A friend wanted to see this so I am posting it again, it’s a bit dated but still has some good info in it.
One of the more difficult roles to play in LotR is that of the Guardian Off-Tank. This is a very unique and challenging job, and contrary to popular belief, the second Guard in a fellowship is not just a ‘second tank’. I have often heard the OT referred to as ‘The other tank’ or even ‘Number two’. Nobody wants to be referred to as ‘Number two’ and that is a misnomer anyway, as I will discuss.
First let’s briefly discuss the role of the Main Tank (MT) so that we have a reference point. I will not go into all of the finer points of main tanking here, but it is important to know for the purposes of this discussion that the MT is the almost always a Guardian, and is the character who is responsible for establishing and controlling aggro on the targets designated by the fellowship leader. Ultimately, the MT’s role is to protect the fellowship from direct damage and the negative effects of target-induced spells and special attacks, so that they can operate freely and utilize their own skills with minimal interference, and do this long enough for the DPS characters to kill the target. Keeping the target (or more normally, targets) aggravated (‘aggroed’) and focused on attacking only the MT (who, as a Guardian class, is designed and equipped to be able to take a large amount of damage and survive), is generally called ‘tanking’. This is where the slang term ‘tank’ comes from, as a character in this role is compared to the modern armored military vehicle of the same name. By definition the MT should be able to tank all designated targets as required indefinitely (with fellowship support), although in reality ‘indefinitely’ may end up being any length of time. What is important is that the MT tank enough targets long enough for the fellowship to kill them all while not losing any members.
The way that aggro is designed in LotR is that damage from any character on a target generates aggro, and non-damage producing Taunt skills also generate aggro. Healing skills also generate aggro. Every character in a fellowship that is attacking or taunting a target is generating a certain amount of aggro on that target, which is cumulative for each character. The character that is ‘first’ on this aggro list is the character that the target will attack. It is important to note that aggro generated on a target fades over time like any other skill effect. It is easy to establish aggro on a target, you simply damage it or taunt it and it will be locked on you. But the situation changes when two or more characters are generating aggro on a target, and the character that is first on the targets aggro list will be the one who receives its focus and the brunt of its attacks. The character that is first on the target’s aggro list can change dynamically during a fight.
Basically, in order to do his or her job properly, the MT must establish aggro on the targets by hitting them first, and then continuously, with aggro-inducing skills. The MT must stay at the top of the aggro list, even in the face of high-damage hits on the target from Champions and Hunters, and healing from the Minstrel, all of which will generate large amounts of aggro. A properly equipped and skilled MT can do this well, but only with the cooperation of the entire fellowship. A good (i.e. high damage producing) DPS character can easily put themselves at the top of the aggro list by attacking the target first or by attacking with maximum damage too soon in a fight, before the MT has obtained a good aggro grip on the target. A Minstrel can jump to the top of the aggro list by using too many heals, especially group heals, too early in a fight.
Another very important point and a major role of the MT is target positioning and facing. Most targets will use Area of Effect (AoE) skills which affect any characters caught in a wide arc out in front of the attacker. It is a primary job of the MT to ensure that all of the targets he or she is tanking, are faced away from the fellowship, so that when the target uses an AoE skill, the only character hit by the AoE is the tank. The main tank will generally run through the target and turn around, to face the fellowship in order to achieve proper facing of the target(s). Also, the MT must control the location of the fight, as directed by the fellowship leader. It is the tank’s job to move targets (generally back) to a better or safer location where they can be fought with less danger to the rest of the group, or to ensure that more targets are not pulled into a fight, overwhelming the fellowship.
An experienced group of players, all knowing and playing their respective classes well, properly equipped, well led, and working together like a team, are a powerful and resilient force and can take on any content in the game.
Now enter the Off-tank (OT). For this discussion I am specifically referring to a Guardian OT, although many of the concepts apply to other classes who off-tank, primarily Champions and Captains. The most difficult thing to grasp for the OT is that they ARE NOT THE MAIN TANK. Now, to the non-Guardian, this may sound simple. But Guardians are most often employed as the MT, and over the life of their character, they have probably spent 99% of their time in fellowships fighting as a MT. Well-established habits (good or bad) are difficult to overcome, especially when under stress, when by nature, all people stop thinking consciously and fall back on training and habit. This aspect of human nature can actually aid the off-tank, as we will see.
It is very important for the OT to NOT perform the duties or the actions of the MT. I will use numbered titles to emphasize these points and for quick reference.
1 – Use Overpower stance with a 2h weapon.
The first job of the Off-Tank is to generate damage which, for a Guardian, will not compare to that produced by a specific DPS class (Champion or Hunter). But, this supplemental damage, like all damage, is very useful to the group. In order to produce maximum damage (for a Guardian) the OT must be in Overpower (OP) stance, and preferably using a two-handed (2h) weapon, although weapon choice is up to the wielder and a one-hand (1h) weapon is generally faster and can produce good results as well. In OP stance, a Guardian’s damage output is increased 15% but they cannot Block. In other words, their shield is useless and there is no point in equipping it. This is why while in OP stance a 2h weapon is preferred for its greater damage output per hit, and power conservation because of its slower speed.
2 – Do not aggro the target.
This is difficult for the Guardian Off-Tank to do, because of the reinforced habit of ‘grabbing all the aggro’. But it is the job of the Main Tank to establish and control aggro, to control the location of the targets, and to control the facing of the targets. The MT cannot do this effectively if the other Guardian in the group is taking aggro away from the MT by using aggro-generating skills.
3 – Position and facing of the Off-Tank.
Remember that as the Off-Tank, you are not the aggro-controller but a damage-producer. You must position yourself alongside the other melees in the fellowship, facing the back of the target and on the opposite side from the Main Tank. In (hopefully) rare circumstances where you find yourself suddenly getting the target’s aggro, do what all good Champs should be doing, stop attacking momentarily and stay in place, and let the MT regain aggro.
4 – Skills to use.
When you are the Off-Tank, DO NOT use any Taunts, especially Challenge and/or Engage. Actually, there is no worse skill for the OT to use than Engage, which puts all aggro on the OT, and slows the target’s movement so that the Main Tank cannot move it. The OT should be using Stagger against the back of the target whenever the opportunity presents itself, and otherwise cycling through damage-only spells like Force Opening, Retaliation, Overwhelm, and To the King. Another good sequence is to also establish a Wound (or bleed) on the target by using Force Opening, Retaliation, Thrust, Salt the Wound, and To the King. You won’t be getting any reactives which can be disconcerting to a Guardian. But you will find that by the time you run through one of these attack sequences you will have skills off cooldown and ready for use.
5 – Switch to Block stance, with 1h weapon and shield, when necessary.
The Off-Tank must be ready to switch quickly between Overpower stance/ 2h weapon to Block stance/ 1h weapon and shield on a moment’s notice. (see below). The best way to do this in combat is to set up your stances, weapons, and shield in quickslots. Going one step further and mapping hotkeys to these slots will make you even more effective. This is absolutely essential and is good practice for all Guardians.
6 – Pick up peels and adds and tank them.
The secondary role, and some (including me) might argue actually the primary role, for the Off-Tank is to pick up targets that peel off the Main Tank and go after other characters (peels), and also to pick up new targets that are pulled into, or wander into a fight (adds). The OT must always be aware of the tactical situation for the entire fellowship (another unfamiliar skill for a Guardian) and watchful for peels and adds. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT the role of the MT to go after peels and adds, for the following reason: If the MT chases after a peel or add, the entire mass of targets they are tanking will turn and go with them, and then the MT has lost positioning of the fight, and has suddenly turned the target(s) AoE attacks towards the fellowship – exactly what the MT does NOT want to do. This often causes mass confusion, panic, and can cause a wipe. The MT will always, of course, try to grab peels back or adds as they come into the fight, but the OT is the last line of defense between the squishies and the angry targets. If no one picks up the peels or adds, the fellowship has other problems, primarily a) The MT not doing their job well, b) The DPS or healer types not controlling their aggro output, c) The failure of the leader to designate an OT before the fight, or d) The OT not doing their job well.
As the OT, when you see a peel or add, immediately switch to Block stance, 1h weapon and shield, go directly to the peel or add target, and use your aggro-generating skills – generally Fray the Edge, Engage, Challenge, etc. If you have multiple targets, act accordingly, the Guardian OT certainly knows what to do in this situation. This is where your instincts will take over, and you can fall back on your conditioned responses as a MT Guardian. Turn the target away from the fellowship. Tank the target there or bring it back to the MT, depending on how the fellowship leader prefers to handle the fight. Be ready to release the target if the leader calls for a mez or stun. Switch back to OP stance and go back to the main target once the emergency has been resolved.
7 – If things are rough stay in Block or Parry stance with 1h weapon and shield.
In some fights it is better to stay in Block or Parry stance with a 1h weapon and shield, when encountering large numbers of incoming targets that the Main Tank may not be able to handle, or when in a dangerous fast-changing situation. This choice is really up to the Off-Tank and his or her comfort level. Remember that even with shield up, you are still the OT and must perform that unique and difficult duty.
8 – Tank when directed by the fellowship leader.
Occasionally the fellowship leader will wish to utilize the flexibility of having two Guardians in a fellowship. There may be two or more high-level bosses that need to be tanked simultaneously. Be prepared to act as an aggro-generating tank in Block/1h weapon/shield mode as the leader sees fit. Remember to switch back to the Off-Tank role after the fight.
9 – Become the main tank when the MT goes down.
The mark of a good fellowship is for everyone to always be prepared for any eventuality. The Main Tank will get killed from time to time, that is a fact. When this happens, the good Off-Tank will immediately go into MT mode and pick up the main target. If the MT can be rezzed in combat, allow him to regain Morale and Power, get aggro control back on the main target, and then relinquish control. Go back to your OT duties. If the MT cannot be rezzed, YOU have the target as the MT for the duration of the fight.
In closing, let me touch on one other subject. The Off-Tank is not an understudy for the Main Tank position. Fighting as a Guardian OT does not make you a lesser Guardian. In fact, I find that playing an OT well is more difficult and challenging than filling the role of the MT. It is very difficult to resist your reflexive actions and allow the MT to do his or her job without stepping in and mucking things up. Remember, the OT is a valid and important position in a fellowship. The entire fellowship is more resilient and effective when two Guardians are included. The overall survivability factor is greatly enhanced. When you stand with your boot planted on a boss monster’s cold chest, know that you have done your job and have done it well.