One of the controversial topics of discussion as of late on this board has been that tanks are currently underpowered and die too quickly, and as a result they are unable to perform their jobs adequately. If you recognize me or my name seems familiar, it's because I've been very vocal about how wrong I think this line of thinking is. I think tanks are great right now and pretty damn balanced. I've bickered back and forth about numbers, champions and the whole 9 yards.
It occurred to me though; I actually think most people play tanks incorrectly. Not just a knock on these boards but even when I play, it's amazing how people play tanks so poorly. Despite their simplistic mechanics and being the easiest champions to play in that regard, there's actually a lot of game understanding and reactive based decisions you have to make when playing tanks. Sure, when they're overpowered, like anything else you just zerg the backline and kill carries. But when they're balanced, there's actually a lot of gameplay in terms of playing tanks well and being impactful with them. I'll break this down as best as I can in 3 categories. I want to help educate people, I play fighters and tanks and I have a lot of success with tanks still so I feel like this will be helpful.
This is arguably a tanks most important job but understanding what it is and how to do it is significantly more difficult than people realize. As a tank, you control zones not only by your CC but more importantly, *the threat of your cc.* The most important thing here is knowing when to apply that cc and when not to, whether it's to initiate a fight or to stay in range of initiation to keep up the threat so the enemy is forced to respect it. This is the biggest thing, it's the threat to apply your cc. You're not zone controling because you're a threat to solo kill someone, though in some instances you could be. You're zone controlling to either keep a desire target/group of desired target in a location that keeps them from engaging on priority allies (typically your carries) or you're zone controlling to force an enemy priority target out of the fight (usually the enemy carries).
The second option there is a tricky one, keeping the carries out of fights. One of the biggest mistakes I see tanks make is going ham on them, getting kited out and dying because they end up getting focused by both carries. This is where a lot of frustration comes from tank players because they feel they should be able to survive this but the simple truth is you shouldn't. This is going to far for your team to follow up and you're not controlling a zone by going ham like this. You're giving them an easy target to kite/peel and ultimately kill while doing nothing and likely wasting resources.
"But hatedaddy, if they can just kill you, why would they fear going near you when you attempt to zone control by staying close enough in range to disrupt them?" Good question. It's because when you go on them, you're typically way too far ahead of your team to follow up and you've put the burden on yourself to kill them while all they simply have to do is kite you. By not going ham, if they go on you or chase you, this is putting themselves out of position and in a spot to be engaged on and disrupted and killed. They know this, which is why they respect that range of area and allow you to zone them. A good example of this being done correctly is Vi ulting on an ADC through an enemy team and simply being killed before her team follow up.
This is offset by their enemy tank/bruiser doing the same thing and often it then comes down to who has the better team for either safely going on the backline with the help of other allies (think Sivir ult or Annie flash tibbers) or a really aggressive siege comp that constantly forces you back. It's important to know your teams strengths and how you can put yourself in position to excel at its best given its team comp. but this is a good summary of what zone control is, why it's important, what you're looking to do when you're attempting to zone control and understanding how to offset it when facing it.
•Understanding the importance of peeling vs engaging
Sometimes your comp might have heavy engage. Sometimes it might have better peeling elements to it and it's important to consider when you should be peeling. Like zone control, engaging and peeling are two important elements of playing tanks but understanding when to do it and how to do both isn't easy. Sometimes you have have lots of engage but no reliable way to help your backline once you've engaged. A common combination of champions I see this with are vi/Malphite being on the same team. They ult onto one target and most likely kill it but because they go so hard, the rest of the enemy team ignores them and simply kills the rest of their team. It's important in this scenario to consider maybe using Vi or Malph ult to peel and while the other is being the form of engage.
Knowing when to start a fight is hard but tell your team if you've got the means to ininiate a fight while your team can fend for itself to be ready because when you say an opening, you're taking it. Spam pings and let them know and usually they follow up. But protecting your carries is equally important and knowing when to peel for them. honestly 80% of the time you should be peeling for your carries once a fight has really broken out; but often times, you might start a fight on the front line applying zone control pressure and then once a fight gets going, you'll want to immediately retreat to protect your carries.
•Alright, gloves are off, everything is on cooldown, time to damage soak.
This is usually the last phase of teamfighting and its when you really start soaking up damage. When I say damage soak, I don't mean zerging into the enemy team 1v5 and expecting to live forever because nobody will live very long when being 5 man focused. It wouldn't be balanced if any champion could do that consistently. But I digress..
Damage soaking is another important element to being a tank but it's important to know when to start soaking up damage. Utility is a resource, damage is a resource and like it or not, as a tank, ultimately your health bar (and in many cases your life) is a resource. Like your cc, like your damage, you want maximize the potential of your ability to soak as best as possible. But before soaking damage up, you want to make sure that you've used everything to the best of your ability. You want to make sure you got everything out of zone controlling, you want to make sure you got everything you could out of peeling/engaging because this will often dictate how well you can damage soak because it could've forced the enemy to use key cooldowns to distrupt your zone control or engage and once a fight has really begun and the shit hits the fan and you got no cooldowns, sometimes you just brainlessly run at champions and force them to damage you so they aren't damaging your carries. Sometimes it's just standing in front of your carries to block projectiles, but the important thing to note is when you're damage soaking, it's always to use your hp bar as best as possible to help your team win a fight.
I want to make this know right off the bat: what I just went over are generalizations. There are exceptions to every rule. Sometimes it won't matter how hard you try to peel, their team might just have so much dive that your carry is going to die no matter what in full 5v5s. At that point you need to decide if 5v5ing is right for your team. Looking for picks and prioritizing picks is probably your best bet. Split pushing could also be an option and sometimes it might just be saying "ok you're gonna kill our carry, well we will kill yours too" and proceed to wet noodle for the next 30 seconds after you've exchanged the deaths of your carries.
My goal here is to get the proper line of thinking to play a tank to its full potential. Because the truth is, if done properly, a tank is never bad to have because there's far more to a tanks job than simply living for a long time. It's like wave clear, it's never bad to have but you have to know how to properly utilize it. A lot of it is grunt work and it will usually be a thankless job, but this is the role you elected to play and you need to understand that's part of the gig. You usually don't just straight up carry games by killing everything, you'll be doing a lot of grunt work. But at the end of the day, when you play this role properly, you'll win more games than you lose. And ultimately, I don't give a damn about recognition by strangers on the Internet, I care more about winning. I hope you care, too.
sorry for the long essay here but I think this can really clear up a lot of misconceptions that "tanks are bad" because tanks are never truly bad. Thanks for the read and hope you enjoyed it.