AQ3D is a primarily single-player game, but also allows for players to easily band together to take on tougher foes, like bosses. In those kinds of situations, someone is going to end up taking the damage -- so why not be prepared?
Tanking is being the person who takes damage for the team so that other folks can focus on dealing damage rather than worrying about their hp bar.
There's a lot of different ways to tank, and many situations where the best method to use might change. We'll cover as many situations as we can generally, but part of the fun of the game is finding what works best for you and your group, and using your own skill to adapt. So, remember that this guide is just to help you know what sorts of things to expect, and to give you a place to start when you're deciding how you want to play. As long as you (and your group) are having fun, you're doing it right.
We'll start this guide with some general pointers about what tanking is and how it works, then end with some more specific examples and suggestions, as well as advanced tips and tricks.
Acronyms and jargon are par-for-the-course with video games. The Terminology page has a full ist, but here's some that are most relevant to this guide.
- Tank: Intentionally being the person in a group that monsters attack.
- DPS: Damage per second; also, being a person in a group focused only on dealing damage.
- MT: Main tank. That's you! You'll be the one primarily taking hits from foes.
- OT: Off tank. That's someone who isn't the MT. They'll be taking hits whenever the MT isn't.
- Threat: A hidden number that determines who a monster is going to attack. Whoever has the highest threat is the one the monster prioritizes. Some skills like Guardian Oath can change this value. Otherwise, it is affected by damage and proximity to the monster.
- Aggro: To cause a monster to attack. "To have aggro" would mean that the monster is attacking you.
- Pull: To go to or to attack a monster so that it aggros on you.
How Do I Tank?
Tanking, at its core, is very simple. Your goal is to have all or most of the damage an enemy deals be directed at you, and not other people. By doing this, you'll keep your friends alive and focused on dealing damage.
We'll cover each of these things in more depth, but you'll want to do these things:
- Get and keep aggro.
- Keep your group alive.
- Stay alive yourself.
- Don't let the monster reset (and get all of its health back).
- Being a leader
Getting and keeping aggro
Aggro is when a monster is attacking you. If the monster starts attacking someone else, then you have lost aggro. The aggro mechanics in this game haven't been wholly figured out yet (and may change by the time of the final release of the game), but there's a few things you can do that should work to help you with getting and keeping aggro.
First, the first player to attack a monster will be who it starts attacking initially. Second, it will prioritize players who are dealing lots of damage to it, especially if that damage is in a single, large hit. Third, it will prioritize players who have used an aggro-gaining skill on it, such as the Guardian class's Guardian Oath. Fourth, it will attack whomever has been second-best at each of these if the player that it was aggroed on dies.
Knowing this, we learn that a good way to keep aggro is to deal lots of damage in big spikes, and/ or to use a class that has aggro-gaining skills. Gearing for damage will help both of these goals.
Keeping your group alive
Typically, as long as you are keeping aggro, you and your group shouldn't have to change tactics in order to stay alive. However, mistakes happen, and the unexpected can and will arrive. So, it's important to have a plan in place in case things go wrong. That might be by having an aggro-gaining skill available to use, a highly-damaging skill, or even to have a second tank in case you're out of mana or dead.
Your best strategy here is just to be prepared. Know where you will spawn in case you die, and know the boundaries of the monster's aggro-range. Try to pay attention to who has been doing a lot of damage and is likely to receive aggro.
Staying alive yourself
While it may seem like the best tank is one who never dies, that is only true most of the time. The best tank is one who keeps a fight running smoothly and makes sure that everyone is able to do their jobs and be rewarded in victory.
Monsters will deal less damage to you the higher your defense is, so raising it is helpful in staying alive. The best hits a monster can aim at you are the ones that miss, so having high dodge can make a big difference. And, since you don't die until your hp hits zero, anything you can do to keep it above 0 is good, so you may find use in healing skills, such as the Guardian's Healing Strike.
Not allowing the monster to reset
When the player that a monster is aggroed on runs too far away from the monster's spawn point, it will reset. This is called its aggro-range. When a monster resets, it will walk back to its spawn point, and all of its health and mana will refill to full. Once a monster turns to head back to its spawn this way, there is no way to stop it. A monster can also triggered to reset if the aggroed player goes somewhere the monster can't go, such as if the player jumps up onto a wall or pillar.
Knowing how large a monster's aggro-range is is mostly a matter of trial and error, though it can often be guessed by how the area is set up. For example, the Slime Lord is on a raised piece of land, and as you might expect, as soon as the aggroed player drops off that raised area, they have left its aggro range.
Preventing a monster from resetting isn't difficult. As long as whoever is tanking stays fairly close to where it spawned, it shouldn't reset. It also helps if other players who might be damaging it from range stay within its aggro-range in case it accidentally aggroes on them. The final thing to do is not to run away. Even if your health is low, it's probably better to die in place rather than risk having to fight the monster all over again. Respawning only takes ten seconds, so it's likely you'll be able to get back into the action before it dies.
Being the tank usually means that you'll be at least suggesting, if not directing the actions of a group. Why is the tank the leader? It is not because they are better or because they're the ones at most risk of dying. It is because the tank is the one who should be pulling, and thus is the one deciding when to start a fight, and what to kill.
However, as we all know, having this responsibility requires something from you in return. You should have some knowledge or experience with the fights you're planning to take. If you are tanking something for the first time, then it might be better to let someone lead and suggest to the group what the best thing to do is.
Letting everyone else know what you're doing is the most important part of being a tank. Whether it's by making a plan ahead of time, chatting in-game, or talking over Mumble, Curse, Discord, TeamSpeak, Skype, Hangouts, or Steam's built-in VoIP, communication is key.
If everyone else knows what you intend to do, they can help make your job easier. For example, if a monster keeps aggroing on higher-level players who are dealing more damage, you can let them know that if they reduce their damage output, you'll be able to take hits from the monster instead of them. If you're close to death, you can warn the rest of the group so nobody panics and resets if they get aggro.
All of these things will work better if you stay positive and give compliments. Everyone wants to have fun, and being told what you're doing correctly is always a better feeling than getting shouted at as a screw-up.
By now you should have a good idea of what tanking is and how it works, so let's look at some specifics to see how to apply it.
Groups of 2
Taking on very tough foes with few players can be a likely happenstance, particularly if it's an unpopular boss or if you're playing at non-peak times (peak times are probably around 6 pm PST, similar to Spiral Knights). Some foes can be straight up impossible to defeat with only two players depending on your level (for example, Gathmor or Mother Hen if you're level 12), but others could be slowly whittled down and killed if you're patient enough (Slime Lord at 12). Still others are easily defeated with two (or even solo), such as GateWraith.
With only two players, you need to first figure out what kind of challenge you're facing: is it impossible, very slow, or doable? For bosses that are very slow, it's likely that you and your partner will have to take turns dying and running back to join the fight. When this is the case, You'll only need enough defenses to survive until after your friend returns, and you should probably put the rest of your resources towards dealing more damage. For more doable fights, focusing on defense and efficiency is likely ideal, but be sure to prepare in case you die.
Groups of 3
In most situations, you can defeat any foe with a group of three. There are two probable situations you'll find in a group of three. First, that the foe is very tough, and you will alternate dying much like when you're in a group of two. Second, that having two extra players provides enough extra damage that you are unlikely to die before the foe is defeated.
In the first situation, you'll find that the encounter is much easier than with two. Having a third member means that you can have either a dedicated dps, or that you and the OT can focus more of your resources on dealing damage rather than staying alive, since there's a third person to fall back on if the MT can't get back to the monster before the OT dies. The third person can also provide utility, such as being able to hit the roots for the shortcut to the Mother Hen.
In the second situation, you'll need to have experience with the fight and expectations about how strong the monster and your team are in order to effectively tank it without dying. It may prove to be very easy, such as a group of three decently-geared level 12s fighting GateWraith, or may require a specific strategy or group of classes along with good gear, such as fighting Slime Lord with three level 12s.
Groups larger than 3
Once a group has more than three, it becomes both more difficult to manage, but also substantially more powerful. With more people, it can become difficult to keep track of all the de/buffs, or even to distinguish between them (such as a group that has two or more rogues, each using Poison Strike). Players can equip a wider variety of classes in order to have access to more buffs and utility skills, which increases the strength of the whole group.
With larger groups, the priority changes from trying to balance your damage output and survivability to instead thinking about threat and survivability. With enough people, the damage you're dealing starts to matter much less. However, with more people all focused on dealing lots of damage, there's a higher risk of losing aggro. To solve this, you have a few options.
In no particular order: 1) Equip a class that generates a lot of threat (such as through high damage, perhaps with Rogue) or that can affect aggro directly (such as Guardian with Guardian's Oath). 2) Communicate with the other players to ensure that they don't draw aggro, perhaps by asking them to deal less damage, or to have smaller damage spikes. 3) Increase your damage output to increase your threat. Depending on the group, you may be able to effectively tank while actually acting more like a dps.
Groups with characters of different levels
Most bosses are encountered during the reqular questing storyline, and so you'll probably face bosses at levels appropriate to the area. Other times, you might go back to a boss after hitting the level cap in order to farm items or just to be nice and help out other players. In both situations, it is probably best to have the person with the best stats (likely the highest-leveled character) be the tank. This is because they will draw more threat from their higher-damage attacks, and have more health and mana to prevent them from dying. It also helps more fragile characters stay alive, which will increase the damage output of the group more than if they were tanking and died.
What items you equip makes a big difference in tanking. Because each situation is different, with varying group sizes and characters with varying damage output, it can be difficult to know in advance exactly what to expect. This is where your skill and experience comes into play.
While you could theoretically tank with any class, some are clearly better than others. However, some are better at different tasks. We'll just cover the "best" tanks for different types of situations. Since AQ3D is a flexible game that allows you to play multiple classes, there's no reason not to have at least one of each type, so that you can change your class to fit the situation.
Tips and Tricks
Here's some advanced tanking strategies that are useful, but not necessary to tanking.
Managing Health and Mana
How do you know if your health is getting too low and you need to use a healing skill instead of a damaging one? What about knowing when your health and mana are low enough that you should switch places with the OT, or prepare for death? There's a few shorthands to make these kinds of judgments easier.
First are comparisons. There are three comparisons to make, and each one gives different information.
- Your health+mana to the monster's health
- Your mana to the monster's health
- Your health to your mana
1. When comparing your health+mana to the monster's health, you're getting a rough idea of whether you'll live through the fight. As long as you have both more health than it does health and mana than it does health, then you're probably in good shape. To get the very most out of this comparison, you'll need to know your effective health. See the calculation below for specifics, but generally this means knowing how much extra health you have by spending your mana to heal.
When thinking about your effective health, you can eyeball it. Say your effective health is 300 (200 base and 100 from mana), and you're currently at 1/2 health and 3/4 mana. You've got about 175 effective hp left. Now, you can compare your ratio of health to the monster's health bar. Because you're at 175/300 effective hp (that's about 60%), then as long as the monster is around 60% health or less, you shouldn't die this fight if things keep going the way they have.
2. When comparing your mana to the monster's health, you're getting a rough idea of whether you have extra mana that you could use on damaging skills. If your mana is about the same as the monster's health, then you probably want to keep focusing on healing or maintaining aggro. If you have substantially more mana bar than the monster does health bar, then you can probably safely spend some mana doing extra damage. However, be sure not to let your mana bar drop below where it's equal to the monster's hp if you're doing this.
3. When comparing your health to your mana, you're getting a rough idea of whether you should be spending more mana. If your health bar is lower than your mana bar, then you should spend some mana, whether it's on healing, keeping, aggro, or damage. The goal of this is to use as many resources before you die as possible.
The latest update to aggro has made monsters prioritize nearer players over ones that are farther away. This means that if you're well enough organized, you can guarantee who will get aggro, and thus never need to spend mana on keeping it, allowing you to instead spend more mana on healing or dps.
In order to do this, you must first know the boundaries of a monster's aggro area. Then, you as the tank must stand within the aggro area, and proceed to tank as usual. However, the rest of your party must stand outside of the aggro area, and either use ranged attacks or you must lead the monster to the edge of its area so that they can attack it with melee. The OT must also be very close to the monster, and inside the aggro area. Once you die, aggro should always go to the OT instead of the rest of the group, even if they have higher threat.
While in combat, you will regenerate health and mana at a slow rate. While out of combat, that rate is increased a little. However, if you're in a fight where dying simply isn't an option, but you expect it to happen, there is a way around it. As long as you have an OT, you can trade aggro (simply stop attacking for a while, and have the OT use some threat-gaining skills). Once the aggro is off of you, you must then leave combat. You can typically do this by either jumping onto a wall or pillar -- anywhere that would normally reset the monster -- or by walking far enough away. Once you have left combat, unequip and requip a piece of gear in order to get a full HP and MP heal. After this, you are free to rejoin combat and either regain aggro from the OT, or wait until the OT needs to use the same trick to switch.
There are many melee classes in AQ3D, and odds are that you'll have some in your group. In order to let them dps to their fullest, you need to make sure that they don't have to run around to get to the monster. Try to keep the monster in one spot, or if you do need to move it somewhere, try to keep it in range of the melee dps.
As a tank, consumables like potions are more necessary to use than they are for dps characters. Be sure to always have at least one item you can use to restore health and mana.
Fighting Groups of Enemies
Holding aggro on a group of enemies can be tricky, since you're probably unable to generate a lot of threat on every single monster. To alleviate this, you can ask your group to focus all of their dps on a single monster at a time, preferably the one you're autoattacking. This will both let you better maintain aggro, but will also clear the encounter faster and with less damage to you.
Encourage your dps characters to use single-target skills to maximise the efficacy of this approach.
Aggroing a group of monsters is one of a tank's primary jobs, and like with everything else, it is a technique that you can practice and improve upon.
If you're pulling a single monster, such as a boss, then all you need to think about is positioning. Try to bring the boss somewhere that makes it easy for all members of the group to hit it. It may also be useful to move it in a certain direction, such as closer to the spawn point of the area. This will allow dead characters to rejoin the fight faster.
If you're pulling a group, there's two aspects to think about: first, how many monsters you can survive attacking you, and second, how quickly you want to kill the monsters. Generally, you'll want to try to pull as many monsters as you know you can survive; if you're not sure, then always underestimate and go for a smaller number. The more monsters you pull, the faster they will die and the faster you will be able to complete your goal (an instance, finding a drop, what-have-you).
Having a ranged attack can make pulling easier, though sometimes that will not be an option and you'll need to just run into each monster's aggro range.
These aren't exactly tips or tricks, but they're a tool you can use if you really want to get the most out of your character. They will often require you to spend time getting information in order to complete, so they're probably only worth your time if you plan on fighting a boss a lot, or if there's a boss that you've tried everything against but just cannot defeat.
If you're tanking and using a skill to heal, then the amount of health you have is more than just what your health bar says. It's increased by your mana pool, too.
For example, if you're planning on using guardian to heal, then you'll want to see how many full-power healing strikes you can have. To find this, just add the mana of three Guardian Strikes (3 x 13 = 39) to the cost of Healing Strike (25), and you find that you should increase your mana pool in increments of (39 + 25) 64 when possible.
Finally, if you do intend to use your mana to heal, you can use your mana pool to calculate your effective health. Let's say you're level 12, and have 290 health and 300 mana. 300 ÷ 64 = 4.6, so you have 4 guaranteed heals. How much do you heal for each time? Well, Healing Strike grants about 3 AU of healing at three stacks, so if you're dealing about 20 damage per autoattack, then you're getting about 60 hp per heal. 60 x 4 = 240, so your total effective health is 290 + 240 = 530.
There's more you can do with this number. If you find the average amount of damage that a boss deals to you, then from that you could find both how many hits and how long you live against that boss on average. This is useful if you combine it with other players' damage rates -- you can see either how many people you need or how fast they need to dps in order for you to not die before the boss does.