Cataclysm Tank Tier List / Tank Rankings

Welcome to the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm tank tier list! We will be ranking each healing specialization available for the expansion, as well as explaining each spec’s position on the tier list.

  • Threat: The threat the spec can put out, in single target and AoE situations.
  • Survivability: How beefy the spec is, against bosses, packs of enemies, physical mobs and spellcasters.
  • Utility: The utility the spec brings to a raid besides its tanking, such us various raid buffs and helpful debuffs.
  • Off-tanking Power: How useful the spec is while not actively tanking, i.e. on fights where only 1 tank is needed and that spec is not tanking.

Note that this Tier List covers classes and specs in their patch-4.3.4 state. This works just like in previous Classic expansions: although we’re doing content starting with the very first phase, our spells, talents, and equipment are already in their finalized states, which has great implications for the metagame. We will be discussing this in more detail in the sections below.

s tier dps rankings
WoW Death Knight Icon
Blood DK

a tier dps rankings
WoW Paladin Icon
Protection Paladin
WoW Druid Icon
Feral Druid

b tier dps rankings
WoW Warrior Icon
Protection Warrior

c tier dps rankings

d tier dps rankings

  1. Blood Death Knight (S-Tier)
  2. Protection Paladin (A-Tier)
  3. Feral Druid (A-Tier)
  4. Protection Warrior (B-Tier)

The first phase of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm comes with four available raids that feature a good balance of single-target and area-of-effect encounters. The most important factor to take into consideration is that each specialization’s performance heavily relies on the encounter itself, with some specializations that rank lower on the list outperforming higher-ranking tiers in certain specific scenarios.

This current Tank Tier List is an estimation based on both current WoW Cataclysm Classic logs and the overall player appeal of the specializations themselves, with player skill and gear itself also playing a vital role in the specialization’s overall performance. Tanking in Cataclysm is much more dynamic compared to its previous WotLK iteration, with all tanking specializations having a much more active overall playstyle, whether we talk about Main-Tanking or Off-Tanking.

The most impactful change that came to the tanking specializations is the Vengeance passive effect which every single Tank Specialization now possesses. This passive effect ensures that the overall damage output of each Tank Specialization is directly proportional to the amount of Health they acquire, with each specialization receiving up to 10% of their maximum Health Points as Attack Power whenever they are struck by Melee Attacks. This change not only improves the overall Threat generated by tanks but also their overall damage output, granting them much more impact gameplay-wise besides soaking up damage.


The S-tier represents the most powerful tanking specs in the current meta – those with the best threat and survivability. You will see one of these specs in every single raid as people naturally gravitate towards them, and it won’t be completely uncommon to see 2 — which is very telling of how strong they are, as how many raid groups will have only 2 dedicated tank spots anyway!

Blood Death Knight

I am sure many of you have seen Blood Death Knights miserably fail against the Lich King in the previous iteration of the game, often being called “Paper Tanks” or “Dead Meat without Will of the Necropolis“. Even if they were considered an A-Tier tanking specialization, the popular opinion about them was that their defensive cooldowns were simply not strong enough, making them extremely prone to One-Shot effects. Well, folks, the situation has massively changed with the arrival of Cataclysm, as Blood Death Knights become the most powerful Tanking Specialization in the entire tank roster.

In terms of Threat, Blood Death Knights were notorious as one of the best “Threat Generating” tanking specializations in the entire game thanks to Icy Touch. This legacy has been continued in Cataclysm, with one big change, the fact that Blood Presence has now been converted into the main Tanking Presence, receiving an overhaul. The overall Threat Generation has been buffed to such a certain extent, that the previous “Icy Touch” spam tactic is no longer even necessary anymore, as Blood Death Knights now generate a ludicrous amount of Threat. While they were known as the masters of Single-Target aggro and quite weak in the AoE department, Blood Death Knights have received an overall buff to their AoE capabilities thanks to the newfound importance of Blood Boil. Thanks to the Crimson Scourge talent, their overall AoE capabilities have been far improved beyond the good old Death and Decay.

The biggest buff that Blood Death Knights received is for their overall Survivability! Thanks to the new Mastery stat and its Blood Shield effect, the current iteration of Blood Death Knights can no longer be considered “Paper Tanks”! Death Strike has become an even more potent self-healing tool, and the ability now generates an absorption effect for the Death Knight, meaning that overall survivability skyrockets. Will of the Necropolis is still present, even receiving an overall buff, meaning that Death Knights still get to enjoy a very powerful defensive passive effect that can act as a death-prevention mechanic. At the same time, the general overall potency of Blood Worms has been severely enhanced, providing even more self-healing.

While in terms of Threat Generation and general Survivability Blood Death Knights are considered the best of the best, they provide average overall Utility when compared to the rest of the tanking specializations. Their most valuable assets currently are Abomination’s Might, Raise Ally which now works as a proper battle resurrection spell, and the overall healing that Blood Worms generate through the Blood Parasite talent, as they can no longer provide the Improved Icy Talons or Unholy Frenzy effects for their raid group. Arguably, their most useful and at the same time unique utility tool remains Death Grip, a tool that can be used to reposition dangerous mobs. Additionally, Blood Death Knights severely lack in the mobility department, having severe issues with encounters that require consistent movement.

Blood Death Knights also excel as Off-Tanks besides their strong Main Tank performance. While their utility is not as high as a Protection Paladin’s utility or a Feral Druid’s capability to provide off-healing and utility, their overall damage output makes them great in the position of Off-Tank.


The A-tier represents strong tank specializations that offer very solid threat and survivability. You will frequently see these specs perform the off-tank role since they’re not as strong as the S-tier tanks (which will likely be the main tanking) while having some unique strengths that make them worth bringing. These specs will be very common in raids, and many will have 1 of them, but no more as tank spots are pretty limited.

Protection Paladin

Oh, how the mighty and virtuous have fallen. Previously known as the best Tank Specialization in the WotLK Classic iteration of the game, Protection Paladins now find themselves in the A-Tier, with some even considering them B-Tier material. The reality is that the changes that occurred to the Paladin Class, respectively to the Protection Paladin Specialization have created mixed feelings, with some believing that the specialization is even more powerful now thanks to the addition of Holy Power while others believe that overall survivability has been reduced and hindered by a dependency on cooldowns.

In terms of Threat Generation, Righteous Fury remains the staple tool for Protection Paladins, generating enormous amounts of Threat in both Single-Target and AoE encounters. Their newfound Holy Power also ensured that their overall damage output received a buff, meaning that whatever threat issues they may have experienced back in WotLK have been almost entirely obliterated. Furthermore, with the way Seal of Righteousness works now thanks to the Seals of Command talent and the overall buff received by Hammer of the Righteous with the ability no longer having a target limit, their AoE Threat Generation has skyrocketed.

The overall survivability of a Protection Paladin has been revamped, with many considering that this is exactly the reason why they have fallen from their place of glory. While they did gain access to instant self-healing through the new Word of Glory spell, they lost access to one of the most powerful defensive passive effects in the game. Ardent Defender is now no longer a passive effect, but rather an active ability with a long cooldown that needs to be used as a preemptive defensive cooldown. This change stripped Protection Paladins of a unique passive tool that made their life easy, turning the ability into a “Skill Check” that can easily be misused.

Furthermore, Divine Protection‘s damage reduction has been seriously nerfed, albeit its cooldown has been reduced from 3 minutes to only 1 minute while also no longer causing Forbearance. To offset those changes, Protection Paladins received the Divine Bulwark effect thanks to the new Mastery Stat which improves their overall performance while also gaining access to a very strong 3-minute cooldown that reduces all damage taken by 50%, namely Guardian of Ancient Kings. Probably the best part that Protection Paladins enjoy at this current moment is their somewhat endless mana supply, as they now no longer have to rely on Spiritual Attunement for mana generation.

In terms of Utility, Protection Paladins are still considered the “Kings” among the tanking specialization, providing a vast array of effects ranging in various auras such as Resistance Aura or Devotion Aura, “Hand Spells” such as Hand of Freedom, Hand of Protection, or Hand of Sacrifice, off-healing, and even an interrupt now through the Rebuke ability. They also have received a massive buff to one of their raid-wide defensive cooldowns, with Divine Guardian now providing a flat 20% damage reduction for all raid members within 30 yards instead of transferring the damage to the Paladin.

Their stunning utility also aids them in the role of Off-Tanks, albeit, they do perform poorly when compared to Feral Druids and Blood Death Knights. The main reason why their off-tanking capabilities are genuinely considered lower is the overall damage output that they can produce, with both Blood Death Knights and Feral Druids vastly outperforming them. Nonetheless, their utility towers over both Blood Death Knights and Feral Druids, bringing a vast amount of versatility.

The main issue that Protection Paladins face is their somewhat mediocre mobility, only having access to Pursuit of Justice as a valuable mobility tool.

Feral Druid

Beware the dormant Druid, as its wrath could swallow any foe! Feral Druids find themselves in a slightly better spot in Cataclysm thanks to the massive changes brought to their overall talent tree. Their reputation of being the best EHP (Effective Health Points) tanks in the game remains unflinching, as they bring the highest possible Health Pool while also enjoying a plethora of different new effects.

In terms of Threat Generation, Feral Druids are great at generating Single-Target Threat but where they truly shine is their capacity to generate extreme amounts of Threat in AoE and Cleave scenarios. While most of their kit remains the same with Swipe being their new AoE tool, they do receive new toys to play with such as Thrash which is a new ability that deals both direct damage and places a bleed effect on any number of nearby targets. Additionally, they also maintained the same Berserk effect which allows them to spam Mangle in Cleave scenarios with 3 targets.

As for their overall Survivability, both Frenzied Regeneration and Survival Instincts have been buffed, with the former now granting additional Max HP besides a very powerful healing effect, while the latter now works as a flat percent damage reduction tool. Dodge Rating now works as an even more beneficial stat for Feral Druids, also providing them with Rage whenever they dodge while they also gained a complete overhaul to their Savage Defense passive effect. The new Savage Defense effect allows them to generate an Absorption effect which synergizes perfectly with both the new Vengeance passive but also with the new Savage Defender effect granted by the new Mastery stat. This means that their general survivability is directly tied to their overall Critical Strike Chance, making them a force to be reckoned with.

Feral Druids also grant a vast amount of Utility, although they are not as versatile as their fellow A-Tier contenders, the Protection Paladins. They offer the Leader of the Pack passive effect while also being able to grant effects such as Innervate, Rebirth, Thorns, Stampeding Roar, and Mark of the Wild. They can also provide off-healing while debuffing foes with Infected Wounds, Demoralizing Roar, and Mangle.

Where Feral Druids truly shine is in their capacity as Off-Tank! This is not necessarily due to their great overall utility, but rather to the fact that they provide the best damage output that even outperforms Blood Death Knights while they are in the position of Off-Tank. This is thanks to the fact that they can comfortably change to Cat Form, benefiting from a plethora of talents that they can utilize from the Feral Talent Tree, even if they are mostly specced for the Main-Tank position.


The B-tier represents tank specializations that are very much viable, but have weaknesses that render them notably weaker than the specs listed in previous tiers. Your raid is unlikely to wipe just because you’re using a B-tier tank, as they can tank most things just fine, but if you’re aiming to optimize your raid you’d rather have a different class main tank, and you should probably avoid stacking specs found in the B-tier.

Protection Warrior

Protection Warriors seem to be sadly cursed with an average or even below-average performance compared to their glory days, as they continue the WotLK trend of being the weakest tanking specialization even in Cataclysm. They have only a few good things going for them in Cataclysm, while most of the things stay very similar.

The most prominent change that occurred for Protection Warriors is their overall massive improvement to Threat Generation. The way that Defensive Stance currently works in Cataclysm ensures that their Threat Generation is astonishing in both Single-Target and AoE encounters. Compared to their previous iteration, this change makes their overall performance feel a lot smoother, even though they seriously struggle in all the other departments.

In terms of Survivability, Protection Warriors remain the kings of “Block Tanking”, however, their overall reliance on long defensive cooldowns and lack of self-healing has seriously dampened their overall performance. Since they are somewhat similar to Protection Paladins in terms of their reliance on stats such as Mastery, the overall lack of proper gearing options in the first phase of the expansion seriously hurts their overall performance. While other tanking specializations gained new and powerful defensive cooldowns, Protection Warrior still has the same abilities, with the added benefit of now having Critical Block in the form of a new effect that can be empowered by Mastery, instead of a static talent. Furthermore, probably one of the most impactful changes to one of their old abilities is the new version of Shield Block, which now ties in directly into the Critical Block effect while also having a much shorter cooldown.

As far as their Utility goes, Protection Warriors bring the worst Utility out of the four tanking specializations, mostly showcasing the same old abilities they did in WotLK. The only new benefit they bring to the raid is Rallying Cry, a utility ability that can also be brought by any other Warrior Specialization, acting as a raid-wide Last Stand buff. Where Protection Warriors shine over any other tanking specialization is in the mobility department, with the specialization having access to multiple tools to navigate the battlefield, including a brand new one, Heroic Leap.

Lastly, Protection Warriors are the worst when it comes to Off-Tanking, as they can’t provide any valuable tool for the Main Tank while their damage output is horrendous since they can’t possibly make use of Vengeance. Since their specific buffs such as Vigilance and Safeguard can lower the Threat generated by the Main Tank, they virtually have no meaningful way of assisting.


The C-tier is comprised of tank specializations that are, frankly, on the weaker side. It could be argued that they’re still viable, as they can generally get the job done. However, it will be a struggle compared to S-tier or A-tier specs, as C-tier specs lack the threat and survivability that the “big boys” have, and as a result your DPS players will have to be careful with threat, and healers will need to pay a lot of attention to your health pool. Some raids may even choose not to invite you, as they’d prefer to have a smoother, easier raid.

In the previous WotLK iteration of the game, this spot would have been reserved for Protection Warriors. However, in the current Cataclysm Classic state of the game, the threat generation that Defensive Stance provides for Protection Warriors ensures that they are firmly placed in the B-tier.


Simply put, specs in the D-tier are considered to be not viable. They can be fun to play, but you will struggle to get invited to raids when playing one of these, and you may even find yourself getting kicked from groups, as your tanking will be really bad, with very sub-par threat and survivability.

Fortunately, no tank is so weak that we’d say they’re not at all viable.

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