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Warcraft > WoW ClassicJul 13, 2022 2:30 pm CT

Which DPS specs will top the meters in Wrath of the Lich King Classic?

Wrath of the Lich King Classic should be here by the end of the year, and I can’t wait to revisit Northrend and relive some of my favorite encounters. Many in the community are expecting Paladins to be a popular class while others expect the new Death Knight class to fill up the servers. Whatever the case, Plate armor is sure to be in demand.

But what if you’d like to play something else? There are many factors that players consider when they pick a class. Which classes and specs will dominate the DPS meters in Wrath Classic? Let’s dive in and find out — though bear in mind that we’re only looking at raw output and not taking into consideration any utility provided, so if you’re interested in more than pure DPS be sure to keep classes’ extended abilities in mind.

Changes in Wrath Classic should have the DPS classes performing closer to the original Wrath of the Lich King

Wrath Classic will launch with the specs at the state of its final patch, patch 3.3.5, just as Burning Crusade Classic and WoW Classic launched with the specs in their final patch state. It will also have #SomeChanges from the original, though we think the impact on DPS will be minimal.

The key one for analyzing potential DPS performance is the health pools of the bosses, and Blizzard is making some tweaks there:

One change we have decided to make, is to increase the health and damage of monsters in Naxxramas.

Based on what we saw in Burning Crusade Classic and WoW Classic, if the developers didn’t make this change, the bosses are going to die quickly and have shorter execute phases. This would have caused several classes to perform worse in Wrath Classic than they did in the original game, but none more so than Affliction Warlocks who get a huge increase to their DPS in the execute phase.

The best DPS classes in Naxxramas (Phase 1)

The very best

  • Assassination Rogue
  • Frost Death Knight
  • Unholy Death Knight
  • Enhancement Shaman
  • Affliction Warlock

In Naxxramas, melee DPS who use magic schools like Frost or Nature to do much of their damage will perform well. These classes don’t need much Armor Penetration which is fairly scarce on early Wrath gear. The Death Knights will pull ahead of the Rogues and Shamans on cleave fights, and Drain Soul gets a 4X multiplier in the execute phase which will have Affliction climbing the charts late in the fights.

Quite good

  • Survival Hunter
  • Arcane Mage
  • Demonology Warlock
  • Combat Rogue
  • Feral Druid

These five classes, aren’t the best, but they’re still pretty good and easily beat out specs with notable weaknesses in this tier. Beast Mastery Hunters actually start out strong before the other classes gear up, but it quickly gives way. The Beast Mastery raid buff, Ferocious Inspiration, is overwritten by the superior Arcane Empowerment buff from the Arcane Mages. In addition, Arcane Mages can hang with the best DPS classes on melee unfriendly encounters. Retribution Paladin, Arms Warrior, Balance Druid, Shadow Priest, and Fury Warrior will shine on AOE and cleave, fights but they can’t produce numbers like the classes I’ve listed here on single target encounters. Frost Mages and Subtlety Rogues struggle thought the expansion and it starts in Naxxramas.

The best DPS classes in Ulduar (Phase 2)

The very best

  • Feral Druid
  • Combat Rogue
  • Affliction Warlock

Things will change as players gear up and head into Ulduar. Success in this raid comes down to how good your set bonus performs. Feral and Combat see the biggest boost from theirs, and both classes also benefit from getting more Armor Penetration.

Quite good

  • Frost Death Knight
  • Unholy Death Knight
  • Enhancement Shaman
  • Arcane Mage
  • Fire Mage
  • Survival Hunter
  • Marksmanship Hunter
  • Demonology Warlock
  • Assassination Rogue

While the top two performers are outliers, many DPS specs perform well in Ulduar. Even for classes that didn’t make this list, Ulduar features more AOE and cleave fights like Freya and XT-002, among others: on those fights, you’ll see specs like Fury Warrior, Balance Druid, Retribution Paladin, and Shadow Priest perform at the same level as the specs listed here.

But while everyone else is getting sweet new toys, the set bonuses fro Beast Mastery Hunters, Destruction Warlocks, and Arms Warrior aren’t as good, so those specs start to lag behind. You won’t see many Frost Mages or Subtlety Rogues, either, since those classes have superior options (Combat, Arcane/Fire).

The best DPS classes in Trial of the Crusader (Phase 3)

The very best

  • Frost Death Knight
  • Unholy Death Knight
  • Marksmanship Hunter
  • Fire Mage

You’ll probably notice Death Knight has been a fixture in these “best” lists. They remain a dominant DPS class, despite all the nerfs they received by patch 3.3.5. As in Ulduar, the Death Knight set bonuses are among the best in this tier and give the class a huge power spike. But by this point in the expansion, everyone has gotten better gear: Marksmanship Hunters finally have access to enough Armor Penetration and Fire Mages have enough crit to shine above the other specs.

Quite good

  • Arcane Mage
  • Survival Hunter
  • Combat Rogue
  • Feral Druid
  • Fury Warrior
  • Enhancement Shaman

As I’ve mentioned, the quality of the tier set bonus plays a big role in how the specs perform, and we see some classes with less powerful set bonuses falling off the list. Elemental Shaman and all of the Warlock specs significant drops from Ulduar to Trial of the Crusader. It’s particularly hard on Frost Mages, Subtlety Rogues, Beast Mastery Hunters, and Arms Warriors since they can easily switch to higher-performing specialization at the click of a button — they’ll need to get some new gear first.

The best DPS classes in Icecrown Citadel (Phase 4)

The very best

  • Fury Warrior
  • Fire Mage
  • Feral Druid
  • Combat Rogue
  • Affliction Warlock

It’s a tale as old as World of Warcraft. Fury Warriors are like a train: they’re slow to get going at the beginning of an expansion, but once they get geared at the end of the expansion they become an unstoppable force. The power of Armor Penetration is on full display in Icecrown. All these specs — except for the Mage — scale well with more AP, and players have now had an entire expansion to collect it. Fire Mages keep up by getting enough Critical Strike Rating to keep their Hot Streak rolling.

Quite good

  • Frost Death Knight
  • Unholy Death Knight
  • Retribution Paladin
  • Marksmanship Hunter

The Death Knights finally have to give up their spots at the top, and Retribution Paladin is no longer just a cleave all-star. Survival Hunter starts to sink in Icecrown to join Destruction Warlocks and Elemental Shaman. Beast Mastery Hunters and Arms Warriors remain low performers — sorry BRK. Frost Mage and Subtlety Rogue struggle even more.

Which DPS class should you choose?

Set bonuses and scaling are the two biggest contributors to a DPS class moving up or down the rankings as you move from Phase to Phase in Wrath Classic, though there will always be some variation from fight to fight and from player to player. Some specs do better with cleave fights, some do better or worse with target switching and the amount of movement required. There’s always pressure on on players who choose a classes with multiple DPS options to play the best performing spec for that class.

Top DPS classes throughout Wrath of the Lich King

  • Death Knight
    • Both Death Knight DPS specs remain strong throughout the expansion.
  • Rogue
    • Assassination starts out powerful but most Rogues will have switched over to Combat by Ulduar. If you love Subtlety, Wrath isn’t the expansion for you as Subtlety Rogue is a consistent poor performer.
  • Druid
    • Feral Druids remain strong throughout the expansion while Balance is only an okay performer.
  • Warlock
    • #SomeChanges should have you feeling the nostalgia of Warlock power. As long as you can grit your teeth through Trial of the Crusader, you’re in great shape for the rest of the expansion. Most Warlocks will be Affliction, but some will be Demonology. Any Destruction Warlocks are probably playing for the utility the spec brings to certain Hard Mode encounters.

Solid DPS choices throughout Wrath of the Lich King

  • Shaman
    • Enhancement starts off as one of the best DPS specs, but slips to be middle of the pack by the end of the expansion.
  • Hunter
    • Hunters are likely to start out as Beast Mastery when everyone has terrible gear before switching to Survival before the end of the Naxxramas. The rest of the expansion is a steady migration from Survival to Marksmanship as Hunters get more and more Armor Penetration. If you love Beast Mastery, Wrath might not be the best expansion for you.
  • Mage
    • Mages will go from Arcane in Naxxramas to Fire in the later raids. Like Beast Mastery Hunters and Subtlety Rogues, Frost Mages just aren’t a great choice from a pure numbers point of view.
  • Warrior
    • Warriors will be in the fight for Plate armor with all the Paladins and Death Knights. But the key question if you’re thinking about Warrior for Wrath Classic is how patient you can be. Fury starts off slow, but it becomes a wrecking ball by the end. Arms is never competitive.
  • Paladin
    • Retribution Paladins, who also want Plate armor, are mostly cleave and AOE stars. Retribution does perform well in Icecrown, even on single target, if you can be patient and hold out until late game.
  • Priest
    • Shadow Priests are in a similar position o Retribution Paladins as the cleave/AOE/multi-DOT star, but never really gets competitive on single target encounters.

Will these kinds of tier lists have a big influence on what you are going to play in Wrath of the Lich King Classic? I have a hard time seeing myself as anything but a Paladin. Hunter is my second favorite class, but I prefer Beast Mastery over Marksmanship.

Special thanks to MetaGoblin and Toyhouze for their videos which provided key information for this article.

Originally published June 23, 2022

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