Hardcore and Ironman challenges have been a long tradition in World of Warcraft, and now for the first time, Blizzard is implementing official hardcore servers in WoW Classic with their own special rules and features. Death on these servers is permanent, and although defeated characters can be carried over to regular Classic Era servers, the point is to see how far you can get without dying. This naturally raises the question – which is the best class for leveling in Hardcore Classic WoW?
That’s a tricky question to answer, especially in vanilla WoW, as some classes are better equipped for the task than others. So which class has the best odds in Hardcore WoW Classic? We’ll rank all nine vanilla classes in order of how difficult they will be to keep alive through level 60.
Best Leveling Class in Hardcore Classic, Ranked Hardest to Easiest
Note that these rankings are largely operating under the assumption that you’re mostly leveling solo – we’ll make a note when a class shines in a group setting.
If you’re constantly running a full organized party with friends, you’ll probably be able to compensate for your class’ weaknesses and have a much easier time. Especially if it has a dedicated tank and a healer.
It’s a little ironic that the hardest class to level in vanilla WoW is also the strongest and most popular at endgame. Warriors are champion raiders, the best tanks and DPS in the game, and every raid group will want lots of them – but getting them to level 60 is a bit of a pain.
They lack any sort of self-healing capabilities, so you’ll be carrying around stacks of food and eating frequently. They don’t have much in the way of crowd control or ways to escape if things get messy, which is especially troublesome for a class that is always in melee range. They don’t have a pet, stealth, or a sprint ability. None of the tools that help the other classes survive.
But of course, many players will want to play a warrior specifically for the extra challenge it presents, especially since the class is so strong once you manage to make it to endgame. Plus, everyone will look at you like the absolute madman that you are for doing so.
Shamans have a few more tools than warriors do. They can heal and cure themselves, and they have totems that can slow and taunt, giving them a chance to escape if needed.
But none of the shaman talent specs are particularly easy to level, and they still don’t have the survivability of our higher-ranked classes. To top it off, their Reincarnation ability is entirely useless in Hardcore Classic, since it’s only usable after death.
In vanilla WoW, shamans are only available on the Horde side. But they are one of the most in-demand classes in the game, with many Horde raid teams opting to give every party their own set of totems. So if you’re hoping to actually attempt to raid in Hardcore Classic, rolling a shaman can all but guarantee you a raid spot – if you can get to 60 first.
Druids are a bit of an oddity in vanilla WoW. Feral druids are frequently relegated to off-tanking, and Balance druids are often left out in the cold as one of the weakest damage dealers. Restoration druids are solid healers, but their HoTs don’t stack, so most raids won’t bring more than one.
Generally, 40-man raids will only bring one or two druids at most, just enough to keep the raid buffed with Mark of the Wild. To make matters worse, one of the druid’s most useful endgame abilities, Rebirth, is entirely useless in Hardcore WoW. You won’t be able to battle rez anyone when death is permanent.
All that said, druids are an alright class for leveling in Hardcore Classic, at least once they get Cat Form at level 16. They can heal and cure themselves, and they have some decent crowd control abilities as well as stealth. Bear Form makes them sturdier and Travel Form and Dash make them faster, so you have some options for dealing with messy pulls. But other classes have better options on top of better damage.
When you think of survivability in WoW, paladins with their famous “bubble” ability are probably among the first classes that come to mind. Paladins do indeed have some strong survival and utility. Where they’re lacking is in damage and crowd control.
As the counterpart to shamans, paladins in vanilla WoW are only available on the Alliance side. In raids they are considered subpar as tanks and DPS, but they make very strong healers. They are widely sought after for their buffs and utility.
For Hardcore WoW specifically, they offer invaluable utility in the form of their Hand spells, which can grant their target invulnerability to physical damage or freedom of movement – two incredibly useful tools for staying alive. For this reason, the paladin’s strength in Hardcore WoW will be higher when they are part of a group that can take advantage of their external cooldowns.
But the class’s mediocre damage and lack of a sprint or stealth ability keep it from ranking higher, despite the power of Divine Shield. We should also mention that Blizzard has specifically stated that “bubble hearthing” will not work on the official Hardcore servers, which robs the class of a portion of its famed survivability.
Priests wear cloth, so you might be thinking “squishy” right now, but they are surprisingly resilient. In addition to being able to heal and cure themselves, they have their Inner Fire spell for extra armor and Power Word: Shield for absorbing damage.
They also have Psychic Scream, an instant AoE fear ability, which is great for escaping when things get hairy. Two other underrated abilities in their arsenal are Mind Soothe, which can let you slip past otherwise-unavoidable enemies, and Mind Control, for turning your enemies against each other.
What the priest lacks in terms of survivability is any sort of stealth or sprint ability. Their damage is also underwhelming; you’ll spend the bulk of the early levels just wanding things. But priests have some of the strongest healing in the game, so if you plan to level with a friend or do any group content, the class becomes a lot stronger.
Shadow priests are also known as one of the best solo PvP classes, so if you’re bold enough to pit yourself against other players in Hardcore WoW, the priest might be a class to consider.
Speaking of classes that are strong for solo PvP: when you think of PvP in World of Warcraft, you probably think of rogues.
Not only does the rogue have stealth, but they can Vanish in the middle of combat. Having a way to “opt out” mid-fight is a huge boon for Hardcore, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Rogues also have some of the strongest crowd control in the game, a sprint ability, and decent damage.
What rogues don’t have is any way to heal or dispel themselves, so like the warrior, they’ll be carrying around plenty of food and bandages to heal up between pulls.
Having stealth can also give you a false sense of security. There are still situations where Vanish won’t help you – especially since you have no way of removing debuffs which will immediately knock you out of stealth again. But overall, stealth allows you to play cautiously and carefully, which is ideal in Hardcore.
It may be surprising to see the famously masochistic warlock class ranking in the top three for survivability in Hardcore Classic.
It’s true that warlocks are the only class that can accidentally commit suicide with their own abilities. But hopefully no one who is playing Hardcore is going to be abusing Lifetap or Health Funnel. You also won’t get any use out of Soul Stones in Hardcore WoW, which is a waste of a strong ability. But that aside, warlocks have some powerful tools for making it to level 60.
First, having a pet is invaluable for staying alive. It gives your enemies a second potential target, taking the pressure off of your character and giving you a chance to escape if needed. Warlocks can even sacrifice their pet to heal themselves.
They also have Healthstones and Life Drain for keeping their health up. Fear is a very useful crowd control ability, and they also have Banish and Howl of Terror. While the warlock lacks a sprint or a way to drop combat, their other abilities mostly make up the difference – and their damage is very strong to top it all off.
The mage’s toolkit has always been strong for solo play, and that’s what makes it so well suited to Hardcore Classic. Crowd control, defensives, and escapes give the class a good deal of survivability, even without armor or healing capabilities. Their damage is pretty good as well.
The biggest problem many mages will run into in Hardcore will be the temptation to over-pull. In regular WoW Classic, the mage is known for its ability to AoE down large numbers of enemies with Blizzard after freezing them in place. That’s probably not the best idea in Hardcore, even with so many defensives, as everything can easily go to hell if an enemy resists a spell.
You’ll have to carry food and water around as a mage, but luckily you can make your own, so that’s no big deal. That’s useful if you plan to play in a group with other classes that need to have food or water on hand. Portals are always nice to have as well.
You’ve got Polymorph and Frost Nova to keep enemies at a distance, and Blink and Ice Block for when that isn’t enough. You even have Slow Fall to avoid falling damage. The only things that could make the mage stronger would be stealth or a pet, which we’ll have to wait for in Hardcore TBC.
And here we are at number one, the best class for leveling in Hardcore WoW Classic – the hunter! There are many things that make hunters strong in WoW Classic and one of the safest classes to level as.
Hunters are the ultimate pet class, and as we covered in our warlock section, having a pet is a huge boon to survivability. With strong kiting potential, hunters are able to keep enemies at a distance while still doing damage, which also makes it easier to escape when necessary.
They have decent crowd control with their Freezing Trap and Concussive Shot, and when things get out of hand, they can Feign Death. That ability alone takes them from good to great in Hardcore, being one of only two classes with a way to completely drop combat (the other being rogue).
The hunter also does great damage without ever really needing to stop. They’re not as mana-dependent as other ranged classes, and they can keep enemies at range with their pet and kiting abilities, so they rarely need to heal. The class lacks healing abilities, but it doesn’t really need them. For the smoothest leveling experience in hardcore WoW Classic, the hunter is a great choice.
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