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This post originally appeared on MmoGah.
Welcome to our Wrath of the Lich King DPS rankings guide. We'll be evaluating some strong classes available for the upcoming expansion and as well explaining why we have them in their positions.
We are ranking based on pure raw damage and not considering the support they bring to a raid. Although at the end of the day, you'll need all the other preparations like considering other specs, getting your WotLK Classic gold ready, etc.
We'll evaluate specs based on every single phase of the game (Naxxramas, Ulduar, Trial of the Crusader, and the Icecrown Citadel). This is because some different specs are gaining certain power spikes based usually on set bonuses or just gaining better stats.
Therefore, when you look at the specs we put up for each tier, don't think they are entirely set in stone as they are quite fluid. A certain spec might go up in a cleave fight, go up when they get set bonuses, or even better against people with bad gear. It's important to know that particular specs will shine in different fights.
Also, note that this ranking covers specs and classes in the patch 3.3.5 state, the actual patch we are getting when Classic Wrath comes out. Also, private servers are irrelevant, which means unbuffed content and faster execution phases. So here is the MmoGah DPS ranking.
Phase 1 - Naxxramas
In this phase, our equipment is at its weakest, which will significantly impact our rating. For example, since armor penetration is basically null in phase 1 gears, physical DPS spec that also deals magical damage like the assassination rogues are top tiers in this phase. However, they fall off as armor penetration becomes common.
This also means that specs with low base damage like fury warriors and fire mages will be poor at the start (phase 1) but get stronger as they get the needed stats such as crit & armor penetration.
Rogues received a powerful new AoE ability in Wrath called Fan of Knives, which instantly throws both weapons at different targets within 8-yards, causing 105% weapon damage with daggers and 70% damage with other weapons. As mentioned above, rogues do not need armor penetration as their main DPS comes from poison effect (Deadly Poison IX and Envenom), which will bypass the enemy's armor.
Also, in raids, if you have no warriors or druids in your party, with Assassination rogues, to apply the bleed effect on your target, you'd have to use a growth or rupture yourself to apply a new talent called hunger for blood. This increases damage by 5% but works only when there's a blood effect on the target.
Assassination rogues use mutilate to generate Combo Power and then use Envenom to apply poison damage instantly. And, of course, it's nature damage that goes through armor, which is why they are excellent early on.
Frost Death Knight
They are amazing in phase 1, bringing them to the top tier in DPS Ranking. This is because they have the Howling Blast, where they blast off a frigid wind, dealing 200+ frost damage to all enemies within 10 yards. A powerful AoE ability that sets them apart. Notice the ability deals with frost damage, which also bypasses armor.
Another helpful ability they have is the Frost Strike which deals frost damage during a time with little armor penetration like in phase 1. They, however, remain a strong spec all through the expansion and are overshadowed by the Unholy death knight spec later on.
Unholy Death Knight
Many people overlook these and go for Frost DK at the start because it slightly edges at this stage, but they are by no means weak. They are strong even in phase 1 because most of their damage is magic, which also bypasses armor. They have Disease, which is excellent in AoE situations, although it takes a while to deal damage, unlike the Frost DK's Howling Blast.
Unholy stays competitive throughout the expansion and finally outshines the Frost DK later in phase 4.
This is an excellent spec throughout all the Wotlk Classic phases. The spec has seriously been revamped since TBC, so they have so many abilities. They now have much better damage capabilities than just being a utility spec. They directly benefit from more DoT abilities and talents that empower them, such as a completely reworked male diction and a new powerful ability called Hunt and Death's embrace that further boosts their damage.
They also have great single-target damage, high damage-over-time, and Drain Soul, which is the new execution ability. A powerful ability that drains the soul of the target causing shadow damage over 15 sec, and if the target is at or below 25% health, it causes 4 times the normal damage. They have great AoE and single target damage, which makes them powerful.
Arcane Mage was powerful in TBC and still powerful in phase 1. Arcane blast, their staple, is very powerful as fights are pretty much short in phase 1. So you can go ahead pumping it everywhere. They will also be providing a new 3% increase buff called Arcane Empowerment that gives a 3% increase damage the entire raid, which makes Ferocious inspiration, a BM hunters utility that grants 1% increase damage, useless.
They slightly lag being affliction in terms of raw damage but have Demonic Pact, which is a spell power buff only for them. They have buffed single target DPS with new talents empowering their Felguard pet. Their cleave and AoE abilities, such as the Metamorphosis, have a cool down that gives them access to 2 AoE abilities (Immolation Aura and Shadow Cleave) which are strong in AoE situations.
They have received an enormous revamp in Wrath. With a lot of unique talents and abilities, such as the Black Arrow and Explosive Shot, they have a different playstyle from other specs. They are high up because their main DPS spells, Explosive Trap, Explosive Shot, and the Black arrow, deal magical damage, bypassing armor early on.
When it comes to single-target attacks, they have instant ranged damage-dealing abilities. Although as we go into other phases where armor penetration starts coming in, they go down the pecking order, and Marksmanship Hunters surpass them.
They also see a change in playstyle, with Chimera Shot added onto the mix and Aimed Shot now dealing instant damage. Although, Chimera Shot is the only nature damage dealer they have in this phase. Others deal physical damage. Also, they don't have a powerful AoE, although their single target damage is pretty nice.
In all, they are still pretty much competitive as they start to get pretty serious as we go.
Also receiving a complete overhaul is the Fire Mage spec. With most of the talent tree reworked, they offer a different playstyle. They have the potential to be considered S-tier later on as they have some incredible AoE and single target damage abilities. They will scale fantastically but lag behind in the early phase.
They have Hot Streak and the new Living Bomb Dot that'll be important later on. We have them in B-Tier because they lack the crit to actualize their potential in the beginning, finding themselves way behind Arcane Mage. However, they'll catch up in phase 2 and become really strong in 3 & 4.
We have a case of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it here. There's barely a change in playing style, although they gain a new DPS cool down in Killing spree, and the Sword Specialization Talent becomes Hack and Slash, giving them the ability to use weapons other than swords.
Although they have damage issues in phase 1 due to melee issues and weak gear issues, which reduces both AoE and single-target damages, they have incredible damage scaling abilities. In phase 2, they shoot up immediately into the higher rankings and stick there until the end.
Feral Druid gets a big change in playstyle with Powershifting gone. They now get many DPS tools focused on bleed effects, which means they are no longer useful only for tanking and can switch roles when needed.
They have incredible single-target and AoE damage with the new Swipe (Cat) ability, allowing them to swipe near enemies and inflict 250% weapon damage. Although they have their drawbacks in phase 1 with less effective cleave damage abilities and DPS coming majorly from bleeds, they will be really strong in Phase 2, as we have them in S-tier.
Although they deal low single-target damage, their new ability, Divine storm, which causes 110% weapon damage to up to 4 enemies within 8 yards, pushes them high when cleave damage is concerned. However, since the majority of boss fights here in phase 1 are single-target, they are now down.
They remain average through phases 2 and 3 but turn into absolute cleave monsters in phase 4 due to their overpowered Lightsworn Battlegear 2-piece bonus and Shadowmourne.
In TBC, Fury Warriors are number 1 single-target and number 3 in Cleave DPS spec. But in phase 1, they fall down the pecking order because all of their damage is physical. Although, they gained new abilities like Instant Slams with Bloodsurge and bigger weapons thanks to Titan's grip. They are still behind because there is no armor penetration yet.
However, this is not for long as they have the best scaling ability in Warth classic. They improve during every phase till they become the best DPS spec in phase 4.
Phase 2 - Ulduar
They benefit from longer and more AoE intensive fights frequently found in phase 2. Their new set bonus Nightsong Battlegear not only improves their single-target but also massively pushes their already amazing AoE damage to places others can reach. Feral instinct also increases damage done by Swipe (Cat) by 30%, which makes them have very good AoE damage.
Normally, Swipe (Cat) has a drawback: the high energy cost, but with Clearcasting, this is mitigated, and you can go on to spam it all you want.
They start to scale in phase 2 as their amazing scaling ability and armor penetration becomes available. Most importantly, though, is the new Tier 8 set called Terrorblade Battlegear and its set bonuses.
This gives them massive single-target damage above others. Also, topping their already impressive Fan of Knives ability that is great for AoE situations, the bonuses apply your poisons which also helps them to regenerate a high amount of energy on AoE fights which totally removes the major weakness of Fan of Knives. Although they won't deal as much damage as Ferals in AoE fights, their massively buffed single-target damage puts them up there.
They remain strong in this phase, with their Tier 8 set bonus Deathbringer Garb massively improving their single-target and cleave damage. They are considered overall, meaning they are decent in all fight situations, although they won't be number 1 either.
Their 2 set bonuses, Unstable Affliction, and Seed of Corruption, improve their single-target /cleave and AoE damages, respectively, and with phase 2 having more AoE fight situations, they are relevant still.
The fact that they can spam their Seed of Corruption with Immolation Aura for high AoE damage still ranks them high on our list, although they start to fall behind in other areas.
Unholy Death Knight
Although they still possess very powerful single-target damage, their AoE damage ranks them high in the phase. They finally get to use their more Diseases effectively here. They get to Wandering Plague, which increases their AoE damage. Their single-target damage also significantly increases due to the addition of strong armor penetration items like Mjolnir Runestone.
Frost Death Knight
Like the Unholy DK, they are still competitive and still have top-tier single-target damage thanks to the set bonuses from their Darkruned Battlegear. However, they are lagging behind in AoE fights compared to Unholy DKs.
They get 2 important set bonuses from the Tier 8 set, Kirin Tor Garb. They retain their incredible single-target and AoE damages, although the long fights mean they start to have mana problems.
They start to climb up in phase 2, being a great scaling spec in Wrath Classic. They benefit from gear improvements and gain more Hot Streak from increased critical strike chance.
Their Tier 8 set, Kirin Tor Garb, gives them Flamestrike, allowing them to attack from afar and improve their AoE damage.
They finally start to get good enough attack with a nice upgrade coming from their Siegebreaker Battlegear. They still have incredible single-target damage but slightly lacking in the AoE situations, which is why they are down in the B-tier.
Phase 3 - Trial of the Crusader
Frost Death Knight
If we think back to the WotLK patch 3.1 introduced a lot of nerfs to death knights because they were overpowered when Wotlk first came out. Their Tier 9 set, the Thassarian's Battlegear, got nerfed but is still extremely powerful.
With armor penetration now available all over phase 3 gear, they get a massive boost in single-target damage, which is common in phase 3. A lot of raids will want Frost DKs at this point.
Unholy Death Knight
Just like Frost DKs, they are extremely powerful as well. Trial of the Crusader phase consisting mostly of cleave-type fights means Unholy DKs can do much damage with Wandering Plague and Pestilence.
At this stage, fire mages sit comfortably in the S tier as the set bonuses from their Tier set (Khadgar's Regalia) are made for fire.
Top single-target damage with decent critical strikes and the ability to use Pyro lasts and Living bombs on multiple enemies makes them strong and useful in Phase 3 raids.
The amount of armor penetration gear they can get and their amazing scaling ability puts them higher on our list. They have fantastic single-target damage, especially with burst damage and instant cast spells.
They didn't change much from the last phase as the set bonuses from their Tier set, VanCleef's Battlegear, are nothing compared to the other specs above them.
Although they still have fantastic single-target and AoE damages, nothing compared to the others above.
On 4+ targets, though, Fan of Knives is really great, but with 2+ targets, they only have Blade Fury to work with, which is still nothing compared to the S tier specs.
Since phase 3 fights aren't as long as in Ulduar, Arcane Mages can hold their own when they are concerned with single-target damage. However, they are behind fire mages, and at this point, many people will switch to that. The fact that their set bonuses are more beneficial for fire does not help either.
They are this high majorly because of their single-target damage as they lack cleave damage.
They are up a tier again, little wonder as Phase 3 is full of armor penetration which is great for Fury warriors. Although their set bonuses are not too impressive here compared to others, their single-target damage is starting to pick up. But what is most important for them is the massive improvement in cleave damage they get here, making this phase a great place to switch from Arms.
Dropping from the S tier from phase 2, their underwhelming Tier set (Malfurion's Battlegear) bonuses is a setback.
Although they still have nice single-target damage and their Swipe (Cat) is still decent, it only effectively works against 2-3 targets, which is not great compared to the specs above. Also, there is a lack of cleave damage. That said, it's still a pretty useful spec, but it doesn't have much to offer in DPS compared to others above them.
Phase 4 - Icecrown Citadel
Now realizing their full potential, all the armor penetration gear and exceptional scaling ability of the Fury warriors make them the best DPS in the Icecrown Citadel. They have the best single-target damage and some of the best cleave damage in the game. Many guilds will run Fury warriors as their damage level is incomparable.
The scaling continues for Combat rogues with powerful single-target damage and decent cleave damage. With lots of AoE fights situations, Fan of Knives once again does impressive damage for Combat rogues.
With more crit available, fire mages continue to be Hot Streak beasts. They also have a decent Tier set (Bloodmage's Regalia). Although they have serious single-target damage, they are lacking in the cleave damage department when compared to other strong specs. That said, their long-ranged attack will earn them a place in raids.
With top-tier single-target damage and amazing AoE, Feral druids are back in the top tier due to the huge amount of armor penetration on gear and their bleed effects in the Icecrown Citadel. Also, their Tier set's (Lasherweave Battlegear) 4-piece bonus greatly boosts their crit.
Their powerful Tier 10 set, Lightsworn Battlegear, the 2-piece bonus, and a new legendary weapon, Shadowmourne, bump them significantly.
Unholy Death Knight
They get a massive boost in damage capabilities with the addition of the legendary ax, Shadowmourne. Also, their Pestilence makes them one of the most powerful specs in Phase 4.
Still has powerful single-target damage but lacks in the AoE and cleave damage area compared to other specs above.
When it comes to DPS, nothing is set in stone. That said, some specs are stable in and around the top spot throughout the 4 phases. Affliction, Frost, and Unholy DKs are stable, and Combat and Feral with pretty good scaling.