ByMichael Mitchell, writer at Creators.co
Gamer, writer, occasional pedant. Mitch lives up to all these adjectives and more by writing for Now Loading and Blizzard Watch. @Fizzl_CTR.
Michael Mitchell

Class and spec diversity have never been more prominent in World of Warcraft than they are in its latest expansion, Legion. Each class not only has a special class hall for only other members of that class to hang out in, each spec also gets its very own Artifact acquisition quest and several appearances for that Artifact.

With such an emphasis on classes and specs, it can be hard to know where to start or what to even play. That's where we come in. Today, we'll be going over the game's broader categories: its roles.

If, you already have an idea of what role to play but don't know which class and spec you want to play as, we have more specific guides for each of those:

However, if you're still deciding what role is right for you, stick around — we have a lot to go over!

The Tank Role

Protection Warrior
Protection Warrior

Available Tank classes: Protection Warriors, Protection Paladins, Blood Death Knights, Guardian Druids, Brewmaster Monks, and Vengeance Demon Hunters

The tanking role can lead to some of the most fun and most stressful situations the game has to offer. As a tank, it's your job to make sure the enemies are attacking you and only you. You have to not only know how to round up both melee and caster enemies, you must also be keenly aware of your surroundings to know if an enemy escapes your grasp.

As of Legion, tank cooldowns play a bigger role in your playstyle. You need to know when to use them and when to save them. A mistimed cooldown can make life very difficult for your healer. It can be stressful at times, but also incredibly rewarding. A good tank is going to be loved by all (especially if you plan to run LFR!)

The upside to tanking is that you get to be in charge. You control the speed at which dungeons and raids progress, you can choose to save an ally with a quick taunt, or you can choose to punish the annoying DPS that insists on pulling without you by letting them die.

It's hard to put it in words, but there's really nothing quite like having a group of enemies attacking you at once and knowing you can survive it. Quite simply, it's very satisfying. And those moments you're not sure you'll survive? Nerve-wracking and so, so worth jumping in the air and cheering if you make it.

Pros:

  • Incredibly durable role with the highest health in the game
  • Decent damage output for a non-DPS role
  • Highly rewarding when successful
  • Queue times? What are those?

Cons:

  • Can be very stressful
  • Raid environments often require precise coordinating with your off-tank

If the tank role sounds like something for you, be sure to check out our more in-depth breakdown of all the different specs in the game that can tank!

The Healer Role

Holy Priest
Holy Priest

Available Healing classes: Holy/Discipline Priests, Restoration Druids, Mistweaver Monks, Restoration Shamans, and Holy Paladins

Without healers, we would all die. That might sound dramatic, but it's true. As a healer, you keep the group alive. You have a variety of spells and it's important to know when to use them.

Healer gameplay can be difficult at times, and it's not always because of the healer themselves. If your tank is pulling too quickly, or if a DPS has a twitchy finger and pulls without warning, things can get hectic. There's not always much you can do in these situations, but you're the healer — quite frankly, it's in your right to let players die who won't wait for you.

While all healers can succeed in all situations, different ones will excel where others won't. Some healers are great group healers, some are better fit for single-target, and some (Discipline Priests) are special snowflakes who heal by dealing damage. It's worth getting to know the different healing specs before settling in on your healer.

Pros:

  • Like tanking, healing can be incredibly rewarding
  • Rarely boring, unless you're outgearing content
  • You have other players' lives in your hands

Cons:

  • Many healers cannot solo very well
  • Even if it's not your fault, groups will sometimes blame healers for deaths
  • You have other players' lives in your hands

If the healer role sounds like something for you, be sure to check out the in-depth healer breakdown linked above.

The Melee DPS Role

Outlaw Rogue
Outlaw Rogue

Available Melee DPS classes: Rogues, Army/Fury Warriors, Unholy/Frost Death Knights, Survival Hunters, Havoc Demon Hunters, Enhancement Shamans, Windwalker Monks, Retribution Paladins, and Feral Druids

Melee DPS are the ones that get up close to the action and fight enemies face-to-face (or face-to-ankle, if you're up against a very large boss). Melee DPS can wield a variety of weapons, ranging from a single two-handed weapon to dual-wielding one-handed weapons all the way to even dual-wielding two-handed weapons (but only if you're a Fury Warrior).

Melee DPS will usually fall into two categories: ones that attack very quickly and rely slightly less on burst and ones that attack slower but can deal immense amounts of damage at once. This is not true for every melee DPS, but it's a good rule of thumb.

As a melee DPS, some fights can be more difficult because the boss will require heavy movement or have several spell graphics occurring at once, which makes seeing your surroundings more difficult. The upside is that melee can do all of their attacks on the go, so moving in and out of abilities is less of a damage loss than it is to ranged DPS (though also means keybinding becomes more important).

Pros:

  • Consistently strong damage dealers
  • Can damage on the move
  • Many melee DPS classes are very good in PVP

Cons:

  • The melee DPS role can be somewhat crowded in group compositions
  • Many fights are not melee friendly
  • Very long queue times for random groups

If melee DPS sounds like the perfect thing for you, be sure to check out our more in-depth breakdown of all the different melee specs in the game that can fulfill this role!

The Ranged DPS Role

Shadow Priest (surrounded by other ranged DPS)
Shadow Priest (surrounded by other ranged DPS)

Available Ranged DPS classes: Mages, Warlocks, Beast Mastery/Marksmanship Hunters, Elemental Shamans, Balance Druids, and Shadow Priests

Ranged DPS are the final role to choose from and are one of the most common choices for many players. That's nothing to deter you from choosing one, however. Ranged DPS are just as fun as any of the other roles, but can be more forgiving for newer players.

Rarely do ranged DPS have to worry about some of the mechanics that plague melee DPS, and the mechanics they do have to worry about typically wind up being "don't stand in the fire."

Additionally, ranged DPS come in the form of shadow casters, fire casters, archers, and several other spell schools. This gives players interested in the ranged DPS role a number of solid choices o fill whichever class fantasy sounds best to you.

Pros:

  • Likely the most forgiving role in the game
  • Wide variety of class fantasies
  • Several ranged DPS are "hybrids," which means they have decent self-healing

Cons:

  • Heavy movement can severely limit your DPS
  • Often very squishy (i.e., they can die easily)
  • Very long queue times for random groups

If ranged DPS sounds like you're kinda thing, don't forget to check out the specific ranged-DPS guide linked above! It should help you narrow down what class and spec is right for you.

That's it for roles! As I've said, though, World of Warcraft is more than just roles — there are 36 specs in the game, and they each have their own appeal. Of course, each class will have it's own unique Class Order Hall complete with its own story line.

What Is Your Role Or Class Of Choice In 'Legion'?