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Want to run a DK tank in ESO? Here's a guide to getting the right skills, passives, champion points, and gear.

Elder Scrolls Online Guide: The Ultimate Dragonknight Tank Build

Want to run a DK tank in ESO? Here's a guide to getting the right skills, passives, champion points, and gear.
This article is over 6 years old and may contain outdated information

In The Elder Scrolls: Online, like in many other MMORPGs, tanks are crucial roles in any group content — pulling all the monsters and mobs to themselves, then soaking the damage those mobs would otherwise deal to the rest of the group. Dragonknights (DK) in ESO can have some of the best tanking builds in the game, and of the five class options (including the Warden from the new Morrowind DLC), Dragonknight is possibly the easiest to tank with.

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Unfortunately, unlike many other MMOs, ESO can be difficult to parse in terms of the best abilities, weapons, and passive skills to use. Where other MMOs have entire websites dedicated to telling players what gear to use, what talents to purchase, and which skills to use when (and in what order, even!), ESO has a handful of dedicated players who publish their personal builds instead.

These guides are no doubt helpful, but some of them outright contradict the others — leaving players somewhat confused as to what they should be doing. There is an argument to be made that you should just find the skills, gear, and etc that suit your playstyle and have fun with the game. However, other players like finding builds online because someone’s done the boring, frustrating legwork for them to optimize their utility. 

Luckily for you, we’ve perused all the suggested builds for Dragonknight tanks, and put together this ultimate build guide to help you spec your DK as best you can.

The Ultimate Dragonknight Tank Build

This build will take you through the best race options, skill selection, passives selection, Champion Points purchases, and some gear selection. We’ll start with optimal races:

Dragonknight Tank Race Selection

Out of the ten playable races in ESO, there are ten that are viable choices for a DK tank. No, that is not a typo. You can safely choose any race at the start of the game and still make a kick-ass DK tank. That being said, there are four races that are slightly better at the job: Argonian, Imperial, Nord, and Orc.

Argonians come with a laundry list of racial abilities and passives that help them to be wonderful tanks:

  • Argonian Resistance increases your Max Health by 9% at the max rank, which can be a huge difference in your health pool.
  • Quick to Mend increases your healing done and received by 5%, meaning you’ll have an easier time getting health back after taking all the damage.
  • Resourceful increases your Max Magicka and gives you (at max rank) 12% of all three pools — Health, Magicka, and Stamina — back to you when you drink a potion.

Similarly, Imperials have a good list of racial passives that make them ideal tanks:

  • Tough gives your character a 12% increase to your Max Health.
  • Conditioning gives your character a 10% increase to Max Stamina.
  • Red Diamond gives your character a 10% chance to heal 6% of your Max Health when you hit something.

Nords have a very tanky set of passives:

  • Stalwart gives you an increase to Max Stamina and Health Recovery, which means you’ll have a bigger stamina pool to use skills, and your health will regenerate faster.
  • Resist Frost gives you an increase to your Max Health.
  • Rugged gives you straight Damage Reduction, which caps out at 6% in the passive skill.

Orcs have a more aggressive set of passives, befitting their race:

  • Brawny increases your Max Health and Max Stamina by 6%.
  • Unflinching increases your healing received by 5% and your Health Recovery by 20%.
  • Swift Warrior increases melee weapon damage and sprint speed, as well as reducing sprint cost.

Any of these four races will make excellent tanks, and the decision is largely up to taste. Some players argue for Argonians because of their Quick to Mend passive in addition to the 9% increase in health (not to mention the ability to drink any potion and get a portion of all your pools back). Others will say that Imperials, with their larger health pool, make the better tank. You should choose which race you want to play, either based on the stats above or whatever your personal tanking style is. In the end, it’s your character.

Skill Selection

Unlike other MMOs, ESO only gives players room for five active skills and an Ultimate in their skill bar. This means that having the right skills upgraded and ready to go is imperative. Luckily, you have two skill bars to switch between at the touch of a button, so you can effectively respond to different situations.

First Bar: Your primary combat bar. Use this when you’re actively engaged in melee with one or more targets.

  • Pierce Armor: Your standard taunt, and also one of your cheapest skills, in regards to Stamina cost. There’s a technique in ESO called “weaving”, where you use a skill, perform a couple regular attacks, and then use the skill again. This is the skill you want to weave with.
  • Heroic Slash: Use this skill to debuff strong enemies, as it reduces the damage they do by 15%. Since they’ll be doing that damage to you, keep the debuff up as long as you can.
  • Hardened Armor: You want to keep an eye on this skill, as you’ll want to keep the buff it provides up at all times. It will also give you a damage shield (essentially extra HP) when you use it.
  • Absorb Magic: Just by having this skill on your bar, you get better at blocking! You can also use it to absorb damage from an incoming spell, but it’s extremely expensive.
  • Igneous Shield: A huge buff to you and your party members, and it’s based off your total health — ideal for a tank. Gives everyone a damage shield, with yours absorbing 200% more than everyone else’s.
  • Ultimate – Magma Shell: Utterly ridiculous. Use this when everything seems to be going downhill, and watch yourself refuse to die. You only take 3% of your max health in damage from every hit while this is up, and all your allies get a damage shield for 100% of their max health.

Second Bar: Your area-of-effect and ranged bar. Use this to pull mobs before combat, or switch to it to activate your AoE skills and switch back to your primary bar.

  • Unrelenting Grip: A ranged pull, which can’t be blocked or deflected. Perfect for getting enemies right next to you when you need them to be.
  • Inner Rage: A ranged taunt, which is great for starting encounters. You can morph this skill to use either Magicka or Stamina, so it’ll fit in pretty much any build you make.
  • Green Dragon Blood: Immediately heals you for one third of your health, and also gives you Health and Stamina Recovery, as well as enhancing healing you receive.
    • Make sure to use this before you use Magma Shell. It will top off your health, and you may not need to burn your ultimate if you use this first.
  • Choking Talons: An area of effect spell that roots enemies in place, and also reduces the damage they deal. Use this instead of Heroic Slash when you’re surrounded.
  • Deep Breath: An AoE spell interrupt. If you’ve got a lot of enemies around you, use this to stop them from using their nastier skills.
  • Ultimate – Aggressive Horn: Increases your group’s Health, Stamina, and Magicka pools by 10% for 30 seconds, as well as increasing critical strike damage by 15% for a shorter duration. I’ve seen this called the strongest tank Ultimate, and for good reason — more of everything means everyone can heal more, deal more damage, and you can tank more hits.
Passive Skills

Many of these are largely up to you to fit into your playstyle, but One Hand and Shield passives and Heavy Armor passives are almost all useful.

Your Dragonknight passives are also wonderful for tanking — focus on Draconic Power and Earthen Heart passives, especially those that increase block, spell resistance, and restore Stamina. For all other passives, look for things that increase your durability and Health/Stamina/Magicka recovery.

Champion Points

For Champion Points, you’re going to want to focus mostly on the Warrior Constellation. Elemental Defender, Hardy, Thick Skinned, Iron Clad, Bastion, and Heavy Armor Focus are your go-to CP purchases.

In the Thief Constellation, go for Shadow Ward and Arcanist, and in the Mage Constellation, go for Blessed and Melee Weapons Expert.


Gear is the hardest section to give advice on. Lots of guides will tell you that you can find or craft named sets in certain areas, and tell you to go for those. This is fine, but they all seem to think that everyone has the huge amounts of time to spend grinding out materials or killing mobs for random drops.

If grinding is your thing, go for the Hist Bark set, available to craft in Rootwatch Tower, Greenshade; Trader’s Rest, Rivenspire; or Hatchling’s Crown, Shadowfen (depending on your faction choice). You should also look into Alessia’s Bulwark, available to craft in Chancel of Divine Enreaty, Malabal Tor; Hammerhome, Eastmarch; or Alezer Kotu, Alik’r Desert.

If you don’t want to spend hours upon hours grinding for a gear piece — or you’re looking for gear to use while you’re leveling — go for the following enchants and traits on your armor:

  • Sturdy: Decreases the cost of blocking, enabling you to block more without draining your Stamina so much.
  • Health/Healthy: More health in your pool means you can tank more hits.
  • Reinforced: Increases your armor, which will reduce the amount of damage you take. Unless you want to run endless calculations, consider this almost interchangeable with the Healthy trait.
  • Crusher: This is a weapon enchantment that reduces the armor of whatever you’re hitting for 5 seconds. Considering you’re up in enemies’ faces all the time, you want to give your allies the edge in regards to damage, and Crusher is a great way to do it.

That about wraps up our Dragonknight tanking guide for Elder Scrolls Online. Keep in mind that ESO is a very flexible MMO. Unlike other games, you have a lot of room to change skills, passives, and champion points and still be an effective tank — so find what suits you best, and run with that!

If you’ve got your own builds and suggestions, be sure to leave them in the comments. And check out the rest of our ESO guides for other build suggestions, general tips, and more!

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