Tank refers to a party member whose role is to keep all attention on him or her to protect other members.

Constitution-Based Tank


Warrior tanks will require the Threaten and Taunt abilities as soon as possible and use the highest armor value equipment available. The goal is to maintain the attention of the targets on the battlefield. The Weapon and Shield Talents provide the best options for a blood tank, though any talent tree could suffice with sufficient skill. Branches two and three in particular bestow critical abilities such as Shield Wall and Shield Block. Setting up Shield Wall can let the tank mitigate a significant portion of damage.


In the world of Dragon Age, enemies are attracted to the party member who is wearing the heaviest armor and conveniently many pieces of Heavy Armor and Massive Armor also carry helpful tanking stats in addition to their very large armor ratings. Some Armor Sets also bestow useful benefits such as reduced stamina cost for abilities or a simple armor bonus. However, very few armor sets are worth putting together for their bonus when you can mix and match pieces of other sets for better benefits.

When choosing a weapon and shield, you obviously want to choose the weapon with the highest damage and the shield with the highest armor, but pay attention to any additional effects on equipment. For example the Oathkeeper blade offers a very much appreciated bonus to healing spells to the wielder (though this is unimplemented), and Eamon's Shield gives +25 Stamina and +6 Defense. When choosing Runes, you'll want to go for Physical and Spell Resistance mostly. ---> Due to serious bug any +X% Healing attribute does not work


Weapon and Shield tanks should focus on the Shield talents first and moving into Branch One (the melee talents) later. However, Threaten and Taunt sometimes aren't enough to maintain enemy attention. If a damage dealer in your party is performing too well, he or she may end up tanking as a result. Sometimes it's best to let the tank attract the attention of all enemies in the room and let the DDs pick off targets one by one, and sometimes it's best to have all characters focus on one target. During one-on-one fights (usually Bosses), a tank will need to output a good deal of damage him or herself, so don't completely neglect Branch One of the talents. Try to find a good balance between offense and defense; your playstyle will play a role here.


A Blood Tank's key attribute is Constitution, but Strength is also equally important. Health and Physical Resistance are integral in this setup, and a high strength attribute is required to wear the heavy armor pieces. Willpower is a secondary stat, as Stamina doesn't typically run low for a tank except in long fights (and some of the better armor pieces actually carry Stamina boosts anyway) but Mental Resistance is always good. Dexterity is not pivotal, but the evasion benefits are useful. Magic is an afterthought, it may improve the potency of poultices, but you should have a healer in the party to watch the tank anyway and let potions be used only in emergencies. Cunning is of least importance in this role.


Useful specializations for a blood tank are Templar and Reaver. Templar gives a useful bevy of anti-Mage abilities and a fantastic AoE attack. Reaver's Devour ability can heal a small amount of health over time and Frightening Appearance further boosts the power of Taunt and Threaten. Further, Blood Frenzy plays very well into the blood tanking role as the lower the tank's health, the more powerful he becomes (although keep in mind your Healer will absolutely need to be focused on the tank during the Frenzy). Champion can find some utility in this role once talented into Superiority.


The game lists a Tank role as "Defender" and assumes you are using a Weapon and Shield setup. Choosing this from the Tactics screen will automatically apply the following Tactics once all Weapon and Shield and Warrior talents have been unlocked:

  • Self:Any -> Activate: Threaten
  • Self:Any -> Activate: Shield Wall
  • Self:Surrounded by at least two enemies -> Taunt
  • Self:Being attacked by a ranged attack -> Activate: Shield Cover
  • Enemy:Health >=75% -> Overpower
  • Enemy:Health >=75% -> Shield Bash
  • Enemy:Nearest Visible -> Assault
  • Enemy:Nearest Visible -> Shield Pummel

The computer will add additional tactics (available slots provided) for current specializations where appropriate. Some fine tuning will be necessary as you go along, as the game seems to favor Shield Cover. Use your discretion. Some players find adding a Health Poultice tactic useful, while others would rather the tank let the healer do his/her job.

  • Self:Health <25% -> Use health poultice: Most powerful

Keep in mind a healthy supply of items is recommended before setting this tactic.

Dexterity-Based Tank


This Tank is fairly self explanatory: it tanks by not taking damage. Rogues with the Evasion talent and high Dexterity and a Duelist specialization are able to evade a significant amount of attacks from enemies. Similarly, a Mage with Arcane Warrior specialization and applicable Spells can also dodge the majority of enemy attacks. However, both classes will find it difficult to maintain the control of the battlefield without Taunt and Threaten and as a result must compensate with damage and crowd control. Evasion tanks are not able to be used to full effectiveness towards the beginning of the game as the role requires a fair amount of talents deep into several branches and specializations. Furthermore, Evasion tanks have very limited utility against spellcaster enemies and are much better suited for one-on-one battles such as bosses or Elite targets. Evasion tanks make excellent "off-tanks" or "backup tanks" in the event of several difficult enemies at once or if your main tank falls in battle.

Rogue - Equipment

A Rogue will be focusing mostly on Dexterity and Cunning and as a result will not have a high enough Strength attribute to wear Heavy and Massive armor. Instead, the Rogue should focus on gear that boosts Dexterity and Evasion (look for +Defense) where possible, and when this is not possible, equip a set that reduces stamina costs.

It's generally a good idea to wield two daggers so that they can benefit from the damage bonuses. Most daggers have critical/backstab bonuses, but since the evasion tank is not likely to be able to Backstab (without Coup de Grace), Daggers with Attack/Damage or Armor Penetration may be better choices. Spending points in Branch One of Dual Weapon Talents will further improve damage and defense, though the fourth talent is not integral.

Rogue - Talents

The Evasion talent is the most important talent for the evasion Rogue, obtain this as soon as possible. A Rogue must prioritize high damage through melee talents and/or poison bombs and a fair amount of crowd control with traps is recommended. Branch Three of Dual Weapon Talents can do a fair amount of area of effect damage, otherwise Momentum can provide a steady stream of damage. The easiest way to play a Rogue evasion tank is to let the Rogue charge headstrong into a throng of enemies so that he or she is the first target seen and then use Dual Weapon Sweep and Whirlwind to get a large amount of hostility as soon as the battle starts. Easiest does not necessarily mean best, however, see Tactics for more information.

Rogue - Attributes

A Rogue tank's primary attribute is first and foremost Dexterity. The whole point of this tank is to dodge and dodge frequently. Constitution can be important; a Rogue won't be wearing Heavy and Massive armor lest they quickly run out of Stamina thanks to fatigue, so if they get hit, they get hit hard. Obtain enough Strength to wear the best Rogue gear available (preferably a piece with Dexterity and/or evasion...consider The Felon's Coat). Willpower is important in this role if not using poison bombs as the Rogue will go through stamina like nothing in order to maintain the attention. Cunning is fairly important since you'll have the Lethality talent as a result of choosing Evasion, but boost Strength high enough first before putting points here. Magic is as useful to a Rogue as a Warrior: only as an emergency. The points you receive from the Circle Tower quest will likely be more than enough.

Rogue - Specializations

Duelist offers several useful defense bonuses and Pinpoint Strike can make the Rogue fairly lethal. Bard can boost damage and defense, or stamina/mana regeneration. Not terribly integral to the tanking aspect, but Bard is a far better choice than Ranger or Assassin.

Rogue - Tactics

Do not trust the AI to evade tank. The AI is not designed to think ahead and as a result cannot be relied upon. A Rogue tank will be using a large amount of crowd control. Gaining the attention of an entire hall of enemies is generally ill-advised. If you become surrounded, Rogues do not have the ability to prevent flanking damage like a Shield Warrior. Use choke points such as a door or narrow path to draw them into so that only a few enemies can attack at once and let your Evasion talents work their charms. This is how Rogue solo playthroughs work.

Mage - Overview

Unlike Rogue, an Arcane Warrior specialized Mage can use their Magic attribute as Strength and wear Heavy and Massive armor to help with the hostility management (and some pieces can give very useful bonuses). With Fade Shroud and a useful selection of spells, the Arcane Warrior is an extremely powerful force to be reckoned with. More information on Arcane Warrior can be found on its respective page.

An Alternative Approach


In DA:O, there are only three essential, and, it might be added, somewhat counter-intuitive, criteria defining whether a character is fit for a tank role. Curiously enough, a lot of superficially attractive parameters, like constitution, armor, defense, physical, mental and elemental resistances, flanking immunity or missile deflection play little to no role in successful tanking. The criteria mentioned above are: (a) threat management; (b) stun/knockdown immunity; (c) spell immunity. Each criterion is covered in more detail in its own separate sub-section below.

Threat Management

First and foremost, if one wants to keep it practical, tanking, especially on Nightmare difficulty, is all about drawing threat. Surprisingly, it seems to be the major pièce de résistance of this article. The information on Evasion tanks in the Tank article is, for all its originality, very off the mark as far as tanking per se is concerned: the builds proposed are no tanks, just certain characters that wouldn't be hit as often (ideally, they wouldn't be hit at all) as other characters. While this surely is a great advantage, one would be hard-pressed to imagine by what means a Rogue, or, to a lesser extent, an Arcane Warrior (the latter has some AoE spells that can do the job) is supposed to draw hostility as easily and effectively as any Warrior. Sky-high defense and evasion won't matter much, if the enemies go straight after your ranged attackers, ignoring the low-threat tank altogether.

A list of effective threat control tools (obvious and not-so-obvious) no tank should forego includes: Taunt, Threaten, Frightening Appearance, Scattershot, Two-Handed Sweep. The inclusion of the first three talents is self-explanatory. Frightening Appearance is worth the investment, granting an effective 33.3% increase to threat generated by Taunt. Additional details on threat mechanics can be found here: Threat. It is noteworthy to point out that threat ranges from -1000 to 1000, so it is not hard to see an immediate +400 threat boost from Frightening Appearance-enhanced Taunt is very significant. Scattershot and Two-Handed Sweep are less self-explanatory, yet these are talents your tank should definitely have. Scattershot has invaluable advantages for the tank: it's a huge range (15 m) AoE auto-hitting talent generating solid threat on every target it hits. Since your tank, if built properly, is bound to have high dexterity and decent strength, the normal hit from Scattershot deals decent damage (~65 with level 18 Alistair). It is advisable to use enchanted arrows with Scattershot to boost the threat a bit more. All in all, it is a great combat opener for the tank: an immediate increase in threat generated by several hundred points. Two-Handed Sweep is, basically, similar to Scattershot: when the enemies approach, switch to your two-handed weapon of choice and use the talent. Since it happens to be one of the only AoE talents available to warrior class characters, generating quite a lot of threat per hit + resulting in possible knockdown, it is easy to see why it is so essential. Holy Smite, in addition to being a great talent overall, can generate some pretty decent AoE threat, but whether it's worth four points investment in a talent tree that is not too practical for a party tank is open to discussion. An additional threat management tool worth mentioning, albeit a negative one, is Feign Death. It is very desirable, since high-damage cunning and dexterity-based rogues (both DW and archery builds) can generate an insane amount of threat with constant strings of critical hits. Technically, Feign Death puts its user in unbreakable Stealth mode, thus saving the rogue and allowing the tank to use one of threat-generating skills to re-build threat. This is especially useful during tough single boss fights (the High Dragon is a good example). Perhaps Mind Blast should also be mentioned in negative threat management department: the spell sets all previously generated threat on targets to 1. While far from being a universally applicable threat management tool, it's still situationally useful. Bard's Distraction can be used much to the same effect.

Stun/Knockdown Immunity

One of the worst things that can happen to your tank on Nightmare is knockdown. AI tends to switch aggro upon successful knockdown, and that's one thing you don't want to see happening. Incapacitation of any kind (first and foremost, stun), admittedly, won't make the AI target other party members, but it will render your threat management talents unusable, and thus, should be avoided at any cost. Now, the most intuitively appealing solution is to stack a bunch of +X physical resistance gear/runes on your Weapon and Shield Talents-oriented warrior having his Shield Wall mode on. Unfortunately, it's impossible without sacrificing a significant part of your tank's spell resistance gear, discussed below. A much better alternative is resorting to Two-Handed Talents, and relying entirely on the best warrior sustainable in the game (well, that's not a huge compliment) - Indomitable. This second tier talent makes you immune to any sort of knockdown or stun, except Overwhelm (Monster) and Grab (Monster). Then again, nothing protects against Overwhelm (Monster) and Grab (Monster), so learn to live with it. Investing in Two-Handed Talents has several benefits, apart from Indomitable. It's the most early game-friendly tree to go with: the best talents are, in fact, first and second tier. Sunder Arms, Pommel Strike and Indomitable is all you need until late mid-game (throw in Shattering Blows in case you prefer to finish A Paragon of Her Kind prior to other quest lines), so you can devote yourself fully to warrior/archery threat management talents, instead of investing frantically in Two-Handed Talents (that's exactly what you are forced to do if you go with Weapon and Shield Talents).

The question of two-handed weapon choice naturally arises. Your ultimate tanking weapon should be:

Starfang Starfang (greatsword)

It is ridiculously easy to get very early in the game for such a powerful weapon, assuming you have the Warden's Keep DLC installed. Just travel religiously between Honnleath and Flemeth's Hut, and The Crater event will trigger. Complete the Warden's Keep main quest, then bring the Meteor Metal Ore to Mikhael Dryden, and you are set for the rest of the game (Chasind Great Maul is theoretically a better choice, but it is available only after two treaties have been fulfilled.) It may be worth noting that Shapeshifters using Bear Shape or Spider Shape are immune to knockdowns AND grabs, making them valuable for tanking certain bosses like the High Dragon. Threat management is considerably more difficult as a Mage, however.

Spell Immunity

Stacking spell resistance gear gives your tank the benefit of being immune to hostile magic, though, admittedly, that will start to be a somewhat theoretical scenario when your party mage gains Mana Clash spell: still, it will be a huge convenience throughout the game. It goes without saying you should aim for 100% spell resistance (no one can guarantee the very first Glyph of Paralysis that is going to be cast on your 96% spell resistant tank will not fall into those remaining 4%). It is attainable for any warrior companion in the game, and even more so, for a PC warrior.

If you plan to achieve spell immunity, two key gear pieces are mandatory:

Ico armor massive Knight Commander's Plate
Ico amulet The Spellward

The good news is these items are available from the very start from Faryn in Frostback Mountain Pass and from Bodahn at the party camp, respectively. The bad news is you will have to pay a total of 114 DAO goldpiece trans for them.

A Note of Fire Resistance

That's actually a somewhat puzzling concept you can sometimes see mentioned in various strategy guides. The facts are you need fire resistance (=anti-dragon) gear four times in this game (two Dragons: one at Brecilian Ruins, one at Orzammar Royal Palace; two High Dragons: Flemeth and, well, the High Dragon). There are no other combat instances where fire resistance is a must. Therefore, a logical choice would be crafting a Greater Warmth Balm or two before attempting any dragon-slaying, instead of having a whole set of alternate tanking gear specifically designated for dragon encounters. The Balm gives +60% fire resistance for 3 minutes. Your tank's best choice when it comes to compensating for the missing 15% fire resistance is:

Ico greatsword Yusaris

Indomitable, Yusaris enchanted with two Grandmaster Frost or Lightning runes, and Greater Warmth Balm are the only 'anti-dragon equipment' you need. The efficiency of Greater Warmth Balm use is demonstrated here:

Ideal Tank Development and Gearing

There is not much choice as far as specializations go: Templar/Reaver is the best combination by far, granting you access to Knight Commander's Plate and Frightening Appearance. Also, if one feels like resorting to low-life tanking (having 20% life will make the AI concentrate on the tank regardless of threat generated by other party members 50% of a time, while having 10% life will increase that chance to 90%), using friendly fire-capable spells on the tank, then boosting his armor to the maximum (change gear mid-combat, if needed) and turning Blood Frenzy on will prove a very effective combination.
Key talents no decent tank can do without: Taunt, Threaten, Frightening Appearance, Scattershot, Two-Handed Sweep, Indomitable. Stat distribution: strength in 35-40 range, the rest into dexterity.

The optimal gear for this build is:

Ico longbow Far Song or Ico longbow Falon'Din's Reach with an option of switching to Ico longbow Wolf-Killer in animal/demon-populated areas
Starfang Starfang (greatsword) or Ico warhammer Chasind Great Maul enchanted with one Grandmaster and two Master Dweomer runes
Helm of honnleath Helm of Honnleath or Ico helm heavy Executioner's Helm
Ico armor massive Knight Commander's Plate
Ico gloves heavy Gloves of Diligence
Massive boots red Warden Commander Boots
Ico amulet The Spellward
Ico belt Andruil's Blessing
Plt ico key Key to the City
Ico ring Lifegiver
That accounts for full spell immunity in two-handed mode and a significant stamina boost. A typical simplified combat flow chart for this tank will look like this: Scattershot -> switch to Starfang (greatsword) -> approach the enemies -> Two-Handed Sweep -> holding aggro -> ranged attackers draw too much threat -> Taunt.

The only warrior companion suitable for this build is Alistair. Since you get him so early in the game, his initial Weapon and Shield Talents orientation should not cause any problems. A PC Dwarf warrior would be an ideal candidate, though, because of 10% inherent spell resistance, which is very useful. There is an unofficial patch the exists that gives sten a second specialization point, which would make him a suitable companion for this build, as you get him very early in the game and he starts out with two handed weapon talents.

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