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Beginner’s Guide: The MMO Trinity – Tank

December 8, 2011

Most of you probably know about the MMO Trinity, which is Tank, Healer, and DPS (Damage Per Second). However, with this blog swinging towards a new MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic, some people may be looking around for information on classes and not know what they are looking at when it comes to their class role. So I have decided to take it upon myself to explain the MMO Trinity as if my audience has never heard of it.

Hate it or love it, most MMOs are built with the idea that there will be someone to take the big hits, someone to heal back up the big hits, and someone to dish out the big hits. That is just a fact of life. There have been other class roles defined by different games, such as Pullers, Support, and Chippers (only know this last one from Rappelz, was kinda like Debuffer). Support is the only class-role besides the Trinity that has seen wide usage.

Tanks are arguably the make-it-or-break-it class-role. Granted, heals are important, but if the tank does their job poorly, the entire group can die. Tanks are built for two things: taking damage and irritating the crap out of monsters.

What are the tanks for <insert my game here>?

No clue, but here are the ones for LOTRO, SWTOR, and WoW (courtesy of Chipchops)! 🙂


  • Guardian
  • Warden
  • Champion (more of an off-tank)
  • Captain (more of an off-tank)


  • Powertech
  • Vanguard
  • Jedi Guardian
  • Sith Juggernaut
  • Jedi Shadow
  • Sith Assassin


  • Warrior (Protection)
  • Paladin (Protection)
  • Druid (Feral Combat – Bear Based)
  • Death Knight (Blood) (as of Cataclysm)

So what is required of a tank?

Building threat

“Threat” is basically how much the monsters around you dislike you. Threat, or “aggro,” is generated through damage done to monsters, healing done to party members, and skills that increase threat directly. You have to maintain a balance with the healers and DPS’ers in the group to keep them from generating more threat than you do. Sometimes this is done with a forced-attack, such as the Guardian’s skill Challenge. Sometimes it is done with a threat-increasing skill, such as the Warden’s skill Precise Blow. Sometimes this balance is maintained by reducing your party members’ threat, such as with the Warden’s skill Conviction, which actually leeches the threat off of the group, or the Captain’s skill Noble Mark, which places a toggled mark on a monster so any group member that attacks it has their threat generation reduced for a little while.

Oo, oo, oo, oo, staying alive, staying alive

After a tank pulls aggro, he will be getting a lot of attention from his new “friends,” and he will want a way to survive that damage. This comes in a variety of ways, such as armor that mitigates, massive health pools, avoidances such as block, parry, and evade, and self-heals. Tanks usually come equipped with several skills that are on a regular-use basis, such as minor temporary self-buffs, etc. Also, tanks often have “emergency skills” that prevent death when they accidentally pull more than they can handle. These are often on long cooldowns so as not to be overused, but strategic timing when using these can save the entire group.


Sometimes one or two mobs get loose from the main tank, and they start running for the healer with a murderous grin on their faces. Who is going to step in? The off-tank, that’s who! Off-tanks are often responsible for annoying mini-bosses, or people that hit harder than normal and need to be taken care of last, such as a boss that is immune to damage, but doesn’t hit to hard. Off-tanks are usually heavy armor classes, but any kind of mitigation will do the trick, including avoidances. Several classes that aren’t often considered “tanks” work quite well in an off-tanking role, such as the Burglar, using their skill Enrage to get the mob off of the healer and popping Touch and Go to add +50% to their evade.

The honorable job

Tanking is really a noble practice, as it is putting yourself on the front lines to protect your allies. The heroic nature of tanking draws many to this class-role; the thought of standing between their friends and danger really appeals to them. Captains have some of the coolest tanking skills, at least conceptually, which is ironic since Captains are really best as off-tanks, not as primary tanks. In Harm’s Way is a skill that makes you take 50% of all the damage done to your group. This can kill you, but it might not, especially if you use another skill called Last Stand, which makes you invincible for a certain period of time. This is a really cool skill combo, and it really brings to mind Boromir in the Fellowship of the Ring, who dies spending his last breath defending Merry and Pippin.

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” – Jesus in John 15:13

  1. December 13, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    Again, here are your WoW additions:

    Class (Specialization)

    Warrior (Protection)
    Paladin (Protection)
    Druid (Feral Combat – Bear Based)
    Death Knight (Blood) (as of Cataclysm)

    I played as a Protection Paladin (off-spec for my Retribution) during Wrath of the Lich King, and really enjoyed it…and it certainly saved random dungeon queue times!

    Taunt on!


  1. December 8, 2011 at 2:31 pm
  2. December 10, 2011 at 7:31 am
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