Editorial – Which World of Warcraft Class makes the best Tank?

Updated Sun, Oct 25, 2009 by Messiah

Paladins became solid tanks before the release of Wrath of the Lich King.

In the World of Warcraft we all know that you need a solid tank at the core of any group.  However with four different tanking classes out there, which of the four possible tank classes should you choose?  Should you pick the AOE based Paladin or Death Knight, or should you pick the more single target based Warrior or Druid?  While all are viable, each has some good and some bad points.

I want to look at the overall issue of tanking here, not just the high end ultra-geared, where DK’s still appear to dominate (to a lesser degree than previously though).  Which class makes the best tank in all situations from grouping, to low level instances, to heroics, to raiding? Which class is easier to tank with than the others? Which takes less damage and is easier to heal?  All these things roll up into making the best tank.

The Four Classes

Let’s start by looking at some broad generalizations for each of the four classes.

Warriors – These were the first tanks and are still seen as the only true tank by many players.  They have good overall damage mitigation, avoidance, cool downs, threat, heath, and buffs.  In fact they do everything pretty well. If you only have a single tank, you can not go far wrong with a warrior.

They are not the best at everything, but have no real weak points when dealing with single targets.  Their one and only weak point is controlling multiple targets reliably.  They can control them, but only if DPS is not going full out AOE on them.

Druids – Druids used to be the number two tank out there by numbers, as there were a ton of them around.  Now, however, I am pretty sure the bear has earned a spot on the endangered species list.  Bear tanks have huge health pools, more than any other tank.  They also have very good avoidance and damage done.  They have good threat and buffs but lack in cool downs.

Talk as a healer and from experience with other healers, while druids have more health than other tanks, they often feel like they need it.  While they have high avoidance they sometimes take significant amounts of damage due to missing a string of dodges and need healing more than most other tanks. 

Paladin – This class was initially not that great of a tanking class.  While they could tank, they had some serious issues pre-BC.  Even when the Burning Crusade was released they still were not that great, but then patch 2.3 hit and Paladin tanks took over. In their current state Paladin tanks have good health, mitigation, and avoidance.  In addition Paladins can supply some amazing buffs to the rest of the group and have some very solid cool downs.  Lastly Paladins have the best threat generation for AOE groups and very solid threat on single targets as well.

Paladins make very good AoE tanks, due to consecrate. They're not the only tank capable of doing AoE tanking, but consecrate is very good for holding AoE aggro.

Death Knight – These are the newest tanks that were added to the game and to some degree are still being balanced into the game.  They have great cool downs and more of them than other tanks, and currently still have more avoidance than most other tanks; They have good threat, damage, and health, as well as being able to solidly AOE tank. Best of all if you already have a character and want to create a new one so you can have a tank, as a Death Knight you start at level 55 instead of level 1!

The only two issues that I see with Death Knight tanks (and I have one), is that they are fairly complicated to play to their maximum potential and they feel like they take more damage until they gain significant amounts of gear.  There is also the problem with Death Knights that almost everyone has one so there are lots around, and many players do not know how to play them so they have a bad reputation in PUGS.

Things to Consider

Just Tank? Or More? - One of the things to consider when looking at a Tank as a character is what else they can do.  Sure, you are creating the character to tank, but at some point you will want to do something else as well.  Which classes offer the most in the way of alternate abilities?  This one is simple to pick, if you want to do more than just tank, play a Paladin or a Druid.  Both can tank, heal, and DPS.  If you want true versatility, nothing beats a druid - they can DPS using either melee or spells, can heal, or tank - they truly do a bit of everything.  Warriors and Death Knights are limited to Tanking and melee DPS.  Melee DPS is the most abundant of characters, so good luck finding a group.

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