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In A Viral Minute #9: The Zen of Tanking

If you have been listening to 321GoCast for a while, you know that the cast plays this little game called League of Legends. And no we wont stop talking about it. For those of you unaware League of Legends is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena game inspired by the Defense of the Ancients (DotA) map for Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne developed and published by Riot Games. Riot Games was formed by the two guys responsible for the DoTA Allstars version of DoTA. Here is a pretty good explanation of gameplay basiscs.

There are 72 Champions as of March 22, 2011

Okay now that that intro is done, lets get down to business. League of Legends has 72 champions as of this moment, each with their abilities, draw backs and strategies. But you can easily put them into basic categories, Tanks, Damagers, Assassins, Mages, Brawlers, etc. The categories are self explanatory I think so I wont go too in depth in to them. Damagers basically melt people's faces off quickly with heavy amounts of attack damage, Mages do the same with heavy amounts of magic damage, Assassins kill people quickly, Brawlers are champions who do consistent damage and have the survivability to stay in fights longer than most other champions. This brings me to Tanks, the whole reason I'm writing this cblog.

In many online games there exists the Tank class, MMOs have the clearer definition of tanks since when someone chooses the warrior class for that game they can usually do one of two things, tank or do damage. Other games like Monday Night Combat include a class specifically called the Tank, he serves a similar purpose to the more straightforward MMO style tank, but he can also deal a lot of damage. Even single player games have tanks, in most RPGs there is always that one character that people designate as the one that will take more damage that will survive regardless of whats thrown at them, Dragon Age, Final Fantasy, Super Mario RPG, etc. Also you know Dungeons and Dragons and the pen and paper stuff have tanks, but that was a given really.

So what is Tanking? Tanking is the practice in games where a character or a player is designated as the lovingly nicknamed "meat-shield" because, well they take as much damage as possible so you don't have to. Tanks in most games are easy to spot, lots of armor, beefy looking, carries a shield, etc. But in League of Legends tanks come in a few surprising packages, not everyone who carries a shield is a tank. According to RIOT games in a recent panel at PAX East, their design philosophy focuses on players being able to identify what champions do, more or less, by just looking at them. Unfortunately this sometimes doesnt happen.

This is Shen, The Eye of Twilight, my personal favorite champion and my main. Shen is a ninja of the Kinkou Order based in the city-state of Ionia, not going into too much of the lore here though so lets move on. Now when you look at Shen, what is your first reaction, what is your gut feeling tell you about what he does? (Maybe answer this question in your comments?) Like any normal gamer, you'd look at Shen and go "Ninja, light looking armor, hes probably pretty quick and can go stealth and kill people pretty fast." Right? WRONG. Shen, is a tank. His designated role is that of the damage taker, the "meat-shield", the one who dies so everyone else can live, etc. I play Shen, because tanking is a simpler art than that of an assassin or a mage, but I also play Shen because late game, tanking an entire team or a tower and basically shrugging it off like it was nothing, is quite a fulfilling experience. (Here is a helpful link to all of Shen's abilities as they will be referenced in the next part of this cblog. )

However in my "travels" through League of Legends and my interactions with its players, I feel as though people, who may or may not play Tanks on occasion, forget what tanking is all about. Here is a scenario I run across a lot: My team is advancing on one of the enemy team's towers, I lead the way while letting the tower damage our minions first before I start attempting to tank it. The enemy team notices and converges on us, we take one or two down but on this occasion we have more casualties than them, I am taking tower damage and one of the enemy champions is still at a pretty high amount of health. I begin to back off, but my other teammate (bot a tank, probably playing a carry or an assassin) decides that they want that kill. Now this causes a conundrum for me, I can back off and survive and wait for our team to be up to full strength or attempt to help my teammate attempt to get a kill, while still taking tower damage. 1)I decide to help. 2)I don't. Say I take option 1 we can either come out of this with a kill we weren't expecting and then return to base to regroup or we can get decimated by our target, the tower, and the remaining member of the enemy team giving them free reign to push a lane with out worry of retaliation from us for however long it takes the members of my team to re-spawn. Option 2 seems like the safer bet because if my teammate follows my lead and backs off, we can live, and make sure that the enemy team cant freely roll up on a lane and push it to their hearts content. However taking this option can lead to my teammate getting killed, or getting annoyed at me for not helping them try and get a kill. I run into this scenario more often than not and since I am a logical person and can read a battle fairly well I will usually opt to have us survive rather than chase a kill that might not work out. This gets a couple of people mad, but over all the rest of the team gets it.

Another scenario, and the most frustrating scenario that I run in to as a Shen player is when I use his ultimate, Stand United. Sometimes this ultimate is used to help in a team fight, but more often than not it is used to help a teammate who for X reason is taking a lot of damage and in danger of dying. Now Me at full or a good amount of health, Shield said ally and teleport to their location as per what Stand United does, upon arrival I quickly see which enemy is dealing the most damage to my ally and is the bigger threat to their life and immediately Shadow Dash into that enemy. I have Shadow Dashed into this enemy so my ally can have a few seconds of reprieve from their damage and possibly get away clean and continue to live. Sometimes this goes off without a hitch and we both live, or if I have to die that's fine by me. More often than not however many allies, especially those playing assassins or mages, decide that me Shadow Dashing the enemy was an indication to them that they could turn right back around and kill whatever was only a few seconds earlier completely destroying them. Why would they think that? I am always perplexed as to why someone who until recently was getting completely rocked and needed me to save them would turn right around and basically give the enemy the kill they were looking for. Shadow Dash taunts the enemy for a certain amount of time and if the enemy has any idea what they are doing they will ignore the tank after the taunt is completed and go right back to trying to kill what they were previously trying to kill. So in this scenario, unfortunately what happens a lot of the time is what I just described, I port onto my already fleeing ally, saving them, dash at the enemy and then my ally decides to give it another go, getting themselves killed in the process. This infuriates me to no end and also usually leads to my teammate going "WTF Shen?" as if I had a magical answer as to why they could get a kill.

Example of a Carry character

Tanking is a fulfilling experience, but it can also be quite annoying. So here are some quick tips for those of you who want to try out tanking. 1) Be patient with your allies. 2)In game like LoL or HoN build accordingly to what your team needs to survive the enemy team. 3)Use your skills wisely. 4) Leave overly aggressive players to die (Cruel, I know, but they need to learn their lesson) and 5) Have fun with it. If you aren't having fun tanking, then maybe you should try something else... or your team are feeders and there is really not much you can do about that. It takes patience and a willingness to let things slide to tank, it takes good battle awareness and situational awareness to do your job correctly. (map awareness doesn't hurt either) Tanking is a Zen art, where you must put your feeling aside and try your best to protect your team, while possibly having to sacrifice yourself a few times. Because to me, though you, the tank, are important to the team you are not more important than anyone else. If you are at half health and your team asks you to tank you never go "I cant, I'm at half gotta go heal." You man up and you tank, you do your job. If you must die so that your team can prevail over whatever you are facing then so be it. A tank doesn't need to get kills, a tank doesn't need to build offensive items, a tank needs only defensive items that both keep you alive and help your team. It is a waste to see a tank pick up offensive minded items. To the tank there can be no greater pleasure than to see the enemy team fall because they were dumb enough to focus you first.

Finally here are some tips for those of you NOT playing tanks. 1) Be cautious. Just because you have a tank anywhere near you , doesn't mean YOU are invincible. 2).... Actually come to think of it that is really my only tip. Seriously carries, squishies, those of you who can get easily destroyed if cornered, I understand your need to get a kill but if its going to cost you your life after you were saved by the tank or anyone else on our team for that matter, I implore you to think about it first. Do not under any circumstance take your tank for granted. He/she will not always be there, and they are not some sort of magical being that can survive everything thrown at them, or that can somehow turn the tide of an already losing battle. A tank will jump into a losing fight, not to try and win it, but to save his allies from death.

Now did someone call a Doctor?

This has been In a Viral Minute #9. Thanks for reading. Oh and go play League of Legends, its awesome.
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About JohnnyViralone of us since 6:24 PM on 12.19.2008

Its JohnnyV Baby! Destructoid's resident angry guy.

"Wherever Johnny is is the angriest place on the planet." - Analoge.
And I take that as a compliment.

I host and run 321GoCast, Destructoid's one and only community round table live stream about fuck shit nothing.

Skype: JohnnyViralZero
Email: rhseta(At)gmail.com
Friend Code:0189-8917-6366

Systems Owned: DS Lite, GCN, GBA, GBA SP, GBC, N64, PS2, Xbox, Xbox 360, PS Vita, 3DS
Favorite types of games: FPS, RPG, Action-Adventure, Puzzle
Favorite single player game: Mass Effect
Favorite multi player game: Rock Band
Dislikes: crappy music, Mac lovers, sand.
Xbox LIVE:JohnnyViral
Steam ID:johnnyviral


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