Welcome to the World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King DPS tier list! We will be ranking each DPS class available for the expansion, along with explanations regarding each class’s position in the tier list.
The list will be kept updated for each phase of the expansion alongside the meta changes, but for this article we will be looking at an end-game charter in order to help you wisely choose with which class you will begin your journey.
- Fury Warrior (S-Tier)
- Combat Rogue (S-Tier)
- Fire Mage (S-Tier)
- Affliction Warlock (S-Tier)
- Retribution Paladin (S-Tier)
- Marksmanship Hunter (A-Tier)
- Shadow Priest (A-Tier)
- Arcane Mage (A-Tier)
- Unholy Death Knight (A-Tier)
- Balance Druid (A-Tier)
- Feral Druid (B-Tier)
- Frost Death Knight (B-Tier)
- Demonology Warlock (B-Tier)
- Survival Hunter (C-Tier)
- Arms Warrior (C-Tier)
- Elemental Shaman (C-Tier)
- Enhancement Shaman (C-Tier)
- Destruction Warlock (C-Tier)
- Frost Mage (D-Tier)
- Assassination Rogue (D-Tier)
- Subtlety Rogue (D-Tier)
- Beast Mastery Hunter (D-Tier)
Now that we have a summary of the tier list, we will go into details for each separate specialization and class in order to better understand the reason for the places they occupy in the tier list. But before we can start doing that, we have to explain two separate criteria to you for which the classes have been placed in those specific spots.
When we talk about ranking the DPS classes for PvE scenarios, we are focusing on two criteria:
- Overall Performance: The most important thing when placing a class in a “Tier List” is the overall performance of the class, taking into account the overall damage output of the class, its utility for the raid, and how well it performs in the current meta.
The damage output speaks for itself and certain classes output more while others output less, depending on the current buffs they have and the current meta they are being played in.
Utility refers to the effects they might bring for other members of the dungeon or raid, whether those might be powerful debuffs, combat revive mechanics, powerful damage enhancing abilities, or straight out mitigation tools.
- Necessity/Desirability: Desirability and necessity of certain classes and specializations takes a big part of the group-forming aspect of a PvE scenario.
Some specializations are marked as a must-have for a raid: for example, Demonology Warlocks for their spellpower buff, and Unholy Deathknights for the enhanced melee haste and magical damage debuff. Meanwhile, other specializations are less desirable when forming a raid group due to their reduced performance.
Take into account the fact that when selecting certain specializations for your raids, having two of them might impair your overall performance during the encounters.
Just like the example provided earlier, a raid typically requires only one Demonology Warlock: the moment a raid has two warlocks, the value of the second Demonology Warlock is reduced significantly. The same concept applies for classes such as Balance Druids, Unholy Death Knights and Elemental Shamans.
Simply put, when forming a group for a large-scale PvE activity you ought to be considerate of each class’s strong points and mix them together with the other available classes while making sure you do not double-down on the same beneficial or harmful effects.
As mentioned previously, we will now go into details for each category of the tier list.
S-Tier Classes & Specializations
The S-Tier represents the most powerful classes in the current meta which provide the highest amount of damage and utility. These specializations and classes are usually the most desired and taken into larger numbers due to their outstanding performance.
Fury Warriors have been always considered one of the most powerful damage dealers in the game. Although they have seen darker days during the TBC era, the clouds seem to have departed for this specialization in the WotLK era; Titan’s Grip is one extraordinary addition that comes with the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, providing the ability to dual-wield two-handed weapons.
Due to this talent and the way that the armor penetration stat works in the WotLK era, fury warriors are a very sought-after addition to any raid or party for their insane damage capabilities, both in single-target scenarios (due to Execute), and in area-of-effect type of scenarios.
Considering utility, they bring Sunder Armor, a debuff they can stack on the target in order to significantly reduce the target’s armor, empowering all the physical damage dealers by doing so.
It is not uncommon for a raid to have several fury warriors, most raids making use of two or three, especially when considering high end-game content.
The Rogue class has always found itself fluctuating in Tier lists, either occupying one of the top spots of the list or being frowned upon by all other classes, at the bottom of the list as a non-PvE-viable class.
In Wrath of the Lich King, one of the specializations that really shines when considering the Rogue class is Combat. Combat Rogues have earned their place as an S-Tier class in the WotLK era, being one of the sought-after specializations for the extreme amount of damage they can dish out, especially as a burst type of damage.
The Rogue class also brings it’s fair share of utility, the ability of disarming traps, and the Tricks of the Trade spell, the latter ability offering the Rogue class a threat management tool.
At the start Rogue’s damage will not honor his true potential, but as the class acquires more equipment its true face is revealed.
Fire Mages are a delicate matter to discuss, since they occupy a well-deserved spot in the S-Tier position due to the fact that their damage capabilities when approaching best-in-slot equipment can be catalogued as monstrous. Yet, they are very gear-reliant overall.
Fire mages have a rough time in the beginning due to the fact that they require a very high amount of critical strike rating, but after they acquire it they become exactly like the advertised product.
With the WotLK era changes, Fire Mages will always find themselves in the top of the DPS charters, utilizing a proc-based gameplay due to Hot Streak and enhanced area of effect capabilities due to Living Bomb.
The Fire Mage’s damage output is so high that they are usually found in large numbers in raids, almost always occupying the first spots on the charters and almost always finding themselves the target of most beneficial utility spells to further enhance their damage.
We have all seen the memes about entire raid groups made up of mages, right?
During the TBC era, the Destruction Warlock dominated the specializations offered for the Warlock class. Now, in the WotLK era, we are witnessing the rise of the Affliction Warlock as the most powerful damage-dealer specialization offered for the Warlock Class.
The Affliction Warlock deserves a spot in the S-Tier position due to the very high damage capabilities it offers while also providing utility.
The specialization has been severely revamped since the TBC era, now focusing on stronger damage capabilities rather than offering buffs for the other players. Warlocks now benefit from more DOT abilities and talents that empower them, such as Malediction, Haunt and Death’s Embrace.
Out of all the three possible specializations, Affliction offers possibly the most powerful execution tool in the game, Drain Soul. Combined with the vast array of DOT abilities the class provides, it allows the Affliction Warlock to race and sometimes even out-damage mages.
Is vengeance your thing? Are you interested in delivering justice?
Then you are lucky, because in the WoLK era the Retribution Paladin finds himself in the S-Tier category, not only bringing a very powerful burst-type of damage capability (which also offers consistency throughout the whole fight), but also a vast array of high-priority utility spells that will provide the raid with the necessary tools in order to obtain victory.
WotLK era provides the Retribution Paladin with a very powerful area of effect spell which also does wonders in a single-target PvE scenario: the Divine Storm. With the addition of Divine Storm, the Retribution Paladin received the required “blessing” in order to find himself in the top of the charts when played properly, right beside mages and fury warriors.
Utility-wise, the class offers different types of auras, beneficial spells (such as hand of protection, hand of freedom, and hand of salvation, respectively), Aura Mastery which is used in rotation between all the Retribution Paladins in the raid, and the very desired Divine Intervention.
Due to the high utility provided by the Retribution Paladin, you can usually find several Retribution Paladins in a raid group, thus making it into the S-Tier by desirability alone, not to mention the big amount of damage they output.
A-Tier Classes & Specializations
The A-Tier represents strong DPS specializations that offer a great amount of damage and utility, while not offering the best possible damage output. They will be found in almost every raid group and it will be common to see more than one of each.
Fortunately, compared to the TBC era, the Marksmanship Hunter rises to the top of the three specializations during the WotLK era, bringing high amounts of damage and a fun playstyle. Marksmanship Hunters provide their raids with powerful single-target damage output and utility.
Marksmanship got revamped altogether, with Chimera Shot being the main attractive addition for the Marksmanship Hunter. They provide a raid-wide enhancing effect, Trueshot Aura, and a very steady amount of damage. This is a specialization which is not necessarily known for bursts, but rather for consistency. This alone makes it worthwhile to be considered an A-Tier specialization.
One of the most important aspects that make a hunter indispensable for a raid is Misdirection. This powerful tool allows Hunters to redirect all the threat to the main tank or the desired target, depending on the encounter, making them one of the most essential and sought-after classes.
Shadow Priests enjoy a much more engaging playstyle, compared to the TBC era: their damage output is considerably higher in WotLK. The Shadow Priest specialization offers a high amount of area of effect capabilities while also providing a very good amount of single-target damage output.
However, the true desirability of this specialization does not lie in the high amount of damage it brings, but rather in its unique utility. Certain encounters require the application of a tactic called “soaking”. This can be done by literally blocking the incoming damage with the Shadow Priest.
This can be realized with the addition of the new end talent that the Shadow Priest has received in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, Dispersion.
Considering the high damage they bring together with the much-required Dispersion and the mana regeneration effect provided by Vampiric Touch, the Shadow Priest receives a well-deserved place in the A-Tier.
The Arcane Mage specialization works as the perfect glass cannon: it will dish out high amounts of damage while having a very simple rotation.
While Arcane Mage might not be a raid necessity, the high burst amount of damage it provides will certainly win its place in the A-Tier.
Arcane brings back the TBC favorite, Arcane Blast. You will find yourself spending most of your time dishing out blast after blast while utilizing a proc system in order to reset the stacks. Other than that, the Arcane Mage provides a 3% damage increase buff called Arcane Empowerment. It will affect all the party and raid members in a 100-yard proximity.
A very welcomed addition to the class roster, Unholy Death Knights provide high amounts of damage, specializing in area of effect damage while also ravaging single-target encounters.
The Unholy Death Knight provides several interesting effects that are very much desired, one of them being the Ebon Plague, an effect that provides increased magical damage on the targets and removes the need for curse of the elements. If some of the points are spent into the frost path as well, they can provide melee haste from Improved Icy Talons.
When properly played, an Unholy Death Knight can dish out a huge amount of single-target damage and AoE damage through the use of Pestilence.
The utility provided together with the high amounts of damage brought by the Unholy Death Knights offer them a solid place in the A-Tier.
If you feel enticed by the fluffy aspect of our moonboys, rest assured by the fact that in the WotLK era the Balance Druid finds itself among the top damage dealers while providing several utility tools as well.
Considering the single-target damage capabilities of the specialization, the Balance druid might not outshine a Fire Mage or an Affliction Warlock, but it will definitely provide a very high burst type of damage.
Regarding area of effect capabilities, the Balance Druid offers one of his trademark abilities, the trustworthy Star fall. One aspect that the Balance Druids will have to watch out for is the threat they will generate. While their spells might not be the most impactful, they will draw their enemies’ attention fairly quick.
One specific utility provided by the Balance Druid is the Earth and Moon debuff, which works akin to the Ebon Plague and the Improved Faerie Fire talent which offer hit rating for other casters in the raid.
B-Tier Classes and Specializations
The B-Tier represents mediocre damage specializations. While their overall damage output will be lower than the upper tiers, they still provide valuable raid buffs and some of them are specifically picked for their very unique utility spells instead of their damage capabilities.
Compared to the TBC era, the Feral Druid gets higher on the Tier list, situated on the B-Tier mainly due to its highly difficult rotation and the necessity of a lot of equipment. While the Feral Druid might not provide the same damage as the higher tier specializations, it will provide two very unique and powerful utility tools.
The first one is Leader of the Pack, which increases melee and ranged critical change for the entire raid. The second one is Feral Faerie Fire, which decreases the armor of the target, an effect that stacks with sunder armor, so it is perfect for the more melee-oriented raid groups.
The Feral Druid will provide a very decent amount of damage output, but due to the high necessity of equipment and skill cap it cannot be situated higher on the tier list.
Another new addition to the tier lists compared to the TBC era, the Frost Death Knights provide a fairly decent amount of damage output. This specialization plays a lot easier than the Unholy Death Knight.
While having an easier playstyle and rune management, the evident downside is the reduced damage output for balancing purposes. The Frost Death Knight brings in a powerful utility tool similar to some of the Unholy Death Knight builds: the Improved Icy Talons.
Overall, the specialization itself does not provide any other specific utility, thus making it a pure damage specialization, often providing mediocre amounts of damage without high-end gear.
The Demonology Warlock finds itself in the B-tier spot due to the fact that the damage provided falls under the burst-type on a long cooldown basis. The overall damage of the specialization itself is sort of low, but the Demonology Warlock is one of the B-tier specializations that might actually deserve a higher spot due to the unique utility it brings, if it was not for the low damage it deals.
First of all, the specialization revolves around procs that are somewhat inconsistent and massively requires Metamorphosis in order to dish out higher amounts of damage. The downside to it is the long cooldown which brings about the low damage of the specialization.
Secondly, the true value and the desirability of the specialization comes from the massive utility that it brings. Demonology Warlock fits into more of a supporting role with the Demonic Pact effect: this buff will affect the entirety of the raid and will provide an increase in spell power afferent to the Warlock’s spellpower. It does pay off to study demonology, doesn’t it?
C-Tier Classes & Specializations
The specializations that make up the C-Tier are on the weaker side due to special mechanics that they must accomplish in order to match the higher tier specializations. They are certainly fun to play, but will be considerably weaker than the rest.
Compared to the TBC era, the Survival Hunter finds itself exactly in the same spot in the C-Tier, bringing weak overall DPS output and a necessity of proximity to the target because of the way the specialization revolves around traps.
The specialization itself provides a fun playstyle but it has a very high requirement for specific gear items, therefore making it harder for it to achieve the same performance as the other specializations.
The survival Hunter also does not provide any specific utility effects other than a refreshment effect shared with shadow priests and retribution paladins.
The Arms Warriors have a tough time finding themselves doing PvE content, seldomly seen or neglected altogether. The Arms warrior finds itself in the C-Tier due to the fact that its damage can still be relevant if properly geared, but it will never approach the same amount of DPS output as a Fury Warrior.
This specialization is mainly used in PvP content. It does bring in a unique debuff for the raid which upholds its spot in the tier list. This debuff is Trauma, an effect which increases the bleed damage sustained by the target by 30%.
While this might sound impressive on its own, the bleed effects provided by the higher tier specializations are scarce, so it is often not desirable, with only the Feral Druid benefiting from this effect.
Elemental Shamans can be quite fun to play for PvP scenarios, but for the PvE content they are situated in the C-Tier due to their low damage output when compared to the other raw damage spellcasters.
They do have an unique buff that they can bring to the raid, the Totem of Wrath, but its effect is shared with the moonkin aura, often rendering it useless.
Overall, the Elemental Shaman can be a nice addition to a raid in case you are lacking a Balance Druid. The meta is harsh indeed.
Enhancement Shamans find themselves in a tough spot as well. They can dish out high amounts of damage, but their rotation is clunky and the gearing process can be daunting.
They are seldomly seen in raids, often being replaced by higher damage dealing specializations and classes. The specialization does not bring any unique utility effects to the raid, therefore barely making it into the C-Tier, often being considered off-meta.
Talk about falling out of Blizzard’s good graces. The Destruction Warlock took a huge hit in the WotLK era, compared to the monstrous damage dealer it was in the TBC era.
Its damage is now mediocre to extremely weak at best, with no execution tool, while the rest of the Warlock specializations each have their own, tuned, perfectly working execution phase.
All in all, still a fun class to play that can output enough damage in order to not be considered a meme, but the specialization itself does not bring any specific utility tools to the raid except a mana refreshment effect which is shared with the other classes. A certain disappointment compared to its glory days.
D-Tier Classes and Specializations
When we refer to the D-Tier we are talking about the entirely off-meta choices, specializations that are not sought after in the raid and sometimes are straight up viewed as a meme. Do not expect to justify your raid spot when choosing to pursue these specializations in raiding.
The Frost Mage specialization is not designed for the PvE content. While some people might try to justify its authenticity, the specialization does not perform well at all: it brings the worst damage output out of the three specializations and no utility whatsoever. This specialization is mainly made for PvP scenarios.
Assassination Rogue has a quirky build that must be respected in order to even touch the damage output of the Combat Rogue.
The gearing process of the Assassination Rogue requires extremely specific items and even after acquiring the desired items you might find that the results on the charts are way below your expectations.
All in all it is a specialization that is viewed in a very bad light, in a sort of a meme-ish way, by the serious raid organisers. You should not expect to have a spot dedicated for assassination rogues over combat rogues.
The Subtlety Rogue specialization faces the same criteria as the Frost Mage specialization. It simply is a specialization made entirely for PvP content and it brings no utility whatsoever to the raid group. Overall, a specialization with weak damage for PvE scenarios.
Just like the Destruction Warlock, the Beast Mastery Hunter was a powerhouse in the TBC era and took a major hit, going from being the most desired specialization for its huge damage output and raid-wide damage empowerment, to being one of the weakest specializations in the game for PvE content.
The Beast Mastery Hunter brings one utility spell, Ferocious Inspiration, which is sadly not stackable with the Arcane Empowerment from the Arcane Mage specialization, rendering the Beast Mastery Hunter’s utility entirely useless.
The specialization itself, however, plays entirely different in PvP scenarios, a place where it shines just like the old TBC days.