The Ranged DPS Meta in Mythic+ for Shadowlands Season 1
We are seeing a rise in the representation of Ranged DPS specs in Shadowlands Mythic+, especially compared to that of Battle for Azeroth. There is certainly a multitude of reasons that this has occurred and we will be discussing some of the reasons that ranged are generally favored over melee this expansion and the current meta Ranged DPS specs.
The Meta Ranged Specs
Currently the meta ranged specs for dungeons are Fire Mage, Balance Druid, and Marksmanship Hunter. These specs have a pretty heavy amount of representation in the high keys, but even a pretty significant representation in the weekly 15 crowd. These 3 ranged specs are not only higher than all other ranged, but also higher than all melee specs. Beyond those 3 ranged specs, you have pretty standard representation for most of the rest of the ranged DPS specs.
Below, you can see some screenshots of class population, taken from
Why are These Specs Meta?
The meta as it currently stands is defined by many reasons, but I want to make it explicitly clear that this meta is not super rigid, and bound by things such as amount of melee interrupts, niche utility, or very specific strategies. I think it is important to also note that the meta definitely can fluctuate pretty heavily from season to season as the fastest way to become meta is to just do more damage than the other specs. Instead, the things that form the meta compositions this season revolve around the utilization of the
affix, burst damage cooldowns, target capping, strong survivability, and utility that helps tanks have to kite as infrequently as possible.
Fire Mage is probably the most sought after DPS for high keys this season. Fire Mage does a lot in the damage department which is why they are so sought after. Their very short cooldown on
coupled with the fact that their AOE damage is largely uncapped makes them by far the best spec at dealing damage at ranged or melee. They help significantly with
killing as their Combustion typically is the primary cooldown used on the Prideful add.
On top of this, Fire Mage is virtually unkillable.
in one kit makes Fire Mage a ranged tank for all intents and purposes. They are effectively unkillable to Prideful mobs and have no real weaknesses to any form of damage intake present in the game currently.
Fire also has some decent utility in the form of
. Dragon's Breath is really good, but not something that you absolutely have to have.
is one of 3 ways to bring a Bloodlust style effect to your key and avoid using drums. Bloodlust style effects are important, but if the bloodlust classes are bad damage then you would work around not having them. Bloodlust typically is used this expansion on bosses and is the most useful when it helps you beat a breakpoint damage wise. Fire utility is nice to have, but definitely can get outshined pretty heavily by other abilities.
Balance Druid's utility works incredibly favorably in Shadowlands Season 1 and makes them one of the most desired specs in the game. Mob control with abilities such as
makes your tanks life infinitely easier. On top of that
compared to engineering battle rez is significantly more favored and can be a huge difference in being able to continue a pull or a boss. Balance's utility is certainly its bright spot and if it is in a competitive spot damage wise, expect to see moonkins in force.
Priority single target damage on on bosses and the insane amp damage given by
on top of their burst makes Balance Druid very competitive damage wise on single target. They start to fall off damage wise on AOE if they do not have their cooldowns, but they are notably not affected in any meaningful way by the target cap which is very important.
They, similar to Fire Mage, are basically ranged tanks.
coupled with insane self healing effects such as
makes balance really durable versus periodic damage effects and very tanky versus prideful. They also have
in a pinch if necessary as well.
Marksmanship Hunter is very interesting to see this season since they are not the absolute best at one specific thing. Marksmanship's best attribute is that its covenant abilities are very strong and their 5 target cleave is very potent. In Shadowlands dungeons the mob density is normally low enough to where this is fine, but sometimes it can become an issue on specific pulls or in specific dungeons. Their damage profile also compliments Fire Mage quite well which is one of the best parts of Marksmanship Hunter.
Marksmanship has above average utility for dungeons with things such as
. Their utility is incredibly good for assisting the tank which is the most important utility of this season.
The survivability of Marksmanship is very poor and that is the overwhelming downside of Marksmanship.
. This is why you start to see a drop off in hunters in the very top end of keys as their ability to live starts to get tested heavily versus
State of Non-Meta Ranged
The state of non-meta ranged is actually pretty competitive right now. There is a lot of room for stuff such as Shadow Priest, Elemental Shaman, or Affliction Warlock to become meta with buffs or changes. Even in the current state of the game the meta is not rigid enough to make these classes not playable and I would tend to say that you should certainly bring the player, not the class. With that being said, Fire Mage, Balance Druid, and Marksmanship Hunter are certainly better than the rest of the ranged.
Ranged vs Melee
In the current state of Mythic+ keys in Shadowlands Season 1, you are seeing far fewer melee compared to previous seasons and this is due to a lot of things. The first, and most apparent thing, is the target cap. It has decreased Melee strength by a tremendous amount and almost all Melee specs got partially or fully target capped in one way or another. This requires them to be head and shoulders above all other specs on 5 targets to be able to be competitive in Mythic+ style pulls. This allows Ranged DPS which are mostly uncapped by in large to trend towards the top of the damage meters across a full Mythic+ run.
On top of this, there is a lack of important things to kick as a whole in Shadowlands' dungeons and less punishment for not kicking. This makes shorter interrupt cooldowns valuable, but not mandatory, compared to Battle for Azeroth, where you were very limited by interrupts. There are a lot more trash pulls that are easily manageable with 2 and even 3 ranged this expansion, which is different from previous expansions making it a lot more feasible to run compositions with very few kicks.
One of the advantages that ranged has always had is just fewer mechanics that they have to deal with as a whole in dungeons, which makes them valuable. There are fewer anti-kite mechanics in Shadowlands' dungeons, but they still are present. There are also a lot more frontals this expansion, which if swung in the wrong direction can also kill a melee. Melee strictly just get punished harder in dungeons and in an activity where deaths make or break the success of your run, it makes ranged more appealing on the whole.
How Could This Change?
As stated before, the meta is not super rigid and limited by a lot of factors that make some specs or classes above and beyond the best across a full expansion. The dungeons themselves are designed in a way, so that if a spec or class brings a significant amount of damage, then they will almost certainly be brought over other classes. As it currently stands in dungeons, basically any DPS spec has the opportunity to come into the lime light if their damage is an outlier. Seasonal affixes also change things season in and season out and there may be a seasonal affix that is ranged unfriendly or melee friendly enough to where that could swing the tide as well. Those are the two biggest ways that meta shifts could occur as a whole. There are of course other ways such as weird and broken trinkets, but things like that are far less common. As a whole though, ranged should still be slightly more favorable just as a general role over melee.
What Happens Once Prideful is Gone?
With the end of Season 1 that will conclude
. There have been a lot of meta defining decisions made due to Prideful and nothing has been more impacted than boss killing. In this season you use either
, or in a lot of situations both on most bosses. This creates situations where you are killing bosses significantly faster than you otherwise would be.
This means that single target damage will be more valuable as a whole. The probability of it shifting enough to the point where other specs are playing full single target talents or you are actively bringing things because of their single target rather than them having a balanced damage profile seems low. Since the implementation of Mythic+, having a balanced damage profile of good AOE and passable single target has always been desired. With the removal of prideful the amount of single target required will certainly go up, but I doubt it causes such a major shift where things play for high single target damage and forego AOE classes.
The meta for Shadowlands dungeons is pretty fluid and can change season in and season out with tuning passes or class changes. There are definitely some trends that are keeping melee down though with the most heavy one being the target cap on the melee. Overall, ranged are certainly more favored in dungeons which is a trend I would expect to see across all of Shadowlands.
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