There’s been a lot of chatter recently about tanks being in the dumpster. While nothing makes me happier, I also admit I do not like an entire class overall being garbage: it is not good for the game. As it stands, there are really only two tanks that are doing well:
Sejuani and Nunu
**please note, i am not including support tanks because they’re the only class left that is valued for their actual utility, i am overall referring to jungle and solo lane tanks.**
There have been a lot of suggestions as to why tanks aren’t currently good, some of it is true and some of it is downright false. However, it is important to understand that it is a combination of things and not simply one thing. Let’s go over them:
**Defensive items are stale, unintuitive, and underwhelming.**
This is true. As it stands, completing a big ticket defensive item doesn’t really do a lot for you currently. You get things like Bramble Vest and Bamis Cinder and you sit on them: there is no incentive to finish them. Items with passives or actives like Frozen Heart, Randuins and Deadman’s Plate aren’t usually good items to rush because they provide very little lane power. Yet, they are cheap and largely function well only in early-mid game based on their stats - their passives are decent all game, but in the end for all of these items you’re paying 2600+ gold for passives and actives late games because the armor ends up feeling underwhelming.
In short, defensive items don’t scale well: they generally scale until someone else buys %pen which puts them even further in the dirt. Usually after your first two defensive items, you’ve reached your peak and you slowly begin to decline. Yes, you will be harder to kill late game but that barely matters for reasons I’ll be providing below.
**CDR is easily accessible, champions have access to CC galore, and defensive steroids have not been adjusted to the faster paced games and higher damage output**
These things all kind of tie in together save for poor defensive steroids scaling. However, the two big offenders here are CDR being easily acquired and non-tank champions having unfettered access to CC (in particular mages, but this isn’t just a mage problem). In just a few words, I can sum this up: why do we need tanks when we’ve already go their jobs outsourced collectively by other classes? Mages, Bruisers, Hell even some Assassins and ADCs, all have CC, engage, self-peel, disengage and general disruptiveness. This was at one time a hallmark feature of tanks, now not so much. And when you consider everything is reaching 40% CDR across the board, there’s really no reason to need tanks (CDR used to be a TANK stat; mages had to struggle to acquire it because cooldowns were their intended weakness).
This ties into the last problem: inmate defensive spells are not adjusted for the fast pace game. While many defensive steroids for tanks are still good, they come with strings attached or are simply lack luster. In most cases, you’re maxing these things last on champions as one point wonders - Leona is the only champion that comes to mind as someone who maxes their steroid first. That’s great, but the problem is that these spells really don’t end up scaling well. By the time you’ve maxed them out, you’ve reached a point in the game where penetration and shred is reducing it significantly. So they end up being these really weird spells that are good but really only in early phases of the game or in the case of snowballing. Truthfully, I don’t know what the answer is here: innate defense is good and you don’t really want to buff it too much. It’s just something I notice when I play champions with steroids or access to spells that proc Aftershock: you usually max these things last when in reality you need them the most.
**Damage is too high - even for tanks. And that’s a problem.**
Access to damage is just too damn prevalent. Early damage items are far more useful than early tank items and components because early components and items are amplified by an array of offensive runes while defense only has two real runes: aftershock and bone-plating. The rest of the defensive tree is massive underwhelming for actual defense. This means that defense is just an afterthought and while it is nice that you can be chunky, you are not valued for it. As such, tanks are really only valued for their ability to damage. If you can’t solo an ADC in one combo, you’re virtually useless. If you can’t engage on 5 people at once (a la Sej), you’re useless. Even that isn’t great because if it mattered so much, Malphite would be pick/ban.
What matters is how easily you can gib squishies and if you can’t do it then you aren’t viable. But this created a super unhealthy game style. Contrary to popular beliefs most people hate tank metas of season 6 and thereafter - nobody likes Poppy, Sion, Sej, Maokai or Nautilus practically gibbing your ADCs while being unkillable. Season 5 and season 4 had a few healthy stints of tank metas but then riot gutted runes and masteries and introduced keystones, which is responsible for pretty much all of the problems today. As such, the game is so focused on damage that tanks don’t have a place unless they’re so overturned that they can make up for the fact that other people do their jobs better, their items suck, their damage still lacks in general compared to other classes (as it should but when that’s what males you viable, it makes a worlds difference), and their defense isn’t highly valued.
People will point out that tanks need damage and I don’t disagree. They need to be able to lane and clear jungles, but they also need to have reasonable damage. That is hard to do when that is what makes you valuable. It has to be overturned for tanks to be good. And riot insists that nobody wants to play tanks in solo Q and that they constantly underperform when they don’t have the capacity to carry. My response? Yes, and? They’re supposed to be low risk, low reward. They are the epitome of safe. With that comes the inability to be the shining star on a team gleaming with top tier stats. In exchange, you get to pick a champion that you probably won’t feed on either. So you won’t carry, but you won’t be the reason your team loses either. Frankly, such a dynamic would be lovely in top lane. I would love to FP something that wasn’t disgustingly overpowered in order to be safe.
So in summation, tanks don’t have access to doing their jobs anymore. Other classes do it better and their items suck, as do their keystones. Moreover, their defensive steroids have rather wonky scaling that makes these spells pretty underwhelming if you max them first (obviously there are some exceptions). The game just doesn’t have a place for tanks to be good while being in a healthy state. The next time we see a tank meta, it’ll be similar to season 6 and 7 tank metas where tanks are gibbing everything while ignoring your team rather than tanks that prolong fights and create interactive back and forth gameplay.