Playing a tank in WoW Classic has historically been something of a nightmare. Everyone needs a good tank, but playing a tank in vanilla WoW isn’t necessarily an enjoyable experience. That problem has always been amplified by the relative lack of viable tanking options in the base game. We hope you like playing Warrior and casting Sunder Armor.
So while the recent Season of Discovery update’s changes to WoW‘s various DPS classes are certainly welcome, it’s the changes to the game’s tanks that are already proving to be one of the update’s most enjoyable surprises. Not only do you finally have more than one viable tanking option for the early part of the game, but some of those tanking options are…well, fun to play.
Before we dive into that, though, here are a few things to keep in mind:
– These rankings only account for the Phase 1 (Level 25) Season of Discovery content. They are also based on a combination of leveling and group content viability but do not account for PvP skills. As new content becomes available, we will update our rankings to reflect those changes.
– Factors that influenced these rankings include damage mitigation capabilities, overall damage output, threat generation, party utility, and consistency. Generally speaking, though, the more likely a tank is to be reliable and viable in a variety of content as your main tank, the higher their overall rank.
– These rankings are heavily based on the power level of Season of Discovery‘s various Runes (which grant classes entirely new skills and modify other abilities). For the full breakdown of all currently known Runes, please consult this guide.
With all of that out the way, let’s dive in to the rankings:
Every Season of Discovery Tank Class Ranked Best to Worst
The good news is that Warriors are not automatically the best tanking class by Level 25 in Season of Discovery as they were in WoW Classic. That said, it’s hard to argue against their power level at this early stage of the game.
As in Classic, Season of Discovery’s Warriors offer incredible Threat generation, absurdly high natural defenses, and an array of valuable group abilities. Crucially, they also do not rely on Mana, which means that simply serving as tanks (i.e. taking and dealing damage) grants them all the resources they will ever need. Against some odds, though, Season of Discovery makes Warrior tanks better and more appealing than ever. Furious Thunder gives Warriors a powerful AoE threat generator, Consumed by Rage enhances their DPS output, and Devestate turns the already invaluable Sunder Armor ability into a shockingly effective damage-dealing tool. Protection Warriors are ridiculously powerful in Season of Discovery and will likely not be challenged for the top spot in that role for quite some time.
Things get much more interesting from there. For the moment, though, I’m willing to argue that Druids are the second-best tanking option in Season of Discovery.
The Survival of the Fittest Rune grants Druids the raw defenses they sometimes lacked at this early stage of the game. That alone makes it that much easier to appreciate the efficiency of running early-game content with a Druid tank as well as the AoE threat generation they’ve always excelled at offering. No, they’re not Warriors, but they are reliable and their shapeshifting abilities allow them to adapt to various situations in a pinch.
However, I will admit that Warlock tanks are the most surprising addition to the Season of Discovery roster. Thanks to the Metamorphosis Rune, Warlocks can not transform into Demonic tanks that come with an AoE taunt ability, an AoE threat generator, instant DPS attacks, a powerful stun, and massive defensive bonuses. Though they lack pure defensive abilities and stats available to other tanks, it’s hard to imagine another tank matching their raw damage output at this early point in the game.
Ultimately, though, I think Warlock tanks will be preferred by heavily geared speed-clearing groups or as off-tanks. The things they can do at this point in the game are impressive and unique, but they can be difficult to learn, their damage mitigation options are incredibly limited, and they don’t offer much in the way of group utility abilities. They’re a more than viable tank option, but they come with quite a few risks as traditional early-game main tanks.
Paladins are fascinating. The addition of powerful Runes like Aegis, Seal of Martyrdom, Divine Sacrifice, and Hand of Reckoning give Paladins the early game tanking options that they simply never had access to before. Season of Discovery is clearly trying close the gap between Paladin tanks and Warrior tanks, and the early results are impressive. I can already see Paladins eventually becoming the AoE threat-generating, nigh-unkillable, utility-tanking monsters that they were in Buring Crusade. There’s a very good chance that late-game Paladin tanks will be your best overall tanking option.
We are certainly not there yet, though. As it stands, Paladins are still far too mana-dependent to really compete with the other tank options in the early game. They also just don’t excel at any particular tanking category at the moment, especially when you consider that most parties will probably be running a Paladin healer or Retribution Paladin to get their Paladin buffs. They’re more than viable, but they’re not necessarily ideal at the moment.
Though Shamans have technically always been able to serve as tanks, Season of Discovery wants to make Shaman tanks a genuinely viable alternative to the typical tanking options. The early results of that approach are…interesting. Like Paladins, Shamans are mana-dependant tanks. Unlike Paladins, Shamans have been granted an array of Runes that are designed to increase their overall Mana regeneration abilities while tanking. The idea seems to be that Shaman Tanks will eventually be able to generate the kind of single-target threat and damage typically associated with DPS casters. Unlike DPS casters, though, Shaman tanks will actually want to generate all of that threat as they’ll be able to withstand the damage that comes with it.
It’s a lovely idea, but it’s not ready for prime time quite yet. At the moment, Shamans lack the utility skills, natural defenses, and overall tanking abilities that other classes already have access to. Some of those abilities will come from the natural course of leveling while others will depend on which Runes are eventually added to Season of Discovery. Perhaps Shaman tanks will eventually be viable by Level 60, but it’s going to take a lot of support to get a Leather-wearing, Mana-dependant class above other tanking options, especially when Warlock tanks already serve a clear off-tank role.
Finally, there are Rogue tanks. To be honest, Rogue tanks feel like Season of Discovery’s biggest swing and whiff.
Thematically speaking, I love the idea of a Rogue that evades incoming damage rather than tries to mitigate it. People have played with that concept in the past, and Season of Discovery adds the tanking tools needed to make Rogues a viable tanking option in early group content. However, Rogue tanks quickly hit a few walls that this early update was never going to be able to knock down.
First off, tanks are meant to take damage at some point. It’s difficult to imagine a Rogue with an Evasion rate high enough to effectively tank late-game content without also breaking the game in the process. If Rogues aren’t granted such broken Rune abilities in future updates, then they will likely continue to struggle with the occasional hit, magic-casting bosses, and consistent threat generation (something that numerous Rogue skills are meant to reduce). Maybe Season of Discovery can make this archetype work eventually, but it’s going to be a long strange road to that point.