Tanking 101


Since we have a few new players and alts hitting 60 on their tanks, I thought I'd lay out a few basic principles to keep in mind when you're gearing and running Ops and Flashpoints. This will all be independent of class and applies equally to shadows, vanguards, and guardians.

The job of a Tank is twofold: Get all the mobs to attack you, and Stay Alive. Gear and player skill contribute to both elements, with gear figuring more heavily into the "stay alive" part and skill generally determining the aggro part.

Aggro, Threat and How it Works

Threat is essentially the measure of how much an enemy npc is pissed at you and wants to attack you. It's a numerical value that increases with every attack you land and heal you use. Each enemy has a hidden table that lists all the players in a group that are in combat with it. With few exceptions, mobs will fixate on the person who is at the top of that list to the exclusion of all others. This is called heaving Aggro. Aggro is a binary state: you either have it or you don't.

As a Tank, it is your responsibility to ensure that the enemies are attacking YOU instead of your teammates. You're the one with the most health, a shield, and a bunch of defensive abilities, and they are all squishy little princesses who will wilt under the heavy gaze of your enemies. You do this by having aggro on all (or at least most) of the enemies in combat, and you do that by generating the most threat possible to your targets.

Pulling Aggro

When one player has generated more threat than the Tank, and the enemy turns to attack them instead, they are said to have pulled off the tank. In SWTOR, there are certain thresholds that must be crossed before this happens, depending on how far the player is from the mob in question.

The Melee threshold is 110% of the current aggro target's threat. This means that someone in melee range of the boss only has to beat the Tank's threat by 10% in order to pull.

ex. The tank has 100,000 threat on a boss. Melee DPS lands a big series of crits and bumps their threat up to 110,000. Boss turns to Melee DPS.

The Ranged threshold is 130% of the current aggro target's threat. Healers and DPS at range have a larger window and must beat the Tank's threat by 30% before they pull.

ex. The tank has 100,000 threat on a boss. Ranged DPS has 125,000 threat. The boss stays on the tank until the DPS breaks 130,000 OR wanders into melee range.

HOWEVER - These distances are NOT measured according to the standard reckoning. Melee skills have a 4 meter range from the outer edge of the enemy's hit box, but the aggro radius is measured from the CENTER of the hit box. Because of this, when attacking a huge droid or creature, it is possible to be within melee range for the purposes of attacking, but be counted "at range" for the purposes of pulling aggro. This is extremely important when understanding the mechanics of your Taunts, below.

This is the main reason that it's so much easier to tank giant bosses than human-sized bosses - all the melee DPS are counted at range for the purposes of pulling aggro.

Taunt Mechanics

Every tank class has a single-target taunt and an area taunt, even if they're not specced for tanking. These skills are critical to playing your tank to the fullest, but it is also easy to get into bad habits if they are overused.

Firstly, to clear up some popular misconceptions, here is the text of the single target taunt:

"Taunts the target, forcing it to attack the [Tank] for 6 seconds. Player targets deal 30% less damage when attacking anyone other than you. Lasts 6 seconds. This effect cannot be resisted."

These skills function completely differently in PVE and PVP. In PVE, they force the enemy mob to attack you (and they also have another feature that I'll describe below). In PVP, they debuff enemy players into doing less damage when attacking your teammates. Note that this damage reduction DOES NOT apply in PVE content.

The second feature of your taunt is that it is a THREAT COPY. Not only does it force mobs to attack you, it also sets your threat to whatever number is required to pull aggro from the mob's current target. This is an incredibly powerful ability, and coupled with the short cooldown on the single target taunt can be leveraged to increase your threat to insurmountable levels. That's because the game does not care who the mob's current target is for the purpose of increasing your threat - it can even be you!

That's right - taunting a mob who is aggro'd to you will increase your own threat by 10% (if you're in melee range) or 30% (if you're "at range").

ex. The Tank has 100,000 threat on a boss. A ranged DPS pulls aggro with 130,000 threat and the boss runs over to him. The Tank stands still and Taunts the boss back. His threat number is now 169,000 (130% of the DPS's threat). That one skill gave the tank 69,000 threat!

This is the reason that boss fights that require tank swaps (and lack any threat drop mechanics) will never see anyone pull off the tanks after a few rounds of swapping. The tanks are multiplying their threat at an exponential rate.

You can leverage this mechanic by working taunts into your tanking rotation, even if you have aggro.

To Taunt or Not to Taunt

Personally, I don't usually use taunts in my rotation because I view them as a bit of a crutch in normal content. You shouldn't NEED to taunt to maintain aggro, as every tank class has the tools at its disposal to generate a ton of threat without taunting. Relying on taunts to hold aggro is really only useful in two situations: very high end groups, and very low end groups.

Low end: New tanks with little experience and sub-par gear. If grouped with well played and geared DPS they will find it difficult to hold aggro without constantly taunting.

High end: Geared out, well played tanks grouped up with geared out, well played DPS in content (like Hard Mode Ops) that *requires* the DPS to push it to eleven. Even experienced tanks can lose aggro to a bursty DPS in the initial seconds of combat, so taunt padding can be almost a necessity here.

Who and When to Guard

I'll refer you to my previous comment HERE. Bottom line, in 99% of PVE content, your Guard should go on the best geared DPS, preferably melee. In PVP, guard healers.


The opening seconds of combat are the most critical for a tank. You need to establish threat on all or most mobs right away, or risk them beelining to your healer. Furthermore, DPS just LOVE to blast out their most damaging moves right away, so it's critical that you open with your biggest, hardest-hitting skills at the very start.

Aggro Triage

Bear it mind that it's not possible to maintain aggro on every single mob in every single pull at all times. Nor should you try. Don't run around trying to whack every weak ranged mob with your lightsaber. In many cases, it's counter-productive and dangerous for the tank to grab every mob, as some of the bigger pulls can have 8-9 enemies that, if all of them are attacking you, could kill you before the healer can keep up. In these cases, crowd control is helpful, as is sticking with a proper kill order for the DPS (PROTIP: It's "weakest first"). Lots of the time it's OK to let a DPS tank one or two normal mobs or even a Strong. The damage will be spread out between two people's health bars instead of one, reducing the chance of either one dying.

Gearing Basics

While each tanking class requires a slightly different stat distribution to maximize their survivability, a few tenets remain the same across all of them:

1. Don't take ANY Critical Rating, Surge Rating, or Alacrity Rating. Only take Power as the secondary stat on your Augments. These stats are for DPS and healing and have no place on your gear. You need to stack Defensive stats: Shield, Defense, and Absorb.

2. Don't take ANY Accuracy if you can help it. You'll have a 10% miss chance on all attacks, but missing a few skills means nothing in the long run, and any loss of threat from those Misses can be more than made up for by Taunting. If you're stuck with Accuracy on your gear, replace it ASAP.

3. Do not use Fortitude Augments. While the extra HP may seem tempting, you are giving up a total 448 points in Defense/Shield/Absorb which is a HUGE survivability hit.

4. In PVE, Mitigation is king. The way gear is itemized in SWTOR, tanks often find themselves choosing between mods with high endurance and low stat ratings, and low endurance and high stat ratings. GO WITH HIGH STAT RATINGS, ALWAYS. An enormous HP pool is meaningless if you are getting hit for 20% more damage on every attack. High defensive stats will keep you alive longer than all the HP in the galaxy, and your healers will thank you.

5. There is no "optimal percentage" or cap on defensive stats. Rather, there is a balanced stat distribution based on your current gear level. To find out what it is for your tank, check out THIS THREAD. Find the table for your class, then open your character panel and mouse over your three defensive stats (Shield, Absorb, Defense). Add up the values, round off to the nearest 100, and find the corresponding line. The three values will be your optimal ratings for your gear level.

ex. My Shadow has 530 Defense Rating, 778 Shield, and 869 Absorb. 530+778+869=2177. According to the table: {2200,{defense->489,shield->802,absorb->908}}. So I need to drop some Defense and Shield and add a little Absorb.

6. Balance your gear around your Defense and Absorb values. Every tanking Enhancement comes with Shield, so Shield values will come naturally. Swap Mods around because those have either Defense or Absorb. Generally guardians favor Defense while Shadows and Vanguards favor Absorb.


This is a total waste. All you're getting is the 6 seconds force-aggro; the threat copy+30% is wasted since 130% of zero (your threat before combat) is still zero.

Instead, use your ranged threat skills (force pull/harpoon/saber throw) before charging/leaping/running in. Then do your opening rotation, using a bunch of high threat skills (basically anything where the tooltip reads "Generates a high amount of threat") and THEN taunt to give yourself a nice threat cushion at the start of the fight where your aggro is most vulnerable.

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