The metagame for World of Warcraft ebbs and flows like the tide. The biggest shifts in the zeitgeist usually occur with the launch of a new expansion. Shadowlands is no exception.
Looking for the best classic WoW classes? See our classic rankings here.
For better or worse, the class(es) you’ve known and loved during Battle for Azeroth might look drastically different in Azeroth’s afterlife. Some changes are good, some bad. Some changes are bad until you finally come around to them. But one thing’s for certain — you can’t play the way you used to and expect the same results, especially if your favorite skills and abilities don’t exist anymore.
It’s time once again to consider the metagame with fresh eyes. Cast aside everything you know and approach Shadowlands as a wholly new beast altogether. Sure, a Rogue is still a Rogue, and a Paladin is a Paladin, but there might be substantial changes under the hood that will affect the balance of power between the classes.
It’s time to discuss the best WoW Shadowlands classes and put together a brand-new best WoW classes tier list for 2021.
WoW Classes Ranked: Tiers for Fears
Image Credit: Blizzard Entertainment
First up, let’s talk tiers — specifically for classes and their specializations. Now folks partake of the World of Warcraft for a wide variety of different reasons. Some like their Mythic+ dungeoneering, others prefer PvP, and almost everyone is in it for a dose of that immaterial fun.
We at High Ground Gaming always favor the “fun” route when possible. Be advised that our tiered ranking may look slightly different from one focused on a particular piece of endgame content. We’ll also take into account the approximate difficulty level of any class/specialization combo as we go.
Now let’s check out the WoW classes ranked by difficulty and enjoyment — the High Ground Gaming way.
ClassDifficulty DescriptionShadow Priest⚔⚔⚔⚔⚔The Shadow Priest is really, really good. That said, you have to manage lots of cooldowns to maintain peak performance. Fortunately, life-stealing alongside great DoTs keep you rocking and rolling.Mistweaver Monk⚔⚔⚔⚔Playing a flexible class like the Mistweaver Monk is demanding of any player, but great single-target healing, damage, and dispels await the patient and agile adventurer.Restoration Druid⚔⚔⚔⚔Druids are likewise flexible with their healing, tanking, and damage in a single class (depending on specialization and form). Restoration Druid focuses on healing, and in so doing, provides some of the best healing numbers for groups in the current meta while also still throwing punches.
ClassDifficulty DescriptionUnholy Death Knight⚔⚔⚔The Unholy Death Knight offers some of the highest DPS potential in the game as of Shadowlands, but can sometimes feel one-note. Lay waste to your enemies with that old-timey cooldown management in the name of the Lich King. Subtlety Rogue⚔⚔⚔⚔It can be difficult to maintain high DPS with a Subtlety Rogue, but the burst damage is still among the best. And the “stealth, gank, and stealth again” flow still feels great.Restoration Shaman⚔⚔⚔Managing totems can keep you on your toes, but the Restoration Shaman has great damage and healing potential.
ClassDifficulty DescriptionDiscipline Priest⚔⚔Some folks like to focus on healing (raising a hand here), but it’s not as dynamic of an experience as it could be. Discipline Priest offers some relatively fun and dependable vanilla-flavored healing and damage, though.Brewmaster Monk⚔⚔⚔If you’re looking to tank, the Brewmaster Monk is a fun, safe choice. It has some key situational advantages in certain dungeons and raids, but lacks the versatility to rank it higher. Fire Mage⚔⚔⚔A simple but effective core rotation combines with basic resource management to produce consistent damage output in a fun package.
All the Rest, From Worst to Best
Certain players simply click with certain classes and specializations. Many of the remaining options are still quite fun to play, even if they didn’t make our top tiers. Don’t let this section discourage you from trying them out and seeing for yourself!
ClassDifficulty Destruction Warlock⚔⚔⚔⚔⚔Survival Hunter⚔⚔⚔⚔Elemental Shaman⚔⚔⚔⚔Holy Paladin⚔⚔⚔Outlaw Rogue⚔⚔⚔⚔Demonology Warlock⚔⚔⚔⚔Holy Priest⚔⚔⚔⚔Vengeance Demon Hunter⚔⚔⚔⚔Blood Death Knight⚔⚔⚔⚔Arms Warrior⚔⚔⚔⚔Havoc Demon Hunter⚔⚔⚔⚔⚔Affliction Warlock⚔⚔⚔⚔Guardian Druid⚔⚔⚔Assassin Rogue⚔⚔⚔⚔Protection Paladin⚔⚔⚔Marksman Hunter⚔⚔⚔Windwalker Monk⚔⚔⚔Protection Warlock⚔⚔Beast Mastery Hunter⚔⚔⚔⚔Balance Druid⚔⚔⚔Arcane Mage⚔⚔⚔Frost Death Knight⚔⚔⚔Retribution Paladin⚔⚔Feral Druid⚔⚔⚔⚔Fury Warrior⚔⚔⚔Frost Mage⚔⚔⚔⚔
WoW Classes Ranked: The Best of the Best
Tiers might tell part of the story. But the real test of a class is placing it in the crucible of burning content and seeing if it can withstand the intense, scorching heat. With the WoW Shadowlands classes ranked (roughly), it’s time to turn our attention to the best classes in the current meta for five key situations: DPS, PvP, Solo Play, the Arena, and PvE.
1. Unholy Death Knight
The best DPS class WoW Shadowlands
When it comes to DPS, you simply can’t beat the classics. For the best DPS class WoW Shadowlands has to offer, the Unholy Death Knight makes a confident but contested case for number one.
While there are other better DPS classes in certain specific situations, few can match the Unholy Death Knight pound-for-pound overall. It brings incredibly potent single-target damage abilities and merges them with bone-crushing burst damage for maximum profit. If a target has to die (and die quickly), an Unholy Death Knight is likely just what the doctor ordered.
Be advised that they have a relatively high difficulty level to play effectively. But if you’re willing to put in the time to learn, there’s plenty of damage to be farmed.
2. Frost Mage
The best PvP class WoW Shadowlands
For veteran players, our pick for best PvP class WoW Shadowlands edition won’t be a surprise. It’s the Frost Mage. Of course it’s the Frost Mage.
But why, I hear you say. Like youngsters gathered around their grandfather, begging to hear once more the story they already know by heart. Well, sit back, and I’ll tell you a tale….
The Frost Mage’s tale is one of incredible crowd control abilities. Slows and Polymorphs abound. When the enemy is bewildered, the Frost Mage unleashes a torrent of frozen-flavored burst damage. There’s even a bit of resource management in the form of generating frozen enemies to slam with critical strikes. (Okay, it’s not exactly resource management, but if you squint a little, it seems awfully familiar.)
Then, when the tide of battle turns, you have a few icy shields and mirror images ready to soak some damage for you. Winning in PvP is all about staying on your toes, rolling with the punches, and adapting to the hand each particular match deals you. The Frost Mage excels in all three areas and then some — making it one of the best WoW classes ranked.
3. Balance Druid
The best solo class WoW Shadowlands
Friends are cool and all. But have you ever tried playing a Massively Multiplayer game without them?
Planning to play an MMORPG by yourself is counterintuitive at best, but it can be hard to wrangle schedules and get everyone online at the same time. It’s better to set yourself up for uninterrupted questing by playing a class that can do it all, all the time, with or without a party for backup.
Of course, that implies a Druid. A Balance Druid, to be precise.
You’ve got heals. You’ve got multiple animal forms bringing different abilities into the fray. You can tank or DPS as the whim strikes you or the tide of battle dictates. And your DPS isn’t terribly hampered by all this utility — fancy that.
When it comes to playing Solo, Druids have long been the versatile standby. For the best solo class Wow Shadowlands‘ meta has on tap, the Balance Druid will be your go-to.
4. Holy Paladin
The best Arena class WoW Shadowlands
Look, we’re just as surprised as you are.
There are lots of class/specialization combos that perform better in specific situations. But if you’re looking to pick up Arena and play with a rotating group of guildies, the Holy Paladin offers some startling flexibility. Don’t believe us? See what Icy Veins has to say on the matter.
Regardless of the team composition, there’s a spot for the Holy Paladin. An experienced Paladin can hold their own as an alternate or main healer. There may be better options as a damage dealer and damage mitigator, but none that offer the same toolkit.
Make good on the spectacular burst healing and defensive spells, control the flow of battle with a few stuns, then slam down some damage with Holy Power generating abilities. Before you know it, you and your Arena teammates will be the only ones left standing.
5. Beast Mastery Hunter
The best PvE class WoW Shadowlands
As a close sibling to the best solo class, the best PvE class WoW Shadowlands offers must be equally multifaceted and versatile in application. While we aren’t as worried about lone wolfing with this pick, it must still be capable of questing without additional support.
That’s why the Beast Mastery Hunter is the easiest pick for the best PvE class in the book.
It’s a remarkably easy class to play. Resource management mechanics are minimal. You can deal solid DPS with just a cursory understanding of optimal cooldown rotations. And unlike most classes, you can remain fairly mobile while landing damage on the target.
What really sets the Beast Mastery Hunter apart is right there in the name — the Beast that accompanies you on your journeys across Azeroth. Cresting a hill with a trusty boar at your side to ding XP off a new location is an iconic moment every WoW player should experience at least once. From middle to late game, running dungeons and questing with a pocket tank in the form of your pet is incredibly fun (and potentially dangerous if you don’t micro your pet properly!).
If you want to extract the most succulent nectar the PvE realm has to offer, look no further than the Beast Mastery Hunter, one of the best WoW classes ranked.
All’s Fair in Love and Warcraft
Image Credit: Blizzard Entertainment
The meta is a strange and fickle creature. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, it goes and flips the table before storming off to recreate itself.
All the above choices for WoW classes ranked are subject to change, perhaps even by the time this article is published. Remember that our focus is fun here at High Ground Gaming — although most times fun and “as much DPS as one class can contain” go hand in hand.
Whether Shadowlands is just another expansion for you or your first adventure in Azeroth, we wish you good guildmates, great RNG, and many level-ups.
If we don’t see you in WoW, we’ll see you in the next guide.