Heavensward brought about a shift to the general tanking and healing meta, focusing a lot more on offense than what most players are used to/comfortable with.
What a lot of people don't realize is that this playstyle is nothing new. The best tanks and healers, Warriors and Scholars especially, have been trying to maximize their damage output since First Coil.
If it wasn't obvious from the title, this post focuses on the tanks.
For the few tanks who are used to this "new" offensive playstyle, it was business as usual.. but we're now getting a wave of new tanks (and old tanks trying new things) that, quite frankly, have no idea what they're doing.
For those people, we've decided to share some guidelines on how to effectively play as a STR-spec tank. We won't claim these are perfect, but these are the rules we go by and will definitely be better than slapping some STR on and going yolo.
We don't have any idea how well this will be received though we feel we've done a good job of trying to impart some tanking insight to those who might need it or seek it.. We are somewhat happy that SE has finally validated the high dps tanking meta but the amount of failed attempts at the playstyle is fairly frustrating. I just hope that this small guide would help add one or two more competent tanks to the playerbase.
Step 1: Put on some VIT
The whole argument for STR based tanking is that you take the same amount of damage (and thus require the same amount of healing) no matter how high/low your max HP is.. the extra HP simply serves as a buffer. The unspoken implication here is that if you (and your healers) mitigate and heal incoming damage spikes appropriately, you won't need that buffer.
But how do you learn how to properly mitigate damage?
By eating it with your face, that's how. And quite often, unmitigated.
So in order to learn how to not need the extra buffer, you first need to have had it in the first place.
You need not be in full Fending accessories but pls don't go full Slaying until you know what you're doing. A lot of the better tanks have a full set of crafted accessories as their "VIT set".. for the financially challenged, you can go 3 fending, 2 slaying.
Regardless of how you go about it, please put on some VIT.
So you're reasonably tanky even when eating shit unmitigated. What next?
Step 2: Learn when you NEED big cooldowns
Well, now you figure out when you actually need to use your big cooldowns (and which).
Things like cleaves and telegraphed tankbusters are the things you should be looking out for. These things are usually on a specific set rotation so it should be fairly easy to predict when they're coming.
The timings for your cooldowns will change as you progress into a fight. Far too often you'll end up using a cooldown for something only to find out you'll have a better use for it 30 seconds later. (And will end up eating the earlier thing unmitigated until you figure out something else for it)
So far, so good. Nothing exactly "new" isn't there. My first 2 steps are essentially MMO tanking basics 101.
Well that's because STR tanks are tanks. Too many people think that all the good STR tanks just slap on STR accessories, go into dps stance, and go "fuck you, healers".. this is simply not true. We are tanks first and foremost, and our primary job is still to survive.
Step 3: Use and stack "minor" cooldowns and other mitigation tools
Foresight, Convalescence, Bloodbath, Awareness.
These 4 skills are hugely underrated and underutilized. Just some quick tips:
Foresight and Convalescence are pretty weak on their own, but stack them together with some other mitigation tool (Storm's Path, Dark Dance, Bulwark) and they boost your mitigation against "fluff" damage quite significantly.
Bloodbath stacked with your damage cooldown (FoF, Berserk, Blood Weapon + Dark Arts spam) is the most powerful healing over time you will get, probably rivalling a Divine Seal'd Regen. This is also something that is more efficient when you're in your dps stance
Awareness is one of those things that are either completely useless or incredibly godlike. There are a lot of fights that will benefit from a no-crit cooldown. A3 single hand phase comes to mind.
These are just the things available to all tanks as cross-classes. Each tank has their own set of specific "minor" cooldowns and mitigation tools.*
PLD: Bulwark, Shelltron, Halone
DRK: Dark Dance, Dark Mind, Delirium
WAR: Storm's Path, Raw Intuition, Infuriate > Inner Beast
Note that some of these aren't actually "minor", but they generally don't fit the mold of the standard cooldown. I bring them up mainly to help with the next step.
Step 4: Don't sit on cooldowns
Firstly, learn to count backwards. If you know you'll need a cooldown in 2 minutes and it has a 90 second recast, then you have 30 seconds to use it and it'll be back up when you actually need it!
This includes all the other mitigation tools outside of your big cooldowns, no matter how small.
Any cooldown you don't use within the span of it's recast timer is a wasted cooldown. If you can't find any necessary use for it within the the amount of time it takes for it to cool down, force it into your rotation.
For example: So you've figured out that you need significant mitigation roughly one minute into the fight, significant mitigation AND damage at roughly 2 minutes, and 2 big cooldowns in close proximity at roughly 4 minutes (Yes, this is A3S lol).
The average PLD would probably hold all defensive cooldowns till 1 minute, then use Rampart.. use Sentinel and FoF at 2 minutes.. then finally Rampart and Hallowed Ground at 4 minutes.
That will work out just fine.
But what if instead:
On pull, start off with Sentinel then pop Rampart when it's over, making sure to Shelltron the first cleave and the one right before 1 minute. Use Hallowed Ground on minute 1, then Awareness, Convalescence and Foresight after (hand phase crits).. use Rampart, Bulwark and FoF on minute 2.. then Sentinel and Rampart on minute 4.
It'll also do the job, but now you have a lot more mitigation spread out throughout the same duration.
Steps 3 and 4 can be simply summed up as proper cooldown management.
Too many people simply use cooldowns "as needed" and call that cooldown managment. That's just silly.
A lot of tanks can't afford to dps because they are far too conservative with their cooldowns. Be greedy but still have them up when you need them.
Now we come to the part that people would have come here to see.. How to actually convert this additional defense into offense and maximize tank dps.
Step 5: Stance Dance
The biggest thing that will determine how much dps a tank can put out is not the amount of STR he has, but rather the amount of uptime he has in his dps stance.
You still have your VIT on, you've determined when and which mitigation skills need to be used. Now it's time to convert all that defensive power into offense.
Establish aggro, then switch over to your dps stance.. Determine when incoming damage is too much (if you were properly managing cooldowns, this should be very few and far between.. or completely expected/planned) and plan to switch back into a tanking stance for that moment then go back to your dps stance when incoming damage becomes manageable once more.
Back to our PLD in AS3 example.. if he executes perfectly, he can pretty much stay in Sword Oath up until the single hand (1 min and 15 seconds), then go to Shield Oath while he's relying in minor cooldowns, then switch back to Sword for the burn at 2 minutes.
Step 6: Puttin' on the STR
You've now figured out how to properly bring out your tank dps to the best of your ability. Trust me that you will probably continue to find better ways to optimize, but for now you've hit a pretty competent baseline.
Time to exchange some VIT for more STR..
Do it slowly, changing one accessory every other pull or so.. If you execute everything perfectly, your healers won't even notice..
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you could dps stance comfortably with more VIT but are too scared with more STR.. then that means you've reached your STR cap for that fight (or you're failing in cooldown management). Bear in mind that this STR cap will increase as you get more left side pieces and as your healers get more comfortable with the fight.
Far too many people skip ahead to step 6 when they try to tank nowadays.. and a huge reason is the misconception that that's what the good tanks do.. No. Putting on STR is quite literally the last step when you're maximizing tank dps. First, pls know what you're doing.
Step 7: Git gud
Once you know wtf you're doing, feel free to wing it..
As WAR main tank, I always blow all defensive cooldowns on my opener pull then transition into Defiance Unchained.. then I adjust the opener based on what cooldowns I will need and when..
Other good players have their own ways of doing things but I'm sure you'll find elements of the steps and guidelines I've laid out present in their methods.