Rift: In-Depth guide to Tanking

written by Elicas@TT From: Tank Telara

Intro to Tanking

This guide shouldn't hold too much any current min-maxers in other MMO's do not already know, and is more of a repository of knowledge for nearly 10 years of MMO tanking experience. If you've made it this far and your still interested in learning more, read on hero!

First things first, any prospective tank needs to know a few basic terms used in the tanking community. These terms are pretty much universal, being in use in most mmo games across the spectrum. These are useful terms for all three player archtypes to know, Damage Per Second classes (DPS), Healers and Tanks.

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MOB and PC's - These are the terms used for Non-Player Characters (NPC) that are Hostile towards the Players Characters (PC's). Mobs short for "monsters" come in several varieties.

Casters - Have a mana bar and cast spells at the highest threat PC, these can also in some cases heal other mobs. Casters should usually be targetted first.

Ranged - Focus on the person with highest threat with a ranged physical attack, usually a bow or a gun.

Melee - These focus on the highest threat PC usually with high single target damage.

AoE - Can be any mix of the above, focussed on dealing damage to the whole group or party.

Trash - Non boss mobs inside of instances are usually known as 'Trash Mobs' . Trash mobs can be non-elite or elite status (see below).

Mobs have three designations. Non-elites, Elites and Boss mobs. Non-elites are usually soloable mobs in the world area, or trash mobs in an instance. Elites usually require either multiple persons to down, a significantly higher level PC, or a build that is specifically suited for taking on Elite mobs with self healing and other advantadges. Boss mobs generally always require a full group of five PC's unless the PC is of a much higer level. For example, it is possible to solo Realm of the Fae as a level 35 tank, where a full group of five including a tank and healer are required at level 20.

Armour Mitigation(AM) - Also called Armour Contribution (AC), this is the amount of physical damage that is reduced by the armour you wear. A Tank taking physical hits wants as much armour as is possible to gain. This typically does not negate magical damage. AM is what is taken away from a hit that has not been avoided or blocked.

Blocking - Blocking is where an extra percentage of incoming physical damage is blocked by the PC's shield, and thus the damage is lessened. This is usually before AM is factored into the incoming hit. Block is an important stat for all tanks that use a shield, worthless for anyone that doesn't use a shield. Currently it is unknown on whether or not a block will be able to completely block all incoming damage from an attack, or just a percentage of the damage. If all the damage is blocked, it is known as a critical block.

Effective Health (EH) - This is how much raw Health Points (HP) you have modified by the damage reduction of your Armour Mitigation (AM). The maths is Health / (1-AC%). Therefore a level 50 tank with 10,000 HP and an AM of 50%, would have (10,000 / 0.5) 20,000 effective health. Important - This only affects physical damage taken by mobs melee swings, not damage done by non-physical special abilities and spells.

Crowd Control (CC) - Crowd Control, better known by the term CC, is a players ability to render a mob harmless for a set duration of time. This could be through a fear spell or perhaps using your mage to polymorph the target into a squirrel. There are many forms of CC in Rift and learning which ones your group has can be the difference between success and failure.

RNG - RNG is Random Number Generation. This means the game rolls a virtual dice and applies the number to the action you are doing. For example, on a roll of a 50 or more out of 100, you dodge the next attack (Made up numbers). This is where a persons inherant luck comes out, particulaly unlucky players can get in a scenario where they might not dodge or parry a single attack for an entire fight, where other lucky so and so's get a whole string of dodges and don't take any damage at all for periods of a fight. This leads many tanks to primarily gear for EH and AM, due to it being a static amount rather than a luck based random roll.

Sequential Marking - This is where the group leader/raid leader (usually the tank) marks the mobs of a multi target group pull with icons that indicate in what order they must be killed and what will be CC'd. In some games you get hovering icons such as a skull or a X, in Rift we have numbers that hover over a mobs head. Usually marks will be given as 1-3 the top most important mobs to die first, in that order, with lower marks being given for mobs that need to be controlled.

Avoidance - This is your ability to completely avoid all incoming damage. Unlike block, avoidance always gives you a chance to get away from a hit scot free. However, avoidance can be a RNG nightmare, where some tanks will be lucky from one fight to the next, others unlucky weeks on end. Avoidance generally comes in the form of either dodge or parry and is always a good stat to take. However it is the general consensus that you should not gear for avoidance instead of EH. Neither view points is right or wrong, it all boils down to personal preference. The basic difference between an avoidance tank and an EH tank is this;

An avoidance tanks takes fewer hits, but get hit harder,
an EH tank takes more hits, for less damage.

Taunting - A taunt is an ability that forces the mob it is used on/cast on to focus attack the caster/user for X number of seconds. In Rift taunts usually work for 3 seconds. An example taunt is the Paladin souls 'Shield Throw'

AoE - Area of Effect. The area that an ability is affected by, commonly used with the terms AoE DPS or AoE Tanking. AoE DPS means using large radius damage spells on a group of monsters. AoE Tanking means to hold aggro on multiple mobs at once. This is most commonly seen during trash encounters in raid instances and first tier non-elite spawns at Rifts.

Threat Generation - All mobs have a built in threat/hate list. The person at the top of this list is the person that the mob will attack. There are three ways to get to the top of the list, damaging abilities, healing abilities and taunts.

Healing abilities cause a small amount of hate, usually 50% of the amount healed.

Damaging abilities usually do 100% of the damage caused plus your threat modifier. Paladin soul tanks have the ability to take talent points that increase the amount of threat your abilities generate.

Taunts automatically put you at the top of the threat list and usually make the affected mobs target you for a set amount of seconds. This is useful for pulling mobs that are attacking another player, but you must continue to build threat on them or risk losing them again.

Tanking is defined as being the person with enough effective health, armour mitigation, or avoidance to survive a mobs attacks, while balancing enough threat generation to hold the hate/threat of a monster.

Tanking Souls

There are four main tanking souls for warriors, the Reaver, Warlord, Void Knight and Paladin.

Paladin - High block and shield values. EH monster.

Reaver - Fast threat generation, self healing and area of effect(AoE) tanking. Threat generator.

Warlord - Party buffs and passive tanking abilities. Buff/Debuff specialist.

Void Knight - Specialised anti magical tanking abilities. Magical damage resistances and mana drains. Magical EH.

Each of these trees can be mixed and matched to suit your own personal play style. However, you can only have three of the four tree usable at one time.

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The Do's and Do Not's of tanking

There are few mistakes that every new tank usualy makes. These aren't necessarily major things, but can seriosuly impact your ability to get new groups, especially in a game where server reputation will make or break a tanks prospective game time. If you build a rep as a solid tank who listens to his group, you can almost guarantee you will be sought after to tank 5-man and possible even pick-up group raid content.

The Do's are small, but very important:

  • A tank must taunt mobs off of a healer before he taunts from a DPS.
  • A tank must feel no shame if a DPS continues to pull aggro from a target that has not got the highest sequence mark. For example DPS A has continued threat on Mark 3, while mark 1 and 2 are still alive.
  • A tank must be prepared to be blamed for wiping, tanking and healers have the most stressful jobs in a group and at some time or another, you will be blamed for it, even if it's not your fault!
  • A tank must listen to what CC his group has available and use it accordingly. If you have CC availible, use it. It could mean the difference of surviving a pull, or wiping on the 6 mob pack you tried to rambo.
  • A tank must interrupt as many spells as possible when tanking casters, to make the healers life as easy as possible. Especially healing spells, DPS outside of your guild/regular play group can not always be relied upon to do it for you.
  • The must not's are also relatively small, though equally important.
  • A tank must not rage quit out at the first sign of trouble. This is the number one way to get yourself a bad reputation and stop getting invites to groups. Wiping on trash because a CC was resisted or the healer was a little slow to keep you up and leaving the group with a "F@#! you guys, find another tank!" is not a way to get yourself remembered fondly.
  • A tank must not rely upon his taunts to keep aggro. Taunts are there for if something goes wrong, perhaps a mob knocks you back and wipes the threat that you have, perhaps a healer heals you before you have threat on mob number 7 and that mob runs off to smack your cleric about. Having taunts on cooldown all the time is not a good way to go. If it's happening, you need to evaluate either your playstyle, or that of your group members.
  • A tank must not believe himself to be god. You have the most health, you have the most mitigation and avoidance. You don't usually have the most healing and DPS at the same time. You want to clear the content, you need the other group members just as much as they need you. Possibly more so, a well co-ordinated group with 4 CC's, a healer and an off healer should be able to clear most of an instance except perhaps for bosses. Play nicely.

Tanks in Combat

And now we get to the meat and vegetables of this guide, the how to: combat. Having great theorrtical knowledge behind your class doesn't realistically prepare you for the realities of combat tanking and unfortunately nothing i say in this guide can do anything other than give you a solid idea of what you have to work with. No amount of guides can play the game for you.

Practice makes perfect.

It should be noted in Rift that combat has a slightly more tactical and in depth approach than many competitors, as it has a slightly longer global cooldown (GCD) on abilities on your hotbar than many of it's peers. This allows for more thought between ability usage rather than mashing your highest threat generating abilities and hoping for the best.

Warriors in Telara make use of Attack Points(AP) and an energy bar. The energy bar powers most of our abilities and buffs, while said abilities are split into two categories. Attack Point generators and Attack Point consumors. AP's are built to a maximum of three, displayed by the swords under your portrait, and then used by AP consumors to do a specific action that is determined by the amount of AP's you have built up.

For example, a Paladins righteous blow consumor does 100% weapon damage +X at 1 AP, and 140% weapon damage +X2 at 3AP.

Energy is regained over time at a pretty fast rate, you shouldn't be starved for energy unless you are spamming your highest cost abilties repeatedly.

How to Mark

Marking is a relatively straightforward concept and is made nice and easy in Rift. The default keybindings for marking are Alt+1,2,3,4,5 etc. This puts the corresponding number over the target mobs head in game. This can also be done by right clicking on the mobs target portrait and clicking 'Mark'. The basic way to mark is to give each CC a low down number, say 5 or 6, while giving the most immediate threats the higher numbers of 1 and 2. This gives your dps a set way to dps through the mobs, reducing the risk of pulling aggro from you by attacking a target that isn't the one you are concentrating on.

Remember: If a dps concentrates on the target you marked as 3 and pulls aggro, while 1 and 2 are still alive, they are a bad dps, you are not a bad tank. Taunt the mob back and ask the dps to make sure they attack the correct number in future. If you lose aggro on a lower marked mob to your healer when the healer is just healing and not dpsing this means you need to work harder on your aoe threat.

Remember: For five man groups only the Party Leader can mark, in raids only the Raid Leader and designated Raid Assistants can mark. If you want to mark tank targets, make sure your either the party leader or that you and the party leader are on the same page. It's usually easiest for the tank to be party lead.

Single Target Rotations

Rotations? Something that DPSers use to maximise their damage! However tank do have rotations too! Tank rotations usually always follow the lines of a priority system and tanks in Rift are no different. I won't post a priority system for each possible spec combination, there are so many different soul choices and combinations that it would be impossible for me to catch every single sub build that is thought up. However, the following guidelines should always be used in a single target situation.

Pull -> Self Mitigation/Spell Interrupt -> Target Mitigation -> Threat

What this means is on the pull, get your self buffs up, followed by your target debuffs, followed by your 'Adds additional threat' abilities. Some threat abilities tie into the mitigation abilities and some do not. Spell interrupts are also very important for a tank, as spell damage is usually not mitigated by your armour and generally cannot be blocked. This means interrupting a bosses nuke can mean the difference between getting a mob down or you taking a hammering from incomming damage and wiping. If a mob can heal themselves, it is also important for you to interrupt the heal. I'll do a basic list from a paladin's perspective so that you can see where a paladins skills come in to this rotation guideline.

Shield Charge -> Aggressive Block/Face Slam -> Pacifying Strike. Disarming Counterblow. -> Retaliation. Light's Hammer. Paladins Reprisal. -> Consumor at 3 AP.

Disarming Counterblow and Retaliation are both off of the GCD and should be used whenever availible. If Disarming Counterblow cannot actually disarm the target (some bosses are immune) then alternate between Retaliation and Paladins Reprisal depending on the add situation. PAladins Reprisal should only be used if there are no add's nearby that are being tanked by an off tank or that are being CC'd.

Multi-Target Rotations and Taunting

Multi-Target pulls and priority systems are slightly different from single target fights. The basic theories are the same, keep your mitigation skills up and use your highest threat generators, but the practice is more complex as there are more mobs to follow. The following guidelines are again written from a paladin mainsoul's perspective, for a typical three mob pull consisting of two melee (Marked 2 and 3) and one caster (Marked with a 1).

Shield Throw at one melee mob then Shield Charge at the caster mob -> Aggresive Block the melee who wasn't hit by the shield -> Sweeping Strike, Judgement -> Single Target priority system starts.

One further change can be made to the single target rotation when being used to tank multiple mobs and that is to try and put Pacifying Strike on every mob that is hitting you with physical damage. This should only be done when you are comfortable with tanking basics however.

Judgement is a multi-mob taunt that affects up to ten mobs and most experienced tanks with save this for an 'Oh S@#~' moment where a DPS has started their AoE damage a tad early and pulled several mobs off of you. It is advisable for all newer tanks to leave this button alone unless needed, because if you get used to using it all the time and form a bad habit it is incredibly hard to break yourself out of it at a later date. Each tank soul gains an AoE taunt at root ability fourteen(14).

The Differences Between Rifts and Instances

This is a rather small section that highlights a few of the differences between tanking Rifts and tanking Instances. The most important difference is group composition. Most Rifts will be completed in a public party or raid, where you cannot influence who the other players are. You might get several healers focussing on you, you might have no healers and die every time you pick up an elite mob, you might get a group of four or five tanks each taunting off of each other fighting for top contribution. Theres no way to tell what your group will be, so be prepared to die several times per Rift unless you run with a healer buddy/guildies or get lucky with a cleric in the group.

Instances on the other hand, are generally much easier to set up a group that will work out well and play to each others strengths and weaknesses. For example, if your healer is new you could get a bard or chloromancer dps into the group to help support the new healer. If your two guildie DPS are both melee, you could look for a ranged or a caster DPS. Your group will always know that you are the tank, you will always know who your healer(s) are.

The main difference however, is in how items drop during Rifts and Instances. During a Rift, you will fill up a contribution bar that determines the amount of loot you get. This could be White Plainarite, Blue Sourcestones or even Epic Tokens, as well as artifacts, short duration buffs, green and blue world drop items and all sorts of other goodies. In an instance there are a set number of bosses, each boss has a chance to drop a certain number of blue/epic items depending on dungeon difficulty and level. All trash inside of Instances has it's own trash blue drop table based on the Instance in question. This makes killing a selected boss that you know drops an item you need, or 'farming' much more reliable in an Instance.


There are several consumables all tanks should carry on them whether they are Rifting or Instancing. Health potions, buff flasks and buff foods are usually mandatory in end game content. Leveling content is of course much more lenient. There are also different random drops from Rifts that could be very useful for a tank depending on what shares cooldowns with what. This is something all tanks will need to work out for themselves as to what works well for them on a personal level.
The motto for consumables is the same as the scouts: Always be prepared.


It is most likely that further refinements will be made to the current professions. As it stands the best that can be made are level 50 green items. It is usual for most MMO's to implement high level recipe's for players who Instance and Raid at a high level. With this in mind the best probable combination for a tank is likely to be Mining, Butchering and Armour-smithing.

This combination should allow almost any newcomer tank to make themselves a decent set of starter tank gear before heading into an instance. If/when rare and epic level recipes become available, Armour-smithing is likely to remain the go-to profession for the majority of tanks.

Races and Character Customisation

Races have several distinct advantages over one another, depending on how Trion balance racials. When picking your character it is important to keep what exactly it is you want the character to do in game.

For example, if your building a PVP tank, make your character as big as the slider allows, to make it easier for your healers to hide behind you and make it more likely the enemy will target you. This works well with a premade group where the healers all know to roll a character that is small!

The general stats to keep an eye on when creating your character are Strength and Endurance. Either of these stats are great for a Tank, where Dexterity, Intelligence and Wisdom are rather useless.

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Keep in mind Tanking is a mindset not just a tool for finding yourself instant invites to groups at end game. If your not focussing on your tanking, your going to be doing both yourself and your groups a disservice. You need to be willing to put your character in harms way, be prepared to be the guy who dies ten times a night at the raid while the others reset the boss to avoid a repair bill, be prepared to have your every move scrutinised by DPS doing less damage than a wet noodle, be prepared to have the healer who's watching Miss World rather than your healthbar complain that the wipe was your fault.

I'm not trying to dissuade you from tanking, but the tanking community is small and tight knit for a reason, we all enjoy being mister important, having groups look to us and saying "Where do we go now cap?", throwing ourselves in harms way to keep other people alive and not being noticed for it.
Tanking isn't the place to go if you want everyone to notice how great you are. Most runs end with a "hey nice healing" or a "wow great dps, wish i could do that!". Very rarely you'll get a "Smooth run, nice pulls" or a "Thanks for tanking" from someone, but don't count on it. We're there to give the other people a great time and most of us get our kicks from knowing the reason everyone else had a great time was that we performed well.

Tanking is a rewarding, but highly stressful 'online-job'. You'll be relied upon, shouted at, glorified and cursed at, sometimes all in the same evening, but we love it.
Head on over to our forums to join in more discussions on tanking with either myself or one of our other crew members, i look forward to hearing what your opinions are.

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