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General Guide by Elk Arkane

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League of Legends Build Guide Author Elk Arkane

Tanks - Your personal Lifeguard

Elk Arkane Last updated on July 16, 2011
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Team 1

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Ranked #31 in
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Win 49%
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Ability Sequence

Ability Key Q
Ability Key W
Ability Key E
Ability Key R

Not Updated For Current Season

The masteries shown here are not yet updated for the current season, the guide author needs to set up the new masteries. As such, they will be different than the masteries you see in-game.


Brute Force
Improved Rally

Offense: 0

Strength of Spirit
Veteran's Scars

Defense: 21

Expanded Mind
Blink of an Eye
Mystical Vision
Presence of the Master

Utility: 9

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Hey guys what’s up?
Is it just me or are there really much people scared of playing a tank? Very often I start a game and you instantly see five damage dealers locking in. Even if I play with friends, I am very often the only one who wants to play the tank. Once I talked with one of them about it and he said "You know, I would play tank but I simply don't know how to exactly to play him. Stuff like initiating and keep being competitive just seems too complicated."

That was the point where I thought "Okay, if that’s the problem, why not just write a guide about it?". And here it is. Of course I know some people just don't play tank because they prefer being a damage dealer, but I also want to tell those people how fun it can be to be the tank, the one mechanism that safes everyone and helps getting the kills.

One last thing I got to mention. Since I am from Germany there might be some grammar mistakes in this guide. I seriously hope there are not too much and you guys don't misunderstand me :(

UPDATE 1: Teamfight and Jungeling chapter added
UPDATE 2: Little update about gold/10 items
UPDATE 3: Added Leona

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What is a Tank?

If you ask people "What is a Tank?", the most common answer you get is like this: "A character that has many HP and gets most of the damage". Obviously that’s true, but I don't think that is the full definition of a tank. Basically you could play Veigar with 6 Warmog's Armor and you could call him a Tank.

In my eyes is a Tank someone who protects the team and controls the enemy. A tank needs to have heavy CC (Crowd Control) skills to stun, slow and simply disable the enemy. Every Tank is a melee character since you simply can't tank the enemy from a long range. Also a Tank needs to counter the enemy, their characters and their strength. A good Tank also initiates a fight so your team can deal the necessary damage while the enemy is busy with you. A tank should also stay with his team in a team fight! A team fight without a tank is mostly a lost team fight.

In most cases a Tank does not a lot of damage. Since you won't build any damage items, every damage you do is the basic damage of your skills. So don't expect to have like 35/0/14 stats if you play Tank. The perfect tank stats would be like this: 3/0/35. Enough kills to get some money, 0 deaths for obvious reason, and a hell of a lot assists to help your team get the kills.

Of course there are some kinds of Tanks who can deal a good amount of damage. A good example would be Mordekaiser who deals quite a lot damage and still can survive like everything. Nevertheless he has no CC at all which ruins him as a Main-Tank. Characters like this are called Off-Tanks or Sub-Tanks. However, in this guide I wanna set the focus on the Main-Tanks.

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What are good Tanks and which one can you recommend?

Okay, here is a little list of all the characters that currently I consider as a Main-Tank.

Jarvan IV

Every one of these characters fits perfectly in my definition of a Main-Tank since they all have at least 2 CC skills and can take a lot of damage. Now you may say "But hey! Shen only has 1 CC skill!" Yeah, that’s right, Shen is missing a little bit of CC compared to the rest. But he also has something that no Tank else has. An "Omg I can save anyone anytime" skill called Stand United. He may not be the best control Tank, but he sure is the best one if it comes to saving lives.

If you are new to League of Legends or it is the first time you want to play as a Tank, I would recommend you Malphite or
They are pretty easy to handle, especially Malphite since his passive Granite Shield makes him a moving fortress in early game. Basically you just need to get a little distance as soon as the shield is broken. If it’s still up, just harass the enemy with your Seismic Shard and get some last hits. Later, your ultimate becomes the best possible initiate you can get, especially if all 5 enemies are staying together.

Shen on the other side is also a pretty good Tank for beginners since you don’t need to worry about any Mana costs. Every skill of him costs energy, which will regenerate quite fast and allows you to spam your skills as much as you want. Only problem is: if you use like all skills at the same time you have 0 energy and can't do anything for the next few seconds. Still, his Vorpal Blade is a pretty awesome harassment tool and his passive Ki Strike helps you getting creep kills a lot easier.

If you are already familiar with League of Legends or being a Tank, I can recommend you one of my favorite characters: Blitzcrank
He is just a giant CC beast. Every skill of him, except Overdrive, has a CC effect. Especially Rocket Grab can be like an instand kill, if used correctly. Just imagine enemies carry, supporter or mage standing instantly among you and your team. Free gold incoming! He is also a pretty awesome disabler with his giant AoE silence and his Power Fist.

This of course doesn't mean the other Tanks are useless or something. If you are more interested in one of them, take him! This guide is meant for all Tanks, and not only the one I mentioned.

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Summoner Spells

Personally I just love this spell combination:
Ghost & Flash
You can use this with almost every character in League of Legends since it will help you to get in or out every battle. Especially Flash, because you can jump over a lot of walls with it, which is a safe escape in about 8/10 cases.
Nevertheless there are also some other very viable choices.

Clairvoyance for example helps you getting some map awareness. Knowing where your enemy is, is an extremely important part of this game. Often the team with the most map awareness is the one with the most kills.

Teleport gets you everywhere, every time. This is especially good to catch up with your team if you got some items or something.

Exhaust if you need a little more CC. With this you can make the enemy AD carry pretty useless or slow someone who is trying to get away.

Fortify is like your personal fail-safe-button. Mostly it will just get you some more seconds and won’t save the tower. This is more effective if you play a character with a taunt ( Rammus or Shen), since you can force the tower to attack the enemy champion.

Ignite is also a very possible choice. Personally I think every team should have at least one Ignite. Not only because its does pretty good damage, but it also helps against characters like Dr. Mundo or Swain which heal to full HP in about 3 seconds. Ignite stops that...or at least decreases it hardly.

Smite is a must if you want to Jungle, it just makes things so much easier. Still, if you want to stick to your lane, just ignore it. You will have no use for it on a lane.

However, I would recommend you to use always Flash or Ghost. You should always have at least one escape mechanism with you. Even if you’re the Tank, if you’re dead the enemy gets money and that is bad, no matter what character you are playing.

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I would recommend you using the following runes:

Greater Mark of Desolation
Greater Mark of Magic Penetration
Greater Mark of Vitality

Greater Seal of Armor
Greater Seal of Defense
Greater Seal of Evasion
Greater Seal of Vitality

Greater Glyph of Magic Resist
Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist
Greater Glyph of Cooldown Reduction
Greater Glyph of Scaling Cooldown Reduction

Greater Quintessence of Health
Greater Quintessence of Armor
Greater Quintessence of Magic Resist
Greater Quintessence of Movement Speed

If you want to play full tank you definitely should use the HP runes. They give you 87,48 bonus HP at level 18, even more if you also use HP Quints. But if you’re like me and you think "Even if I am the tank, I still wanna do a bit damage!" you can use the MagicPen or ArmorPen runes, depends on what character you are playing. It doesn't really matter that much, you can be a good tank even if you don’t use HP runes here.

This is where it gets interesting. While the Marks were primary offensive, Seals and Glyphs give a lot defense bonus. Also you can increase your armor which is especially good if you want to play Malphite or Rammus since they get also damage boost. They will also help you extremly if you want to Jungle. If you want to spend a little more money, you can get the dodge seals. They are pretty expensive (820 each) but also very effective. Most AD characters will hate you if you just dodge their attacks without getting any damage at all. However, if you don't want to pay that much money and just want some overall good tank runes, get the Greater Seal of Vitality.

Glyphs are pretty much the same as Seals, only difference is that they focus on magic resistance. Another possibility is the cooldown reduction runes. Those are for you, if you think that your skills simply take too long till you can use them again. But again, if you want to play full tank, take the magic resist, mages will hate you for that.

Again, here you just take what you prefer. Chances are pretty high you already have 3 Greater Quintessence of Health since they are pretty popular among new players. The 78 HP bonus is a good help in early game, later 78 hp is like 1/4 hit. Movement speed is also very viable because you always need to stay with your team and very often need to change position in a team fight.

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As we all know the masteries are split into 3 skill trees. Offense, Defense and Utility. Since this is a Tank guide we obviously will focus on the defense tree. Your masteries will most of the time look like this:

Of course you want to have all the damage reducing skills you can get. Therefore you get Armor, Magic resistance, dodge and the rest. Now, what do we do with the 9 other skill points? My suggestion: put them into the utility tree. You can get more experience, use ghost or teleport more effective and your buffs will keep longer.
However, you can also use other masteries as well. For example: if you play a character who gets some bonuses from mana (Blitzcrank's Mana Barrier) you can skill Strengh of Spirit to get some more HP regeneration. Also, if you don’t care much for neutral buffs, you can use Greed to get a little extra money.

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Items and how to counter the Enemy

As already mentioned: A Tank needs to counter the enemy. You always need to be aware of what you enemy is and who does the most damage. You simply can't build the same items in every game, you always need to be adaptable.

Here is a little example why: you’re a big fan of a lot of armor items so you keep getting stuff like Thornmail and Sunfire Cape in every game. Now, what is this useful if you fight a full ability power team? Nothing. You will eat the full damage they do. To counter AP characters you need magic resistance, stuff like Force of Nature or Banshee's Veil. Of course a lot of magic resistance is no use if you fight a full attack damage team. I think you get the idea.

Basically it looks like this:
Armor counters Attack Damage,
Magic resistance counters Magic Damage,
HP helps you stay longer in the fight.

Now you might think: "Then I will just get HP items! 5 Warmog's Armor and I’m invincible!!". That is just wrong. You can't be an effective tank if you just keep building HP. The problem here is: HP reduces nothing. You will get the full damage every time someone hits you. You can have like 4000 HP, they will do nothing if a LeBlanc deals 3000 damage to you with one skill combo. Now you would have like 1000 rest HP which will be reduced to zero in a second. HP counters nothing, it just will get you some time if you already have some good defense items. By the way, getting too much HP items will more likely bring the enemy to buy a Madred's Bloodrazor. Since it is %damage they will just need a certain amount of hits, no matter how much damage they do. But you know what? Madred's does magic damage. So it would be no use to buy it if you already have a good amount of magic resistance.

Now let's see what good Tank items are and when you should get them.

Armor / Anti-Attack Damage

To me, this is one of the best items ingame. It is just a pure anti-AD item, with a lot of armor and brings the enemy to go suicide while attacking you. Best of all this one only costs 2000 gold! Must buy against AD!

Randuin's Omen
A pretty awesome item as well. Not only you get a good amount of Armor and HP, you also get a pretty cool AoE slow if you activate it. This can help you chase an enemy, or keeps the enemy from chasing you and your team. Also, you can build this with Heart of Gold, which will bring you a good amount of extra gold.

Frozen Heart
Just like Thornmail this item will give you a hell of a lot Armor. You might also like the cooldown reduction you get from this. Being able to use your skills more often can safe many fights and let you initiate more as well.

Sunfire Cape
This item is very good if you already have a good amount of Armor and you want to get some HP as well. It not only helps you doing some damage with its passive, it will also get you some neat HP and Armor for a good price (2610 gold).

Ninja Tabi
You will very unlikely get those in most of the games. They are extremely useful if you enemy team has like 4 AD characters and no CC at all, but as I said, that would be very unlikely. However, if that’s the chase you will love the dodge bonus since the enemy will have a hard time doing any damage to you at all.

Magic Resistance / Anti-Magic Damage

Force of Nature
The item with the most Magic Resistance ingame. If your enemy team has a lot of skills they can spam, this is for you! You will also get some pretty awesome HP regeneration which will help you being ready for a fight or regenerate some HP after one. The movement speed bonus gets you also much faster into a fight or at the right position.

Banshee's Veil
Banshee's Veil is just a purely awesome item. Not only do you get a extremely useful spell shield, you also get some good HP/Mana and Magic Resistance as well. You might also like the fact that you need Catalyst the Protector to build it. If you see that your enemy team has a lot of Magic Damage, build this as soon as possible. It will make your early game much easier.

Mercury's Treads
Ah, good old Mercury's. Very possibly, the best boots ingame. They will give you a neat Magic Resistance bonus, but more importantly it will get you 35 Tenacity. With Tenacity you reduce CC effects from enemy. This is very important in team fights, since you always need to be active and can't allow yourself to stay stunned all the time. You should get those in most of your games, since there are a lot of characters with heavy CC walking around.

Quicksilver Sash
You already have Banshee's Veil and/or Force of Nature and you still need more Magic Resistance? Get this item! 56 Magic Resistance + being able to remove all debuffs at once? For only 1440 gold?! Sign me up!

Abyssal Scepter
More unlikely you will get those. Since you pay quite a lot gold for the Ability Power, which will not help you much. Still, if you feel your team needs just a little more damage and you also need some Magic Resistance, you can get this item. If your character does Magic Damage of course, this will not make much sense if you play Jarvan IV for example.

Hybrid Items / Mixed Damage

Aegis of the Legion
This item get's you and your team everything: HP, Armor and Magic Resistance. It also is a very cheap item since it only costs 1925 gold. You get this item mostly in early game if you don't know what damage you can expect. It might be quite rare but sometimes you just don't see any fight after 15 minutes and your enemies have a mixed type of damage (for example: 2 AD, 2 AP, 1 Tank). However, this is a item you mostly see a supporter using, so if someone already has this item, don’t buy it.

Guardian Angel
Another item which will get you Armor and Magic Resistance. Also you get a neat revive ability which brings you back into the fight, even if you already died. However, you only get 750 HP if your back. In mid game, this might be okay, but in late game you will just die in a second since the enemy will stay around you, waiting for you to come back. Nevertheless, this item has some kind of psychological side effect. This will bring your enemy kinda to ignore you since they know they need to knock you down 2 times. Mostly they will think "Why should I focus the one who comes back if it's much harder to kill him?". Might be a little advantage, but I would not rely on it.

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Farming and how to get Money

All those awesome items cost of course a lot of money. To get this money you want to do as much creep kills as possible. While doing this, try to just last hit them, if you keep auto attacking you will push the lane and be easier to gank. However, if you’re with a AD carry on a lane, you want him to get the most money. Obviously, he is the one who does the damage in late game, so he needs A LOT of money.

Now you might ask "But how am I suppost to get money then?" You might consider getting some gold items. This is where Heart of Gold and Philosopher's Stone are coming into the game. Depending on what character you are playing, you might get 1 or 2 of them to keep the money coming. Later in the game you can build them into Randuin's Omen or Eleisa's Miracle. If you don't need any of those items and already have 6 items, just sell them. They did their job and by this point it should already be late game.

This is however not necessary in every game. If one of your team mates is jungeling, you will be the one on the solo lane in about 9/10 cases. If that is the case, farm as much as you can, every creep kill counts.

At this point I want to mention that Tenacity do NOT stack. So if you already have Mercury's Treads, there is no much point getting a Eleisa's Miracle. But if you build Ninja Tabi your welcome to get some Tenacity.

UPDATE: Since patch v1.0.0.120, gold items doesn't stack anymore. So you can't buy like 3 [Heart of Gold]] or Philosopher's Stone anymore. Only thing you can do is getting one of each, this will still increase your Goldbonus.

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Team Fights - the moment of Truth

This is what separates an awesome Tank from a useless Tank. Everything you set up was for this moment. First thing you need to know: you need to pay attention to everything. The enemy, your team, the towers, the escape possiblitys, simply everything. Mostly, you want to initiate into the fight. This is quite easy if you play Malphite for example, since his Unstoppable Force is just one of the best initiating skills ingame. As soon as you see the enemies staying together, you can use it and start the fight. However, this is no use if you do it in front of a tower where the enemy needs like 2 seconds to be safe again. Later this might not be as much of a problem then it is in midgame, since you simply can tank the tower.

Other characters maybe require you to Flash into the enemy. Alistar for example could easily jump into the enemy, using Pulverize to get everyone into the air and then using Headbutt to get an enemy to your team. He will stay in a 4on1 fight and should be dead in a instant. Of course you’re now also standing in a 4on1 fight since you’re just flashed between your enemies. Time to use Unbreakable Will!

However, no matter what character you play, try to focus on the enemies carry since they have low HP and do all the damage. Don’t EVER focus the tank, and especially don’t push him into your team. That is exactly what he wants you to do.

As team fight is going, watch your team if someone is getting low HP and about to die. Try to safe him stunning the enemy. If you play for example Shen or Rammus you could also taunt him which will force the enemy to attack you.
Basically you are like the giant shield that protects your team. Caitlyn is using her Ace in the Hole? Jump in front of it! You see Ashe's Enchanted Crystal Arrow? Jump in front of it! Positioning is very important in a team fight. Make sure you always stand between your team and the enemy team so you can catch every damage the enemy is pulling off. The enemy team will also be less aggressive if the tank is in the front line since they know it’s no use to focus the tank.

Of course, since your taking most of the damage, there will come the moment where even you’re getting low HP. Here you only got two options. If your 100% sure you would win the whole team fight with it and you would get a Ace or four dead enemies without someone of your team died, you could sacrifice yourself for the team, pulling a last stun or something. However, if that’s not the case you should start getting you and your team out of the fight. It would help no one if you die for nothing, followed by your team. Except the enemy of course.

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A Tank in the Jungle?

Oh yeah! Some Tanks are pretty awesome at jungeling too. The best Jungle-Tanks are probably Amumu, Jarvan IV, Nunu and Rammus. There is nothing more devastating than a Tank, suddenly running into your back and forcing you to fight 3on2, 2on1 or whatever. To explain this a little more I want to focus on Nunu, since his Jungeling is probably the easiest.

As already mentioned in the Summoner Spells chapter, you need to take Smite. Not only will it get you extra money if you skilled Plentiful Bounty , it will also help you kill the creeps much faster. Since most tanks are extremely mana hungry, you want to start at the blue buff golem. Ask your team to pull the golem, before you’re attacking him, this also will give you more time since the golem will just ignore you for a few seconds. As soon as the golem is attacking you, use a heal potion. However, the damage you will get is still higher than your healing. So just wait till you got a little damage and use Consume. This skill is just made for jungeling, huge damage at a minion or neutral and awesome healing at the same time! if the golem has about 425 HP, use smite to finish him off. Now you just keep going to the jungle and remember to go ganking, you don't wanna waste the easy kills do you?

To make it a little more visual, I searched for a Jungle Tutorial on youtube. This is NOT my video, but I think it will help you understand how the jungeling works. Still there is one thing I need to mention, since the video is quite old, he is killing the dragon solo at level 7. I am not quite sure if this is still possible since the neutral monsters once got buffed by Riot. Most people told me that it's currently not possible to solo the dragon in early game.

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That’s it. Now you should know about everything important about tanks. So go out and tank some enemies and always remember: a good tank is the key to win every game. I really hope I helped some people with this guide and less people now are scared of being a tank.

Still, if you have any questions, recommendations or criticism, leave a comment and tell me about it!

At this point I also want to say thank you to my mate Ente who helped me with some grammar checking and discussed some Tank strategies with me. Also I wanna say thank you to Capitan for being the reason I am doing this. :)


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