Class Distribution Data for Patch 5.3

5.3 Census - Class Popularity at Endgame Graph

World of Warcraft’s Patch 5.3 was released on May 21st, 2013, so as with previous patches I’ve taken a snapshot of population data to provide historical analysis of class popularity trends. The methodology is unchanged from my 5.2 population analysis, so the same caveats and cautions apply here. The patch dates serve as handy labels for each snapshot, but it’s important to remember that they effectively mark the beginning of a period, not the end. The 5.2 snapshot represents data at the beginning of 5.2 – or the end of 5.1.

Like previous versions, I’ve constructed a separate spreadsheet for this patch’s data. There is one new sheet looking at the realmpop population data (instead of just popularity data) which is finally giving us a view into how players are leveling through Mists of Pandaria.


5.3 Census - Class Popularity at Engame Chart

The data on the first tab is relative class popularity over time at the endgame of an expansion. There are 11 classes available in Mists, so median popularity sits at 9.09% (down from 10% from Wrath). That 9% isn’t so much a target as it is a line to keep in mind – just because Mages are currently ranked #7 with 9.15% doesn’t mean they’re unpopular – but neither are they wildly popular, either.

I think it’s important to note with this graph that it’s mixing apples and oranges a bit. The Wrath and Cataclysm data is from late in those respective expansions, when people had had time to level alts in addition to mains. Starting with the third snapshot (Mists Pre-Release) the environment shifts to those characters who received priority in leveling. Nearly a year out we’re starting to see player stables fill out a bit more, until eventually it will be an apples to apples comparison.

This intraexpansion data is interesting because I think it shows in very broad strokes a picture of which classes got leveled first, and which got leveled later. My hunch is that changes in popularity percentages here, now, are more likely to be from players leveling secondary characters/alts than from new players joining or huge flaws within a class. There are no doubt exceptions and rerolls – the Warrior spike in the 5.1 snapshot was almost definitely due to PvP dominance – but I think we are seeing more alt activity than before.


5.3 Census - Total Pop, 86-90 Pop, 90 Pop

Above is the 5.3 snapshot for all levels, 86-90, and 90.

Quick comparison to the equivalent one for 5.2:

Screen Shot 2013-02-19 at 12.29.14 AM

Monks have continued to take a little more of the overall pie, but the overall numbers are fairly steady. Rogues have improved a bit at level 90.

The popularity data is well and interesting, but I think there’s a more interesting way to look at the question of how players are engaging Pandaria – using population figures instead of popularity figures.

5.3 Census - Realmpop Population Increase over time

These population figures come from Realmpop, and are just the class totals for the US and EU regions added together. I’ve talked with Erorus a bit about how he gets his population sample and it reaches pretty deep. The important thing is that the methodology hasn’t changed over the course of the expansion, so by looking at the sample set of 17 million toons we can extrapolate out to general class trends. (I’d like it better if the data wasn’t missing Korea and China, but we have to work with what we have.)

Keep in mind this isn’t the total population of the game for these regions, but rather a consistent subset we can use for analysis.

I’ve been adding these population figures in since 5.1 – they’re in the hidden columns on the 5.3/5.2/5.1 base tabs – but I wanted to sit on them for a bit until we had enough data points to look at trends. So this is new, and it’s pretty neat! It’s on tab 3 in the spreadsheet.

The data is laid out in three blocks – all population, 86-89, and 90 – each showing population growth  by class across the expansion.

Screen Shot 2013-06-01 at 10.53.48 PM

For All Levels, we can see a few interesting things about class growth and stagnancy. Over a period of time where subs have dropped by ~1.6 million subscribers, character populations have remained stable in the US/EU. Monks continue to be created, and I expect we’ll see them level off somewhere in the 2 million range by the beginning of the next expansion. Warlocks, Warriors, and Hunters have all seen some growth over the course of the expansion, while the rest of the classes are mostly stagnant.

Rogues are the only class to have a drop in figures between patches (5.2 to 5.3) and I’m not sure why.

Let’s move on to the Mists levels.

Screen Shot 2013-06-01 at 11.06.26 PM

About twice as many characters are out of Cataclysm and into Mists of Pandaria right now than at the start of 5.1. Okay, it’s a little less than twice for almost everyone but Monks – 1.74x Paladins, 1.98x Warlocks, 2.56x Monks – but the population of characters in Mists content has basically doubled in 6 months.

Since the general population didn’t double, a lot of this movement has to be attributed to existing characters moving up from pre-Mists levels into Mists. How about at level 90, the endgame?

Screen Shot 2013-06-01 at 11.12.05 PM

This is probably my favorite bit of data to look at. There are two components – the population increase over time, like we did before, and the percent of a class which is level 90. The first block is very similar to what we saw before at 86-90, though most classes have more than doubled their number of 90s in the sample. Druids are the furthest behind at 1.94x, everyone else has a factor of 2.1x or greater. There’s something going on there, but I’m not sure what. I think we need more data points, and someone who can evaluate how each class does in current content, to look at that – definitely not me.

The second block is amazing, though. I love it. It’s the number of 90s versus the total population of a class over time. With one exception, classes started out in a fairly predictable spread and have coalesced into one of two packs, either at 16-17% or 18-19%.  Monks started out amazingly strong – people who rolled Monks at the very beginning were motivated to get them to the endgame – but have come in line with Paladins, Death Knights, Priests, Shamans and Druids in the top pack. Mages, Hunters, and Warlocks are in a second pack a percent or two behind, which might be a result of their pure DPS roles? More incentive to level a hybrid alt, perhaps?

Warriors are stuck back with the pure DPS for reasons that I can only attribute to their being perceived as poor tanks in current Mists content. I’m speculating there, but I think it’s notable that they’re behaving like all the other hybrids.

And then there are Rogues.

At all levels, there are more Rogues than Monks, Warlocks or Shaman. There are almost as many Rogues as there are Priests! But Rogues are not making it to level 90. The 5.14% in 5.1 could be assumed to be the Rogue mains with a job to do, but even with a healthy influx of level 90s after that, they are not playing in the endgame. That 12.42% outlier result is amazing. It’s terrible, but it’s amazing.

Some of this might be due to Rogue populations swelling in late Cataclysm for the legendary daggers. A large number of leveling PvP rogues might also account for it? I’m sure that the Rogue community will have much greater insight than I over it.

But right now, Warriors are behind the other hybrids by a little, and Rogues are behind the other pure DPS classes by a lot.


5.3 Census - Total Pop vs Level 90 Pop

The last bit of data I want to talk about is the PvE/PvP representation data from World of Wargraphs. The basic idea behind this is that if a class is more or less represented in high-end play in one sphere or another compared to their general population trends, they may be over- or under-powered for that activity.

Some general observations:

  • Monks: Very underrepresented in PvP. Brewmaster FCs seem to be the only decent spec?
  • Hunters: Underrepresented in PvE, dramatically underrepresented in PvP.
  • Priests: Mind-bogglingly good at high-end PvE and PvP.
  • Paladins: Really strong in PvE (I assume from both Prot and Holy right now).
  • Warriors: Have dropped from completely dominant in PvP to underrepresented in both PvP and PvE.
  • Shaman, Rogues, Warlocks – doing pretty well, all things considered!

There are detail tabs for each spec in the spreadsheet if you want to dive into this data a bit further.

I’m not sure what to say about Hunters, to be honest. They’re a hugely popular class – more Hunters overall than Paladins, and soon to be more level 90 Hunters too – but they don’t have the same popularity in high end PvE or PvP. Is it that Hunters are fine in high end play, but simply have a larger population of casual players? Or are the problems with the class such that Hunters face problems in high end play above and beyond other classes?

I think there’s evidence to support both theories, and they are not mutually exclusive.


Warriors were the PvP darlings of 5.1 – no more. They are struggling in both PvP and PvE and it’s showing.

Monks, as the new class on the block, have done a great job catching up to the population numbers of the other classes. They may never be as popular as the big 4 (Pally, Druid, Hunter, DK) but they are likely going to carve out a niche for themselves. They are leveling well, and the only real area of concern seems to be their PvP viability. As someone who’s been leveling a Monk, I expect to see some much-needed cleanup to the class in the next expansion to make it a smoother, more coherent experience.

Hunters are the dominant class in World of Warcraft, yet they are underrepresented in high-end play. There are more Hunters than Paladins at all levels, and soon Paladins will be ever so slightly less popular than Hunters at level 90. The question of Hunter’s role in endgame play is an important one – are these population discrepancies indicating real problems in high-level rated play, or is it due to the overwhelming popularity of the class? Is it due to their pure DPS role versus the popularity of hybrids? There’s a serious discussion that needs to happen there.

Rogues are more popular than they seem but are struggling to make it to the endgame. Those Rogues who make it to the endgame can do well, but so few of them do compared to everyone else that there’s something abnormal with them. Rogues are less likely to experience Pandaria than any other class, and that is worth investigating.

Update June 5, 2013: Svelte Kumquat @ The Red Hatted Rogue has taken this data and is running with it for Rogues. He’s pulled some additional data from Realmpop about our sneaky friends.



Filed under Cynwise's Warcraft Manual

32 responses to “Class Distribution Data for Patch 5.3

  1. Bruce Baugh

    My experience with hunters is, I gather, fairly representative. The class is fun to play all the way along, but less so at 90 simply because of complicated rotations. Even with macroing and such, I found it stressful to play mine in level 90 content. I gather I’m representative because of comments on the OutDPS podcast, including quotes from tweets by Ghostcrawler to the effect that, yes, hunter rotations need some simplification. 5.3 did add some handy passive-talent options, and that helps some, but – for me, at least, and apparently for others – not enough. So I’ve been giving warlock and death knight a lot more attention.

    I couldn’t say what the rogue problem is, alas.

  2. I’ve had one friend mention that his super-geared warrior with 100k + overall DPS was turned down by two or three raid teams in succession because he didn’t bring enough “utility” to the table. If they wanted a DPS platewearer, they usually wanted a DK.

    • That’s idiotic. Warriors provide 2 defensive raid cooldowns (Rallying Cry and Demoralizing Banner) and one offensive (Skull Banner), not to mention kick-ass damage output.
      DKs have a highly unreliable battle rez, b/c it requires 60 runic power, and a crappy AMZ that shouldn’t even count as a CD.

  3. Having made the long slog of leveling a Rogue up to L88 (at the moment), I think I can say where the Rogues are.

    First, very few Rogues are a player’s main. The main is the toon you play first and level to cap first. While the amount of Monks at L90 in 5.1 are directly attributable to having to power level from start all the way up, the few numbers of Rogue mains making it to L90 are pretty telling. Perhaps the numbers swelled with the Rogue legendary, but I think you’re selling the Rogue legendary quite a bit. The Rogue legendary came out as populations were dropping in WoW, and compared to, say, the Mage legendary, there just wasn’t as much excitement there. Well into last fall I could pop into Stormwind or Org and see a Blue Dragon Party, but the Rogues I met in BGs were for the most part not wielding the legendary.

    Actually, that leads directly into my second part. Rogues are more likely to be a player’s twink than a player’s main. If you hit the few sweet spots where Rogues do well, such as L15-19*, you’re not very inclined to leave. It can be rough to be a Rogue in Mists with the nerfing that Rogues have gotten (or buffing that other classes got), but if you know your class well and you’re twinked out properly, you can make a living in certain zones.

    Here’s a third one that is often overlooked: a Rogue’s abilities can hide gear problems. I discovered the extent of how undergeared my Rogue was when I jumped directly from the entrance to Uldum where I dinged L85 to Pandaria. My gear iL at the time was iL277, scarcely better than being geared up through Hyjal. However, due to stealth and whatnot, I could hide and pick my attacks without dying so much. Unfortunately, I ran into the first big mini-boss and had to spend honor and justice to even have a chance.

    BGs are the same way. A Rogue can hide and wait for the right time to strike, which can also mask being undergeared.

    Fourth, Rogues get a bad rep. They’re the asshats of WoW, prone to ganking the low level and unwary in PvP areas, and they’re the ones everybody gangs up on in a BG. I’ve been in plenty of BGs where I’m side by side with a Lock or Mage or Priest, and guess who everybody goes after? At the same time, Ferals can stealth on the fly too, but don’t have the asshat reputation. Perhaps it’s because a Druid is a hybrid class, whereas a Rogue has no other choice but to gank you from behind. But also, and this is more significant that some people will give it credit, Druids have their own world spanning organization, which has the best interest of Azeroth at heart. See a Druid and think Cenarion Circle. Rogues don’t have that. Instead, you have “Oh yeah, I remember that @#$% who ganked me in Stranglethorn.”

    It would be nice if the Rogue population were higher, but Rogues are perceived to be a PvP class that has limited utility in raiding and other PvE content. If you want to go on a raid, you’re better off finding another class to play.

    *Not as well as compared to Disco Priests, but that was my best area for dominating a BG. And I didn’t have any heirloom gear, either.

  4. Ming

    I think there’s a lot of interesting things to consider from this data, more than worth the effort it took to put this together, but I think the most relevant bit is this: “Over a period of time where subs have dropped by ~1.6 million subscribers, character populations have remained stable in the US/EU,” which first collaborates Blizzard’s statement about most of the sub drop being in Asia and is an indication that WoW’s health in general has not changed.

    Incidentally, I think the second most interesting bit is the comparatively low amount of Rogues percentage-wise at 90. The under-representation of, say, Hunters in PvP might be an important balance concern, but Rogues seem to have some sort of “fun” concern somewhere, just like Warlocks did.

    • I think that the extra character slot as well as the new race and class has had an impact in keeping the NA and EU servers stable. I know that while I didn’t create a Pandaren or a Monk, I did create a new toon for Mists. And I’m sure I’m not the only one out there.

      However, I suspect that if Pandaren and Monks weren’t new for Mists, NA and EU would see a decline as well, just not as much as in Asia. Which, if I were Blizz, I’d definitely be worried; Blizz spent a lot of time and effort angling the game toward the Asian market with the cancellation of last year’s Blizzcon so they could emphasize the World Championships in Asia, but it didn’t pay off. Whether the Asian market was merely more fickle in general or whether they were turned off from the game remains to be seen.

  5. Thanks for producing these analysis reports! They’re really interesting and (I think) rather unique.

  6. Kal

    My Rogue is my best geared and most active character, though I’m not exactly ready to call it my main. I’ve mostly played Hunter and Priest the past 3 years, then Shaman, DK and Paladin. As my 6th class played, I’m still fairly new. Still, I have played it more in Mists than any of my other characters other than my Pally.

    Anyway, the lack of representation of Rogues in PvE has been a long term issue, and I think some the problems are:

    They’re melee, and melee can be just plain frustrating.

    A player wishing to dual wield can choose a Monk, Shaman, Warrior, DK, or Rogue. Two can tank, one can heal, and one can tank and heal. No surprise that the pure DPS is less popular. This seems like a futile complaint, though, since it’s very unlikely that any of the pure DPS classes will become hybrids.

    Rogues have little utility other than interrupts. Rogue’s utility did get a new trick, i.e. the change to Smokebomb, but it seems like people haven’t caught on to it’s existence, probably because they never raid with a Rogue.

    Speaking of tricks, the current iteration of Tricks of the Trade is making us into a DPS cooldown jockey for someone else. Not cool.

    In PvE, their active damage is very low. The overwhelming majority of damage comes from autoattacks, mastery procs from autoattacks, and poison procs from autoattacks. This makes executing a good rotation much less rewarding, compared to other classes.

    Rogues are a stealth class, but stealth is a moot point when stabbing boss butt. Vanish becomes just another minor DPS increase. Honestly, I don’t feel like a Rogue in raids. I feel like a squishy warrior.

    • I don’t raid but my first 90 and my historical main is a rogue. You have some great points but I think one of the biggest ones is that our active damage is so low. Even in pvp, where uptime is much lower, most of my damage comes from auto-attacks and poison. Add in a need to keep up SND and sometimes recup and it doesn’t feel like we are doing much.

      I feel like as a rogue our survivability and uptime is highly technical to achieve, but our damage isn’t. And damage is all we do. My job in most comps is to stay on a target and use all combo points and energy to lock somebody down while my partner wins the game.

      I also have a warlock, druid, and DK at 90. Rogue is my favorite playstyle, but all of those classes are both easier and more satisfying to play. Druid and DK can be different roles if I want. Warlock is pure dps but the damage is so much more… involving? At least as destro.

      • Rogues were ridiculously OP in RBGS and Arena in 5.2 with Nerve Strike, Subterfuge, and Shadow Dance. They could practicely incapaciate a whole team, and have a variety of CC and survivability. Sub rogues were vastly represented on high ranking teams. The 5.3 nerfs caused most of them to switch to Assassination, which is less fun and weaker. I’ve been playing mine a bit in PvE and PvP, though his gear is not great, and I’m not really really good at him yet. It’s fun, but not as much fun as my warrior, who I absolutely LOVE. Fury has never been this fun to play in PvE, or required as much of the player to maximize output. Arms has great burst and CDs, but still weaknesses, especially with the recent weapon swap bugs. Still, a great deal of fun!

    • Great points Kal. Here’s my two cents. Raiding has become tougher for rogues for a few reasons. Spell effects both positive and negative (and particularly in 25 mans) are really challenging as you cannot see anything in melee range. Negative spell effects in melee range are common which impacts our dps more than ranged. Kiting a boss impacts our dps more than ranged. Positive and negative spell effects are often indistinguishable. There is only one viable raid spec for Rogues. Killing-spree for combat is unusable in most of the raid. There is more competition for gear with monks. Previously in an ultraxion/patchwork fight rogues were dps kings – at the moment they are not. Blizzard know that melee sucks and that raid leaders would not bring them so they invent raid mechanics that require melee range or the raid explodes. I love my rogue but he’s not feeling the love from blizzard. The more the dev’s say that rogues are one of the best classes from a mechanics perspective the more rogues are quitting.

  7. Warrior dps specs both need a redesign. Not just a redesign, but a total warlock-style overhaul. Arms and Fury play almost exactly the same way. Colossus Smash > MortalStrike/Bloodthirst, overpower/raging blow on proc, wildstrikes/slam for rage dumps. That’s it. Fury dangles the “coolness” carrot with Titan’s Grip, but finding two good weapons is more work than most players want to put up with. And warriors are the most gear dependent of any class in the game (just ask Matt Rossi). Heroic Leap only works half the time (only downhill). And overpower’s inability to be dodged or parried makes Fury almost irrelevant in pvp. (i’m playing fury now cause i’m a masochist).

    • sketch

      To be fair, if that’s your Fury rotation, you’re doing it wrong. Not trying to be mean, def Fury is def a ‘easy to start, hard to master’ type spec. I haven’t mastered it, nor do I care to (tank primarily). But there’s a ton of synergy behind waiting for CS to come off CD that you can do to truly unload.

      • I’ll agree that arms is very straightforward and requires little management, although in PvP you do a lot more than hit your 4 big buttons.
        As far as Fury, I have to agree with sketch that you’re way off. TG and SMF are both cool in their own ways, with pros and cons, but end up being about the same given equal gear, but the real beef is with the rotation you described. While arms kind of falls into the old rotation mentality, Fury does not in the least.
        It’s all about what you do with Colossus Smash–making sure you have 110+ rage and 2 stacks of Raging Blow going into it to ensure the greatest burst, syncing up bloodbath with those CS burst windows and Dragon Roar to follow, and while CS is not up, pooling rage without capping and building up RB stacks for your next burst, without wasting procs either.
        Fury is fun fun fun, and very powerful when properly executed.
        I find Fury way more interesting than ever, because we have to think about a lot of our abilites and manage multiple resources–it’s not just bind HS to your scroll wheel and roll it anymore.

  8. My first character was a rogue. Now, she’s my herbs/ore gatherer. I wouldn’t even have leveled her to 85 if I didn’t need the materials to level the professions of my other characters.
    I may not be a good example because I never really loved the rogue energy/combo points gameplay, but I think it’s ever worse while leveling. Short fights that doesn’t allow for good usage of combo points, you can’t attack from behind, you take quite a lot of damage and have to nerf your dps to be able to heal yourself (unlike hybrids, warriors, etc who can heal between each mob, or other classes who take less damage to begin with).

    • At least while leveling the extra combo points on the mobs just become the HoT and speed buff, both of which can pull combo points off dead targets. Works well while solo.

  9. Nina

    Melee dps is often quite annoying to play at high levels, and with all the cast-on-the-run abilities that range have been getting there usually isn’t a good reason to bring more than one melee dps unless it’s a heavy interrupts encounter. And rogues seem to be squishier than their platewearing associates.

    Back when I saw occasional pugs (our server pug scene is all but comatose) they would be asking for a healer and ranged dps, never melee dps. Makes it hard to gear up.

    • We roll about 50/50 melee and ranged and it works great. Rogues are squishy with less armor, but when played properly with Feint and CoS they have great survivability in a raid setting, often trivializing mechanics that other melee struggle with, especially consistent raid damage.

  10. I know I’m odd for loving spreadsheets, but I do. Thanks for this awesome set of data.

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  12. Valkyl

    One thing that has really sucked for me this expansion for my rogue has been finding daggers. I’ve been forced into combat spec since I started LFR since I always get non-dagger loot. Combined with the fact that you need 2 daggers to play assassination spec. Maybe it’s just bad luck, but I didn’t have such a hard time finding daggers in previous expansions.

    Another thing that has sucked has been rogue PvE soloing, at least compared to my other 90s (arms war, surv hunter, ww monk, enhance shaman). My rogue is by far the squishiest at equal gear level, struggling with 5+ mob pulls even with blade flurry, and it was really bad before I got some ToT LFR maces. For example, my other toons have 0 problems soloing the summoned bosses on Isle of Thunder from the Incantation of Haqin, whereas it’s tough for my rogue. Not enough self healing ability like the monk or shaman, no overpowered healing talent like Second Wind, no pet tanking.

    • I just posted a long reply to somebody else and completely forgot the difficulty of both leveling and dailies on a rogue. Every freshly dinged 90 I’ve rolled has been better at killing rares than my geared rogue is. Warlock and DK especially have higher survivability and higher damage. I couldn’t reliably kill some of the dread waste rares on my rogue until I was ilvl 470+ but I had no problems at 89 on other classes.

      • I definitely agree with this. My rogue, albeit sitting at 499 ilvl compared to my warriors 527, is WAY WAY WAY more squishy. Barrens weekly is a huge pain to try to solo.

    • I thought it was just me — admittedly I’m really bad at rogue, but I was having lots of trouble leveling with mine. I ended up having to pester guild mates to help with some of the named quest mobs — not rares, regular quest mobs.

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  14. JasonM

    I don’t know what it says about me, but my main since I started playing WOW in 2010 is a rogue. My only high level alt is a monk.

    Its true, leveling a rogue solo, or fighting rares, is hard. But I have geared my rogue to ilvl 510, and now I’m competitive with other classes at my ilvl in raids.

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  16. I’m kind of surprised to see Warlocks still so far down. I see they’ve got a small bump but they’re still near the bottom – poor monks! I have been enjoying my warlock immensely more since Mists release, and I now have an LFR-capable 90 on both factions. They’re my “main dps” alts.

  17. Such an interesting post! I never know my class was that popular – though I should know since I see so many druids around in the endgame and of course in our own raid team. And you know what – I hate to say it but I would happily see LESS monks at level 90 coz they annoy me and stop me from ninjacapping.

  18. *vlad*

    My own view is that Hunters are very OP when levelling, whereas at lv90 they are on a par with most classes PvE wise (but can still top the damage meters in LFRs). Doesn’t everyone have a Hunter alt? They are easy-mode to play and fun too for casual gaming. In PvP they end up as flag defenders, which is fine if you are happy to sit and do nothing for half the game.

    The problem with Rogues is they are percieved to be under-powered in PvE, but if buffed end up being OP for PvP. Plus in PvP all the CC, burst and ways to avoid being killed really annoys people. Does anyone like seeing rogues on the enemy team?

    In PvP I find monks really annoying opponents, too. I’m surprised so few people play them.

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