a Nightblade to tank, but this guide worries me a bit, almost thinking I need to make the Templar a tank.
I like it and have some YouTube videos on it, even a speed run City of Ash.
New Tank says
Great info Deltia, your guides are a godsend. How would you allocate your attribute points for a Templar Tank. Like you’ve said in your videos, without stamina, a tank is useless.. yet Templar tanks require so much magicaka. All three stats are so vital, is It worth an even split?
There’s no one way to set attributes. Depends on a million different factors. Shoot for 25k health than split between magicka and stamina.
Just curious, Is there an advantage to 5 heavy 2 light on a tanking build deltia?
Where would u see most of your attribute points going on a Templar tank build?
Yes, you can cast more which is where my buffs and self healing comes from.
I want to play dragonknight. In group play i want to be tank first and foremost. Solo play i just want to be able to hld my own whenever i need to. Whats the best race. I am torn between imperial, dunmer, nord.
are tanks meant to play as pve solo?
How do you reach 25k hp, i’ve spent like 53 points on health alone and my hp is still around 21k….
Imaginary Tim says
Phantom Raven says
Im not sure why nightblade tanks rank low on the list seeing as they have the highest out right damage mitigation of all the the tanking classes and can teleport puncture aoe Argo dot and slow large groups witch in itself is a great cc if used properly by a skilled tank
Phantom Raven says
Me personally I have successfully and effectively MT all the current trials with my resist capped Vampire Nightblade sword and board Tank I take no extra fire damage witch makes the vampire a great tank purely for the out right damage mitigation yes I will agree the NB has a lack of self heals as in burst but we have bonus healing received witch stacks well with self hots and leaching strikes our out right 60% damage mitigation to self with our bolstering darkness and giving 30% to the group is amazing for clutch moments as not only does the synergy heal your group a fairly large ammount but also turns them invisible dropping Argo the 70% movement speed reduction is amazing as well from the lotus fan and it’s and aoe dot I use that myself then puncture the entire mob buzz they are so stupidly slowed its insanely ez to Argo and hold large group pulls and service effectively from the damage mitigation and increased healing received
Phantom Raven says
My pseronal build is lotus fan,pierce armor,defensive stance,leeching strikes,swallow soul bolstering darkness on main and on backup I use unmovable,reverberating bash shielded assault,leeching strikes,soul tether i run sword board on both bars I’m a wood elf for combat stam regen also a vampire for more damage mitigation my champion points allow me to negate the extra fire damage and I am resist capped this build gives you a damage shield proc reduces enemy healing increases healing received slow enemy movment by 70% making it ezier to agro and good crowd controling capabilities and has high damage mitigation upto a totol of out right 80% before blocking NB also have an insanely fast ultimate recharge do to class passives in siphoning this with the blood spawn monster set literally allows you as a tank to have your ultimate at all times
Phantom Raven says
This build will most likely not work as a starter build it is more of an advanced build focusing on the classes strengths and covering its weaknesses as I also have 40k and change max HP with tri stat food buff and over 15k for each resource witch is more then enough for me as I have continual resource regenerations running at all times do to the leeching strikes restoring 3% of mana and staming every hit with 2% HP and has a hance of restoring 15% each hit and it prods fairly often as well as my wood elf combat stam regen and the vampire magic regen
Redguard Uchiha says
Ok, so my tanking build is as follows(redguard, dk, 5 heavy armor, 2 medium armor)
Green dragon blood
Standard of might
Why Invasion when you can use Chains and bring them closer to your group?
Redguard Uchiha says
I put absorb Majin in its place. I honestly forgot why I put invasion. Thanks for the help!
Redguard Uchiha says
I’ve also gotten rid of deep breath and put in empowering chains in its place
Ok, im a Imperial Templar
and i focused a magicka and health ( 30-30 the current value )
Ulti: Solar Prison
One hand one Shield
Breath of Life
Harness Magicka ( Light Armor active )
My gear full heavy, 5 piece Whitstrake and 3 and 4 piece Seducer Set. I use tri drink because i focused a regeneration.
Why puncturing strikes and why heavy armor? Gives you no benefit to damage.
Good guide, but I must ask if they apply to PS4 version as well? I’m a DK dunmer tank clearing about half of the vet dungeons so far and need advise on what the most effective skill rotations are
Thanks in advance
Yes, the only thing that’s harder for me on consoles is bar swapping. But the ideas behind this guide are the same on all platforms.
where do you put your stats in?
Attributes? Depends on the build, race and gear. Generally health and stamina split.
Can’t help but notice alot of hate for nightblades tanking, I’ve only just started tanking at vr14, I find it fine, with Funnel health and refreshing path, the later buffing my physical resistance aswell as group Heal, puncture, reapers mark for a magicka debuff and dark shades cc, I know I have low damage, but it’s not my job, I solely want to survive and tank damage and this works great with hist bark heavy armor 🙂
The Health Harvester says
but blur costs magicka? you could fit blur on your bar for major evasion and use whitestrakes to get a damage shield that nightblades otherwise lack without the help of healing ward or barrier
The Health Harvester says
I have a Templar tank and nightblade tank that run practically the same build that have dubbed The Health Harvester. 2 malubeth, 5 reinforced twilights embrace, 3 endurance (neck, 1h/s), 3 willpower (rings/resto), with the ritual mundus. the idea is that I achieve about 50% (58% on NB) additional healing from all sources. This makes the healers job much, much easier. however, you cant always rely on a healer which is why this works so well on nightblades and Templars. puncturing sweeps and swallow/sap spamming can easily sustain these tanks especially in mob fights due to the self heals, but also with spell damage glyphs can provide decent damage and even more powerful self healing for my tanks which means quicker and easier fights. NB and temp have different abilities but they both work just as well as each other for my playstyle of high magicka and health pool with minimum stamina. Sorc and dragonknights cannot due this as effectively for me, but I encourage you tanks to try it out. the only difficulty was the patience it took for malubeth, however the build was still solid and very effective without it
The Health Harvester says
Update: its overkill healing done, so I solved this by using hist bark on Templar and whitestrakes on NB
The Health Harvester says
In dungeons/trials. In pvp or while soloing in or out of cyrodil, twilights embrace is still incredibly helpful
Hey deltias ice been running your t3 build since I started I’m now vr6 and tried switching to the t7. Pve has been challenging, any suggestions?
Keep working at it, the game opens up dramatically when you reach VR16.
First off, I just want to say thanks for putting all of this awesome information out here and for it being a really amazing end game guide for the DK tanking build. Secondly, I was wondering if you would be able to recommend a low level tanking build? I’m a Nord DK and I’m currently level 17 but the levels come quickly enough to be 20 soon.
Thanks for your time and advice.
abigail craig says
haven’t finished reading this but I must point out, Templars are not the only ones that can burst heal without a restro staff. nightblades can burst heal as well. they just do so differently. Templars do pure burst, nb on the other hand burst heal through siphon tree that is dependent on 3 things, spell power, max magicka, and number of mobs. a good group can be healed by a nb with just strife or just sap to cover majority of the damage they are taken, for example a properly build nb with just strife can heal as much as a Templar running both regeneration and purifying heal over time. when you consider that with one ability they combine the total hot power of a Templar, you can see that a quick dual regeneration + 2 strifes will outpace a Templars hot. on top of that they can drop refreshing path which should net a nb at least 4500 regen per second from hots. if you need burst heal on top of this, sap essence is your man. this adds at least another 2k (1 target) to the healing and up to over 5k against 6+. the only limitation on nb healing is that its damage based versus Templars is independent.
Matthew Laddiman says
Bar 1 -One Hand and Shield
1 Empowering Chains or Shield Assault
2 Absorb Magic or Igneous Shield
3 Green Dragon Blood
4 Venomous Claw
5 Pierce Armour
Ultimate- Magma Shell
1 Hidden Blade or Burning Talons
2 Igneous Shield or Reflective Plate
3 Volatile Armour
4 Whirling Blades or Rapid Strikes
5 Blood Craze
Ultimate – Take Fight
I love your guided. I’m on xbox one and miss playing on my pci. I was addicted to GW2. Thank you for the builds.
Kaden Shafer says
So Deltia I have been wondering what is better for a Tank pure Health like getting 50k or pure mitigation with less health or a mixture of both…. I don’t know how either of these are calculated and was wondering specifically for trials
Hey this is a great guide. It really allows for tons of flexibilty and teaches people to make there own builds. Could you make one for every role? Dps and healingd also?
Love your guide. Explained so much i didn’t quite understand. Would you mind updating it to Summerset? Thank you!!!!
Yeah man I tried all tanks myself and wanted to see if I was missing anything, vampire skill line. However the Nightblade tank was my favorite tank. And you’re dead wrong about sustainability. Nightblade tanks have probably the best self heals out there man. Most of the time I queue up with my NB my group has no healer and all dps.
Deadly strike, recover 15% hp on a kill with assassin ability, stamina morph, dude, wtf? Assassin and syphon? Shadow is the tanking subclass man, lmao. Look at the passives look at the super. And for fuck sakes man morph your shadow abilities, dark cloak morph heals 30% hp. Assassins bald heals 15% hp, assassins Mark heals you when marked target dies 15 or 30%. Passive resistance buff.
I would say Nightblade tanks are
+ equal resource balance (stam and magic abilities)
-lil clunky and hard to get used to