Secret Design of WoW PvE: Your role in a PvE raid

The series: [Introduction, and a call for comments, Solo Difficulty vs Group Difficulty, PvE vs PvP, Variety vs Specialization, Solo Performer vs Group Utility, Your role in a PvE raid]

This is how every talent tree of every class fits into a pve raid.

This list assumes players at the same skill and gear level. Everyone knows someone who will say "how can you say that X does more damage than Y, my friend is Y and zomg pwns all in a big raid guild, blah blah". The guild you mentioned doesn't have the same quality at every person, your friend happens to be the best player in that guild. Your friend would probably be the best at any class they chose.

Also, many raid encounters specifically highlight one class's feature over another. So these comparators don't hold true for every event in the game.

Now, notice that I'm not listing every popular build. The typical hunter beastmaster build is 41/20/0 or 41 points in Beastmaster, 20 in Marksmanship, 0 in Survival. The typical combat rogue build is 40-odd points in Combat, 20 or so in Assassination. This isn't a catalog of every build for every class, just sweeping generalizations by talent tree.

Finally, if I've made any errors, please leave a comment, and I'll update this list.

Last updated 2008-07-18. Includes revisions from Kikidas (warlock), Lassira (hunter), and Kadir.

Common to All roles

Druid – good general purpose raid buff, good debuffs, good caster utility with innervate, good raid utility with in-battle resurrection

Hunter – good ranged physical damage, nice variety of debuffs, best aggro management, can help manage the aggro of others, infinite duration of damage (unique for ranged classes), awkward crowd control

Mage – excellent ranged single target/aoe damage, pure damage class, caster raid buffs, decent aggro management, good crowd control, free food/drink

Paladin – excellent raid buffs via blessings, multiple paladins stack very well in raids due to wide variety of these blessings, good variety of party buffs in auras, nice buff/debuff melee option in judgments

Priest – decent raid buffs, good threat management, limited crowd control

Rogue – pure damage class, excellent single-target melee damage, good aggro management

Shaman – excellent group utility via totems

Warlock – excellent single target/aoe damage, best damage over time, good debuffs to either do damage or enhance anyone else's, free health potion equivalent between fights, limited crowd control, good raid wipe recovery via soulstone, limited aggro management

Warrior – enhances party health or melee damage, good aoe melee debuffs

Damage / Dps

Druid (feral) – good melee physical damage, enhances raid melee damage, damage doesn't scale through endgame due to itemization
Druid (balance) – good ranged magic damage, enhances group caster damage

Hunter (beastmaster) – excellent ranged physical damage, enhances group damage of any type
Hunter (marksman) – PvP damage spec, can also be excellent PvE damage with mid-tier raiding gear and up, good physical damage group buff
Hunter (survival) – PvP survivability/control. Also good raid utility in deep endgame PvE raiding via Expose Weakness, enhances all physical damage.

Mage (fire) – highest sustained ranged magic damage
Mage (frost) – PvP survivability/control, lowest burst damage and highest duration
Mage (arcane) – PvP burst damage, highest burst damage and lowest duration

Paladin (retribution) – PvP damage. Also excellent party damage buff in large raids.

Priest (shadow) – decent ranged magic damage, good debuffs, excellent group utility in constant mana and health regen, damage doesn't scale throughout endgame due to itemization

Rogue (combat) – highest sustained melee physical damage
Rogue (assassination) – my wife says, "Good question, what do full assassination/mutilate rogues do that combat rogues don't?"
Rogue (subtlety) – PvP survivability/control.

Shaman (enhancement) – good physical melee damage, greatly enhances group melee damage
Shaman (elemental) – PvP nuking.

Warlock (affliction) – excellent damage against bosses, excellent raid utility via varied mob debuffs; aggro problems due to most damage being DoT and therefore hard to slow down when problems arise.
Warlock (demonology) – good raid damage, most self-boosting abilities, versatility via different pet sacrifices
Warlock (destruction) – PvP burst damage; can be excellent in deep endgame raids with appropriate crit gear. (looking for more info)

Warrior (arms) – PvP damage; however, with sufficient physical damage support (usually in mid/deep endgame) mob debuffs enhance physical damage to make an arms warrior useful.
Warrior (fury) – good melee physical damage, good melee aoe


Deathknight – best tank for caster targets (according to current pre-expansion information)

Druid (feral) – best tank for melee targets, best single-target offtank, gear is problematic in scaling throughout endgame (also, can switch without respec to cat-dps between fights)

Paladin (protection) – best tank for multiple targets

Warrior (protection) – 2nd best at everything deathknight/druid/pally are good at, also great generic survivability tricks for boss fights


Druid (restoration) – best heals over time, best healer on the move

Paladin (holy) – best single-target healer

Priest (holy) – 2nd best at everything druid/pally/shammy are good at
Priest (discipline) – PvP healer, good raid caster buff

Shaman (restoration) – best multi-target healer

More Words!

7 thoughts on “Secret Design of WoW PvE: Your role in a PvE raid”

  1. To start with… I'm biased towards a hybrid affliction spec (my own: dark pact/ruin), so take what I say with a grain of salt.

    Affliction: Multiple varities of afflock. Highest raid damage is Unstable Affliction warlock, which has the most DoT's of any spec of warlock. If they use malediction, their curse of elements/curse of shadow bonus damage is increased – which makes mages, warlocks and shadow priests happy (can't wait until it's just one curse!). Most afflocks keep their infinite mana potion (aka IMP) out and phased. Rarely run out of mana due to life tap + siphon life + dark pact. Aggro is an issue (for all warlock specs), as though you don't spike quickly, you just keep going and we have a single 5 minute cooldown 50% aggro dump… which usually isn't good enough. We also tend to NOT do good DPS against trash mobs, unless we ignore our DoTs and just SB spam. :) Considered the most 'raid friendly' spec due to blood pact, fire shield and improved CoS or CoE.

    Demonology: Again, multiple varities of demolock. From my understanding of this spec, usually you summon a minion only to sacrifice it for the individual buff you gain, and spam SB. This spec, iirc, has the most self-boosting abilities for personal damage, rather than raid boosting. Demonology locks can do very good raid damage, but may have mana issues. (life tap and drain health only) I'm not overly familiar with it. Felguard is the big bonus to this spec, but the felguard's cleave makes micromanaging it a must.

    Destruction: Destrolocks/Firelocks are touted as a PvP spec, but has viability in raids. Poor mana conservation (life tap and drain health only), but good spike damage. Spike damage with a 5 minute cooldown on your only aggro-dump ability = bad. Which is probably why this is usually seen more in PvP than in raiding warlocks? This is the spec I have the least knowledge of. :) Who knows.. maybe the best raiding warlock out there is a demo-dest warlock?

    AoE: at 70, we get Seed of Corruption (which overwrites Corruption). SoC is arguably the best AoE ability out there. It takes a while to go off, so you can stack SoC on multiple mobs. When one SoC goes off, the rest do too (due to damage applied to the mob setting off SoC). SoC = 2000plusDPS + dead warlock. :)

    Wonderful series of posts, by the way.

    There are I think something like 16 or 18 different "approved" specs of warlocks, and probably a few more individualized ones. Depending on what spec you are, gear desires will alter. Demo/Destro locks are more crit interested than an afflock.

    Of the variety of mana dependent damaging classes, warlocks are unique in most warlocks would rather have a higher health pool than a higher mana pool (at least in my experience. Life Tap = Love)

  2. Its probably worth mentioning: a Survival build for hunters is not just about PvP viability. The raid-wide Expose Weakness buff seems to be much sought-after in end-game (read: T6) content, where the gear the hunter would be wearing really makes the EW buff shine. (Expose Weakness provides a buff of 25% of the hunter's Agility as Attack Power to all attackers, raid-wide.)

  3. Kikidas, thanks for the warlock primer. I took a stab at a warlock section, would you word anything differently?

    Lassira, thanks much for the knowledge, I revised that entry to reflect your comments.

  4. Looks good to me! I'd hardly presume to tell you how to rewrite something. :) It does have the most lines devoted to it (4 lines in the 'common' paragraph! Woot woot), which is appropriate since warlocks are better than any other class. (I jest.)

    I wish I could give you better information on dest/demo, but I just haven't played with it enough.

    Warlocks have the most number of crowd control abilities.. I think? Seduce, Banish and Enslave and we can do two at once. Seduce + Banish, or Banish + Enslave. (Not counting fear as a 'crowd control' ability, but it is.)

    But that's a whole other story. :) Wonderful posts, like I said earlier. Thank you.

  5. Kudos to that warlock person up there too.

    And this summary rules. It's much better than the one on WoWinsider that I showed my guild leader months ago.

    Demo is all about survivability – like BM it's decent until the pet dies, then it's mediocre. It does have less efficiency than affliction but come on… affliction is the most mana efficient spec in the game. Demo locks have damage reduction and a larger health pool and sometimes a better health stone, so they can get away with tapping more. They also have surprisingly good personal (not pet) damage thanks to Master Demonologist and Demonic Knowledge, which scales with raid buffs afaik. Sacrificing is usually what hybrid aff/demo or destro/demo locks do because it negates all of the pet talents. Demo demons are sturdy creatures, keep them alive and you'll be fine.

    Destro I don't know too well but basically, it's a fire mage with DoTs. 0/21/40 is supposedly the best lock build of all time once you get endgame gear; the first time our guild beat Kara, the top DPS was a destro lock with 4 000 000 damage total.

    Retribution paladins bring one decent debuff (technically two, but one won't touch bosses) and an aura that increases party damage. Speaking of which… you didn't mention auras for paladins. VERY important. Concentration Aura with the appropriate talents can give healers 100% uninterruptibility.

    Assassination rogues have Improved Kidney Shot, which works well on anything that can be stunned. Sub rogues have Hemo of course. For those odd cases where there are no warriors, Expose Armor will help a bear tank.

    You are correct about elemental shamans – PvP mostly, because shamans are the least mana efficient class in the game and the generic elemental shaman build does not max out Unrelenting Storm.

    There's a strange variant of the holy paladin called the Shockadin, which does magical damage in PvP. Special mention perhaps? :) You might want to mention that holy paladins are considered best single target healers mainly because of mana efficiency (ie Flash of Light).

    Also, for priests, "versatile" sounds better than 'second best' IMO, since the reader already knows who's best. They keep groups and single targets alive and switch between them with little fuss.

  6. Thanks for the feedback, Kadir.

    I'm trying to avoid going into too much detail regarding each spec and how it achieves its goals and just trying to stick with "Briefly, why are raid leaders interested in X character?". There are plenty of other sources that go into great detail if someone gets curious about the nuts and bolts.

    I appreciate the catch on pally auras, though. Can't believe I forgot them!

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