World of Warcraft - where all our MMO dreams began. It remains the world's most successful, highly populed MMORPG with a peak of 12 million in 2010, and seven years later, clocks in at a healthy 5.5 million. The game is a mainstay of Blizzard Entertainment's successful Warcraft franchise, which even saw its first commercial film release last summer, was first released in 2004 and has steadily trucked along with six expansions in the ensuing years.
Taking place on Azeroth, the mythical world of Warcraft, the game begins approximately four years after the last title in the franchise, Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne, an RTS title like its predecessors.
One subject of contention among WoW neophytes and old hands alike has been its class system. While the meta has shifted over the years, the current incarnation of classes - including the newer Death Knight and Monk classes has paved the way for a more interesting debate than ever before. Which class is best? Which is the unabashed worst? In recent expansions, dating back to Cataclysm and going all the way to the current Legion, many of the classes have been heavily balanced, their roles changed and expanded. But still, there must be a "best" out there somewhere. Find it all here, where we have broken the contenders down for you, at no expense.
15 Best: Enhancement Shaman
We begin at one of the Horde mainstays - the Enhancement Shaman. While both the Horde and the Alliance have access to the badassery that is the Enhancement Shaman, there is no doubt that the majority of players are Horde. It's got some iconic abilities with the kit: such as Stormstrike and Windfury. Apart from that, they have the free hearth: Astral Recall, have Far Sight, and can become Spectral Wolves. Combined with their totems, Enhancement Shaman's are powerful group-buff DPS'ers, and are pretty versatile in their own right. They don't mind getting down and dirty in melee with a buffed up weapon. That versatility in their kit makes them deadly, hard to kill, and team-oriented - a hard mix to beat.
14 Worst: Frost Mage
Ok, so, inevitably, we have to tackle the Frost Mage. Why does it suck? Well, for starters, compared to other spellcasting DPS's the Frost Mage just can't stack up when it comes to hard damage. Yes, it can debuff, slow, and so on, but the takedown of an opponent is more technical and less about dealing the killing blow (or even as much damage as possible). By nerfing other enemies, the Frost Mage is spending time using area of effect cooldowns, which is great for crowd control, but just can't beat other iterations of the same class. People are scared of dueling the Frost Mage for these nerfing and slowing abilities, but it can't compare to Arcane or Fire when it comes to straight, gut-wrenching damage. It's a direct tradeoff: damage for utility, one that is rarely worth it.
13 Best: Fire Mage
And then we have the Fire Mage, the one capable of doing hella' damage to hella' crowds. Between the burn factor, their slew of devastating cooldowns such as: fireball, fire blast, and pyroblast, and their blink ability, they are a somewhat mobile ranged DPS dealer. They can beat down any enemy's health bar to zero, usually before the enemy has had a chance to get a hit on them. The Fire Mage is about pouring on the damage, both in quick blast and Damage over Time. Apart from this, Fire Mage's also do the best AoE damage, between Living Bomb and Mastery: Ignite. They are the most mobile of all three iterations of the mage, and that makes them a real difficulty to deal with.
12 Worst: Warlock
Why no specification on the kind of warlock that is the worst? No Affliction Warlock, no Demonology Warlock - just plain Warlock. Why is that? Quite simply, the Warlock is a risky character - an off-kilter, high payoff DPS spellcaster. That alone puts it into the "Worst" territory, a fact that is compounded by knowing Warlocks, at least in most of their iterations, cannot bring sizeable burst damage to their role. While much of their abilities are DoT, which can have its advantages, it makes it difficult to get value and versatility on the fly. Whether you are raiding, in PvP or PvE, it just seems that warlocks are slightly under powered. They are a difficult class, and whether you pick Demonology, Affliction, or Destruction, you encounter your own array of setbacks.
11 Best: Vengeance Demon Hunter
Now we come to the newest class, the Vengeance Demon Hunter, from the Legion expansion. This iteration is a mobility-tank class, that exists as a good AoE tank, able to engage and disengage quickly, aggro effectively, self-heal, and mitigate damage. It is a versatile tank with some of the greatest mobility specs in the game. One of their signature abilities, Infernal strike, acts as both a mobility move, like Blink, and a quick attack. Vengeance demon hunters are the heavily armed ninjas of the WoW world, capable of double-jumping, running around and causing havoc for the enemy while other DPS in the party or raid pick off what's left when they're not looking. Apart from that, they can nullify magic damage, and have huge burst healing potential. A versatile, dangerous attack tank, it remains to be seen how effective they are as the main tank, as they are quite new, but, safe to say, things for them are looking quite good.
10 Worst: Hunter
Hunters just aren't getting the love these days. For a start, much of their viability at the top level is dependent upon getting the correct legendary gear, without which they have a significant class disadvantage when compared to others. They are relatively easy to pickup and play, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're great, or that at higher levels, they have an advantage. Yes, they are excellent single target damage dealers, but their difficulty lies in limited target switching, as you're both playing the beast that acts as the tank, and the hunter who deals the damage. Switching on and off targets requires serious micromanagement and is just downright impossible sometimes. Mobility is also significantly hindered by their Aimed Shot ability, in Marksmanship iterations, at least. Playing them just doesn't feel versatile or fun - engaging an enemy is a given, a straightforward take down, repeated forever. For these reasons and others, they just can't hold up to other classes from a viability and a "fun" standpoint.
9 Best: Fury Warrior
Ah, and then we have the Fury Warrior - the high damage dealing tank. What a bit of fun to play! This tank relies on high damage, on powerful AoE abilities like Odyn's Fury, and on a strong Cleave due to the Meat Cleaver ability. They are probably the most powerful and versatile tank's in the meta right now, as they are perfectly capable of dealing with multi-target scenario's, thanks to their ability to switch off target selection without any downsides. Beyond, that, they have low cooldown abilities, and that mainstay, the Enrage, which allows you to sustain high damage against an enemy, it is probably the most powerful melee specialization right now.
8 Worst: Elemental Shaman
What the Elemental Shaman has in versatility, it loses in viability next to other classes. While it may seem that they have always had a place at the table, when it comes to raiding, or PvP, they have poor movement, and usually, lose out in burst damage to Mages or other ranged DPS. While damage for the specialization has been buffed lately, their flexibility is increasingly feeling like a fall back for people who don't really know what they want. All the essentials of the Enhancement tool kits —the totems and so on— are what one thinks of when one thinks of a good Shaman, a general buff DPS with high burst, but the Elemental lacks much of this, focusing on damage dealing exclusively. It simply does not have the same utility as an Enhancement Shaman.
7 Best: Guardian Druid
Guardians in their current form are very well balanced, able to deal with all incoming damage types well, and have great utility whether you are in raid or PvP. The Druid, in general, is a powerhouse of versatility, that is constantly fun to play, throughout all the patches and expansions. Guardians are excellent at AoE tanking, and because they have such a high health pool, they can take the damage without issue. They have seen quite a few changes to their abilities in the last few patches, especially towards the AoE side of things, and this has been for the better. For example, in 7.2 Intimidating Roar now roots enemies to the ground rather than disorienting them. The more that this AoE focus is taken, the more viable they come, and they are in a very healthy place at the moment.
6 Worst: Monk
Blizzard has had significant troubles with this class since its release in the Mists of Pandaria expansion, and it still is faltering in its footing to this day. They are not easy to play (think: non_combat rogue). Finding appropriate gear remains a problem, though it is much better than it was in the past. They falter under significant damage, and don't have great utility for raiding. That is not to say they aren't fun to play, but they are strangely "micro-managey," and have yet to find a viable spot in a team setting. It was an honest attempt at Blizzard to create a new kind of class. Whether you are a BrewMaster or WindWalker, there is the sense that you are playing a unique class, unlike anything seen in the game before. Invariably, this comes with its own pros and cons.
5 Best: Holy Priest
Talk about smooth. The Holy Priest is the best AoE healer in the game, beyond any doubt. While they suffer the same mobility issues as the Elemental Shaman, that is less of a problem since they are usually at the back of the pack when it comes raiding. While being great AoE healers, they are also perfectly capable of focusing on a single target and doing great burst healing. Playing a healer is all about the party —in order to level up and get the "fun" you want— you are restricted to playing as a group in dungeons and so on, but this is true for any of the Priests. What sets the holy priest apart is their AoE healing abilities, which are a mainstay. As this is the case, they will always have a central place in any raiding party. There are few downsides to the class in this regard.
4 Worst: All Rogues But One
Rogues can get a bad rap, but don't fear, this is for a very logical reason. They are mostly selfish when it comes to DPS, and don't fit all that well, necessarily, into a raid or party scenario. For the Assassination iteration, there is the issue of low burst damage potential, in that all the Damage is over time, via poisons and such. What rogues have is great defenses, and even better mobility, making them survivalists - but they are certainly not great team players, and are infamous for this. Subtlety rogues rely exclusively on the Stealth ability, but this doesn't necessarily mean they are any more viable than other classes in terms of team play. For soloing or leveling up, sure, rogues are fine, but there is a ceiling to their fun. There is a limited payoff to playing either Assassination or Subtlety.
3 Best: Outlaw Rogue
What is a rogue's redeeming quality? Well, it's the Outlaw specialization, of course. A new specialization, it was birthed out of the old "Combat Rogue" tree, and carries over much of the "jack of all trades" feel. They are versatile, capable of dealing with most, any, combat situations, and they are the most effective at the Heavy Cleave melee ability. Also, they are not horrible at dealing with AoE, unlike other rogues. The sacrifice here is the limited ceiling for single target damage, and a general variance in damage output. This can be mitigated by watching cool downs closely, and through perfecting the timing of your abilities. However, this is not a great raiding choice, but it remains strong in other areas of the game, and is by far the most fun iteration to play.
2 Worst: Death Knight
Who came up with this class? Seriously? Whether you are Blood, Frost, or Unholy, there are strange game mechanics involved with playing Death Knight, which in turn has made them a less played class of late. The worst of these specializations is certainly Frost, which has gotten no love from players. It has terrible mobility and slow DPS, and its position in the game can be beaten by other specializations from other classes. As for Blood, the entire idea is taking damage in order to get payoff, which is a difficult concept at best. They are a healing tank class, which feels quite a lot less useful than, say, a Guardian Druid. These specializations all lack unique, useful abilities, and therefore lack viability when it comes to raiding. Even the Unholy specialization, the least useless, requires a ramp up to get high DPS, and has little versatility. Despite this, there is a high level of preference for legendary items, at least for the Unholy specialization.
1 Best: Balance Druid
And then we come to the badassery that is the Balance Druid (or the boomkin, as it was called in early WoW because of their propensity for being out of mana). But God, druids are great. Seriously, everyone should start playing them. The Balance Druid performs well in either single or multiple target DPS, with their multi-DoT abilities. The sacrifice here is in burst damage, where they lag behind other classes, but that is less important than it might seem. They require dedication to get right, but they have a huge payoff when it comes to tanking multiple targets. It is as entertaining a specialization as it is challenging. Also, several talents in recent patches have been buffed, including Stellar Drift. In terms of playability, it is at the very top, despite its various difficulties. The play style is unique, but unlike the Death Knight or Monk, it doesn't feel forced or strange. It's natural, able to be switching roles and tasks constantly, in a fluid, fun, keep-you-on-your-toes, sort of way. It fits into the meta like a glove.