Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tanking Explanation for Beginners

Beginner's Guide to the Riftstalker Soul in PVE

This is an FAQ and guide intended to help players new to Rift better understand what Riftstalker tanking is all about. The idea of this guide is not to outline the only way to do things or even necessarily the best way to do things. The hope is that by presenting the capabilities and options new players or players unfamiliar with the soul will be able to make decisions about their spec and their playstyle on their own.

With that disclaimer-y bit out of the way... welcome to Rift and enjoy the guide!

Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I tank as a rogue and not just roll a warrior?
Variety is the spice of life! In all seriousness there are many reasons to play a Riftstalker instead of a more traditional warrior tank. Maybe you played a rogue up to max level and your group needed you to tank in a pinch. Maybe you like the teleporting playstyle. Or maybe you just like to play something non-traditional and different.

Are rogues really viable tanks in endgame? If so, why bring warrior tanks at all?
The short answer is: it is too early to tell. The slightly longer answer is that all indications seem to point to yes. There hasn't been any direct statement from the Devs that implies that Riftstalkers won't be able to tank in the endgame or that we are meant to be “just an off tank”. On the flip side having rogue tanks or even rogue main tanks doesn't eliminate the viability of warrior tanks. Warriors have different souls for tanking and a dedicated warrior tank with multiple tanking roles will always have more options available to them than their Riftstalker counterparts.

But my warrior friend has a shield and wears plate armor! Surely that is better. Is there tanking gear for rogues?
Armor values are really just a fancy way of saying damage reduction. Riftstalkers have many soul points that increase their armor and provide damage reduction or absorption. In the end our mitigation will be on par with our plate brothers.
In beta 6 there was a full set of leather armor with tanking itemization. Only time will tell if the stats on it are ideal or if it will need tweaking. I have faith in Trion to make good decisions on this.

There are two damage shields in the Riftstalker tree. I always see people arguing about which one to take. Which one is better?
Due to the soul tree changes in the last patch, it is now more convenient to take both skills. Rift Barrier and Rift Guard give a similar buff, but they are very different tools.

Rift Barrier puts a damage shield up after using one of our many Plane Shift abilities. This is very useful on a pull to get your damage reduction shield up right away. It can also be used if your shield goes down for any reason during the fight and you don't have the combo points to reapply it. The tricky part about Rift Barrier is that it requires a teleport to apply and while some of them can be used without changing position using the wrong teleport at the wrong time can spell disaster.

Rift Guard is a stronger shield that absorbs all damage types by default, but requires combo points. The best way to use these two abilities is to open a fight with Rift Barrier and switch to Rift Guard once you have the defensive buffs up you need and plenty of combo points.

I've heard that Riftstalkers are “avoidance tanks” and that avoidance tanks don't work in the long run. Is this true?
You are misinformed. Riftstalkers are no more avoidance tanks than their warrior or cleric counterparts. It is true that our high dexterity will give us natural dodge and that we have several soul branch points that can increase dodge and parry chance. We also have a cooldown available (if specced into it that) gives us a hefty increase to dodge but this isn't our main strategy for dealing with damage. Our primary mechanic is actually damage absorption and reduction. Don't confuse having some buffs to dodge and parry with being an avoidance tank.

Riftstalker Passives and Buffs
Here are the buffs relevant to tanking that a Riftstalker can expect to end up with:
  • 20% increased armor (Toughened Soul)
  • 30% increased armor (Guarded Steel)
  • 50% increased armor (Guardian Phase)
  • 10% increased armor (Improved Guardian Phase)
  • 15% increased endurance (Great Fortitude)
  • 5% + 1% per point (up to 25%) increased endurance (Improved Guardian Phase)
  • X* increased endurance self buff (Planebound Resilience)
  • 6% damage reduction (Phantom Blow)
  • 6% damage reduction (Exceptional Resilience)
  • 30% increased healing taken (Boosted Recovery)
  • X* debuff to enemy attack and spell power (Rift Disturbance)
  • 15% damage absorption up to 60% max health (Rift Barrier)
  • OR
  • 15% damage absorption up to 50% max health (Rift Guard)
  • 2.5% plus .5% per point damage (up to 17.5%) absorption plus 25% max absorb plus 5% per point spent (up to 175%**) (Improved Rift Guard)
*unsure what the level 50 value will be on this skill
** this number sounds high. If I made a mistake, please point it out to me.

Quickstart Guide to Riftstalker Tanking

This is for the impatient or those who have already a handle on the abilities and want to know how to put them together. If you are very new to the class skip to the last section to look at the abilities and refer back to this to get an idea when to apply them.

Single Target with Rift Barrier
  • Teleport to your target using shadow stalk, shadow warp or your teleport of choice.
  • Apply the Phantom Blow buff to start generating combo points to get a stack of three.
  • Build to five combo points using whichever combo point skills you use in your build.
  • Apply Guarded Steel.
  • If Rift Barrier has less than about 6 seconds left, use a teleport ability if possible.
  • Build five more combo points and apply Rift Guard.
  • Apply False Blade if it is in your build.
  • On free global cooldowns maintain the Rift Disturbance debuff.
  • Maintain all buffs without letting them fall off for longer than a second or two.
  • Use defensive cooldowns as needed.

Single Target without Rift Barrier
(This can be risky if you don't have cadence or another ranged combo point skill.)
  • Check to make sure that your positioning is good for the mechanics of the fight.
  • Pull the mob to you from max range. (The bard skill Cadence works well for this because it builds three combo points as the mob pulls to you.)
  • Add two combo points using Phantom Blow.
  • Apply Rift Guard.
  • Build five combo points.
  • Apply Guarded Steel.
  • Apply False Blade if it is in your build.
  • On free global cooldowns maintain the Rift Disturbance debuff.
  • Maintain all buffs without letting them fall off for longer than a second or two.
  • Use defensive cooldowns as needed.
Multiple Targets
  • If possible open the pull with Shadow Blitz.
  • Immediately follow with Rift Disturbance.
  • Continue fight as above while keeping Rift Disturbance and Shadow Blitz on cooldown.

Specs and Secondary Trees
In past beta builds it looked to be possible to make a viable tanking spec with as few as 20 points spent int the Riftstalker tree. With beta 7 we have two soul branch skills that scale based on the total number of points spent in the tree. This new development makes it much more desirable or even mandatory to spend a hefty portion of your points in the tree.

In order to present spec options without sounding like I'm advocating cookie cutter builds I'll present the specs in as minimalistic fashion as possible. Feel free to flesh them out to your taste and to add or subtract to suit your playstyle.

A skeleton Riftstalker build with no side specs would look like this:

Riftstalker (28) / Bladedancer (0) / Bard (0)

The point in shadow mastery is a place holder to get higher into the tree, and can either be moved to one of the other utility talents lower down or can be maxed out for shorter cooldowns on shifts.

There are three side-specs that are generally considered a good match for Riftstalker tanking.

Here are skeleton builds for those three:

Bard: Bard (9)

Bard offers a channeled ranged spell called cadence with zero points spent. Further points give a 3% reduction to chance to be hit and to be crit, a party wide armor buff, a party wide endurance buff that stacks with Planebound Resilience, and 10% increased health for yourself.

If you spend more points in bard than above you can pick up some party wide healing for your cadence spell, some raid wide buffs from the bard tree, and increases to the armor buff you picked up before.

Bladedancer: Bladedancer (8)

Bladedancer offers a tanking cooldown that gives 50% dodge for 15 seconds with no points spent. Further points give 5% passive dodge, a 5% dodge increase finisher, an ability that hits two targets, a self buff to dexterity, and free attacks when you dodge incoming attacks.

If you spend more points in bladedancer you can get a passive 15% increase to dexterity, energy returned when using finishers, and an extra 6% parry added to the dodge finisher you picked up earlier.

Ranger: Ranger (8)

Ranger offers 5% increased health, 6% damage reduction, a self buff to attack power and depending on how well pets scale with player stats a temporary emergency off tank.

From a purely tanking perspective there is little incentive to spend more points in the ranger tree.

Abilities and Soul Points In Detail

I've included the most relevant abilities from the Riftstalker tree along with the abilities from the cross-spec trees that seem to be the most useful. These aren't the only skills that will ever be useful, just the ones that are more apparent in their usefulness.

Plane Shifts

The signature abilities of the Riftstalker tree. These are commonly called our “teleports”. There are many potential and creative uses for these abilities including setting up one of our damage shields.
  • Shadow Shift – this ability moves us forward 15 meters. Useful if you need to move away from a boss or reposition a pull.
  • Shadow Stalk – this ability teleports you behind the target and removes roots, snares, and stuns. Useful if you want to turn a boss so that it faces away from the party on the pull. Also handy for the root, snare and stun ability on certain fights.
  • Shadow Assault – this ability is similar to Shadow Stalk, but adds an attack and does not remove the harmful effects.
  • Shadow Blitz – this ability teleports you to the target and triggers an area of effect attack around the target. Useful for holding aggro on several targets at once.
  • Shadow Warp – this ability allows the rogue to pick a spot to teleport to within range. Useful for either changing pull positioning or as a quick way to put up Rift Barrier without drastic movement changes.
  • Flashback – this ability returns the rogue to the spot where memory capture was last used. The applications are similar to those of Shadow Warp, but it requires pre-planning to use it fully.
  • Planar Attraction – this ability teleports mobs to the player and forces them to attack us. This is useful as an AoE taunt should we have mobs break loose from us while we are tanking.
Combo Point Abilities (and Rift Disturbance)
  • Planar Strike – a strike that generates a very large amount of threat. This ability is the only ability in the game that says it generates a “very large” amount of threat. Planar Strike could prove handy in situations where threat generation is dicey or in situations where your DPSers severely outgear you.
  • Phantom Strike – a strike that generates a large amount of threat and builds up a buff that reduces incoming damage by 6% when stacked to three. This ability gives both a strong defensive buff, and handy way to generate a good amount of threat.
  • Rift Disturbance – our primary AoE ability. This should be used whenever you need to generate aggro on mobs other than your primary target. It also debuffs the target to lower incoming damage. This should be used defensively on hard hitting single targets whenever you have a free global cooldown.
  • Cadence (bard) – builds up to three combo points per cast with a 20 meter range. A quick and easy way to generate combo points. Tends to build up points at least slightly faster than using single point abilities.
  • Twin Strike (bladedancer) – deals damage to the mob and one other mob nearby. Useful if extra threat is needed on a secondary target.

Finishing Moves
  • Rift Guard – This ability applies one of our most important defensive buffs. It is important to apply Rift Guard as quickly as possible and then to make sure that it never lapses.
  • Guarded Steel – Our second important defensive buff. This buff should be applied after Rift Guard is up and then kept up for the duration of the fight.
  • False Blade (bladedancer) - The third defensive finisher available to us. If specced for it it should be kept up as often as possible, but should take less priority than either Rift Guard or Guarded Steel.
  • Annihilate – An offensive self buff. Though it gives a buff to threat this ability is far less critical to maintain than the other finishers. If you have enough extra combo points this could be a decent way to use them, but the defensive buffs should take priority on anything that is dangerous enough to matter.

Defensive Cooldowns and Misc Abilities
  • Planar Refuge – Reduces incoming damage by 30%. Useful to during heavy damage phases on an encounter.
  • Defer Death – Delays all incoming damage for 10 seconds. Can be handy if a fight has phases of intense incoming damage followed by relative lulls. Also useful with healers who use damage absorption shields as they can use one at the end of the 10 seconds to soak some of the damage. Be aware that this ability can be risky to use.
  • Scatter the Shadows – Removes all harmful effects from the rogue and makes them immune to damage for 3 seconds. It is speculated (though not yet confirmed) that it will be possible to time it in conjunction with Defer Death for an effective 12 second damage immunity.
  • Side Steps (bladedancer) – Increases dodge by 50% for 15 seconds. Note that this will only help against physical attacks and should not be used against spell casting bosses. One trick is to use Side Steps during a pull as a threat generating ability. When coupled with Strike Back in the Bladedancer tree you will get a free attack with both weapons every time that you dodge an incoming attack.


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