Shadowlands Tank Rankings: A Castle Nathria Tier List
World of Wacraft has never been perfectly balanced, and Shadowlands is no exception. Some classes are better than others at the high end for raiding, and inevitably, a meta will exist. This ranking is based on the viability and strength of the various tank specializations for the first raid tier of Shadowlands, Castle Nathria.
About the Tier List
Last Updated: March 15 — Patch 9.0.5 is now live, bringing with it some substantial changes to quite a few specs. Tanks did not receive as many changes as DPS did, but some of the rankings have still shifted. Most notably, we now have a S-tier for tanks.
This RAIDING tier list is CONSTANTLY EVOLVING — It CHANGES and IS UPDATED as often as necessary to account for tuning and balance changes and new tiers of content.
Hello! I am Impakt, an officer in the North American guild "BDGG", or Big Dumb Golden Guardians. We finished Castle Nathria as the second best guild in North America, and at World 9th. We are prepping hard for the new raid tiers in Shadowlands, and this list reflects how we are currently feeling about the various classes and specializations for progressing the newest raid tier, Castle Nathria. In addition to our own experience, this list was created and will continue to be update in consultation with raiders of other top guilds.
This tier list is entirely based on tank viability for the new raid in the first tier of Shadowlands, Castle Nathria. The main things you want to look for in tank choice are damage dealt, ability to handle or recover from incoming damage of all types, cooldowns, and utility.
A Final Warning
It is incredibly important to emphasize that just because a tank is low in the tier list, it does not mean that you should ignore it completely. For the vast majority of cases, you should choose to bring the better player, not the better tank class. All being lower tier means is that, all else being equal, those specs will be less desirable for the raid.
Shadowlands Tank Tier List for Castle Nathria
Below is a quick summary of the full rankings that we have detailed on this page. While this gives a good outline of the standings of specializations in comparison to one another, we recommend reading the full rankings to understand why certain specializations are ranked as they are.
Work in progress Last update on Mar 15, 2021
DPS and Healer Class Rankings
Full Tank Class Rankings
Vengeance Demon Hunter
March 15 update:Demon Hunters have strong damage mitigation all-around, a required raid buff, and the best mobility by far out of any tank. The raid buff and mobility are the two main points of emphasis here, since most guilds have chosen to run a Vengeance Demon Hunter instead of Havoc due to Havoc's poor performance at the moment. This, combined with the fact that Mythic Sire Denathrius almost requires having a Vengeance DH tank due to mobility restrictions is more than enough to put Vengeance at the top of the list. It is also specifically worth mentioning DH's talent Last Resort that allows them to cheat death, which is beyond invaluable for tanking at a progression level.
Demon Hunters have a strong all-around toolkit that combines top-tier damage mitigation with decent self-healing. Specifically, Demon Hunters offer a very strong passive reduction against magic damage when combining Demonic Wards with Viscous Ink. Metamorphosis is still an incredibly powerful defensive cooldown, which along with Fiery Brand gives them decent options for dealing with high damage periods. Finally Demon Hunters are still one of the most mobile classes in the game, which is of course incredibly useful to have as a tank.
It is also worth mentioning that similar to Monks, Demon Hunters have a 5% magic buff that they bring to the raid. The main difference is that unlike the other Monk specializations, Havoc Demon Hunters are actually one of the more common DPS found in raids, making it likely most raids will have one anyways. Vengeance Demon Hunter is definitely much more attractive if your raid does not have a Demon Hunter.
March 15 update: Guardian continues to be one of the most durable tanks, but their low-effort durability is their true strength. Top Guardian Druids are able to play more offensively without sacrificing much, focusing on damage and burst instead for extra raid benefit. While they may not bring required raid buffs, Guardian is still a powerhouse of a tank.
After several rounds of buffs, Guardians are shaping up to be the tankiest of tanks for Castle Nathria. Thanks to their damage mitigation passives, some critical new talents, and the high up-time on Ironfur, Guardian will take less damage overall than any other tank class on any encounter. Survival Instincts is still one of the highest damage reductions for any tank, but is only 6 seconds and more for targeted used. Bears also have Barkskin and Frenzied Regeneration, but their primary active mitigation comes from Ironfur. Currently their main problem is that they still have very low damage output and lack any real raid utility apart from Stampeding Roar. If you want your tanks to just stay alive, Guardian is the best choice, but there is so much more that you can get out of tanks with proper play on even the most challenging raid encounters.
March 15 update: Windwalkers have seen some substantial nerfs in the form of bug fixes in 9.0.5, which means many groups will be looking for another option to get the 5% physical damage buff that monks bring. Brewmaster Monks are still a solid tank, and should now be a bit more desirable.
Brewmasters are currently the best choice for physical damage mitigation, while also still being competitive at dealing with magic damage. This is primarily because of their core damage mitigation tool, Stagger. Probably the most apt description of stagger is that "Stagger solves tanking." This is a bit of hyperbole, but has some truth to it. The first and most important goal of a tank is to not die. This does not always mean keeping your overall damage intake low, it could just mean making sure you live through the heavier bursts of damage if your healers can handle it. Stagger is designed around exactly that, letting Monks spread out their damage taken over periods of time, even if their overall damage taken is higher than other tanks. They are going to be far more safe and predictable at handling damage than any other tank for Castle Nathria. Especially for physical damage, other tanks like Death Knights are very susceptible to spike damage, whereas Monks are not. In Castle Nathria, this will be most prevalent on Sludgefist, where the tank damage taken will be most likely the highest out of any boss in the raid. Monks will excel at this fight specifically, but are going to be extremely useful for others as well.
While Monks do not have the same utility that Death Knights have, it is important to note that a Brewmaster Monk is probably the easiest way to get your 5% physical damage raid buff, which is a reasonable requirement for any raid group. Windwalker and Mistweaver Monks can also bring it, but they are not as commonly found inside raids, making Brewmaster an easy way to grab it if you cannot reliably field another Monk specialization.
March 15 update: This movement of Protection Warrior from the B-tier to the A-tier is a bit more predictive than most of our other rankings. Protection Warriors have Battle Shout and Rallying Cry same as before, but now they have access to something else that could potentially be huge: Conqueror's Banner. Banner was changed in 9.0.5, and now allows you to buff two other players with 400 mastery and 30% movement speed for 15 seconds on a 2-minute cooldown. The latest sims have shown that for some DPS, this is potentially a 3-4% DPS increase overall, but provides a huge boost in damage for some classes during their burst windows. Protection Warriors may have a new niche as the best tanks to bring on DPS-intensive encounters when you look at this new ability combined with their recent damage buffs.
Protection Warriors are solid defensively, but bring a slew of buffs and cooldowns that make them potentially meta picks on certain encounters. Ignore Pain fills the need for magic damage mitigation well inside Castle Nathria, while their array of cooldowns helps them in high damage situations. Demoralizing Shout, Shield Wall, Last Stand, along with some other strong talent options provide Warriors with multiple ways to deal with damage of any sort. While still a bit weaker than the tanks above, Warriors are in a much better state now, and actually have some very competitive use cases inside Castle Nathria.
Warriors have a solid toolkit now, but there is one specific strength that needs to be emphasized: Spell Reflection. Spell reflection works on a surprising number of boss abilities inside Castle Nathria, and is worth a mention.
Blood Death Knight
March 15 update: DK's may have incredibly useful utility, but most guilds are choosing to look at Unholy DK's for the tools that they bring. Blood DK does not bring the same level of survivability, damage, or buffs that other tanks offer. Even with their self-healing, they just are still a bit lacking compared to other A-tier tanks and above. That being said, Blood is dropping into the B-tier.
The best word to describe Blood Death Knight is every tank's favorite word: agency. As a Blood Death Knight, you have more control over your ability to survive than any other tank out there, which makes this the perfect tank for players looking to flex their personal skill in high end content. Death Strike is still the powerhouse of self healing that it has always been, which is one of the biggest strengths for Death Knights. However, even with the best self-healing out of any tank, DKs are unfortunately lacking the damage reduction necessary to tank some of the harder hitting bosses such as Sludgefist and Denathrius. This is not saying that you cannot do it, you will just have a much harder time. They have a large array of tools at their disposal, including Vampiric Blood, Dancing Rune Weapon, Anti-Magic Shell, Icebound Fortitude, Rune Tap, and more. But, perhaps the most important cooldowns in their arsenal is Anti-Magic Zone. This is one of the better raid cooldowns anywhere in Shadowlands, making Death Knights incredibly valuable on fights where there are large bursts of magic damage, which will include many of the harder encounters.
The most important abilities to mention however are Death Grip and Gorefiend's Grasp. Grips are the signature, unique Death Knight ability that can be vital for any raid encounters with adds. However, while grips are still useful on a couple of encounters, there are no encounters where you can abuse grips the way that you have been able to in past raids.
February 2 update: While Protection Paladins are still quite strong at dealing damage, tank DPS has proven to be less important of a consideration this tier. Mitigation and tank utility are far more important, especially with how much damage bosses such as Sludgefist and Sire Denathrius are doing to tanks. Protection Paladin lacks the mitigation that other tanks bring, while also failing to bring critical raid utility of any kind. For these reason, Protection is falling into the B-tier.
Protection Paladins have strong damage mitigation actives with many powerful cooldowns, which makes them incredibly durable when those abilities are up. However, Paladin's main weakness comes from that vulnerability window. Shield of the Righteous is not always active and if you do not have a cooldown like Ardent Defender or Guardian of Ancient Kings available during that downtime, you could be in trouble if any sort of burst of damage is coming. Paladins have some passive mitigation from Consecration and potentially Holy Shield, but they still are vulnerable outside of their active mitigation, more so than other tanks.
Paladins may be a bit weaker outside of active mitigation than other tanks, but that does not make them bad for raids. Paladins are still one of the best tanks to bring for the damage and utility, which is a very real need on some encounters. Paladins have a personal immunity, an immunity they can place on a raid member, high single-target damage comparatively, and their new Covenant ability Blessing of the Seasons (see Paladin Covenant abilities), which they can use to give some pretty useful buffs to a player of their choice.
- 15 Mar. 2021: Updated for 9.0.5 after week 1.
- 02 Feb. 2021: Updated after reviewing the Mythic raid data from January.
- 24 Dec. 2020: Updated after first Mythic week.
- 15 Dec. 2020: Updated after Heroic week.
- 04 Dec. 2020: Updated after first 10 days of Shadowlands.
- 20 Nov. 2020: Updated with class tuning, final update before Shadowlands launch.
- 01 Nov. 2020: Updated with recent Conduit tuning.
- 18 Oct. 2020: Updated with recent legendary tuning.
- 03 Oct. 2020: Updated with September 30 covenant tuning.
- 27 Sep. 2020: Updated with September 24 balance changes.
- 14 Sep. 2020: Updated with September 10 tank balance changes.
- 08 Sep. 2020: Second round of updates based on continued Discord feedback.
- 07 Sep. 2020: First round of updates based on Discord feedback.
- 04 Sep. 2020: Guide added.
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