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The state of balance between classes in World of Warcraft is something I have always pondered on. Finding constructive and concise arguments, with suggestions on improving its state, are an extreme rarity.

Class power has a huge effect on the realm they play in. Many people create alternate characters, seeking something different, and in my experience this is usually based on the easiest to play, or the best damage per second (DPS).

This presents the great issue where if a singular class stands above the rest in most combat aspects, the populace of other classes on the server may drop. This issue is more potent in arenas, as players roll the cookie-cutter combinations.

Of course, one plan for correctly balancing classes lies within “mirroring”. I have played MMOs such as City of Heroes, which use a mirroring system; however, this takes a huge chunk out of the replay factor in the game. For example, I have played through class X, so I look for something new. I decide to try class Y, however, class X and Y are the same, with different spell details.

PvP and arenas have been been met in Wrath of the Lich King with an overhaul of “resilience will fix it”. This has made it notoriously harder for classes based on critical strikes to survive, when compared to classes with more sustainability. 1000 resilience is a common amount in high-level PvP. This equates to 12% less chance of receiving a critical hit, and also 26% less damage taken from critical hits.

Improving this system for arenas could be simple. If Blizzard put a cap on top of resilience at a moderate value, players would begin to focus on other stats after reaching it. If the cap was around 500, then players would reach it quickly, allowing them to focus on other elements to improve their character. This would also allow breathing room for mixing gear, making player versus player far more variable.

Resilience brings me to another issue: gear dependence. Some classes can feel very underpowered until they earn gear with a high item level. I have helped three friends earn good gear for their warriors which, in my opinion, is the most underpowered class when it first reaches level 80. This can cause issues while trying to get people to group with you, as you can’t perform on a level equal to other classes.

Improving the way easily obtainable (green and blue) gear scales for underpowered classes would make great steps towards improving the playable quality of lower geared characters.

I believe that talent trees in WoW are very well structured. They give an excellent illusion of choice for the gamer. In talent trees, we see many ‘cookie cutter’ builds focused on maximizing DPS, eventually all players choose the same points to do so.


While the build you choose may vary, depending on if you are playing against others or against the environment, the common builds usually remain static. There are many resources that fuel the design of these builds such as Elitist Jerks, a website dedicated to the mathematics behind spells, talents, and gear.

In the past I have become a victim of this routine, whereas you may wish to play a different talent style for fun until, eventually, you become alienated as you will not be accepted into groups. The reason for this is because your play style is not the most powerful or common.

The latest expansion brought the game its first hero class, a type I believe can’t work in any MMO. In WoW, if you have a character at level 55, you are able to create a death knight. The journey of your new death knight is meant to be iconic; you start out as an agent of the Lich King, not from level 1, but level 55 instead. You progress quickly and get a full set of armour, but beyond the pretty exterior lies a deep problem.

You are a hero or alpha class, thus you are meant to be stronger than other groups. To keep stable population with others, you can’t be any more powerful. If you are just as strong as every other class, what makes you a hero?

Possibly the most common cliché in World of Warcraft is “bring the player not the class”, as stated by a Blizzard representative. Although raids can be completed without certain classes, an elemental shaman’s totems in a raid can increase the overall DPS of each player in the raid by 500. This is something my guild has enjoyed ever since one of our older members changed from a DPS warrior (underpowered) to a shaman.

Blizzard have made steps towards improving balance, giving multiple classes the raid useful ‘Replenishment’ buff. A common argument in the old cliché is that you do still need certain classes. When you are learning a new encounter, a raid buff such as heroism (from shamans) can be the difference between a kill and failure.

Essentially, it is completely impossible to achieve class balance without mirroring classes; you would also have to be forced into executing moves in a certain order. If a game is too linear, when our modern gaming industry demands more choice and reaction, there would be no hope for it being a sustainable product.

Balance is extremely sensitive. If you change a class’s talent to improve them when they do PvP, you may end up making changes to their playability in PvE. When this second issue is recognised and then corrected, another issue elsewhere will arise. It is an endless process.

My verdict is that, no, we will never see a truly balanced class system in World of Warcraft. This is partially due to the points I make above, that small changes in one area, can affect other areas in the class. However, I believe this is mainly down to the players, if they are regularly beaten by another class, regardless of their statistical balance, they will always consider them overpowered.

  1. Why people scream “overpowered” left and right astonishes me. And it is these people that have ruined the game of WoW. 95% of which I can guarantee are the “casuals.”

    What it ultimately boils down to is that class balance should NEVER be on an even keel across all classes. EVER. And MMOs will continue to succeed as long as they keep things this way.

    You seem to focus on DPS, but healing classes are the same way. Priests have cried since vanilla WoW that Paladins have been too overpowered. But what people don’t seem to get through their narrow minded brains is that EVERYTHING is situational.

    Gear is situational, wins/losses in duals are situational, top in DPS/healing is situational. It boils down to the fact that whining about class balance is nothing more than those that are all about themselves.

    MMOs are meant to be played in groups. If you have a problem with a class you can’t beat, you call a friend. If you have a problem beating a specific arena makeup, you adjust. Again, all situational.

  2. The way I see it there is one problem:
    -Specs/classes must be balanced for raids, AND pvp.

    They’ve always had to boost pvp stats in a class to make them fair with another class, but that might make them over powered in a pve/raid…

    My idea? When you enter an instance you switch to PVE mode. This means that your trees are completely different, and spells might function differently. Soooo you can fully balance all the classes in PVE, and not have to worry about making that same class overpowered in pvp. This would function the same in pvp, because you can balance that independently also. Problem solved, classes balanced, move on to working out guild housing :P

    • avatar Zakyarek

      Well i put in a comment on siginng up that didnt post. Ill go if no one can make it..Where as I want the commendations it would be more beneficial for another person who needs gear on Normal Mode to go in.When we start doing HM ill be there. But I dont want no cry asses.

  3. @ Kevin – I have no idea why I did not put in healers, especially as I play a healer myself, and am constantly hearing how I am overpowered (druid). Unfortunately it gets dramatized as many people will read one post on a forum, titled “rogues are overpowered”. They will then log into the game and spread the word, “did you hear rogues are overpowered?”. It never ends.

    @ Komplex – That is actually a really good idea, I am sure some people would complain that they have to be inside an instance for their ‘pve mode’ to work. Although, Blizzard did implement ‘dual spec’ well, they could do the same, with it being an out of combat toggle.

  4. I read this article and just continued to see reason after reason why I quit WoW years ago. Good read though, but it brought back a lot of bad memories.

  5. @Kevin – Not to me one of “those” players, but certain classes ARE op. However let’s discuss what we’re defining as “OP”. I agree that most classes are situational, but there are some that far excel others in almost any situation.

    Let’s use healers as an example as I have three. Any healer that can heal almost infinitely and can do the job of two healers is OP. This would be healidins. Granted my Shaman kicks ass on the charts in 25 mans with chain heals, riptides, and earth shield on the MT. But my Paly eats all other classes alive on single target healing, or when the entire raid isn’t taking damage (which is like 80% of the time). Granted my priests CoH, pws and single target heals make him great in 25 mans, but once again he gets slaughtered by under geared pallies unless the entire raid is taking damage.

    So just to recap, I DO believe that some classes are situational. However I still believe that people bitch about OP classes because there are some that excel NO MATTER the situation. That’s my definition of “Over Powered”.

  6. When people cry about something being overpowered in any game, my response is “The best way to protest imbalance in a player vs. player game is to not play it.” I also tend to link them to the eBook “Playing To Win”, because quite frankly, most of the people that whine about imbalances in competitive gaming need to read it.

    • avatar Reg

      Hey guys, the old shivtr vooodo site sub ran out this morning. The mumble server was tied to it, so you might want to try and setup a free one before the run!

  7. It happens all the time, and only some of the whining is true.

    Rogue’s complaining they don’t do enough DPS is one thing, but in Vanilla WoW, Boomkin builds were laughed out of raids because of the negative stigma surrounding their stats. Now, while the simple solution would be “suck it up and heal/tank”, it still sucks for all the fans who actually enjoy a Druid caster.

  8. @Komplex

    I still fail to see an example of your point where there are classes that excel no matter the situation.

    Pally is a poor example. And trust me I know more than most about Pallies as I played one since beta up until last year, was in a guild that competed for world firsts, etc.

    Pallies are entirely situation for the very reason you stated: “Paly eats all other classes alive on single target healing.” And that right there is situational. Pallies can in no way “heal almost infinitely and can do the job of two healers.” They are extremely efficient healers if played correctly, but are primarily meant as MT/OT healers and any pally that sits there and heals the raid will not last through most end game boss fights.

    Now if you are talking 5 man instances, everyone is OP and I don’t see those situations as valid situations. End game content is the only situation where true measurement of class balance can be seen. PvP does not fall under this category because it is always 100% situational. End game content is a constant as the only thing that will alter the fight is class makeup.

    So Pallies are situational because they can’t group heal like Priests can, Druids are in the same boat as Pallies but usually depends on their gear whether they can be efficient raid healers, Priests are situational based entirely on spec and are most efficient as group/single target healers, and Shamans fail at single target healing and are best as raid healers.

    So healers I fail to see any class that can be classified as OP.

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