Shadowlands DPS Rankings - Best DPS for Castle Nathria Raid Predictions
The doors to
will open on December 8th / 9th and players will get to experience Shadowlands' first raid on Normal and Heroic difficulty. On December 15th/16th, Mythic will unlock and the stakes will be raised, and aimed directly at
Many players want to know how their spec and class will perform in the raid, and we wanted to take a look at how all the DPS specs will perform on the various boss encounters in Castle Nathria and make some predictions about the spec in the upcoming raid.
Need help picking a class? Check out the articles in our Shadowlands Season 1 series!
Mythic Castle Nathria
DPS in Mythic Castle NathriaTanks in Mythic Castle NathriaHealers in Mythic Castle Nathria
Mythic+ Season 1
DPS in Mythic+ Season 1Tanks in Mythic+ Season 1Healers in Mythic+ Season 1
Have any PVE questions about Shadowlands, such as Covenants, Renown, or Legendaries? Ask Sloot in his Shadowlands streams!
We’ll start by looking at how each boss fight operates - both in terms of the number of targets and the mechanics that will affect which specs can perform well. We’ll then go class by class and talk about the strengths and weaknesses, and how things may have changed since BFA ended.
It’s very important to stress that these predictions are just that -
predictions and my opinion
. Things may change as Blizzard balances specs and Covenants, or there may just be things that were miscalculated or not taken into account that should have been. It’s also important to remember that these predictions were made with the high-end raiding scene in mind. Thinking about Mythic raiding as played at its highest level is fantastic for furthering your understanding of the game, but keep in mind that things may be very different in the environment where you play and everyone will be able to complete Heroic Castle Nathria.
About the Author
Dratnos is an Officer in the prestigious World 36th guild
. He's also been found casting MDI and Race to World First events, and co-hosts the
Titanforge WoW Podcast
. He writes the
Weekly Route series on RaiderIO
, and he'll be right at home in Castle Nathria, as he's rarely seen during the day and it's never been proven that he doesn't sleep in a coffin.
Castle Nathria Boss Breakdown - What is Valued in Each Fight
Ten bosses inhabit Castle Nathria, making it one of the longest opening raids to an expansion in the history of World of Warcraft. When determining the strengths and weaknesses of different specs, this context is unbelievably important. For guilds aspiring to Cutting Edge or higher, a disproportionate weight is placed on the last boss, and to a lesser extent any “wall bosses” that are difficult along the way when determining what is important. Let’s take a look at each fight that’ll be in Castle Nathria to make some predictions about the characteristics that’ll be valuable!
Shriekwing is an entirely single-target fight, but it’s permeated by moments when DPS players will need to line of sight Shriekwing's
ability, and an intermission that occurs every time the boss’s blood bar fills up. Specs that don’t lose as much damage from downtime will be happy here, such as Assassination Rogues and Affliction Warlocks, as their DoT effects will continue to tick while they line of sight the boss. Specs that require long sequences of uptime to be fully effective may suffer.
On Mythic difficulty, there’s also
that will need to be carried by a player to help the raid see
projectiles. This role could be done by a healer, though jobs like it have also been done by mobile DPS specs like Mages in the past.
Shriekwing Strategy Guide
The majority of this fight is multi-target cleave, with the health of whatever add is active and the boss being shared. This is a great situation for 2-target specialists, though when
is cast, more adds will spawn that require attention by crowd controlling to build up stacks of
, then bursting them down before they reach full energy and can freely chain-cast
Movement during this fight is light and mostly predictable. There are some mechanics like
that will do damage to DPS players and require some finesse with the Mythic enhancements (
), but because the boss is placed so early in the raid, it’s unlikely that these will be lethal enough to heavily reward defensive specs.
Huntsman Altimor Strategy Guide
Sun King’s Salvation
This is an AoE fight during which enemies spawn everywhere and in very large numbers. Specs like Balance Druid that can deal damage to any number of targets at very spread out distances will shine, while other specs that have been hit with a target cap this expansion are likely to feel it.
On Mythic, not much changes for DPS players on this fight beyond more numbers and
, an interruptible and/or dispellable Curse cast by the
Sun King's Salvation Strategy Guide
This fight is a single target encounter with huge amounts of movement. Players must run away from their
, quickly move seeds to set up a safe spot from
, and then run away from the planted seeds. The movement is often long distance, though there are portals that the raid can place with
to facilitate it, and the pattern appears to be fairly predictable. This means the fight will reward the specs that can move without losing too much damage, as well as those players who can minimize the damage lost when they foresee movement in their future.
Artificer Xy'mox Strategy Guide
Another pure single target fight. This one has some movement for players to manage, but will likely simplify down to a Patchwerk encounter for the purposes of how specs perform. Melee specs and the less mobile ranged specs will lose more damage than mobile ranged specs to several of the movement mechanics, as you’ll often need to run away from the boss’
. Player skill will also be crucial to prepare for the movement and minimize dps loss.
Hungering Destroyer Strategy Guide
Lady Inerva Darkvein
This is an encounter with one boss, generally one tank add active at any one time, and a few smaller adds that must be interrupted until they’re killed. Being able to effectively deal with these adds will certainly be a plus for specs on this fight, though single target damage tends to still be the most important type of damage on fights like these. Specs that can multidot effectively and gain single target damage while helping with these adds will be very happy here.
As the fight progresses, the mechanics will become empowered as each of her anima containers fills up. This happens slowly over time, or when the boss casts
, which happens every 100 seconds or 25% of her health. This not only creates an incentive to kill the boss as quickly as possible, it also means that mobile specs and specs that can function while handling complicated mechanics will be rewarded, especially if they’re able to do this during the execute window. Fire mage, for instance, becomes much more mobile when the boss is in execute, and that may well be rewarded here.
Lady Inerva Darkvein Strategy Guide
The Council of Blood
This is a fight with three bosses, but whenever a boss dies, any other surviving bosses will heal to full health, making any damage you had dealt to them irrelevant. Specs that gain single target damage by having other targets nearby will benefit a little here, but it’s important to note that the bosses won’t be on top of each other all the time, as
dashes around which can be very annoying for immobile melee dps when it’s the focus target like Death Knights.
Off-healing or inherently tanky specs may be valuable here, as there is a lot of raid wide damage when players jump to clear the
mythic mechanic, and there are moments when no boss is attackable where some off-healing can come in handy!
Council of Blood Strategy Guide
This fight has the potential to be a single target dps check, and many expect it to be the first real wall of the raid. This will depend on tuning, but the mechanics are generally simple and will allow most players to unload on the boss with only a little movement and reaction to mechanics. The boss does notably punish melee more than ranged with mechanics that will force them out of range of the boss.
The cadence of this fight is built around four 12-second burst windows of Sludgefist taking 100% damage increase through
, which occur around every minute. If the timings remain similar to the version of this fight tested on beta, the winners will be (of course) the one minute cooldown specs, but also three minute cooldowns, as they’ll get to burst the first and the fourth impact, while two-minute cooldown specs will only get to burst on pull without a damage amp, and then the second and the fourth impact.
Sludgefist Strategy Guide
Stone Legion Generals
This fight almost always has multiple important targets - either two big enemies or one big enemy and several little enemies, and sometimes even more! There are also hectic intermission phases with movement and mechanics throughout the fight that both require movement and deal heavy damage to players in the raid. Despite the amount of adds you’ll fight over the course of the encounter, there are rarely more than five or six enemies out at any one time, so specs that have been target capped will not suffer much. The fight ends with a two-target execute phase, which is music to the ears of classes like Warrior.
It’s hard to discern which parts of the fight will be most important - the single target/2-target boss damage, the ability to maximize overall damage, or quick target switching to the adds, and similarly it’s tough to tell whether pure mobility, mobility while doing effective damage, or defensive abilities will be most tested. Several of the adds need to die pretty quickly once they reach low health thanks to mechanics like
, so look for specs and players that excel at that job and potentially those that can do it at range while moving for the other mechanics of the fight.
Stone Legion Generals Strategy Guide
Unlike all the other bosses, Mythic Sire Denathrius was never tested publicly (this is standard procedure for the final bosses of each raid). It’s therefore the most difficult fight to predict what will be important, and the most valuable if you’re able to make a good prediction and structure your raid accordingly. This skill is what the very top guilds rely on to fight for World First, and the mystery is compounded by the fact that the Dungeon Journal does not always tell the whole story for Mythic end bosses. There may be mechanics or entire phases that are left out of the Journal, and these can upend all the conventional wisdom about the important damage profiles in the fight.
With all that said, the Sire Denathrius encounter has three listed phases in the Dungeon Journal. Phase one is primarily single target, with adds that must be quickly killed and which are spawned at a pace of the raid’s choosing. Phase two features several lieutenant adds as well as
, Denathrius’ sword, which can take damage during this phase and reflects that damage on to Denathrius. Phase three is somewhat mysterious, with dungeon journal entries that suggest there will be mirrors through which the players must pass, and only Denathrius himself knows what awaits them on the other side. The most likely case is that this is the final phase of the fight and it will be a single target phase with a heavy execute component.
Sire Denathrius Strategy Guide
Summary of Fight Designs for Castle Nathria Bosses
Let’s sum up how the Castle Nathria bosses will operate.
: Single Target
: Mostly 2 Target.
Sun King’s Salvation
: Single Target
: Single target
Lady Inerva Darkvein
: Single target with adds
The Council of Blood
: Single target with other targets to build resources from
: Single target, likely DPS check.
Stone Legion Generals
: Frequent adds of all sizes and numbers.
Phase 1: Single Target with Burst AoE
Phase 2: 2 Target & Spread Cleave
Phase 3: Single target?
This tier has several single target fights as well as several fights with adds. There is only one fight that is best described as mostly AoE, Sun King’s Salvation, but the last two fights both feature several different adds that will require damage. It’s likely that these adds may be fairly spread from each other, so multi-dotters and dps players that can effectively leverage adds to deal priority damage may be extremely valuable.
How Melee Unfriendly is Castle Nathria?
Historically, Melee DPS are underrepresented among the very highest end raiding guilds, though this becomes less true pretty quickly as guilds become less competitive. This is because many raid mechanics naturally reward ranged specs or punish melee specs, especially among the most coordinated groups. Though movement can be annoying for ranged, it can often be predicted, especially as progression goes on, while many movement mechanics for melee require the loss of uptime on the boss. Similarly, mechanics that call for stacking in certain locations can hurt melee when that location is far from the boss, and mechanics that require players to spread often leave only a few spots available in melee.
This raid tier doesn’t appear to be especially full of these mechanics, but they certainly exist, and it’s a safe bet to assume that the top raiding guilds will opt for at least a 2:1 split in favor of ranged. There are always at least a few spots for Melee dps, as there are several buffs that they bring (
) though sometimes there are options to instead bring those buffs on Tanks or Healers, so there’s often a calculation done by top guilds to figure out which spec is the best way to get each buff.
All of this doesn’t mean you need to sit all the melee in your guild, especially if you’re operating anywhere below the very bleeding edge, for several reasons. One big reason is that the mechanics that most punish melee are often nerfed during the first months of the patch, such as
Mythrax’s Oblivion Spheres no longer targeting Melee
Uu’nat’s Unstable Resonance no longer targeting Melee
. Furthermore, taking a small damage loss to do a mechanic becomes less of a strike against a spec as players become more powerful, and the dps checks become less tight.
Some melee specs also have ranged DPS options: Enhancement Shaman, Feral Druid, and Survival Hunter. These specs have historically been caught in a bind when it comes to high end PvE. They often come with all the drawbacks of the balancing their class received based on the ranged alternatives, without reaping any of the benefits. They also tend to lack raid utility, or it tends to also be available from the ranged specs, making them less appealing.
Ranking the Shadowlands DPS Specs
The Front Runners for DPS in Castle Nathria
These specs look like great choices for Castle Nathria that will likely have at least one representative amongst most top raid teams. They all share one trait: high Single Target dps - but they each also have other strengths and few glaring weaknesses.
Shadow Priest GuideBalance Druid GuideMarksmanship Hunter Guide
Unholy DK GuideSubtlety Rogue GuideFrost Mage Guide
Shadow Priests have historically been a great multi-dotting spec, but this tier it’s also looking like a single target monster. Though it’s somewhat less mobile than the BFA iteration, it still has several tools to deal with predictable movement. It’s also tricky to pilot in the most difficult mythic encounters, with fewer tools to prevent deaths from mistakes than most other specs, but the best players can mitigate this and will be rewarded for doing so by the spec’s incredible damage.
Shadow Priest Guide
This spec also has the ability to multi-dot, though it doesn’t gain as many single target benefits for doing so as the other specs that can. Balance also brings the ability to help snipe important adds with quick
, and it has several strong options to move around the encounter area without losing damage:
, or simply pooling some Astral Power and using it on
on the run. There is no amount of targets at which a Balance Druid will be unhappy, though they do prefer if they have some time to ramp up rather than having the AoE be extremely bursty.
Balance Druid Guide
Of the hunter specs, Marksmanship looks to be the frontrunner going into Castle Nathria. It offers unmatched Burst AoE (at least among the Ranged specs) with
, and it excels at target switching and picking off small adds, which appears to be a factor in several important fights. It also brings an immunity and solid single target damage.
Marksmanship Hunter Guide
Unholy Death Knight
In the Shadowlands, DPS Death Knights have finally found a piece of raid-wide value, and it’s in the form of the tremendously powerful
. Though ineffective against physical damage, most raid-wide AoE tends to be magic, and 20% less of that can often take a tremendous amount of pressure off of the healers.
Unholy looks like the most likely spec to see play in Nathria with potentially massive single target damage. They tend to favor the Necrolord Covenant, which can give them a pseudo-mass grip effect as every second while
is active it’ll pull in a distant enemy. This may be very useful on the later boss fights where adds spawn all over the place and need to be killed.
Unholy DK Guide
Rogues excel when they can leverage their very short cooldown on
to trivialize boss mechanics. Of the specs, Subtlety looks to be the strongest spec, with high single target damage and priority damage, which may well find a use on important fights like Stone Legion Generals. They can either use this priority damage on the boss, on the add that most needs to die, or they can instead use their resources to do pure AoE, which is a new option for the spec compared to its BFA iteration.
Subtlety Rogue Guide
It’s likely that every raid will include at least one mage, as
is a substantial raid buff. All mage specs have a powerful immunity in
, and they tend to be great at doing tough jobs that require lots of movement thanks to their
is a returning ability in Shadowlands that offers skilled mages an incredible amount of both survivability and mobility.
Frost appears to be the Mage spec of choice for both single target and priority damage (damage to a single target with adds nearby). Combined with the Venthyr
ability, this spec packs a real punch, and it can
to get another
in rough situations. Frost also can funnel damage to a single target effectively when there are adds around, which may be a valuable dps increase on fights like Stone Legion Generals.
Frost Mage Guide
The Solid Picks for DPS in Castle Nathria
These specs are looking good! Not all raids will have a copy of all of these, but most raid teams will have several of these specs. Some of these specs are Single Target monsters, while others have a more narrow but still important niche, and still others provide important utility though with some utility that may also be found from other sources.
Warriors not only bring
, which buffs your tanks, Hunters, and other melee, but they also bring incredible Execute damage, that is further enhanced this expansion by the Venthyr Covenant, which upgrades it into
. Venthyr Warriors also get the option to invest further into
with their Soulbind tree, potentially making them incredibly valuable if a fight like Sire Denathrius ends up being all about that last phase.
Arms is a spec that can absolutely blast in a single target execute environment, and they have strong 2 Target potential with
. Defensively, Arms warriors need to pay careful attention as they tend to require active defensive decisions rather than being able to rely on their passive kit to survive the hardest Mythic encounters.
Arms Warrior Guide
You can also get your
from a Fury Warrior! Many top warriors will be swapping between the two specs, as they share a Best covenant, and Fury brings a unique ability to cleave
on up to 5 targets. This makes them potentially massive for fights like Stone Legion Generals where there may often be one mob below the health threshold and several other important targets around it. They also have natural self-healing and passive defenses.
Fury Warrior Guide
Paired with Night Fae’s ability to enhance the
window, Fire is another serious option for this tier. In addition to its burst window, Fire excels when a mechanically intense execute phase is most important, as thanks to
they both do more damage and are more mobile when the boss is below 30%. This seems likely to be strong on Lady Inerva Darkvein, and it may well be valuable on Sire Denathrius. Fire’s
is also incredibly strong in a progression environment, and should not be discounted.
Fire Mage Guide
Warlocks have historically been fantastic in raid. Since Emerald Nightmare, Warlocks have been great or better for every single tier, but this expansion there have been some worrying signs for the class, with lukewarm Legendary and conduit options that many warlocks worry will leave them outscaled by the competition. Despite this, the fundamentals of the Warlock class are very strong for a raid environment, and at the very worst, it’s tough to imagine guilds ever dropping to zero warlocks, as
are very powerful, and the first
is often worth its weight in gold.
Affliction appears most likely to be the Warlock spec of choice in Nathria, and it thrives in multi-dot encounters. Its single target is looking alright, and it tends to be a very mobile spec as it has many instant cast globals that can be used while on the move, though Warlocks often don’t even need to move for mechanics due to their natural tankiness.
Affliction Warlock Guide
Destruction looks interesting too, especially for the multiple fights in Nathria that feature bosses sharing health with one other enemy. This spec is also well suited to blasting damage into the must-kill adds of both Stone Legion Generals and Sire Denathrius, and it has strong Legendary and Conduit support available for buffing the
Destruction Warlock Guide
, though a Brewmaster (or the rare Mistweaver) can also deliver this buff.
is valuable, especially if Hunters and other Melee are in the raid, though in extremely melee-hostile fights guilds may consider cutting it. The rest of the Windwalker damage kit looks to be at its strongest since Antorus, when Windwalkers ran amok atop the meters. Through the Kyrian covenant, they gain an impressive and long-lasting damage cooldown that can be aligned with their burst window to massive effect.
Windwalker Monk Guide
You may surprised to learn that Retribution Paladins were involved in almost every World First kill during BFA - the spec has a reputation as being uncommon among competitive raiding guilds, but it brings a tremendous amount of utility, survivability, and it can often provide all the burst AoE that’s needed to handle waves of small adds and allow the rest of the raid to focus on the boss. This expansion, Ret appears to be as strong or slightly stronger than it was in BFA for raiding, so don’t be surprised if it again makes its way into the top raids, even if it appears to be a low dps spec on Warcraft Logs or SimCraft.
Interestingly, Ret now has an option to revolve around a 4-minute Cooldown in the Venthyr
ability, which naturally works well with the 2-minute
and may be very well suited for important spread cleave moments on fights like Stone Legion Generals.
Retribution Paladin Guide
Outlaw is also potentially powerful, and can quickly switch targets to help kill new adds, in addition to having a ton of crowd control options to lock down adds that are vulnerable to those effects. They certainly work best when they can maintain melee uptime, but their
mean that’s a looser requirement than for other melee. Of course, Outlaw also brings the full Rogue suite of survivability and the powerful
Outlaw Rogue Guide
The Dark Horses for DPS in Castle Nathria
These are the specs that are looking to be rarer among the very top teams, though several of them have compelling strengths and teams that can identify when to use them will reap the rewards. Below the very highest level raids, these specs will likely continue to be rare but exceptional pilots will be able to make them shine and can be absolutely deserving of their raid spot.
Arcane Mage GuideDemonology Warlock GuideBeast Mastery Hunter Guide
Elemental Shaman GuideFrost Death Knight GuideHavoc Demon Hunter Guide
Outlaw Rogue GuideAssassination Rogue GuideEnhancement Shaman Guide
Survival Hunter GuideFeral Druid Guide
Historically, Arcane has been less popular in raid than Fire and Frost, as it tends to be less mobile and doesn’t have effects like Fire’s
to enhance its survivability. This expansion it seems likely again to take a bit of a back seat in top-end raiding, but it shouldn’t be counted out, as it has a massive burst window that synergizes very well with the Night Fae covenant ability
, and the timing of the fights may be well suited to their unique Burn/Conserve phase based rotation.
Arcane Mage Guide
Demonology tends to be left out when it comes to high-end progression raiding, as they suffer from a lack of mobility and have less upside when extra targets get added to fights. To see play in high-end raids, they generally need to be doing substantially more damage in a pure single target setting than Destruction or Affliction, or there needs to be specific value in having a spec operating on the 90 second cooldown of
. Neither of these appear likely to be factors in Castle Nathria, but if they are then look out for Demonology Warlocks!
Demonology Warlock Guide
Beast Mastery Hunter
Beast Mastery is by no means bad - it’s the most mobile DPS spec in the game with all of its rotation castable on the move, and it can quickly switch targets just by selecting a new target and hitting
. For fully min-maxed players, Marksmanship looks like it’ll offer more damage, but if that doesn’t work out then Beast Mastery shares Night Fae as a great covenant option and should be an easy swap.
Beast Mastery Hunter Guide
Elemental Shaman had their moments during BFA, especially during the Uu’nat fight, where their ability to funnel damage onto the boss through
s on adds was invaluable. That fight also rewarded the
ability in a way that few fights do, though it’s always possible that a powerful strategy develops revolving around a sacrificial Shaman.
This expansion, things have been relatively quiet surrounding the spec, but it may be a sleeper candidate for greatness, as the last two fights may well reward damage funneling in a similar way to the Uu’nat encounter, and Elemental have some interesting covenant and legendary options that can either further empower their priority damage or allow them to also deal substantial AoE.
Elemental Shaman Guide
Frost Death Knight
Don’t count out Frost Death Knight - it has a few potentially interesting new builds with different combinations of Covenant and Talent trees. One such build is a
Venthyr Breath of Sindragosa build
that may be incredibly powerful in the hands of a very skilled pilot, and can scale beautifully with extra targets for extra Runic Power generation. However, that build requires very high melee uptime, so Frost DKs may instead opt for a
build that is far more straightforward.
Frost Death Knight Guide
Havoc Demon Hunter
Havoc Demon Hunters have been a mainstay of raids since their creation, though a few tiers they’ve been relegated to a single representative for the
debuff. Most of BFA they shone in almost every metric, but they’ve been toned down in damage and survivability, and the
they brought has been made less valuable with the addition of
to Death Knights. Vengeance is also looking at its strongest in a long time, which means that top guilds may, for the first time in a long time, eschew the Havoc Demon Hunters and instead pick up the
debuff in the tank role.
Havoc Demon Hunter Guide
Assassination is often a great raiding spec for rogue, as it tends to lose the least damage when mechanics occur. When the Rogue away from the target, their bleeds and poisons continue to tick, but this tier Assassination may be a little less popular among the high-end guilds due to slightly weaker tuning. It will still be a very strong option for most players due to its flexibility and the ease with which it can help with mechanics while still doing effective damage.
Assassination Rogue Guide
Enhancement Shaman earned an exciting new effect in the form of
, though this was nerfed during the beta period and now serves as only a minor dps increase for most other melee specs, with Warriors being a bit of an exception and receiving quite a bit of damage from one. Enhancement also may be played on the strength of its own DPS, which is looking promising this patch, though it is a melee spec that tends to require particularly good play and forethought to survive the harshest mechanics of Mythic progression.
Enhancement Shaman Guide
Survival brings virtually nothing to the table in terms of utility that the other Hunter specs don’t also offer, so it needs to do more damage than them to be considered for a spot in the high end guilds. They share a BiS Covenant, Night Fae, with the other Hunter specs, so for players seeking to experiment the option is there. Right now, it doesn’t seem that the spec has cleared the “noticeably better than the Ranged Hunters” bar, but it does have an immunity and if it’s piloted well it can absolutely succeed in almost any guild. One notable strength that may be relevant on several Castle Nathria fights is Survival's ability to handle forced movement away from the boss - they have
and they can also quickly leave and re-enter melee range with the combo of
Survival Hunter Guide
Feral has had its utility nerfed going into Shadowlands, relative to the other Druid dps spec, as Balance and Resto have gained access to
, which was one of the biggest selling points of the spec. It does pack a punch in sustained AoE settings, and its bleed-based damage would allow it to shine in many fights that aren’t friendly to traditional melee, but it’s very tough to come up with a category where a Feral Druid would outperform a Balance Druid if skill weren’t a factor. In most guilds, however, skill is absolutely a factor as the ceiling isn’t anywhere in sight, so a great Feral Druid can absolutely be worthy of inclusion.
Feral Druid Guide
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