Note: Last update February 1st, 2012.
This guide has been completely rewritten since Update 6 since so many things happened to the class that changed everything about how it works.
A few notes about this guide: This is geared towards end game raiding and not precisely leveling, although many points here are helpful for soloing and alerts on your way to 30. There are a few comments in the thread though about good fire leveling loadouts if you want to run through the content as a tank and not a DPSer, depending on your playstyle.
This guide is divided up into several sections. The first section involves general theorycraft behind firetanking in general and the differences between fire tanking and ice tanking. The second section revolves around the differences in update 6 and the downsides to being a fire tank. The final sections include a detailed analysis of all the useful powers for fire tanking, along with their advantages and disadvantages, and loadout discussion on how to do your job effectively.
Part 1: What is a tank, and why is Fire good at it?
If this is your first MMO, there are several terms that describe the basic classes in the game. A Healer heals the group when it takes damage. A Controller heals the group’s power and controls groups of enemies by stunning them, encasing them in bubbles, knocking them back, etc. A DPSer kills things as fast as possible, and a Tank’s job is to make all the enemies focus on him and beat on him so the other three can do their jobs. The two tank classes at the time of this writing are Fire and Ice. After the Lightning Strikes! downloadable content, the next should include a new tanking power but there is no indication on what it will be.
With the changes in Update 6, fire tanking became considerably easier while ice tanking became harder. The whole point of the guide in the first place was to explain how fire tanking worked with its complex series of buffs and power interactions. Now with this update, many of these are moot points but still worth going over. Tanking is arguably the easiest job in the game to do but as a result it is very unforgiving when you do it wrong. When a raid loses a healer or a DPSer in a boss fight, you can still usually win even if it takes longer. Nine times out of ten, however, if the tank is undergeared or not doing his job, all hell will break loose. The tank is the least expendable member of the team, at least until you overgear the content so much that you don’t even need a tank.
Tanks have certain mechanics attached to them that will make enemies focus on them. Their armor has the highest defense and health in the game in order to make them a big punching bag to absorb the damage everything throws at them. This is done through generating threat (also known as aggro) and taunting.
One of the largest advantages to being a fire tank is that you have what is known as a snap-taunt that will grab the attention of any mob or boss. Each mob/boss has a threat table; whenever someone damages something with a power (yellow numbers) that player generates threat. Certain other actions generate threat as well, such as healing. Whoever has the highest threat at the time is what the mob will actually attack, with a few scripted exceptions. When you use a power as a fire tank, you are instantly propelled to the top of that table for a full twelve seconds, or until another player hits the “maximum threat” level for that mob. This works differently than ice tanking which instead uses a very high multiplier on its threat generation to get to the top of the chart instead of this taunting mechanic.
You also have a few bonuses when in tank role that you wouldn’t get otherwise. When you use any power as a tank, your total health gets increased by a base amount of 60% and the amount of healing that you receive increases by 80% as well. This applies to all healing, wether it’s from health barrels, your healers, or your self heals. Dominance also increases these two bonuses even further.
To understand the differences in how both tanks mitigate damage and increase their survivability, a few terms need to be explained.
Actual HP, Effective HP, Armor Piercing, and the Defense Cap
Let’s look at an ice tank and a fire tank. Both of them have 2800 Defense, 3500 HP, and 500 Dominance.
Actual HP is what you actually have, with your innates and gear. Effective HP combines actual HP and the effect of your damage mitigation to figure out just how much raw damage you can take before being knocked out. The formula for damage mitigation is 1% per 71 defense at level 30. If you have 2800 defense as a tank, you have 39.44% damage mitigation, which means that every attack you take will have 39.44% taken off of it that actually hits you. If a boss has an attack that does a flat 1000 damage, it will only hit you for 606 damage. This means that if you have 3500 HP actual HP, your effective HP is 5779, because that’s how much damage it will take to actually knock you out.
In order to explain these concepts further, this guide takes a detour and describes how ice tanking works as these mechanics are much simpler to understand with that class. Then you’ll understand how fire mixes it up.
Ice tanks mitigate damage by having a defensive buff. Any power that an ice tank uses in tank role increases their defense by 90%. That 2800 defense just got popped up to 5320, which means 74.93% mitigation. This gives our ice tank, using any power to gain that buff, an effective HP of 13961. If the tank uses Neo Venom to boost his defense up higher, or gets better gear, the mitigation would continue to increase. This would cause an exponential increase in effective HP to the point where the ice tank would become completely invincible at 7100 defense with 100% damage mitigation.
In theory this is nice, but the developers didn’t see it this way, so they added an armor piercing/defense cap mechanic. Summed up:
- Up until the first series of raids, armor behaves normally.
- Content that awards Marks of Distinction (Tier 2) will ignore 12% of your defense.
- Content that awards Marks of Krypton (Tier 3) will ignore 25% of your defense.
- The maximum mitigation possible, regardless of content, is only 75%.
You can hopefully see the problem with this. Before the latest update that “got rid” of the defense cap, you were never able to get your defense over 5278, resulting in a hard defense cap of just over 74% mitigation. The current system doesn’t have a hard cap on defense itself but instead a hard cap on the mitigation defense provides.
If an ice tank has 6000 defense buffed under the new system, when running normal content he would have a little over 84% mitigation. Since this is higher than 75%, mitigation would max out at the 75%.
In Tier 2 content, the 6000 defense gets 12% ignored before any other game calculations, so the engine calculates his defense at 5280. Still around 75% mitigation, so no noticable difference.
In Tier 3 content like the Fortress of Solitude, that 6000 defense gets cut by 25% to 4500, resulting in 63% mitigation.
The old mitigation cap was just over 74%. Now it’s 75%. See how nothing actually changed? There’s plenty of speculation as to why this occurred. My personal theory is that it makes content scaling easier since the developers have announced that they’re working on it. Changing a few sliders is a much easier way from a design standpoint to adjust difficulties in raids then going through and changing everything manually on every single mob and boss.
Since blocking adds 5000 defense, here is how much defense you need to have to hit the mitigation cap when you block in various levels of content wether you’re a squishy or a tank:
- Normal content: 325
- T2 reward content (Batcave and Khandaq raids, T2 Alerts): 1248
- T3 reward content (Fortress of Solitude raids): 2100
Your effective HP is 4x your actual HP when blocking at the 75% mitigation level.
In our example, let’s say our ice tank is in normal content, with his mitigation capped at 75%. This means that our 3500 HP ice tank can take 14000 HP worth of damage before it goes down, just from using a single power to get his defensive buff up to the mitigation threshhold.
Update 6 took away the ability of a fire tank to stack their buffs. Before Update 6 it was possible to buff your HP up to incredible levels and with it your effective HP when blocking. Fully buffed, you could get your HP up to about 325% of your standard HP through the use of your trinket, a few powers, and a supercharge. If you blocked while in this state with a mix of T2 and T3, your effective HP would end up over 45,000 – over three times that of a fully buffed ice tank on his best day. This would only happen for a few seconds every five minutes or so.
Instead, any power you use in tanking role (including any iconic powers or movement mode powers) will boost your HP by 60%. This is unchanged. However, you now get an additional HP buff based on your dominance.
The formula for this additional HP buff is:
Additional Health = (Dominance * 2.2) rounded down to the nearest whole number
If you have 500 dominance in tank role this means that in addition to your 60% HP buff, your HP will by increased by an additional 1100.
If you use a trinket to boost your HP, this is factored in to your base HP that is multiplied by 60%. With the current gear progression, the tiered armor sets have a fairly consistant 12HP/1 Dominance ratio. When combined with the 1105 HP and 50 dominance you get automatically at level 30, with tank gear your total HP buff is going to be around 180% with Tier 1 armor and scales to 190% with T3. This is just from the armor; these stats will change when you equip other items such as trinkets, weapons, necklaces, and rings, but they won’t change by much. Figure that your HP buff will fluctuate anywhere from 180%-210% depending on what innates and powers you purchase in what order, and if you use a trinket or not to further buff your HP during the middle of a fight.
To figure out your total HP in tank role when you use any power, the formula is:
(Base HP * 1.6 and rounded down) + (Dominance * 2.2 and rounded down)
With the same statistics, a fire tank with 3500 HP, 500 Dominance, and 2800 defense will have 11062 effective HP when they use a single power to get their HP bonus. Compare that to the ice tank’s 14000.
When you block though, everything changes.
Unlike a defensive cap, there is no HP cap. Here’s where fire tanking really shines if you know what you’re doing – the health buff. When the same fire tank blocks and gets the to the exact same mitigation cap as the ice tank, his effective HP goes from 11,063 to 26,800 effective HP – nearly double that of an ice tank.
With Update 6, health buffs come effortlessly and no longer need to be cycled or used at the correct time to get the most out of them. Combine this with the fact that both tanks now need to block to get the highest mitigation possible, and there’s no longer any debate about which tank can take more damage when in the strongest defensive position possible…but now newer raids and encounter designs are starting to force players and tanks to move around more so they become vulnerable.
While ice tanks now need to block as well to get to the cap, they don’t need to block as much as a fire tank does so they have a bit more freedom to move around. They also don’t get smacked around as hard if they do get hit while moving, while a fire tank will usually take spike damage in the same scenario.
Ice closes this effective HP gap with their Reflect power, which will increase their effective HP by 10,000 for a short period of time. Reflect however doesn’t last for 12 seconds like fire buffs do, so while it’s an amazing power, it’s not as good as it once was in the new mechanic scheme since it didn’t get any changes in tank mode like the other Ice powers did, according to the developers. Like all shields, they really only allow the healer a few seconds to catch up.
To sum up, when moving, ice > fire and when standing still and holding block, fire > ice.
If you’re a fire tank who makes the most out of your class by blocking, this change to the defense mechanics shouldn’t affect you at all. You’ll see stuff hitting you a bit harder when you’re not blocking but when you block, you shouldn’t notice any difference (in fact, the damage done should be less given that the developers said they toned down the amount of damage all the end game content enemies do. They did not, however, give any numbers beyond what percentage of your defense the target ignores.) You shouldn’t need to change your playstyle at all to stay effective as a fire tank, while an ice tank is going to have to learn to block – something they haven’t had to do since their defense hit 2777.
Finally, fire tanks got some love in this department. Before the update self healing would become more useless the more geared you became. It now scales using a combination with your Dominance and Restoration statistics.
When you use a self heal, your restoration for that heal is your Restoration and Dominance statistics combined, minus the initial 50 Dominance you get at level 30. This does not apply to healing barrels, which only take Restoration into account.
4 Restoration results in 1% base healing increase. There was a whole other thread in which I described exactly how I figured out how much each power healed for, but I’ll repost the results from every self healing fire power. This is the base healing the power does if you would have 0 Restoration:
Consume Objects will heal between 31 and 39 HP on use. It does not matter if it actually consumes anything, wether it’s another object, a meteor that you drop, or nothing at all.
Backdraft and Fiery Weapon will both heal between 73 and 82 HP if used on a burning target. They will only process this heal once per use.
Absorb Heat will heal between 14 and 17 HP per tick for 6 ticks if used against a burning target for a total heal of between 84 and 102. This is assuming no critical heals and no cancels/interruptions.
Burnout will heal between 60 and 64 HP on use.
Reignition will heal between 146 and 160 HP on use.
Burning Determination will heal between 21 and 28 HP on the initial cast and the next three hits of damage you take.
Stoke Flames is identical to Absorb Heat and will heal for 14 to 17 HP per tic.
I did not test Eternal Flame extensively due to the amount of time it would have taken to build up 20 supercharges and find enemies that could beat on me hard enough to get an accurate reading. But I did look at all the pretty green numbers. This power is much more useful after the latest update.
“But wait,” I hear you say, “These powers heal for much, much more than that!” Keep in mind this is the base amount with 0 Restoration. You have 740 at level 30, so your base healing is 285% of normal. You can gain an additional 150 Restoration through innate bonuses, and pump it up further if you use the Halloween pumpkin trinket that increases restoration.
To find out how much a power would heal you in DPS mode, here’s the formula:
Healing Done = Base Healing * ( 1 + ((Restoration + Dominance – 50)/400))
Multiply this number by 1.8 to see how much this would heal you in tank mode, with your 80% healing bonus.
Your math will be off by about half a percent with this formula. The reason for this is that the engine uses several different conversions and calculations to figure out the exact amount of healing and I’m not exactly sure just where in the whole process the decimal point gets dropped. If you calculate a heal that would do 850 and in reality it does 854, there’s practically no difference. I saw several examples of that in my testing.
Oh, and in case you were wondering: Your base Critical Healing Magnitude is 25%. You can get this up to 100% making critical heals do twice as much healing as your normal heals through your innate weapon bonuses, an iconic power, and the natural bonus you get from being a fire user.
There is one drawback to the self healing build that you need to overcome, however. If you’re blocking and need to cast a self heal, there is absolutely no point in using it if the amount of damage you’ll take coming out of block will be higher than the amount you’ll actually heal for. With enemies hitting harder in raids now this is almost a certainty. To learn how to nullify this takes time and practice.
One thing you’ll learn that can’t really be taught; the more you encounter certain enemies, the more you learn to recognize their attack patterns and animations. If I can’t time my cast just right between attack animations or I’m surrounded, the way I do it is to roll away from whatever is beating on me which should give me a few seconds to use a healing power before I resume blocking fists with my face. If your dominance is high enough, you can use a crowd control power such as Flashpoint or High Pressure to give you some breathing room before casting your self heal.
One of the things that used to get fire tanks into trouble with self buff builds is that the 80% healing bonus they would get in tank role wouldn’t close enough of the gap between healing received and the skyrocketing HP. This resulted in healers having to work much harder to keep a fully buffed fire tank up as opposed to a fully buffed ice tank. The ideal HP buff is one that is identical to your self healing buff, meaning that the heaers didn’t need to put forth any extra effort to keep you alive. The closest number before Update 6 was a 185% buff. Now, with the new self buffing for fire tanks hovering around this area, this problem is completely negated. Fire tanks no longer need to have a buff rotation going at all, and can instead focus more on self healing and doing a bit more crowd control and damage if that’s their playstyle.
There’s still a gap that will make your healers work harder than they will to heal an ice tank, however, so you should be doing some self healing regardless of your build. I toyed with this formula quite a bit, but it’s a ridiculously low percentage. To find it, take this formula:
( Fully Buffed HP – ( Normal HP x 1.8 )) x 100 / Fully Buffed HP
In my example, 3500 HP and 500 dominance would give me 6700 health buffed.
If I’m relying on my healers to heal my 3500 HP, when I use a power, my healing buff means that same 3500 HP of healing can now heal me for 6300 without any additional effort on behalf of the healers. My fully buffed HP is 6700, for a gap of 400 HP between the two values. This means for every 6700 damage I take in, I need to heal myself for 400 to cover the gap between my HP buff and my healing buff. This comes out to 6% of my buffed HP.
This number ranges anywhere from 0% to 8% with the current armor sets and how you allocate your skill points. Anything you heal over that is pure gravy, but keep in mind the more you self heal the more your controllers have to work, so it really depends on who you want to put more pressure on in the group – the healers or controllers. You always want to accomplish your goals using the least amount of power possible. If you find your controllers are routinely running out of power and you’re the one taking the most in, you’ll probably want to change your playstyle. Turtle more and let the power go to the healers. A self healing fire tank can routinely end up using the most power in a group if they aren’t careful.
In the hands of a skilled player, these blocking and self healing mechanics are the largest advantage a fire tank has over an ice tank. Just with the innate +60% HP and +80% Healing buff up, if you block, you already have far more effective HP than an ice tank with identical stats does. Given that you have an actual taunt mechanic, you can just blast any power and hold block for 12 seconds until its time to cast again to re-establish aggro, or in case a mob starts to run away. You don’t even need to be standing right next to whatever you’re trying to grab; any power used in the tank role will aggro mobs and bosses within a 15 meter radius.
Part 2: Downsides to being a Fire Tank
This section used to be a lot longer and mostly centered around how not knowing the mechanics and playing like an ice tank would get you stomped in the harder raids. Now, it’s much shorter, but there are still disadvantages that fire tanks and group that run with them need to be aware of.
- You have to play like a tank.
This applies to both tank classes, but moreso now for fire tanks with the defense nerf. You only quadruple your HP pool when blocking. This means you cannot move around, you cannot cast, you cannot roll, you cannot attack. You can do no damage of your own unless your taunt has a damage-over-time tick and you cannot use weapon combos to regen your power. Furthermore, your mitigaton and effective HP drops like a rock when you do anything but block (such as moving around in a boss fight, or using a power) and you are far more vulnerable to spike damage during this period than an ice tank.
Many players also find this type of playstyle incredibly boring. Fire users have always had to play like this, so the ones who didn’t want to play like this were weeded out months ago. There is however, quite a backlash from ice users who didn’t need to make any changes to their playstyle between Tank roles and DPS roles and now do. Back when update 6 first hit ice tanks were dropping like flies in the Fortress raids. It’s not as much of an issue now as those that have remained ice tanks have learned to block and those that haven’t either switched to DPS or have pretty much been blacklisted by different raiding groups until they learned differently.
This is an action MMO and unless people are watching non-red numbers rack up above their heads, they aren’t happy. Ice used to be able to allow someone to be a tank with none of the actual playstyle drawbacks from being a tank. This is more of a personality issue than a playstyle issue. You have to have the right mindset to be a tank.
-Your taunt is less effective as a fight goes on.
As a fight drags on, more and more players such as your DPSers or controllers using debuffs will have their own threat level approach the maximum that the enemy allows. Whenever this level is reached by anyone who previously didn’t have it, the enemy will turn and target that player, regardless of wether the fire tank still has an active taunt. This is why the longer a fight goes on, the more the fire tank has to do to keep taunting the boss as the taunt durations will be shorter and shorter – unless the enemy does something to reset his aggro table, which happens quite frequently now among higher level mobs and bosses(which DPSers and controllers absolutely hate, by the way). This is the downside to having a snap taunt mechanic as opposed to building threat normally like an ice tank.
This is also why, on some fights, the most famous of which being ARC in Inner Sanctum, the fire tank will lose aggro when a boss enters his “untankable” phase. What really happens is that the boss locks his aggro table, and due to fire tanking using taunting instead of building actual threat, once the snap taunt drops ARC will go beat on whoever now has the highest aggro level and a fire tank will not be able to re-establish a taunt through his shield. You only taunt if you actually damage the target; this is why a fire tank will be able to keep taunting the RCP (his shield allows for damage to pass through it) but not ARC. Ice tanks are able to keep aggro through the entire fight quite easily, as long as their team lets them generate the most threat leading up to the aggro lock by not nuking or powerdumping on ARC.
-You can be slightly harder to keep healed or powered than an Ice Tank.
This used to be a huge problem but now is almost negligible, but I’ll still mention it here. If you do not block, you are going to take far more damage than an ice tank because your mitigation is not as high. However, you’ll still have an innate 160% HP buff and it will be overlapped by your 180% healing received buff. You’ll heal faster than an ice tank, and your heals will be more efficient as well. Depending on your build however, with your Dominance increasing this buff, anything over a 180% health buff will cause the heals coming in from your healers to be less efficient. It won’t be by much with the new mechanics, but with the old ones healers had to work almost twice as hard to keep up a fire tank who refused to block or kept all of his health buffs up.
I described the actual formula for finding out what the gap was earlier in the guide. With the new self healing aspect of fire tanking, if you can self heal for at least 10% of the damage you take in, however, you’ll more than cover for this gap.You’ll most likely do that if you use Burnout and Backdraft as part of your power rotation, not counting any other skills that may heal you.
Of course, now that the self healing aspect of fire tanking is a lot more useful, expect to use a lot more power than you used to. Ice tanks can still go easy on their power consumption while a fire tank trying to use as many self heals as possible will easily use the most power of the entire team. This shifts the balance from healers working harder to controllers working harder to feed their tank power. You should always try to use as little power as possible to achieve the goals you want…and there’s no point coming out of your block to spend 400 power casting Stoke Flames when an enemy is going to pound on you for 1k damage the second you let your guard down. Learn enemy movements and attack patterns and you’ll learn the best time to use self healing abilities.
-Fire tanks have no Reflect power.
Unlike ice tanks, fire tanks have no additional ways in their powerset to prevent incoming damage like an ice tank does except for Immolation, but that doesn’t go nearly as far. Reflect can allow an ice tank to revive a teammate or grab a console without getting interrupted or get out of the block position to wail on something and regain power. Even with it’s pseudo nerf, it is still the best tanking power in the game. There are several movement and innate powers that can come close (Amazon Deflection, Perfect Poise, Dustoff, Phase Dodge) but they are also available to ice tanks and work the same way for either class.
-Defensive shields are more effective for an ice tank than a fire tank.
When a healer or a controller encases you in a shield (Bastion, Boon of Souls, Swarm Shield, etc) or you use Hard Light Shield, they all absorb a certain amount of damage before losing their effectiveness. The damage applied is figured out after the mitigation calculation. If you have 35% mitigation, a 1000 damage attack will hit you for 650 damage. This is what actually gets absorbed by the shield, not the full 1,000 damage. With the maximum mitigation at 75%, that same shield only needs to absorb 250 damage, so it will last much longer. In an alert/raid environment, the purpose of the shields are to primarily give your healers a chance to catch up. In this aspect, shields on an ice tank will last about two to three times as long, even though they absorb the same amount of damage.
-Fire does not have a power specific ranged AOE pull.
Finally, fire tanks don’t have a range pull to equal Inescapable Storm for moving mobs from a distance. This can be overcome with Low Pressure if you’re a flyer. Tornado Pull and Grapple Line are single target pulls in the Superspeed and Acrobat trees. If you want a longer ranged single target pull, some players use Mesmerising Lasso. An ice tank can simply use Inescapable Storm to pull stuff where they want it to be; a fire tank either has to use a movement ability, or lunge into the middle of the trash, hit a spammable to get everyone’s attention, then roll where you want everyone to converge.
-There’s a player bias against Fire Tanks.
This is something that is quickly fading since Update 6. Some veterans will refuse to run with a fire tank because ice was the easier class to play within the group and old habits die hard. True veterans who have actually paid attention to the differences would know that even before the update that fire was nearly every bit as viable as ice. New players don’t have any bad habits to break or misconceptions to overcome. Just be warned that you’ll see people in the Watchtower or Hall of Doom that will advertise that they’re ice tanks looking for groups as some sort of superiority, or group leaders will specify they’re only looking for ice tanks.
An ice tank however is still a bit friendlier to play, from an “oops” standpoint. A bad ice tank will usually do better than a bad fire tank due to how forgiving ice is to play compared to fire. This is still true after the update.
Part 3: Tanking Powers and Loadouts
Alright, so now introducing the revamped (again) Powers section of this guide. Keep in mind that these are discussions of fire powers as they pertain to tanking, not to DPS. These are also my personal opinions on these powers; some other fire tanks use them differently yet no less effectively. Find out what works for you – there should hopefully be enough information in these posts and in this thread, and feel free to ask any questions!
As a tank, you have three jobs. In order of importance, they are:
- Keep things off the squishies
- Keep things burning for your DPSers
- Support and cleansing (much more of a PVP mechanic but has some uses in PVE as well)
Must have powers – these are powers I would use in any tanking loadout
Advantages: A fantastic setup to other spells. Aggros everything around you for 15 meters and everything around half that distance gets knocked up and set on fire. You get the same impulse resistance as Immolation, and for the next twelve seconds, everything around you that you touch catches on fire. This power lasts as long as your taunt duration, so if you cast it every time it’s on cooldown, you’ll always have your taunt going. This also counts as an Immolation effect for Flashpoint, and unlike the Immolation-Flashpoint combo, Enflame is not extinguished.
Drawbacks: Whatever you set on fire will remain on fire for however much time you have left on cooldown; if you only have five seconds left out of the twelve when you touch something, your target will burn for those five seconds, not twelve. If this is your only method of setting something on fire, if new mobs need to be aggroed or set to burning, you have to wait for the cooldown if you want to use Enflame again, and you cannot use this ability while controlled.
When to use it: I personally use it every time I start a fight, either by jumping in and casting it, or using it before jumping in so I can get a health buff up to absorb the initial spike damage. I follow it up with Flashpoint to get everything around me burning in a nice little cluster for my DPSers. The control resistance is nice on boss fights and high level mobs as it can help prevent you from being smacked around as much.
Advantages: Flashpoint, if your dominance is higher than the minimum required on the content, will knock down enemies around you. If you have Enflame or Immolation active, it will also set everything around you on fire. This will keep trash juggled and can give you breathing room.
Disadvantages: Flashpoint is only really useful against trash and adds. It’s useless against bosses unless everything you have is on cooldown when he resets his aggro. Also, some of the higher end mobs and trash will either be using their own powers (so they won’t get knocked down if they’re in their own animation) or they simply cannot be knocked down no matter what your dominance is. Unless your dominance is over the minimum required for the content, this power is practically useless.
When to use it: This is a great power to use in alerts and raids with lots of trash such as Subcon and the Fortress of Solitude raids. It’s a good way to set everything on fire; if you cast Enflame then jump into the group of mobs, casting Flashpoint right away can knock most of the trash flat on its back and allow your healers and controllers a few seconds to set up their own spells before you start taking spike damage. When you’re being pounded on by a ton of adds (such as Assassins in FOS2) casting this will knock them down and give you a second or two of breathing room to use a self heal or to let your healers catch up. Trash that’s being juggled between Backdraft and Flashpoint isn’t doing damage to you or the rest of the group.
Advantages: Point Blank Area Effect Pull that is really the only thing you have comparable to Inescapable Storm in the powerset. This will slow down and pull any mobs towards you to get them in a nice clump, and any that actually hit you get knocked up into the air. Heals you if used on a burning target. If you have Enflame active, anything that gets pulled in close enough to touch you will catch fire. You can also use it while controlled, so if you’re getting stunned or encased by certain mobs and bosses that you can’t break out of, you can still make sure to keep aggro.
Disadvantages: It’s not a ranged pull, and if you’re trying to pull a single target, finding out the radius or where to stand to pull just one or two things can be extremely tricky. It will only heal a set amount if something is burning, and will not heal more based on how much is burning.
When to use it: Crowd control! I usually run in and start a fight with Enflame, then cycle back and forth between Flashpoint and Backdraft, keeping things juggled and on fire until things are dead. Your DPSers will be very happy to have everything in a nice compact group.
Situational Powers – Beneficial to fire tanking depending on build but aren’t “must haves”
Advantages: It gets at things further down the tree, and in the right loadouts can be used to further increase non-blocking damage mitigation by reflecting a small amount of your damage taken in back at attackers. It’s usable while controlled so it may allow you to absorb a bit of damage if you’re being chain stunned. When active, casting Flashpoint sets everything around you on fire for the remaining time Immolation would be active.
Disadvantages: Depending on your playstyle or how hard enemies hit, the added mitigation might do absolutely nothing. The only power this interacts with is Flashpoint, and it cancels out Immolation when you use it. Immolation lasts 12 seconds, however since the patch you are no longer visibly encased in flames so it can be difficult to tell when the buff wears off or if the damage being done against your attackers is from them hitting you with Immolation active or if it’s damage from a DOT tick. Given the type of build you’re going for, there may be better things to put in the power slot.
When to use it: The mitigation is awesome when leveling but becomes less useful in the end game raids. If you’re a Fire DPS spec who is offtanking or simply running in tank gear for an alert or raid, this is a good power to have if Inferno is your preferred method of setting things on fire and you don’t have Enflame, or not enough instant-cast powers to flesh out your bar.
Advantages: This power used to be a must-have but now it’s so so. It’s one of the cheapest powers to use in the fire tree. When used on a burning target, that target releases a blast of fire with a radius equal to Flashpoint that sets everything it touches on fire. Everything that gets set on fire this way is aggroed, and unlike Enflame or other methods of setting things on fire, this will refresh the burning and restart the 12 tick timer.
Disadvantages: Due to the targeting system in this game being buggy, it can be difficult to set something on fire from range and then cast Wildfire unless you lock on to said target before using this combination; nine times out of ten, Wildfire will target something that isn’t burning and you’ll just get a single target knockdown.
When to use it: You should really only use this power if you routinely run with Fire DPSers in your group to keep things burning cheaply so they don’t need to recast Inferno and can just keep spamming Mass Detonation and/or Fireburst until everything is dead.
Advantages: It’s an insant breakout and a cleanse for you and three other members of your group. The four of you gain immunity from debuffs and crowd control effects for a few seconds after using it. It’s a decent self heal as well. When combined with normal breakout, it allows you to break out of certain stuns that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise (it is not known if this is intended or if this is a flaw).
Disadvantages: There are no debuffs in PVE (as of yet) so it’s only really good for the self heal and if you need to use the breakout. This power is an absolute must as a fire tank if you’re going to be PVPing as it will cleanse your healers.
When to use it: Any time you get stunned and it’s off cooldown, if you wish to use it. Also, certain mobs and bosses will provide stuns that you cannot get out of. It seems that they simply layer both a normal stun and a hard stun on top of each other. To break out of a stun like that, you have to first cast this, then use a normal breakout. The only boss I can think of off the top of my head where this works is the second boss in Khandaq when he does his Sands of the Damned attack.
Advantages: Provides a heal when striking against a burning target, and increases your chance at dealing critical damage.
Disadvantages: It will only process once per cast. You have to be careful when you use it because, like all of fire’s self healing powers, if you use it at the wrong time the amount of damage you take in from dropping your block will far outweigh the healing you’ll get.
When to use it: When it’s safe to pop it, use it. I usually cast it before jumping in as part of my power rotation to absorb spike damage or when I have an extra free second or two to cast a self heal and restart my power regeneration.
Advantages: Instant range taunt. Heals for a large amount if it processes fully.
Disadvantages: This power roots you in place so you have to cancel or move out of it in a hurry if something comes near you; if you cancel or get knocked out of it, you don’t get the full heal. Casting this when being beat on by high level trash will get you killed.
When to use it: Bosses are really the only thing you can safely use this on as they’re more predictable about giving you enough time to get the full benefit of this power. If a boss resets his aggro table or moves away from the group to go beat on something, this power can taunt from all the way across the room. Cast this, and immediately block or roll or do something to cancel the animation once you get his attention if that’s the reason you’re using it.
Advantages: Like Burnout, it’s an instant cleanse, breakout, and CC immunity for you and your teammates. It will set everything around you on fire for 12 seconds. It will provide one heal on casting and will heal you for the same amount for the next three strikes of damage you take against you. Situational in PVE, but an absolute must in PVP.
Disadvantages: This power is the closest thing Fire has to Ice’s reflect and it’s a very poor substitute. There’s also a 20 second cooldown timer.
When to use it: You can use this power two ways. The first is to use it to start a fight. Jump in and cast it and not only will everything be burning; you’ll be able to absorb the first three hits of spike damage. The CC immunity should keep you from getting knocked back and stunned for those first few seconds, letting your healers set up their own abilities. The second way to use it is to just cast it everytime it’s off cooldown so you can self heal for as much as possible.
Advantages: Heals for 7 ticks upon casting (It should be 12 but right now it’s borked). Similar to Burning Determination, it will set everything around you on fire. This is the largest self heal you have that doesn’t rely on supercharge or for something else to be on fire.
Disadvantages: You have to drill down and spend some power points to get to it. The 20 second cooldown is the same as with Burning Determination. It also costs a ton of power to use.
When to use it: Treat it the same way you would Burning Determination – to start a fight or cast whenever it comes off cooldown and you have the power to spare. It will heal roughly the same amount as Burning Determination with its 4 bigger heals compared to Stoke’s 7 smaller heals.
Advantages: AOE burning from range. Can be combined with Downdraft or Telekinesis to fling it around the room and set everything on fire.
Disadvantages: This power’s usefulness for a tank dropped dramatically when they changed its cooldown timer. The old strategy would be to drop a few of these then cast Consume Objects for a huge explosion and a heal, but this doesn’t work anymore as Consume Objects will heal for the same amount no matter what or how much it consumes. It also blocks line of sight, so your DPSers are going to be extremely displeased with you when their Final Ruin or Fireburst ends up hitting the meteor you just dropped on the boss and not the boss itself.
When to use it: I wouldn’t recommend it in tank mode unless you’re hybrid specced or DPS specced and are just looking to fill out your tanking bar with instant cast skills. If you do use it, pick it up and throw it as soon as it drops, or throw it to actually start a fight.
Advantages: Blows up all the inanimate objects around you (including a dropped meteor) and heals you. The explosions also damage any enemies in range.
Disadvantages: Really bad heal and no longer works in areas that it used to to get rid of flying debris. Unlike Transmute, this power does not work on the crystals in the Scorpinod bossfight in FoS1.
When to use it: I would not use this in a tanking loadout. I only put it here because it’s a self heal. This is really more of a melee fire DPS skill as it will do great damage against enemies encased by controllers.
Advantages: 25% supercharge that is basically an instant Immolation+Flashpoint combo. It heals you for a large amount, and knocks back everything that CAN be knocked back, regardless of your dominance when you use it. With the neckpieces that drop off Braniac in Sub Construct raid and Zod in the third Fortress raid, it basically becomes a spammable.
Disadvantages: It’s a supercharge, although a cheap one. It will heal for a large amount, knock mobs back, and it will set stuff on fire; most of the time when you use this power it will only be because you need one of these three effects, so it can be either a good or a bad thing.
When to use it: Use it as a great “Oh %&@$” button to give you breathing room and a heal if things start going south, or if you simply have the supercharge to burn and want to start a fight off with it.
Advantages: Sets things around you on fire and restores a lot of health while being pounded on. This is basically the God Mode button.
Disadvantages: This power became a LOT more useful in update 6, but still has some disadvantages. First off, you only heal while being beat on, so it’s more useful against a ton of hard hitting adds or mobs than one or two large attacks from a boss. While this will refill your health bar and pretty much make you invincible for a good 12 seconds, it’s a 100% supercharge ability that’s not as versatile as Reignition.
When to use it: I usually swap this out back and forth with Reignition for my tanking supercharge. I enjoy using it now with the latest update. The old Eternal Flame buffed your health up an extra 60%, which was usually a death sentence when used where most people woud – right as they were about to die. Now with the health buff removed and the self healing scaled up signifigantly, it’s pretty much guaranteed to get you back to 100% health.
The only two non-innate iconic powers that have any real use to a fire tank are Amazon Deflection and to a lesser extent, Hard Light Shield. Hard Light Shield behaves like every other shield in the game (Boon of Souls, Bastion, Swarm Shield) in that it absorbs the same amount of damage but it will override any of those shields and not stack with them. Hard Light Shield is also not a very good power for a pure tank as it is for people who stay out of the fray. For a healer or a controller, it can absorb stray hits that get past the tank; with everything beating on you, the shield will lose its effectiveness almost instantly even with it buffed the way it is. Let the healers or controllers throw a shield on you and it will be more powerful.
Amazon Deflection, on the other hand, is an absolutely amazing power. If you know how to conserve energy, this will bring your mitigation up to rougly 90% (this number requires more extensive testing – I don’t know if it’s a modifier applied to your current defense or just a flat rate. I will do more testing on this and report back with the results) and anything that hits you will have a portion of that damage reflected. I love using this power on Omac Primes and Omega Sentries or when block just doesn’t cut it. Since you’re going to be spending the majority of your time as a tank blocking anyway, this is great if you have the power to burn (and you usually will if the controllers are putting out power for the healers and DPSers). Just make sure that you learn to read different enemies attack patterns and save Deflection for their most devastating attack so it isn’t off cooldown when you need to use it.
I’ve seen some tanks run with Neo-Venom boost as it increases defense. This is a total waste because it only increases your mitigation by a little more than 2%. It’s not worth it for the power cost or the space on the bar.
Some superspeed or flight tanks may want to use Mesmerising Lasso as a single target pull. The innates you’ll want to take depend heavily on the type of build you’re going for: Pure tank, self healing tank, off-tank, or hybrid build. No matter what loadout you go with, you’re going to want Powerful Resistance which adds 100HP and Intimidating Gaze which will increase your Dominance by 50 in tank role. If you PVP, Nanoweave Armor is a good skill to have but I wouldn’t take it over the other two if you don’t have the points to spare. If you want an offensive type of tank that you can deal damage with, you usually have a few more points to put into innates. Wisdom of Solomon is a good one as it will increase your power pool. You can also take Weapons Expert and Tactical Genius. In a self healing build you’ll want Empathic Healing and Miracle Worker.
Powers you should never, ever use as a tank:
Anything purely offensive, or if you want to be more specific, anything that roots you in place or has a cast time. This includes Fireburst, Snuff Out, Detonate, Flame Cascade, Mass Detonation, and Spontaneous Combustion. Volcanic Calamity and Fireball Barrage can be useful if you’re DPS specced and filling a tank role. Your job is to take damage, not dish it out, and none of these abilities have secondary effects.
Inferno is a special case scenario. This is ususally useless unless you’re purely DPS specced or you’re hybrid specced and you have no other way to set stuff on fire in tank role for a fire DPSer. The amount of damage that Inferno does in tank role is still negligible, and there are cheaper and better ways to set things around you burning. But if you have a hybrid DPS/Tank build where the only thing you change is your armor and hit T, it can be fun and one less thing your fire DPSer needs to worry about.
If you have Inferno with your tanking loadout, MAKE SURE YOUR FIRE DPSer knows about this! You need to work out strategy beforehand because Inferno does not stack. Some fire DPSers will have no problem with you setting up the pins to knock them down while others will be furious with you for continually overriding their Inferno and lowering their overall damage.
Every movement tree has a series of innate knockback and impulse resistance skills that you can purchase that will also help recover power. I would recommend maxing out these abilities. There’s also an instant breakout (Launching Roll, Air Burst, and Whirling Dervish) that you’ll want to take too that will get you right back up and into the fight if knocked down. Be careful with Whirling Dervish in PVP – unless you cancel out of it with another power, you’ll get hard stunned if your enemy blocks.
All movement trees have an ability that breaks out and provides either full on immunity or greatly increased damage mitigation. You may find these better than Eternal Flame. I use Perfect Poise from the acrobat tree as it gives me complete immunity from all damage for 8 seconds. I can spam that twice in a row with a 100% supercharge, and that will almost always work better than Eternal Flame. The two abilities in Flight and Superspeed are Dustoff and Phase Dodge, respectively. Superspeed also has Speed Drain and Metabolism which are all good fire tanking abilities.
If you’re flight I would recommend taking Low Pressure and Tornado Pull if you’re superspeed to make up for not having Inescapable Storm. Grapple Line in the acrobatics tree functions the same way but it’s only a single target pull.
Where to spend your skill points
The two most important areas to spend your skill points on first as you get them are going to be in dominance and health. While dominance has nothing to do with how you generate threat, it does affect your pulls, stuns, and knockdowns along with your self healing and health buff. All of fire’s knockdowns and pulls are just a simple check to see if your dominance is higher than the minimum required. Keep in mind that your dominance is doubled in tank role, so each skill point spent in innate dominance will increase it by 14 instead of 7.
Max out all the Dominance bonuses first. They will be more useful to you than the Health bonuses. When you are in tank mode, the +7 dominance doubles and becomes +30.8 HP when you use a power compared to the +15 HP innates that only become +24 HP in the same situation. Dominance also helps your self healing ability as bonus and your ability to stun with weapons and juggle with powers.
After Dominance, you’ll want to max out all the Health bonuses in your weapons trees.You’re able to get an additional 410 HP through these innates, which will increase even further when buffed.
After your dominance and health are maxed out, where you put your skill points after that is largely personal preference. If you’re not worried about self healing you can put them into DPS passives or vitalization to regenerate your own power quicker. If you go with a self healing build you’ll want to max out Restoration, Critical Healing Chance and Critical Healing Magnitude to get the most out of it. It really doesn’t matter in what order you level those abilities up.
Part 4: Loadouts, and doing your job effectively
I mentioned that you have three jobs as a fire tank. I’ll go over them now.
Keep things off the squishies.
This is a no brainer but there are many tanks that are subpar at it. You want to make sure everything the group is fighting is focused on you and you alone. Many tanks will get tunnel vision when they’re surrounded by a group of adds beating on them and will miss a few on the outskirts of the fight that are targeting their teammates. If you’re the only tank in a raid or encounter that is really designed for two tanks, this becomes even more important.
As a fire tank, you have several options to round up the unexpected stray, all of which take advantage of the instant taunt. When I’m tanking something, I’ll usually have my camera zoomed out as much as possible, lock on to my target, and swing the camera around to view the rest of the group. If I see that there are a few adds or mobs that I haven’t grabbed, I’ll drop my target lock, immediately cast Flashpoint or Backdraft to refresh the taunt on whatever I’m currently tanking, then use a lunge attack towards that second group and immediately cast my second spammable to grab their attention. I then lunge back towards the first group or pick a spot in the middle of the two of them and tank accordingly. Low Pressure works well if you’re flight. If it’s a single target I need to pull into the fray, Grapple Line works quite well to round up the stray mob.
The need for situational awareness is higher for a tank than it is for any other class in the game, and this holds even more true for solo tanks in raids. You have to know where you are, where everyone else is, and where all the enemies are.
There’s nothing you can do about the overzealous squishy that gets in range of a huge AOE attack and gets knocked out, (just don’t res him after the third or fourth time he does it and the fight goes smoother) but if it’s your job to round up everything like the Assassins in the first boss fight of FOS2, it’s on you if you don’t round up the adds quick enough while your teammates are blocking. Tunnel vision will wipe the group easily in this fight – there have been plenty of times I’ve played my controller in there and the tank will be happily blasting away at a few of the Assassins while one right next to me and only 20 feet away from the tank will pound on me and kill me even through my block.
The best combos to keep things busy are variations of Enflame/Backdraft/Flashpoint. This keeps things juggled quite well, along with everything being ticked off at you and burning at the same time.
Keep things on fire for your DPSers.
Not very important unless you’re obviously running with a fire DPS or two as there are many power interactions in the fire trees that rely on the target being on fire for maximum damage. Use taunts or a series of taunts that will set everything burning (Enflame – Flashpoint, Wildfire, Enflame – Backdraft, Meteor, Reignition, Stoke Flames, Burning Determination, etc) and it’s one less power your DPSer needs to use as a setup to his own nukes and spells. A team of a fire tank and a fire DPS just causes things to melt.
As stated before, if you use Inferno and you have a fire DPSer in your group, make sure they know about this so you can decide who is going to be casting it. Inferno does not stack, and your cast will overwrite the one from the DPSer.
Support and Cleansing
Burnout and Burning Determination are group breakouts that provide immunity to debuffs and crowd control effects. In PVE these abilities aren’t very useful for that purpose, but in PVP they are must haves to help your team. Controllers have the ability to debuff your healers so they cannot heal you; you need to use these powers to remove the debuff and give them immunity against it for a short time.
One note about support that doesn’t fit anywhere else; in the majority of situations, the tank should never try to revive a knocked out teammate unless everyone gets blown back by an AOE and a dead body lands next to you. What you should do as a fire tank, if someone goes down, is run over to where he is and cast a spammable then move away so someone else can revive the downed player. You’ll never get the res off, and if you do, it’s because you lost aggro and there will be many more res timers on your screen very shortly.
I cannot tell you what loadout to use. Hopefully this guide provided enough insight into the different powers and how to use them. I can however, share a couple of loadouts that I use.
Pretty much every loadout I have for tanking has the big three powers: Enflame, Backdraft, and Flashpoint.
The other three powerslots get switched and swapped out depending on what my current build is or whatever raid I’m running.
In self healing builds I’ll use Reignition/Eternal Flame, Fiery Weapon, and either Burning Determination or Burnout.
In a damage tank build for speed runs, I’ll usually throw in Meteor somewhere on the bar so I can pick it up and throw it along with Fiery Weapon and Fireball Barrage.
For a build that just maximizes my mitigation, I’ll put on Hard Light Shield and Amazon Deflection along with some sort of movement ability like Launching Roll or Grapple line.
For all those that have asked me, my FOS2 solo loadout is: Enflame – Flashpoint – Backdraft – Eternal Flame – Free Slot – Free Slot
The free slots heavily depend on what we’re fighting in the raid, but they are almost always a combination of Perfect Poise, Grapple Line, Amazon Deflection, Hard Light Shield, Launching Roll, Burnout, or Burning Determination. All of those abilities have different uses in that raid, and as it perfectly demonstrates, there is not one “perfect” build for any raid if you’re on the cutting edge of the content.
The sky is really the limit now with fire tanking, now that buffs are all automatic. There should be enough information provided in the guide to come up with your own loadouts, and you should! Mix and match, and try things out until you find what works for you.
So which is the better tank?
My opinion on this is obviously torn but not because I play a fire tank. Before Update 6, ice tanks were unquestionably better suited for pure tanking then their fire counterparts because the class was much easier to play. You always had maximum mitigation and could move around with impunity. Healers had to spend much less effort to heal you. You never had to worry about rolling or blocking. Fire tanks, on the other hand, usually had to be much more skilled players to overcome these shortcomings because the class was so unforgiving. That’s why I wrote the original guide in the first place. In the hands of a skilled player and group, there was very little an ice tank could do that a fire tank couldn’t and plenty of things that a fire tank could do much better than an ice tank. Fire tanks were routinely able to get their effective HP three times higher than that of an ice tank instead of the amount they can now. But not many players knew how to do this or how exactly it worked.
With the update, the two classes were brought more in line. This works great with the current armor set but moving forward from here, if trends continue then ice is going to be completely left in the dust. Now that ice tanks have to play like fire tanks and actually block, a skilled player with an ice tank and a fire tank will quickly see the limitation that ice is going to (again) run into.
The defensive cap is still 75%, unless they change this in the future. Meanwhile there is no restoration, dominance, or health cap. Those are the three things that affect a tank…and when it comes to which tank utilizes those three statistics more effectively to improve their survivability, there is absolutely no contest between the two. Add in the fact that fire tanks can also self heal much more effectively, use the critical healing innates, and get a boost in self healing from dominance that ice doesn’t get, and ice doesn’t stand a chance in the future unless they change the mechanics again.
If you’re an ice tank and are about to vote me down, please understand that I’m not saying that to gloat – it’s a legitimate concern that myself and a few other skilled fire tanks and those who play both ice and fire have seen. One tank should not be superior to the other – they should both be effective even if they use different mechanics to do so. I honestly think they swung the pendulum too far in the other direction. How to fix it though? I honestly don’t know.
We would like to say a big THANK YOU to Kristyana for making this guide. We think this will be extremely helpful for all of the DCUO community members and we hope you will enjoy it.