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The Definitive Cataclysm DPS Tier List

So, I want to preface this tier list by saying that this isn’t going to be solely for any specific phase in Cataclysm but as a general sense of how classes will be performing over the course of the phases from beginning to end. Just because I put something in B or C tier doesn’t mean it’s going to be B or C tier throughout the expansion. I’m also factoring utility heavily into this tier list mostly because class balance in Cataclysm is so good that a lot of the times, you’re going to be invited to raids not because of your raw DPS potential but because of what you can provide to the raid on top of doing that damage.

Combat Spec Analysis

It starts off pretty strong but ends a bit poorly in favor of Assassination as the phases go. Numerically, I would say that overall, Combat is more realistically a D tier spec throughout Cataclysm but it’s pretty easy to play and has some strengths on a few bosses. Fan of Knives provides solid AOE but that value is shared between every spec and falls behind Assassination, so it’s kind of hard to see why anyone would want to play Combat throughout Cataclysm.

Frost Death Knight Performance

Next up is Frost Death Knight, which is firmly going in A tier. Frost is going to start off extremely strong with the gear we’ll have in Phase One and continues being a beast throughout the expansion. Ideally, Frost is a dual wield spec but it does have some semi-viable two-hand options as well.

It’s going in A for a few reasons, namely that numerically, while being somewhat average, it starts off really hot and as a DK, you provide an important utility with your battle res. Having an incredible burst DPS like Frost with a battle res is really good and continues its relevancy as the phases go on. On top of that, the AOE damage that Frost does is satisfying and effective. It’s also an extremely easy spec to pick up and play with a really high skill floor ceiling, so you can always ensure picking up a Frost DK is a safe bet. However, it does get beaten out by Unholy, which is firmly an S tier.

Unholy Spec Highlights

Numerically, Unholy is very strong while also providing the same utility as Frost with the added benefit of Anti-Magic Zone. Even without that, the raw damage that Unholy can provide is amazing, and I predict that

Unholy Death Knight Complexity

The best DPS Death Knights will most likely be Unholy. The only issue with Unholy is that it’s quite a bit harder to master compared to Frost, with a more complex rotation and relying more on cooldown management.

Balance Druid Capabilities

After that, we have Balance Druid, which I’m putting in A tier. Numerically, the single-target DPS of Balance isn’t anything to be super excited about, but they do provide good cleave damage. The burst damage they do is also useful, especially considering the instant-cast burst can be lined up well for a lot of mechanics. The real reason they’re in A tier is the jack-of-all-trades utility you can get with them. They provide a 5% spellcasting speed buff, Mark of the Wild, a battle res, and more importantly, Innervate. They also have Solar Beam, which is situationally a very powerful AOE interrupt and silence, on top of Hibernate, Cyclone, and Entangling Roots, so tons of versatility and incredibly valuable.

Feral Druid Positioning

Feral Druid is a bit different, and I’m going to put it in B tier. Feral’s DPS is really nothing too great, and I’m going to bet most Ferals you see are either going to be tanking or going to be PVPing. That being said, they do have solid cleave damage, but the mediocre single target and lack of great burst damage is going to limit their potential a lot. They do have a battle res, which is always useful, so that’s a big reason why they’re staying in B tier.

Analysis of Hunter Specializations

Let’s move on to Hunters, starting with Beast Master, which is going into C tier. The raw damage on single target isn’t anything great, but it is passable, and they’re okay at cleaving, but again, it’s really nothing to write home about. The only truly good utility they bring is Ferocious Inspiration, as this buff is a little bit underrepresented as only Arcane Mages and Retribution Paladins can bring it, and on top of that, most of the BM pet buffs can be pretty easily obtained with one of the more popular classes, so I don’t think you’re going to be seeing them a ton.

Marksmanship Hunter Evaluation

Next up is Marksman, which is firmly going in F tier for me. There’s not a lot to say here as Marksman provides bottom-tier DPS and next to no utility. They do have True Shot Aura, but this is easily replaceable by Blood DKs, Paladins, and Shamans. Combined with the lack of utility and bottom-of-the-barrel damage, it’s safe to say that this is definitely going to be a meme spec.

Survival Hunter Strengths

But this isn’t all bad for hunters as Survival is an extremely strong spec going in S tier. It provides top-tier damage output in single-target and AOE and isn’t punishing in terms of high movement fights. Essentially, every hunter in classic

Survival Hunter Analysis

I predict Survival will dominate, and with how meta-focused current players are, this might end up being the literal only spec for hunters in PVE. Their utility isn’t the strongest, but Misdirection and Hunting Party will be useful if your raid doesn’t have a Frost Death Knight or Enhancement Shaman. You’re mostly bringing Survival for their damage output, which is consistent and versatile, and every group will be happy to have one.

Arcane Mage Evaluation

Now let’s go for Arcane Mage, and this might be controversial, but I’m putting them in C tier. Outside of phase one, Arcane will not be played very much in favor of Fire Mages. Their damage starts off really well, and you might even be at the top of the meter, but they very quickly fall off due to how strong Fire becomes. It’s a fine spec, and you can raid throughout Cataclysm in it, but if you’re pugging or in a guild trying to push really high-tier content, I think you’re going to be in for a bad time as Arcane.

Overall, numerically, they’re really strong in single-target, low-movement fights, but this is kind of unrealistic in Cataclysm. They do provide Arcane Tactics, which is an underrepresented buff, as well as Focus Magic. You might end up seeing a phase one meta of two Arcane Mages putting this buff on each other for crazy damage, but that will not last long.

Fire Mage Capabilities

After that is Fire, which is going straight to S tier. Fire Mages are one of the top dogs in Cataclysm overall, with unmatched scaling as the phases go on and ridiculous single-target and AOE damage. They’re also incredibly mobile during high-movement fights, with zero mana issues and great survivability. The utility is also fantastic, providing an extra Blood Lust with Time Warp, and Critical Mass, which is a debuff that increases spell Critical Strike against the target by 5%. Most of the Mages I expect in Cataclysm will be Fire and will be one of the easiest specs to find groups and guilds with.

Frost Mage Limitations

Which brings us to Frost, which is unfortunately getting put in F tier. While it does have fantastic burst damage, Frost provides pretty much nothing else of value and is known almost entirely for being a PVP spec. Frost has basically no utility of value besides Time Warp, and is numerically towards the bottom of the list for damage output. I definitely recommend not playing Frost under any circumstance outside of PVP.

Retribution Paladin Performance

Retribution is a good one, going in A tier. Retribution provides impressive utility, and while starting off a bit slow in the early raids, it scales incredibly to become a great DPS option. Landing just outside of the top dogs numerically, it provides really strong single target but pretty average AOE damage. Despite this, the utility that Ret brings is almost certainly securing raid spots for you. You have your usual blessings and auras that are incredibly useful, a stun, interrupt, Hand of Protection, and a cleanse among other things. Definitely a great option going into Cataclysm all the way through.

Shadow Priest Capabilities

After that, we have our only priest DPS spec, which is Shadow, and it’s going into A tier. Realistically, this could be B, A, or S, but I put it in A because it excels in pretty much everything. It might start off a bit slow, but as the phases continue, things will ramp up. Numerically, it has strong single target, cleave, and mass AOE capabilities, as well as providing a ton of utility.

You have Fortitude, Shadow Protection, Mind Quickening, Vampiric Embrace, which are all great buffs, and having a DPS that can do Mass Dispel is a really great option for raid groups. You also have Hymn of Hope, so if mana becomes an issue for your healers, you can give them an AOE mini Innervate to help out, super useful, and I expect it to be a very popular choice.

Elemental Shaman Evaluation

Next up, we have Elemental Shaman, which is going to be an A tier DPS option throughout the expansion. Depending on the phase, they fluctuate quite a bit, starting off numerically strong and getting weaker by the time Dragon Soul hits. Context really matters though, and because they’re one of the best burst damage options, their damage will still be heavily impactful even though it might not show up in the meters.

Utility-wise, this might be shocking, no pun intended, but I don’t think that Shamans necessarily stand out the way they used to. Most of their totems are replicated with other popular choices, and Blood Lust can come from Mages now. Where they shine the brightest in terms of utility is how great of an interrupter they are, with Wind Shear being a 5-second cooldown, and of course, you have Hex, which is also a strong CC when needed.

Enhancement Shaman Outlook

Enhancement Shaman is a bit different, going in B tier for me, and I almost put this in C-tier. Numerically, they’re not super strong and don’t really have a single phase where they get a shining moment. That being said, they provide very consistent DPS, and they’re also generally really fun to play. In my opinion, very decent single target, very decent AOE, and very decent utility. This class just kind of screams B tier.

Enhancement Shaman Utility

For me, you’ll never struggle finding groups, but you won’t really be sought after either. Their utility is essentially the exact same as Elemental, so excellent interrupts while not bringing anything super unique to the table in terms of buffs.

Affliction Warlock Performance

Let’s move on to our spooky boys, starting with Affliction, which is going in A tier. Numerically, they’re quite strong throughout the expansion, and you’ll always be near the top in terms of DPS, although not quite reaching the top as phases go by. All three Warlock specs in a single-target, low-movement fight will all be super similar to each other in terms of numbers, but since that’s not really the case, we need to focus on a few different things.

Choosing Affliction is mostly a preference thing, but it will be outclassed by Demonology, especially in AOE, the further you get into Cataclysm. Dark Intent is a great utility spell, but most of the curses have counterparts from other specs. This is mostly going in A tier because they have consistent damage output and standard fares for utility in terms of Warlocks.

Demonology Warlock Evaluation

Demonology is what I expect most Warlocks to play, and I’m putting it in S tier. The unmatched AOE of Demonology is a huge reason why, as you’re the highest AOE damage spec in the game. Even in single target, Demonology will always be near the top of the meters, as well as being easier to play effectively than Affliction. There’s not much else to say here; the utility aspect of Demonology is more or less exactly the same as other Warlocks, and you’ll get into groups easily.

Destruction Warlock Outlook

Which leaves Destruction in C tier, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and you can make an argument for B tier. It has strong single target, but it has the weakest AOE out of all the three Warlock trees and some of the weakest AOE in the game. Utility-wise, it’s pretty much exactly the same as the other three Warlock specs, with the exception of Shadow and Flame, but this is easily replicated by Fire Mages. Again, it’s fine; you can go through the entire expansion playing it, but you won’t be super sought after for anything other than your soul stones and health stones.

Warrior Arms Capabilities

Moving on to Warrior, Arms is a strong S tier spec. It’s numerically extremely strong, with fantastic single target, great burst AOE, and strong utility. It shines throughout every phase, starting and ending off at the top of the food chain. Utility-wise, they provide very good buffs and debuffs, with Blood Frenzy being a standout due to the fact that every spec that has a similar debuff is very underrepresented. They’re also very mobile with Heroic Leap, Intervene, and Charge all being very fun spells to click and also very impactful.

Arms Warrior Versus Fury Warrior

You’ll always get a group, no questions asked, so that leaves Fury. And this is a different story, going in F tier for me. They’re not numerically terrible per se, but they have a lot of issues. The first and biggest issue is that Arms is better in every single way, so they’re pretty much pointless. Their single and AOE damage is fine, but that’s kind of the issue—just fine isn’t good enough when your other option is arguably the best in the game. They do scale well as the expansion plays out, but with no redeemable utility spells to make it worth bringing to a raid, your two-handed Fury dream is going to be tough to pull off in Cataclysm.

Assassination Rogue Overview

I honestly don’t know why we started this off with Combat Rogue, and we’re just now ending with the other two Rogue specs, but that’s just the order of the tier list. So here’s Assassination Rogue in A tier. Assassination is your best overall option as Rogue, with top-notch AOE thanks to the buffs the tree gives to Fan of Knives. Their single target damage is also near the top, so you’re going to be in a good place regardless. The only issue that Assassination has are the infrequent two-target boss fights where Combat is stronger due to not being as reliant on Fan of Knives. Utility-wise, Assassination has essentially all the same utility as Combat and Sub, so this is default just good.

Subtlety Rogue Analysis

Last, and certainly quite least, we have Sub Rogues going in D tier. This is going to be an easy one to cover. While their single target damage can even sometimes exceed that of Assassination, their AOE and multi-target damage is absolutely pitiful. Providing no extra utility to the raid that other specs can’t, as well as being subjectively harder than the other two specs to pull off correctly, I see zero reason to ever pick Sub over Assassination or Combat. It’s mostly relegated to being a PVP spec in Cataclysm, and I truly doubt you’ll see anyone seriously raiding as a Sub outside of a fight or two.

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