Ranking Classic World of Warcraft Classes by Relative Status

Ranking Classic World of Warcraft Classes by Relative Status

Everyone is talking about class and status today so I thought a nice palate cleanser might be to do more of the same. Let's talk about the relative perceived status of playing each World of Warcraft class and why I'm ranking them as I am.

I'll start with my gut level rankings and then explain my reasoning. As with most status rankings, the top and the bottom are easier to identify than the middle.

Roughly, class status rankings go:

Tank > Healer > DPS

But there's a lot of nuance within that framework. Ranking the original (WoW Classic) classes from top to bottom by status, I would argue you get this list:

  1. Warrior
  2. Paladin
  3. Shaman
  4. Priest
  5. Warlock
  6. Mage
  7. Druid
  8. Rogue
  9. Hunter

Let's get into it, shall we?

#1: Warrior

Undeniably the #1 class when played well, which they usually are. Only the strong survive to 60.

Warriors are the easy and obvious pick for highest status WoW class. They're difficult to play well and difficult to level. They're the best tanks in the game. They're rare. Everyone is thrilled to have a skilled warrior in the group.

They also tend to be the class played by either guild masters or very talented/knowledgeable players taking a leadership role in the guild. Your main tank is almost certainly a warrior, and almost certainly put an absurd amount of time into his gear.

You have to respect even someone playing a high level warrior sub-optimally because they ground it out to get to that point and are capable of redemption. It's also the class least likely to be played badly because you can't coast in groups. You'll get kicked or give up.

Finally, they're rare in part because the thing they're sup-optimal at DPS so you'll only usually bring one along in a 5-man or a 10-man. This means that bad warriors don't gear up and are disinclined to play. You HAVE to be good to earn that single warrior slot. Very chad.

#2: Paladin

Arguably the highest utility class in the game while also fulfilling nerdy fantasies of holy knighthood.

Lots of people will disagree with me putting the Paladin as #2 like @cfbundy2 already did, but hear me out. Yes, kiddies love pallies. Yes, bubble hearth is a thing we all laugh at. But I do think they're the second highest status class.

This is partially because slots 2-4 are extremely close and fungible and complex to weigh against one another. Pally isn't a CLEAR #2, but they have some things that edge out over the other classes.

The first is that they're a tank. They're not an optimal tank, but they're still a tank. And the fact that they're sooo slow to level (albeit for different reasons than the warrior is) is also an argument for grudging respect for high level pallies who stuck it out.

They have buffs that benefit every single class in direct and meaningful ways, and absolutely insane amounts of utility. In addition, they have to buff everyone every 5 minutes which is a nod to the willingness to be a group support for pally players.

People snicker and roll their eyes at pallies sometimes, but beneath that is an actual appreciation for having them along. You're never upset when a pally joins the group because regardless of group makeup they have something to offer (even just stacked auras and extra rezzing).

They're also a unique faction class that lots of people are envious of on the horde side, as evidenced by the wealth of blood elf pallies that appear (and stay) throughout TBC. Plus they're the closest association with our cultural concept of a holy knight, edging them into #2.

#3: Shaman

Unique, useful, fun, and well-regarded, shamans can do everything well except tank.

Shaman is a CLEAR #3 if they're not #2 for some of the same reasons pallies are #2. They're a unique faction class. They have tons of utility. They fill a key role (healer). They're not easy to play well (totem twisting).

Once again, the alliance is very jealous of some of the abilities shamans can offer (self-rez, for example). It's really only their lack of being able to tank that brings them down a bit. The other status hit comes from melee DPS shamans tending to roll on rogue and hunter gear.

But really it's their uniqueness and thematic presence in the Warcraft universe that's doing a lot of their heavy lifting here. You don't really know what to expect from a shaman until they demonstrate skill, and they arguably don't add as much to groups as a paladin does.

#4: Priest

Unsexy while still being incredibly useful--the class everyone likes and no one wants to play.

Priests bring up the top of the middle of the pack, and it's because they're sort of useful but unexceptional. They do one thing really well, which is healing, and they have a universally useful buff that everyone wants (stamina).

It doesn't take a TON of skill to be a good healbot even though you can tell a very skilled priest apart from a very unskilled priest, and as the top healing class they're always in demand (until Paladins surpass them at this at very high levels in single target situations).

But they're also not very sexy. They're boring to level. Stamina is universally useful but not exciting. They don't have many utility gimmicks like shamans or pallies. And also they're often forced to be dwarfs on the alliance side, which is the lowest status alliance race.

People are always happy to have a priest in the group, but only one. Having two feels like dead weight. And you don't really notice them unless they're messing up. They're only so high because healers are higher status than DPS due to being less frequently played.

#5: Warlock

Warlocks offer great utility and have a high skill cap, making them the highest status DPS class.

Warlocks are the solid middle of the 9 status-ranked classes. They're arguably the highest status DPS and even beat out a healer. They look cool. They're thematically important to the game world. They get free mounts. They're very complex to play well.

They're exceptionally good in PvP at various points and offer a ton of utility: stamina buff, banish + seduce, AoE, healthstones--they're even the one DPS class that can prevent a total party wipe thanks to soulstones.

Because of the skill cap, they're hard to play well, but you also don't have newbies choosing them for the same reason and so you can be reasonably sure a high level warlock isn't gonna ruin your instance run with newbie mistakes. All of this put together helps them top the DPS status ranks.

#6: Mage

For all of their interesting class perks, mages just aren't that well regarded.

Mages are ALMOST as high status as Warlocks, but they're not quite on the same level. Many of their benefits come outside of combat situations where classes earn esteem: Food, Water, Ports. Their main buff is only useful for casting classes.

Where many of a Warlock's talents benefit the whole group, mages tend to be more limited in what they offer beyond damage. Sheep is a key exception but locks, rogues, druids, and priests can all CC on many of the same targets. AoE is fantastic but situational.

And because mages are easy to level solo, player skill is highly variable. Of the DPS classes, mages are second only to hunters in how easily they can accidentally wipe a group if played poorly or if they don't know how to manage aggro or sheep. This lowers their status a bit.

The one thing they have going for them consistently is VERY high single target damage from the relative safety of distance and good tools and tricks to control aggro when they pull it, making them desirable in both raids and 5-mans. Plus, people often like having a mage along.

#7: Druid

Does any class look as ridiculous as a druid in their boomkin form?

You're probably surprised to see Druid so far down the list when I already said that tanks are especially high status and druids can be tanks OR healers, but I have good arguments for this.

The first is that because druids are the only class that have the ability to fill all four party roles (tank/healer/ranged/melee) in different builds, they don't excel at any of them. They're the #2 tank, the #3 healer, and the #4 (or lower) DPS in any spec.

What this means is that while you're never UNHAPPY to see a druid join the party, there's always a small part of you that wishes you had the better version of whatever role they're serving along instead. Also, druids don't offer nearly as much utility as the other hybrids do.

They can off-heal a little, but if they're in feral gear it'll detract from their DPS and takes a LOT of skill to pull off well. They can combat rez, but only every 10 minutes which means they're janky for group wipe protection. As a healer, not having a rez REALLY hurts them.

Their primary buff is the same--sort of useful for everyone, but not amazing for anyone. They have arguably the worst class of CC despite having two options (roots and sleep). They clear curses and poisons when magic and disease are usually more annoying to handle.

Finally, they're one of the most popular newbie classes and they're easy to level, which means that you have highly variable skill across players that often reduces their utility for the group even more when they're already handicapped. Jack of all trades, master of none.

#8: Rogue

Poisons could be really neat if they didn't just serve as a damage buff 95% of the time.

Rogues go down as the second-lowest status class with good reason. Basically everything I said about the mage is true of the rogue, but they're even less useful for the group. No party buffs. Their CC requires proximity for use which makes it much riskier than sheep.

Their "special thing" is supposed to be lockpicking (hardly ever useful) and poisons (but they mostly just use them to add damage instead of utility). Because they have to be in melee for damage they die easily to AoE and cleave damage.

They're easy to level and twitchy to play, which attracts younger players and less skilled players that can't use the class to its peak effectively. They do great damage when played well, but it's very hard to tell if they're playing optimally unless you have a damage meter.

Finally, they're the #1 choice for people who enjoy griefing in PvP which gives them a terrible reputation. It's hard to distance yourself from the negative association we all develop when a high level rogue ganks us out of nowhere. It leaves a permanent stain on the class.

#9: Hunter

Hunters: The ultimate newbie package.

Finally, we have hunters--universally the most hated and low-status class for many reasons. I have nothing personally against hunters, really. They do fine as a solid DPS class. I like that you can sub their pet in as an off tank.

But the reasons people dislike them are many and valid: Hunters tend to be the most-played class by total newbies who haven't learned the game, because they're ridiculously easy to solo with. No other class has as easy of a cruise to 60 as the hunter does with mail + range + pet.

This means that the odds of meeting a random high-level hunter who plays poorly and doesn't know their class or group role is SIGNIFICANTLY higher than with any other class. On top of that, they don't add much in the way of utility to groups. No awesome buffs. No wipe recovery.

Also, hunters have an awful tendency to roll on all kinds of gear that other classes need because they make use of all stats and can wear anything from cloth to mail, and as a ranged DPS they don't have to worry about soaking damage.

They're used to fighting mobs much higher level than them and coming out fine, so lots of hunters don't have much patience or care for the fragility of their team mates (and often will feign death to survive the wipe they caused with an over-eager pull).

If they forget to turn their pet's taunt off it creates all kinds of aggro issues for the tank and it's difficult to tell when it's happening (another skill issue). They rarely make good use of their traps. If their squishy melee pet dies they lose 20-60% of their DPS potential.

They're another popular class for gankers because of their survivability, and the speed at which they level makes other players envious of them. Their lack of utility makes almost any other DPS class preferable to have in the group. You're rarely excited that a hunter joined.


Look at the lack of gender representation here. Classic WoW.

So that's all 9 WoW classes ranked by status with arguments. To close, I'll also rank the races by faction in order of status, but I won't give my reasoning for those. Let's leave a little mystery for the next article.

Alliance race statuses:

  1. Human
  2. Night Elf
  3. Gnome
  4. Dwarf

Horde race statuses:

  1. Orc
  2. Undead
  3. Tauren
  4. Troll