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The topic of viable and optimal is contentious as some don’t see the difference or mix them up and levy a misguided philosophy onto it. Optimal is the most efficient and foolproof solution that eliminates as many negative variables as possible and favors an easier path. Viable or often referred to as: possible, seen as the more challenging path but to many is a greater personal triumph. Shaman Tank is labelled as viable.
Many Shaman tanks agree their motivation is from the glory of seizing a feat the rest of the realm dares not try. If this resonates with you, please continue reading. You shaman tank if you want a challenge and a refreshing perspective from a 15 year old game. If it wasn’t obvious before, shield bearing is a sizable undertaking.
When experienced players Shaman tank and put in the effort, it shines tenfold. Shamans can fully tank 5mans, 10mans, off-tank & main-tank raids. But, this is reliant on personal and guild experience. Our overall defensive statistics won't reach a warrior’s. However, it isn’t necessary to do so, to tank.
You’ll be staring at your character for a long time. So, consider your character’s appearance as a key factor as it may entice you to play more. All races have benefits but they’re minor compared to other aspects. There is no wrong race. See Video to learn more about race options.
Engineering for: Goblin Sapper Charge, Masterwork Target Dummy, Force Reactive Disk, etc... Blacksmithing for Sulfuras, Hand of Ragnaros, disregard if Phase 5 (see weapon path), and go a high gold generating profession on your realm. Gold helps buy potions, ex: Flask of the Titans among other consumables.
We can increase threat in many ways, notably: Earth Shock, Stormstrike, Rockbiter Weapon & Lightning Shield. Install a threat tracking addon, ex: ThreatClassic2. Consumable items deal threat, ex: Major Rejuvenation Potion based on half of the Health & Mana gained. Damage items, ex: Goblin Sapper Charge deals threat equal to the damage so do reflective Buffs, ex: Thorns. Lastly, certain items ex: Gift of Arthas deal threat each time their Debuff is triggered (see Threat List).
Video: Shaman Tank - Allies and Threat
Allies can reduce their threat, through items, ex: Fetish of the Sand Reaver. Mage have: Burning Soul. Shaman: Tranquil Air Totem. Rogue and Hunter wipe threat with Vanish & Feign Death and so can Flask of Petrification. Items prevent aggro: Limited Invulnerability Potion & redirect aggro Masterwork Target Dummy (taunts the mob). Classes in the 30-40 yard range won’t get aggro t'ill they surpass the threat level of the mob’s current target by 30%, as opposed to 10% for melee classes. (See More)
Totems can't deal threat for you. Common totems: Grace of Air Totem, Stoneskin Totem & Healing Stream Totem. AoE Tanking: Stoneclaw Totem followed by Fire Nova Totem. To learn more about totems, see the Video.
The main and optimal talent setup: (16/35/0), has steady threat per second for raids & excels on short fights.
1. PrePull: Cast Lightning Shield. Get all Buffs the group can supply. Cast Rockbiter Weapon. Place: Stoneskin Totem, Grace of Air Totem & Healing Stream Totem. Mark the mobs in front of you by right-clicking their portrait, pick Raid Target Icon, choose from either a Skull = kill first, a red X = kill second, a blue square = Hunter trap and a moon = Polymorph.
2. Pulling: Cast Lightning Bolt, followed by as many Lightning Bolt possible to trigger, Elemental Focus. Lastly, Earth Shock.
3. Combat: For raids, use Nat Pagle's Broken Reel to assure the first few Earth Shocks hit. In a fight, use relevant ranks of Earth Shock that suits your mana & threat. Stormstrike can’t be downranked but is also used in similar cases. If Lightning Shield, cast it. If you suddenly might die, equip a defensive weapon, ex: Spineshatter w/ Enchant Weapon - Agility & Rockbiter Weapon, use Masterwork Target Dummy (taunts boss), use Juju Escape, possibly Major Healthstone & Major Rejuvenation Potion. To learn more, see the Video.
1. PrePull: Use Unconscious Dig Rat. Unequip all gear & cast Rank1 Lightning Bolt on the rat to get Elemental Focus. Equip a gear set with the most spell damage possible & have another Shaman with the (8/8) The Ten Storms gear set, cast Lesser Healing Wave on you until you get Lightning Shield. (see Video) Once the Buff appears, equip normal tank gear and a spell damage weapon, ex: Staff of the Shadow Flame w/Brilliant Wizard Oil & Enchant Weapon - Spell Power.
- PrePull Situational: Can also equip Malown's Slam & hit the rat to possibly trigger the weapon’s strength Buff. If the Buff appears, swap to your usual weapon & the Buff stays. Also, possible to get Flurry.
- PrePull Situational: Someone in the party can: Gnomish Shrink Ray the rat to give the party +250 attack power.
- Pulling Situational: If the first Earth Shock misses, equip a two-handed weapon w/Rockbiter Weapon & Stormstrike after swap to a normal weapon+shield.
There's a max of 32 Buffs, avoid nearing the max as it may result in Buffs getting mistakenly removed, the addon: Buff Cap Tracker helps. Use Buff Cap Calc to see what Buffs stack. Prioritize getting defensive Buffs, ex: Elixir of Fortitude before Threat Buffs, ex: Juju Might. (Here's a detailed List of Buffs). Consumables can give passive Buffs and have instant active effects, ex: Goblin Sapper Charge, Major Healthstone, Dark Rune among others.
Video: Shaman Tank - Best Debuffs
A max of 16 Debuffs can be on a mob. Reaching the max is major in raids. There's defensive Debuffs: Insect Swarm & threat Debuffs: Faerie Fire among others. With the raid leader’s consent, suggest ideal Debuffs without overstepping. We can apply Gift of Arthas & Stormstrike. To learn more, see the Video.
Solidify defensive stats when gearing, threat is secondary. It’s advised to have 4k HP & 5k Armor unbuffed for Molten Core. Blackwing Lair, ~4800 to 5k HP and 6500-7k Armor. For reliable threat, 3% melee Hit is advised for dungeons. For Raid tanking, 6% Melee Hit. See the BiS Gear Set. You can't equip gear in combat, except for a weapon & shield, enabling the equipping of a defensive weapon, ex: Spineshatter, if survival seems grim.
Video: Shaman Tank - Enchants
There are two types of enchants, defensive, ex: Enchant Gloves Superior Agility. And offensive, ex: Enchant Gloves Threat. Having Enchanting isn't neded to gain the profession’s advantages. Simply, give the Enchanter the required enchanting materials and they will enchant your gear for a small gold tip. To learn more, see the the List of Enchants.
Many actions can further solidify AoE cases, ex: Oil of Immolation, Force Reactive Disk, etc... (see a detailed List) It’s crucial to switch and attack another target ever so often. In combat, items & spells giving health or mana deal 50% threat divided by each mob. Items also help until a decent amount of threat is gained on all mobs, ex: Masterwork Target Dummy.
With the raid leader’s consent, offer an ideal raid comp without overstepping. In our group, Warlock: Blood Pact, Warrior: Battle Shout, Druid: Leader of the Pack, Hunter: Trueshot Aura. For damage dealing classes, we prefer ranged classes over melee. If melee are needed, rogues are best. Groups with high threat dealers can have a Shaman: Tranquil Air Totem.