The Drums of War Thunder Once Again - A Class Guide for Classic WoW
Tue 7th May 2019 - 9:29pm
In late 1994, Warcraft: Orcs and Humans introduced us to the world of Azeroth- the fantasy setting that would play host to the world's biggest MMORPG exactly 10 years later. World of Warcraft has since seen 7 different expansions and the state of the game has evolved to such a large degree that many would argue it's an entirely different experience to the one we had about 12 years ago; the demand for a "vanilla" server was apparent, and at Blizzcon 2017 it was announced that we would take a step back in time to revisit old-school Azeroth. The hype-train began rolling and forums exploded with questions of race, class and builds, so today we're going to have a look at the classes available to you in Classic WoW to make your decision a little easier when thinking about what kind of character you'll be playing.
In a recent survey concerning Classic WoW, the majority of respondents answered that they'd be playing a Warrior as their main character, and with the widest range of viable builds for both PvP and PvE it's only fitting we discuss this powerful class first. In Classic, each class had a wider range of customisation options at their disposal thanks largely to talent trees, and picking the correct branch to specialise in was vital- for the Warrior, however, each class was equal parts unique and strong once you reached max level.
Prior to this however, the Warrior class was notoriously weak for solo levelling content; with low sustain, mobility and high gear dependency the single Warrior is not nearly the threatening force they become in a group. A highly geared, dual-wielding Fury Warrior was a tough competitor on the DPS charts in raid groups, a competent Arms Warrior was a fearsome sight in world PvP and Battlegrounds (bear in mind that according to the PvP Content Plan, Battlegrounds won't be available until Phase 3) and Protection Warriors were typically the default tanks for the majority of vanilla raid content. Overall, the grind to 60 is rough, but the end game is worth it once you start to gear up.
"The World of Roguecraft", as it was once known, was a time and place where Rogues were the bane of wandering players and unprepared PvP-ers. As we venture back to classic we can look forward to seeing this come to life again, with Rogues consistently finding themselves at the top of the PvP leaderboards and PvE damage charts in equal measure. Rogue is another class where each branch offers something different- Combat Rogues were great in PvE environments, and thanks to the Weapon Expertise talent there was a fair amount of flexibility in regards to the weapons you'd choose and Hemo Rogues usually dabbled in all 3 Rogue specialisations (obviously with a focus on Subtlety for Hemorrhage) without actually maxing out any of the specs they were investing talent points into. Undead Rogues at the top of their game were nearly unkillable with their Will of the Forsaken racial passive, and the disengage provided by Vanish also benefitted Rogues while questing, if that extra mob pull was a bit too hot to handle. Rogue is consistently one of the most rewarding classes to play across PvP and PvE content, so expect to see more than a few.
For those players that were introduced to World of Warcraft after vanilla WoW, Paladins were an Alliance specific class - only Humans and Dwarves could play a Paladin and choosing between the two isn't a clear cut decision. The advantage to Dwarven Paladins is Stoneform, giving them huge survivability in tough situations whereas Human Paladins save countless hours grinding reputation through Diplomacy, so the decision is there to make depending on your playstyle and priorities.
Regardless, the Paladin is a powerful class if only for having the strongest buffs in the game in the form of Blessings, making at least 1 Paladin a necessity in raid groups, however Holy Paladins are arguably the strongest spec for PvE, thanks to a high mana efficiency as compared to Priests and Druids, and quite strong defensively in PvP as well. As for their other specs, Retribution Paladins are very strong duelists in world and Battleground PvP, but are fairly easily overtaken in DPS by other classes, and Protection Paladins find themselves struggling to maintain strong aggression control due to not having a taunt spell until after vanilla had ended. A slower leveling class than most, but still a very strong and very versatile late game choice.
Where to start with the Mage? Mages are among the most feared PvP classes with a huge level of experimentation in regards to their talents- nearly any combination of specialisations is viable in PvP, with some montage-worthy synergies such as PoM-Pyro Arcane/Fire Mages (Presence of Mind + Pyroblast) and Elemental Mages that can wear down even the most highly geared opponents through Ice Blocks and quick but powerful burst spells.
Looking now at raid content, this is where you need to be open to playing flexibly; in Ahn'Qiraj and Naxxramas, Fire Mages are perfectly viable and you'll almost definitely see more than 1 per raid group, however Molten Core and Blackwing Lair present a different challenge for the Fire Mage in that Dragons and other Molten Core mobs have fire resistance.
In this instance, a Frost Mage is always preferred for DPS' sake. Either way, turning fearsome foes into a sheep is always funny and combining that with the AoE spells in the Mage's kit makes for a highly entertaining and reasonably smooth levelling experience and some of the best end-game fun you'll have in Classic WoW.
Shaman is the Horde-specific class of Classic WoW, and while their playstyle is vastly different to the Paladin, they are both recognised widely for their heal specialisation. In this instance, the Restoration Shaman is praised for it's unique raid-wide heals; a mechanic that was rarely seen in vanilla and one that frequently had a well-geared Resto Shaman topping the healing charts ahead of Priests and Druids. Playing an Elemental/Resto Hybrid translated well into PvP as well, becoming a powerhouse in both sustain and damage and Enhancement Shamans were known widely for one-shotting cloth wearers with Windfury Weapon, provided luck was on your side that day.
In terms of end-game viability, however, Enhancement Shamans were really only raid-worthy due to Windfury Totem and were quickly surpassed by other DPS options in consistent damage output, making the Elemental/Resto hybrid much more effective across all styles of play, unless you wanted to roll the dice and hope your enemies disappear. Having Spirit Wolf also drastically improves the speed with which the Shaman levels up, and all things considered this is a class that you can have a whole lot of fun with in some very unique ways.
One of the more effective classes to level with, Warlock, is a pet class that isn't limited entirely to using their pet to be viable in PvP or PvE. That being said, however, the variety of demons available to the Warlock are what make it such a strong leveller- Voidwalkers can be strong enough to take on multiple mobs at the same time and combining this with the Warlock's Healthstones and Soulstones, they can tear through quests at lightning pace.
Towards the end-game is where the options open up for the player, with all 3 talent trees being viable across PvP and PvE; Destruction Warlocks are glass cannons, with huge potential for burst damage, Demonology Warlocks had high survivability and were very hard to kill if played properly and Affliction Warlocks had high sustain and found themselves outputting huge damage for longer fights. No one build is definitively the strongest for the max-level Warlock and as such the decision must be made based on individual playstyle, but there will never be too many Warlocks to go around.
The Druid was a class designed to have multiple playstyles, and while many vanilla players will encourage you to play solely Restoration through your end-game experience, don't be discouraged! Each of the different forms and specialisations are just plain fun across world PvP, Battlegrounds and PvE alike- on top of this, Druids are among the fastest of levelers thanks to their speedy forms and allow the uncertain player to experiment with a diverse range of roles both in dungeons and out in the world while working towards max level.
A well-geared Resto/Feral Druid was the best flag carrier for Warsong Gulch, with huge disengage and sustain with highly mana efficient heals there is nearly no other class that can catch a Druid on the run, with a little support from his teammates. In PvE Druids possess some of the most useful raid abilities through Rebirth (a revive ability that can be used during combat) and Innervate (a huge mana regeneration ability) that can both mean the difference between a wipe and a win against the raid boss. Balance Druids are often laughed at, but all it takes is one encounter with a well-geared Moonkin to silence your doubts, and the 3% increase to spell critical strike chance is valuable in any raid group, so expect to see more than one Druid per raid group, in more than one different role.
Huge mobility, high-damage pets and low gear dependence pre-60 means that my bet is on the server-first level 60 title being seized by a Hunter. At least one Hunter was necessary for all raid groups, thanks to Tranquilising Shot, and in PvP it was not uncommon to see a Marksmanship Hunter in one game, and then a Survival Hunter in the next, and then a crazy hybrid in the one after that. Their pets can be incredibly difficult to deal with and provided the Hunter makes efficient use of the "dead zone" mechanic (the distance from the target that was too far for melee and too near for ranged attacks) they have some of the best kiting in the game.
There are alot of interesting mechanics in the Hunter's kit regardless of their specialisation, but if you're playing a Hunter you need to ensure you don't interrupt your auto-shots, or else you'll be losing out on a lot of damage. Many people praise the Hunter for their Maraudon gold farming method, and rightly so - mounts in vanilla will not be cheap, and being able to gather gold at a faster rate is going to be highly beneficial for that last slog pre-60.
Lastly, we'll be finishing our rundown with a look at Priest. Priests are the most dynamic healers available for both PvP and PvE with all manner of shields and heals at their disposal, making them ideal to be played in a group. That doesn't mean that they lacked damage, though - a strong Shadow Priest could burn through any opponent in Battlegrounds and world PvP, as well as run through solo levelling at a reasonably fast pace with a wand in their hand.
This pace comes to a stop by level 60 though, as Holy and Discipline Priests become much more common due to their consistency and effectiveness while healing for their tanks, and also for giving everyone a laugh for Mind Controlling a player of the opposing faction and jumping them into the lava of Blackrock Mountain. Additionally, every Alliance raid group will usually aim to have at least 1 Dwarven Priest for Fear Ward, as it became an easy fix for plenty of raid boss heals as your raid group progressed. Overall, The Priest is a strong choice especially if you plan to be spending most of your time on end-game content, and getting through a raid thanks to your awesome heals is a rewarding experience for anyone.
That was just a quick run through of all of the different classes - I hope this article can give a little insight into the strengths and weaknesses of each class without getting too in-depth about the particulars. Hopefully you'll find your preference and enjoy your time in Classic WoW!
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