Here are the most important tips for tanking in the Elder Scrolls Online that you’ll need to know to get started. These tips will help you from getting booted from your group for claims of fake tanking, and help your group speed through content in half of the time. In this ESO Tanking Guide for Beginners, we’ll cover gameplay strategy as well as important armor sets to use in order to stay ahead. We’ll start off with the most important aspect of tanking, gaining aggro.

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1. Go In First (Soft Taunting)

When you enter an area before your group and deal damage, enemies will target you first and come after you. This is what is known as a soft taunt, as you don’t have complete aggro from these enemies. This is a useful method of gathering enemies on you before you start sending taunts off to lock them into just attacking you.

To gain this soft taunt, you’ll need to be the first person to deal damage to a mob so it begins targeting you. Wall of Elements and Caltrops are great skills accessible to any class that deal damage in large areas to can help you gather this soft taunt. 

ESO Screenshot - soft taunting
Image: Zenimax Online Studios via HGG

This also requires your group to also understand how taunting works. This is something you may need to tell your group depending on whether or not they wait for you to do this. Try saying something similar to “Let me go in first so I can gather the enemy to me, and you can DPS them down faster.”

This kind of comment usually helps players understand why you are wanting them to wait. Sadly, you can’t always win this with people wanting to speed through dungeons. Do not rely on soft taunting enemies — use this strategy instead to get high priority targets over to you so you can actively taunt them.

2. Maintaining Taunt and On Which Target(s)

Unlike some other MMOs, ESO does not have a built-in group taunt feature or an aggro threat feature. You have to actively taunt targets with single-target spells and maintain aggro from there. The Tormentor set is an AOE taunt option that we’ll discuss later. Taunts in ESO last for fifteen seconds, which is the time frame you’ll need to re-taunt enemies before it wears off.

ESO screenshot - maintaining taunt
Image: Zenimax Online Studios via HGG

Many beginner tanks will let their taunt completely fall off before reapplying. This ends up scattering enemies and reducing damage done to the boss. Do not do this! Instead, reapply taunt every 11–13 seconds. I try to reapply every twelve seconds to avoid losing aggro just in case I get stunned or immobilized and can’t reapply taunt.

You have a few options for taunt, the main one being Puncture, from the One Hand and Shield skill line. Pierce Armor is the best morph of this, and has the added bonus of reducing enemy resistances further (now 5948 + 2974 off of their physical and spell resistance). Inner Fire is the ranged taunt option, and is usually morphed into Inner Rage for giving your group a 100% chance of creating a synergy instead of the usual 50%.

The last taunt option comes from using the Tormentor set (from Banished Cells), which applies taunt to any enemies that are dealt damage by a charge, leap, teleport, or pull ability you use on them. If you are a returning tank after a long period of time, note that Ice Staves no longer provide a taunt. Instead, blocking still costs magicka, but it’s cost is reduced by 20% and the amount you can block is increased by 20%. Plus you gain a damage shield from heavy attacking. 

3. Positioning (Face Enemies Away From Group)

Something that is frustrating for DPS and Healers is a tank that constantly moves around. This is bad for multiple reasons, and will make fights harder for everyone. First, the healers’ ground AOEs will no longer heal you, and they will be forced to reapply them to where you move, draining their resources.

Second, DPS will need to move their damaging ground AOEs and continually chase after you as you run to continue damaging the boss. This will reduce their overall damage by a lot. Third, as the tank, you are more likely to die because of this. Without constant healing and quick DPS, some fight’s mechanics will cause the boss to deal more damage and cause you to die much more easily.

Positioning all the major enemies into one spot facing you will help your group take out the smaller enemies while they focus down the boss. This has the added bonus of helping mitigate damage you would otherwise take from these ads around the room. Silver Leash (morphed from the Fighter’s Guild ability Silver Bolts) will pull enemies to where you are standing and reduce their movement speed by 30% for four seconds. This is a great skill accessible to all classes that allows you to position the ranged enemies into the DPS’s damaging AOEs. When it comes to positioning, there are exceptions to every rule. Some fights do require you to move around to avoid taking fatal damage, so if you’re standing in RED, sometimes you do need to move out of it. But as often as you can, keep enemies standing in one spot.

(Note: standing in RED refers to the damaging AOEs enemies put down. These can be deadly, so watch out for them and move away as necessary).

ESO screenshot - positioning enemies away from group
Image: Zenimax Online Studios via HGG

The second equally important part of this is facing the enemies you taunt away from your allies. You’ll want to taunt them, then position yourself so that the bosses face you with their back to your allies. This will help your group easily lay down ground AOEslet your DPS stand right next to the boss to deal damage. Many bosses and strong ads have AOE splash attacks that can one-shot squishier DPS, so keep these threats facing away from your team. 

(Note: Werewolves deal more damage when they are facing the enemy they are attacking, so don’t be surprised if they try to do this. They also might die because of it, but that’s on them after you do your job positioning the enemies away from the team).

4. Blocking and Knowing Mechanics

If you are moving from DPS or a healer to tanking, you probably aren’t used to blocking as consistently as a tank would be. Tanks naturally have more health and resistances, but that doesn’t mean they can stand up against anything and not get cut down. Being able to read boss movement and knowing the mechanics of a fight will help you to block or move out of the way as needed.

ESO screenshot - tanking blocking and knowing mechanics
Image: Zenimax Online Studios via HGG

Generally, you can see an enemy winding up a heavy attack, as thin yellow lines will gather around them as they prepare to strike. As they start striking, you should have your block up and can even bash at this moment to set them off balance. Different bosses have different speeds of heavy attacks and other skills you’ll need to block.

A lot of tanking is learning how different enemies will attack you, and getting used to reading enemy movement. Giving yourself a damage shield a couple seconds before you’re going to get hit is also a solid idea. Consider slotting skills like Bone Surge (Undaunted Skill) or Defensive Stance (One Hand and Shield Skill).

5. Armor Evolution (What to Wear as the Tank)

As you start out tanking, maintaining your resources while blocking heavy attacks can be difficult. Especially so if you miss important blocks or don’t have good team healing as well as shield skills. Because of this, the armor you choose to wear is very important. As you start out, you’ll want to wear more selfish sets that give you extra health, armor, or shields.

Once you have tanking as a whole better locked down, you’ll move onto sets that buff your group up. Providing things like extra damage or other useful stats like increased ultimate generation are things to look for. Giving your group members more spell or weapon damage will also help your survivability, oddly enough. Increasing your healer’s spell power will make their heals stronger, helping you heal back more from them. While increasing DPS weapon/spell power will help you get through dangerous phases of boss fights more quickly. Make sure the traits on your armor are either sturdy to help with blocking or reinforced to get you closer to the 33000 resistance cap. 

ESO screenshot - armor evolution and what to wear as the tank
Image: Zenimax Online Studios via HGG

Getting more health is always a solid option, as you’ll need a decent health pool to tank hits from stronger enemies. People often say you want at least 35K for tanking, but going for around 40–45K and above will make life easier for you. You want to have a decent stamina pool for blocking and using abilities as well, so aim for at least 20K stamina and slightly less magicka.

When you grab a synergy that restores your “primary” resource pool, having slightly less magicka than stamina will ensure that you receive stamina back. Unless you plan on being on your ice staff backbar for blocking, you’ll definitely want to set yourself up with more stamina. When considering armor sets, also first take a look at your attributes and set them in the way that works best for you in tandem with your armor sets. Tanks usually go for some attribute points into stamina, and the rest purely in health (or simply all into health). 

(Sets with the ⭐ and an image are my personal favorite to use).

Initial Sets from Overland:

Plague Doctor (from Deshaan) — Gives a huge amount of health, its fifth piece granting 2804 max health. In total, you get 6422 health.

Green Pact (from Grahtwood) — Gives a lot of health and recovery with a food buff active. In total, you get 4912 health, and 485 health recovery.

Hatchling’s Shell (from Shadowfen) — Gives you a damage shield equal to 20% of your health.

Crafted Sets:

  • Torug’s Pact (from Deshaan, Grahtwood, Stormhaven) — Decreases weapon enchantment cooldown by 33% and increases non-oblivion damage weapon enchantment potency by 45%. (This is great for things like Crusher or Weakening enchantments). 
  • Orgnum’s Scales (from Earth Forge) — While under 60% health, your health recovery is increased by 800 and your resistances by 6400.

Strong Tanking Options from Dungeons:

Ebon Armory Set

Ebon Armory (from Crypt of Hearts) — Gives health and increases each group member’s max health by 1000. (Really useful set if you are off-tanking for a trial group).

Brands of Imperium Set

Brands of Imperium (from White-Gold Tower) — When you take damage, you grant yourself and group members within eight meters a damage shield of 11260. (Another useful set for off-tanking in a trial group for some extra damage mitigation).

Endurance (from Daily Random Dungeon / Imperial City) — Gives 1928 health and 618 health recovery.

Great Selfish Sets (Use in Tough Situations):

Leeching Plate Set

Leeching Plate (from Imperial City Prison) — Gives health and leeches health from anyone who attacks you scaled off your max health. (One of my favorite sets if I can’t depend on a healer to always heal me up, or when there’s just too much incoming damage).

Eternal Yokeda Warrior Set

Eternal Yokeda Warrior (from Craglorn Trials) — When you drop below 25% health, you heal for a huge amount upwards of 20,000 based on your max health and gain 100 ultimate. (This is the set that helped me tank Vet Hel Ra Citadel for the first time).

Advanced Group Buff Sets:

Claw of Yolnahkriin Set

Claw of Yolnahkriin (from Sunspire) — You give yourself and up to eleven group members Minor Courage when you taunt an enemy, granting 215 weapon / spell damage. (A great easy to activate buff from more group damage).

Powerful Assault Set

Powerful Assault (from Imperial City coffers) — You give yourself and up to five group members 307 weapon / spell damage when you cast an assault skill. (Another great easy to activate buff for more group damage, but it buffs less members sadly).

Roar of Alkosh (from Maw of Lorkhaj) — When you activate a synergy, you’ll reduce enemies’ physical / spell resistance in an AOE around you based on your weapon damage. 

Saxhleel Champion (from Rockgrove) — When you use an ultimate ability, you and up to eleven group members Major Force, increasing critical damage done by 20%.

Monster Sets for Defense:

Lord Warden (from Imperial City Prison) — After taking damage, you have a 50% chance to increase you and your group members’ physical and spell resistance by 3180.

Earthgore (from Bloodroot Forge) — When you heal yourself or a group member that is under 50% health, you’ll spawn a massive heal scaled off of the higher of your max magicka or stamina.

Monster Sets for Offense:

Encratis’s Behemoth Set

Encratis’s Behemoth (from Black Drake Villa) — After dealing flame damage, you summon an aura that increases flame damage done by your group by 5% and reduces flame damage dealt to your group by 5%. (This makes groups that are mainly magicka feel a lot stronger).

Tremorscale Set

Tremorscale (from Volenfell) — After taunting an enemy, you reduce their physical resistance by 2395. (This makes groups that are mainly stamina feel a lot stronger).

Join the High Ground

Tanking is an extremely rewarding group role and once mastered, you will safeguard your fellow companions and shield them from harm. We hope you enjoyed our guide about ESO tanking for beginners. For the latest on Elder Scrolls Online, follow us on social and subscribe to our newsletter.

Happy gaming!