DPS Rankings / Tier List for Phase 4 of Wrath of the Lich King Classic
While DPS in Wrath Classic have very different power levels which determine to which extent you want to stack them, all healers and tanks are welcomed in Raids and Dungeons, as they all have unique benefits that are worth learning about.
We will be ranking each DPS class available in Wrath Classic below, alongside a short explanation on the reasoning behind its position. This list will be kept updated as Wrath Classic progresses, in order to always reflect the current meta DPS ranks.
DPS Rankings Summary
You can find below a quick summary of the current PvE DPS rankings:
- Unholy Death Knight (S-Tier)
- Affliction Warlock (S-Tier)
- Fire Mage (A-Tier)
- Survival Hunter (A-Tier)
- Feral DPS Druid (A-Tier)
- Combat Rogue (B-Tier)
- Balance Druid (B-Tier)
- Fury Warrior (B-Tier)
- Shadow Priest (B-Tier)
- Assassination Rogue (B-Tier)
- Retribution Paladin (B-Tier)
- Demonology Warlock (B-Tier)
- Enhancement Shaman (B-Tier)
- Arcane Mage (C-Tier)
- Elemental Shaman (C-Tier)
- Frost Death Knight (C-Tier)
- Destruction Warlock (C-Tier)
- Marksmanship Hunter (D-Tier)
- Beast Mastery Hunter (D-Tier)
- Arms Warrior (D-Tier)
- Frost Mage (D-Tier)
- Subtlety Rogue (D-Tier)
In order to further understand the reasoning behind these ranks, we would recommend you read the rest of the page, as that is explained in more detail in the next few sections.
Healer and Tank Class Rankings
If you are interested in other PvE role rankings for Wrath Classic, check the following links:
DPS Rankings Explained
When sorting out the rankings for DPS in PvE, we are primarily concerned with two things:
- Damage Throughput — first and foremost, DPS are there to deal damage. The value brought by each class and spec to the raid is primarily determined by how much damage they provide. This is calculated both by each spec's personal DPS combined with the value of the buffs and debuffs that they may bring.
- Desirability — expanding on the last sentence above, there are stark differences in how "desirable" certain DPS classes are depending on the number that you bring to raid. A significant factor in tier list placement is determined by the number of each spec that you might want in a raid group. For instance, Balance Druids are incredibly important for raiding because they bring an extremely important debuff that benefits the whole raid, but their personal damage is quite mediocre. The value of the first Balance Druid in the raid is huge, but the second Balance Druid has significantly less value. At the end of the day, the question we are trying to answer is how desirable your class and spec is to a raid.
One important change to emphasize is that in Wrath Classic, almost every single spec in the game brings some sort of important raid buff. However, all raid buffs now come from multiple sources, so a single buff could be brought by 3 or 4 different specs. These buffs do not stack from different sources if it is the same buff. This means that for our purposes, outside of a couple of niche cases, we will be ignoring raid buffs for the most part. You should always ensure that your raid has all of the possible buffs, but there are numerous places to get each one, meaning with a moderately diverse raid comp you should be fine.
We recommend consulting our guide to recommended raid compositions to see more of this principle in action.
S-Tier Classes and Specializations
These are the best DPS specializations for the final tier tier of Wrath Classic. Specifically, these are the DPS specializations that you will commonly see stacked in Raids for how strong they are. You should expect to see multiple of these in most raid groups.
Unholy Death Knight
Thanks to their powerful spec cooldowns, Unholy has some of the highest burst damage in the game, and is particularly strong for the beginning of phase 4 of Wrath Classic. Death Knights in general are incredibly strong all expansion, and fully live up to the title of hero class. Unholy has previously scaled well, but while it is exceptionally strong at the beginning of Phase 4, it will fall off hard after a few weeks of gearing. Other specs that scale with Armor Penetration will surpass Unholy with better gear. That being said, Death Knights bring amazing damage overall without really needing to change their builds, which makes them great additions to the raid in any situation. Death Grip is also unique utility that is impossible to replicate with other specs. Again though, Unholy will fall off quite hard towards the end of the phase as everyone gets their full BiS, eventually getting out-scaled by several other specs.
Affliction Warlocks have received some massive buffs since TBC, and now incorporate a full array of DoTs into their damage rotation. Affliction offers the strongest multi-target spread damage in the game thanks to their powerful DoTs, which allows them to both funnel more damage into a main target and do strong add damage at the same time. Affliction has the absolute best execute in the game thanks to Drain Soul hitting for insane numbers on low-health targets. Affliction Warlocks are a step above every other tier when it comes to single-target, and they are one of the most commonly stacked classes for most of the expansion. Warlock damage in almost every situation is top tier.
A-Tier Classes and Specializations
These are the strong DPS specializations for the end of Wrath Classic. These are the DPS specializations that you will always see at least one of, but should expect to see multiple of given their strength.
While Fire Mages have finally scaled, now dealing massive amounts of damage thanks to copious amounts of haste and crit available on gear. Fire Mages needed tons of crit to really start pumping out huge damage numbers, but now that they have it they are one of the best DPS classes in the game, especially when it comes to single target. Their burst AoE on clumped packs is also quite incredible, but their single target output is what solidly puts them into the S-tier, and they only get stronger towards the end of the expansion. Fire Mages are initially in A-tier due to some durability issues towards the beginning of ICC, but will quickly scale back into S-tier with a few weeks of gearing.
Survival Hunters require very little gear to be effective in Raids, but still scale extremely well with Agility as you get more gear, specifically with trap weaving. Hunters in general have some amazing utility tools like Misdirection that make having at least 1-2 critically important in most raids, but even without the utility Survival is quite strong. Survival shines brightest on AoE thanks to the scaled strength of Explosive Trap, but still brings decent single-target damage as well. Their burst AoE is some of the strongest in the game however, and is incredibly valuable on some encounters. The addition of trap launcher has made Survival far and away the best Hunter spec for the end of the expansion now.
Feral DPS Druids have one of the most complex rotations in the game, but when played properly offer some of the best sustained single-target damage. This is especially true after some recent changes to Feral, which have actually given it the highest simmed single target damage in the game eventually towards the end of Wrath. Ferals lack single-target burst and sustained AoE, but their burst AoE when combining Berserk and Swipe (Cat) is exceptional, possibly even the highest in the game. However, outside of sustained single-target and burst AoE, Ferals do suffer since they require a significant time investment to get their damage and DoTs rolling on new targets. Ferals do offer 5% Physical Crit Chance as a raid buff, which only comes from either Ferals or Fury Warriors.
B-Tier Classes and Specializations
These are the above-average DPS specializations for the end of Wrath. Most raids will want one of these, but seeing 2 is not uncommon for some of these specs.
Combat Rogues require a bit of gear and scaling unlike Assassination, but once they have some solid raid gear, they can output some incredible numbers. This will become especially apparent in the final phase of Wrath once they reach the Armor Penetration cap, so for now they still lack some of the sustained cleave options that classes like Fury Warriors bring. Combat's strength is still its cleave, but overall it just does less damage on single target than Assassination, and then less damage in AoE/cleave than other classes above in the list. It still is a strong spec however, and especially is worth bringing as the source of the 4% physical damage raid buff.
Balance Druids have some incredible utility, specifically with Typhoon and Innervate. These are both highly sought after, and invaluable to certain other classes. Boomkins do decent single-target damage, but have some of the better AoE in the game thanks to Starfall and Hurricane. That being said, their damage overall is still a bit weaker than the classes in the tiers above. Most raids will have a single Boomkin, usually because they bring so many important buffs as just a single spec.
Fury Warriors scale exceptionally well, but needs a ton of crit and ArP to really pop off. We are finally at a point where Fury can get the gear it needs to really begin to shine, with Fury eventually reaching S-tier with full BiS. Fury's strongest niche is on low-target cleave, specifically at 3-4 targets where they can use Cleave and Whirlwind to the fullest extent.
Shadow Priests offer some strong utility options when brought to the raid, and Priests specifically are even required on a couple of encounters for their utility. Shadow as a damage specialization is decent, offering mid-tier damage in most situations, but getting far outshined by specs like Affliction in any niche they might be good at. Multi-dotting is still certainly a strong niche, and is actually quite useful in phase 4. Overall, their single-target damage and utility is strong enough to make them a A-tier specialization though, mostly due to their exceptional utility and buffs.
Assassination Rogues are one of the higher sustained single-target damage dealers in the game, and have possibly the simplest rotation as well. Thanks to some incredible AP scaling with their poisons, the Rogue rotation boils down to generating some Combo Points and only using Envenom as their finisher. Even though their rotation is quite simple, it does not take away from the exceptional single-target damage they can deal. Fan of Knives is also insane on AoE with the right build, but ultimately Rogues are brought for their strong single-target potential.
Retribution Paladins have every benefit of being a Paladin, but unfortunately do not bring quite the same power level that Holy and Protection bring. Now in Icecrown Citadel Retribution steps up and hits some insane power levels thanks to specific tier bonuses, but require tier and full BiS to really hit insane scaling. Retribution does have some strong damage cooldowns however, giving them decent burst damage especially for cleave. Retribution shines on cleave encounters, and will excel on a couple of fights in phase 3 with burst cleave due to add waves. Retribution's single target damage is where it is most lacking however, and is what places it low in B-tier.
Demonology Warlocks are quite strong in their own way, but are still weaker than Affliction Warlocks. Most raids will bring a single Demonology Warlock specifically for their scaling Spell Power buff through their talents. This is a unique buff that allows them to give the entire raid a portion of their Spell Power, which scales quite well. Even apart from this, Demonology especially excels in AoE, where they can combine their Immolation Aura along with the traditional Warlock AoE to do some incredible burst AoE. Their single-target is still solid, but unfortunately suffers from being just worse than Affliction, meaning outside of the single Demonology Warlock for the buff, you probably will not see many.
Enhancement Shamans are possibly one of the most difficult classes to play properly, but have an incredibly high ceiling when played properly. The non-intuitive Spell Power + Attack Power gearing strategies throw some people off, but when set up properly and played to the fullest they offer incredible single-target, and some of the strongest passive AoE + cleave in the game. Fire Nova specifically is incredibly powerful, and has incredible effective damage potential on certain fights where single-target is what matters, but the AoE is still valuable.
C-Tier Classes and Specializations
These are the mediocre specs for the end of Wrath Classic. These are unlikely to see play in raids, but can still occasionally be brought given the right player or group need. These are still viable specs, there are generally just better options.
Arcane Mage have exceptional burst and strong single target, but ultimately get out-scaled by Fire Mages. Very few specs in the game can come close to Arcane Mages when it comes to single-target burst damage, but only when they get funneled external buffs such as Power Infusion and Innervate. Arcane Mages are able to burn through their Mana pool quickly to do amazing burst damage, which enables them to top meters on shorter encounters. This is not very useful in ICC however, and they still get massively out-scaled by Fire in every circumstance.
Elemental Shamans are one of the stronger classes immediately upon hitting Level 80 thanks to some excellent base damage, but generally do not scale well in Wrath. However, thanks to some solid upgrades and tier bonuses in phase 3, Elemental actually does competitive single target damage and solid burst AoE thanks to their Fire Nova Totem. While there are still stronger casters, having an Elemental Shaman in the raid is certainly not a bad thing, especially considering all the different buffs and utility spells that they may bring.
Frost Death Knight
Frost Death Knights have many of the same strengths as Unholy, but are different in a couple of key ways. First, Frost is possibly the strongest spec in the game as a fresh Level 80 with no gear. They have incredible base damage, making them ideal early on, but are far outscaled by Unholy once you get current gear. Frost's major strength comes from cleave, where Frost excels at sustained AoE and stacked cleave more so than many other classes. However, Frost still suffers the issue that Unholy is just stronger in almost every situation.
Like all Warlock specs, Destruction Warlocks scale quite well and do exceptional damage, both single target and AoE. Overall Warlock just scales quite well as a class, and Destruction is no exception. The burst single-target + AoE possible with Destruction can be quite strong, but is still unfortunately overshadowed by Affliction in most situations. Destruction's biggest weakness is that Affliction is just so much more powerful in almost every situation.
D-Tier Classes and Specializations
These are the weakest DPS specializations for the end of Wrath Classic. For each of theses, they are both themselves quite weak, and are outclassed by other specs of the same class that are far better choices.
Marksmanship Hunter suffers from the same issues as several other specializations above, in that they require some gear to really scale. Marksmanship relies heavily on crit and ArP for a good portion of its damage, but with the new addition of trap launcher they no longer will ever be the dominant Hunter spec. Marksmanship will always be worse than Survival in every situation. For damage, MM offers decent single-target and AoE, but their main strength is burst damage thanks to Readiness, which resets all of their cooldowns, allowing them to effectively burst twice.
Beast Mastery Hunter
Beast Mastery Hunters are nowhere near as powerful as they were in TBC. Survival and Marksmanship now heavily outclass Beast Mastery, as your pet is significantly less important to your overall damage. This is mainly true because the other two Hunter specs now offer meaningful DPS talents to increase their damage done, specifically giving powerful build-defining shots that their rotations are based around. Beast Mastery's reliance on pets is unfortunately weak in a time where pets do not benefit from any of your damage stats other than AP. Beast Mastery's one benefit is that they have decent damage cooldowns, and do alright for single-target burst damage. However, even that is mediocre at best.
Arms Warriors are the better of the Warrior specs early on, offering some solid base damage that makes them stronger in the early game. However, once you get raid gear, Arms Warriors are pretty lackluster when it comes to single-target. Their one noticeable strength is 2-target cleave thanks to Sweeping Strikes, and then Bladestorm gives them decent burst AoE. Outside of those two scenarios however, Arms Warriors are just lacking, especially when it comes to single target damage.
Frost Mage is a specialization that is designed around PvP. It is easily one of the strongest specializations in Arena, but unfortunately is not well-designed for PvE. Arcane and Fire both do more damage while Frost brings nothing unique to the table. Without any sort of niche to excel in, it is hard to justify a raid spot as a Frost Mage.
Subtlety Rogues are quite similar to Frost Mages, in that the spec is mostly designed with PvP in mind. Especially with how strong the other two Rogue specializations are, Subtlety offers no meaningful strengths in PvE, and is just the worst choice.
- 02 Oct. 2023: Updated for Phase 4.
- 19 Jun. 2023: Reviewed prior to Phase 3 patch.
- 29 May 2023: Small update based on feedback and PTR results.
- 09 May 2023: Updated for Phase 3.
- 17 Jan. 2023: Updated for Phase 2.
- 21 Sep. 2022: Page added.
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