Choosing Your Tank Part 2: Uncommon Champions for Tanking

Posted: June 19, 2011 by atenthirtyone in Champions

Last week, I covered on the criteria of the tank role in League of Legends, and briefly analyzed on champions that are popularly selected for being a tank. Today, I will talk about champions that are a bit less popular, but can also fit the role of being a tank. These are champions that can potentially fuifull the role of tanks pretty well, and have some niche that gives their team an unique advantage versus the other team. However, they are far less popular due to certain mechanics or are often built in another fashion. However, I believe (again, this is completely my own opinion) that every champion has some sort of niche that makes them not useless in Summoner’s Rift.

Galio – Where as Rammus and Malphite serve as the anti-physical damage tank, Galio is created to be one of the few if not the only anti-magic  magic tank. However, beyond his passive, Galio does not really have any other abilities that help him negate enemy mages at all. He is simply rewarded AP for having magic resist, but AP only helps his Bulwark’s healing (which is still nice). However, there are several aspects about Galio that makes him a tank. His ultimate is game changing team fight starter if you manage to successfully cast it and your team capitalizes on the situation. This tactic is usually facilitated through the usage of Flash. Galio also has a very spammable nuke that provides quite a bit of a slow, which is always useful. In addition, Righteous Gust is a very useful support spell to give your teammates faster movement whether it is used to run away or get closer to the fight. Finally, his Bulwark allows him to either be tankier or potentially save a team mate. Overall, Galio is a decent tank and can fulfill the needs of said role for his team. However, he is neither the tankiest nor the most threatening tank outside his ultimate. This would bring up the question – why, Galio? If you take a look at his abilities, a lot of them are quite similar to those that are often labeled support. With the exception of his passive and ultimate, all of Galio’s abilities seem like they would fit on a support champion more. I believe that this is why someone should choose Galio over another tank when trying to build a strong team composition. Galio is a champion with tons of support abilities while still able to function as a tank, largely thanks to his passive and ultimate. His passive allows him to have strong resistances without giving up completely upgrading your abilities (AP). And his ultimate is pretty much Amumu’s, but arguably far more deadly since it’s a taunting mechanic.

Gragas – I am relatively new to this game, so I can’t comment on the supposed amazing and ridiculous power of Gragas with Innverating Locket. However, I am able to comment on the current state of Gragas. If one were to take a look at Gragas, his abilities seem to be incoherent with each other. They aren’t like Amumu, Alistar, or Rammus where you can immediately tell how to use all of the given abilities correctly. This is probably because Gragas is an early attempt at creating a hybrid character that can function both as an AP mage as well as a strong offensive tank. This however did create the problem that Gragas wants every item stat, but also wants to focus on a subset of stats to be extremely strong. As a result, one would generally either build him as a tanky mage that can do a little bit of melee, or focus completely on his melee abilities as a brusier-esque tank. Since this article is focusing on champions as tanks, we will most likely assume that Gragas is being built and played as a tank. This means that Tank Gragas will generally have an under-leveled and low/non-existing AP for his Barrel Roll. While, an extremely strong poke and lane harasser ability, its power is sacrificed in favor of Gragas’ other abilities. That said, Barrel Roll’s attack speed debuff is still quite nice against physical champions. Speaking of abilities, Drunken Rage is probably one of the best self-buffs in this entire game. Giving a huge chunk of extra damage, damage reduction, and even mana back (it’s free on its own), it’s no wonder it actually has a short channel. This ability alone allows Gragas to be one of the toughest champions to brawl with in the laning phase (Level this up and try hitting a squishy with autoattacks, it’s digusting how hard Gragas hits), and still be able to compete with other champions building pure damage items in the mid game. In the late game, the damage reduction is nothing to sneeze at. Gragas’ other melee ability, Body Slam is one of the most underrated abilities in the game. It allows Gragas not only to become a great chaser, teammate defender, but also pretty much Kassadin mobility. With a decent amount of cooldown reduction, Gragas becomes extremely hard to catch unless you devote multiple stuns onto him. Finally, Gragas has a great initiating ultimate, Explosive Cask. You know Janna’s ultimate that you would love to Flash in and pop it to screw up the enemy team’s positioning or use it to save someone? Gragas pretty much throws an ultimating Janna at his target location, while doing a decent amount of aoe damage in the process. Oh, and I forgot about his passive, Happy Hour. Happy Hour is pretty much free health regen every time you pop an ability, it will seem underwhelming, but it significantly makes Gragas a better laner champion. Overall, Gragas (when played to be tank aka ignore AP and leveling Barrel Rolls) is an early game douchebag that will crush squishies in lanes and then become one of the most mobile tanks in the mid and late game with an extremely strong initiate. However, Gragas is not extremely threatening in the late game without his ultimate since he needs to commit into buying tank items to survive.

Olaf – This is going to sound a little strange but I find that Olaf can fulfill the role of tank reasonably well in his own way. Although known to be the fastest jungler (at the cost of safety), Olaf becomes a beast in the late game. He can either choose to build himself full damage or leans towards an extremely dangerous anti-carry tank role (which will be the Olaf that we will be talking about). Olaf performs his role of tank a little differently than others. First, he is a threat. Olaf is a champion whom can kill your squishy carry in the blink in an eye. This is largely due to his spammable Undertow and his true damage Reckless Swing. In addition, as long as Olaf is alive, his passive will only continue to make him more dangerous since he actually gets stronger as he loses health. Essentially, Olaf “taunts” the enemy team by beating capable of killing every squishy on their team very fast. Now, this is great and all that Olaf can piss off and make every enemy player only want to kill him. But how does he tank the damage? By building like a tank. Olaf rarely needs more than one or two items at most, and they tend to be items like Atma’s and Frozen Mallets that double up as tank items. His Reckless Swing is also true damage, so it allows Olaf to remain strong in damage for a long time despite building less damage items than other champions. However, Olaf’s ultimate is the key to the success of his so call tanking. Ragnarok gives Olaf damage reduction, damage increase, and immunity to almost every crowd control (except silences and blinds). Olaf is one of the few tanks that can initiate literally by popping this and Ghost, since the only way to stop him is to kill him. Much like his title, The Berserker, Olaf will run in, take damage like a boss, and probably kill someone. He is a tank that threatens by having an unstoppable wrecking ball. That said, he functions similarly to said wrecking ball. A team with Olaf heavily depends on the momentum of his mechanics to allow you to win and clean up the enemy survivors. While, not a tank in the traditional sense, Olaf can still perform the requirements of a team quite well for his team.

Maokai – Now this entry is probably going to be a little bias, as he is probably among my favorite to play. Maokai is a champion that can do multiple things in a single match to help his team win. Maokai is one of the strongest laners in the game since he has two important traits to being a strong laner, harassment and sustainability. His abilities and passive simply allow him to bully his way through his lane. As players start to seek ganks and team fights, Maokai’s potential burst through the usage of the Sheen/Trinity Force items simply allows him to burst harder than most tanks at this point. Now, this isn’t even talking about Maokai in the context of being a tank in a team fight. With two strong tank crowd control abilities (one knockback/interupt and one charge/snare), Maokai can control the pace of the enemy, while protecting his team at the same time. He also has a decent ultimate that gives damage reduction to his team given they stay in the area of effect. Finally, his passive that served him very well during laning, now skyrockets in strength due to his increased health as well as increased number of abilities being used in a team fight. That said, I do have some criticism to Maokai as a character. First, he relies on a strong farm to become a threat in a match as he isn’t the most tankiest nor the most disruptive tank in this game. This becomes that if Maokai loses his lane, his presence in the later parts of the game will be much less and as a result, your team will be significantly weaker. Second, Maokai can tank, but often either wants an offtank/someone tough or someone else with a strong initiate. While Maokai’s Twisted Advance is an alright method to starting a team fight, Maokai really wants either the enemy team to over-extend, or have someone on his team create the opening for him. Overall, Maokai is a tank that will usually dominate his lane and be over-farmed allowing him to perform better than he usually should. However, he really does need a friend to help him start team fights.

Each of these four tank champions are not strong tank champions if we only compare them to the strengths of the traditional tank like Amumu or Rammus. However, being only tanks and being only capable of tanking is a limited advantage. While your champion may be able to tank and start a team fight, better than anyone else – that’s all you can do. Sometimes, your team needs your character to do more than that. The champions we covered today, often much more than that to their team. Galio provides the role and abilities of both tank and support freeing up another slot in a five person team. Gragas focuses on mobility and early game bullying, while retaining an extremely strong initiate. Olaf is raw unstoppable damage whom tanks through items and the usage of his ultimate. Maokai snowballs his role as a tank through lane domination. In the end, as long as these champions are played well, they still are able to perform the role of a tank. It is just that they get to this stage in a different matter. Next week, I will cover “tank” champions that are self-sufficient in lanes and provide high damage.

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