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.
This list will be updated as new tuning and class changes come out leading up to the release of Castle Nathria.
About the Tier List
Last Updated: December 24 — There are no new updates to the tanking tier list this week, but I will include some insight into tanking choices for Mythic progression. For high-end Mythic progression, most guilds have chosen to bring tanks specifically that offer important raid buffs as opposed to picking the optimal tanks for actually tanking encounters. In other words, tank balance is really close right now — so close in fact that some guilds have chosen to bring Warriors, Demon Hunters, and Monks specifically because it allows them to not have to bring those melee DPS for the raid buffs. The takeaway from this is that tank balance is even closer than originally predicted, and you could absolutely play any tank at the moment for Mythic raiding.
This RAIDING tier list is NOT FINAL — It will CHANGE and be UPDATED as often as necessary to account for tuning and balance changes (before and after the release of Shadowlands) and new tiers of content.
Hello! I am Impakt, an officer in the North American guild "BDGG", or Big Dumb Golden Guardians. We finished Ny'alotha as the second best guild in North America, and at World 14th. We have been hard at work prepping for the new expansion and new raid tier, and this list reflects how we are currently feeling about the various classes and specializations for progressing the new 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.
First and foremost, this tier list is strictly for the first raid of Shadowlands, Castle Nathria. While there are no Warcraft Logs rankings or simulation results yet for most classes in the upcoming raid, this list is based on our experience throughout every raid test playing with some of the best players for each class and specialization inside Castle Nathria on both Mythic and Heroic. While more anecdotal in nature, this tier list will reflect how competitive guilds will feel about bringing the various classes and specs into Castle Nathria. We are also account for current tuning, including even the most recent changes that may have occurred after raid testing finished.
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.
Additionally, this is all very much subject to change. The classes, specializations, and the raid itself will almost certainly undergo numerous changes before we step into Castle Nathria this November. This tier list will be updated as new tuning and balance changes come out, so you absolutely should expect this list to change at least some before and during Castle Nathria's release.
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 Dec 24, 2020
DPS and Healer Class Rankings
Full Tank Class Rankings
November 20 update: Protection Paladins are the absolute kings of damage right now, competeting with the bottom end of DPS specs for single-target damage output. This makes them one of the most valuable choices for Castle Nathria, especially combined with some powerful utility spells that could prove to be incredibly valuable on the hardest raid encounters.
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.
November 20 update: Brewmasters still have excellent damage mitigation tools, solid damage, and the most important utility option out of any tank because of their 5% physical damage debuff they bring.
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.
Blood Death Knight
November 20 update: Death Knights still have some great damage mitigation tools and incredibly useful raid utility tools such as Anti-Magic Zone and Death Grip, but they are sliding on the rankings for one reason: damage. Blood Death Knights deal miserably low damage at the moment, which puts them in a tough spot for Mythic progression where tank damage is looking like it will be important. Blood Death Knights will be dropping to the bottom side of the A-tier, as it is looking like tank damage is going to be too important of a metric to allow them to stay S-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. 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. Castle Nathria is no exception; there are at least 3 fights where having grips available will make parts of the fight significantly easier.
November 20 update: After multiple rounds of buffs, Guardian Druids finally have some real strengths. Guardian is the most durable tank right now, offering the best overall damage mitigation out of any tank. However, they still do very poor damage, and have no strong utility options, which are both real downsides when looking at what you would want inside Castle Nathria. That being said, Guardian's new dominance as one of the strongest tanking options for damage mitigation is enough to put it into the A-tier, just on the lower side.
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.
November 20 update: Protection Warriors are not bad, but they do not have the same obvious reasons to bring them that the A-tier tanks all have.
Thanks to a recent rework, Protection Warriors have gained back much of their defensive power that they were lacking earlier in beta. 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 along with the legendary power Misshapen Mirror works on a surprising number of boss abilities in the new raid, which has some incredibly powerful uses in the new raid that could even change how you approach some fights.
Vengeance Demon Hunter
November 20 update:Demon Hunters are probably the strongest tank for damage output behind Protection Paladins, but at the moment that is where there strengths end. They are still a solid all-around choice and are absolutely viable, but there are better options for more jobs. However, if you need the 5% magic damage debuff, do not hesitate to bring a Vengeance Demon Hunter.
Demon Hunters have a strong all-around toolkit that combines decent damage mitigation with moderate 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.
- 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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