Wednesday, December 17, 2014

World of Warcraft: What Class Should I Choose? (Warlords of Draenor Version)

When browsing the forums and watching chats for questions, I often try to look for a pattern of common questions that get asked. These questions are typically treated as "stupid questions" because of how often they are asked to the point other people get tired of them and the people who they think should've looked up the answer to previous inquirers to begin with.

While I personally gave my views on the idea of handling stupid questions in an enormous rant, I don't think prosecuting the people who disrespect people for asking such questions is necessarily the way to go. By providing informative resources like the LFR guide and, to a point, the various analysis articles I have written, and keeping them open for commenting, I hope to create an environment where people can freely ask their questions and have them answered.

This particular article is a direct response to this post, since it makes sense to create a resource that answers a frequently asked question. However, the topic this article covers is not the question of whether a player should come back to World of Warcraft. Instead, this article will cover the following question, which I believe to be one of the most frequently asked:
What class should I choose?
This question can be presented in many forms. Sometimes it's a general question that asks which of the 11 classes is most suitable for leveling up and playing. Other times it's a choice between a few classes that the player may already have or express an interest in playing.

While I previously made a guide in an attempt to answer this question when writing a guide series for newer players, it was far less detailed than I would've liked. Thus, in an attempt to answer all forms of the question above in a detailed manner without telling people to flip coins or roll dice, I have ranked each class choice based on their roles, leveling efficiency, and other factors such as provided utility and class abilities. The ranking will also assume that a player is creating their first character and will not account for boosting, though since boosting does affect the rankings a little I will mention when the level 90 boost affects rankings. An explanation will follow each ranking to explain the reasons for my ranking choice.

This list will not account for game balance such that classes that perform well on a damage meter automatically rank higher. I will attempt to account for factors such as personal preference by concluding each section with recommendations and statements not directly related to my reason for ranking a class choice. These rankings are opinion-based, though I will try my best to make the rankings as objective and factually-rich as possible.

With that said, the rankings are as follows:
This chart serves as a quick point of reference to determine which class is the best to level. See below for a more detailed explanation.
Note: (To reiterate) If this helped you out and you see someone else asking about what class to choose or boost, please consider sharing this article!

Chart Explanation

Before explaining the reasoning behind the rankings, it may help to explain the chart above, which determines how I ranked the class choices for leveling. This section will go over the aspects of the classes that I scored them on, some of which are part of a greater classification.
  • The first classification is damage potential, which covers solo single (target damage) and solo AoE (damage):
    • Solo single target damage gauges how much damage a class deals to a single (typically boss-like) targets based purely on their abilities (not class balance). For instance, some classes have a tendency to deal more burst damage due to offensive cooldowns, which are utility abilities that can provide a large personal statistical steroid (such as increased attack speed or damage) for a time, or instant cast abilities. The maximum score for solo single is 10.
    • Solo AoE determines how much area of effect damage potential a class has based on their abilities. Solo AoE's score goes up to 15 because by being able to kill multiple enemies efficiently, leveling is typically faster than killing enemies one by one.
  • The second classification is survivability, which covers sustain, durability, control, and mobility (to a point):
    • Sustain determines how well a class can survive through self-healing abilities. While this usually pertains to the character itself, in some rare cases this also applies to allied members, such as pets and companions that help you when questing. The maximum score for sustain is 10.
    • Durability determines how well a class can survive through their ability to mitigate damage. This can be done by having powerful armor, shielding abilities that absorb damage, or mitigation abilities that reduce incoming damage by a fixed amount (up to 100%). The maximum score for durability is 10.
    • Control determines how well a class can survive by using crowd control, since stunning an enemy or otherwise incapacitating them prevents the player from suffering damage. Ranged classes also benefit from softer crowd controls like slows since it increases the time before the enemy reaches them. Crowd control's maximum score is 10.
    • Mobility determines how well a class can survive by running, such as by staying away from the enemy or avoiding ground effect attacks (the "fire"). It also determines how well a character can deal damage while moving (such as through instant casts or abilities that can be cast while moving) and how fast a character can move without a mount, which can drastically reduce downtime in some situations (such as when a player has to move around indoors). Mobility's maximum score is 10.
  • The third classification is approachability. This determines how easy a class is to pick up and learn, which is an aggregation of various factors such as class ability complexity and the perks a class can provide, such as free mounts. The maximum score for approachability is 15.
  • The fourth classification is role. There are three roles in World of Warcraft, with all classes having the capability of being a damage dealer. This means that playing a class with one of the other two roles: tank or healer, provides the unique advantage of faster queue times in the Dungeon and Raid Finder systems, not to mention there's a generally higher demand for them in group play. Classes capable of performing only damage dealing receive a score of 0, while classes that can perform either tank or healing receive a score of 10. Classes that can perform all three roles receive a score of 20 due to versatility.
  • The fifth classification is miscellaneous. This only applies to the Death Knight due to their unique circumstance, automatically giving them 20 extra points towards their ranking.
Using this information, the chart above can be used to determine why each class was ranked the way they were. With that said, let us go into a more detailed explanation of the rankings:

11. Mage

Mage is the worst class to level up by far. Not only are they a pure, meaning they only have the damage dealing role and have to deal with a longer queue times for dungeons, they also are rather inefficient levelers. While their utility, particularly in group play, is reasonably strong, they're probably best off killing enemies one at a time. Mages have a bit of a learning curve to pick up due to an almost necessity to kite enemies around (by slowing enemies and running away to gain distance) to kill them. They also have very little in-combat sustain and while they can shield damage and eat conjured food to heal up out of combat, damage they take sticks, especially since they have to facetank the enemy. Also eating food wastes time that could be spent doing other activities such as traveling or leveling.In the past this used to not be the case since Mages could efficiently AoE farm, but since most AoE damage has been gutted, Mages will find it difficult to use such an efficient method.

On the plus side, Mages have a large number of control-related utility that will help when learning how to kite, though it often works best on a single target and having to use such control spells usually slows down the killing as well.

I would recommend Mages to players who have already tried to level other characters or to someone who really likes playing Wizard archetypes in other RPGs. I would also recommend Mages to players who want a bit of a challenge due to the learning curve associated with leveling as a Mage.

10. Priest

Back in the Vanilla WoW and Burning Crusade days, Priests used to have to wand enemies to death to level up. While their ability to level has improved dramatically since then, they still have many glaring weaknesses that make them difficult to level, particularly through solo play. For instance, they cannot AoE farm too well despite their access to damage-over-time skills, restricting them to single-target damage. They also don't kite too well due to a lack of reliable control abilities on a low cooldown.

However, as a healing class, Priests have decent sustain in the form of healing and absorption shields. Their healer role also allows them to queue into dungeons quickly to level and gear up in a more efficient manner than damage dealers. This natural advantage of role places the normally abysmal Priest above the pure Mage damage dealer.

As the only class with two distinct healer specializations, I would recommend Priests to players who enjoy healing or providing support to a group. I would also recommend Priests to players more interested in leveling through Dungeons as opposed to questing, since they are more effective for Dungeon leveling.

9. Rogue

While the Rogue has greatly improved survivability and sustain, along with mechanical synergy that allows them to level reasonably well solo, they also have the misfortune of being the only melee damage dealing pure in the game. Melee damage dealers are typically prone to having to deal with some heavily punishing mechanics at all levels of play. When soloing, melee attacks from enemies are one of the more troublesome mechanics to deal with since melee damage dealers are usually stuck in melee range, which is especially disadvantageous for those interested in solo leveling despite their survivability tools. Group play is a little better since mechanics are a little more balanced between melee and ranged, though some tank mechanics can destroy unwary melee.

On the plus side, Rogues have stealth and are incredibly mobile, allowing them to skip to objectives more easily and otherwise unlocking a new dimension of play that allows them to reach areas that are typically dangerous or time-consuming (due to combat) to reach for other characters who cannot stealth. They also bring a decent suite of utility that allow them to lock down basic enemies with crowd control.

I would recommend Rogues to players who like stealth mechanics and high mobility, allowing them to have more room to play outside of the box in terms of having to kill enemies or reach an objective or area. Do not confuse them for overpowdered Rouges.

8. Shaman

The Shaman is a class that brings the ability to heal and serve either a caster or a melee damage dealer. While this allows for some versatility Shamans have a tendency to be surprisingly frail for their mail armor. In addition, the amount of control Shamans have is either impractical (if you opt to play as the melee Enhance Shaman) or decent but hard to utilize due to lack of (in-combat) mobility (in the case of Elemental Shamans). Shamans also pack a bloated kit in terms of utility due to their unique Totem mechanic on top of their two roles, making them a little overwhelming to play for beginners.

As mentioned above, Shamans are like Priests in the sense that they can utilize two roles, which gives them the same role-based benefits that Priests enjoy. Unlike Priests, however, Shamans bring a good bit of area of effect and while it may take a little bit of time to set up, Shamans can effectively AoE farm and are decent solo levelers by comparison.

I would recommend Shamans to players who like to micromanage (due to the Totem mechanic) and enjoy the concept of elemental control, particularly in RPG games.

The Warlock is another caster damage dealing pure much like the Mage, and is surprisingly similar in some ways. For instance, they are also a little on the frail side and often rely on spells with cast times. Unlike Mages, however, Warlock gameplay is a little less simple in terms of damage dealing ability management as opposed to having to manage a multitude of cooldowns and other abilities to ensure survivability through kiting. Also, while Warlocks can summon a demonic minion to fight at their side (even to the point of serving as their tanky meat-shield to absorb damage the Warlock would otherwise take), they're a bit lacking in pure sustainability and are often a little fragile themselves.

However, while Warlocks thematically are designed to cause self-inflicted damage as part of some of their utility, they have strong personal sustain through a number of abilities. They also have effective AoE farming methods due to their ability to either use many damage over time skills on multiple targets and instant cast or highly efficient AoE abilities. It is so efficient that it earns them a spot over two classes that can heal due to the sheer approachability that Warlock offers. The Warlock is also quite versatile, offering unique playstyles based on specialization (this is different from Mage, since Mage does have some mechanics that all the specs share, such as having to cast the same spell repeatedly) and talent choices (such as Grimoire of Sacrifice, which allows the Warlock to opt out of using their pet for more personal power).

I would recommend Warlocks to players that like to play classes that utilize (powerful demonic) pets, enjoy flexibility, and don't mind the management quirks (both micro and macro) that come with playing the class.

6. Monk

The Monk is the most recently added class to World of Warcraft as of this writing. They are capable of performing all three of the roles of Tank, Healer, and Damage Dealer, making them a "tribrid" (or a 3-way hybrid class according to Wowpedia). This already makes Monks a practical class to roll due to their sheer flexibility (the latter pun was not intended). They also pack a decent amount of area of effect and are otherwise well-suited for solo leveling as well.

However, like Shamans, they are a little complex. For instance, their resource system switches between Energy and Mana depending on specialization (and stance, each of which requires manual actionbar setup for) and Monks also utilize a secondary resource of Chi, which is somewhat prohibitive due to abilities often requiring specific amounts of Chi. Monks also have to micromanagement statues and other constructs such as healing orbs (depending on specialization). Add all of these together and a beginner's head will probably start spinning. In addition, while Monks are efficient levelers and otherwise a fantastic class choice, they are surprisingly less efficient than some other classes largely due to the mechanics of the other classes.

I would recommend Monk to players who like the idea of fighting hand to hand in a style similar to the Rogue due to their shared Energy (and Chi/Combo Point) mechanic, but also desire the option to be flexible in their role. It is also worth mentioning that this class's ranking and the others that follow are very close to each other.

5. Hunter

The Hunter is the best pure damage dealing class to level and the only archer-themed class available as of this writing. Thanks to their pet and its mechanics, the Hunter usually doesn't have to contend with taking damage. Unlike Warlock minions, Hunter pets are far easier to sustain due to the instant cast, heal-over-time Mend Pet, not to mention they have the ability to become very durable with their Tenacity specialization. Accidentally pulling enemies off your pet due to threat issues becomes even less of a problem as the Hunter levels due to specific abilities.

Hunters are also incredibly mobile, with almost all of their cast abilities allowed to be usable while moving. They also have access to some control abilities which allows them to be very effective at kiting. In addition, the Hunter's Focus management is surprisingly straightforward and (usually) simple to manage (due to instant cast abilities that can dump Focus) and you have the recipe for a class that is very easy for any player to pick up.

However, while Hunter is easy to learn, it can be a little hard to master due to mechanical quirks, such as their traps, the understanding of when (and where) to use certain skills, and advanced pet management, among other things. Developing a keen understanding of these mechanics, as the Riot balancing team would say, "separates the good hunters from the great hunters."

This usually isn't a big deal for someone starting out, but unfortunately Hunters also have a social stigma against them due to their perceived ease of play, along with other stereotypes, that have earned them the derogatory title of "Huntard." While other classes do get their fair share of stereotyping, the hatred for Hunters is probably the longest lived, and unfortunately rolling a Hunter means one may have to deal with that. In addition, Hunters suffer from being a pure damage dealing class, which means they suffer from the inability that other pure damage dealers have in terms of performing other roles.

I would recommend Hunter to players starting out and want something more on the straightforward and simple side while they learn more about the game.

The Paladin is the second of the three "tribrid" available to play in World of Warcraft. While the class was once Alliance-exclusive much like the Shaman was Horde-exclusive, both factions can now freely play the class with a number of races. Paladins have an advantage over Monks in the sense that their gameplay is a little easier to understand due to being restricted by ability cooldowns as opposed to Energy. The Holy Power system is also flexible compared to the Chi system, working much like Rogue combo points where abilities can be cast so long as the Paladin has Holy Power.

On top of being efficient levelers due to their ability to deal solid amounts of area of effect damage,  access to instant sustain, and their flexibility of role that allows them to queue quickly for group play (and dungeon-related leveling), Paladins are also a very safe class to level due to their cooldowns, which can provide durability, sustain, or complete immunity. They are also naturally a bit more durable thanks to their plate armor, allowing them to better withstand the disadvantages of being in melee (since two of their specializations involve melee combat and both are popular options for leveling as a Paladin).

However, Paladins are mechanically a bit less efficient than the other classes ranked above it. Their area of effect, while great, is slightly inferior to the classes ranked above it, especially since their area of effect takes time to wind up or fully take effect due to cooldowns or damage over time mechanics.

I would recommend Paladin to players who like the idea of playing equivalent archetypes with the same name or a "tribrid" that is pretty easy to pick up compared to the other two.

The Warrior is a class based off the fighter and barbarian archetypes. Mixed with its straightforward style of play that involves charging at enemies and smashing them down with powerful physical attacks, the Warrior is seems like something of a classic in terms of RPG class design. Warriors have a high amount of mobility through its skills. Furthermore, when paired with abilities like Victory Rush, Warriors have excellent momentum that allows them to defeat enemy after enemy with minimal downtime. Warriors also have a decent amount of area of effect damage, both through abilities and talent choices, allowing them to farm enemies effectively.

Warriors have access to the damage dealer and tank roles, allowing them to take advantage of faster queue times if they so desire. They also have a modest amount of sustain and durability, which, while not quite as comparable as the Paladin, is sufficient when paired with their aforementioned ability to dispatch enemies with incredible efficiency. Warriors also have some decent control abilities that give them a little breathing room if needed.

However, Warriors manage the Rage resource, which can cause the unique problems of Rage starvation or Rage overflow based solely on Warrior autoattacks and can be a little difficult to understand and master for a beginner. Warriors also have the Stance mechanic, with each stand requiring personalized customization of actionbars, much like with the Monk. Warriors also lack the ability to perform the healer role, meaning that while they are a hybrid class, they cannot benefit from healer queues by themselves, which are far faster for Raid Finder groups.

I would recommend Warrior to players who enjoy playing as a melee character and like to leveling in an efficient, smooth manner while benefiting from their hybrid status.

2. Druid

The Druid, as the most versatile class in the game, is the holy grail of classes to level. They are not only capable of performing all three roles, making them the third "tribrid", but they also have specialization options for melee and ranged damage dealing thanks to their four specializations, which no other class has as of this writing. Their leveling is also very efficient and while it isn't on the same par as the Warrior, Druids excel at AoE, particularly in their Guardian specialization due to their one-button wonder skill, Thrash. To help complement their leveling and soloing, Druids have access to instant healing utility, crowd control, mobility, and durability skills. In short, the Druid provides a lot of options and performs well enough that they can reach endgame in order for players to explore them in depth while gearing up.

However, the sheer amount of utility and options the Druid has makes it a rather difficult class to learn and understand. Druids also have to manage Mana, Rage, and Energy (and Lunar/Solar Energy as Balance) based on their specialization, further adding to their complexity as the player may end up having to learn to understand those three resource systems. On the other hand, Druids are seemingly less complex than Monks because each Druid specialization has many specialization-specific abilities, helping to reduce the Druid's kit into bite-sized pieces. Also, while Druids have forms that work much like stances in the sense that additional actionbar setup is required, each specialization is usually dedicated to playing as a single form, reducing the complication associated with having access to additional actionbars.

I would recommend Druid to players who enjoy having the most versatility that a single given class has to offer and want to learn a lot about World of Warcraft at a time, not to mention players who enjoy the equivalent RPG archetype.

The Death Knight is Blizzard's "hero class", which Blizzard created as an experiment to implement classes that require some condition to be fulfilled in game to unlock for use. It is, in my opinion, the best class to level. This is strange, considering that Death Knights, like Warriors, only fulfill the damage dealer and tank role. In addition, while they level pretty well due to their AoE and gap closing capability, which helps to reduce downtime, they don't have the best personal sustain, which can hurt despite the fact Death Knights have a bit more ranged utility than their Warrior relatives. Their durability is about on the same par as a Warrior, though their mobility is somewhat inferior.

So what makes Death Knights such a great choice to level? It is largely due to their start at level 55 as opposed to level 1. While Death Knights, as a "hero class", have a requirement of another level 55 character in order to be created, this requirement is going to be removed, placing Death Knights at the top of the list for class choices to level up since it gets a player to endgame a lot faster while leaving some of the leveling experience so players can learn more about the World of Warcraft. These factors outweigh the consequence of losing out on some of the leveling experience.

However, this ranking does not account for boosting or the fact that the restriction is still currently in place. Since boosting effectively negates the Death Knight's otherwise advantageous level 55 start and the latter restriction means a player has to start from level 1 anyways, if a player were to boost or account for the original requirement to create a Death Knight, Death Knight would drop to rank 6 on the list, pushing Monk and all classes above it up by one rank.

I would recommend the Death Knight to players who want to skip the leveling process from 1 to 58 to reach and experience endgame sooner, assuming a boost is not used. Players who roll Death Knight will miss out on some lower level content since they'll outlevel it, which denies some development of understanding and experience about the game, so it's worth keeping that in mind.

Final Statements

I hope this guide was helpful in providing information that led to your class choice. If you have any further questions or comments (feedback in particular would be appreciated since making this guide as clear and accurate as possible maximizes how helpful it is), feel free to add them below.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Your comment was good until you linked to a gold selling site. Sorry man, but I've gotta delete that.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. I really wish I had found this before I used my boost! Good guide altogether!

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Had to delete this comment for linking to a frankly questionable guide (also it's pretty petty advertising at best - no a fan of that). Screenshot of deleted comment:

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Had to delete this comment for advertising gold selling sites (again). Screenshot of a majority of the deleted comment up to the offending link:

  6. hi is the addon on this site for real

    1. Might be, but I wouldn't recommend it. There's more legitimate-looking addons on places like Curse. I personally like using Auctionator.

    2. And the site in question has since been deleted. Definitely shady.