Tanking is the most fun role for me, because I get to be right in the thick of the Melee, up to my armpits in mobs, and duke it out. It's a fight, unlike standing back, and running through a DPS, or Healing rotation, you have to react to the mobs, what they're doing, and what you have to do to counter them. All this is Personal Opinion, not a dig on Healers, and DPS, but why I find that sort of gameplay less exciting.
However, it's also a Support Role, and that generally means having other Players there to play with. Which is fine when you get to the Endgame, but first you have to get there. You can't just show up at the Banished Cells with a Shield, and expect to start tanking at Level 5. They won't let you in, so this is a guide to how to Get there. With the tools, and the player skills (Tanking is a Player skill, if you don't know how to play it, the best build in the world isn't going to keep all the attention on you) it takes to be an effective Tank, solo.
This is the Player Skill I'm talking about training. Everything else is just the Tools, you use to Survive, hold attention, and eventually win the fight, but that doesn't tell you Who to hit with What, and When.
For example, Power Attacks. This give you resources back, Stamina, or Magicka depending on the weapon (I highly recommend you get good with an Ice Staff as well, to make your Tank more versatile, and Sustainable) but you have to let your Guard Down for a while, so you have the Stamina to block with. This means reading the Enemy, which is pretty easy 1-on-1, even against a Boss, once you know the basic type, their Attack Pattern, and telegraphs. Then, you have a pretty good idea when to Block.
It gets a lot more complicated when you have a crowd, of Trash Mobs. Yeah, yeah, they're "Just" trash mobs, they're weak, that's why they're called Trash Mobs. That's why their Strength is in numbers, and by yourself, you have to handle All of them. In a group, you have to Tank all of them, so the Healer, and DPS can't be bothered with handling them. They have to concentrate on their job, so you have to do your job.
This is honestly the challenge that I love, so let's just start with the basic Tool Kit. Assuming you just got off the boat at Stros M'kai, you forgot to pick a Class, or Class Skills, but on your way out, you managed to nick a Shield off the weapon rack by the door. (And you got an Unfinished Torment Cuirass in your goody box.) If you have an open slot, or a Character DELETE, try that some time. Nothing but 1Hand, and Shield through The Grave.
I kill them first, if there are any. Fortunately, they're rare, but there are NPC Necromancers around Betnikh, and Graveyards. (The main reason I picked Imperial Nightblade, and Daggerfall Covenant is Fighter's Guild Points) NPC Necros Summon, and Heal their zombies, which make them a Trainee tank's dream. If you kill the Zombie, but not the necromancer, they'll summon another, and another, until another player shows up, and kills them.
Archers, and Mages
These are next on my list, because Area Denial. They have AoE, and even taunted, they tend to fall back. Shoot Arrow Spray, or Volley from a distance, or drop 2 flaming circles, 1 right where you're standing. To Tank, you want all the mobs on you, to the DPS can kill them. Those AoEs make you pack up your tent, and go somewhere else. Hopefully with all the Mobs following you, but if you didn't re-up your puncture recently enough, one of them might stray, and go beat up your Healer.
These are your bread, and butter. They want to get close to you, and attack you. This is why Archers, and Mages are a higher priority, that Armor, and Shield are specifically for dealing with Melee Attacks. Honestly with DPS (From your own AoE casts if you have them) around, you can just let them attack you, and hopefully get in the occasional Power Attack to get some Stamina back. (I'll cover Staff tanking later, but you can't really Start off doing that, until you get the passives like Tri-Focus)
Butchers/Skirmishers, and so forth. Dual Wielders can jump right over you, and also fall back to throw a hidden blade at you. Okay, I can Block that, but while they're back there (Behind you) or way out there, they're not right here in front of you. This is you not doing your Job, your job ist to keep them right here in front of you, where you can Control them, and they're taking damage from the DPS. (Yours, or the DPSs')
The 2Handers (Including things like Thundermalls) are good for reading Animations. Get used to that, whenever the Archers are about to throw a Scattershot, they put up a big red strip long enough for you to Walk out of, much less dodge roll. The 2Hander will give you some warning before he sends you flying, but not much. Again, 1-on-1 these are trash, but you want to practice Pulling them, at least 3 at a time, and preferably 4 different Types at a time. Before you start getting Labor Saving tools like Encase, Burning Talons, and Agressive Warhorn.
I just did it up to Level 6, (8 in Siphoning, 1H&Shield) in the middle of Saint's port with Soul Trap, Swallow Soul, Puncture, Veiled Strike, and Shadow Cloak. Note: no Assassination skills? That's because I'm going to be running Assassin's Blade, and Teleport Strike, all Game. They're already to Morph, so this is how I get my Other skill trees caught up. Soul Trap is a perfectly good Pull for anyone, especially Solo. "Hey, You! Over here." Pulling mobs isn't that hard either, but holding them, with other players running around everywhere, 4 at a time, catching that one chasing some guy in robes across the square, and inviting him to the party. It's not all that hard once you learn how to do it, but you're a Tank.
That's your job. You have to learn sometime.
You can see the Shield glyph right in front of you when you hold it up, but watching the animation, it doesn't drop immediately. So, you have a moment to get in a Tap attack before it drops, and Block Cancel right before it lands. This doesn't get you any Stamina back, so you can only do this so long (Go ahead, and take your first 2 points in Stamina.) Now, head on out to Saint's Port, where there's plenty of new characters running around, beating up Pirates. They're all playing DPS now, because they want Xp from Kills.
So, Tank. Pull them, with nothing but Block, Attacks, and Puncture. You're going to notice the difference between Archers, Pyromancers, 2 handers, and Dual Wielders pretty soon, but there's a nice big square in the middle, there's a few spawn here, and there, and there's plenty of random players running around playing DPS. Go pull them, and Tank in the middle until you Die. I'm serious, it's great practice.
This isn't just for interrupt, eventually with Passives (Deadly Bash) this will be an effective Weapon. Sword, and Shield, the Shield is also a weapon. Once you get good at Block cancellation, you can throw in a Bash, with a block canceled attack, and an Instant Spammabke, like Puncture (Low Slash works better) for a 3 hit combo. This won't make you a DPS, but it does give you some Burst, at the expense of Stamina. You still need that to Block, but it can finish off someone who's low, so you no longer have to worry about them. (If you don't have a low level Class Execute like Mage's Fury, or Assassin's Blade.)
This is a taunt, and I'm just going to recommend Pierce Armor as the best in Slot. Not just because Magicka DPS, but because Ransack has the problem of focusing on Physical Damage. What about Spell Resistance? Pierce Armor biffs (The opposite of a Buff) their Physical, and Spell Resistance. Ransack basically Steals their Physical resistance, and puts it on you. Yeah, you'll take less Physical Damage, but again, what about Spell Damage?When you get to finalizing your build, you're going to find Gaps. You don't want to find a big gaping hole like not enough Spell resistance, if you're a Tank. How do you get Major Ward? Let me tell you, it's a hell of a lot harder to get than Major Resolve, especially for a Tank. Better leave Puncture as an Any Kinda Damage than a purely Physical damage, for the rest of your build. That way, you won't have to make up for it later in your Armor Sets, or Champion Points.
This is your basic Taunt, and it's not just for Training. You may get other taunts like Inner Beast later, and because they're more difficult to get think they're "Better" or "Best in Slot." No, taunting is your bread, and butter. Crucial to How you Tank, get good with it, or play another role. Tanking is Hard, it's Dangerous, and I'm writing this guide, because it's even harder to train (And somebody on Youtube asked "How do you Grind up an endgame tank?) The content provider showed him how to respec his Tank for DPS.
That doesn't teach you how to Use a taunt. Puncture Does. If you can't master Puncture, then a better taunt like Inner Beast won't make you a better Tank. It won't make you a tank, if you don't know how to use it. At best, it'll make you a really crappy DPS, and the game is full of those.
Fortunately, you don't have a choice, because this is an Undaunted Skill, you can only unlock by running Dungeons with a Group. As a tank, that means a lot of Pierce Armor. Now, while I stress that it's NOT "Better" it has some things going for it, for one thing it's Ranged. However, long before you get to use it, you'll find out that a ranged Attack works as well as a Pull. You'll see AoE farmers pull them in with a Bow, and slaughter them in droves by switching to Dual Wield, and spamming Steel Tornado. (That's called "Spin to Win," but it has a name, it's that common.)
The other advantage it has it that it's Magicka. Even if you're a classic Mace, and Shield Stamina tank, this is great, because you don't run into the nightmare situation: "I'm out of Stamina, so I can't Block!" For your team-mates, the nightmare scenario is you running out of Stamina, so you can't TAUNT! That's your job, so if a Wolf breaks away from the pack to go chow down on your Magicka DPS, you can cast inner Fire, and stop them. The wolf turns around, and comes back to you, where he belongs, chewing on your Shield, instead of that Destruction Staff, that's killing him, and all his friends.
However, I still keep Pierce Armor on my Main Bar, and it's not just because it makes the DPS to kill. It's also the opposite Resource to your ranged Taunt, so you can Rotate your Resource Recovery. This is how you can sustain as a Tank. Not by casting long duration Area Effects in a rotation like the Healer, and DPS, but by using 1 Resource while the other recovers. Spamming Inner Fire to get them running to chew on your shield means you have more Stamina left to Block, but then you also have other things to do, like cast Group Buffs, self heals, and Damage Mitigation spells on yourself. You don't want Vigor on the same bar as Pierce Armor, because it's a Stamina Heal. It's a great Stamina heal, but that doesn't Sustain your Stamina, it Spams it, so you run out, you can't Block, you can't taunt. You die, the Healer dies, everyone dies.
Unless, you can swap bars, and Block with Magicka instead! Now, the Ice Staff can block with Magicka (unfortunately, when you get to level 5 in Destruction Staff, so this is one good reason to DPS train your Tank. The first 5 levels of Destruction Staff, it's useless for tanking, so you might as well just Burn through it with an Inferno Staff. That does the most damage, because the Burning Status Effect.) However, the other thing Tri Focus does it turn a Fully Charged Power Attack into a Taunt. A Ranged one. You can get, before Inner Fire.
Well, you should have some idea where you're going, in order to get there. Otherwise, you end up spending Crowns to Change Race, which is effective, but Pay-2-Win. I'm going to say Orc first, because Heavy Armor, and Crafting Experience. At some point, you're going to have to make your own Gear, I suggest every other level, and this helps you learn Blacksmithing, Woodworking to make sure you have good gear.
Imperial costs money, but is worth it, because 1H&S (I find Armor slower to level than Weapon skills) and Red Diamond. If you don't have the Imperial edition, then Redguard is basically the same thing, only Stamina to Block with from the appropriate Passives. For Magic Tanks, and Hybrid tri-stat build, Dunmer gets Stamina, Magicka, and Fire Resistance. Don't discount this, there's a lot of Fire Attacks, skeletal Pyromages are everywhere, and immunity to the Burning status effect is quite honestly awesome. Likewise Bosmer, and Poisoned SE, because both are DoTs that you are born just not having to worry about.
Nord eventually gets a flat bonus to Physical, and Spell Resistance. That's good, and immunity to Chilled/Cold Resist is okay, but not great. Altmer get a flat Damage Reduction to any kind of damage, and it's percentile, but only when they're Channeling an ability. They also get a lot of good stuff for a Magicka (Frost Staff) Tank, including bonus XP for Destruction Staff, and ALL Skills. It's not much, but spread out between ALL Skills, it really adds up in training.
Anyone can Tank, your Class doesn't determine so much how well, but how you approach it. Each has it's own actives, and passives nobody else can use, many also work in the Tanking role, but in order to train up for Endgame, you have to be a bit of a Hybrid. That's because you can stand there, and Block all day (Until your Stamina, or Magicka run out) but if you don't Kill the mobs, then you'll eventually die tired, with no XP gained from kills. Note: The Tooltip for Training says XP from Kills.
Just going Alphabetically here, what this class brings to the fight is Burn. Right out the gate, later on you can share obsidian Shield with all your friends, but right off the boat, you're going to have to start with Searing Strike, Spiked Armor, and Stone Fist.
Searing Strike is great for the Solo Tank, because it DoTs. . . Tick, Tick, Tick, that's the name of the game for the Solo Tank, you want to stop Blocking, and Puncturing just long enough to cast something quick, and get the Shield back up. Searing Strike is quick, and it ticks for a long time. You can always respec later, but I personally suggest the Magicka Morph (Burning Embers) because it Heals you too. Respeccing just costs Gold, and you'll make Gold while you're training for XP. So, I also suggest you invest in Stamina/Magicka first, and THEN Health. These are mostly going to be Trash Mobs anyway, and when you get to the Quest Boss, you need to get in the habit of Blocking, not relying on your Health pool to facetank your way through it.
Likewise Stonefist>Obsidian Shard is a great multipurpose spell. It also heals, but with a Knockdown, and it's an Instant heal. You don't have to wait for it, it works in an emergency, which also makes it Spmammable. You get a Stun, you get a Stun, I get Health back. This gets me in the habit of Juggling mobs. Later on, I use Shielded Assault in the same slot, only instead of knocking them down over there, you go to them, and instead of Health back, you get a bubble shield that you can easily re-up when it pops. That's pretty crucial to how I Tank. You need a bubble shield when it comes to Tanking Raid bosses, but some of the "Better" ones just do that. Here's a Shield, Obsidian Shield is great for the whole party, but going Solo, this one comes with a Bash, and works as a gap Closer. Something Dragon Knights don't have, until this unlocks (or Dragon leap, which takes Ultimate.)
Spiked Armor is Spiked Armor. I don't really have to explain this one, if you play tanks. It makes you tougher, and hurts mobs when they hit you. get it, keep it up, whatever morph you want. I'm not going into great detail for basics like this. Likewise Burning Talons, except to say this is the better Training Morph, because it Ticks. . .
Inferno Staff (Training)
You're going to want a Frost Staff later on, because of Resource Management. Honestly, the best Tanks are a Hybrid of Stats, because to Sustain, it really helps to switch Resource, and let the other Recover. With Tri-Focus, a Frost Staff uses Magicka to Block, so your Stamina can recover. Also, Helping Hands restores Stamina for casting an Earthen Heart Ability, while you're Blocking with an Ice Staff.
Engulfing Flames: However, training Solo, somebody's got to DPS, and I don't see anyone else there with you. This gets to the (Earthen) Heart of Tanking: Your Job is to hold the enemy in the AoE for the DPS to kill them. Without a DPS there to kill them, you have to put down an AoE. Engulfing Flames makes everyone you hit more vulnerable to Fire Damage. You remembered to poke them with Pierce Armor, right? Then they also have Major Fracture, so their Spell Resist is lower too. Now, you can survive the fight, while they writhe in your Blockade of Fire, and Burning Talons...
Tick tick tick...
Silver Leash: I know, you've got Firey grip, but you don't Start with it any more. Also, that's a Spell, that costs Magicka, and does Fire Damage. Until you unlock, and Morph it, it's extremely easy to talk to Guildmaster Sees-All-Colors, go find Merric, and Aelif, then kill some Zombies until you get this skill. Vital for Any tank, even a Dragon knight at low levels, especially Solo. You have taunts to Pull them in, and Roots (Talons) to hold them, but I at least like to have a Chain to pull that one stray off of the Healer, so she can go back to Healing, instead f fighting Goddamned Bats. Up to you whether you want to stick with this, or use the other, maybe have one on each side of the Swap when you start switching between Staff, and Shield, but it definitely helps you learn to use Cahin Pulls as well as Gap Closers early on. Sometimes you wan them to come to you (Inner Beast/Ice Staff Power Attack) Sometimes you want to go to them (Shielded Charge/Dragon leap) and sometimes you want that one to come back, over here, and keep burning with all his friends. Playing a Tank Well is knowing when to use what tool you have at your disposal, instead of only having a Hammer.
Weakness to Elements
Believe it or not, yes I use this in Groups. Pierce Armor also causes Major Breach, but close up. W2E is one you can cast at a Distance, especially running up on a BOSS, and channeling a Power Attack to Taunt, and get your Magicka back. This is something an ice Staff does really well: A Power Attack isn't just ranged, and it's not just Free. A lot of traditional Tanks use the excuse that it's not Instant like Puncture, or Inner Rage, and therefore it's Crap. (Mostly Tanks that are against the idea of touching a Destruction Staff, because that's a waste of wood that should be made into Shields. Believe it or not, they're out there.) It Gives You Magicka Back. That makes it worth 1 Power Attack/Taunt, even if it's just at the beginning of the Battle, you have time to cast your Buffs, and still go into the fight with Full Resources. Cast Inner Beast, and then you go into the fight with less than full Stamina. What do you use to Block? Stamina.
A well rounded group has a Magicka DPS, as well as a Stamina DPS. yes, I know, sometimes the Patch makes it seem like Stamblade is the BiS for DPS, so everyone that read it on Reddit starts playing a Stamblade, but that's not a Well Rounded Party. The best party has a Variety of effects, Damage is just one of them, and as Tank, Status Effects like Major Breach are your Stock in trade. That's what you're there to do, give the DPS an easier time killing stuff. When you're alone, any Attack is a taunt. Any Ability, as long as it gets their attention, who else are they going to attack when it's just you?
This is running a little long, so I'm going to continue with other Classes in the comments...