March 17, 2010

Tanking 101

The sad truth of space is death. Or happy truth, if you're a trigger happy maniac. However, in order to successfully be one of those (or a regular fighter) you need to learn how to not die.

The most common and straightforward way to accomplish this is by "tanking". Named after the sturdy terrestrial machine of war, this means becoming harder to kill by increasing the amount of damage that must be dealt to you to destroy you. Since your ship's integrity is measured in its shields, armor, and structure points, it is usually best to pick one of these and strengthen it to fit the situation. Each ship has certain strengths and weaknesses that affect this choice, but if you pick to tank using your hull's structure strength, you should come see me personally. In space. Alone. When I have a bunch of guns.

Shield Tanking

Some pilots prefer to boost their ships' shield capabilities to ensure survivability. The ships best suited for this are the ones with a greater number of medium-power fitting slots, since all shield tanking modules fit in the middle slot.  It is also CPU-intensive for the ship using it, so the ship must fulfill that criteria, too. Some good examples are the Drake Caldari Battlecrusier and the Raven Caldari Battleship. Shield tanking is preferred by the Caldari race for nearly all their ships.


The simplest form of tanking is the buffer tank. This is just done by getting a Shield Extender type module (or more than one), plugging it in, and calling it a day. This increases the amount of shields that your ship has, and buying you more time in which to kill your enemy. This is the type of tank I used on my late Firetail, and used on many ships where speed is more essential than protection (like Vagabonds, for example).


While a buffer tank can be useful when you're sure on your guns' strengths, it's still one of the poorest forms of tank you can fit. The reason: EM damage. Shields have 0% default resistance to EM damage, be it from lasers or from a Matari gun. This means that having more shields is hardly useful if your enemy knows how to destroy them. There are solutions: Shield Hardener and Invulnerability Field modules. Hardeners add large amounts of extra resistance to one certain damage type, while Invulnerability Fields add even amounts of resistances across the board. Use these along with extenders, and you can add much more life to your shields with an enhanced buffer tank.

Combine the techniques so far with a couple of Shield Rechargers, and you've got yourself a passive tank. The rechargers boost the shield's default slow regeneration speed to something more useful, making your ship a choice one for low-DPS encounters.

The last form of tank here is the active tank. This involves all of the above, plus a Shield Booster of some kind. The booster sharply increases shield regeneration rates in short boosts. An interesting example of this is here. Take note of all the warp core stabilizers, and how there are two interdictors on the killmail.

 Moooar shields!! (Drake)

Armor Tanking

Armor tanking works on the same principles as shield tanking. Mostly. Except it's more manly, because you actually let the projectile/bolt/laser/missile get to you. You just stop it with huge pieces of metal instead. (Hull tanking is the manliest because you stop it with your liver). It requires large amounts of power from your ship's power grid, but not much CPU power. It is also mostly reliant on the ship's low slots. This is the preferred tank of most Amarr ships.

Unlike shield tanking, when relying on armor it's not advised to just slap on some extra plating and call it a day. Armor does not regenerate itself, so you'd be stuck with whatever reduction you got from even minor damage. This means that, if it's capable to get past your shields, any ship can bring you down given enough time. For short engagements, this may be acceptable, and some pilots opt for a combination of Reinforced Plating and Resistance Plating to both up the raw amount of armor, and its resistances (which are already higher than default shield resistances), for some form of a passive tank.

Omgwtf, it starts with 90% EM resistance?! (Wolf)

Active tanks with one (or more) Armor Repairer modules are very common. These are similar to the shield boosters of shield-tanked ships. However, just like shield boosters, they are capacitor hogs, so it is impossible to have a constantly running active tank. If it needs to run as much as possible, pilots would use the middle slots for Capacitor Rechargers, or Capacitor Boosters to help feed power in. If not, the pilot can just wisely use the repairer at critical times. Or mash it crazily when he is down to structure to annoy the heck out of his opponent (and win).

My Hurricane battlecruiser has an active armor tank for hunting Sansha Pirates. (No, I am not aware of any "empire" that uses a similar-looking ship, and I am offended you asked.)

Combine the strength of a good armor tank and the ranged power of the Apocalypse Amarr battleship, and another module called the Remote Armor Repairer, and you've got yourself the RRBS tactic (Remote-Repair Battleship). RRBS is popular in fleet engagements since targets are usually singled out by Fleet Commanders, and all fire focuses on one ship at a time. No single ship can withstand such a barrage, but if it has enough buddies with Remote Repair modules ready, he can have an instant active tank right when he needs it. If anything, it will keep him alive until he can warp out to a safe spot and get repairs by a Carrier or something. In small gangs, it is more common to RR using Logistics cruisers. Side note: yes there are Shield Transporter modules too, but I have not heard of them being used efficiently.

Pew Pew! Bnarrrr!

Damage Control Unit 

Using this module is one of the best things you can do. It's an active module, but uses minimal capacitor. In exchange, it boosts both shield resistances and armor resistances a good amount, and hull resistances most. Even the cheapest damage control can help you stay alive for much longer. It is also vital for a...

Hull Tank 

From the Elite Hull Tanking certificate you achieve when you max out all skills related to operating hull tanking modules:
This certificate represents an elite level of competence in the infamous practice of "hull tanking". It certifies that the holder can fully use all modules relating to hull tanking. The holder is aware that "real men hull tank", and also that hull tanking is really dumb. With this certificate, you've maximised your ability to rely on your structural systems to absorb damage, although hopefully you're smart enough to know what a daft idea that is.
Hull tanking involves using Reinforced Bulkheads to increase structure HP, and one Damage Control II to boost all resistances in your hull to 60%. Plus, if you're really hardcore, you can also fit Hull Repairers, though their re-activation time is "measured in glacial terms" as someone on Battleclinic wisely put it.

I can't put an image here, because I have no recollection of any ship that can successfully hull tank. Sorry.

Update (2018-05-31):  Hull tanking is now viable! Due to the introduction of "Transverse Bulkhead" rigs, many ships (especially Gallente ones) can now field a comparable buffer tank using their hull.

Speed/Signature Tanking

Okay, I lied. You can also "tank" in a way by moving too damn fast, or being too far away for anything to shoot you. This is a whole other art, though, and isn't be covered here. If there's one thing that needs saying, though, is that if you don't know what you're doing, you're better off with a real tank. 

Honor Tank

Most common in duels, an honor tank is the intangible thing that prevents your opponent from murdering you painfully, usually stopping when you hit structure. It can also apply to things that are not "honorable" to kill, like miners or haulers. In fact, this is the most effective tank you can fit when flying these. To do it, fit all your low slots with Expanded Cargohold modules, to be able to hold all your honor in. Also make sure to fly a really big ship when you do this, like a jump freighter, or a dreadnought. If it doesn't work, your cargo hold wasn't big enough for all the honor.


  1. The best ship for hull tanking, hands down, is the Rupture. Go and google Garmon's videos, he often flys a hull tanking Ruppy in solo PvP and is wuite successful.

  2. Hey mate just a thought or two:

    Armor reps are MORE cap efficient than shield boosters.

    You can permanently run multiple reppers with given setups ( My Abaddon tanks 583 DPS and is cap stable with everything running)

  3. I'm relatively certain he's speaking from a PVP point of view, in which case cap stability is more or less irrelevant.

  4. Confirmed that I'm talking about PvP. Unless it's a long battle, cap stability doesn't really matter very much.

  5. Mandrill, I tried hull tanking a Rupture and it got me to survive a Provi gate-camp. Not sure about my survivability with a regular armor tank, though, I didn't want to try again since they followed me and camped the undock at the station I repaired myself in.