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Comprehensive Tanking Guide in Tom Clancy's: The Division

Here's a comprehensive guide by Alemu on how to become a beefy tank in Tom Clancy's: The Division. This guide will basically give you the knowledge you need on how to become a tank. Specifically it will cover details on equipments, skill & talents, basic & advanced tanking tips and more to aid you become a great tank in the game.

Who is a tank? 


A tank is a large, heavily armoured fighting vehicle with tracks and a large tank gun that is designed for front-line combat (duh).

Essentially, in the multiplayer / online games Tank is the toughest character of the group who pits himself in the frontline in order to protect his more fragile teammates. As a rule, he must be hard to kill, he must be able to draw fire on his position and he must be very careful about the positioning. There is pro-active playstyle and re-active playstyle. Tank is mostly pro-active. He decides how the fight will go, where it will go, and partly, how the team will play. He must have some tactical thinking to protect his group and himself, while enforcing his rules and pushing the line (or holding it, when needed).

What is tanking?

In most MMOs tanking revolves around placing yourself between your friends and your enemies, taking damage (or soaking / avoiding it), building aggro (the threat towards the enemy, so that the enemy will attack the tank, not other group members), taunting the enemies (getting initial threat burst, so that the target stays on you), managing you own survivability, tanking the enemies in a certain way, so that your group will have a clear line of sight on both you and the targets. Watching out for your allies, thinking not only about yourself, but for the whole group. Opening possibilities for your teammates. Leading the group.

What does the Division have to do with it?

In one of the public announcements (and the DZ videos with Ryan, Megan and Bronson) Ubisoft stated that they would like to implement the MMO Trinity system that lets people take one of the three main directions in their character development (or a mix of them): Tank, Damage Dealer, Healer. In the video you could see Bronson pushing the line, making enemies change their positions and letting Ryan and Megan get a better shot at their targets, take a better vantage point, remain covered. This is pretty much what a tank should do, on a basic level. Later on, they introduced the whole Security skill tree, which had Ballistic Shield, Smart Cover, Mobile Cover skills and Survivor Link signature skill

As of yet (23th of March, 2016) in my opinion the Division doesn't have the aggro-management / tanking mechanic like we could see in World of Warcraft, Warhammer Online, The Elder Scrolls Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic. Combat here, after all, is mostly cover-based. It is different also because you don't run around with a sword in order to engage in the grand melee. Yet even in this game, there are ways to tank.

Let's see what they are.

Equipment

While tanking is mostly about your character and split-second decision-making, you won't last long in a Challenge mode Mission without a proper gear setup.

Stats


Out of all the in-game stats, you will be interested in the ones that help you survive longer and use your skills more effectively. Out of the three general stats (Firepower, Stamina, Electronics), the two most important ones, in my opinion, are Health and Electronics. 

It is largely speculated that Firepower allows for better threat generation but also, you can have different ways of gaining the target's attention.

Stamina increases your health pool, thus granting you more time to stay in combat, also making you able to take more shots before you go down. As you can see on the screenshot, you can invest heavily in this stat, so that if you're not using your shield/cover, you can still tank and survive the beating. Stamina also increases the amount of Hit Points you regenerate and also, with a certain armor talent, you will be regenerating 2% of HP each tick while under an effect, which means that the more HP you have in total, the more HP the regen will get you. In my opinion, having 100k HP is just enough for Challenge mode Missions.

However, tanking is not all about just taking raw damage. There are skills you must use in order to mitigate it or reduce it complete. And this is where Electronics come. This stat increases the effectiveness of your skills. If it's a bomb, it deals more damage, healing skill heals for more, shield takes more damage before it breaks, mobile cover sustains more damage before it is destroyed, etc-etc. Since some pieces of gear have the +skill power bonus, I would just recommend to have around 250k HP on your shield, which, in my opinion, would be just right for a Challenge mode Mission.

Attributes

The Survivability tab in your Character sheet has many attributes that help you live longer (and happier, hopefully) in a fight.

Max Health: The total max HP.

Armor: % of weapon damage mitigation. As far as I know, it caps at 60%. Make sure you have at least 50% to survive the hardships of a point-blank shotgun shot.

Health Regeneration: the amount of HP you get per second when your regeneration is active. 

Protection from Elites: Additonal mitigation vs damage from Elite and Named enemies. This stat is very important in Challenge mode Missions and some of the hardest Dark Zone encounters. Needless to say, it is for PVE purposes only.

All Damage Resilience: Additional damage mitigation against all damage except environmental.

Exotic Damage Resilience: How much exotic damage is mitigated. You will realize just how important it is, when you fight against Cleaner lvl 32 guys in the Dark Zone.

Bleed Resistance: How high a resistance to Blindness/Deafness you have. Probably Stamina increases Bleed Resistance.

Burn Resistance: How high a resistance to Burning you have. This will help you quite a lot to not burst into flames while tanking. Fire ignores shield and cover, so if you see flamethrower spitting napalm, either reposition yourself or charge into the enemy and bash him with your stock / pistol whip to interrupt him.

Disorient Resistance: How high a resistance to Disorientation you have. 

Disrupt Resistance: How high a resistance to Disruption you have.

Shock Resistance: How high a resistance to Shocks you have. 

All these three Resistances will help you avoid being Crowd Controlled.

While most of these attributes are kind of hard to get at this point of the game, just keep in mind what each of them does.

There also is a Threat attribute in the Combat tab that (allegedly) increases your aggro. Even though I had threat adjustment mods on my weapons, it still would not display them. I will surely update my guide, when I learn a bit more about Threat.

Armor

Make sure to focus the following bonuses: Bonus health, Bonus skill power, Additional Upgrade Slot, Resistance (any will do, but it's better to have Resistance from Elites, if you're PVE, or just plain armor for all the other cases). As you can see on the screenshot, You can capitalize on Stamina, adding Electronics mods on all the upgrade slots.

Weapons

Honestly, having a shield in your hand, you can tank with a plastic fork, but, luckily, this game offers more than this in terms of dealing damage. Once again, I will express my personal opinion on this matter.

LMG

Lots of bullets. While tanking it is a very rare case when you can peak from your cover and line up a perfect headshot. Quite often, while going from cover to cover, you will be blind-firing in order to avoid any unnecessary damage. The other thing that is that the LMGs is that you can suppress your targets. And this is very important for cover-tanking. While the enemy is suppressed, he cannot harm your friends and you can easily advance on him without fear of being shot (at least, by him). The downside is that your DPSers will probably complain about not being able to hit the target. But then again, once you have pulled a group of enemies, it all becomes a target-rich environment, so it's not a big deal. Plus, you can always run up straight to your foe and punch him - it will make him stand up and expose himself to your friends' fire.

Assault Rifle

Same reason as LMG. You can suppress with this gun as well and even deal a bit more damage. You can use it when the fight is at mid-close range or when I need to conserve my LMG ammo pool.

Shotgun

You will love shotguns as a tank. Especially Cassidy - the double-barreled masterpiece of weaponcrafting. While you cannot suppress, and the amount of bullets in the magazine is somewhat low, it is still very effective at close range cover-tanking. Nothing says "you done screwed up, son" as a nice point-blank headshot with a shotgun. In case if you're using a shield, however, most cqc encounters that you have will render your two-handed weapons useless, so the choice is yours.

Pistol

And now, the star of our Gun show, the trusty side-arm, the ol' reliable, the pistol. The reason why pick a pistol is very simple: The Expert talent that they have (increases the damage you do to the targets below 30% HP is increased) is a must-have for a tank. You're not doing a lot of damage on your own, but this will help you finish off the targets real quick, while your friends are reloading / hiding / changing positions / attacking someone else / shaking from fear.

Mods

Get yourself some Electronics upgrade mods for your armor. As for weapons, it is completely up to you, what to pick, as long as you also add the muzzle compensator (or another muzzle mod) that increases your Threat.

Now that we are more or less clear on the gear and stats, it's time to take a look at the skills.

Skills and Talents

Skills


While tanking skills in most games are focused mostly on soaking damage and gaining threat, tuning it a bit in the Division and taking a slightly different approach.

Depending on your tanking style, you will most certainly want either a Ballistic Shield or a Mobile cover slotted.

Ballistic Shield

Equips a portable Ballistic Shield that absorbs damage. The user can only use their sidearm while the shield is active. Many prefer using the Reactive Targeting (equips a stronger and lighter shield that pulses hostiles who shoot at it) skill modification. With it you will have a very robust shield, and you'll be able to scan all the enemies you're currently tanking. Kind of shows who you have aggrod and who is still not being tanked. Extremely useful survivability skill that is applicable in almost every situation. The only two downsides are that you move slower (and mobility is VERY important for a tank) and are forced to fire your pistol. You can perform a shield bash melee attack in close range which is VERY satisfying to pull off =)

Mobile Cover

Creates a temporary cover for one person, which provides standard cover protection until destroyed. There are two modifications that are very useful: First one is Extension (the cover provides more protection and extends to protect two persons). This modification bring the total HP of your Mobile Cover to one million. That's right, 1kk HP, bonus damage / explosive resistance for TWO people. Second modification is called Countermeasures (while using cover, the user deals increased damage and becomes immune to pulses). After all you can take a simple cover, offering your mobile cover spot to your group's DPS to maximize the damage of your group.

Smart Cover

Reinforces a cover, increasing the user's damage and decreasing the incoming damage for all allies behind it. While this skill has some really nice modifications, The most suggested one is the Concealment (allies using a reinforced cover are hidden from hostile pulses and have reduced threat while hostiles shot by allies from behind the cover are pulsed) for quite an obvious reason. The aggro reduction is just too sweet to pass. Also, if you want to do something crazy in those moments when the group doesn't require tanking, you can place Countermeasures Mobile Cover, add Recharger Smart Cover (allies using a reinforced cover slowly recover their health and get their skill cooldowns decreased) call your DPS friend to take it and watch the targets become vaporized.

Survivor Link

Well, this skill is just awesome. It increases damage resistance and speed for the user and nearby allies, exactly what you need to survive an onslaught and to reposition real fast. Even with your shield drawn, while this skill is active you more pretty fast, which can help your team push further.

Now, all the other skill trees are also pretty useful in many situations. First Aid patches you up pretty fast, Healing Station is a very good AoE utility heal that you can share with your allies, the support from a turret or a pulse very significant, much like the damage of the Seeker Mine, but all these skills can be taken by your allies without limiting their or your effectiveness. And of course you can use those skills when the situation calls for it or when the goal lies elsewhere. however, for the Challenge mode Missions, that seem to be very popular, the 2nd skill would be:

Sticky Bomb

Fires a bomb that sticks to most surfaces and explodes when remotely detonated. That, with only one modification:

Flashbang (the bomb explodes with a non-lethal effect that blinds and disrupts all targets in range)

Now, don't get me wrong, depending on the group setup, you can slot any other skill and use it effectively, but what I'm telling you here is based on my personal experience. You're in the frontlines, you can actually see who goes where, you can predict how the enemy is going to flank you or where those bloody Chargers will make a push. You're an ideal candidate for distributing Crowd Control. It can help you reposition, can give you a small window to regen your shield or to yell at your allies to leg it and get to that corridor you passed by a few minutes ago or to revive the said allies. There are many possibilities and you're the one opening them.

Talents


This game has a lot of talents that can compliment your playstyle or even change it a bit. Here are some suggestions:

Critical Save

Use a medkit during low health to increase damage resistance by 40% for 10 seconds. Medkit is pretty much insta-use, and since by the end of the game, you can have 5 of them, this means that you have an "oh snap!" button that you can use 5 times per one Challenge Mode Mission. Take this talent, seriously. It helps SO much.

Evasive Action

During a cover to cover move incoming damage is reduced by 30%. Sometimes you have to charge forward, while being under heavy fire. Nothing is more disappointing than dying only a few steps away from cover. This talent pretty much allows you to switch to a cover that is placed RIGHT NEXT to any enemy. He will aggro at you, but he won't kill you. Two birds one stone, pretty much.

On the Move

Kill a hostile while moving to reduce incoming damage by 30% for 10 seconds. Remember when spoke about how awesome the pistols are to finish off your enemies? This really does help when you're pushing slowly with a shield up, everyone's shooting at you and you manage to down one target, thus prolonging your shield life and your push.

Shock and Awe

Suppress a hostile to increase movement speed by 25% for 10 seconds. This is where LMG and AR become really handy. Say, you're walking with your shield on but its HP is almost zero, so you take cover, switch to your LMG, suppress those bad boys, switch cover, shield out, and in a few seconds your right in front of them bashing them to pieces. OR if you're cover tanking this really helps you move from one cover to another in the blink of an eye. Those grenades will never hit ya!

Other talents seem pretty useful as well, however my playstyle didn't benefit much from them.

Speaking of playstyles...

Tanking Basics


Simple tanking can be done by everyone. Get some HP / Armor gear, use the shield / cover go WAAAAGH! It requires some recklessness, but not much beyond that. Effective tanking, however, might require you to have developed a certain mindset, a certain character. A fatherly figure of your group, a protector, the first and the last defender. You must be courageous, decisive, unyielding and intimidating. You must make people follow you to the very depths of hell, if needed, since you will be the shield that protects them from the hellfire, the beacon that leads them in the dark.

Let's get to some basics.

So there's a group of enemies before you, your friends are already in position, you're in cover, now it's time to start the fight. Take a quick look around. Spot other possible cover, try to figure out how each enemy will behave. Figure out where to go next, whom to CC, take a deep breath and prepare to pull that trigger.

Enemies

First off, let's take a look your enemies. 


Chargers or Rushers or Scouts are probably your number one targets. They will most likely rush at the closest target they see, and will deal tons of damage in point-blank. Those armed with melee weapons (bandits and cleaners) will also stagger you with their melee attacks. Order your team to direct their fire at these guys first. You won't be able to survive for long against them, even with your shield up.

Snipers will either run back and snipe you or try to switch to their pistol and hunker down. In case of the former, each time you see a blink of white light shining at you, make sure you take cover - snipers are lining up a shot. In case of the latter, just suppress them, advance, bring them down. Last Man Battalion snipers also place booby traps (with the red light lamp) on the floor, be careful!

Throwers are a nasty bunch, they will start chucking 'nades at you, rendering your cover unsafe. Most times, it ends up with a forced repositioning. Pro-tip: suppress them when they're starting to throw a grenade at you, so that they will drop it under their own feet. Also, some of the throwers have a grenade pouch (cleaners). Shoot it many times to see a very... explosive ending or your foe.

Support, as the name suggests, support their group. As far as I know, you can find those among the Last Man Battalion forces and they drop a healing station (and will try to repair it, if you damage it, thus leaving their cover) which gradually heals their allies. It is not something really bad, because 60% of the fight you're trying to kill the target's armor, not the HP, so for the most part, if your group is not slow, enemy's healing stations won't help them a lot.

Leader is the guy that buffs his allies with (allegedly) more damage and better protection. He pulses his buff, so making him a priority target (after charges) is a good idea!

Heavy Weapons Guys are one of the meanest kinds of the enemy you can get. Slow, cumbersome, they pack quite a punch with their LMG, but require a setup and also carry a backpack with a distinct red box on it, which can be shot to put them into a CC state where they can't do anything (apart from being a sitting duck for your DPS teammates). Be very careful with them. These guys will start spraying bullets left and right, bringing your shield down in seconds and destroying your mobile cover quite fast, too. They are your primary targets for CC (flashbang, or any other means of crowd control you're sporting).

Tank (shield-bearers from the Last Man Battalion) are the absolutely badass characters. They got a huge shield, like that Montagne guy from Rainbow Six Siege, they have tons of armor, slow speed, they have a pocket (!) LMG that they can use to suppress you, after they plant their shield down as a cover. However, as long as you keep them on the move, or, even better, flank them, they won't be that much of a threat.

Mechs are the technological experts that usually place turrets on the ground. Even though the turret doesn't do that much damage, a lot of players ignore it, thus dying pathetically.

Specials are the guys from the Last Man Battalion who can swap weapons from assault rifle / smg to a shotgun. While not particulary dangerous, they still pose quite a threat if left unchecked.

Assaults, if I'm not wrong are the regular guys that attack you. They don't have any particular pattern, but it doesn't mean that they should be ignored (not for the most part, at least).

Bosses are deadly. However, if you're sure that the boss has aggro on you, make sure you keep him away from harming your group members. You can try to stunlock him with a shield, or put him in a very exposed position, so that your teammates will be able to down him pretty fast. Study each boss and his / her skills before engaging. For instance, Mrs. Barett is shooting a lot of grenades across the whole room, so maybe it'd be a good idea to keep her in melee, so she can't focus on bringing the fire upon your friends. Mr. Ferro, on the other hand, is a slow boss who uses a flamethrower. Coming too close to him, without any plan in mind may very well spell your doom.

Apart from using the same skills that you use, they deal quite a lot of damage with their SMGs and can sometimes hack your own turrets in order to attack you.

Keep in mind that all enemies have their own behavior. Most will change cover once they realize that you're firing at them from a good vantage point. Chargers will rarely take cover at all. If they do, do your best to use this to either dispatch of them or to suppress/reposition. A melee attack will almost always taunt your foe. Actually, just standing in the melee will make them attack you with their stock, thus focusing your target on you.

Styles

Generally, you can use two play-styles as a tank in the Division.

Shield-tanking


Plain and simple, up-close and personal. You get into position, you deploy your Ballistic Shield you reduce the distance and make sure that the bullets hit you and not your friends. You can get to the close range and start bashing your foes, thus disrupting them for a few moments. Throw some CC, some grenades and just push, always keep pushing, opening new vantage points for your friends.

Be very mindful, however. Your shield and yourself are also on the line of sight of your teammates. Maneuver a bit, make sure you don't obstruct your foes from your friends. If the enemy is taking cover / suppressed, come close to him and shield-bash him so that he will stand up. Keep firing your pistol. Your targets are going to be pretty close to you, so lining up a few headshots every now and then won't be a problem at all.

Block snipers from firing at your team, bash heavies, place yourself between chargers and your team and bash them to stagger / gain aggro. Become a nightmare for your foes.

Cover-tanking


This is different. You don't need to have that much HP for it, but you must understand the risks you're taking by not using a shield. This style will be focused on changing cover, suppressing and supporting your allies via skills. Get into position and during the fight try to keep the bigger picture in your head, like who goes where, which cover is more suitable to remaining protected, and which one is a better place for a damage dealer. Use CC if something goes wrong. Tell your team where to move.

Advanced Tactics

Now that you've got the basics, it is time to delve deeper and learn some advanced stuff. Take note that you should learn the basic tanking first before reading this area. These traits come with time and practice so just be patient.

Switch styles on the go


This don't mean to just open your skill page and replace skills. While fending off a lot of enemies with your shield, make sure you ALWAYS give yourself a breathing room to regen shield. See the shield's HP dropping real fast, while your DPSers are all in cover? Get to cover, continue the fight with your LMG. See the possibility of a push? Shield out, pistol in hand, rush it, baby.


Staying in cover suppressing those Assaults but then a Heavy pops up and starts shooting your friend who's reviving a fallen teammate? Dash to him, shield out, take that LMG fire like a man. Try to make sure you're always switching so that your tanking remains efficient regardless.

Consumables


Use those cans, those bottles with water, those ammunition. You can easily restock on them at the base or just pick them up from your enemies! They change the fight DRASTICALLY.

The Grand Melee


Sometimes, the enemy is behind cover, sometimes, he is cooking a grenade or placing a turret or setting up his LMG or is just plain blocked from your group by the walls. It is this time when you must go "no cover - all man" and just rush headlong into your foe forcing him to either reposition or to get shield/stock-to-face'd. This way you will stagger him, interrupting whatever he is doing and will push him back a bit, giving your group a perfect line of sight on him. Just make sure you don't get punched back (they can, even through your shield). To achieve this, you must hit him, then step back a bit, wait till he's recovered, wait a moment and then hit him again. Do not spam melee attack, it will just let him counter-attack, thus getting you staggered. Keep in mind that melee attacks (and just being in the melee-range) usually taunts your target to stay on you. Make sure NONE of your teammates come any close, which brings us to the next tip.

How your teammates draw aggro

Apart from dealing more damage than you do (this is normal), they also may draw aggro by:
Being closer to the target than you are,
Not being in cover,
Being in the melee range,
Having attacked the target with a stock.

There possibly are other reasons as well:

Position yourself


Check the screenshot over here. He's tanking the guy to the left of me with my shield, while the column to the right protects me from the three gentlemen to the right. One of them is running along to get a better line of sight on me, the one to the far right just had the pleasure of experiencing my Flashbang Sticky Bomb, the one in the middle-right has lost his armor and is currently being finished by my teammates. 

This is ALL ABOUT QUICK DECISIONS. You have to think fast both for yourself and for your group. Check surroundings, figure out where it's better to tank your foes, etc-etc. It may be quite hard to master, but with time you'll learn how to position yourself and how to...

Position the enemy

Yeah, exactly. You must choose where your foes will stand, too! Below are just a few screenshots, so that you can see for yourself:


Take a look at this one. he's am tanking the guy downstairs, all 3 of my teammates have taken positions. He pulled the target a bit back, so only Tony (the person who took the screenshot) is susceptible to the enemy fire from the hall to the left (check his radar), but he has the best vantage point of all of us. He positioned myself a bit close to Tony so that Audrey would be able to fire at the Scout even with having me almost at the front.


This one is even better. If you check the radar, you'll see that he have a lot of enemies behind him, but they are standing on an elevation of a sort and with me hugging the wall with my back, they can't really hit me. He's tanking a specialist who is faced with his back towards my team. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT, because this way he won't be able to fire his gun at them. In a second, he will turn back, launch his Stick Bomb Flashbang at the group of enemies behind me, turn around and help my team finish the guy off, get the On the Move talent proc and move up to tank the remaining guys.


This one clearly shows the usefulness of the chokepoints. The agent behind him will start throwing grenades in the corridor while two remaining agents will flank the enemies from the side, thus ignoring any possible cover.


This is how you tank a Heavy Weapons guy or a LMB Shield-bearer. They have a red box on their backpacks, so ideally you must rotate them with their face away from your group, so that your friends can either shoot the box if you're in the middle of the a fight or just kill him outright, since his shield will be pointed towards you, not them.


This is another example of the above-mentioned method.



And this is how it looks when you destroy his red box from my perspective and from Tony's. He just starts twisting and trying to extinguish the sparks on his back. This effect lasts for good 7-10 secs, just enough to bring him down. Pretty simple, isn't it?

Taking damage

Sometimes, you will have throw some CC at the chargers or at the foes that have gotten real close to you. As a rule, CC doesn't damage too hard, plus you will have some innate resistance, so if you realize that in order to blind these three chargers you must literally detonate the Sticky Bomb Flashbang at your own feet, just do it. Worst case - it will blind you and move you out of cover, but you'll be able to reposition quite fast anyway.

And sometimes (quite often) you will have so many targets to tank, that your shield or your cover won't be able to protect you or even worse - your shield will break down and your cover will be covered in grenades. This is why you have such a high HP pool (to reposition, or to facetank it). At some point, it's better to tank 2 targets with a shield and leave one to hit your body. Just man up and take it, if there's no room for repositioning, or if your team is doing maximum damage the way they are standing, it's better just to endure.

PVP

You'd be surprised how people react when there are 2 guy emptying their mags at you, seeing your HP drop only by 1/3, and you haven't even pulled out your shield. In group fights, charge at your enemies and stunlock them. Try to attract their attacks.

Videos

Here's a video which basically does all the things mentioned above.


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Credits: Special thanks to Alemu for the guide and video.