Wearing a shield increases your character’s defensive capabilities, so this is the tank build. The emphasis is on keeping yourself alive while keeping all the monsters focused on attacking you. This way your squishy mages in the back or even other melee characters don’t have to worry about their health much.
For healing, your character can use Potions and a mage can put points in healing spells. Potions can be used exclusively for much of Act 1, but in Act 2 and Act 3, where battles take longer and enemies are tougher, healing spells become a necessity for the tank.
There is also a little bit of positioning involved. If you can put your character in a small choke point, the enemies will have a harder time getting to the weaker characters in the party. You also need to pickup newly spawned enemies with high threat abilities.
Assuming you get to level 25, there are 77 attribute points available. You get 75 just from your levels (3 per level), but can also gain +2 from a special item called Greater Tome of the Mortal Vessel. Only one of these can be found in the game from an NPC shop in Act 2. To get your Strength and Constitution to these levels requires 76 attribute points. That only leaves one to put into Willpower, but there are items that give you more attribute points to help with this. For instance, an item with +1 to all attributes will in effect give you three more points to put in Willpower.
The starting stats for Warrior are 13 Strength, 11 Willpower, and 12 Constitution, so the game starts you off on a more damage dealing build. For a tank though, we really want Constitution to be the primary stat. Since you will have threat boosting abilities, you don’t care so much about high damage. That means Strength can be neglected. The only time to raise Strength is when you get a new one hand weapon that requires higher Strength.
The weapons pretty much all follow a similar requirement of needing 21, 31, 41, or 51 Strength. The final 51 is not needed until the end of the game, but at that point you aren’t gaining many levels. You must prepare ahead of time to get your 41 Strength to 51 Strength, roughly 3 levels worth of attribute increases.
So Constitution is the important stat. It increases health by 5 per point, but more important increases health regeneration. It doesn’t seem like that big of a bonus until you notice that all of the healing in the game is based on percentages. A basic Health Potion heals 60% health. With low Constitution that could be only 60 health gained, but with high Constitution that could go up to 300 health gained.
In addition with your high defensive capabilities, that 300 health can last a long time. A boss might slowly lower your health down to 10% or 20% over a few minutes, but suddenly you heal it back to full. It basically resets the fight with the boss at low health and your tank at full health. Some of the later boss battles are very long, so it is critical to have high Constitution.
The only other attribute a Weapon and Shield Warrior cares about is Willpower. Unfortunately, you don’t have many extra attribute points to spend on it. Try to get it up to 20, but it definitely could happen that you don’t have enough points to make it there. Items with +x to all attributes will help here, explained more in the Items to Look For section.
In combat Warriors only gain Stamina when they deal the killing blow to an enemy. However, a Weapon and Shield Warrior doesn’t do that much damage. It’s very likely that a mage or rogue does a huge critical hit that finishes the enemy. Higher Willpower will give you a higher starting base for the fight. It also works well with the Second Wind ability you will get. Second Wind recovers 80% of your Stamina, so the higher your base, the more you get with this ability.
Assuming you get to level 25, there are 27 ability points available. You get 25 from your levels, but there are also two items in the game that give you +1 ability point each. They are named Tome of Technique and can be found in Act 1 and Act 2 in NPC shops.
Weapon and Shield Tree
Shield Defense -> Shield Wall
Shield Bash -> Pummel (Stagger)
These are the main tanking abilities. No matter what, all Weapon and Shield Warriors spend points here. Shield Defense is your primary sustained ability against powerful bosses. It will greatly increase survivability, especially with the Shield Wall bonus. Shield Bash with Pummel is mainly to trigger Stagger. Perception and Safeguard are really good passives to take. Scatter is only taken to get to the Safeguard passive, but isn’t all that bad for dealing with mass enemies in a choke point. The Stamina cost is really too high in most cases though.
Turn the Blade
Turn the Blade is an additional defensive sustained ability. Only use it when you have emptied your Stamina and Stamina recovering potions/abilities are on cooldown. You’ve already used up all your Stamina. You may as well get some more defensive ability. Stonewall is a really good ability when you have a bunch of enemies attacking your tank, such as after a Taunt. With a bunch of enemies, even a tank can go down fast but not after using Stonewall. It almost reduces damage to 0 for the duration.
Pommel Strike -> Pommel Blow (Stagger)
Taunt -> Bellow
Bravery -> Bravado, Bravura
Pommel Strike is another nice Stagger triggering ability. Taunt and Bellow are really important for keeping enemies fighting your tank character. If you are attacking a target for the whole fight, you will generally hold threat. However, most fights have many enemies spawning over time. You just can’t be everywhere at once attacking all of them and keep up with your mage’s AoE spells. Taunt is the solution to this problem. It gives you snap threat to keep all the enemies attacking you as much as possible. Bravery with Bravado and Bravura is an excellent sustained ability. It should always be active no matter what. Almost every fight includes masses of enemies which all increase the power of Bravery. In a typical boss fight you will simply add the Shield Defense sustained ability with your Bravery and be good to go for the fight.
Deep Reserves (passive)
Second Wind -> Last Push, Deep Breath
Bolster is not all that good. It increases Stamina by a tiny bit and doesn’t have much of a cooldown, but just isn’t worth using most times. If you are just a few Stamina points short of using an ability, you might use Bolster. Otherwise just avoid this ability. Deep Reserves is a good passive to help with Stamina regeneration in combat. It won’t help if you don’t get the killing blow, but when you do it’s a nice boost to Stamina. Second Wind with Last Push and Deep Breath is the real winner in this tree. Before you get it, you will feel Stamina starved in almost every fight. You will be stuck just doing basic attacks and don’t really get to have much fun. After getting Second Wind, your Stamina problems are gone. It works even better if you can increase your base Stamina through Willpower or items.
Righteous Strike (passive)
You will be fighting a lot of magic users in the game. As defensive as your tank is, you don’t have much magic resistance. Magic resistance mainly comes from the Magic stat, which is useless for a Warrior. Instead, get these Templar abilities to boost your ability to fight mages. Cleanse is really nice when you accidentally trigger a poison trap. Poison traps are deadly to the party otherwise. Holy Smite is some nice bonus damage since tanks don’t have to many damage dealing abilities. Righteous Strike is really good for the occasional free Silence effect on enemy mages. Mages forced to melee are very weak.
Blood Frenzy (passive)
Devour -> Voracious (Stagger)
Blood Frenzy is an interesting ability. It basically increases your damage based on how much health you have left. The lower your health, the more your damage increases up to 50%. As a tank with most of the enemies attacking you, your health is going to be constantly going down, so you’ll always be able to count on a damage boost. Devour with Voracious is another Stagger ability. It’s another damage ability, but also includes a small heal. With a good one hand weapon, this ability will probably heal about 100 health. It’s not huge but everything helps for a tank.
The basic idea for a tank is to use high threat abilities to keep enemies attack your character while keeping your character alive with potions or healing spells. In the first Act you can probably get away with just using potions, but later in the game you will definitely want a mage with the Heal spell in your party.
Remember that as a tank, you’re not there to do damage. Your just there to soak up damage while your party does the damage. In the beginning of a fight, you should try to position your party as best you can so that your tank is is between the enemies and your party. That way you can hit enemies as they run to mages with area attacks like Shield Bash, Scatter, and Holy Smite. This should get most of the enemies fighting you instead of running by to attack mages.
If the area has any choke points, you might even consider move your whole party to take advantage of it. Frequently battles will pit you against enemies from all sides. You can many times limit this annoyance by moving your party through a doorway or to some stairs. The enemies and any new spawns will be forced to go through your tank.
Of course, you will sometimes have to attack out in the open. You don’t really run fast enough or do enough damage to hold all the enemies in this situation. The best thing to do is focus on the dangerous enemies. If there’s a boss, you definitely should be attacking it. Enemy rogues are also really important to control as they can many times instantly kill a mage after cloaking and doing a big hit from behind. The third dangerous target is warriors, which are the most plentiful enemy. If many start attacking a mage or rogue, they can quickly fall. Use your big area attacks on masses of Warriors. Enemy mages can be dangerous too, but it’s really hard to run over to all of them as they spawn and attack them for threat. Usually, you have to deal with the enemy warriors first, but if one mage seems to be doing a ton of area damage, you might want to run over and use Pommel Strike to interrupt and stun him.
One thing to note when dealing with enemies is to look at the size of their health bars. In any fight there are basically three sizes: short, medium, and long. Short health bars indicate a weak enemy. You can usually ignore it and let your mages and rogues AoE abilities destroy them. Medium health bars you should try to have on your warrior if you can, but sometimes can be hard such as mages that are far away. Long health bars always need to be on your warrior. They are the bosses in the fight.
The last thing is the Stagger combo, one of three possible cross-class combos in the game. You could probably beat the game without using any combos, but it would be much harder especially bosses. So basically with your warrior, you have Shield Bash, Pommel Strike, and Devour with their passive abilities that can induce Stagger on an enemy. When an enemy is staggered, you can then use specific abilities and spells from a rogue or mage to do massive damage. Common stagger bonuses on abilities and spells are 300% and 500% enhanced damage, so you can see it’s a huge damage increase.
The rogue abilities are Explosive Strike and Lacerate. These are both Dual Weapon abilities, so a Dual Weapon rogue will work better with a Weapon and Shield warrior than an Archery rogue. That means Isabela is best, not Varric. For mages, Chain Lightning and Crushing Prison are the ones that get bonus damage from Staggered enemies. So mages that go into the Primal and Arcane trees will work best with this warrior build. Any mage can take these spells, so any of Anders, Bethany, or Merrill will work. If you have more than one mage in the party, you could even have both mages take these abilities for even more combo chances.
I find it best to take more direct control of the whole party when using combos. Turn off the AI and manually give orders when using a combo. Once the Stagger has warn off, you can turn the AI on again. Devote one blank tactics page for each party member. A blank tactics page means the character won’t do anything but basic attacks. Then you can have another tactics page with whatever tactics you want. To disable AI you then just open your tactics for each party member and switch to the blank tactics. Once the combo is done, you just switch them back to the tactics they had before. This is to prevent your party members using a Stagger-boosted ability before you have Stagger on the enemy. Otherwise, you use Stagger and your party’s abilities you want to use are stuck on cooldown.
Stats to Look For
There are three really good Warrior sets in the game. Roughly one set is acquired per act, with the best one found by the end of Act 3. If you are not going to complete all of the quests but still want the sets, you can look them up on the Dragon Age wiki to see which extra quests to do. Act 1 has the Armor of the Fallen set, Act 2 has the Stonehammer’s Gift set, and Act 3 has the Mantle of the Champion set.
The item sets only fill the four armor slots. The rest of the slots (weapon, shield, amulet, belt, two rings) should be filled with the best you can find from random drops. Towards the end of the game you will start finding unique one hand weapons, but other than that you are at the mercy of random drops for the rest of the item slots. The below stats are the best to look for on random items.
+x health regeneration rate
+x% magic resistance
+x% healing to this character
Most of the combat sequences are against warriors and rogues. The top four stats here are best for those situations. Against mages it is good to have some magic resist. Fire resist in particular is excellent for fighting dragons. You might keep some magic resist items in your inventory to swap into when faced with high elemental damage encounters. Extra healing combined with mage healing is also nice to make it even easier to keep your health high.
+x% attack speed
+x% critical chance
+x% physical damage
For a tank character most of your damage comes from regular attacks. You have a few abilities that do damage, but they are mostly used to Stagger enemies or slow them down from attacking mages and rogues. The best stats are regular attacks are Strength and attack speed. Extra attack is critical, so you can have a good chance to hit enemies. If you frequently get glancing blows, you will have a hard time holding any threat of enemies. One hand weapons hit fast, but don’t do very much damage. Critical chance works well with that since you have a lot more chances for a critical when you hit many times. Physical damage is sounds nice but remember a tank isn’t doing much base damage in the first place. A small percentage increase will only add a few points of damage.