World of Warcraft's newest expansion, Shadowlands may have you thinking about jumping into Azeroth for the first time to see what all the fuss is about. But as you'd expect with a game that is over 15 years old, the sheer choice of classes might be a little overwhelming. Or perhaps you're returning to Blizzard's long-running MMO after a few years and are unsure how much things have changed. Read on for an overview of all the classes that are available, as well as their individual specialisations (specs).
If you're new to Azeroth
While most players will be fine playing any of the classes that World of Warcraft has to offer, if you're planning on levelling solo there are certain classes and specs that will make things much easier on you—especially if you're new to MMOs. For example, ranged caster classes generally do a lot of damage but will require you to kite enemies or use crowd-control in order to survive, whereas a plate-wearing Paladin can take on half the zone without worrying too much about his or her health.
This is by no means a comprehensive guide on the classes in World Warcraft—there are plenty of sites out there that do that and each class has its own, invaluable, Discord server. This is an overview to give newcomers and returning players an idea of how each class and spec plays.
It's also worth noting that you can change specialisation at any time at no cost, so it's worth playing around to see which you like best.
Warrior (melee damage/tank)
If you like smacking things around with swords, the warrior may well be the class for you. All three specs are melee-oriented and wearing plate armour means that even the damage specs can take a hit or two. It's a highly mobile class with a leap and a charge at its disposal and you'll be a welcome addition in group content, thanks to the warrior's Battle Shout buff which provides a party or raid-wide attack power increase.
Arms is a damage spec that uses a two-handed weapon and is probably the easiest of the three specs to level with (unless you're planning on levelling through dungeons). It has high damage in both single-target and AoE situations and while it has no self-healing abilities until level 35, it has a number of defensive options available. Even then, it's unlikely that you'll struggle too much due to its high damage output.
Fury is a fast warrior spec and can dual-wield two-handed weapons and early on has access to a skill that will restore health as well as deal damage. They deal high damage but lack any solid AoE skills at lower levels, making Arms the preferred damage levelling spec, though there's really not much in it.
Protection, as the name might suggest, is the warrior's tanking specialisation. It uses a one-handed weapon and a shield and can deal a huge amount of burst AoE damage for a tanking spec. It has great damage reduction abilities and is incredibly mobile but lacks any self-heals and its defensive abilities rely on good resource management.
You can find more detailed warrior information on the Skyhold Discord server.
Paladin (melee damage/tank/healer)
Paladins also wear plate armour and can cover any of three group roles, making them a flexible class to play. They also have a lot of utility while levelling and in group situations with a choice of one of three Auras, an eight-second immunity to all damage as well as a powerful heal that can restore the target's health to full.
Retribution is the damage dealing spec and uses two-handed swords, maces or axes. They rely on Holy Power as their main resource and fair equally well in both solo and group content with good single-target and AoE damage. Thanks to their high damage, heals, and defensive abilities, they're an incredibly easy spec to level.
Holy is the paladin's healing spec and wields a one-handed sword or mace and a shield. It has high single-target healing making it a good tank healer and their utility is generally sought after in most group content. They have high survivability thanks to their defensive abilities and plate armour but, as with other healing specs, you would generally avoid levelling as Holy due to their low damage—unless you're planning on levelling solely through dungeons.
Protection is the tanking spec and uses a sword and shield. It is potentially a very strong tank with access to immunities, self-heals, and damage reduction abilities though it can suffer if the latter is poorly timed. This is a good option to level with if you want to play it safe but you'd get much more damage from Retribution and keep much of the utility.
You can find more detailed paladin information on the Hammer of Wrath Discord server.
Hunter (ranged and melee damage)
Hunters are the main pet class in World of Warcraft. They wear mail armour and have great survivability due to their tanking pets and their Feign Death ability, making them appear dead to enemies and dropping all threat. At level five, hunters gain the Tame Beast ability, allowing them to capture any tameable animals they come across and keep them as pets. All three specs have a good deal of utility, with various traps and interrupts.
Beast Mastery is the first ranged damage dealing spec and uses a bow, crossbow, or gun. It relies heavily on the pet to deal damage and it's a highly mobile spec, able to deal full damage even while moving. It has high damage in most situations and fairs well in both dungeon and raid environments. Out of all the classes in the game, this is probably one of the easiest specs to level.
Marksmanship is also a ranged damage spec and like Beast Mastery, uses a bow, crossbow, or gun but otherwise differs quite dramatically. The Lone Wolf passive ability means you'll deal 10 percent less damage if you have a pet summoned and a lot of the skills have a lengthy cast time, losing a lot of the mobility that Beast Mastery offers. However, the Marksmanship hunter is capable of high burst damage. It's viable to level with but you'll need to rely more on traps and kiting enemies to avoid damage.
Survival is the melee damage dealing hunter spec and wields a polearm or a staff. It was originally ranged but was reworked to its current form at the beginning of the Legion expansion. It has high single-target damage and a good degree of mobility for a melee class with its Harpoon ability. Survival is a solid levelling choice and has a good deal of survivability, though Beast Mastery is safer.
You can find more detailed hunter information on the Trueshot Lodge Discord server.
Rogue (melee damage)
Rogues are sneaky and best known for their Stealth ability. They wear leather armour and use Energy as their main resource and spend Combo Points to deal big damage to their enemies. They have a good deal of utility including a number of interrupts and stuns and a self-heal on a 30-second cooldown. Their Shroud of Concealment ability allows a whole group to move undetected for a short time. While rogues are fun to play and elements of levelling can be made much easier with stealth, there are much easier classes to choose from if you're just starting out.
Outlaw dual-wields one-handed weapons and relies heavily on good resource management to deal direct damage to enemies. It has strong AoE damage but the overall output can vary because of the RNG element of the Roll the Bones ability which grants a random buff.
Assassination dual-wields daggers to deal damage. It favours the use of poisons and bleeds to take down enemies and you'll need to keep these up for maximum damage. This spec has high, sustained single-target damage and its defensive abilities give a good amount of survivability.
Subtlety also uses daggers and relies more on moving in and out of stealth and positioning behind the enemy to maximise its damage. It has the lowest damage of the three rogues specs and is the most complicated to master, making it suited to more experienced players.
You can find more detailed rogue information on the Ravenholdt Discord server.
Priest (healer/ranged damage)
The priest is World of Warcraft's quintessential healer class. It wears cloth armour and uses a staff or one-handed weapon with an off-hand. It has some pretty dazzling spell effects along with quite a bit of utility, including Leap of Faith which pulls a friendly target to the priest's location. It has two very different healing specs to choose from as well as a third, ranged damage spec. It also brings a significant stamina boost to party or raid members with the Power Word: Fortitude buff.
Holy is a pure healing class with a number of tools that can help out and buff other healers in group content. It shines as a raid healer and has good single-target healing for dungeons or tank healing. This is probably one of the easier healing specialisations to learn, though it's better to level as either of the other two specs as Holy has relatively low damage.
Discipline primarily uses the Atonement buff to heal players with the damage it deals. The priest must manually apply Atonement to party or raid members which allows a percentage of damage done (by the priest) to heal those players. The Discipline priest also has on-demand healing and absorb shields and can perform well in most situations though it takes considerable practice to play well.
Shadow is the priest's damage spec and relies on multi-dotting and generating and spending the Insanity resource. It has good sustained AoE damage and does well on single-target encounters. As a cloth wearer, you'll need to be careful when engaging groups of enemies but this is countered by some decent self-healing. One potential issue while levelling as Shadow is the splash-effect of Void Eruption, meaning you will hit all enemies within 10 yards—as well as any neutral mobs that happen to wander past—so you could easily become overwhelmed.
You can find more detailed priest information on the Warcraft Priests Discord server.
Shaman (melee and ranged damage/healer)
Shamans are element-focused mail armour wearers and have some of the best utility spells in the game. They can use totems to deal damage, immobilise enemies, or heal group members and all three specs have an interrupt on a 12-second cooldown. Additionally, if the shaman dies, they can resurrect themselves and they can transform into a Ghost Wolf which increases movement speed. The sheer number of spells and abilities that the Shaman has may overwhelm newer players.
Enhancement is the melee damage spec that dual-wields one-handed weapons and relies on generating and spending their primary resource, Maelstrom. They have high sustained single-target damage and perform well in both dungeon and raid situations. With a tanking pet that can be summoned on a five-minute cooldown and access to healing, they are the best choice for levelling if you want to play a Shaman.
Elemental shaman is the ranged damage dealer and uses a one-handed mace or dagger and a shield, though it can also use a staff. It does well with both single target and AoE situations but, depending on your talent set-up, this could come at the cost of some fairly lengthy spell cast times. It's capable of dealing a lot of damage and has access to a short duration tanking and damage pets and are more than viable for levelling with but the long cast times may be off-putting for some.
Restoration is the shaman's healing spec and uses the same weapon types as Elemental. It does well in both dungeon and raid content. It has a huge amount of utility to bring to a group and has a number of strong healing cooldowns, making them appealing for most raid groups. While they can do significant damage for a healer, you're better off levelling as Elemental, especially as it shares the same weapon types.
You can find more detailed shaman information on the Earthshrine Discord server.
Mage (ranged damage)
Mages are a cloth wearing, high damage ranged class and all three specs use a staff or wands, daggers, or one-handed swords. They are easily punished if they are caught in melee range but they have Ice Block as an immunity to help increase their survivability. They have good utility such as Teleport, Polymorph, and Invisibility but have no self-heals so are one of the harder classes to level. They can conjure food when out of combat though, so you can heal up between fights if needed. Mages also bring the Arcane Intellect buff, granting an increased intellect stat to all party and raid members.
Frost mages have the greatest ability to slow enemies, allowing for easier kiting, making this the easiest spec to level. They have high sustained single-target damage and are fairly mobile for a caster class, thanks to the Icy Floes ability that allows the mage to cast while moving. The Frost mage can also choose to use a pet to help deal damage.
Arcane has high mobility and strong all around damage. The playstyle revolves around two phases: the conserve phase sees the mage conserving mana while the burn phase expends it, lining up with offensive cooldowns. However, their damage suffers if they're forced to move unexpectedly during a cooldown window.
Fire has incredibly strong burst damage and performs well with most encounter types. It has high mobility and relies heavily on procs from critical strikes. One possible downside is that they cleave damage onto multiple targets automatically so you could end up being overwhelmed.
You can find more detailed mage information on the Altered Time Discord server.
Warlock (ranged damage)
Warlocks are a ranged, cloth wearing damage dealing class that use staffs as their preferred weapon choice. They rely heavily on generating Soul Shards—a secondary resource—as well as having access to a number of demonic pets that deal varying degrees of damage. Warlocks also bring a lot of utility to a group situation with a pre-castable battle resurrection, Demonic Gateways that can allow instant movement between two points and a portable summoning stone that allows players to summon group members to the warlock's location.
Demonology relies heavily on the use of various types of demons to deal damage. It has high mobility but requires some ramp up time to deal the most damage. In addition to your short-term summonable demons which are part of the rotation, you'll also have a permanent pet summoned—generally the Felguard—which will help to deal damage and tank enemies for you.
Affliction is a multi-DoT spec and you'll need to be comfortable monitoring and maintaining DoTs on multiple targets to get the most out of it. It has high single-target and AoE damage though due to it's multi-DoT nature, it can take some time for damage to ramp up. You'll also be able to summon a permanent pet to help you deal damage though this can be switched to a tanking pet if needed for levelling.
Destruction has the least ramp up time of all warlock specs but it has the lowest mobility with some lengthy cast times. You'll be generating Soul Shards through a variety of different abilities and spending them on the hard-hitting Chaos Bolt or Rain of Fire in AoE situations. Like other warlock specs, you'll be able to keep a permanent demon pet with you to deal damage or tank enemies, depending on your needs.
You can find more detailed warlock information on the Council of the Black Harvest Discord server.
Monk (melee damage/tank/healer)
The monk class was added with the Mists of Pandaria expansion and is one of the most mobile classes in the game, thanks to the Roll ability. They wear leather armour and are highly versatile, having access to all three roles. They automatically apply a debuff to targets, making enemies take higher physical damage from all sources so they are useful in group situations for that alone.
Windwalker is the monk's damage dealing spec and wields one handed weapons. It uses Energy as a primary resource and must generate Chi to be spent on harder hitting abilities. It has good AoE damage and a fun rotation with a lot of utility in the form of interrupts and other crowd control. It's high mobility and access to a healing spell, makes it a relatively safe spec to level.
Brewmaster is a tanking spec and uses a polearm or a staff as a weapon. It is one of the most mobile tanks in the game and deals with incoming damage by 'staggering' it over a short period. Because of this, monk tanks can take fairly large hits and are a safe option if you're looking for a levelling spec.
Mistweaver is the monk's healing spec and uses a staff, mace or sword. They have high mobility for a healer and fair well with both single-target and group healing. Their defensive cooldowns give them high survivability in group content and they can do a reasonable amount of damage which allows them to help out when healing requirements are low. They're certainly viable as a levelling spec but you would probably do better to choose one of the other two specs unless you plan on levelling through dungeons.
You can find more detailed monk information on the PeakOfSerenity Discord server.
Druid (melee and ranged damage/tank/healer)
The Druid is one of the most versatile classes in the World of Warcraft; with four specialisations, it gives you the option to play all three roles as well as both a melee and a ranged damage role. Druids are shapeshifters and can take on different forms and switch between them with ease. Shapeshifting can also be used to escape roots and snares and Travel Form will replace the need for mounts or any kind. Druids are highly mobile thanks to Cat Form which increases movement speed and can be used anywhere.
Feral is the Druid's melee damage spec. It uses a staff or a polearm and requires Cat Form to play. It relies on keeping up multiple DoTs on your target as well as the management of two separate resources and is good on both single-target and AoE damage. It also has a stealth ability and this, along with its damage and access to healing spells, makes Feral a solid choice for levelling—though it's one of the more complicated specialisations to master if you want to get the most out of it in end-game content.
Balance is Druid's ranged damage spec and uses a staff, dagger or a mace. It requires Moonkin Form and is a multi-DoT spec that performs well in both single-target and AOE situations. You'll need to manage your Astral Power resource as well as Solar and Lunar Empowerment charges, making this a fairly difficult class to master. And while Balance isn't as squishy as other ranged classes, Feral is generally easier to level with.
Guardian is the Druid's tanking spec, uses a staff or polearm and requires Bear Form to use. It relies on its large health pool, passive abilities that give damage reduction and additional healing, and has an active damage mitigation ability (with no cooldown) which can be stacked but uses its primary resource, Rage. Guardian is a viable option for levelling, especially if you're looking to do a lot of dungeons—tank = faster queue time.
Restoration is the Druid's healing spec uses a staff, dagger, or a mace. It is a very strong and versatile healer and works well as a raid healer or where damage is consistent. It relies on various HoTs (heal over time) spells but has a number of cooldowns for emergency situations and burst healing.
You can find more detailed druid information on the Dreamgrove Discord server.
Demon Hunter (melee damage/tank)
Demon hunters were added at the beginning of the Legion expansion and start at level eight in Shadowlands. They wear leather armour and use warglaives, swords, axes, or fist weapons. Demon hunters have what is probably the highest mobility in the game and their Glide ability means you'll never have to take fall damage. They also debuff targets to take five percent more magic damage from all sources, making them sought after for group content. Demon hunters only have two specs to choose from but they are both incredibly fun to play, not least because of the Metamorphosis ability which transforms your character into a demon for a short time.
Havoc is the damage class of demon hunters. It can deal a huge amount of damage and can take on large packs of enemies with ease. It has very powerful offensive cooldowns to deal high damage. Killing enemies also has a high chance of producing Soul Fragments which heal the demon hunter when picked up, making levelling incredibly easy.
Vengeance is the demon hunter tanking spec and works with a combination of damage reduction and healing abilities. They have high mobility and high damage output and while they are certainly viable in a raid environment, they really shine in dungeons.
You can find more detailed demon hunter information on The Fel Hammer Discord server.
Death Knight (melee damage/tank)
Death knights were introduced with the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. They are a plate armour wearing melee class and start at level eight in Shadowlands. They use Runes and Runic Power as resources. They have a good amount of utility including Death Grip which pull the enemy target to the player as well as a number of interrupts and slows. They are also one of the few classes to have a combat resurrection.
Unholy is a damage spec and uses two handed axes, maces, or swords. It relies on spreading disease to enemies with their abilites as well as summoning undead minions to come to their add for additional damage. Unholy performs well with both single-target and AoE situations though it has some ramp up time. For this reason, it may not be the ideal spec for levelling.
Frost is the second damage spec and is the easiest death knight spec to learn. It dual-wields one handed weapons and deals good burst AoE damage but is probably one of the slower specs, in terms of mobility. It has good utility and some self-healing with the Death Strike ability.
Blood is a tanking spec and has great self-sustain with the use of Death Strike and Marrowrend, which applies stacks of Bone Shield. It has a number of defensive cooldowns but generally keeps itself alive by healing back up after taking damage, rather than preventing the incoming damage. It has great utility with Gorefiend's Grasp which pulls all hostile targets with 15 yards to one spot, making it easy for groups of enemies to damaged together. Blood is the safest spec to level as if you're thinking of playing a death knight.
You can find more detailed death knight information on the Acherus Discord server.