Updated for Mists of Pandaria. See the linked pages for builds, gems, and notes on the individual specs.
This page is far from a comprehensive guide, but will point you to the appropriate pages on this site that have far more detail.
In patch 5.3 there have been some changes to PvP Power and gearing. This will strongly impact your gemming choices.
- Death Knight
- Monk, coming after launch
- PvP Tips Video
- Glossary of terms
- Earn lots of gold
Death Knights are one of the strongest PvP classes in the game, boasting high damage both consistent and burst in addition to self heals, silences and other spell caster/healer controls, as well as a few self and team buffs.
Death Knights have two talent builds which are viable at the highest levels of play in the Arena, Frost & Unholy, and one, Blood, which is used primarily for tanking, something that’s not as useful in nearly any situation save that of carrying flags in a BG and even then there are those more suited to that role.
- Blood spec PvP - While I wouldn’t say that Blood is entirely unviable in PvP, it’s certainly not as effective as Frost or Unholy and mainly used for Battlegrounds, specifically random Battlegrounds, as it’s there that the otherwise lacking burst damage of blood can be made effective against less organized/skilled groups.
- Frost PvP - Very nice damage, not as tough as blood. Frost has less survivability than Unholy, but boasts a greater amount of CC (Crowd Control) and very good critical damage bursts. Frost Death Knight’s also provide a constant haste buff to their teammates.
- Unholy PvP – Master of Disease with a plagueborn pet. Unholy Death Knight’s bring good damage, incredible when played perfectly, and have better survivability than Frost due to an improved Anti-Magic Shell. Properly managing your ghoul pet is a large part of maximizing your effectiveness as an Unholy DK and providing burst damage at crucial times.
Druids are one of the, if not the, most veratile classes in World of Warcraft, and this carries over into the Arena and Battlegrounds making most druids capable of accomplishing a myriad of roles regardless of their talent build.
The three viable builds for a PvP druid are Balance, also known as ‘Boomkin’ after the form it uses, Feral, which makes the most use of Cat and Bear form playing while rather like a rogue/warrior hybrid, and Restoration, a stereotypical healer with an emphasis on HoT (Heal over time) spells.
It’s important to remember that whichever talent build you choose to follow a druid always has access to decent heals and at least a few other utility spells that any Druid would do well to make use of if they want to be as effective as possible. For example, part of what makes a Feral Druid a druid rather than just another melee DPS is the fact that they can quickly shift in and out of caster form to heal themselves and root enemies giving them greater control over the battlefield.
- Feral Cat PvP - teeth and claws of massive gankage. As mentioned above, Feral druids have the class defining stealth ability of a rogue in addition to the strength and durability of a warrior when in bear form. While obviously you can’t benefit from both at the same time as they’re split between the two forms, you can make use of your ability to quickly shift forms to swap back and forth depending on what a situation demands.If you’re dropping in health quickly, shifting to bear form to use Frenzied Regeneration can sometimes bring you back to full life and allow you, for a time, to tank multiple melee classes. Cat form is going to be what you use most as it’s your damage dealing form and gives you the incredibly useful stealth so you can avoid being targeted or engaging an enemy until you’re in position to fight on your terms.Feral druids are abundant in Battlegrounds and arena and can be immensely effective when played properly.
- Balance PvP- Balance druids or Boomkins, as they’re sometimes called, are a dedicated caster class similar in some senses to a wizard or warlock. A Balance druid keeps his distance from enemies using abilities like Entangling Roots and Typhoon while blasting them with a variety of offensive spells. Balance druids are generally the least played of the three Druid specializations and take a good deal of skill to master, but are by no means worthless even at the higher levels of the Arena
- Restoration PvP- Lurk behind your damage wall and make them unkillable. Restoration druids are healers, providing their team with a wealth of HoT effects that can stack to provide a good deal of life back per second. This is most useful when in the midst of large team battles where you need to manage the healing of multiple allies and you can drop a HoT or two on each to keep them going while attending to those in greatest danger of dying. Spells such as Nature’s Swiftness and, if necessary, casting those spells from your Tree of Life form. Restoration druids are a very capable healer class, but can become overwhelmed by burst damage, given the nature of their healing magic as being mostly focused on healing over a period of time rather than all at once, unlike, say, a Holy Paladin.
Hunters are a ranged DPS class with some of the best burst damage in the game, but also a relatively high level of skill demanded to properly utilize their abilities to the fullest. Hunter play is designed around avoiding close contact with the enemy at all costs and they have a good number of abilities such as traps and Disengage to help them do that.
- Marksmanship PvP – Lots of damage and good “stay away from damage” skills. Marksmanship is the primary hunter PvP build, bringing the most to the table at the higher levels of play such as in the Arena. Marksmanship has ridiculous burst damage, the best of the hunter builds, and is simply devastating when played properly in both Battlegrounds and the Arena.
- Survival brings a number of enhancements to a hunter’s utility and is by no means bad, but I wouldn’t recommend it over Marksmanship or even Beast Mastery depending on the situation. Well played survival can excel at almost any level save the higher ranks of the arena, where Marksmanship’s advantages, such as Readiness and Silence, really shine.
- Beast Mastery Hunters have very good damage output, albeit still behind Marksmanship, and a respectable burst with a good number of ways of damaging an opponent both through their pet and personally. Proper micromanagement of your pet and awareness is required to make the most of a Beast Mastery hunters damage, more so than that of other hunter builds.
Mages are among the best PvP classes, admittedly this is primarily as Frost, but also occasionally as Fire under the appropriate circumstances. Arcane Mages have immense burst damage, but lack survivability. Fire Mages have great AoE and mobility, but are vulnerable to dispel, and Frost Mages are simply the most effective, possessing both good damage and a wealth of survivability tools.
- Mage PvP overview
- Arcane PvP – Lots of damage, but squishy. Arcane is a glass cannon build, which makes it woefully ineffective in the arena where any Arcane Mage stands out as an easy target. Their exceptional burst damage is rendered nearly worthless as they lack the tools necessary to stay alive long enough to put it to use. Still, Arcane Mages can do fairly well in random Battlegrounds due to the chaotic nature of the engagements, hopefully avoidiing notice long enough to do some serious damage.
- Fire PvP - Fire is a fun to play build with lots of mobility and burst damage potential, excelling in Battlegrounds both random and rated. Fire is quite vulernable to dispel as it removes their primary damage component (DoTs and Combustion.) This makes them rather ineffective in some situations and making them rather vulnerable in the arena in particular.
- Frost PvP – Built for PvP. Good damage and lots of control and survivability. Frost is without a doubt a best Mage PvP build and among the best PvP builds in the entire game, boasting unrivaled survivability and effective burst damage, a combination of all that you need to dominate in both Battlegrounds and the Arena.
Paladins are a powerful hybrid PvP class capable of dealing effective burst damage as Retribution or acting as perhaps the number one PvP healer as Holy. Paladins are a natural addition to practically any team composition and can excel at the highest ranks of the Arena primarily as healers.
- Holy Paladins are one of the toughest, most capable PvP healers in the game. Their combination of a temporary invincibility bubble, (albeit one that can be dispelled,) and fast, effective heals, along with a few other healing and support tools, make them quite enjoyable to play.
- Retribution Paladins boast tremendous burst damage, but outside of their burst windows are somewhat lacking in the ability to pressure an opponent. Well played Retribution Paladins can do fairly well in the Arena and contribute a great deal to rated BG’s and in randoms.
- Protection Paladins fail to contribute much in the Arena, but can be marginally useful in the occasional Battleground as flag carriers and tanks to hold onto a flag/point such as in Arathi Basin or the Battle for Gilneas. Still, a Holy or Retribution Paladin would be preferable in almost any situation.
Priests are useful casters in PvP either as Discipline for support healing and utility, or Shadow for damage. Shadow Priests benefit from the ability to throw out a few heals if necessary, and have good DoTing ability for group fights. Discipline has a number of tools for effective PvP healing and beats out Holy under most circumstances.
- Shadow Priests are capable PvP DPS and can do fairly well in Battlegrounds, as well as be quite effective given the proper Arena compositions. Shadow Priests have the capacity for devastating burst and provide useful DoTs coupled with self-healing and a degree of CC, making them good, if not necessarily the best, PvP Casters.
- Discipline is the go-to spec for Priest PvP healing. It has stronger shields, improved dispel and abilities, such as Power Infusion and Pain Suppression, to support and save teammates when under pressure. Discipline excels in most of what you need to heal in PvP both in the Arena and in Battlegrounds.
- Holy has some useful healing abilities, but simply can’t compare to what Discipline has to offer in survivability and utility, which is why it’s rarely chosen as a PvP spec. That isn’t to say that Holy can’t heal quite well in PvP up to a point, it just isn’t the equal of Discipline.
Rogue is my favorite PvP class bar none. The combination of excellent control abilities such as sap, stuns, and blind along with escape tools like vanish make it one of the best all around PvPers both in teams and solo. Rogue would be the class I recommend to someone looking to PvP solo queue in random BG’s, their myriad of escape tools making them ideal for playing without support.
- Assassination when played right, can be effective in PvP, due to excellent poison usage and talents such as Vendetta. It still lacks some of the crucial tools a Subtlety Rogue possesses, which drag it down regardless of the skill and ability with which you play an Assassination Rogue.
- Combat Rogue PvP - Hard mode, but lots of consistent DPS. Combat is a predominantly PvE build that struggles in all aspects of PvP. This is due to its emphasis on consistent damage, which requires constant contact with the opponent, and the lack of a burst technique to take down healers or other hard targets. Playing a Combat Rogue in PvP is crippling yourself; don’t do it.
- The Subtlety Rogue is by far the best Rogue PvP build simply due to the massive number of tools you obtain with Preparation, Shadowstep, Shadow Dance, etc. There really is no better build for Rogue PvP; Subtlety enhances everything that makes a Rogue a great PvP character in ways that the other builds, Combat and Assassination, fail to do.
Shamans are a hybrid capable of effective PvP play in a number of roles depending on which specialization they take. Shaman’s provide good damage-dealing, and even when not specced, Restoration can still cast some adequate heals if necessary. Totems make for good support and allow a Shaman to be a team contributor, regardless of specialization, in addition to CC ability via Hex.
- The Restoration Shaman is immensely useful as a PvP healer due to its mastery focused on delivering immense heals to targets low on health, something that can easily take a player about to die all the way to maximum health in a spell or two. A Restoration Shaman also has access to a number of group heals for use in larger fights when no one target takes immediate healing precedence.
- Elemental Shamans are Caster DPS and play as you would imagine – destroying enemies from afar with a bevy of shocks and lightning bolts. They have the ability to cast lightning bolt on the run, which can help when facing melee pressure, and have more than a few ways of slowing down or stopping pursuers such as with Earthbind Totem or escaping with Ghost Wolf.
- Enhancement is an explosive burst melee style with a combination of melee and ranged attacks to blow down enemies. Enhancement, while effective, is not the easiest or most recommended build for higher levels of Arena play, but is quite capable of demolishing the opposition in BG’s.
Warlocks are effective PvP casters and quite able in PvP both Arena and rated Battlegrounds. Affliction Warlocks are the most sought after and a regular part of highly ranked Arena teams due to their ability to apply debuffs that last even when an enemy is avoiding line of sight, putting constant pressure on the opposition. Destruction and Demonology are less popular but still quite capable in Battlegrounds and, to a lesser extent, the Arena.
- Destruction is an acceptable PvP build for Warlocks and has in somewhat more recent times become more viable with some buffs here and there. Affliction is still generally the more widely chosen spec, but Destruction can be quite viable in rated BG’s and the Arena with the right compositions and timing. Destruction suffers most when facing dispel and lacks some of Affliction’s mobility.
- The Affliction build boasts good sustained damage along with high mobility and survivability. It is the best Warlock spec for Arenas and in general Battleground PvP due to its ability to debilitate a multitude of targets. Quite honestly, Affliction, like subtlety for Rogues, enhances the core strengths of a Warlock in PvP and is the best PvP build for Warlocks at the moment.
- As a Demonology Warlock your pet becomes a more significant part of your damage-dealing, and you have access to a powerful cooldown in Metamorphosis. Demonology Warlocks can, with effective management of their pets, be a powerful force on the Battlefield, but I would hesitate to use this build in the Arena, as it lacks a number of the tools for burst potential present in Affliction and Destruction.
Warriors are a class with very mixed performance, capable of devastating opposition given the right circumstances such as appropriate support. However, Warriors are also prone to failure when in solo situations as they are quite vulnerable to kiting by classes such as Mages and Hunters. Warriors are also very gear dependant and have limited build flexibility.
- Warrior PvP page - Lots of Warrior tips, macros, more.
- Arms is the go-to build for Warrior PvP due to its emphasis on burst damage, which is king in situations where you need to out-damage healers and take down enemies swiftly. Arms has a number of useful abilities, such as Mortal Strike, which reduces the target’s healing, Improved Hamstring -to immobilize enemies, Sweeping Strikes – to deal damage to multiple targets, and Throwdown – to stun and control a target, (usually the healer) so you and your team can burst them down or kill someone else while the healer is stunned.
- Fury Fury is a lacking PvP build for Warriors simply because it’s missing a number of the tools present in Arms and has more of an emphasis on consistent close contact damage as opposed to the burst of Arms. Fury isn’t unviable, especially in random Battlegrounds and even to an extent the Arena, but it isn’t recommended either.
- Protection Warriors are best used as flag carriers, possessing abilities such as Spell Reflect to help them ward off opposition and safely carry or hold the flag as necessary. Outside of this, they lack any great ability to threaten, which is why I wouldn’t recommend using this build if you’re doing anything other than tanking the NPC generals in Isle of Conquest/Alterac Valley or carrying flags in Warsong Gulch or Twin Peaks.
General PvP tips, applicable to most classes.
Glossary of PvP Terms
This glossary was swiped from WoW Insiders’s glossary post and tweaked a bit. The full glossary is still on their site.
- RMP - rogue, mage, priest
- RLS - rogue, (war)lock, shaman (restoration)
- MLS - mage, lock, shaman (restoration)
- MLP - mage, lock, priest
- WLS - warrior, lock, shaman (restoration)
- PHD or PHDK - paladin (holy), hunter, DK
- FMP - feral druid, mage, priest
- LSD - lock, elemental shaman, restoration druid
- LSD2 - lock, restoration shaman, balance druid
- RRP - retribution paladin, rogue, priest (usually healing, could equally be a paladin)
- KFC - Kung-Fu Cleave — warrior, hunter, healer
- TSG - DK, warrior, healer
General PvP terms:
- blanket/silence: A silence debuff, something that prevents an opponent from casting. “Blanketing Priest!”
- burst: High damage applied over a short period of time.
- cap: Short for capture. If your team have just killed the EFC (Enemy Flag Carrier) they may be shouting “Cap!” a lot in chat.
- chain (CC): A chain of Crowd Control (CC;) using different CC abilities to keep a player’s character out of their control for as long as possible.
- cleave team: A team with, at least, two DPSers and a healer.
- cloned: Short for Cycloned.
- comp: The class makeup or composition of an Arena team. Such as, “My comp was RMP…”
- CC: or crowd control Spells and abilities that limit an opponent’s ability to control their character.
- CS: Short for Counterspell. “I’m CS-ed.”
- deep: Short for Deep Freeze. “I’m deeped!”
- DR: Short for diminishing returns; CC is subject to diminishing returns, so as you cast it repeatedly the CC time is progressively shorter until the opponent is temporarily immune to your CC. For example, three successive Saps. After that, it is reset.
- fake casting: Stopping a spellcast before it completes to trick an opponent into wasting their interrupt.
- farming: Repeatedly beating the same team and gaining points or rating. “We farmed that RMP.”
- FC/EFC: Flag carrier or enemy flag carrier in a Battleground.
- full: Refers to CC. “I’m sheeped, full” or “Full sheep on priest” means that the sheep in question is not subject to DR and is a full-length sheep.
- ganking: Killing someone in world PvP, normally from stealth or somehow unexpectedly. Suggests an strong advantage on the attacker’s side.
- global/nuke: To kill an opponent extremely quickly.
- griefing: Using world PvP to your (usually unfair) advantage to make another player’s game time unpleasant, such as high levels ganking lowbies.
- interrupt: Any ability which forces a school lockout. Pummel, Kick, Counterspell.
- juking, juke, juked: Stopping a spellcast before it completes to trick an opponent into wasting their interrupt. “He juked my kick.”
- kick: Interrupt “Kicking shaman!” “I’m kicked!”
- kite: To limit an opponent’s damage by keeping out of his range of offensive abilities, usually employing snares, roots and slows.
- LoS, LoSing: Using line of sight to avoid damage or other abilities being used on you. “LoS that hunter, I can’t keep you up.”
- opener: The abilities or spells with which you start or open a game.
- NS: Short for Nature’s Swiftness, an ability that allows druids and shaman to cast their next cast-time cast instantly. “I’m NS-ing you.”
- peeling: Using crowd control to keep opponents from attacking your teammates or peel them off the one they are attacking. ”I need a peel.”
- pillar: humping A defensive strategy that involves avoiding the opponent by moving around or behind pillars.
- reset: Trying to regain health and mana so that a game is essentially returned to how it was at the start.
- sheep Polymorph opponent to a sheep.
- switch: Change targets to take advantage of poor positioning. Usually needs to happen at great speed. “Switching shaman, hard!”
- train: All members of the same team attacking the same target.
- trinket: Use a trinket that frees your character from CC, roots, silences, etc. “I can’t believe he trinketed my Sap.” Sometimes used to refer to humand and gnome escape abilities.
- tunnel: All members of the same team attacking the same target.
- turtle: Playing defensively. Games where both teams turtle are incredibly boring!
- win trading: Two or more teams working together to gain an advantage through the Arena queue system. Win trading is against WoW’s Terms of Service.
- zerg: Playing on the extreme aggressive as a group. A tactic used necessarily by triple DPS arena comps.