Which is best racial for tanks?

Which race has the best abilities for tanking? Which racials help a tank more so than a PvPer or DPSer?

Before DKs were born, I wrote this analysis so I could choose my race.

Now with Cataclysm coming out, all tanks have more choice than before. New tanking combinations mean a new tank has great options.

The new tank mixes are:

  • Tauren Paladin
  • Troll or Worgen Druid
  • Blood Elf or Worgen Warrior
  • Goblin or Worgen DK.

The Worgen and Goblin both have gap-closing abilities, for arena balance obviously. These mobility skills can be very useful for tanking.

Warrior choices are interesting: a Worgen Warrior would take the throne as the supreme mobility tank, and a Blood Elf Warrior would be the best anti-caster tank.

For Cataclysm, Goblin racials are over-budget, they have so many good racials. Worgens look about right. Definitely I expect some change before live to even these out.

Tauren HP racial needs a buff too. It’s basically a flat HP increase in disguise as a percentage: it scales at each level of experience, but not by your gear. At L85, the Nelf racial will be proportionally even stronger still.

So…  let me give my conclusion first, details last.

The best tank racials

Based on these premises:

  • Survival is the first thing a tank should worry about.
  • Threat and mobility are very important but secondary.
  • Situational talents by definition are not as valuable as constantly-active useful talents. You can’t therefore attribute a value to a situational talent. How important they are comes to play preferences. Best example is mobility talents, they’re really nice so you’re not rooted somewhere, but would it make or break you as a tank? Not likely. In comparison, survival makes or breaks you.

The best tanking race for a minmax tank is:

  • Night Elf for alliance (even if the 2% miss is nerfed to 1% sometime, it’s still better than Dwarf)
  • No clear winner for Horde

However, other very important factors:

  • Who’s butt are you most comfortable staring at for the next year?
  • Do you like their swing animation?
  • Are you likely at all to respec or switch styles for PvP?  (for PvP, the mobility benefits become #1 instead of quickness, for PvE DPS the expertise become #1)
  • The Night Elf is the only stand-out superior tanking race.

So you cannot go wrong really.
Pick one you like the look of.

Sorry about the formatting below; copied from my original thread and it’d have taken a while to tidy-up.

Alliance details

Race Racial Significance
Dwarf Stoneform
Mace expertise
Frost resist
Situational remove bleed effect.
Its armour increase is unlikely to help you survive. Naxx 25 geared it’d be 3300 extra armour. Does stack with unbreakable armour. But it’s only 8 seconds. Also gives 80 or so AP for 8s if you have bladed armour. I calculated it’s effectively 2% less damage for those 8 seconds. Really, Stoneform should be firstly seen as situational bleed/disease/poison cleanse & immunity talent and secondly as a minor mitigation talent.
Mace expertise is great for threat but you can’t guarantee your best weapon will always be a mace.
Resists are situational.
Night Elf Shadowmeld
Quickness (dodge)
Improved deadness
Lets you more easily pass threat to second tanks by using in combat. Can also be used to interrupt a spell being cast at you.
2% missed attacks equates to a significant increase in time to live. Makes this the best minmax tanking racial. The best alliance tanking race for minmaxer.
Release and run faster!
Draenei Gift of Naaru (HoT)
Heroic Presence (to hit)
Shadow resist
Self-cast HoT of 1000 per tick before pull, for extra mitigation.
To-hit helps with dual-wield tanking.
Resists are situational.
Gnome Escape artist
Arcane resist
Increased mobility, possibly freeing up a trinket slot for those bosses who require an anti-snare trinket. Situational.
Resists are situational.
Human Every man for himself
Sword and mace expertise
Stealth perception
Increased mobility, possibly freeing up a trinket slot for those bosses who require an anti-snare trinket. A really good mobility racial, though. Situational.
Expertise helps with threat, what’s nice is it’s for two weapon types, so you have a greater chance of actually finding a weapon which you benefit from.
More rep faster, only a short-term benefit but handy nevertheless.
Seeing stealthed is useless in tanking.
More spirit is useless. Does not effect RP.

Worgen dash, curse/disease reduction, 1% extra damage.  Situational and very PvP oriented again.

Horde details

Race Racial Significance
Tauren Fatness
Nature resist
Only about 400 HP more at L80, OK, but not going to give extend your time-to-live.
Caster interrupt but suffers from pushback. Situational for trash. Not for bosses.
Orc Redness
Axe expertise
Command (pets)
The angry orc generates more threat. Marginal slight self-heal benefits too.
More axe threat.
More dps from DK ghoul. Ghoul does not give you threat. Might give +5% ghoul explosion power though.
Stun reduction is more PvP talent, not the best mobility talent for PvE
Troll Voodoo
Beast slaying
Very strong mobility buff; it has no cooldown.
Situational boost threat.
Situational beast threat.
Regen HP is at such a low rate it’s only useful to reduce downtime, not to keep you alive in a boss fight.
Blood Elf Arcane torrent (silence)
Magic resist
Interrupt. Bosses probably immune but good for everything else that casts. Also gives RP, which helps threat.
Undead Will of Forsaken
Improved swimming
Shadow resist
Mobility against a few types of cc.
Everyone holds their breath for longer in WotLK, so this is doubly useless now.
SR is situational.
Goblin Best deals anywhere, improved chemistry, pack hobgoblin, rocket barrage,  rocket jump, haste. The mobility talent is useful, but better for PvP due to its cooldown. Haste has a minor threat advantage.

Click here for list of all racials in wowhead.


If I had to put a race into a box, had to stereotype based on their strongest racial, which would it be?

Night Elf
PvP (PvP = no stand-out tanking racial)
Blood Elf

Worgen & Goblin

To discuss, please use the forums on this topic. Closed comments on the blog side (here).

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4 comments to Which is best racial for tanks?

  • If they fixed the Tauren Racial, I could totally see myself going from a female belf tankadin to a male holy cow. Even if they didn’t, my race choice was constrained by my class choice, and even further by my innate dislike of the Sephiroth-wannabe male belf looks.

    They hinted that not offering race changed when they offer faction changes would be silly, but not whether they’d consider adding them at the same time or if the race change would come at some point post-Cataclysm.

  • Gravity
    Twitter: gravitydk

    I do remember them saying if you go alliance -> horde -> alliance, you would end up back at the race where you started.
    I don’t know if they’ll do race change just for the sake of it though.

  • So it is live now the race change. Any point of going from human to Night Elf ?

  • Gravity
    Twitter: gravitydk

    Gain a lot of avoidance, lose mobility (human racial). I’d be tempted to swap for sure. Bear in mind, human expertise does have an avoidance value. That probably warrants a post, thanks for the inspiration!

    Update: new post on racial expertise.