What race should you play in WoW Classic?
Back in the day — “the day” being late 2004 to early 2007, when World of Warcraft didn’t have any expansions yet — the choice of what race to play was a lot simpler and also a ton more complicated. There are several reasons — for starters, you simply didn’t have as many options back then. As we go into WoW Classic, those days are making a comeback and you’ll get to experience why every Alliance Priest felt pressured to be a Dwarf, all Horde Warriors wished they were Orcs or Tauren at least once.
But at least Every Man For Himself wasn’t introduced until Patch 3.0.2, so you won’t have to worry about that one.
So let’s talk about every race in the game and why you might want to play as one.
What do you want to play?
The first part is wholly subjective. What do you want to feel like when you play? Do you have a faction already picked out? That’ll make half of your choice for you — if you’re playing Horde, your options are Troll, Tauren, Forsaken and Orc, and that’s it. No Blood Elves, no Pandaren, and no Goblins, and absolutely no Allied Races.
Since each race only gets a few class options — Trolls can pick six out of eight available classes, Orcs and Forsaken can pick five, and Tauren can only pick four — if you’ve picked a class you want, that informs your racial choice as well. If you want to play a healer Alliance side? You can’t play a Gnome — they don’t get access to a healing class.
Here’s a breakdown of every race and the classes they can play in WoW Classic.
- Humans can play Warriors, Paladins, Rogues, Priests, Mages and Warlocks
- Dwarves can play Warriors, Paladins, Rogues, Priests and Hunters
- Night Elves can play Warriors, Rogues, Druids, Priests and Hunters
- Gnomes can play Warriors, Rogues, Mages and Warlocks
- Orcs can play Warriors, Shaman, Hunters, Warlocks and Rogues
- Forsaken can play Warriors, Rogues, Priests, Mages and Warlocks
- Tauren can play Warriors, Hunters, Druids and Shaman
- Trolls can play Warriors, Hunters, Rogues, Shaman, Priests and Mages
I find everyone has their own personal aesthetic tastes. For example, I love Tauren in plate armor, and think Orcs look sick as heck using big freaking axes. You might prefer to watch a Gnome Rogue buzzsaw their way through their enemies. Whatever feels best to you is something you’ll have to decide for yourself, but at the end of the day, being happier with your choice is likely to keep you playing over a bonus to your engineering skill.
But if you’re only interested in the practicalities and want to pick the best race, you want to look at every race’s traits (and remember: Priests have their own, class-specific racial traits). We’ll take a look at each race in turn
Orc racial abilities reflect the race’s origins and thematic influences. That said, they’re kind of niche.
Command gives Orc Hunters and Warlocks an extra 5% damage from their pets, which is great for Hunters and Warlocks, and not good for anybody else. Meanwhile, in WoW Classic, Blood Fury grants 25% more Melee Attack Power, which is great for melee classes and useless for ranged like Warlocks or Hunters. I know, on live it’s better for ranged, but this ain’t live and the way the ability worked in patch 1.12.0 it added 25% Melee AP and put a 50% debuff on all healing received. That’s how it was back then.
Axe Specialization gave Orcs an extra 5 Weapon Skill points with Axes, which is good for any Warriors, Shaman and unlucky Hunters when they’re in melee range trying to Raptor Strike and run out of the dead zone. Finally, Hardiness adds an extra 25% chance to not be stunned.
Rating: C overall, B for Warlocks and Hunters and Axe Warriors/Shaman.
Since Rogues couldn’t use Axes back then, it comes down to Hunters and Warlocks who want the DPS boost for their pets, and Warriors and Shaman who want to use an Axe. A lot of DPS Warriors using Axes chose Orc and it wasn’t a bad choice between Blood Fury and Axe Specialization — the Arcanite Reaper was feared for a reason.
The Undead, or Forsaken, may have some pretty weird racials, but one of them — Will of the Forsaken — is so good that until the arrival of Every Man For Himself it was considered the most brokenly good PVP racial out there. Nowadays there’s some debate on that centering around Blood Elf silences, but back in the day WotF was the gold standard. The version of WotF you’ll be getting in WoW Classic is the slightly nerfed one introduced in patch 1.6, but it’s still pretty potent. WotF has a 2 minute cooldown, and removes existing Charm, Fear and Sleep effects and grants immunity to them for the next five seconds after use.
As good as Will of the Forsaken was, everything else the Forsaken got was… okay. Underwater Breathing allowed them to hold their breath 300% as long as others. Cannibalize, on a 2 minute cooldown, let you regenerate 7% of your health every 2 seconds for 10 seconds, as long as there was a humanoid or undead corpse in the area for you to eat. And finally Shadow Resistance added 10 to your base Shadow Resistance.
Rating: B purely due to Will of the Forsaken. Also, Forsaken Priests could learn the spell Devouring Plague, which was a solid choice for Shadow Priests at the time.
Well, Tauren are awesome looking, and if you plan to tank they have Endurance, which adds 5% to your health. That’s pretty solid, and their Nature Resistance racial is the same as the one Night Elves have. But they also get Cultivation, which adds 15 to your Herbalism skill — great if you’re an herbalist and completely useless if you don’t want to be one.
Finally, they have War Stomp, an 2 second AoE stun that can hit up to 5 targets, takes .5 of a second to cast, and has a 2 minute cooldown, making them extremely fearsome in PVP.
Rating: B for tanks, C for everyone else.
Look, I love Tauren, and I think Endurance and War Stomp are magical. It’s not like there’s not a solid amount of PVE uses for War Stomp, either — as a spell interrupt on mobs that can be stunned, as a means to escape a bad situation — it has solid utility. But Cultivation is only good for herbalism and the various resistances never really struck me as particularly good or bad, they’re just there.
If you want to play a Darkspear Troll in WoW Classic, you get a real mixed bag of abilities.
Beast Slaying means you do 5% more damage to beasts. Beasts are basically animals. So an elemental or an undead or aberration don’t count, but those Zhevra you’re trying to get hooves from? Those are beasts. Basically, if a Hunter could tame it, you do 5% more damage to it on a Troll.
Also, Trolls get Bow Specialization for +5 to their Bow skill and Throwing Specialization for +5 to their Throwing Weapons skill. Finally, there’s Berserking, which has got some seriously confusing wording.
I mean, look at that mess. Nowadays it’s just straightforward haste but back in the day — and thus in WoW Classic — this is what you get for your Berserking choice. It’s a 3 minute cooldown that increases your casting and attack speeds more if you’re more damaged, so in order to optimize it you’ll have to wait until you’re bottoming out on health before you use it. It’s a useful panic button when you just got jumped by another mob out in the world, but it’s really more trouble than it’s worth with that formulation.
Also, Regeneration gives Trolls an extra 10% health regen, which works even when the Troll is in combat or otherwise unable to gain normal health regen. It ends up not being as great as it might sound, in the end it’s not particularly noticeable.
Look, Trolls get a lot of weird abilities like Berserking or Regeneration that sound great on paper but don’t actually work out to much. Throwing Specialization is almost wasted entirely, and Bow Spec is good for Hunters. Beast Slaying is a little extra damage when you’re fighing beasts and nothing when you aren’t.
Humans came with a variety of interesting racial abilities.
Sword Specialization and Mace Specialization means Humans get +5 Weapon Skill with Swords, Two-Handed Swords, Maces and Two-Handed Maces. These two passive abilities make humans less likely to miss when using swords and maces, which is always good.
The racial ability The Human Spirit will increase Spirit by 5%, which is decent for mana regeneration but doesn’t really do much else. The Perception racial is an instant ability on a 3 minute cooldown that allows Humans to greatly increase their stealth detection. Since it’s an instant and you’d only use it if you suspected someone was stealthing around you anyway, it’s moderately good for PVP in WoW Classic.
Finally, there’s Diplomacy. The racial that has never been changed in the history of WoW, that’s just as good on live as it was back then, a flat 10% bonus reputation whenever your human gains rep. So if you gain 10 rep from a quest? You gain 11 rep. Over time this really adds up, and it’s been the envy of many a player during many a rep grind. Possibly the best racial in the history of World of Warcraft.
The fact is, Diplomacy is just that good. I played a human throughout the original WoW run and while I had other Warrior alts I played, the Human remained my main throughout original World of Warcraft entirely because it was a lot easier to get various reputations to Exalted with that extra 10% Rep per rep gain. Perception, Sword and Mace Specialization are all okay, but Diplomacy is just amazing.
Gnomes are a fascinating race and one with some pretty interesting racial abilities, especially for spell casters. It should be noted that in WoW Classic there are Shamans, Druids, Priests and Paladins as healing classes, and Gnomes can’t play as any of them, so only Warlocks and Mages get the benefit of their Expansive Mind racial. In WoW Classic it gives you 5% more Intelligence, which helps with mana pool.
They also get Escape Artist — not as good as Will of the Forsaken, maybe, but it does allow them to get out of any Movement Speed debuff like Wing Clip or Hamstring as well as any immobilization effect, on a one minute cooldown which is pretty solid. Also, they get Arcane Resistance, adding 10 to their Resistance to Arcane spells, and finally Engineering Specialization increases Engineering by 15.
Rating: A for Engineer Mages and Warlocks, B for any Engineers or PVPers or Mages/Warlocks, B minus for anyone else
Escape Artist is solidly good, Expansive Mind is great for casters, Engineering Specialization is good for one of the most in-demand professions at the time. Gnomes have a solid suite of racial options.
First up, as of now on the WoW Classic Beta, Dwarves do not have Mace Specialization. This is a case where I could swear I remember them having it, but various online sources seem to agree with the Beta, so I’m just mentioning it here in case my faulty memory is right. At any rate, this leaves Dwarves with Stoneform, a 3 minute cooldown useful for tanking or PVP that grants immunity to bleeds, poisons and diseases and adds 10% armor, all for 8 seconds. It’s a very solid mini-cooldown for tanks or anyone getting focused in PVP.
Aside from that, they get Gun Specialization — an extra 5 points in the Guns weapon skill — and the Find Treasure racial, which lets you find chests and other treasures on the minimap the same way Miners can find ore nodes and Herbalists can find plant nodes. You get an extra +10 to your Frost Resistance skill.
Rating: D, C for Dwarf Hunters or dedicated PVPers, B for Dwarf tanks.
Stoneform is pretty strong as an extra tank cooldown. Aside from that? Dwarf racials aren’t very good. There’s one exception — Dwarf Priests. Because Priests get special racial spells, Dwarf Priests are almost required for raiding Alliance side due to Fear Ward, especially on bosses like Onyxia who could fear the tank and cause them to turn and run away, becoming vulnerable to crushing blows that would inflict a great deal of damage. Dwarf Priests became the single most popular Priest option Alliance side.
So, what about Night Elf racials? Well, two of them are very good. Shadowmeld, castable on a 10 second cooldown, allows your Night Elf to enter a state similar to steath while standing still, which means you can pop your character into Shadowmeld while trying to wait for healing or a debuff to clear and worry less that nearby mobs will aggro you. Anyone with Shadowmeld back in the day used it so they could go AFK for a bathroom break with less hassle, and it also provides a bonus to stealth checks for Feral Druids and Rogues.
After Shadowmeld, the best Night Elf racial is Quickness. A passive ability, it adds a flat 1% dodge, which makes it really excellent for tanks in endgame because that’s a free 1% to the Dodge stat without itemization. Nature Resistance, like all the racial resistances, adds 10 to the Night Elf’s Nature Resistance stat — it’ll come in useful for the Dragons of Nightmare and AQ40, but it’s nothing special otherwise. Finally, Wisp Form means that when you die you’ll run 50% faster back to your body, which isn’t a racial you’d ever want to have to use.
Rating: B for tanks and stealth capable characters, C for everyone else.
Shadowmeld is great, especially for stealthers, and both Quickness and Nature Resistance have appeal to a tank, but Wisp Form is really underwhelming. It has flavor, but it’s not a racial you’ll be excited to have.
In the end, it’s up to you
I can’t tell you what you’ll be happiest playing. I knew Forsaken Warriors and Troll Shaman, Gnome Rogues and Human Priests. People often chose what they felt the most comfortable with, except Priests — they picked Dwarf or Forsaken and they liked it. If they didn’t like it, they liked the almost guaranteed raid spot.
In the end, this is a character that you’ll either play for a while or get sick of and abandon, so make the choice that makes it less likely you’ll get sick of it.
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