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League of Legends Guide

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A Guide to LoL Tanking!

written by Chantal

Table of Contents

  • Introduction

    All of this is being written off the top of my head, but I feel like tanks are both the most underrated and underused type of champions at low-mid levels of play, and one of the most devastating if played correctly. There are four things you must learn to have/be to maximize your abilities as one of these characters.

  • Aspects of a Tank

    Dynamic:

    -Tanks, even at lower levels of play, do not handle like a DPS or a support. They, more than any other type of champion, must build and play to their opponents’ team setup. At the most basic level, you wouldn’t want to build MR vs a team of 5 physical DPS, would you? However, it’s not limited to just your item build. A tanks playstyle changes with each team you face, and within each team fight of each match. You are the initiator, you are a disabler, and you are also the designator most of the time. It is your job to hold off those Annies and Ezreals long enough for your team to finish them off. So remember, as a tank, you’re the leader. You make the first move. Side note: if you’re NOT a tank, then you SHOULDN’T make the first move. Unless you’re built to, it won’t end well for you. Never be static. Taking a second or third best option is better than taking no option, so when given the chance, be dynamic and adapt.

    Confidence:

    The number one area where tanks at lower levels of play seem to fail. I always see tanks staying in the back of a group, or being deathly afraid of a turret. If you’re Nasus and that Ryze is getting away with no mana and no cooldowns and 10% health, run up to the freak and shove your big green staff… somewhere safe. Seriously though, turrets don’t hurt that bad. People don’t hurt that bad. Know your limits and take them to the fullest. If you end up dying, but you ace the other team and get a turret, or two, or an inhibitor, or baron, you did your job. I cannot stress this enough. Let’s say you’re Malphite, for a moment. A team fight starts, and you start to panic and wonder what to do. Just remember this: You’re a giant rock. Play like one. Get in there and start head butting people. Ult 2 people, ground pound another 3, pick a target, toss your shard out and beat the living crap out of him. After you’ve blown your cooldowns, you are little more than wasted space for your team. If you’re getting attacked, don’t run away! Run in further! Freak your opponents out, make them panic, make them think “HOLY FUCK ITS A FUCKING GOLEM,” not “Oh lawl that Malphite just used all his cooldowns.” Once people start panicking, they can’t coordinate and become easy pickings for the rest of your team. A tank doing his or her job is absolutely brilliant in a team fight, and it’s like a work of art to see one doing what they do best.

    Commitment:

    As covered in number two, as the tank, once you pick a target, don’t let up until all hope at killing them is lost. Even then, if it’s a team fight, either keep going or pick a new squishy to run over and headbutt into a wall. You’re large and you’re in charge, and when you pick your target, you want to make sure you do everything in your power to make their life a living hell for the duration of the teamfight/chase/what have you. Go in past a turret to get that last hit, or to knock them into your friends. Is it risky? Yes, it is, and that’s why it’s good. Take risks, be unpredictable, and most importantly, melt some faces. When you’re the big guy around (or little guy; hi there Amumu!) make sure everyone knows. If people aren’t scared enough to attack/CC you, you aren’t doing your job as a tank.

    Leadership:

    Perhaps the most important tool in a tank’s box. Rallying your allies behind you as you rush into a team fight is an amazing feeling, and keeping your team under control like that is extremely powerful. A lot of this was covered in number one, so I don’t want to repeat myself too much, but quite simply, take the initiative and do what your gut tells you to. Chances are it’s right.

    All in all, you simply want to be aggressive and effective. This is tough for a lot of people. You’re going to fuck up, you’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to have plenty of matches where you go 0/10 and everyone on your team hates you and thinks you’re the worst player in the world. But don’t be discouraged by these; learn from them. LoL, like any competitive game, relies heavily on experience and adaptation. Every time you make a mistake, the next time you’re in that situation, do something new. Eventually you’ll learn the limits of your character, and it’s an amazing feeling when you tower dive past two turrets, get a double kill, body slam over a wall, toss a barrel to knock back that Fiddlesticks just waiting to drain you to death and make it out of your opponents’ base with less than one hundred life to show for it. When your teammates simply have nothing to say but “Holy shit,” you’ve done your job.

  • Character Choice

    Now, on to character choice. The following is a list of characters that can both fill the “hard tank” role and that I have enough experience as/with/against. For example, many see Nunu as a tank, but I have never used the character and do not know enough about him to give him a spot on this list.

    Alistar: The king of once-was. For the newer players, Alistar used to be the single best tank in the game. He healed way too much, way too often, was impossible to kill, and absolutely destroyed turrets. Now, he is much more tame but he fills a similar role. He is a great tank for pushing teams, has solid initiation, two very good CC spells (a knock-up and a knock-back), his heal which is still very nice for sustaining a push, and an ult that might as well be an invuln & cleanse together. His passive allows him to do good damage to turrets, even without the massive OP combo of Sheen + his old heal. A very solid choice overall and he’ll see a lot more use when draft mode is out I’m sure.

    Amumu: The go-to choice for AoE teams. He has amazing synergy with Nasus, Rammus, Twitch, Nunu, Gangplank, etc, and above all, Katarina and Fiddlesticks. Anyone with solid AoE damage can make use of his ultimate, but that is far from the extent of its power. Characters like Jax and Master Yi are basically allowed to straight up run through a team for a few seconds, which is often all they need towards endgame. As for his other abilities, his stun is nice and a great initiator, and the other two add up to a lot of damage overall in team fights. He may not do as much damage to turrets but around midgame he destroys creep waves and has, overall, some of the highest DPS output of any tank.

    Dr. Mundo: Often picked as a hard tank, I do not feel this is his best role. He doesn’t have the same oomph that other tanks have when built that way, as his damage does not scale with anything after level 9. However, he deserves special mention for a few reasons. For one, I absolutely love this character. He’s good at every phase of the game, has map control, rapes turrets, and above all is very fun to play. He also only needs one item- Spirit Visage- to become one of the best tanks in the game. Due to his reliance on Spirit Visage as is, he has a lot of synergy with Soraka and other healers, though all tanks do. Overall, on Summoner’s Rift he’s a good choice, not the best though and should definitely be built for DPS in my opinion; the tank build simply isn’t strong enough.

    Gragas: My current tank of choice. This man is a beast. I build him for AD/Tank, and he fills both of those roles extremely well and can switch between the two builds at ease thanks to the fact that they both rely on his Drunken Rage. Overall, this man is a walking, booze-filled abomination that can run through an entire team. I love this guy and would not hesitate to put him as a tier two champion. The only tank who is better overall right now, in my opinion, is Shen, and even that is iffy. Gragas simply has amazing initiation, chase, damage output, and one of the best tanking abilities in the game (pretty much second only to like, Defensive Ball Curl in its utility, maybe even better since it is always up). He pushes like a beast too. I highly recommend all tank fans learn him, and he should be one of your top picks as a tank in draft mode. He synergizes particularly well with Taric, in my opinion, as the combination of stun/slow and Taric’s AoE and heal, and Gragas’s ability to dominate a lane and destroy turrets in mere seconds is amazing early game, and late game, those two on your frontline are almost invincible. Also, he can solo 1v1 and 1v2 extremely well, and can jungle too. One of the most versatile and enjoyable champions Riot has added so far.

    Malphite: An extremely awesome and fun to play champion. His major issues are mana and cooldowns. He’s a great jungler, which gives a huge advantage in the current metagame. A good bit of AoE, a great initiating move, some decent chasing (great chasing later on in the game), the bonus of jungling, and an awesome passive. Pick him against physical heavy teams. Fills mostly the same role as Rammus.

    Mordekaiser: I will say this right now. I do not see Mordekaiser as a hard tank on any viable team. Mordekaiser fills a few niche roles: for one, he is one of the best characters at soloing 1v2, right up there with characters like Nidalee. However, he may not be the best choice for this since he can’t really carry a team to victory. His second niche role is that he makes an amazing aura platform. The reason for this is that he can make use of every stat except mana/mana regen, and he isn’t very item dependent and farms incredibly well. If taking him as the only tank on your team, I would still build him for auras, as he is pretty naturally tanky. Other than that, building him for DPS or magic penetration can work well. As I get better though, I start to see why this guy is more of a pubstomper and less of a viable champion in his own right. Don’t get me wrong, he still works on a team well, but he’s for sure a tier four champion, at least in my eyes.

    Nasus: Oh. My. God. I love this guy. Not only does he have some of the coolest animations and voice acting, but he’s one of those tanks with some extreme miracle potential and he cannot be ignored. The general strategy is to farm up your Siphoning Strike until you hit level eleven and get your second level ultimate, at which point you can really just go around raping team fight after team fight. You literally become the best character in the game for the duration of your ult. His slow is, as far as I know, the most powerful slow in the game and it shows (Nunu’s ult may slow for a bit more, but still). People look like they’re snared by the end of Wither. As far as builds go, some of my staple items include Sheen, Aegis of the Legion, and Mercury Treads. Other items that work well for him, I’ve found, are Banshee’s Veil, Chalice of Harmony, Randuin’s Omen, and Stark’s Fervor. The way I play Nasus, Sheen is the only damage item I find myself needing, and I still hit for some really stupidly high numbers on my SS. However, late game SS crits with an infinity edge are freaking hilarious, so while it’s not the optimal build in my opinion, it’s still a very fun and effective one. Overall, most people tend to build him for pure DPS which doesn’t use him to his full potential. His best damage output in a team fight comes from his ult, and the armor reducing abilities of Spirit Fire, neither of which need any AP at all to be effective. As a side note, I used to run magic pen reds as this guy, but recently switched to armor pen and I definitely feel they’re better despite a lot of his damage being magic. This is probably due to magic getting an easy 15% penetration and the armor pen runes giving almost twice as much penetration. As for lane mates, if you can get a Soraka, do it; it very well may be the most powerful lane in the game as far as pushing goes. Other than that, if you’re taking Teleport or Clarity (I don’t) or get a Chalice plus MP5 runes (what I do), you can do well with pretty much anyone who either has a stun or can destroy turrets. Once again, this guy fills a similar role to Gragas and thus works well with a lot of the same characters. Overall an amazing champion, and definitely should be considered a top pick for amazing survivability, jungling skills, damage output, massive AoE, and chasing capabilities with Wither/Randuin’s. A tier two champ at the lowest, and I would not be surprised at all if I saw him in tier one.

    Rammus: A fun tank who used to be extremely effective. He’s mostly outclassed by Shen now, but will be a good second choice. He’s a brutal counter to melee carries like Master Yi, and can push well, as well as put out some great AoE DPS with tremors. I wouldn’t take him as a first choice tank, but as a second pick, he does everything a tank needs to do reasonably well. He has the most trouble with casters, as compared to Shen/Gragas/Alistar/etc, he has no pure damage reduction, and MR is a lot less effective against casters than armor is against physical DPSers.

    Shen: Probably the current best tank out there, even with the recent Feint nerf. He has global map presence with his ultimate, and an AoE taunt is way too good, not to mention a very powerful laning phase. Honestly I would put him below Nasus and Gragas if I made a tier list, but others disagree with that. There’s really nothing special about him; he does well with anyone, and can make almost any team composition a lot better. Definitely fun to use as long as you don’t mind being labeled as a try hard. Items without too many mana bonuses (Rylai’s, Leviathan, Force of Nature, Thornmail, Randuin’s Omen, etc) are all good choices for him, as is Banshee’s Veil if you need the bubble is always a good investment.

    Sion: A rare AP tank that actually works. I would put him in an off tank role on a team, though. In my opinion he has the best stun in the game, and with two abilities (one of which is a shield) on a 1:1 AP ratio, building him AP is the way to go. I’ve never done an AD or pure tank build so I cannot comment on those. As far as items go, as far as I know pure AP is good enough for him. Again, not the first choice, but definitely viable.

    Taric: Healing is OP right now, and Taric’s heal is extremely good. The combination of a powerful laning phase and amazing pushing, as well as a great stun and general team fight presence with built in AoE armor/damage buffs make him a great choice for almost any team. Try to pair him up with someone else who has a stun, or someone who can drop a turret early game like Ezreal or Kayle, if not another tank.

    That’s all for now. Hope someone makes use of it!



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Submitted by Chantal


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