What makes a tank in Heroes of the Storm?
The topic of what makes a tank in Heroes of the Storm tends to come up often. Having a tank is an essential part of a team composition, and while Heroes of the Storm boasts many Warrior heroes, they don’t all qualify as a tank. Sometimes, even heroes you’d expect to be able to tank simply don’t have the toolset required to do the job. This very subject cropped up once again on the official Heroes of the Storm forums. Senior Game Designer Matt Villers jumped in to provide what Blizzard believes a tank needs:
From a Hero Design perspective, this is something we’ve talked about a lot on the team. In years past the conventional wisdom was that a “tank” had to be hard to kill, and do things that are sufficiently disruptive (damage/CC) that you can’t simply ignore them – which in turn allows them to soak damage for their team.
However, around the time frame between D.Va and Garrosh, we sought to establish a more clear definition of what’s required to “tank” for your team and what tools a Warrior needs to do that effectively.
This isn’t a comprehensive list, but I believe we landed on something like the following:
- Durability/Mitigation (so they’re not easy to blow up)
- Self-sustain (so they can stay in a fight)
- Peel (so they can protect vulnerable allies)
- Interrupt (so they can disrupt cast/channeled abilities)
We’ve found that Warriors who don’t have enough of one or more of these qualities end up being used as bruisers to harass the enemy backline. Most of the time it’s “peel” that’s lacking, as this is the aspect that wasn’t as clearly defined in the past. Even now I’d say it’s hard to say precisely where that line is, and that it’s subjective based on what other heroes are capable of.
If you look at someone like Sonya with 2 stuns, you’d think she could be a tank – and indeed to some extent she can, but other aspects of her kit push her to be more aggressive and limit how effective she can be at protecting a squishy backline (compared to someone like Muradin or Arthas). I think this is something we’re trying to be much more aware of earlier on in the development and playtesting process for new Warriors. Do we want them to be able to tank? If so, do they have all the necessary tools? Are there aspects of their kit that make it unintentionally more difficult for them to do so?
This is something I’d encourage all of you to think about (and feel free to disagree with us on!) when discussing whether a Hero can tank for their team, and what they need to be doing to tank effectively.
Overall, Blizzard’s view of a tank’s needs are generally in line with that of the players. In a game like World of Warcraft, tanks can tank almost entirely on the merits of damage mitigation. If the tank is attacking the monsters, the monsters will attack the tank. Generally speaking, it’s that simple. However, in Heroes of the Storm, the opposing team won’t automatically attack your team’s tank. If all a tank has in Heroes of the Storm is durability and mitigation, the opposing team can just ignore them.
Durability, mitigation, and self-sustain are still important so a tank can be the first one to engage the enemy and live long enough to be the last one out to cover a retreat. To actually pose a threat and draw attention to themselves, tanks need to be disruptive with slows, stuns, and the general ability to apply some control over the battlefield. The concept of “peel” applies here, too. If an assassin has jumped on your healer, the tank needs a way to intervene, slow that assassin down, and allow the healer to escape to a safe position.
Garrosh, the game’s most recent tank, is likely one of the most straightforward examples of these mechanics in action. Garrosh gains increased armor as he loses health, boosting his damage mitigation. Bloodthirst provides him with a small amount of self-sustain — or a large amount depending on your talent choices. Groundbreaker and Wrecking Ball are peel and disruption tools, allowing him to exert control over the battlefield and put his enemies exactly where he wants them. If the talent is chosen, Into The Fray is an even more direct peeling tool — if someone is rampaging on your healer, Garrosh can physically throw said healer to safety. Garrosh’s damage output is trivial, but due to how well he can disrupt and control a battlefield, he’s an imposing presence in a fight.
If a tank doesn’t have these essential qualities, it’s possible other heroes on the team can compensate for one or two of them — but more likely than not, a solid team would rather pick a Warrior who can do all of them and let their Assassins focus on assassinating. Of course, not all Warriors need to be tanks in the traditional sense. Bruisers — sturdy pseudo-assassins — have their place in the game, too. And while Zarya doesn’t fit the traditional model of a tank in Heroes of the Storm, she sees success in compositions that take advantage of her particular set of skills. When building a general purpose tank hero, though? If they can’t do their job properly, they’re simply not going to see much success.
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