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10.2.6 Ranged DPS Tier List in M+

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10.2.6 Ranged DPS Tier List in M+

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There's a new meta on the horizon for Mythic Plus when it comes to ranged DPS.
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There’s a new meta on the horizon for Mythic Plus when it comes to ranged DPS. You may not have heard, but some changes are currently being tested on the Public Test Realm for Season 4. Whether you follow these updates or not, you might be curious about which specialization will be considered S-tier and which will fall into lower tiers. Although we don’t use an F-tier in our rankings, it’s worth noting that playing a specific ranged DPS could be beneficial in the upcoming season. The answer is yes, and we will start our discussion with the Affliction Warlock.

Affliction Warlock Analysis

The Affliction Warlock remains largely unchanged; however, it still boasts the highest AoE burst capabilities in the game, which is significant, although hard to measure due to various factors. As we head into the next season, Affliction Warlocks will likely see more options in item levels and a broader selection of trinkets—similar to other classes—given that all dungeons and raids will be available and purchasable with in-game currency. This season, we all will have more options in terms of gearing, as certain trinkets might not always be optimal.

Performance in High-End Keys

In the context of the meta, which often refers to high-end keys, the performance of Affliction Warlocks can be described as mediocre or below average. The main issue lies in its single-target capabilities. The current talent design does not support effective single-target damage in keys, while maintaining one of its strongest assets, which is significant burst in AoE scenarios. Despite having better burst and AoE potential than its Destruction and Demonology counterparts, Affliction suffers from poor scaling and a loss in single-target effectiveness during prolonged encounters.

Final Thoughts on Affliction Warlock

In short, for quick fights, Affliction Warlock is likely to excel, but in longer battles, it may lag behind. This is critical to consider for anyone looking to optimize their performance in upcoming Mythic Plus seasons.

Current State of Range DPS

One of the least impactful range DPS currently in the meta is because there’s no real change coming unless we see buffs. As of now, we have received no news on any buffs or tuning for any class, which they are likely going to be on the horizon, although I don’t know if they’re going to address Affliction. If they thought Affliction was in a bad spot and needed buffs, they probably would have done so by now, something in Season 3 which hasn’t happened yet. Predicting this is a little difficult, but we’re just going on the data right now.

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Augmentation Remains S-Tier

Probably to nobody’s surprise, augmentation is still going to be S-tier. It’s very hard to see augmentation not being S-tier with its current kit, which is just really, really good. Sure, it bumps everybody’s damage up, but most importantly, it provides tankiness and options in terms of crowd control, dispels, and more. This is the biggest thing that augmentation can bring into a group.

For example, specs like Devastation could probably bring more throughput in the majority of keys than augmentation, but it doesn’t bring the same level of tankiness, utility, and more. We’ll get to Devastation in a second. Of course, you’ll get your legendary back, which even if they nerf augmentation and the Evoker in general, you still get the oomph from the legendary, which is a little more than what everybody else gets.

Augmentation Spec Dynamics

If you’re already S-tier, the chances of not being S-tier next season are very slim. Augmentation is the kind of spec where you’re either going to be S-tier or bottom of the barrel because if it’s not S-tier, then nobody really will play it. This design creates a really tricky situation. We’ll see if that ever changes in the future, but for now, in Season 4, that’s where it’s going to be.

Balancing the Balance Druid

Balance Druid’s status is a bit unclear. When conducting research, we try to gather as much data as possible, analyzing logs and player performance on the Public Test Realm. Not everyone plays at the same level or handles the specs the same way, so we have to draw some conclusions.

Historically, Balance Druid has been considered an S-tier spec throughout the expansion, even when predictions suggested otherwise. I want to place Balance Druid into A-tier, not S-tier. This is because another spec might take its place in the Season 4 meta, potentially alongside Augmentation, Shadow Priest, and a strong DPS like Fire Mage.

Meta Predictions and Balance Druid’s Performance

Now, discussing the tier set Balance Druid receives, it’s the Season 1 set, which was strong initially but has been nerfed multiple times and hasn’t been restored to its original strength. Although it’s not a bad set and still does good damage, the exact contribution to the spec’s performance is uncertain as we don’t have current data.

Theory crafters for Balance Druids are likely doing simulations, and more concrete data should be available soon. My prediction is that Balance Druid will not be S-tier anymore but will still be one of the strongest casters in the game. You might run Balance Druid in niche keys, perhaps in environments like the Academy, but it’s not optimal there due to the need for handling multiple targets, and Balance Druid remains a relatively squishy spec. Therefore, it will likely be integrated into compositions with Augmentation, taking the spot of another caster or two that might be more effective.

Arcane Mage’s Position in the Meta

Arcane Mage is going to fall into the B-tier. It’s decent, but not much has changed. The tier set remains the same. One potential outlier could be access to a broader loot table, perhaps allowing the acquisition of a particularly effective Season 1 trinket in Season 4. While better gear might provide a boost, it’s unlikely to elevate Arcane significantly in the tier rankings. Competition for higher tier rankings remains stiff, and current performance on the Public Test Realm does not suggest a major shift unless substantial buffs are applied.

Beast Master Hunter Analysis

Beast Master Hunter also finds itself in a similar situation to Arcane Mage and, likewise, is currently underperforming on the Public Test Realm. Initially, I considered placing Beast Master into the C-tier, but it will stay in B-tier. This decision reflects not just the slight optimism about its capacity for single-target damage, but also the practical evidence of some decent performances, albeit not consistently high.

The tier set for Beast Master will remain unchanged, which means its strong single-target capabilities will persist. This is partly why it’s placed in B-tier rather than lower, despite some dungeons showing performance on par with or worse than Affliction Warlock.

Impact of the Raz Bow

A significant factor for Beast Master going into Season 4 will be the Raz Bow, which will be available in a nerfed state compared to when it first launched in Season 1. Back then, the bow significantly enhanced Beast Master’s single-target damage output, which is crucial as you climb higher in dungeons where boss damage becomes increasingly critical. Although the bow is nerfed, the overall increase in item levels and the scaling adjustments in the final season might still make it more effective than in its original iteration. The real impact of the bow, along with the spec’s adjustments, will only be fully understood once the season actually begins.

Predicting Demonology’s Performance

No amount of PTR testing will definitively determine how strong the bow will be for Demonology. I am optimistic about Demonology for the upcoming season and plan to place it in A-tier. Currently, its performance both in Season 3 and on the PTR might suggest a B-tier ranking, similar to Arcane Mage. However, I believe Demonology will perform better in Season 4 than it has throughout the entire expansion, despite not being a fan of the recent talent rework. Single-target performance remains a weak point for Demonology.

Impact of Class Trinket on Demonology

Demonology will once again receive the class trinket from Niel’tharion, which significantly boosted its performance in Season 2. This trinket, especially beneficial for Demonology, allowed it to exploit its capabilities fully, given that the Tyrant’s cooldown matched perfectly with the trinket’s effects, providing frequent and substantial intellect buffs. This advantage is expected to continue into Season 4, potentially propelling Demonology into A-tier.

Outlook on Destruction Warlock

Destruction Warlock is reportedly performing exceptionally well currently, but expect changes. Despite the likely nerfs, I do not anticipate them being so severe as to make Destruction unplayable. Instead, it’s expected to remain a very solid choice, possibly within the top A-tier. The main challenge for Destruction in achieving S-tier is its difficulty in high-level keys due to the nature of its damage output, which might not align well with high-level play requirements.

Challenges for Destruction Warlock in High-Level Play

We’ve seen it in high-level competitions: Destruction Warlock being played with extremely large pulls to maximize the effect of Rain of Fire. However, the necessity to constantly move out of the Rain of Fire poses challenges. Top Mythic Plus players are creative and smart enough to potentially overcome these hurdles. Destruction could be A-tier, or even S-tier, but I anticipate significant nerfs before the season officially launches. Currently, on the PTR, it might even be considered S+ tier, but like previous PTR cycles, any spec that has shown overwhelming strength has been nerfed—almost without exception.

Potential for Fire Mage in the Upcoming Season

Moving to Fire Mage, I predict it will maintain an S-tier status. Fire Mage has consistently performed well in each patch when its talent design was strong. The upcoming season will see Fire Mage receiving the Season 2 tier set. While the tier set contributes to good damage, it is not a significant departure from the Season 3 set, meaning the change may not drastically alter Fire Mage’s performance.

The effectiveness of Fire Mage has always been reliant on talent setups more than specific gear pieces, though the interaction with new trinkets and weapons in Season 4 could potentially influence outcomes. This remains to be seen as it would require extensive testing to fully understand these interactions.

Stability of Fire Mage’s Position

Fire Mage’s position in the meta is expected to remain stable in Season 4 for the same reasons it has been considered top-tier previously. If any changes occur, they might affect Fire Mage, potentially leading to shifts where Destruction Warlock or Balance Druid could take its place. However, these changes are speculative, and the actual performance will need to be evaluated once the season is underway. In contrast, Frost Mage, for similar reasons to its current performance, is likely to maintain its position without significant improvement.

Frost Mage in Season 4

The tier set remains the same for Frost Mage in Season 4. It is performing well, doing a lot of damage and proving to be particularly effective, but it still competes directly with Fire Mage, which excels at delivering priority damage and performing uncapped AoE attacks. Frost Mage is currently around B-tier, possibly nudging towards A-tier, although I would be surprised if it surpassed Fire Mage. Frost Mage’s main issue is that its unique capabilities, like slowing targets, are not as distinctive anymore, as many other classes offer similar utilities.

Marksmanship Hunter’s Current State

Marksmanship Hunter, like Frost Mage, is in a similar state of competency. On the PTR, Marksmanship has been showing some impressive numbers. Despite traditionally lagging behind, especially compared to specs like Affliction Warlock, it has seen improvements in recent weeks. The tier set for Season 4 remains unchanged, which is advantageous for AoE and burst scenarios. However, its single-target capabilities are just average. The resurgence in Marksmanship’s performance could also be attributed to the same reasons as Beast Master, given the comparable equipment and capabilities.

Emergence of Devastation Spec

One unexpected performer has been the Devastation spec. Regardless of personal opinions about the spec, the data from the PTR shows that Devastation is delivering exceptional damage, significantly outperforming even Balance Druid in some logs. This is surprising, as Balance Druid’s performance on the PTR has been uncharacteristically weak. If Augmentation receives nerfs, we might see a rise in the prevalence of Devastation specs, though it’s unlikely to dominate completely due to balancing factors likely to be implemented.

Devastation Spec Considerations

Although it’s unlikely to happen, if you are a DPS Evoker running keys with less than ideal DPS combinations, switching to Devastation could significantly increase your throughput. However, you would be sacrificing a lot of utility. As long as Augmentation retains its utility kit with defensives, Devastation is unlikely to replace it, at least not for S-tier status, but it remains a strong contender for A-tier. We will see how this evolves because as an Augmentation, you will still receive your legendary in Season 4, which adds a substantial amount of power that other casters, particularly melee classes, do not have.

Elemental Shaman’s Season 4 Outlook

Turning our attention to Elemental Shaman, the choice for the current tier set has been a topic of discussion. For Season 4, Elemental Shaman will continue with the Lava Burst playstyle, which, while perhaps unexciting, has shown to be fairly consistent. Elemental excels in delivering a lot of priority damage, especially when funneling Lava Burst into a single target and using cleave for additional damage.

However, Elemental Shaman does not bring anything uniquely beneficial to a group compared to other classes, particularly when considering both melee and ranged DPS options. Enhancement Shaman is likely to be more desirable than Elemental if a Shaman DPS is needed in a group. In most cases, a Restoration Shaman would be even more preferable. Thus, while Elemental can perform well, it lacks distinctive features that make it stand out in the current competitive environment.

Elemental Shaman’s Competitive Standing

The current tier set keeps Elemental Shaman at approximately B-tier, which would be acceptable. However, based on the data from the PTR, the damage output does not elevate it to an A-tier spec; therefore, it remains a B-tier spec. If this changes, it would be great for Elemental Shamans, but so far, I am not impressed with their performance.

Shadow Priest’s Dominant Performance

Shadow Priest is currently showing exceptional performance on the PTR, rivalling even Destruction Warlock in terms of power. Despite likely upcoming nerfs, I do not foresee Shadow Priest dropping from S-tier. The class retains access to invaluable Priest utilities such as Mass Dispel, Mind Soothe, and Power Infusion, which are crucial in high-level play. Additionally, with Shadow Priest melting down the meters, its position remains secure. For Season 4, Shadow Priests will receive the Season 2 tier set, moving away from the execute phase to focus on Mind Blast procs. This change could potentially enhance their overall effectiveness, further cementing their S-tier status.

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