I. Classes and Specializations
II. Choosing Gear and How to Spot Upgrades
III. Abilities and How to Use Them
IV. Talents at Level 15
V. Preparing for Your First Dungeon
VI. Helpful Settings and Resources
III. Abilities and How to Use Them
If you’re new to tanking—and especially if you’re new to the game in general—you might be intimidated by the various abilities you have on your action bar or in your Spellbook (P key). Which ones do you use? When should you use them? It might not be immediately obvious which ones are useful to you and when. Don’t worry, that’s what I’m here to help you figure out!
I’ll be listing all the relevant active abilities for each class up through level 20. (I’ve explained in the intro why this guide is only for level 15-20.) If it’s not listed here, it’s because you will probably not use it regularly as a tank (for example, the Cat Form abilities that druids learn). I’ll also describe when you should use the ability, or why you should use it. Hopefully it all makes sense!
Heroic Strike (level 1) – a basic single-target strike that uses rage. Use it when you have a full rage bar, and nothing else to use that rage on. It’s often described as a “rage dump” ability, helping you to get rid of rage if you’re full so you can generate more.
Throw (level 1) – a simple ranged attack that you can use to pull enemies from a distance. It is generally not that useful, since you’ll usually want to make use of Charge to rush into your enemies instead. (It is also very very weak, so you will not get solid aggro on the enemy you use it on.) But, if you use it on an enemy, then run around a corner (often described as a “line-of-sight pull”), you might be able to force enemies to come to you, instead of you charging into their midst and potentially risking a pull of other enemies over there. Once you get Heroic Throw at level 22, you’ll probably never use this ability again.
Charge (level 3) – an attack where you rush towards an enemy. It generates rage and is generally how you’ll open most fights.
Victory Rush (level 5) – an attack you can only use for a little while after killing an enemy. It heals you, so you can use it whenever you see it light up. A free attack + healing can only help you (and your healer)!
Defensive Stance (level 9) – one of three stances that warriors will eventually learn. The stances are located above your main action bar on the bottom left, and you can switch between them. Defensive Stance decreases your damage taken and increases threat generation, so you should always be in this stance when you are tanking.
Shield Slam (level 10) – an ability that does damage and generates rage for you. This will be your primary rage generator ability, so use it whenever it’s available.
Taunt (level 12) – an ability that forces your target to attack you (technically, it raises your threat level to the same level as whoever your target is currently attacking). It is recommended you do NOT start a fight with this ability, but save it for when you lose aggro on an enemy or need to pull an enemy who is attacking your teammate. You’ll want to follow up a Taunt with a few attacks to ensure you keep aggro on your target. If you just Taunt and then do nothing, it is likely your teammate will surpass you in threat again, and the enemy will continue to attack them.
Sunder Armor (level 16) – an ability that places a Weakened Armor debuff on your target. It’s great for generating threat, and stacks up to 3 times, so use it frequently. At level 26, it will be replaced by a more powerful version, Devastate.
Shield Block (level 18) – a defensive ability that lets you block all melee attacks for 6 seconds after you use it. You can use it as a rage dump instead of Heroic Strike to help protect yourself from damage. You’ll want to determine which is the best in your current situation—do you want to defend yourself from damage, or attack your enemies more to generate threat and help kill the enemy?
Thunder Clap (level 20) – an area-of-effect (AoE) ability, which means it attacks multiple enemies at once. As your only AoE ability so far, this is an invaluable ability to help you grab aggro on multiple enemies fast. Use it after a Charge when you’re in the midst of a pack of enemies, and use it every time it is available to maintain aggro on a group. You can also use it on single-target fights just to apply the Weakened Blows debuff.
Judgement (level 5) - a single-target attack that causes damage; it requires an active seal to use. See those little buttons over your main action bar? That’s where your seals can be activated. At this level, you will only have Seal of Command, so make sure that is always active. Use Judgement whenever it is available to do damage and generate threat on your opponent.
Hammer of Justice (level 7) - an ability that stuns your opponent for 6 seconds. It’s on a minute cooldown, so save it for a situation when you need to interrupt a spellcast or keep a tough enemy stunned while you cast a quick heal. Keep in mind that some enemies, especially bosses, are immune to stuns.
Word of Glory (level 9) - an instant-cast heal that requires Holy Power charges to use, becoming more effective the more Holy Power you have. At this level, it’s the only ability you have that uses your Holy Power, so don’t be afraid to use it on yourself if you’re taking a lot of damage fast.
Avenger’s Shield (level 10) - an extremely-useful attack that allows you to attack from a distance and hit up to 3 enemies. Use this as your primary opening attack when you pull a group of enemies. You can also use it as a silence, so if a spellcaster is casting a spell from afar, use it to interrupt their spell and force them to come closer.
Righteous Fury (level 12) - a simple buff, but an extremely important one. When active, it causes you to generate more threat. If you are a tank, ALWAYS make sure that this is active! Never forget it!
Reckoning (level 15) - an ability that forces your target to attack you (technically, it raises your threat level to the same level as whoever your target is currently attacking). It is recommended you do NOT start a fight with this ability, but save it for when you lose aggro on an enemy or need to pull an enemy who is attacking your teammate. You’ll want to follow up Reckoning with a few attacks to ensure you keep aggro on your target. If you just Reckoning and then do nothing, it is likely your teammate will surpass you in threat again, and the enemy will continue to attack them.
Lay on Hands (level 16) - a powerful heal that heals for your total health amount. Essentially, a spell that heals all of your health if you use it on yourself! It has a 10 minute cooldown and causes the Forbearance debuff for 1 minute, however, so only use it in an emergency.
Divine Shield (level 18) - a powerful ability that makes you invulnerable for 8 seconds. It has a 5 minute cooldown and causes the Forbearance debuff for 1 minute. While a spell that makes you invulnerable may sound great for tanking, what the spell does not mention is that if you use it while tanking... all the monsters attacking you will immediately ignore you and go after everyone else in your party. Enemies aren’t stupid; they won’t waste their time attacking an invulnerable target. In light of this, Lay on Hands is probably the better option in an emergency. That’s not to say you should never ever use Divine Shield, but you need to use your best judgment and weigh the risks of using it.
Hammer of the Righteous (level 20) - an AoE (area-of-effect) ability that hits all nearby targets and causes the Weakened Blows debuff on them. It also generates a charge of Holy Power. An extremely useful ability that shares a cooldown with Crusader Strike. You can use Hammer of the Righteous to apply the debuff, then alternate using Crusader Strike if there’s only one enemy, or Hammer of the Righteous if there are multiple enemies.
Holy Wrath (level 20) - an AoE ability that causes damage to enemies around you, and also stuns them if they are Demons or Undead. Use it if you’re attacking a group of enemies to generate threat, especially if they are Demons or Undead!
Mangle (level 6) - a basic attack that generates rage when you are in bear form. Use it whenever it is available.
Bear Form (level 8) - your tanking form. You’ll always want to be in this form when tanking, as it makes you more durable and increases your ability to generate threat. (Not to mention that all your relevant tanking abilities are only available in this form.)
Maul (level 8) - a basic attack that uses rage. Use it when you have a full rage bar, and nothing else to use that rage on. It’s often described as a “rage dump” ability, helping you to get rid of rage if you’re full so you can generate more.
Growl (level 8) - an ability that forces your target to attack you (technically, it raises your threat level to the same level as whoever your target is currently attacking). It is recommended you do NOT start a fight with this ability, but save it for when you lose aggro on an enemy or need to pull an enemy who is attacking your teammate. You’ll want to follow up Growl with a few attacks to ensure you keep aggro on your target. If you just Growl and then do nothing, it is likely your teammate will surpass you in threat again, and the enemy will continue to attack them.
Savage Defense (level 10) - a defensive ability that increases your chance to dodge 6 seconds after you use it. You can use it as a rage dump instead of Maul to help protect yourself from damage. You’ll want to determine which is the best in your current situation—do you want to defend yourself from damage, or attack your enemies more to generate threat and help kill the enemy?
Bear Hug (level 18) - a single-target attack that immobilizes you, but stuns your target and does damage to them. It’s on a minute cooldown, so you might want to save it for a situation when you need to interrupt a spellcast or keep a tough enemy stunned to give your group some breathing room. Keep in mind that some enemies, especially bosses, are immune to stuns.
Jab (level 1) - your basic attack to generate chi energy. Chi is required for various abilities.
Tiger Palm (level 3) - a single-target strike gives you a stackable buff, allowing your attacks to ignore some of your opponent’s armor. When you learn Brewmaster Training at level 34, it will become even more useful to your tanking rotation.
Roll (level 5) - an ability that lets you roll forward. It can be used to rush to a location faster, usually when you start a pull by rolling into the midst of your enemies.
Blackout Kick (level 7) - a single-target strike that uses chi. When you learn Brewmaster Training at level 34, it will become even more important to your tanking rotation.
Stance of the Sturdy Ox (level 10) - one of three stances that monks can potentially learn. The stances are located above your main action bar on the bottom left, and you can switch between them. Ox Stance makes you more durable, so you should always be in this stance when you are tanking.
Dizzying Haze (level 10) - an ability that does no damage but is invaluable for gathering aggro, particularly on multiple opponents. When you use the ability, a green targeting circle appears; you can use that to click on where you want to throw your brew. Any enemies caught in the brew will be affected; the brew also causes a lot of threat, so use it to gather up enemies and make them attack you.
Keg Smash (level 11) - an AoE (area-of-effect) ability that all nearby enemies and also produces the same effect as Dizzying Haze on them. It produces many debuffs on the enemies (including Weakened Blows), creates a high amount of threat, and generates chi, so use it often!
Provoke (level 14) - something similar to a taunt, but not quite. It forces an enemy to rush at you quickly. You can use it to pull an enemy, or save it as a taunt in case you lose aggro on an enemy or an enemy is attacking your team mate. You’ll want to follow up Provoke with a few attacks to ensure you gain aggro on your target. If you just Provoke and then do nothing, the enemy may easily turn its attention to someone else in your party.
Breath of Fire (level 18) - an AoE ability that burns all enemies in front of you, and does more damage to enemies drenched in your Dizzying Haze. Use Dizzying Haze or Keg Smash first, then follow up with this attack to do damage to multiple enemies and ensure you keep aggro on all of them.
Clash (level 18) - forces your target to charge at you as you charge at them, smashing into one another and then stunning all enemies in the immediate area. You can use it as a kind of charge (rushing into battle), or as a pseudo-taunt to force an enemy to come to you. The stun can be useful for interrupting spellcasters in the area as well. It’s on a longer cooldown, so save it for when you really need it.
If you’re reading the list of abilities for your character (and hopefully looking at the abilities in-game as well, to familiarize yourself with what I’m referring to), you may wonder why I did not mention certain abilities. For instance, I didn’t really mention healing spells (though I did explain a few to help clarify when it is acceptable to use those particular spells). This is because as a non-healer, your healing spells will cost a lot of mana. Also, when you are casting a spell, you CANNOT attack, block, dodge, or parry attacks, so you are completely vulnerable while casting the spell and thus will take increased damage. It’s even worse for druids, because casting heals in bear form causes you to come out of bear form, becoming even more fragile.
It is your job to tank, not to heal, so you should trust your healer and only use heals in an emergency and when the opportunity presents itself. As you get more and more familiar with your class you may learn the fine art of popping a heal quickly when it’s safe then going back to tank mode, but don’t worry about it for now. :)
Other attacks I may have neglected to mention may not be usable as a tank (such as druid cat abilities), may not be very significant or optional while tanking (such as a warrior’s Execute), or are not used in battle (such as the various resurrection spells).
All right, so now you know what abilities are most useful to you as a tank! Hopefully my breakdowns of each ability also give you an idea of how to use them properly too. But basically...
- Warriors will usually begin a fight by using Charge, then Thunder Clap to grab aggro on everyone. They will also switch targets frequently to attack each individual enemy (using Shield Slam and Sunder Armor, primarily), ensuring threat on each one. (Prior to Thunder Clap, switching targets and attacking each one is mandatory for gaining aggro on a group.) If full on rage, they can activate Shield Block or use Heroic Strike depending on the situation, though at this level it is difficult to generate that much rage. If an enemy attacks a friend, the warrior can use Taunt to help get threat back.
- Paladins will usually begin a fight by throwing Avenger’s Shield. If faced with a group of enemies, the paladin can use Hammer of the Righteous in rotation with Judgement; otherwise, Crusader Strike and Judgement will be used on single targets. If an enemy attacks a friend, the paladin can use Reckoning to help get threat back.
- Druids will usually begin a fight by running into battle as a bear, and applying Mangle to each enemy to gain aggro. If full on rage, they can activate Savage Defense or use Maul depending on the situation. If an enemy attacks a friend, the warrior can use Growl to help get threat back.
- Monks will usually begin a fight by Rolling into battle, or using Provoke/Clash. The monk can also toss Dizzying Haze to gather a group of enemies. They can then use Keg Smash, then Breath of Fire to maintain threat on all enemies. The monk should also get into the habit of weaving Tiger Palm and Blackout Kick into their rotation.
For all tanks, it is important to get into the habit of switching targets frequently so you can attack each individual enemy. This will ensure aggro on each one. For some tanks (warriors and druids especially at this level), this is mandatory if you want to keep aggro on multiple enemies in a group.
It is also mandatory that you keep all enemies IN FRONT of you at all times. This is important because you cannot block, dodge, or parry attacks when your back is turned to the enemy. Ideally, you’ll rush into the battle, then turn around so that you are facing the rest of your party and back up. The enemies will follow you, staying in front of you with their backs to the party. This keeps your party safe from any frontal attacks the enemy has, allows your party to easily attack the enemy from behind, and keeps you facing the enemy at all times. :)
Keep in mind that is just a very simple summary of how most battles will be approached. Obviously you have many more abilities that you might only use for emergencies or in certain situations. The basic “rotation” of a fight may also change dramatically as you become higher in level and learn more abilities. For many of these classes, you have not even learned your class’s core abilities yet! But, the point of this guide is to help get you started, and hopefully you will be able to learn how future abilities will fit into your routine the more you tank.
Now, aside from abilities, there is one more thing that you might be wondering about. At level 15, you will find you have unlocked... talents! Let’s learn more about those, shall we?