Choosing what class you want to be in World of Warcraft is arguably the most important choice you will ever make. Unlike races --which can be changed for a fee--, classes are permanent. Well, what exactly is a class? A class is a specific specialization of combat you choose to take on your character. A mage is a class, a warrior is a class, a dwarf is not a class, it's a race. For more help on how to choose a race, see the Choosing a race page!
All classes in World of Warcraft are versatile, but each one has different roles in which it excels. It helps to choose a class based on the role you think you will enjoy playing. You should try to choose a class that's more like you. Ex.If you like helping and don't really like to fight then choose a healer. And if you want to be the one putting out the damage then you could be DPS. If protecting people is your thing, then maybe tanking is for you.
Within World of Warcraft, there are some very defined roles which each class finds itself. On a basic level, there are healers, tanks, and damage dealers (DPS); but many classes can fill a multitude of these roles, with varied effectiveness.
Classes can be roughly categorized by whether they are front-line or support, whether they are best at melee (close) or ranged combat, and how easily they can be played solo (without needing to be part of a group for enjoyable play). The lines are not always clear-cut; for example, support classes can still be defined as primarily melee or ranged for the damage output they do, even though damage is not necessarily their strong point. There is significant overlap in abilities between different classes. Still, each does have its strong points, as outlined below.
Although people make alts in other classes, you may find that there is one particular class which you are called to, and that fits more strongly than the others with your particular psychology and playstyle. In this sense, Blizzard's advertising slogan for WoW, "What's your game?" is actually extremely appropriate. It may initially be a little difficult to figure out what your particular game is, in terms of class, but when you find it, you'll know.
New players should also remember that a given class's potency may not be obvious until later levels (particularly 40+). Sometimes all you need is a single spell that changes your gameplay from maddeningly difficult to excessively fun. Playing, for example, a priest or a druid might seem particularly difficult during early levels, but the class will suddenly change after learning a new ability or talent, increasing the fun and excitement of playing it by several notches. Having a source of advice on playing your desired class, from the beginning until the level cap (several go through various play-style changes, particularly depending on the talents available), can also make a huge difference in the degree of enjoyment you find in playing one class versus another.
Finally, players should understand that World of Warcraft is a constantly-evolving game. Any given class or talent tree's potency relative to any other may vary dramatically from patch to patch. The class descriptions below noticeably omit references to class balance for this very reason.
- Classes for links to detailed info and specific race and faction requirements.
- Class proficiencies for info on weapons and armor availability and limitations.
Can't decide which class to choose ?
If you are completely unsure about which class to choose, then pick one of the hybrid classes. The hybrid classes are classes which are able to fill different roles in the game. This way you can experiment with different play styles during your evolution and better decide which way you like to play most. The hybrid classes are paladin, druid and shaman. Paladins and druids are good in dealing damage, receiving damage and healing, while shamans are good damage dealers and healers, and moderate damage receivers.
Class Roles in WoW
The first place to start when choosing a class is often choosing a role. There are three basic roles in WoW, the protector (aka: the tank), healer, and damage dealer (a.k.a.: DPS). All of these are referring to the "job" of a character in a group setting.
Many places within WoW are instances, or dungeons. These will take a group (often 5, but can be up to 40) of players to defeat. These groups often live and die based upon the effectiveness of the player roles of which they are composed; too many of any one role will often make for very slow, or very hard runs. Realize that while some classes are able to only fulfill a few roles, others can fill almost any (like the Druid, Paladin, or Shaman); these classes are defined as hybrids.
The tank's job is to take all the damage for the group. They are often the first ones in and the last ones out in a fight. They must stand proud, keeping all the monsters' attention (threat) while their party members deal most of the damage and kill the monsters. They usually make up the smallest percentage of players. Classes that can become tanks are Druids, Paladins, and Warriors. Tanks are vital members of any group or raid as they have to pull the boss's attention to themselves to ensure the DPS or Healers take no harm. Tanks have humongous health pools and high damage mitigation to be able to withstand the boss's attacks. Each type of tank have their own specific 'Emergency Button' spell to help them when the boss goes into enrage mode. Anyone looking to be a tank must be generally patient, have good leadership and also able to learn from their mistakes fast. If a tank dies or makes a mistake, the whole group will die. New tanks will experience a lot of criticism and need to learn from what they are doing wrong. Once mastered, the tanking role can become the easiest and most enjoyable to play.
Tanks have two types of encounters they need to worry about. AoE fights and Single-Target Fights. In AoE fights, tanks must use abilities that pull AoE threat instead of generating threat on one single target. A warrior, for example, can use Thunder Clap to increase AoE threat to keep a group of mobs off of the rest of the party. These abilities generate less threat than single-target threat abilities, but will act on more targets and will tip the balance as to who will be attacked.
Single-Target encounters usually require the tank to just keep on building threat on the boss. Tanks usually start off learning how to tank with these types of fights as they are simpler to grasp and execute. Skills like Shield of Righteousness, Devastate, and Ravage are used to keep the boss' aggro on the tank.
Tanks are usually expected to lead the group through the dungeon or raid and often assign themselves group leader. This is because mobs and bosses are often confronted first by the tanks in order to keep Aggro off of the other party members, and group leaders should know the correct route and progression through the instance. Sometimes a tank may ask a DPS member to pull a mob or a boss towards the group, but the tank must always pick up the threat to keep the rest of the group from taking damage. As a result, tanks must have a working knowledge of the specific dungeon map in order to lead the group into the correct areas to progress through the instance. Not all groups need to have tanks as leaders, but it usually makes for a quicker and more lively fight through the dungeon.
Importantly, tanks will be expected to research all the bosses that the group will face beforehand to learn special attacks and strategies to take them down. Tanks will be fighting the boss face to face, literally, and will be taking most of the boss's damage and must therefore know how to counter a boss's special abilities. Other players in the group should not be expected to tell the tank how to approach a specific fight. However, if the tank is not the leader of the group, it's perfectly acceptable to ask for directions or advice from more experienced members.
Tanking is a big responsibility and carries the most pressure amongst all roles, as their death would likely mean a wipe. A healer can tell if a tank's damage mitigation is good or bad while a DPS can tell if tanks pull threat well or not. Note that as a reward for this responsibility, tanks most often get the best non-rollable loot because they are closest to the target when it dies.
The healer's job is to keep everyone alive, primarily the tank through the use of healing spells, protection spells, and dispelling abilities to mitigate harmful effects. There are four classes that can serve in the healer role: Druids, Paladins, Priests and Shamans. Except in the case of the Priest, these classes all have individual Talent Trees that enhance healing to make them more effective healers. For example, a Druid specializing in Feral will not make as effective a healer as one specializing in Restoration.
Healers keep the group alive by doing more than just direct healing. There are shields, Power Word: Shield, HoT healing over time spells like Rejuvenation, Area of Effect Healing spells like Chain Heal, and of course the direct ones like Holy Light. Regardless of the types of healing abilities available, a healer has to know how to heal effectively and efficiently.
Each healer class is equipped with a Strong Heal, a Fast Heal, an Area Of Effect Heal and a Standard day-to-day heal. An effective healer will know which heal to use in any given situation. The decision on choosing which healing spell to use needs to be close to instantanenous and should become second nature.
There are three aspects to healing:
- Keeping the group healthy
- Minimizing your threat
- Maintaining your mana
Keeping the group healthy means constantly monitoring who has the most threat, who is taking the most damage, and who needs the most attention. Most often, this will be the tank. However, you may find that one of your DPS members is taking more damage than is warranted, and you will need to pay attention. This can happen with warlocks in particular because of their high-threat damage spells. By contrast, you will not need to worry about a Hunter's pet that takes on undue threat because the Hunter has his own pet healing (and even resurrect) spell. Occasionally, a DPS member will lag behind and get attacked by a wandering mob when everyone else has left. You may need to use offensive spells to help him out in addition to healing. Be sure to alert the group that someone is in trouble.
Minimizing your threat means knowing how to keep mobs and spawns from attacking you. Your healing spells will generate threat against hostiles, and you'll have to deal with that somehow. Often, no one will notice that you're being attacked, because you're maintaining your distance from the primary fight and everyone else's attentions are elsewhere. Be sure you know which spells generate more threat and use them judiciously. Power Word: Shield generates a great deal of threat, for example. Fortunately, you don't have to cast it right when someone gets into a fight because of its duration. You can cast it beforehand when nothing is around that will react to it. Other spells can be mitigated in a similar way.
You will be most vulnerable when there is a group fight, when the tank is taking on 3-4 or more different hostiles at one time. One of your healing spells might just peel away one of those guys closest to you if you're not careful. A good tank will know how to generate enough threat to bring it back, but you should be prepared if something goes wrong. The best way to deal with this is to alert the rest of the group. You can also cast a good HoT heal spell on yourself and then run like hell toward everyone else so another member will pick up that mob's threat.
Maintaining your mana means being aware of your overall mana pool and its depletion. Get to know which spells are the most expensive, and save those for a special occasion. Usually, these will be your quickest casts. HoT spells are instant, but generally less mana-expensive and can be used often unless something drastic is called for. If your tank is down to 25% health, for example, don't expect an HoT to get him through a bad fight.
You may be standing around during a fight, waiting to cast a healing spell on the right party member at the right time. Use this time to gauge what your reaction would be in a given situation. It helps a lot to know well the mobs and bosses and their specific abilities. Some can deal damage to everyone in the group at once, some can stun or put half your party to sleep in an instant.
Through talents some Healers may derive mana generation mainly from Spirit. However, many times spirit alone will not be enough. A typical raid fight could last anywhere from 5-10 mins. A healer has to be able to heal effectively by not wasting mana through overhealing and also by using any appropriate mana regen spells at the correct time.
And carry around a lot of mana juice. Potions have a relatively long cooldown, so carry some drinkable stuff, too. If you've done all you can and you're low, don't hesitate to let the group know that you need to stop and take a swig. Almost everyone will stop and wait for you.
A normal question to ask is whether a healer can level effectively in PvE. Yes. Healers have been proven to be able to level effectively and quickly through the use of their classes' offensive abilities. A Restoration Shaman can level by using spells from the elemental tree like Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning. In addition, healers are rarer than other dungeon roles, so group finding will generally be easier because there is less competition. It is possible for a healer to derive most of his or her XP from dungeons, as opposed to PvE.
The most popular role. DPS (Short for Damage Per Second) makes up the majority of any raid or group. DPS are the damage dealers, shooting and stabbing and casting and otherwise trying to bring the enemy down as quickly as possible. All classes, properly specced, can assume the DPS role. Try not to spend too much time trying to maximize damage output by focusing on this Talent Tree or that (except for those that are exclusively tank or healer specs) because it seems like each WoW patch that comes out will make changes to specific stats.
Generally, this role has the widest possible range of playing styles, ranging from casting to shooting to melee. If you prefer the casting style of play, then maybe a Balance Druid appeals to you. If you like melee play as a bloodthirsty gladiator forever in an enraged stupor, then maybe Fury Warrior is your best bet. Each DPS spec has a unique flavor and style that makes certain people attracted to them. As a new player find out what these flavors are and decide which best suits your personality.
DPS is the easiest role to take on because there is less to keep track of. You're really just trying to kill things and that's it. And you're trying to kill things as fast as possible. Keep in mind that the tank is not specced for maximized damage output. The tank is there to keep all those bad guys from paying attention to you so you can deal all that damage without having to worry about them.
Part of the fun with a DPS is the endless matrices of spells that can be arranged in a rotation to maximize damage. A warlock can open with Corruption, Curse of Agony, Shadow Bolt, or she can deal the bolt first or concentrate on targets that are low in health, applying Drain Soul. Even though there are endless combinations, the Warcraft community has narrowed the number of rotations to a few dozen that have proven to deal the most damage. Each class spec has about 2-5 of these rotations. This is not so important till you reach the end-game content when you will be judged according to how much damage you dish out. At the start you should care more about experimenting and having fun. Read the descriptions given by Blizzard for each class at the character creation page. They help a lot.
The DPS role almost always has the biggest difficulty finding slots for dungeons/instances due to its popularity.
All DPS specialize in dealing either melee or ranged damage. Both have their own tactical uses: Melee can deal full damage when moving while ranged is better able to avoid area-of-effect spells. Both are needed throughout the many boss fights in the game, so this will become relevant when you reach the maximum level. As you learn the game, get a feel for both types and decide which one you like better.
As an advanced consideration, most DPS players have the ability to stun, debuff, or otherwise mitigate hostiles from using their offensive abilities on the rest of the group (or the tank). You will be appreciated in the DPS role that much more if you learn your class's abilities and use them appropriately.
That's all a DPS needs to know. Most lessons on dealing damage are self-taught at the start so it will be better to learn those yourself.
After choosing a role, a player must then choose a specialization via Talent Trees, a combination of their class and their role. Choosing a class specialization. Determining which role you enjoy the most will help a great deal in choosing the best class for yourself. For More Information go to Class role.
Brief overview of classes
Each class in World of Warcraft is played in a distinct manner in many ways from the other classes available (and there are often considerable variations even within the same class), but certain broad generalizations about play styles can be made.
- Druids are an extremely versatile class, able to fulfill practically every role in the game – including tank, healer, and ranged and melee DPS – and this versatility makes them a popular choice for brand new players (particularly those who are unsure yet of how they want to play as they level). They are able to shapeshift into different animal forms (including bear, cat, raven, and many others). Depending on their current form, talent spec, and equipped gear, a druid is able to fill any role. Their versatility comes at a price, as druids often have mild to severe drawbacks in each of these roles when compared to less-versatile classes, although not such that they are prevented from doing a perfectly acceptable job.
- Hunters are ranged DPS dealers that depend on a pet they have tamed to protect them as they rain death on their enemies with a gun, bow, or crossbow. They have access to a wide variety of abilities – making them valuable members of any PvE or PvP group – including traps, stings, Feign Death, and many others. Because their pets are so powerful, hunters are very popular with new players. Pets can be used as the Hunter's own personal tank. But Hunters are arguably one of the easiest or more difficult classes to master, depending on who you ask; players who have reached endgame may find themselves overwhelmed by the many abilities available to them and the considerable tactical shifts necessary to function effectively in groups. Depending on their spec, they can be more reliant on their pets (Beast Mastery), become ranged DPS machines (Marksmanship), and PvP and PvE "mixed bag" gameplay in the hard to master tree of "Survival". Hunters use focus as a resource, the same type as their pets.
- Mages are ranged DPS dealers par excellence. No other class has such a huge variety of massively powerful abilities. Mages are sometimes referred to as nukers for this reason. They are also referred to as "glass cannons" due to their cloth armor - they are probably the most fragile class in World of Warcraft. A mage that allows an enemy to get within melee range will likely not live long. For this reason, only a rogue has more tricks up his or her sleeve than a wily mage does. Mages are also very valued for their AoE (damaging many enemies at once) and crowd control (removing enemies from combat) abilities, and are able to open magical portals to major cities that their group can use.
- Paladins, like druids and shamans, are extremely versatile and are able to find a spot in almost every group. Depending on spec, gear, and need, they are able to melee DPS, tank, or heal. They have almost no ranged DPS abilities. Paladins are very valued for their diverse collection of blessings and auras which buff other players. In endgame, paladins are very useful as either DPS, Tank, or Heal, and bring much raid utility. Paladins are restricted to Alliance players.
- Priests are powerful healers, and can be deadly as ranged DPS, if specced properly. Priests were long the premier healers in World of Warcraft, and although other classes have been improved to match their prowess, priests will still generally be assumed to fill the healer role in groups. Players who do not enjoy healing are thus advised to consider a different class, as playing a priest guarantees that you will be healing at some point. Priests can specialize in the shadow tree to become extremely effective single-target ranged DPS casters, and at higher levels (50+) the damage they cause can return mana to their group. Priests are also able to cast a number of very useful buffs that any party will find useful.
- Rogues are users of dirty tricks, preferring to hide in the shadows and attack from an advantageous position rather than go toe-to-toe in a fair fight (Like a warrior would). The signature ability of a rogue is stealth, an invisibility-like ability that allows them to pick and choose their fights. They possess immensely powerful melee DPS abilities, and have a wide variety of debuffs designed to turn the fight to their advantage, from stuns to poisons. Against a single target, it is difficult to out-damage a well-played and well-equipped rogue, but they are rather fragile, being only able to wear leather armor. Unlike other classes (except cat-form druids), rogues use energy to perform special attacks and have a shortened global cooldown.
- Shamans, manipulators of the elements, are versatile like druids and paladins -- able to be healers, ranged spell DPS or melee DPS depending on their spec and gear. Until endgame instances, they are sometimes able to tank passably well, although they are considerably more limited in this than a druid, paladin, or warrior. Shamans are able to place totems that provide a huge variety of useful buffs to their group. These buffs are restricted to a relatively small area of effect surrounding the totem, and a shaman may have no more than four totems active at one time. Shamans are restricted to Horde players.
- Warlocks are masters of the demonic arts. In the World of Warcraft universe, they are shamans and mages who have been tempted away from the use of arcane magic or all the elements, but they retain a number of similarities with both, and fulfill similar ranged DPS role in groups. The largest difference is their ability to summon a variety of demon minions, each of which has different abilities and is useful in different situations. Warlocks are feared for their DoT abilities, which are able to cause huge amounts of damage to their targets even after the warlock has died, and their curses and banes, which cause a variety of debuffs, and they have a few buffs and other abilities that, although somewhat situational, can be very effective.
- Warriors are in groups as either in a role of tanking or melee DPS. Warriors have a huge variety of damage-mitigating and threat-producing abilities which allow them to be extremely effective as tanks, and thus were long expected to tank any PvE group they were in. (See tank for more information about this role, which is crucial for raids and instances.) They have since gained respect as single-target melee DPS in PvE and especially PvP. Warriors are, more than any other class, dependent upon the gear they have equipped – a level 80 warrior will often carry around two entire sets of armor and a number of weapons. Unlike other classes (except Bear Form druids), warriors use Rage to perform special abilities, which is generated by dealing and taking damage, and must be built up during a fight to perform special abilities. Because this rage dissipates over time, warriors can maximize their damage output by constantly going from fight to fight.
See below for a more complete descriptions of each class.
A melee class excels at close-range combat, dealing heavy amounts of damage to the enemy (and likely taking quite a bit as well). Melee fighters don't rely on spells and ranged attacks to the extent that ranged classes do, and therefore must maintain a close proximity to the enemy in order to be effective. A melee class will be most enjoyable if you enjoy in-your-face action and fast tactical thinking. Since these classes tend to take a fair amount of damage from their targets, players often prefer to have a decent supply of food and bandages, and carry potions for quick recovery both inside and outside of combat.
The warrior is the tough melee class. Warriors can both inflict and withstand a tremendous amount of damage.
The signature role for a warrior is tanking in PvE (player versus environment) play, but damage dealing is also a very viable role. They have many tools available to draw the enemy's fire away from their more vulnerable teammates. For this, protection Warriors are highly valued by groups. Having at least one Protection warrior to play the role of main tank was considered essential by many in many circumstances, particularly in instances and at higher levels, although as the game has evolved this has changed to include Feral druids, Protection paladins, and Death Knights.
The role of a warrior tank is somewhat counter-intuitive to new players; though it involves being on the front line, it does not always involve doing the most damage to the enemy. If you want to be at the top of the damage-per-second list at the end of a fight, tanking as a warrior is probably not the best role for you, but Warriors have great potential for being at the top of the damage-per-second list if they are geared correctly and are Arms or Fury specced. Tanking is better suited for players who enjoy tactical thinking, control, and the concept of "the captain goes down with the ship". A good tank controls the mobs, and is the true leader of the fight. An experienced player who has mastered the art of tanking will always be in high demand.
Warriors are somewhat tough to play solo. They have only limited means to deal with adds. When a fight is going poorly for a warrior, there's not much he can do besides use potions. Because warriors use rage — which is built up during combat — instead of mana or energy, there is relatively little downtime between fights (exc. for eating).
In player versus player (PvP) play, Warriors suffer the disadvantage of having to be near an opponent to deal damage. All classes have a weakness in PvP though, and the Warrior certainly has the strengths to compensate for its. Its charge and intercept allow it to quickly close in with the enemy, and its high armor and DPS allow it to survive long enough to turn the tide of battle to its faction.
One of the biggest things to keep in mind if you do choose to play a warrior is that they are known for being very dependent on their gear, which is both a good and bad thing. At lower levels, warriors generally have a hard time defeating enemy players in PvP combat; but at higher levels with good gear, it's not unheard of for a warrior to dispense with an enemy player in only a few blows. Similarly, a tank with sub-par gear can die very quickly even with a good healer, but a tank with higher quality gear can generally survive a lot more damage. Of course, all classes depend on their gear to increase their abilities, but the difference it makes for warriors is much greater than that of other classes.
The rogue class has two primary strengths that are ironically in opposition to each other: they are tremendous damage dealers, yet they are also the best at avoiding combat in the first place.
The Stealth skill is the rogue's best friend. Rogues have stealth-enhancing talents that can allow them to travel nearly anywhere in the game by themselves, even to the extent of exploring high level instances solo without ever engaging in combat. They can even grab a few extra coins on their way by picking pockets, though this is not a significant source of income. If you enjoy exploration, control, and prefer to pick your fights, the rogue is a very enjoyable class.
Once in combat, rogues are very potent damage dealers. The rogue is a class that "fights dirty" (which is shown through their large arsenal of Stealth abilities, as well as their multiple Stuns and other CC abilities), and they are frequently found at the top of damage-monitoring statistics during endgame raids, although it is common to find rogues sacrificing some of their damage (still leaving it very high) to incapacitate the target through the use of other abilities. Through the use of the combo point system and special talents earned in mid- to end-game play, rogues have many abilities that can either stop an enemy in its tracks or slay it quickly. Like warriors, they need close proximity combat to be effective. They are limited to leather armor and can withstand much less damage than warriors; a rogue will be outmatched if suddenly made the attention of multiple enemies. However, stealth often allows them to escape this situation, either to get away completely or to restart the fight under better circumstances.
In end-game PvE, rogues will need to play at the top of their ability to stay on top of the damage meters because of the sustained damage capabilities ranged DPS classes have in end boss fights. In low-level PvP, though, rogues are probably the most feared class because of their stealth capabilities, high burst damage and stunlocks, letting a rogue kill an enemy player without them being able to fight back. Plate-wearing classes and Survival or Beast Mastery hunters (with the 41 point talent, The Beast Within) have an increased chance of recovery when taken by surprise by a rogue.
Several of the rogue's most useful combat abilities (e.g. Cheap Shot, Ambush) require the rogue to be in Stealth, which means that in solo play they can only be used at the start of a fight. In groups, Vanish and Preparation can allow more chances, while in PvP, combat fades after 5 seconds without fighting, allowing you to re-stealth.
If you enjoy a class that provides a high-octane, quick-reflex environment, the rogue is for you. Win or lose, fights as a rogue are often over quick. Take care: if you are prone to committing mistakes, your rogue will become an easy and vulnerable target. But with a cool head and knowledge of the weapons of your disposal - cheap tricks, lethal poisons, an iron grasp of martial arts, and a dozen ways to control your opponent - a well-played rogue will take you far.
Ranged classes rely on keeping the enemy at a distance. For casters like the mage and warlock, this is because the requisite cloth armor provides almost no protection, and the player is quickly killed if the enemy gets too close; for the hunter, it is because the player's best combat abilities simply will not work inside a minimum range. Like melee classes, ranged classes do not have the ability to heal themselves (aside from the warlock's healthstone and a pair of life-stealing spells), and generally train themselves in First Aid.
The hunter is the only class in the game that can deal effective damage with bows, crossbows, and guns. These are available to other classes, but only do token damage and are chiefly used for ranged pulling, while they are the Hunter's main weapons. A Hunter's DPS and ranged attack rating scale as they increase in level, much like a Warrior's attack power scales with melee weapons. In addition, Hunters gain many special abilities with ranged weapons that either cause extra damage or help control the enemy in some way (slowing, stunning, increased miss chance, etc.).
By contrast, hunters do not gain significant attack abilities with melee weapons. While certainly more deadly in melee combat than most spellcasters, the Hunter will be outmatched in a serious swordfight (or axefight, fisticuffs, etc.). Close-range combat is not a strength for Hunters and is avoided as much as possible. Before patch 2.3 there was a minimum range for the use of ranged weapons referred to as the "dead zone." This referred to an area that lay just beyond melee range and just before ranged attack range where the hunter was unable to attack. It was often exploited in PvP combat and has since been removed.
The Hunter is able to tame many animals from the wild and use them as pets, a central aspect of the class. They are the only class allowed to name their pets, but note that names are semi-permanent and need not be assigned right away, so choose carefully. (To change a pet's name, you will need a .)
The Hunter class is the most well adapted class for solo play, and is often considered to be the easiest and fastest leveling class. In solo play, the Hunter will send the pet to engage the enemy and shoot the enemy from a distance during the fight. Keeping the enemy focused on the pet, rather than running back to the hunter, is a balancing act Hunters must master to play effectively. Hunters can keep pets throughout the life of the character if desired; pets level with the Hunter and can be trained in new abilities as the Hunter learns them. Specializing in Beast Mastery can ultimately give the pet considerable destructive power.
In groups, Hunters are usually considered damage dealers, using their normal modus operandi to hit the target (pet engages, hunter shoots). In instances, the skilled Hunter can often be very useful at pulling, as the Hunter has the ability to cancel the encounter using the Feign Death ability, presuming it is not resisted and the group is far enough away. It should be noted however that Hunters must be practiced at controlling their pets in instances for reasons of aggro control, knowing when and how to keep the pet restrained so as not to interfere with other group members' duties.
In PvP, Hunters have traditionally specialized in ranged damage (Marksmanship) and traps (Survival), but this has been turned around thanks to the changes made to the talent trees and pet skills in Wrath of the Lich King. Beast Master tends to be a caster-killer build, thanks to all the pet damage boosts. Survival is more of a heavy-armor killer, since the powerful and dangerous Explosive Shot deals pure fire damage and ignores armor. Marksmanship is the middle ground, but still dangerous thanks to Silencing Shot and Chimera Shot.
If you think you would enjoy controlling a pet, using crowd control, generating high powered burst damage, and tackling difficult encounters by yourself, the Hunter may be a great choice.
The mage is a powerful ranged combat class. Mages arguably cause the most straightforward damage in the game, and for this have earned the nickname "nukers". They have the biggest arsenal of instant cast offensive spells of all the ranged classes, allowing them to inflict great burst damage when combined with long-casting spells.
Mages are famous for their area of effect spells (AoE), such as Blizzard or Arcane Explosion, that cause damage to all enemies in a given area simultaneously. When used improperly, this will result in a small army assaulting the mage directly and the mage's sudden death. When used judiciously, however, AoE spells shorten fights, save group members' lives, and make certain encounters easy that might otherwise be very tough.
Mages have other useful abilities besides their destructive spells. They have a quite useful crowd-control spell called Polymorph which temporarily turns an enemy into a sheep, pig, turtle, or even a penguin. This comes in very handy when facing multiple opponents, and in PvP also provides comic relief. Mages are also popular for their ability to open Portals for their party to use to travel to a capital city (Orgrimmar, Ironforge, etc.), and their ability to conjure water and food for faster regeneration of mana and health between fights.
Mages have particular weaknesses that offset their strengths. Their greatest weakness is that they are limited to cloth armor and cannot long survive melee combat, which they should avoid more than any other class. Their other chief weakness is their total reliance on mana, which limits the sustainability of their damage. Mages cannot do significant damage with melee or ranged weapons, so if they run out of mana they are relatively powerless (Wands might be useful for pumping out more damage while waiting for Mana to regenerate, but their DPS is pathetic compared to nearly all other weapons of the same level). As a result, Mages can be considered, in terms of play style, unforgiving with mistakes. Timing and awareness play a huge part in survival. In fact, while the Warlock and the Hunter are considered by some to be overpowered, the Mage is hardly mentioned, due to the Mage having among the lowest survivability in the game.
In PvE groups, the Mage should never engage the enemy immediately; instead they should allow the tank and other classes to wear the enemy down and build up sufficient threat. Once the enemy is suitably focused on the tank, the Mage will unleash a torrent of damage that quickly ends the fight. Knowing when to start attacking and how much damage to do is one of the main skills a Mage must master.
In solo play and in PvP, the Mage relies on spells that slow or freeze the enemy in place so it cannot approach within melee range. They have several escape abilities (e.g. Blink) that can help if they are losing a fight.
If high-powered ranged combat and mass carnage suit your tastes, the Mage is a good choice.
The warlock is one of the more eccentric classes in the game. Warlocks are similar to Mages, except they have a Demon pet, and primarily use Damage over Time (DoT) spells instead of Direct Damage (DD) spells, though most classes have a little bit of both. Warlocks are brought primarily to raids for their DoT spells and debuffs, and also for their Soulstone ability which can be useful in wipe recoveries.
Warlocks can specialize in many different ways. An Affliction Warlock is capable of surviving long protracted fights, draining large amounts of life from their opponents while inflicting slow but overall excessive amounts of damage through DoTs. Demonologists can rely heavily on their pets to cause serious distractions in PvE, with the powerful Felguard able to handle most situations, and the powerful Metamorphosis. These Warlocks also tend to have large reserves of health and mana at their disposal. At high levels, Demonology Warlocks offer significant buffs for their group through their talents. Destruction Warlocks are arguably almost on a par with Mages for DPS, and also gain a few extra Direct Damage spells to their arsenal. In addition, a Destructive Warlock can gain the ability to stun their opponents for short spaces of time, giving them time to cast the next big spell.
Warlocks have several potent forms of crowd control (including Fear and Howl of Terror) to offset their lack of snaring abilities. A Warlock's DoTs will drain their opponent's life away, regardless of whether the Warlock himself survives.
The biggest advantage offered to all Warlocks is the interchange of mana and health pools. A Warlock is capable of sacrificing health for mana, and then has spells which drain health back from its enemies. It is possible through Talents for a Warlock to gain more mana back than health sacrificed and then more health back through their spells than the mana they spent casting them, almost making the Warlock appear unharmed and without loss of mana through a long fight. In comparison to the other cloth classes, the Warlock can be involved in multiple fights without having to take a break.
A well-played Warlock is arguably the busiest DPS class in the game, and it's tough to master because of the vast array of spells and tactics. There is plenty of debuffing to be done to help the group, like Curse of Tongues to slow enemy casters down and Curse of Elements to make enemies vulnerable to most damage schools. But there is also a pet to control, crowd control to be handled, and all the while trying to maintain a high damage output.
If you enjoy playing a less straight-forward spellcaster and seeing your enemies suffer, the Warlock might be your class.
The hybrid classes have the ability to fulfill several roles in a group (melee or ranged damage dealer, tank, or healer), some better, some worse. Druids are able to specialize in all four roles, and are even able to cover two of them with one single talent build (melee DPS and tank), though they suffer much more in the un-specialized areas for it. Some players also believe that these classes have the ability to solo much more efficiently than the "pure" classes, but this subject is, like many other things in World of Warcraft, a topic of heavy debate.
Paladins are arguably the strongest support class in the game. They can heal, tank and DPS very effectively in a raid. They are also a very good class for soloing due to their heavy armor, healing abilities and buffs. Unlike Priests and Druids, the main support strength of a Paladin is based on his wide variety of buffs, support spells, and auras. The Paladin's buffs are powerful and efficient, making them as useful on the battlegrounds as they are in instances. While other classes have two or three buffs at most, the Paladin can have as many as nine, though he can apply only one blessing per target at a time. Paladins also have auras to give both himself and his party members a benefit, both offensive (Retribution Aura) and defensive (Devotion Aura, Concentration Aura), as well as situational (Fire Resistance Aura, Frost Resistance Aura.) Switching between auras is free, allowing the Paladin to change auras dynamically based on the situation.
When dealing damage, Paladins rely on melee combat supplemented by magic buffs. With a fighting style that mirrors that of a Warrior, the Paladin uses similar types of skills to deal both physical and Holy damage to their opponents. Holy magic deals solid sustained damage because it is not partially resistible by targets; this helps to give both Paladins and Priests an edge in combat. One tactic employed by Paladins is to weaken the target to Holy damage (much like a Warrior's Sunder Armor or a Rogue's Hemorrhage) and attack them with a series of instant attacks with Crusader Strike (similar to use of Mortal Strike or Sinister Strike) in a chain combination while also dealing physical damage. When geared properly a Retribution Paladin is a very durable melee fighter and is deceptively powerful in PvP/PvE. However, as they lack various key PvP abilities, such as movement speed reduction, spell interruption (other than , which has a prolonged cooldown), and healing reduction, Retribution Paladins aren't much of a threat to veteran players, especially ranged DPS and healing classes. A Protection Paladin is, with Consecration, Retribution Aura, and other abilities, the best AoE tank in the game. In fact, a Protection Paladin will often solo by pulling a group of mobs, then killing them all at once. A Holy Paladin is a great healer, having the best mana-efficiency of all healers.
The Paladin's ability to wear plate armor, melee, heal, and become invulnerable for a short amount of time also makes them extremely durable. Paladins are very good in group play, as they are able to cover all roles needed, have good buffs, and are often able to prevent wipes through offhealing & tanking (if not quite as well as a Druid). If you want to be a holy knight slaying your enemies and protecting and healing your allies, a Paladin is the class for you.
Much like a strong tanking character, the presence of a healer is usually vital to the success of a party. There is very little argument among veteran players that the Priest is the most versatile healer in the game. The Priests have a variety of buffs as well as numerous utility healing spells. Priests also have access to one fear (Psychic Scream) and one charm ability (Mind Control, but using this ability is more of an art form).
Contrary to popular belief, the Priest is not just a healer. In Shadowform (Shadow Magic talent), Priests can cause very high damage that can rival any other ranged class. Although they can't use Holy spells in Shadowform, they can still use the spell Power Word: Shield to prevent some damage to themselves and allies. Also of note is the talent Spirit Tap, which greatly reduces downtime. The efficiency of Shadow Priests (a Priest with Shadowform) makes them quite feared in PvP. It should be noted, though, that simply taking Shadowform does not mandate its constant use and so doesn't preclude the Priest from a healing role. A Shadow Priest can still be an effective main healer until near the end-game.
While Shadow is popular among Priests, and particularly favored while leveling, a Holy Priest is in no way restricted to just healing spells either. Through Smite and Holy Fire, especially when augmented with a suitable talent build, a Holy Priest has access to some very mana-efficient damage spells as well, with the added bonus of increased healing efficiency not available to those specializing in Shadow.
If straight forward healing is not your thing, the Discipline Tree offers many interesting things, improving (in a way) single-target healing compared to Holy's multi-target healing, while also providing a slight damage boost, as well as massive improvements to their buffing capabilities. They also get a spell similar to a Holy Paladin's Holy Shock with the Penance spell. This can be a fairly powerful single-target dps weapon, or a potent heal in the right situations, since all three "pulses" can crit seperately. Since Discipline Priests focus on damage prevention and large single-target heals, they also make effective healers in PvP.
If you would enjoy playing a vital support class that has strong damage options, you may like playing as a Priest.
Druids are a shapeshifting Hybrid class. Unlike other hybrid classes, Druids do not fulfill several roles at once (e.g., both healing and melee at the same time), but can choose which role to take by shifting into one of their forms.
In their normal form, they are healers and casters, with a wide array of heal over time spells and some offensive spells. In Bear Form, they gain considerable toughness and a Rage bar, allowing them to act as a tank. The Cat Form gives them an Energy bar and Rogue-like abilities for a high damage output, while their Moonkin Form (balance talent) allows them to gain extra armor equal to plate, give their group a spell crit aura, and cast potent damage spells on par with a Mage. They also have 3 travel forms: Travel Form for land, Aquatic Form for Water, and Flight Form for air, which dramatically increases their speed, and therefore often survival.
The Druid gains more from stats than any other class (e.g. 20 Agility = %1 Critical hit & 1% Dodge, etc.). This allows them to be moderately sufficient in all roles. If a Druid concentrates all of their equipment to suit one of the Druid branches and uses the correct talents, they can be as efficient as any class for a given role. While Druids can only wear Leather armor and Cloth armor, this is offset by their Bear, Moonkin, and tree forms, which increase their armor by a large percentage (180% (Bear), 200% (improved tree), or 370% (Moonkin and Dire Bear) increase on top of base armor); this makes high-level Druids with the right gear the class with the highest armor in the game. Druids are also the only class to have a resurrection spell which may be used in combat, Rebirth. However, unlike the other resurrection spells, it can only be used fairly infrequently (5 minute cooldown) as a trade-off to its combat-usability. This, in addition to their heals, tanking and Innervate, makes a well-played Druid able to save a group from what would otherwise be a guaranteed wipe.
In end-game raiding, Druids historically were expected to heal. This has been changed with the talent change in 2.0 and increased gear supporting the Feral talent tree. Nowadays feral Druids can spend their talent points in such a way that they can be both a melee-damage-dealer (Rogue-type) in cat form and a tank in bear form. No other class offers that much versatility (DPS and tanking in one single talent build), though the two roles require two different sets of gear. Beyond that, Druids can still specialize to become a healer or a DPS caster.
If you enjoy fulfilling multiple roles, the Druid class might be for you.
Shamans are an offensive hybrid class known for their high damage and totems. They can wield most melee weapons and shields, cast numerous direct damage spells, cast healing spells, and buff themselves and their party with totems. In exchange for this versatility, they can only wear Cloth armor and Leather armor until level 40 and Mail armor beyond that, with relatively weaker heals and direct damage spells, but the ability to throw them out no matter what.
An elemental (ranged DPS) Shaman can deal lots of damage, and in the case of emergency is able to switch to healing very quickly (without changing gear or form). With the better armor protection, Shamans are also more survivable than the cloth wearers, but they also need it because, excluding Wind Shock, they severely lack aggro-reducing abilities. In PvP, Elemental Shaman are often considered "turrets" since they pretty much just sit and spam their ranged spells, turning when needed.
Restoration specialized shamans will be very useful in groups for unique healing spells (in particular Chain Heal which is probably the best multi-target heal in the game) and again more durability than other healing classes, as well as Earth Shield, the restoration 41 point talent, and the unique HoT, Riptide, the 51 point talent. They're also best paired with other casters, thanks to their powerful Mana Tide Totem.
Enhancement Shamans have concerns in high end PvP, where they can be useful in some battlegrounds, but less so in arenas. This is because an Enhancement Shaman relies a lot on talent procs and Windfury Weapon procs than pure direct damage skills like a Rogue or Warrior has. Enhancement Shaman are also somewhat limited do to cool downs, since both of their Direct Damage melee skills, Stormstrike and Lava Lash are on cool downs, as well as the shared cool downs of their Shock spells. However, in PvE, where the fights can last long enough, especially in raid content, an Enhancement Shaman can get their procs and significantly boost other Melee DPS classes.
Compared to the Paladin, Shamans have higher damage, more powerful but less efficient heals, and more ways to debuff enemies, but their totem buffs are limited to an area around the totem and shaman cannot tank. They do however have a wide range of totem buffs and can give up to 4 buffs simultaneously, most of them affecting the whole raid. To pay for this, they do not have the Paladin's supreme survivability, and they must pay mana to replace their totems at the start of each fight.
They are the only class to lack an easy Crowd Control ability, they can only slow PCs or NPCs using Earthbind totem or Frost Shock or summon a temporary offtank with their Stoneclaw and Earth Elemental totems, until they hit extremely late into the game where they can train the Hex spell, which is similar to a mage's Polymorph. They are also the only class that are self-reviving resurrectors.
If a class with the motto of "Jack of all trades, Master of none" appeals to you, then the shaman is the right class for you.