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We all know there are various tank characters on League of Legends, however as the game evolves, I see the Meta-Game being biased towards a team composition made of:

  • At least 1 ranged DPS
  • 1 Ranged Magic Damage
  • 2 Beefy champs
  • 1 another beefy or support (Soraka, Taric, Sona etc..)

So taking that into account, and knowing the heavy CC in nowadays games, which are viable tanks to play?

I really like Alistar, however he has a very poor early game, and in order to do his pulverize he must be in the very core of the battle where usually one is taken down easily.

Nasus and Singed both excellent tanks however they don't have escape mechanisms such as Shen or the other newly added tanks, not to mention that if Nasus does not build Trinity Force or Singed at least a RoA they are ignorable chars late game.

Which tanks are viable to play in the current game and why? I think Galio, Shen and Maokai are viable options.

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How did Rammus not make your list? –  tzenes Mar 14 '11 at 21:48
    
Well I think rammus has been a very balanced Tank all along, hes not buffed compared to Shen, Galio nor Maokai, and not as nerfed or underpowered as for example Alistar –  camiloqp Mar 14 '11 at 21:52
    
I didn't play for a while, so i'm not sure he wasn't nerfed to death, but you should give Garen a try... –  Lysarion Mar 15 '11 at 8:23
    
Well Garen is a Beefy champ, even though he is nerfed, he is a pain in the ass, I am talking more about tanks, the ones with a Taunt/Slow –  camiloqp Mar 15 '11 at 12:47
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@cmiloqp Tank is a very subjective term then; I play Garen as a straight tank. He does alright with a frozen mallet. –  Raven Dreamer Mar 16 '11 at 17:00
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2 Answers 2

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I don't consider Nasus a true tank - he has no real Tank abilities, and serves better as a Tanky DPS / Anti-carry. That said, here's a list of the heroes I consider true tanks in the current metagame.

Alistar

I'll grant you that Alistar's hard to play optimally, but when he is, the bull's a force to be reckoned with. Two hard CCs (neither affected by Merc Treads). Triumphant Roar makes him an excellent pusher, and his Ultimate and high base health make you an excellent damage soak. Additionally, little of his power comes from items; Pulverize + Headbutt is really good even without any bonus from AP.

Amumu

Amumu's got two major things going for him: He's a great initiator, and he's a tank who can jungle and gank effectively. Due to the experience bonus, most top teams have a jungler on Summoner's Rift, and Amumu's one of the better ones. He also has two hard CCs in bandage toss and his ult, which can make escaping from him quite difficult (not to mention keeping folks within Despair for longer)

Cho'gath

Poor Cho just get nerfed pretty bad in the Nocturne patch, losing substantial damage numbers from feast. That aside, he still is a decent (if not a first pick) tank with a skill shot initiation ability (though Rupture is more easily dodge-able than some other initiators) and an AoE silence. There's also something to be said for the psychological and mechanical effects of having the largest model on the screen. You'll be shielding your allies from attacks simply because your opponents can't find them to click under a fully-feasted Cho'gath. After you've maxed your feast stacks, try using Feast earlier in fights rather than later: it does true damage, and it's a pretty sizeable nuke - carries especially tend to panic when 1/4 of their health (or more) suddenly vanishes.

Galio

Mana-regen problems aside, Galio is a strong Tank. His most notable skills are his Ult and his Gust -- an AoE taunt nuke is especially powerful when combined with other AoE ults, such as Annie, Amumu, Morgana, Malphite, etc. Gust is useful both as a chasing mechanic and to help allies escape. Unfortunately, opposite-but-otherwise-like Rammus, Galio's usefulness tends to diminish in matches with primarily physical damage where he can't make full use out of his passive.

Garen

Garen is not a "typical" Tank, and works best as an Offtank due to not having a strong initiator or CC other than his silence (which is pretty useful in and of itself). Garen's a tough character who can bring a lot of damage to a group of enemies between judgement and his iconic sunfire cape. His ult is interesting, as it can be difficult to judge when to best use it, though some players dislike it because of its tendency to "steal" kills.

Gragas

Gragas gets a damage reduction, an AoE Slow, Area Denial, and a massive radial knockback on a relatively short cooldown. He works well as a tank (consider starting with a rod of ages) because of fight disruption alone, and drunken rage and happy-time give him quite a long longevity as well, making him a passable pusher.

Malphite

Malphite joins Cho in having been hit with the nerf-bat in the last patch, but is still a strong tank. Like Amumu, Rammus, and Shen, Malphite can jungle effectively, and has a combination of an impressive initiator, and a damage-dealing skill that scales off of armor (so even building straight tank items, you can deal a hefty sum of damage). With his Q, he can be especially effective by tunnel-visioning enemy carries.

Maokai

Maokai is a great tank based around team fights. His ultimate is an AoE damage reduction, which when strategically placed, can turn the tide of fights. He has a snare, which is great to gank with, or focus down the enemy carry, a small AoE slow, and a really strong harass with his ranged sapling. His passive makes him have a very strong laning presence. After every 5 abilities, his next auto attack heals him 7% hp. This is also a incredibly useful skill in team fights, giving him huge survivability potential.

Mordekaiser

Mordekaiser can be an incredible tank, especially if he gets a few early kills and gets an item and level advantage over the other players. Though I've heard of folks jungling as Mordekaiser, I prefer to see him in a solo lane, where a good player can easily 2 v 1 by abusing Iron Man (well, perhaps less easily, depending on the opponents, but I've seen it done across a number of games). Make sure to get some AP to go with the Kaiser - Rylai's or an Abyssal Scepter and Sorc Boots make for a very offensive tank, especially in the laning phase where his short cooldowns make for an easy harass.

Nunu

When built properly, Nunu makes a great off-tank. The thing you have to realize about Nunu is that the slow on his E is insane. It's 70% I think at rank 5? If Nunu catches up to you alone, you are not getting away from him if he has the mana to continually iceball you. Also important to note is Consume - the health it restores is not insubstantial, and with a Will of the Ancients, you can easily recover half your health every 10 seconds or so.

Rammus

Rammus has everything a tank needs - a damage reduction ability (defense curl), an intiator paired with a slow (powerball), hard CC and target peeling (taunt), and team fight presence (tremors adds up fast!). Did we mention that he could jungle and his taunt has a relatively quick cooldown? A top pick for sure.

Shen

Shen is probably up in the top 3 with Amumu and Rammus when it comes to tanks (in my mind at least). If you can learn to correctly handle his Energy (which can be a little tricky to get the hang of at first), a good Shen player can be phenomenal. He's got a damage shield, an AoE Taunt, and a global ult / ally savior mechanic. One thing to note is that you don't want to build dodge on Shen - build armor/MR and health instead: it makes his passive come up more often and for more damage.

Singed

Finally, Singed. Singed is known for running really fast - make sure to take ghost, as it lets you spread your poison much more handily without having to path around enemies. As singed, you want your opponents to chase you; with your ult you're more than likely faster than them (and insanity potion lasts for an unmatched THIRTY SECONDS) and they'll kill themselves on your poison trail if they chase you for too long. Of course, when they finally break off, that's when you turn around, stick 'm with your adhesive, and then fling 'm behind you into more poison. Fling is an okay initiator, though it takes practice to make sure you're not accidentally throwing the enemies away from your team.

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Excellent post Raven. I am practicing the tank way for some months now and when I saw this question yesterday I thought to write something here. But is not anymore necessary because you did a really nice work in summarizing pros of each tank. –  Drake Mar 16 '11 at 22:27
    
Maybe you can add something about Jarvan IV, it is new but it seems that he can work quite well as tank (or better offtank), and he has a very good fight initiation/control in my opinion. –  Drake Mar 16 '11 at 22:31
    
I tried Jarvan for the first time today. He's closer to Xin Zhao than anyone else. He's not quite a tank though, 'cause he needs to build damage items to be a threat. –  Raven Dreamer Mar 16 '11 at 23:39
    
I think youre right about amumu, but your reasoning is all wrong. All tanks without a taunt need a way of drawing attention away from the dps. Amumu has two stuns (one an AOE), but his most important asset is dispair. If you dont deal with him that damage adds up over the course of a battle. You are forced to deal with him –  tzenes Mar 17 '11 at 3:32
    
@Tzenes - I only wrote briefly about each tank, and you're right about despair. However, Despair is one of those near passive abilities that you don't realize is killing you; simply put, it's not nearly as attention grabbing as bandage toss -> Tantrum | bandage toss -> ult. –  Raven Dreamer Mar 17 '11 at 4:24
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Here is my list of viable tanks:


Rammus

  • Powerball serves as an escape, gank, and interrupt ability.
  • Defensive Ball Curl is a built-in thornmail.
  • Puncturing Taunt lasts 3 seconds.

These abilities alone nerf all melee dps champs. Rammus can outlast a Madrid's Bloodrazor (which most other tanks cannot claim to do) and prevent hit-and-run attacks on your allies. Also, his interrupt stops spell channeling, meaning most ultimates don't work. Overlooking Rammus is missing a world of possibility.


Nasus

  • Soul Eater gives innate life steal
  • Siphoning Strike boosts damage and increases with kills.
  • Fury of the Sands gives even more life steal, and bonus damage.

Using items like Madrid's Bloodrazor and Bloodthirster on Nasus makes him the meanest tank when his ultimate is active. He frequently takes on and entire team at once and with enough support comes out on top. His biggest role is to chop up key players like Ashe and other dps champs, because he can Wither them and tank through a team while bashing them to death. Nasus is also very balanced and has barely seen changes over the last while, which you can interpret as reliability.


Sion

  • Feel No Pain means Sion can ignore a BF sword's worth of damage.
  • Death's caress absorbs lots of damage and has a near 1 for 1 AP ratio.
  • Enrage gives him a BF sword for free.
  • Cannibalism gives 100% life-steal at end-game.

Sion serves a role much like Nasus. His sheer life gain turns losing battles into colossal victories. He only has a little cc with his stun, but he can still kill key players on the other team while largely ignoring damage, especially with Mercury's Treads and Banshee's Veil. Also, his ability to be full AP or AD makes him versatile, meaning no matter the enemy team makeup you will be useful. Given team composition these days Sion fits many roles well.


Galio

  • Runic Skin converts 50% of MR to AP. This reeks of tanking.
  • Resolute smite acts as cc and damage output.
  • Bulwark helps soak an incredible amount of damage and heals.
  • Righteous Gust is a simple escape mechanism.
  • Idol of Durand is the only AoE taunt/dps in the game, making him very unique.

Galio is sort of an AP/MR Rammus. He has good cc, an escape mechanism, and a taunt. Like physical dps champs have trouble with Rammus, mages have difficulty with Galio. This makes him a good pick as most teams have at least 2 mages. His ability to support teammates and himself get his hands dirty with a combined self Bulwark/Flash/Idol of Durand makes him a scary tank and very easy to initialize fights with.


Mordekaiser

  • Iron Man is the most tank-centric ability in the game. Do damage to soak damage.
  • Creeping Death increases armor and feeds your shield.
  • Siphon of Destruction feeds your shield using AoE damage.
  • Children of the Grave is an escape through health regeneration, or an offensive move.

Mordekaiser is a tank purely because of his shield. He can effectively soak an endless amount of damage as long as his shield is up. This means you need to be using abilities often. Use items like Force of Nature, Spirit Visage, and Warmog's Armor to recover from health loss when using abilities. Spirit Visage also reduces cooldowns, allowing you to spam.

Because Mordekaiser lacks cc, you have to rely on Boots of Swiftness and Frozen Mallet/Rylai's Crystal Scepter. With these items Mordekaiser can chase enemies and stop them by combining abilities and standard attacks. His Mace of Spades becomes crushing with these items, triggering a double slow.


There are many tanks that I haven't mentioned. I personally don't like Shen but his team utility is very high, given his AoE taunt and his ultimate. I haven't played with Maokai but his abilities are very unique for a tank. His champion spotlight highlights this.

I will update this answer after playing a few more tanks that I own.

As a final note, it's a mistake to say a tank is useless because they are bad if you don't build them right. Any tank, and really any champ, is bad if you don't build them right. It's only fair to compare tanks once you've figured out their best builds.

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Morde, and Amumu are viable tanks, morde can be squishy early on, but if you're constantly on the offensive, you can keep his pseudo-health up. –  zzzzBov Mar 15 '11 at 16:56
    
Excellent post, you made very good points on the tanks you mentioned, how about singed? Have you played him? –  camiloqp Mar 15 '11 at 17:06
    
@camiloqp I am not good with Signed but he can be scary in other hands :) maybe I can describe some strategies I've seen with him? All around he's only really cc, his other abilities are neat but by no means special. –  Sadly Not Mar 15 '11 at 17:38
    
@zzzzBov Mordekaiser is dirty, I will consider doing a writeup as a recall some old games I had with him. –  Sadly Not Mar 15 '11 at 17:38
    
@thethinman, dirty? I don't really see why he'd be dirty. He has to keep attacking with his spells to keep his life up, so a stun/silence can end him. His run speed is slow too, so even with good boots he's pretty easy to outrun. in the middle of a group fight though, his aoe's can just churn dmg and temporary health. –  zzzzBov Mar 15 '11 at 17:42
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