Classes are a complex
mix of standard and non-standard archetypes, and they continue to evolve and
change with the game. There are only a few recognizable archetypical single
role classes, the rest are either hybrids able to carry out two or more roles
at once, or flexible in a limited degree with the ability to fulfill different
roles depending on how they are geared and trained.
A short list of classes and their expected roles are listed below, these are only rough outlines of what they can do and should not be taken as set in stone.
Warcraft class information
Death knight: New in Wrath of the Lich King, Death knights are a Melee Damage dealing class capable of using two-handed weapons or two one handed weapons, they also fulfill a valuable niche as Tanks specializing in parrying and dealing with casters. Sadly you will not be able to make a character of this class until sometime later in your game. It is unlocked by... Well, that's a surprise.
Druid: A Flexible hybrid class capable of fulfilling all of the key roles in the game. With shape shifting and later-level talents the Druid can focus on Melee Damage dealing, Tanking, Healing, or Ranged Damage dealing. This is a great class for people who want to sample everything WoW has to offer as with a few gold they can entirely change their character focus. The drawback however is that this is possibly one of the most complex character types to play.
Hunter: A primary Ranged Damage Class the Hunter also is capable of taming some of the games fiercest beasts. Excellent for Solo game play, PvP and highly useful in groups for damage and Crowd Control through traps and his Pet the Hunter class is a favorite of many players for it's fun and powerful abilities. There is some complexity in controlling your Pet, but for the most part an excellent starter character choice.
Mage: Another Ranged Damage Class, able to focus on the powers of Fire, Frost, or Arcane Magic, the Mage also has a powerful crowd control ability in his Polymorph spell, allowing him to transform a range of opponents into adorable animals. Respected in PVP for it's damage, mobility and Crowd Control it's main drawback is in its frailty. A desirable choice for people interested in seeing Big Numbers in combat or looking for a combination of mobility and control not seen in many classes.
Paladin: A flexible class able to deal Melee Damage, Tank, or Heal depending on the focus the player chooses. Respected in PVE and PVP for being a durable plate wearer capable of taking on tough opponents and surviving. Known for its ability to become invincible for a short time and heal itself or another player fully instantly on a long cool down. This is the choice of a player devoted to enduring and surviving regardless of the difficulties.
Priest: A flexible caster class able to Heal or deal Ranged Damage. Feared in PVP for its ability to heal itself and others or deal damage. Many players choose the Priest for it's ability to heal but in PVE it has the choice of focusing on Shadow Magic, dealing impressive damage that also heals it's allies. One drawback is that this class tends to be fragile and has few crowd control abilities, many feel that it's powerful healing makes up for this fact.
Rogue: A primary Melee Damage class, the Rogue has the ability to stealth, hiding him from his opponents view. A terror in PVP for its ability to hide, stun and poison it is a choice of the player interested in sneaky combat. In PVE the Rogue is often behind the monster mercilessly wounding and poisoning it, dealing high levels of damage with some helpful side effects. Many people choose this class for it's ability to deal damage, but this comes with the trade off of vulnerability. A Rogue who does not get the drop on it's opponent typically fares poorly.
Shaman: Capable of filling multiple roles and wearing Mail armor the Shaman is a Healer, a Melee Damage dealer, or a Ranged Damage dealer, all dependant on the choices made by the player. Durable and flexible, this character choice provides many opportunities in PVP and PVE alike, allowing the player to enjoy many aspects of the game. While not always the best Healer or Damage Dealer a Shaman's unique Self Resurrection, Mail Armor, and Healing all ensure that he will survive for far longer than expected. A good choice for players starting out, but with complex and long class related quests.
Warlock: Master of Demons, Shadow and Flame, Pestilence and Fear, the Warlock is a Ranged Damage dealer to the bitterest end. With powerful curses, painful diseases, terrible demons, and offensive spells covering every situation the Warlock is the class of choice for those intent on sending their enemies running. Dreaded in PVP for their damage over time spells, fears, and ranged area of effect damage they reap a bloody harvest on the battlefields of Azeroth. These powers translate well to PVE though the Warlock runs the risk of causing his own death. The Warlock class is phenomenal class for soloing, with the ability to store his soul for a time allowing the player to resurrect shortly after death. Demons add an element of complexity as Pets, but also allow the Warlock to have his or her own pocket Tank by hiding behind the minion. Warlocks experience very few weaknesses at the present time.
Warrior: A plate wearing Melee Damage dealer, who may also focus on Tanking. Regarded as the Gold Standard of Tanking and Combat the warrior is the Bar that all Melee is gauged by. Tough and Strong this class does well in PVP and PVE alike, able to charge to the attack or intervene between the foes and his friends saving them. Many players choose the Warrior as their first class because the class is easy to learn, difficult to master. Strongly suggested for those who want to be in the face of the enemy, never backing down, never submitting.
The above list covers in general terms what each class excels at. There are also descriptions on the character screen and vast amounts of information available on the Internet or from friends. Choose a class you think you'll enjoy, if you change your mind you can always make up to 10 characters and try one of everything.
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Mrs Hozey on February 27, 2009:
Nice breakdown. Great hub!