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The long-awaited release of World of Warcraft Classic‘s Wrath of the Lich King update is finally here. As players prepare to dive back into one of WoW‘s most beloved expansions (or play through it for the first time), the question on many minds is simply “Which WoTLK class is the best of them all?”
As is usually the case, it’s kind of hard to answer that question. Not only does every WoTLK class (and specialization) bring something special to the game, but how much you get out of a class tends to depend on how much you understand that class. A great player at a “bad” class can often outperform a bad player at a “great” class. That’s very important to keep in mind whenever you look at any kind of class rankings or breakdowns.
That being said, it can be valuable to have an idea of the current WoTLK class standings, especially if you’re just starting the game or are looking to boost a new character. Just keep in mind that many of these rankings are based on the first phase of WoTLK. While I will comment on certain classes that get better over the course of the expansion, I’ve saved my final thoughts regarding long-term class rankings for the end of this piece. Furthermore, these rankings only relate to WoTLK‘s PvE content (which includes solo play, dungeons, and raids).
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Classic – Every DPS Class Ranked Best to Worst
1. Affliction Warlock
2. Assassination Rogue
3. Unholy Death Knight
4. Frost Death Knight
5. Arcane Mage
6. Demonology Warlock
7. Survival Hunter
8. Marksmanship Hunter
9. Shadow Priest
10. Combat Rogue
11. Enhancement Shaman
12. Feral Druid
13. Balance Druid
14. Fire Mage
15. Elemental Shaman
16. Destruction Warlock
17. Beast Mastery Hunter
18. Arms Warrior
19. Retribution Paladin
20. Beast Mastery Hunter
21. Fury Warrior
22. Subtlety Rogue
23. Frost Mage
As you can see, Warlocks are generally very good in Wrath of the Lich King. Affliction Warlock is just a single-target powerhouse in the early days of the expansion. Even still, Demonology offers some fascinating versatility options that help compensate for their lack of single-target damage (relatively speaking). Destruction Warlock is…fine, but it’s hard to choose it over those other incredible options.
Rogue is a little more scattered. Assassination Rogue offers amazing single-target damage and a few key skills that really help support key party/raid members. Combat Rogue is slightly less interesting, though their increased AOE potential makes them an exceptional choice in specific encounters. Much like Destruction Warlock, Subtlety Rogue is a good option that is just notably worse than the alternatives available.
It’s hard to go wrong with Death Knight if you’re a melee DPS fan. As long as you’re willing to learn the class and level them up, you’ll love the sheer damage and power potential they offer out of the gate. I prefer the versatility and long-term damage potential of Unholy over Frost, but the choice between Unholy and Frost may come down to preferences. Blood can technically be a DPS contributor, though it’s best to treat them as a tank.
Mage finds itself spread across the DPS board. Arcane Mage is just an absolute damage-dealing machine that excels in both single-target and AOE situations. It’s just an insane overall DPS spec in the early days of the meta. Fire Mage is very good, but they don’t get going until later in the expansion. It’s a good idea to start “gearing” for a Fire Mage swap later on, but they’re a tougher sell at the start. As for Frost Mage…well, they’re still good in PvP and excel at quick leveling, but their potential caps out pretty quickly from there.
As is usually the case, Hunter is just a fantastic overall DPS option in WoTLK. Beastmaster Hunter does get better as the expansion goes on, but Survival and Marksmanship are exceptional DPS options from the start. Survival is the better option at the start of the expansion, but it’s arguably surpassed by Marksmanship towards the end of the expansion. In any case, Hunter excels in solo play and group PvE situations.
WoTLK is also the first WoW expansion that may have you seriously considering swapping to Shadow Priest. While they do suffer a bit as the expansion goes on (the same is true of some other caster classes), they’re an invaluable asset in early group content. They’re also a much better solo class than they have been in the past. Get some Shadow Priests going with a few great Warlock players, and you’ll be laughing at the surprising “ease” of a lot of early group content.
Enhancement Shamans are actually one of the biggest “winners” in the early days of the expansion. WoTLK was the first expansion to treat that spec as proper damage dealers rather than as a kind of hybrid class. There are technically better options, but Enhancement Shamans bring a lot to the party and can deal a ton of damage if used correctly. Elemental Shamans are…not as good. It’s hard to justify picking them over other caster options, though it is always nice to have Shamans in the party and they can pump damage from time to time. If you love playing as Elemental Shaman and your group is cool with your preferences, then you won’t feel the pain of playing one too often.
Druid is in a similar spot. I actually love Feral Druid’s DPS potential, but that is a tough DPS class to master. The difference between a great Feral Druid player and a bad one is hard to ignore. Still, you can easily bump them up to the top tier when they’re used properly. Balance Druids are just another class that struggles to match the damage potential that other DPS classes can so easily reach. Still, most groups will happily welcome a Balance Druid into the party for the strength of their support abilities (most notably Innervate) alone.
Retribution Paladins are in a somewhat similar spot. On the plus side, they’re still Paladins. That means that they still bring those invaluable Paladin support/buff tools to the party. Unfortunately, Retribution Paladins are just not notable damage dealers quite yet. They’re pretty good in single-target situations, but they just can’t compete with most other options.
Finally, we have Warrior. My personal favorite class in the game has fallen pretty hard since Fury Warriors dominated WoW Classic. In short, Fury Warriors will end WoTLK as the best DPS class in the game. However, it’s going to take a long time for them to get there. Until then, Arms Warriors offer slightly more consistency/versatility. If you’re able to start gearing your Fury Warrior now, though, every item investment will eventually turn you into a powerhouse.
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Classic – Every Healer Class Ranked Best to Worst
1. Holy Paladin
2. Discipline Priest
3. Restoration Druid
4. Restoration Shaman
5. Holy Priest
Slight spoilers for the final part of this article, but Paladins really do own a good portion of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. So far as healers go, it’s pretty much Holy Paladins followed by everyone else. They’re incredible tank healers that offer some sneakily exceptional raid-wide healing options as well. While I generally don’t love the practice of strongly favoring certain specs above others outside of high-end/competitive content, Holy Paladins really do make everything easier than it would otherwise be.
That said, don’t overlook the power of Discipline Priests. While their shield-based skillset is unusual and takes a little while to become comfortable with, Discipline Priests excel at scenarios that require healers to protect their party members against incoming damage. If you know a big attack is coming, you can shield your friends and have them shrug off most of it. While Discipline Priests can fall behind if things turn bad quickly, they have a few tricks up their sleeves to keep friends alive in a pinch. They also still bring Power Infusion (the best caster DPS support ability in the game) to the party.
I feel like Restoration Druids deserve more love than they sometimes get. Their AoE healing is better than it’s ever been, and their ability to pump out invaluable “healing over time” effects is really second-to-none. They also have one of the most impressive utility skill tool kits in the game. Discipline Priests offer more high-end upside, and Holy Paladins are just healing gods, but Restoration Druid may actually be the best healing option for the average player. They’re slightly easier to learn, they’re highly competitive, and their overall potential improves as you improve as a player.
Restoration Shamans are a slightly tougher sell. A few key nerfs basically torpedoed Restoration Shamans’ once god-tier kit of utility skills. Now that they’re no longer the centerpiece of speed clears and similar runs, Restoration Shamans have to make due as good, but not great, healers who now have to contend with other classes in areas they use to excel at (most notably AOE heals). Many raids will still want a Shaman in their party, and Restoration Shamans are still a good option for that spot. You might have to manage your expectations a bit, though.
Holy Priests are definitively the worst healing option in WoTLK by some distance. The tragic victim of some cruel nerfs, Holy Priests now fall behind every other healing class in pretty much every category. A well-geared and experienced Holy Priest is still an excellent tank companion as well as a generally versatile healer who can contribute in a variety of situations. Sadly, the effort you’ll put into this class is rarely worth what you’ll get out of it.
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Classic – Every Tank Class Ranked Best to Worst
1. Protection Paladin
2. Blood Death Knight
3. Feral Druid
4. Protection Warrior
While some powerful Burning Crusade classes suffered nerfs in Wrath of the Lich King, Protection Paladins are still World of Warcraft Classic’s undisputed tanking kings. While other classes now finally offer viable AoE tanking options (an important change I’ll discuss more in just a bit), none of them can really compete with Paladin’s “Consecration-fuelled” ability to pull and distract massive packs of lesser enemies. Even better, WoTLK buffed Protection Paladin’s two biggest tanking weaknesses (single-target tanking and survivability skills). Throw in those always excellent Paladin utility skills, and you’ve got a tanking class that only suffers when it comes to raw damage output. Still, they’re the undisputed kings of this category.
Blood Death Knights are an interesting new option, though. They may struggle at first, but Blood Death Knights are almost unbeatable in single-target tanking situations. Their surprising damage output and survivability options mean that they don’t die easily and rarely lose threat on a key target. Sadly, they bring little to nothing to the party as AOE tanks. While that doesn’t make them ideal for speed leveling and certain pieces of late-game content, the obvious advantages they offer can be hard to replace during some of WoTLK’s toughest fights.
Feral Druids are difficult to rank. They’re tough (their health pools are just insane), they can more than hold their own during AOE pulls, they bring some nice group skills to the party, and they might just be the best tanks in the game from a pure damage perspective. However, their single-target tanking abilities are pretty weak. Feral Druids just need a little more help during certain boss fights than other tanks do. If you’re ok with that, then you can go far with a Feral tank.
Despite their position at the bottom of this list, I actually think Protection Warriors are a pretty good option in a lot of scenarios. Their AOE abilities are even better than ever (and arguably rank just below Paladin’s exceptional AOE abilities). It’s just that they lag a little behind in pretty much every area. Their utility skills fall behind Druids and Paladins, they lack the damage potential of Death Knights and Druids, and they’re no longer the best-in-class at single-target tanking. Again, a well-geared and experienced Protection Warrior is still a fine tanking option. It’s just that there are better options for other players.
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Classic – Every Class Ranked Best to Worst
This section is intended for the benefit of someone coming into Wrath of the Lich King Classic from the cold or for someone who wants to swap to a class that offers the most throughout every phase of the expansion. As noted above, those who already have a favorite class or a class that they’ve been gearing up throughout Classic will likely be better off sticking to what works for them.
2. Death Knight
Paladins should clearly be at the top of this particular section. While Retribution Paladins don’t have much to offer in the long-term, Paladins are best-in-class Healers and Tanks that still offer some DPS flexibility when needed. They’re just a fantastic class throughout the expansion.
Death Knights may be the new kid on the block, but they have a lot to offer. While I thought about knocking them down a level due to their lack of a healing spec option, the fact of the matter is that they offer top-tier tanking and DPS options throughout the expansion. You really can’t go wrong with this class if you’re looking to stay viable in the long term.
As is often the case, Druid’s unparalleled hybrid versatility makes them an incredible overall option. They’re probably best thought of as Tanks and Healers, though the DPS potential of a great Feral Druid player really shouldn’t be overlooked. Again, versatility and potential put Druids over the op in the long run.
Warlocks are just a top-tier casting DPS choice throughout the expansion. While they’re limited compared to some other classes in terms of your flexibility, the fact that most parties are going to want at least one Warlock in most PvE content means that they’re always going to be in demand in some way or another.
Rogues face a similar situation. Death Knights may be the more versatile melee class in WoTLK, but a great Rogue player who starts gearing early has a great chance of finding themselves near the top of the damage chart throughout the expansion. They also offer some very good utility options for raids.
Priests are in an interesting spot. Shadow Priests are pretty good (if not necessarily top-tier) throughout WoTLK, and Discipline Priests are a simply fantastic healing option for the entire expansion. I love a great DPS/Healer option as those two playstyles tend to complement each other well in a variety of situations, and Priests offer a fantastic overall hybrid package in both of those respects.
Mages can lag behind Warlocks over the course of the expansion, but they’re still fantastic casting-focused damage dealers who really start to shine when some of the other expansion content starts to drop. If the Mage class appeals to you and you want to stick with DPS, you will have a good time with Mages in the long run.
I’m probably underrating Hunter a bit, but they are in kind of a strange spot. They’re incredibly solid (or better) DPS players throughout the course of the expansion that also happen to be pretty valuable in a lot of raid scenarios. However, they rarely flirt with the absolute top of the damage charts and they can be a little awkward to gear throughout the expansion. You can’t go too wrong with Hunter, but you can do a little better overall.
Shamans are in a worse spot in WoTLK than they were in TBC. Their options generally range from solid to “meh.” The biggest advantage to a Shaman is the fact that most raids will want at least one Shaman in their party thanks to the tools that Shamans bring to group content. The problem is that Restoration Shamans come the closest to being a “best in category” option, and they’re not really that close to being the best healers. It’s just a little frustrating that Shaman players have to kind of accept the fact that they’re basically totem and Bloodlust delivery machines above all else.
As for Warriors…look, as I said, Fury Warriors will one day dominate the WoTLK PvE meta. Until that day (and that day is a long way off), they are going to struggle mightily to keep up with a lot of other classes. Meanwhile, Arms Warrior remains “Ok” or worse throughout the expansion, and Protection Warrior just can’t compete with the new tanking options. Unless you have a lot of patience and a guild you know will always invite you to group content, Warriors can be a tough sell.