There were fewer classes in The Burning Crusade than there are now, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t quite a few. There were a wide variety of DPS and healers, and for the first time in the game’s history Druids and Paladins were seen as viable tanks — sometimes, even preferable tanks — over the heavily dominant Warrior tanks who’d owned the role in 1 to 60 World of Warcraft before the expansion launched.
Also, the Horde got Paladins and the Alliance got Shaman, which were unique to each faction up until the launch of TBC.
So when you start playing Burning Crusade Classic, you will have a fair variety of options to choose from. In order to help you pick a main, we’ll talk about each role first and how each class worked in that role.
Each class had its strength and weaknesses at level 70. Since Burning Crusade Classic is running off of patch 2.4.3, the tanks will be closer in parity, but Warriors are still going to have the best tools for boss tanking, Druids will be jack of all trades tanks with huge health pools but will feel it when Sunwell Radiance robs them of all that Dodge they’re stacking, and Paladins will own AoE threat, but are going to need to carry multiple shields to handle the trash pulls in Mount Hyjal because of all the damage their shields are going to take. If you intend or expect to be doing a lot of dungeon/heroic dungeon tanking or to be the MT for a small guild doing 10 player raids like Karazhan or Zul’Aman, you may want to roll a Druid or Paladin for your tank.
Warriors really shone in 25 player tanking. They didn’t have the AoE threat of a Paladin or the stupid ease of healing that Druids brought with their massive health pools and Dodge, but tools like Shield Block meant they could push bosses completely off of the combat table and prevent boss abilities like Shear from landing. Your guild is going to want a Warrior tank to do 25 player raids. But it’s going to be hard to get through tanking most five player dungeon content on a Warrior, even after they changed Thunder Clap to work in Defensive Stance — it wasn’t until patch 3.0.2 that TC was changed to hit all targets in range, so it’s still going to be significantly inferior to Paladin or Druid threat in 5 player dungeons and especially in Heroic dungeons, where a Paladin tank means you don’t need CC.
By patch 2.4.3, classes were as close to parity as they ever got in TBC, with all three tanks convinced they were broken and everybody else was OP.
DPS and PVP
Ranged DPS ruled the roost in The Burning Crusade, and it could be argued that melee has never recovered from the design elements that entered raiding and dungeons at the time of that expansion. Melee DPS like Rogues, Enhancement Shaman, Retribution Paladins, Arms Warriors, Fury Warriors and Feral Druids were basically constantly being destroyed by various AoE damage sources, and to add insult to injury, Hunter pets were given an immunity to that same damage while melee were being destroyed by them.
If you want to be much more likely to top DPS meters in Burning Crusade Classic, you’d be better off playing a Mage, Warlock. Shadow Priest, Elemental Shaman, or a Hunter. You’re a lot less likely to die, and dead players do no DPS. Mages did excellent damage and had CC in the form of Polymorph. Shadow Priests brought Vampiric Embrace which healed everyone around them for the Shadow damage they dealt in raids, while Vampiric Touch did the same for Mana regen, making them a very desirable DPS class even if their actual DPS wasn’t always top meter. Boomkin Druids… well, they tried. Our friends who played as Balance had a decent array of options but their damage wasn’t where it would be later. Warlocks had limited CC through Seduce and Banish as well as solid DPS and healthstones, plus their Soulstone providing a res for one player after a wipe.
The various Phases of TBCC will have some impact on that — a Rogue with Warglaives will be a gore machine, for example, as will a Hunter with Thor’idal. While I’ll always recommend Warriors, it’s fair to say that for DPS in dungeons and raids, any melee class had it hard, and while melee classes with crowd control like Rogues had something to offer, Warriors did not.
Still, Warriors with pocket healers and a Stormherald equipped (plus Mace Specialization) were nightmares in PVP. If you like making people cry, make friends with a Holy Paladin or Restoration Shaman and go to the battlegrounds, dealing out almost as many stuns as a Rogue and Mortal Striking everyone so they took half healing and died while unable to move. The howls of the masses demanding you be nerfed will be your only consolation as you die to yet another ridiculous AoE boss ability. If you listened to every other class, they’d tell you they were terrible and needed PVP buffs, but Rogues were competitive and any healing class could shine by healing their groups. I personally hated fighting a Mage, they had too many ways to avoid dying, and Warlocks could utterly ruin a group with their DoTs. Hunters had giant red cats they could use to help focus down a healer before you could blink. Those were the PVP standouts in my memory of TBC.
Holy Paladins owned tank healing. Restoration Shamans were the kings of AoE healing. Restoration Druids were, again, the jack of all trades, with strong single target HoTs that could rival Paladins at keeping up a tank and also give Shaman a run for keeping up a group, although you did have to be good at tabbing around or using raid frames to keep those HoT’s on everyone around you. Holy Priests were very good but didn’t dominate at any particular role — a Holy Priest might not be #1 at anything, but they were usually a strong #2 for just about everything. Disc weren’t at the bubble madness phase we’d see in Wrath of the Lich King yet, either.
I personally enjoyed healing on both a Holy Pally and a Resto Shaman in The Burning Crusade and I’d recommend either class, but the best raid healers I knew were a Resto Druid and a Holy Priest. When I was tanking on Kael’thas and Illidan, I was doing so with a Resto Druid as my main healer and he kept me alive flawlessly.
Ultimately, play what you love best
The fact is, even if you personally thought a Holy Paladin was the most OP tank healer, or that you’d be doing so much better at DPS as a ranged player instead of that Combat Rogue, ultimately it’s passion for a class that keeps you playing through the rough patches. I would argue that even though melee will objectively suffer from all that boss AoE, if you really love your Enhancement Shaman, you’ll be better off playing that than switching to Elemental.
However, be aware of both your strengths and weaknesses, and be prepared for the circumstances you’ll find yourself in.
Don’t play a Warrior tank for that boss tanking if you can’t handle being much less effective at AoE threat, for example. Don’t play a Warlock if you really can’t stomach farming for Soul Shards just because you’ll get to tank one raid fight in Serpentshrine Cavern — the small annoyances of classes you don’t enjoy will overwhelm the novelty. And also, you should be aware of what we called the hybrid tax back in The Burning Crusade — namely, classes that were hybrids capable of performing as DPS or healers, DPS or tanks, or even all three like Paladins and Druids, were designed to be less effective at DPS than the ‘pure’ DPS classes of Hunters, Rogues, Warlocks, and Mages. Since every other class was at least a two-role hybrid — Warriors, Priests, and Shaman could all fill two of the three roles, while Paladins and Druids could tank, DPS, and heal — this meant that those classes were considered less viable for DPS.
This didn’t always work out in practice. Shadow Priests were valued as DPS for their ability to regenerate mana for their groups, for example, whether or not their DPS was as high as a Mage’s — which, by the way, it wasn’t. But it’s worth being aware of this difficulty. In the end, it’s better you play what sounds fun to you, because as the phases of Burning Crusade Classic roll out, you’ll see a variety of raids and dungeons that will change which classes perform at their best anyway.