Tanks are one of the more selfless roles where players are tasked with playing for the team instead of themselves. Tanks are generally extremely passive during the laning phase and only play aggressively when going in for your team. These champions are not for players who enjoy seeing action but since their only purpose is mostly to die first for the team. It’s understandable why a lot of players are unfamiliar with how to play this role, so let’s learn what makes an efficient tank in the game.
Why should you play tanks?
Playing a tanking role is one of the most selfless things you can do in the game. An efficient team composition always contains one to two tanks which can be played in the top lane, support, jungle, or even mid lane on some situations. Your success depends entirely on your tank’s ability to play for the team and keep your carries safe from harm’s way. You’ll need to play this role if all your other members insist on playing carries.
The most difficult thing about playing a tank is the fact that you need to learn when to engage as compared to when you play a standard carry role. Having a significant lack of damage means that it’ll take time for you to kill your target and give the enemy team some time to come at you. It might seem brainless to dive right into battle and take damage, but a true tank player will know when to die strategically.
The Tanking Role by Lane
Each lane has a unique pool of tank champions that have specific roles to fulfill for the team. Not all tanks work similar to each other, depending on the lane you’re in, you’ll be doing a unique task for your team. Familiarizing yourself with what you need to do as a tank champion on the role you play will prove to be useful so that you don’t get caught out doing actions that will only confuse your teammates during the game.
The top lane is one of the two primary lanes where tank champions thrive in the team. A top lane tank usually serves as the main engage for the team and is tasked with freely farming up minions without worry and building up towards defensive items. Tanks in this lane generally don’t participate in aggressive laning phases but should be ready to Teleport when one of the other lanes are posturing up for a fight.
Top Lane Tank Champions:
- Dr. Mundo
The main thing that top lane tanks should worry about is soaking up pressure to make the enemy Jungler go after you in the lane. Since tanks in the top lane have a lot of survivability, it creates the perfect opportunity for you to take a bit of a beating to help your team feel more secure in their lanes. When your jungler tries to gank your lane, make sure to give your jungler the kill since being a tank being ahead doesn’t benefit your team that much.
Tank champions in the jungle generally have excellent wave clear capabilities by having AoE skills or excellent self-sustain. The most efficient jungle tank though, like most jungle champions, is one that is able to close the gap between enemies and land a crowd-control ability to make ganking effective. This also means that jungle champions are excellent at starting engages and catching out enemies for successful teamfights.
Jungle Tank Champions:
- Jarvan IV
- Nunu & Willump
Tanks in the mid lane aren’t like your usual tanks. They need to build more towards damage items with a side of tank stats to keep them relevant in the game. A mid lane tank champion should have global presence or an increased capability to roam the map. While the mid lane isn’t an ideal situation to play a tank champion, it certainly has its benefits when doing so. There are only a few mid lane tanks in the game.
Mid Lane Tank Champions:
A tank in the support role is the other of the two primary places where tank champions thrive. Since the support always accompanies a carry, they have no need to build any form of damage items. They can freely build there tank items but will take a longer time compared to other champions that can get them faster. The ideal tank champion is one that can protect the carries or engage on them easily with their Crowd Control.
Support Tank Champions:
- Tahm Kench
Support tanks generally build towards their defensive items really slow. The items that they prioritize are those that are capable of protecting allies or those that help them stay longer in battle. The support tank can either play to go hard engage but will often simply protect allies from harm by staying close to their carries. They always look towards their important allies and will stand in front of harm’s way for their team.
Tank’s Main Responsibilities
The several duties and responsibilities that a tank should do have already been mentioned in this guide a few times. However, we’ll need to elaborate on how these responsibilities actually work.
The tank is always positioned in front of the team. This is because he should be able to prevent the enemy damage dealers from getting into your team. Being in front of the damage dealers also means that they’ll need to waste their skills or resources to go through you which will leave the enemy team without anything to harm your allies. The frontal position also gives you an easier time to engage on the enemy team from a strategic position.
2. Soaking Damage
Soaking damage doesn’t necessarily mean going into the midst of battle to get hit by the entire enemy team. Tanking also involves you trying to dodging as much damage as you can before a big fight. Try to predict your enemies skillshots and take the damage yourself. When your allies are confident about going for a play, try to bait the enemies ultimate by engaging first.
Most non-tank champions, like Azir, are great primary engagers but tanks should always be ready to follow up the engage with their own kit. Remember that a primary rule for engaging is your allies should be nearby and ready to assist you. You will almost always be left alone to fight the enemy team in the middle of the fight. If everything goes bad, you’ll need to do everything you can to attract the attention of your enemies to leave your allies alone.
The Laning Phase
Tanks during the laning phase only care about farming minions above everything else. Trying to secure kills by yourself is almost impossible having a very low damage output. The best way to secure kills is by assisting your allies so that you can dish enough damage and break away from a fight if necessary. If you’re planning to go full on a full tank build, try to give the kills away to your carries since they help you more.
At this point in the game, you can probably deal enough damage to contribute to threaten the enemy team but it will fall off really quickly once you reach level 10 and up. Even though your damage output is low, you can still contribute a few points of damage which will become crucial during teamfights.
The Mid Game
The mid game is your most vulnerable state. At this point, the enemy team will have peaked on their damage output at the game, we’ll explain why later on. The goal in this stage of the game is to try and survive the inevitable teamfights and skirmishes that you’re about to participate in. There’s a high chance of you dying in these fights because of the lack of defensive stats that you have.
If you’re in the lead, you’d probably have a bounty on you which is pretty inconvenient to have as a tank. Try to adjust your itemization depending on the enemy teams primary damage source. This is to help you survive longer in battle while building up for the late game.
The Late Game
The late game is where the tank is the strongest. Having an almost complete item set will make you extremely difficult to take down immediately. Most of the time, you’re just soaking up damage from the enemy team without worrying too much about the consequences since you can heal it back up quickly. Jumping right into the middle of a fight won’t immediately take you down but you should still be careful.
This also means that you have inherent value to the survival of the team. You are the primary lifeline keeping them alive. You should stick close to your teammates so that the enemy team won’t keep on posturing on them and find an opportunity to steal the game away. Dying by yourself means that there’s nothing keeping your allies from being bursted down quickly. The frontline should never be caught out by themselves.
Choosing the Right Tank Items
Unlike carries, your itemization is extremely diverse. You don’t get to build one set of items every single game depending on the champion you’re playing. Your choice of items will instead depend on what opponents you are facing or the state of the game.
Standard Core Items
A standard item core for tanks are items such as Sunfire Cape which give you a little bit of damage on the early stages of the game. It gives a decent amount of armor and an incredible value for HP. It also helps you clear the wave better thanks to the passive damage.
Warmog’s Armor is best when you’ve stacked up enough armor or magic resist during the mid to late game. This is generally a 3rd or 4th item build to help you fight extended fights and go in and out freely. This is the best item when the enemy has a heavy poke or harass comp.
You should only use this item if you have crowd control abilities to lock down enemies in pursuit. This can be a great engage tool combined with your CCs to create a chain. Not an item worth building if all your CCs are long range or you don’t have any at all.
Useful in all situations. It makes you harder to kill and is a great tool to soak up all your enemies ultimate abilities and summoner spells. You should build this as your 2nd item or later.
Heavy Attack Damage Comps
If the enemy team has a high attack damage composition and relies mostly on their marksmen, Thornmail will protect you and help you fight them off. This is also useful if the enemy just has high healing because of the greivous wounds that it inflicts.
When your enemy team relies mostly on critical damage, this item will help you defend some of it. This also dulls marksmen because of the cold steel ability that lowers down attack speed.
Heavy Ability Power Comps
The primary defensive item for when your enemies have heavy ability power pokes and abilities. It helps you survive the burst damage from AP champions too.
Build this item if you have healing abilities or an ally with healing abilities. It provides a good amount of magic resist and health.
Locket of the Iron Solari
If you can’t stop your enemies from reaching your teammates, it’s best you build this item to keep them safe. The extra shield they’ll receive is much more valuable than being tanky yourself.
If you have an extremely valuable player that constantly gets caught out, build this item to protect them from a good percentage of the damage they are receiving. This will help them survive longer.
Champions that have shields should consider buying Redemption even if they are not a support. This also helps your team survive longer and is more valuable than being tanky yourself.