Puns aside I'm here to talk about a role in the game which is often overlooked and very commonly missunderstood, the role of the "Tank" in League of Legends. I'm hoping to go into the nitty-gritty details of what is a tank and why [X] champion is or isn't one. I'm also hoping to go into why the commonly heard phrase during champion select "Pick tank please" doesn't really mean anything of any use.
What it's known as is that a tank in a video game is someone who is there to take hits well. It's quite a fun role to play and appeals to our primal instinct to belittle and mock our enemies, saying "Come! Hit me again! Is that really all you have!?" Whether it's the feeling of kiting and pulling aggro from a whole room of creatures in World of Warcraft, becoming so heavilly armored that you hardly flinch from a huge Giant's attack in Dark Souls, to eating up enraged Rathalos' fireballs like popcorn as a Lance user in Monster Hunter. And (of course) playing as Udyr and Turtle Stancing in front of an entire stream of the enemy Lucian's The Culling's bolts as your own wounded carry retreats from the onslaught.
But what factors make a champion a good tank? And what exactly does it mean to be a Tank in the first place? Can't you just build a Yasuo and call him a tank? He can certainly protect his team with Wind Wall., and on
Well the problem with tanking in PvP games is that it's impossible to really force focus from the enemy. If you're tankier than someone else on your team then the chances are the enemy will be aiming to kill the other guy first and leave you with no damage to finish them off with. There's no aggro system for PvP like there is in a WoW raid or such. So what people really mean when they say "Pick Tank Please!" is one of a few things.
The last catagory, the damage sponge is a risky type of tank to pick, their job revolving around taking damage with no real way to force the enemy to do so, chances are if the enemy decides to ignore them then they won't be able to do enough to pull through. What this means is that they usually need to build a bit of damage, therefor the line between sponge and bruiser becomes rather blurred.
Also it is needless to say that many tanks fit easilly into more than one catagory. Some can even do all of them to varying degrees of efficiency.
Bruisers are known by a few names: Fighters, Divers, Anti-Carries, "OMG Peel this thing off me please!"ers, and of course Bruisers.
What their job is to stick to and destroy the enemy high priority targets, most commonly the enemy ADC or a sustained DPS mage, the carries basically. At the very least they can force the enemy damage dealers away from the fight and lower their health to the point where they can't do much without the fear of being flicked again and killed.
In general they are on the lowest end of the tanking spectrum, it's not really their job to take hits, it's their job to stay alive long enough to do a large amount of damage to the enemy and accomplish this by ETHER building tanky enough to survive OR not taking enough focus from the enemy team.
There are multiple examples of bruisers.. in fact there are dozens of them. They're easilly considered one of the most plentiful role in the game simply because of how blurry the line between Bruiser and a whole lot of other roles is. If a bruiser wants they can build more damage or more tank at will to suit the needs of their team (or personal desires).
What makes Vi a good example of a bruiser is her versatility. She excells at so many things she tries to do.
Her major use is of course being one of the best divers in the game. She has easilly got the tools to hard engage on even the Slipperiest of carries, lock them down, and then beat the crap out of them.
With her Vault Breaker, and finally Assault and Battery she can charge through the entire enemy team, clearing a path and scattering them while arriving at her target from almost 2000 range away. If you're playing a high value target and you get within that range when her ult is available, then you're in serious danger of this girl jumping on you.
She has an extra defensive steroid in the form of her Blast Shield allowing her to survive a lot longer in combat, while she also has enemy scaling damage in the form of her Love Taps allowing her to keep her damage high while building tanky enough to survive enemy burst.
Olaf is another great example of a bruiser. Compared to Vi he lacks a lot of the disruptive power in her kit, namely her gap closers and her CC. Instead though he has even more damage, he has no less than 2 attack speed steroids, a large true damage nuke (which instead of scaling on how much health the enemy has bought like Denting Blows, it arguably scales on how much armor they bought instead by making it useless), and in addition whatever doesn't kill him only makes him stronger. And that's before you get to his immunity to CC in his ult, making him almost unkitable by CC, requiring blinks, dashes or greater move speed boosts to do so instead, and even then he has a ranged slow to catch up again.
Olaf's job is to dive onto whatever he can reach without dying, and lifestealing through the damage he takes, unleashing heavy constant DPS to the enemy, he finds it perfectly capable of charging through the enemy team with his ult as he can't really be stopped except by rare terrain generators.
Instead enemies CAN stop him by out-damaging and killing him before he reaches the one he wants, so you know what that means for Olaf. It means building tanky and letting his steroids do the work.
I cannot go into depth about every single Bruiser in the game as that would take all day and most of the features in their kits are the same anyway. However there are many other bruisers and a few examples of who can function under this role include: Aatrox, Darius, Mundo, Elise, Evelynn (who has taken on a far more tanky role reciently after her Ravage turned physical, instead of the pure burst assassin she was before), Gangplank, Garen, Gragas, Hecarim, Irelia, Jarvan, Jax, Jayce, Lee Sin, Morde, Nocturne.... and I'm still only half way through the champions who can function as a bruiser. You get the deal by now and can very probably guess the rest.
InitiatorsInitiators are what it says on the tin. It is the initator's job to be at the front of the pack before a fight starts and to break the ice. Ether through a huge amount of AoE CC, or through sheer surprise.
And what is one thing which is unusual about this sort of "tank"... is that *gasp*.. they don't even have to be tanky to do so.
While it certainly helps to be able to take hits, their job is more or less over once a fight starts and they have unleashed their round of spells. People like Morgana or Kennen can blow their loads onto the enemy team then hit Zhonya's to remain safe and sound before escaping and waiting on cooldowns again.
I seriously needed to go to that website to find a good WORK SAFE picture of him, DeviantArt failed me and only supplied a neverending stream of Riven shipping Rule 34.
Zac is currently rather underused as a tank, this is probably because of his rather large item reliance to actually be tanky. He gets no defensive steroids other than quite a large amount of sustain and healing power. But as an initator he's quite a beast.
When he sees an opportunity, his leap range of over 1500, even far beyond vision range allows him to hard engage on the enemy team, Elastic Slingshot itself having its own AoE CC attached to it, and then he has an extra one with his ult Let's Bounce!, knocking up the entire enemy team and allowing his own to walk up to them freely.
In addition to this Elastic Slingshot has such a short cooldown when maxed out that it can be used twice during a teamfight or even 3 times with a bit of CDR. Firstly to engage, then again to chase down runners or to escape yourself with if the fight didn't go your way.
Meanwhile on the other end of the spectrum is someone with only single target CC.
Fiddlesticks instead brings gargantuan AoE damage to the enemy team. He still has the blink engage capability which most other initiators have, however he's squishy by himself and can be easilly destroyed before his full damage comes off. So he buildsto stay alive while he stands in the enemy team cawwing his head off.
Other surprizebuttsex engagers include: Lissandra, as well as some more single target blink engagers, which while they don't have the AoE capabilities of others, are excelent at capitalizing on a straggler, Twisted Fate, Pantheon, and Nocturne.
And the final type of initiator are the kind without blinks or ways of getting into the middle of enemies. While this may be considered a problem, however they usually make up for it in other areas, such as their CC being much longer in duration or having much higher damage. And in addition you can always rely on.
DisruptorsDisruptors are the types of tanks who have low cooldown CC. Ether single target or multi target. They force focus from the enemy team by being too annoying to leave alone.
Tanks like these enjoy long drawn out teamfights, where they can bring many rotations of their cooldowns to bear.
They are less common than most other types of tank because burst fights are far more common at the moment.
Blitz has a minimal 5 second cooldown on quite a major knockup. Once a fight has started ether through an initiator on ether team starting a fight, or if he manages to get a good grab on someone and start with an advantage (or dissadvantage if it was a grab onto your friendly neighborhood Amumu), then he can cause constant disruption onto the enemy team through Power Fist and . While Overdrive has such a long duration that he can have it up for an entire fight, sticking to the targets he wants to.
Another of these single target disruptors is Leona.
In addition to Arcane Smash and AoE knockup having only a 6 second cooldown, Maokai's strengths also include turning his team considerably more tanky through his ult, a 20% damage reduction is quite huge when you compare how much armor or magic resist you'd need to match its protection.
Maokai gets stronger as a teamfight goes on, healing up with Sap Magic. He relies on dishing out a lot of AoE while remaining in the middle of the enemy team.
PeelersSheesh... alright I kinda expected it for Zac when looking for pictures... but Darius too? I was half tempted to look elsewhere again because the entire first page of DeviantArt results was just people with random furry characters named Darius and the actual pictures of League's Darius was all in the nude.
I know he's sexy but come on?!
As for the actual part about peelers, it's very hard to define what a definitive 'peeler' is. It's generally someone who can bring a lot of CC to bare against a single enemy, ether they lack the range or mobility to be an anti-carry or simply have a very fed carry on their own team who keeps getting dove onto. As for who can be a peeler, pretty much anyone has it in them, and anyone who plays Janna will know that this is irrespective of whether you're a tank.
I won't go into very much detail with examples because it's just such a varied role, and it's not to do with build it's to do with playstyle. Therefor anyone can take up the role on the fly.
While Darius makes a very potent bruiser who can slowly encroach upon the enemy team, being really tanky and doing a huge amount of damage to anyone he gets close to. I find that one of his most potent playstyles to use is as a dedicated bodyguard.
As I said, his damage output can melt anyone which comes close to him, so if he's standing next to the one they are aiming to kill then that just makes his job easier, in addition to this he can always physically pull enemies away from his team from quite a fair range, enemies will really need multiple gap closers against their chosen target to get onto them and away from Darius.
..... Also another good peeler is Gragas.
Damage SpongeThe role of the damage sponge as mentioned earlier is a tricky one. They have no real way of forcing focus from the enemy team, meaning that they seriously need to blur the line between a damage sponge and another tanking role like bruiser or peeler. Without doing so then they run the risk of being completely ignored with their puny levels of CC and damage, then after the enemy has killed their carries they can be mopped up super easilly.
What hasn't been mentioned yet though is the ability to bait out enemy spells. Like peelers, the role of a damage sponge is natural to almost all tanks with the right playstyle, afterall, if you're building tanky then you might as well take hits and whatever doesn't kill you is damage wasted on you. However a few tanks really lend themselves to being a pure damage sponge, able to bait out enemy spells by having very powerful heals in their kit.
When anyone ever says the words "damage" "sponge" it's difficult to visualise anyone else. Mundo by himself doesn't deal very much damage... I'm probably going to regret saying that at some point.
Truth is that Dr. Mundo actually deals really low damage in a short fight, but VERY quickly wracks up over the course of a longer one. Burning Agony + a gargantuan auto attack steroid over a full 10 second fight = a cubic fuckton of damage for him to dish out.damage +
Meanwhile if enemies try to burst him down quickly to stop him doing damage then it's in his power to heal up a huge amount of lost health over a long duration. It even rewards him for using it as late as possible with it costing 20% of his current health instead of a flat health cost like his other spells are.
"Swain? A tank? You're crazy!" I hear you cry.
Well yes, Swain shares the exact same formula which other damage sponges do like Dr. Mundo. He stacks health, he baits out ignites, he heals very rapidly provided he has the mana for it (making the health givingeven better on him than it would have been anyway), and causes a considerable amount of damage over time instead of upfront burst.
A 90% uptime on a 18% damage reduction buff? Dat shit's be awesome.
Not a TankIt's needless to say that there are some champions in the game who are hard to kill due to their ability to avoid focus altogether. These champions cannot really be considered tanks and will probably use their allies as bait for their own purposes instead of protecting them.
Riven is very often mistaken for a bruiser due to how well she deals with enemy agression when she wants to. However Riven's playstyle revolves around picking fight when she has her cooldowns available, she builds generally glass cannon, stacking AD which allows her Valor to grow very large and block a lot of damage, or just dodging it full stop with her multitude of dashes.
There are many champions which don't bring a lot to the tanking department. Maybe they're only tanky because of a limited cooldown like a shield they need to time to block damage, otherwise they're squishy. Or maybe they win lane thorugh Heals and sustain in otherwise full DPS builds. Or maybe there are some who may choose to build a little bit tankier on occasion, letting them survive a few extra spell rotations from the enemy team but hardly enough to be considered a sponge yet.
And so as this journal was already going of for such a long time I must wrap it up to a close. It's been a wild ride and.... wait...
- Dun dun dun...*
A CHALLENGER APPEARS!
True TanksThis is an unexpected turn of events.
Just when you thought it was just a glorified fanboying over the only one who'd survive a "Drink when I mention Gragas" contest, it turns out this journal had a point.
All the other tanks mentioned have given the enemy a choice.
A choice between "Focus me" and "Focus my team", choose me and my team will kill you, choose my team and I will.
But this type of tank is different. This type of tank decides to not give that choice and force the enemy's focus by some methods. Ether by taunts, Single Target or AoE ones, or by new guy Braum's new mechanic where he physically blocks all shots which come his way for a time.
And not just that but Taunts are there primarilly to counter Melee fighters, melee fighters will chase the one who taunted them a lot further than ranged ones which will hardly move before the taunt wears off. Braum's shield is there to counter the opposite and instead blocks ranged attacks while allowing melee fighters to dash behind him.
These types of tank and Braum in particular decide to play a PvE game and draw aggro from the enemy, just like you would in an MMORPG.
Does Braum need a nerf? Is he OP? Hmmm.... I don't actually think so, maybe a few tweaks if they're really necessary but not much. He's just a new type of tank which no-one really knows how to deal with yet. As I already said his Unbreakable can be navigated behind by a melee fighter. Baseless theory here but if more anti-ranged champions like Braum are released then we may see a return of the Melee carry as a role.
I'd also like to add another champion to this list which does resemble a True Tank which physically forces focus from the enemy. Jarvan IV
Jarvan with his Cataclysm ultimately forces the enemy to fight him provided they have no blinks or dashes (or the luck of it just bugging out randomly and walking though anyway..) to escape it.
Also Gragas... because you can OBVIOUSLY just build a Phantom Dancer on him then stand on top of allies to the point they can't be clicked on ... yeah.. think about it.