Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Newbie Tanking Compendium (Levels 15-20) - Helpful Settings and Resources

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

VI. Helpful Settings and Resources

So far, this guide has covered all the basics of dungeon running and tanking. For the last section of my guide, I’ll take this opportunity to point out some useful in-game settings that may make dungeons easier for you.

1. Enemy Nameplates
When in game, push the V button to toggle enemy nameplates on/off. Look for some enemy monsters and see how they have a health bar above their heads now. You can use that to help you see where all the enemies are, and click on those nameplates to target them quickly. This can be extremely helpful, especially in a frantic battle against multiple enemies at once. The nameplates can also help you notice an enemy that would otherwise be hard to spot against the background, reducing the chance you’ll be taken by surprise.

You can adjust the behavior of enemy nameplates in game by opening the Game Menu (Esc), then going to Interface > Names. Find the section labeled “Unit Nameplates” and look at the drop-down box options. I personally prefer Overlapping Nameplates, so that the nameplates overlap one another depending on the position of the enemies. There is also Stacking Nameplates (where the nameplates stack vertically if the enemies are close together) and Spreading Nameplates (where the nameplates will scatter all over your screen in an attempt to not overlap). It is up to you which setting you prefer, but I recommend using nameplates whenever you run a dungeon.

2. Casting Bars
You may have noticed that I mentioned some of your abilities can be used to interrupt an enemy spellcaster. But how do you know when they are casting a spell? You can make it easy to see by turning on Cast Bars. Go to Game Menu > Interface > Combat. Find the section labelled “Cast Bars” and make sure both “On Targets” and “On Nameplates” is checked. You will be able to notice whenever your target or one of the enemies on the screen with a nameplate is casting something. If it has a shield-shaped icon around the spell icon, it is uninterruptable. But if it does not have this distinction, you can attempt to use one of your abilities to interrupt the spell before it completes.

3. Target of Target and Assisting

This setting should always be on no matter what kind of character you play, I think. Whenever you target a character (friendly or not), you will be able to see what they are targeting. For a tank, this can help you see if your current enemy target is focused on you (as they should be) or if they are focusing on someone else. Go to Game Menu > Interface > Combat, and make sure “Target of Target” is checked.

Along with this is the Assist function. This allows you to automatically target whatever your current target is targeting. That might sound confusing, I know! But let’s say you notice one of your party members is attacking a monster and has drawn aggro, but it’s hard to pick that monster out in the middle of the brawl. You can click on your party member’s portrait to target them, then Assist them by pushing the F key. You will immediately acquire their target as your own, allowing you to quickly start attacking that enemy and hopefully get aggro back. This is just one situation in which you might need to Assist someone. Keep in mind you can Assist both enemy and friendly targets.

4. Aggro Alerts
As a tank, knowing how much aggro you have is pretty important. Ideally you want it to be at or above 100% all the time. To make sure you always know how much aggro you have, go to Game Menu > Interface > Display. Make sure “Show Aggro Percentages” and “Play Aggro Sounds” are checked. The first setting displays a percentage on enemy targets to show much aggro you have on that target. If it’s anywhere under 100%, you’ll need to change that immediately! The second setting will make a particular sound if you gain aggro. It’s usually a warning if you are a healer or DPS, to alert you that you have pulled aggro on something, but it may be useful to you, the tank, as well. :)

Also take note of the color surrounding your portraits in combat. If you have a red glow, then you have aggro. If you are orange, then that means you are in danger of pulling aggro. Keep an eye on your friends to make sure none of them have an orange or red glow.

5. Action Bars
Eventually, you will have too many abilities for your primary action bar, or you’ll want to be able to put your buttons in different places on your screen for better organization. If you want more button space, you can toggle extra action bars.

Go to Game Menu > Interface > ActionBars, and you can play around with toggling up to 4 more action bars on your screen.

6. Focus Target
Sometimes you’ll want to keep an eye on someone, but can’t target them AND fight someone else at the same time! How can you do it? You can set that person as a focus target. This will make their portrait appear “targeted” but you won’t actually be targeting them for attack. Try playing around with the option by choosing an NPC in town and setting them as your focus target. You can right-click their portrait and choose Set Focus, or you can type /focus with them targeted. You can adjust the position of this focus target on your screen with the right-click menu options so that it won’t get in your way.

You may want to use it to keep an eye on a boss even while you’re switching targets, or perhaps use it to keep an eye on one of your party members to make sure they’re ok. It’s optional if you want to use these while tanking, but depending on your playstyle it may be quite useful to you.

7. Tab Targeting
Sometimes you just want to switch targets fast while in the middle of a fight... but clicking on each individual enemy can be difficult and a waste of time. Tab targeting can come in handy!
Just push the tab key, and your target will change to the next nearest enemy. Push it again to cycle to another nearby enemy. You can use this in a group to switch to each enemy in front of you and more easily attack each one to generate aggro.

Keep in mind that it’s not always a very accurate way to target. You may cycle back to an enemy you already targeted previously, or it may try to target something nowhere near you. Be mindful of what you are targeting as you use tab. :)

These are just a few settings and options that may make things easier for you in-game. Read through some of the other settings and options under the Interface menu to see if there is anything else useful you may want to toggle or adjust.

Optional Macros, Keybindings, and Addons

This section will briefly cover some more advanced settings you can use to make tanking easier. At this level, you may not need to use any macros, keybindings, or addons. Try it the standard way first to see how it feels. If it feels like something is missing or if it seems awkward or difficult to perform some ability, you may find use in macros, keybindings, and addons!

1. Macros
Macros are essentially a bit of script code that you personally create to make your own custom buttons. By doing so, you can make some actions even more simple to perform.

For example, let’s recall my suggestion for letting the party you’re in know that you are a new tank. If you don’t want to have to quickly type that every time you get into a new dungeon, you could create a macro for it (illustrated in the above screenshot).

To make the macro, go to Game Menu > Macros, then click the New button on the bottom. You’ll be prompted to type a name for the macro, and choose an icon. You can call it whatever you like and pick whatever icon you want. After choosing Okay, put your cursor in the empty space where it says "Enter Macro Commands" and type the following:

/p Hi everyone! I am new to tanking, so please be patient with me. Thanks!

As you can see, it looks like a bit of programming code! And that’s basically what it is. It uses the same command as typing in party chat, plus the text, but now you’ve put it into a button form. Now click Save, then drag the icon of your new macro onto your action bar. From that point forward, you can use the macro like any other spell out of your Spellbook and you will automatically say that phrase in party chat. That’s convenient, right? :)

I’m not going to go into a listing of useful macros here, as that’s probably a bit too much. The point of this example is to give you a taste of what macros could be used for. If you are interested in learning more about how to make your own macros, you can start by visiting the UI and Macros forum:

If you search for useful macros online, be sure to check if they’re compatible with the latest patch, as some macros may be broken and out-of-date.

2. Keybindings
Keybindings are, as the name suggests, a way for you to bind abilities/actions to one of your keyboard buttons. You can then use that key as a shortcut to cast the spell, instead of having to click on it.

Your basic action bar already has some default keybindings (you can click on the abilities, or you can push the number keys to activate them). But if you want to keybind other keys... you will need to use the keybinding menu.

Go to Game Menu > Key Bindings, then check the “Character Specific Key Bindings” box at the top of the window (otherwise all your keybindings will be applied to every single one of your characters, and you may not necessarily want that). From this window you can bind all kinds of actions to a key, and look up what the default bindings are.

Let’s say I want to bind my ability Charge on my warrior, to the T key. First, I’ll need it to be placed on an action bar. I’ll set it to the Right Action Bar that I’ve toggled on. Next, I’ll go to the Key Bindings menu, and find the section that contains the Right Action Bar bindings. I’ll find the corresponding button I put Charge at, and then click that slot. I then push T and... ta-da~ That button is now bound to T.

If you make a mistake or want to reset everything to default, there’s a Reset to Default button at the bottom of the window as well.

Keybindings are largely personal, and you can customize everything from your movement keys to your targeting keys.

3. Addons
Like keybindings, addons are very personal choices. Some people don’t use addons at all, some use a few, while others use dozens or even hundreds of addons to customize their game. Addons are safe to use as long as you get them from a trusted source. Such sources include and

I won’t list a ton of addons and tell you to use them, but I’ll briefly mention a few you might find use for. As a tank, you may find it helpful to have an addon that modifies your nameplates (making them more useful or informative than the standard ones), or a threat meter to see who has aggro. It all depends on your personal preferences. I don’t really use any particular addons for tanking, myself; but other players do.

You may also find use in UI changing addons, if the default one is not to your liking or you would like to be able to keybind abilities easier. Again, it’s all up to what you feel comfortable with!


The following are SUGGESTED addons; none of these are required, and I do NOT recommend you rush out and download all of them at once. Read them to see if they sound like something you would like, then try them one at a time to see if you like them. Also, there are other addons that can do the same thing as the suggested addons named here; search around and see which ones you prefer.

If you find an addon you like, be sure to check if it’s compatible with the latest patch, as some addons may be out-of-date. Out-of-date addons MAY be able to still work in-game (check the "Load Out of Date Addons" button on the Addons window from the character select screen), but you would have to test that yourself to find out.

If you have any addon suggestions that would be useful for a new, LOW LEVEL tank just starting out, please let me know and I will add them here if I think they are appropriate for the guide.

UI/Keybinds (change up your UI or how it works!):
- Bartender
- Clique

Nameplates (modifies the look of nameplates and the information they provide):
- Tidy Plates
- Threat Plates (must be used in conjunction with Tidy Plates)

Cooldown/Proc (helps remind you of timings on buffs, procs, cooldowns, and such):
- Power Auras
- WeakAuras

Unit Frames (modifies look of party/raid frames):
- X-Perl
- Shadowed Unit Frames

4. Resources

- Wowhead
- Wowpedia

Official Forums
- WoW forums
- New Player Help and Guides
- UI and Macros
- Class Forums
- Tanking Forum

Dungeon and Tanking Guides
- Maps For Tanks
- Wowpedia dungeon articles

Addon Sites
- Curse
- WoWInterface

Thank you for reading the guide, and I hope it has been able to help you out! Any comments/suggestions/contributions are welcome.

Special thanks to all the people who critiqued, made suggestions, and contributed ideas and screenshots to the guide! There are so many of you who helped me, and I really appreciate all of it. /hugs

Nearly all the characters that are named or appear in the screenshots used belong either to me or one of my guildies. Other players unknown to me who appear in the screenshots have had their names removed.

Happy tanking!

The Newbie Tanking Compendium (Levels 15-20) - Preparing for Your First Dungeon


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

V. Preparing for Your First Dungeon

In this section, I will explain how to prepare yourself for queuing up for a dungeon, what to do once you get into a dungeon, and other various tips and tricks that may help you as a tank! Essentially, all the things that didn’t fit into the rest of the guide. ^^

Before You Queue

All right, so you finally opened up the Dungeon Finder tool at level 15, and think you have made enough levels to be ready for your first dungeon. How to prepare?

First off, depending on your class, tanking may be easier or harder at level 15 due to lack of certain abilities. I would say that paladins and monks probably would have an easier time tanking right off the bat; warriors might be more challenging to tank with until level 20 (when they learn Thunder Clap, their first AoE ability), and druids will be challenging to tank with until you hit level 22 (when they learn Swipe, their first AoE ability). The classes are balanced at end-game, but not at very low levels. Still, I would not discourage you from tanking at low levels because of this. Just keep this in mind when considering when to queue for your first dungeon.

Some people feel more comfortable by prepping for a dungeon before they ever enter it. If you are this kind of person, I recommend you read up on the dungeons a little before you enter them. At level 15, your first dungeons will probably be Ragefire Chasm or Deadmines. If you queue a little later (around level 20), you’re likely to get into longer instances such as Shadowfang Keep and Wailing Caverns. For a complete list of when instances are available, by level:

There is an in-game resource for many of the dungeons that you can read to learn about each of the bosses, and what loot they drop. (It also has neat lore descriptions for many of the dungeons/bosses as well!) This resource is the Dungeon Journal; below is a screenshot that shows what kind of information the journal provides. While the descriptions for the bosses at this level may be more complicated than the encounter itself actually is, this is where you can look to see what abilities you’ll want to watch out for.

Another great resource for researching a dungeon (as well as providing handy maps so you don’t lose your way!) is Maps For Tanks by Liala. ( Though not every dungeon is featured yet, it does cover all the ones relevant to you at this level. Note that Ragefire Chasm is not up-to-date (the instance was recently changed with the 5.0.4 patch), but the Deadmines, Shadowfang Keep, and Wailing Caverns guides are still relevant.

Though some people are contemplative, other people just want to jump into the action and start tanking! Good for you! The best way to learn how to tank is to just do it. :D

Prior to queuing, you can eat a food that provides a well-fed buff, if you have any yet. You can also use an elixir or buff scroll (from Alchemy or Inscription, respectively). At this young level, such preparations are not necessary, but can only help. And at end-game, you WILL want to use every buff and advantage you can get to do the best you possibly can!

If you have any health potions at all (created by Alchemy, or sometimes found randomly as drops/rewards), drag the icon to a place on your action bar somewhere. If there’s an emergency, you can click it to use the health potion and heal yourself a little. You can only use one potion per battle.

Make sure you are in the right stance and have the right buffs up. If you’re a warrior, make sure you’re in Defensive Stance. As a paladin, you’ll want to check that Righteous Fury and Seal of Command are active. Druids will want to be in bear form, though you can wait to change into a bear until after you get into the dungeon (initial transformation into a bear generates 10 rage, so you can use it right before your very first pull to ensure you start the fight with rage. Refrain from changing out of it frequently after that, though, so you don’t lose the rage you have built up!). Monks will want to be in the Stance of the Sturdy Ox.

When you finally think you’re ready, open up the Dungeon Finder tool (I key). It should be set to queue for Random Classic Dungeons. It will show you that you can receive a satchel (with a random piece of gear in it) and some extra gold/experience for doing a random dungeon (as opposed to choosing a specific dungeon). If you’d like to do a specific dungeon, though (missing out on the extra rewards), you can click on the dropdown box and choose Specific Dungeons. Then you can check the dungeon(s) you want to get into.

At the top of the window, there are 4 checkboxes that you can select; you must select at least one role before you can push the Join Queue button. The icons for the first three should be familiar, because they are the role icons! You have the tank, healer, and DPS icons. (Some icons may be non-selectable depending on your class; for example, a warrior cannot choose the healing role because warriors cannot heal.) You can check more than one if your class is capable of performing that role, and you will be assigned whichever role your random group needs. Since you’re specced as a tank, you’ll want to just check off the tank box to show you want to tank.

The fourth box is the dungeon guide role, where you will have a special little flag next to your name that shows you are an experienced player and are able to give guidance to this group if needed. This is an optional role, and no one actually has to choose it for a group to form. (In fact, players probably won’t even take notice of who’s the dungeon guide anyway.) Just leave it unchecked for now.

I should probably explain a bit about how the Dungeon Finder tool works. When you hit that Join Queue button, the system will work to match you up with other players of the appropriate level and faction who are also in queue, from all different servers. It will put you in a group with four other players: a tank, a healer, and 3 DPS. It will also try to put together a diverse team if at all possible (so you don’t get a group of all paladins, for example--though it’s still possible if those are the only available players). Once it puts together a group, a box will pop up on your screen letting you know the group is ready, and you can then Accept to be teleported to the dungeon and join your group. You usually will get a new dungeon run, though you may be entered into a dungeon already in progress if someone left the last group mid-dungeon.

You don’t have to use the Dungeon Finder alone, either. You can join with friends if you are partied together. Consider gathering some friends/guildies at your level if possible and queuing together; it’s more relaxing to tank a dungeon when you have friends at your back who won’t get angry if you make a mistake. If you have enough friends, you can even queue with a full party and not have any strangers in your dungeon group. :)

Once you’re ready to begin, hit Find Group and wait. To check your queue status, you can mouse over the small green eye icon that will be next to your minimap; you can check how long you’ve been waiting, and the estimated time it will take to get into a group if data is available. As a tank, you will likely not have to wait very long at all before your dungeon is ready!

Entering the Dungeon

After you accept your queue when it pops up, you’ll be teleported to the dungeon. If ever you need to teleport out to where you were before, or back into the dungeon again, you can right-click on the little green icon by your minimap and choose the option to teleport. (This is also a neat trick you can use at the end of an instance to get back to the entrance quickly, if you need to turn in quests near the entrance.) This only works if you are still grouped up with your party.

When you enter a dungeon for the first time, you will probably be at the entrance of the dungeon (the entrance portal should be behind you), standing with the other members of the party. This is where people usually give group buffs and prep for the dungeon, but at your level no one will probably have any group buffs quite yet.

I like to start a dungeon by emoting hi (type /hi). You may also want to quickly type in party chat (/p) that you are a new tank and ask the group to please be patient. Some other players might not care, but many players will be more understanding of mistakes or be more patient if they know you are new.

Take a quick look around; there should be some NPCs up ahead that will have dungeon quests available for you. (Ragefire Chasm will have quests for Horde only, so no quests for Alliance players there.) Grab all the quests that are available. Some quests you will turn in to an NPC at the end of the dungeon after beating the last boss, or you may have to return to the entrance to speak to the NPC again. Other quests will complete as you progress through the dungeon, requiring you to click on the completed quest icon that appears on the right side of your screen and accept the next step.

Once you have all that taken care of, you can begin the dungeon. As the tank, you’ll usually be expected to lead the way, since you are in charge of the pulls. Along with mentioning you are new, you may want to ask your party members to help guide you in the right direction. Keep an eye on where everyone is moving, and follow their lead.

Now... ideally, a dungeon will progress according to your pace. You’re the tank, and you lead the way. The healer and DPS will follow you and only attack when you start the fight. That’s how it should work... but in reality, other players won’t always do this. These low-level dungeons are pretty simple for a veteran player, and many low-level characters are actually experienced players leveling up a new character. They may not be very patient and just want to get through the dungeon fast. If you are not going fast enough for their tastes, they may just run ahead and attack the enemies without you. Some people are not interested in helping new players like you learn, and just want to blow through the dungeon as fast as possible so they can leave.

This may result in an unpleasant or unsatisfying dungeon experience for you. Unfortunately, it’s the luck of the draw when you use the Dungeon Finder tool. You may also run into rude players who will insult you for being too slow, or--if you happen to fail spectacularly on a pull--berate you for being a “bad tank.” This is another lesson you will learn as a tank--you’ll need to grow a thick skin and not take such things to heart. Gamers can be whiny people when things don’t go their way. xD As you get more comfortable with tanking, you’ll eventually learn how not to take any crap from wayward players in your group. But that comes with experience. :) Don’t be scared! Interacting with other players is part of the game, and you will get good experiences and bad experiences alike.

As you progress through a dungeon, there will be uncommon (green) quality or higher items that will drop. When you or another member of the party loot a body and find this item, a little box will pop up asking you to roll on it. The name and icon of the item will be displayed (allowing you to look at the stats and compare them to your current item by hovering over the icon). There will be 2 (sometimes 3) buttons to click.

  • The white die icon means “Need.” Only click this button if the item is an upgrade and something you will make use of. Need has the highest priority rolls and trump any Greed or Disenchant rolls. Don’t abuse this just to get lots of treasure, or your group may get angry with you. Besides, that’s just greedy. :P
  • The yellow coin icon means “Greed.” If you’re not going to use the item that drops, you can just click this button to get a chance at winning the item for treasure’s sake. You can later trade or sell the item after the dungeon. This roll is trumped by anyone who rolls Need. If no one rolls Need, then you will compete against everyone else who rolls Greed or Disenchant.
  • The purple icon remaining (if it is lit up) means “Disenchant.” It only is available if there is a player with the Enchanting profession in your party who is capable of disenchanting the item. This means that the item will be destroyed and turned into a dust, essence, or shard which is then used for enchants. If you’d rather have such materials than the item itself, you can click this. (Some people prefer the materials, as they may be more valuable to sell on the Auction House than the item itself.) It shares the same priority as Greed roll and will be trumped by Need rolls.
  • If you don’t want the item at all, you can always click the red icon to pass on it.

For the most part, you should click Need if the item is an upgrade for your character (has better stats). Otherwise, click Greed. :)

Don’t be discouraged if the dungeon doesn’t go perfectly. Review this guide again if you had any trouble figuring out your abilities, and use the tips and resources I have listed if you were confused in other ways. If you made a mistake in your dungeon, remember what you did and be ready for that situation again the next time you run that dungeon. Remember, practice makes perfect!

At this point, all I can say is “just get out there and tank!”

For some helpful tips, tricks, and settings to make your tanking smoother, check out the last part of my guide!

The Newbie Tanking Compendium (Levels 15-20) - Talents at Level 15

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

IV.   Talents at Level 15

Starting at level 15, something called “Talents” becomes available to characters. If you open up the Talent page (N key; second tab on the bottom of the window), you’ll see that a row of abilities has unlocked, and you can pick one out of the three choices to learn. Every 15 levels, a new row will unlock, giving you another point to spend in that row, until by level 90 you will have 6 talents.

After looking at the talent page, you may wonder which of the three talents is the “best” for tanking. In truth... there isn’t really a best! Talents are designed to give you the freedom to pick whichever the three you personally like best. I encourage you to read the choices carefully, then pick the one you think you will like best. If you don’t like your choice, you can always reset your talents by visiting your class trainer in a city.

Talents tend to either be a passive or an active ability. Passives will automatically affect your character without any button-pushing required on your part. Active abilities will be new abilities you need to take out of your spellbook and put on your action bar to use. Read the ability carefully to see which one is which.

Since each class only has a few abilities to choose from, and you may be a bit confused as a new tank, I’ll break down each of the classes’ talents at level 15. In general, they all have to do with speed or movement abilities for your character.


Juggernaut (passive) - you can use Charge every 12 seconds, instead of every 20 seconds. With a faster cooldown, you can use it more often.
Double Time (passive) - you can now have 2 charges of Charge, able to use it twice in a row if you like. Each charge has a 20 second cooldown time.
Warbringer (passive) - using Charge causes you to also knock your target down and stun them. Useful for interrupting a spellcast that enemy might be using as you Charge them.

None of these are specifically good or bad for tanking, so just choose which one you like best and think you’ll get most use out of.


Speed of Light (active) - use to increase your speed greatly for 8 seconds. Great if you just need an extra burst of speed in a particular situation.
Long Arm of the Law (passive) - using Judgement increases your speed for 3 seconds. If you open with Judgement, you can quickly close the remaining distance between you and your foe.
Pursuit of Justice (passive) - your movement speed is increased at all times by 15%, plus more if you have Holy Power charges. Moving faster is always good. :)

None of these are specifically good or bad for tanking, so just choose which one you like best and think you’ll get most use out of.


Feline Swiftness (passive) - your movement speed is increased at all times by 15%. Moving faster is always good. :)
Displacer Beast (active) - teleports you forward and activates cat form/Prowl. Could be useful for getting out of pinches (eluding an enemy or disappearing momentarily from a fight), but I think it has very little use for a druid tank. (Any “disappearing” from a fight will just mean everyone else in your party dies, making you a very poor tank. xD)
Wild Charge (active) - depending on your form, it gives you some kind of movement ability. For bear form, it causes you to charge forward and immobilize your target for a few seconds... essentially working just like a warrior’s Charge. If you learn this ability, you can incorporate Wild Charge into your tanking rotation as an opening move.

As a druid tank, I personally favor Wild Charge, though Feline Swiftness is not a bad choice either.


Celerity (passive) - allows you more charges on your Roll ability (able to use it 3 times in a row now), and lowers the cooldown by 5 seconds. Essentially, letting you use Roll more often.
Tiger’s Lust (active) - for 1 chi, it frees you (or another friendly target) from immobilizing and movement-impairing effects (such as snares, stuns, etc.) and increases speed for 6 seconds. As a tank, it probably won’t be used that frequently, but may have use in certain fights. It has great utility if you PvP.
Momentum (passive) - every time you Roll, you get increased movement speed for 10 seconds. It’s quite useful for getting around, especially at low levels when you don’t have a mount yet.

None of these are specifically good or bad for tanking, so just choose which one you like best and think you’ll get most use out of.

As you can see, talents are largely your own personal choice. Pick whichever one you like best and sounds most relevant to your playstyle and the role you are in.

Well, now that you know everything about your class and the abilities it has, you should be prepared for your very first dungeon! How do you go about getting into a group, though? What should you expect going in? The next section of my guide will explain all of this. :D

The Newbie Tanking Compendium (Levels 15-20) - Abilities and How to Use Them


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.

Crusader Strike (level 1) - a basic single-target strike that generates a point of Holy Power; Holy Power is used to activate a few other abilities. Use it whenever it come up to damage your opponent and generate aggro.

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?

The Newbie Tanking Compendium (Levels 15-20) - Choosing Gear and How to Spot Upgrades

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

II.   Choosing Gear and How to Spot Upgrades

Gear is very important in WoW. It’s usually why we run dungeons and raids—to get the best gear possible! But naturally, you have to start somewhere. The quality of a piece of gear is indicated by the name of the item; the color reflects how “powerful” the gear is. Grey is poor quality, white is common quality, green is uncommon, blue is rare, and purple is epic. (There’s also orange quality—legendary—but few people are able to obtain those!)

Grey and white gear usually only provide armor and no other stats. When you encounter green quality gear, you will see stats on the gear that make your character more powerful. By the time you hit level 15, it’s likely you’ll only have picked up grey and white quality gear, with a few green pieces here and there. It’s your goal to try and get all the grey and white quality gear replaced with green or even blue gear. You can also look at the “item level” of a piece of gear (different from the required character level) to see if the “caliber” of the gear is substantially better. At later levels, you can even find green-quality gear that is better than blue or purple quality gear, due to much greater item level.

But how do you know what kind of gear to pick?

First, you’ll need to know what kind of armor your class wears. It’s different for each class! For this guide, we’ll only look at our tank classes.

Warriors and paladins will want mail gear.
Druids and monks will want leather gear.

At level 40, warriors and paladins will upgrade to plate gear. At level 50, all characters receive an armor specialization, granting them bonus stats if they are wearing only the best armor type for their class (such as a druid wearing all leather gear). So it’s good to get into the habit of picking the best armor type for your class.

But, what stats will you want? It’s different for each class! Fortunately at this level, it’s rather simple to spot upgrades.

Warriors and paladins will want Strength and Stamina gear.
Druids and monks will want Agility and Stamina gear.

Essentially, all tanks want lots of Stamina. That increases their health so they can take more hits! But they want to deal damage too; an enemy will notice someone who hits hard, after all! Warriors and paladins get more attack power from Strength, while druids and monks get more attack power from Agility.

Armor is also a useful stat for tanks, but in general, the primary stats of Strength/Agility and Stamina are much more important. So don’t pick a piece of gear just because the armor value is higher. Besides, you should be getting the best armor you can anyway simply by virtue of always trying to pick the best armor type for your class.

So essentially…

Warriors and paladins will want Strength and Stamina mail gear.
Druids and monks will want Agility and Stamina leather gear.

How about those weapons? You’ll want to pick weapons with the appropriate stats I indicated above. In addition, keep in mind that tanking warriors and paladins will always want to use a one-handed sword, axe, or mace in their main hand, and a shield in their off-hand. Shields are essential for several of their tanking abilities, and are required to block attacks as well. Druids and monks have a few different choices for weapons, though druids tend to wield staves/polearms, while monks may either use a two-handed weapon or dual wield.

So, how will you know when an item is an upgrade? When you see an item that you’d like to check against the one you currently have equipped, put your cursor over the item’s icon and hold down the Shift key; this will make a little window with your current item’s stats appear next to this item’s stats. It will also show in red where your stats will go down, and green where your stats will go up, if you equipped this piece of gear instead. Use that to help you decide if a piece of gear is better!

Well, I’m sure that’s a lot of information to take in, but hopefully you now have an idea of what to look for when you find new gear! You should now know which upgrades to pick while questing or in a dungeon.

But even more important than gear… is using your abilities! If you don’t use your abilities right, the enemies will run amok in a dungeon and kill your companions. It’s your job to protect them, so the next part of my guide will teach you how to use your abilities properly!

The Newbie Tanking Compendium (Levels 15-20) - Classes and Specializations

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

Welcome to my guide! This guide may also be found in a document form on Google for easier reading.

This is something I’ve wanted to write for fledgling players for a long time, but thought now would be an especially good time to write it, seeing as how many new players are starting their adventures with the Mists of Pandaria expansion. Even if you’re not totally new to the game, you may find some use in this guide if you haven’t tanked before, or are unfamiliar with the new changes to the game. Whatever your experience, if you’re starting up a brand-new character and want to tank for the first time, this guide will help you be prepared so you are not so stressed going into your first dungeon.

What’s tanking? Tanking is a role in an instance group where your job is to keep the attention of enemies and absorb all their attacks. You will be more durable than your other party members, and so will be the best choice to lead the charge and take on those monsters. The healer of the party will be able to keep you healed and not worry about everyone else taking too much damage, and the DPS (damage-dealers) will be able to focus on killing the monsters.

This guide is oriented towards characters of level 15-20 only, which is probably when many players will try their very first dungeon (as the Dungeon Finder tool becomes available at level 15). I also focused on these levels for the benefit of trial account players, who are capped at level 20. This guide will not cover end-game tanking or abilities/mechanics beyond level 20; these basics should help you figure out how to integrate new abilities and talents as you learn them into your rotation, and by the time you reach end-game you’ll have a lot of resources available to help you! There are plenty of blogs, guides, and forums that can help you learn more about the specifics of tanking.

Without further ado, let’s begin your adventures in tanking!

I.  Classes and Specializations

In the World of Warcraft, there are a total of five classes that can tank—warrior, paladin, druid, death knight, and monk. Of these, death knight is not available as a class choice until you reach level 55 on another character, so we won’t cover death knights in this guide. (They are considered a “hero” class.) The monk class is only available to players who have the Mists of Pandaria expansion on their account.

At level 10, class specializations become available; this means you pick a path for your character to follow as they level. Depending on the specialization you choose, you will learn a different set of abilities than the other specializations. Specializations are also categorized according to the role they perform—tank, healer, and DPS (damage-dealer)—which was briefly explained earlier. If you’re reading this guide, you will want to choose the specialization that makes you a tank!

What are those specializations? If you look at the Specialization and Talents page (N key; first tab on the bottom), you will see 3 choices (4 in the case of druids) on the left side of the window. Click on each one to read a description of them, and also see a handful of abilities that you’ll receive in that specialization. If you want to be a tank, you’ll want to pick the specialization with a little blue shield icon on it. That stands for tanking! (The green and white cross icon stands for healer, while the red sword icon stands for DPS.) Once you choose the correct specialization, click the Learn button to learn it. You’ll automatically get all the abilities associated with that specialization at your level. If you need to change your specialization, just visit a class trainer in a city and ask them about changing your specialization. For a small fee, they’ll reset your choice and you can pick a new one. :)

Let’s take a look at each of the tanking classes and specs.

The classic tank of the original game, warriors use rage as a resource to power their abilities. Some of their abilities generate rage, which are then used to power their other abilities. As a warrior, your tanking specialization is Protection.

All races are capable of becoming a warrior.

Noble warriors of the light, paladins use a mix of physical and magical abilities to fight; thus, they use mana as their resource. As a paladin, your tanking specialization is Protection.

On the Alliance, humans, dwarves, and draenei are capable of becoming paladins. On the Horde, blood elves and tauren may become paladins.

Guardians of nature, druids take the forms of various animals to help them in battle; as a druid, your tanking specialization is Guardian. Guardian bears are somewhat similar to warriors, and use rage as their resource.

On the Alliance, night elves and worgen may be druids. On the Horde, tauren and trolls are able to be druids.

The ways of the monk were introduced only recently by Pandaren allies, and make use of fists and feet to attack the enemy. For resources, monks use a combination of energy that constantly regenerates, and chi which is generated by certain abilities. As a monk, your tanking specialization is Brewmaster.

On the Alliance, all races except for worgen may become monks. On the Horde, all races except for goblins can be monks. Monks are only available to players with the Mists of Pandaria expansion.

A common question I often see is “Which race is best for (insert class here)?” The answer is that there is no “best” race. While each race has a few special racial abilities, none of them are particularly game-breaking. A few of the racial abilities might be better for certain situations or provide a tiny advantage in numbers, but overall they are not significant. You would do best by choosing the race you like personally; you’re much more likely to enjoy playing that character if you actually like its appearance. :)

Another common question is “Which is the best tanking class?” There is no such thing as the “best” tanking class. Each class is perfectly viable at tanking and you will see players of all the available tanking classes at end-game, successfully tanking dungeons and raids. Each class has its own flavor and playstyle; pick the class that you “click” with best. For example, I personally like tanking on my warrior, but another player may hate tanking on warrior and prefer playing paladin instead. Read the descriptions of each class and choose what sounds appealing to you. If you end up not liking that class so much, you can always make a new character and try out a different class. That’s part of learning—trying everything out!

Now that you’ve decided on your character and class, it’s time to play it! For your first couple of levels, you’ll probably be questing on your character and slowly learning a variety of abilities. Once you hit level 10, you’ll be able to choose your specialization (remember how I explained how to choose your specialization?). And at level 15… the Dungeon Finder tool will open up, allowing you to queue for a dungeon for the first time!

But wait! Before you dive in, you’ll want to be prepared first. The next part of my guide will cover gear and what you’ll want to equip.