Effectively Tank Your Way Up The Ranked Ladder: A Guide



Tue 14th Jan 2020 - 8:44pm

One of the least popular things in all of League of Legends has been, by far, the tank class and playing them in general. Most people generally feel that, because tanks rely too heavily on the team and cannot output a lot of damage on their own, they're generally useless in terms of climbing the ranked ladder and gaining elo. This couldn't be farther from the truth. I'm a firm believer that you can climb with anything if you're willing to put in the work and know-how in order to get good at what you want to climb with. Yes, it may be harder than doing it with X or Y. Yes, you might have to put in a bit more time and effort than others. But yes, you can enjoy a satisfying climb as a tank. Today, I'll show you how. 

So, let's begin. 

What is a Tank?

Tanks are relatively tough melee champions that trade damage for large amounts of crowd control abilities and an unparalleled amount of survivability. They generally have high base defensive stats and/or the ability to drastically increase their survivability while also having the means to engage, disengage, and/or disrupt a fight. They are, by design, supposed to redirect the threat from their priority allied damage dealers by putting themselves directly in the way of danger in order to enable the rest of the team to capitalize on the chaos they bring to fights. They generally have no major problems in lane because of their ability to just passively farm the lane, and their resistances scale well into the middle and late points of the game to make them a potent threat for assassins and generally anything with less health, sustain, or mobility. In return though, they are often outscaled by bruisers (strong damage dealers that build health) and often have the glaring weakness of no mobility or low mobility outside of their primary playmaking move. Think Leona with Zenith Blade, Malphite with Unstoppable Force, or Braum with Stand Behind Me!. 

Riot effectively dichotomizes the tanks of the game into different types, but for the purpose of this article, we'll basically say that as a tank, you'll be tanking in one of two ways at any time - as a warden or as a vanguard. However, great tank players can effectively deduce the situation and adapt their playstyle to the situation, team compositions, and win condition. Some champions also specialize in one over the other. 

The Warden Approach:

The warden approach is the process of using your tankiness and crowd control to protect priority allies from enemies looking to gain access to them. This is easily a defensive playmaker type of position and is known for big turn-around and reactionary plays that can save games and gain momentum even after a fight seems lost. They also prove to be impassable walls when fortifying damage dealers who have already gotten ahead, bolstering and reinforcing them as they play aggressive, giving them the freedom to be more imposing at times they otherwise would not be. Imagine something like a Braum defending a Kog'Maw who has 4 kills and is an item up on almost everyone else in the game. Pretty much going to be impossible to get to the Kog without first getting through Braum, right? That's what they do. This type is generally the more popular type of tank you'll see in solo queue, as it's easier to stay put on a target who is willingly trying to be protected (your allied damage dealer) as opposed to having to put considerably more effort into staying on a target who doesn't want to be near you in the slightest (those enemy damage dealers. However, for the most part, it can be hard to force plays and initiations with these champions and this playstyle unless you're reacting to someone who is drastically out of position. 

(The warden playstyle and warden champions excel at being a sort of "bodyguard" to priority allies)

When you are looking to be a warden for your damage dealers, you'll want to keep these particular things in mind: 

  • Cooldowns: It's best to do your counterengaging when you know that the enemy has few cooldowns or has blown a summoner spell. These are some of your strongest points in a fight. Sometimes you can play an enemy's slip up to your advantage in the heat of the moment.
  • Crowd Control: While death is the strongest form of crowd control in the game (except maybe in the case of Karthus), you can disable enemies from using game-changing abilities with proper use of your crowd control.  
  • Allied Escapes and Cooldowns: When your allies have fewer escapes and cooldowns, perhaps it's time to increase your defenses on the ally to prevent them from being engaged on. This may deter enemies from playing aggressive, even in their strong moments. 

In terms of laning in the bottom lane as a support, the warden approach is best applied to protect a hypercarry as they farm or prevent damage from being dealt to your allies. The thing to remember as a warden is that you are not the initiation. You are the protection against those who would initiate on you and your allies, which means you're going to have to be willing to jump into the thick of things and actually fight and be (more often than not) the first line of defense for your team, even if it means dying to enable a teammate to do something else for the team.

 Notable champions that excel as wardens: 

  • Braum, The Heart of the Freljord
  • Shen, The Eye of Twilight
  • Taric, The Shield of Valoran
  • Galio, The Colossus
  • Tahm Kench, The River King

The Vanguard Approach:

To take a vanguard approach is to be the one to initiate the fights on behalf of your team, often on either priority enemies or enemies who are unfortunate enough to be caught out of position. In addition to this, you can also serve as a major disruptor during the fight. This is more of an offensive playmaker role and one that I personally see less of in solo queue, as people who would play these types are less trusting of the possibility that their teammates would follow up on the appropriate targets and fights. Imagine a Leona getting a 4 man ultimate off onto the enemy team before rushing to the enemy mid-laner with her team not far behind her to capitalize on her crowd control. Whereas wardens are all about keeping an ally alive, the vanguard approach emphasizes actively disabling your enemies. The logic behind this is simple: you don't have to protect anyone if all of your enemies are dead or focusing you because you jumped on their most valuable players. 

Malphite's ultimate ability is one of the scariest forms of initiation and crowd control that you can find on a tank in the entire game of League of Legends, as it is only nullified by a few abilities and can completely take even a grouped-up team by surprise.

When you are looking to vanguard for your team, you want to keep these particular things in mind: 

  • Timing: Always always always be optimizing your skills and spells for the right time to perfectly lock down a target. 
  • Targeting: Your targeting is crucial. Jumping onto a target that is hard to kill or that does no damage will not yield anything for your team other than wasted cooldowns and a potentially fatal fight. 
  • Team Positions: Jumping onto a target that is too far away to capitalize on or jumping on a target without any reinforcements your way will just get you killed at best, and flamed at worst. In lane, be mindful of where the enemy jungler/laners are before engaging on a target. 
  • Cooldowns: It's best to do your engaging when you know that the enemy has few cooldowns or have blown a summoner spell. These are some of your strongest points. There's nothing more terrifying than stepping up against someone with hard engage when you have no summoners to escape with. 
  • Enemy Escapes: Sometimes, even when the enemy has their escape, it can be a good idea to engage on them in order to force them to use the escape. This way, you can re-engage in a short window of time afterwards or someone else can follow up with an engage and/or the damage needed to kill the target. 

As a vanguard, you always want to be looking for the opportunity to go in. Note how I said looking. Just because an opportunity presents itself doesn't mean that that may be the right time to take it. There's a time and place for everything, and if you keep the principles above in mind, then you should never find yourself making a mistake when going in and forcing the initiations. There's a lot of pressure on this position because your team could literally live or die by your engages, so don't take your job lightly by any means. 

Notable champions that excel as vanguards include: 

  • Leona, The Radiant Dawn
  • Malphite, Shard of the Monolith
  • Amumu, The Sad Mummy
  • Alistar, The Minotaur
  • Nautilus, The Titan of the Depths
  • Gragas, The Rabble Rouser

Like in this makeshift teamfight, the enemy team will often congregate on a vanguard in order to protect their priority allies, freeing up space for your teammates to do the damage that they need to do and access the necessary targets in order to win the fight.

Another thing to mention is that if you want to play tanks or get good with them, then you have to pick the tanks that actually excel at tanking. Yes, sometimes you can pull it off, but it will really make no sense most of the time to pick a champ that's suboptimal at tanking in hopes of converting it to a tank.  Simply building tank items doesn't make you a tank unless you are also playing with one of the mindsets below. Otherwise, it just makes you a champion with a bit more health and resistances. In most cases, champs that are, by nature, designed to tank are the ones that you should be playing.


While this isn't a be-all end-all guide to tanking, the principles in this post should be enough to force you to think a little the next time you play a tank. In the early game, tanks are more of a "big picture oriented" type of class, meaning that they'll often lose out early on in favor of just existing for the team. In the later stages of the game though, tanks become very detail-oriented, and even the smallest mistake or capitalization can lead to big things for all tanks. To sum it all up, become familiar with the type of tank playstyle you want to adopt and then work your hardest to put the principles and things-to-watch-for that I've described into effect. And remember: Tanks carry the game by enabling and supporting, similar to a support (which is generally why they make such great supports as well). If you're looking to do the big damage numbers and pull the double/double in terms of your kill/death/assist ratio, then perhaps this isn't the class for you. But if you're looking for something consistent, (relatively more) forgiving, reliable with less resources, and, in general, widely accepted on any team no matter what type of composition you're trying to run, consider grabbing a tank. 

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