If you remember the post about the complexity of systems and player retention that I made a couple of weeks back, you'll remember that I mentioned Cynwise's excellent posts about the warlock decline. Well, here it is again reflected in GuildOx's data. Warlocks are the least played class in heroic raiding.
Warriors aren't doing much better, really. Most other classes seem fairly healthy, with classes that have healing specs doing fairly well and rogues absolutely ruling heroic raiding despite being one of the least-played classes in the game overall. It gets even more interesting once we get to look at the GuildOx spec-by-spec breakdown.
What's worth considering are a few factors that affect the number distribution we see. For starters, hunters are the most popular pure DPS class outside of rogues, who have a current tier legendary. Mages and warlocks, despite having access to a legendary in tier 12, are much less popular, but mages are far healthier overall than warlocks. The warrior drop (well below DKs) can be explained by the absolute neutering of fury warriors, as the numbers will bear out. DK popularity is bolstered by the popularity of blood DK tanks, who rule heroic Dragon Soul as the single most popular tanking spec. Priests are very strong overall.
Let's take a look at the breakdown by spec.
The most unnatural selections
There are a lot of interesting things to take away from all this. One is that rogues, once one of the least-played classes, have definitely surged to dominate class representation in heroic raiding thanks to the Fangs of the Father. Among the healers, resto shaman and holy paladins are heading up the charts, with holy priests noticeably less prevalent.
What I found interesting was that all three druid specs are neck and neck of each other, with resto in a slight lead. Since feral contains both melee DPS and tanks, it's hard to say how druids are doing as tanks, but it's clear that even they can't break the hold of the blood DKs. Protection paladins and protection warriors are both lower, with protection warriors being absolutely the lowest, but it's worth noting that they're all represented in greater numbers than, say, frost mages.
The other two rogue specs, subtlety and assassination, are so far behind combat that one has to assume the Fangs are perceived as most beneficial to combat. Fury, while not so low as frost mages or either non-survival hunter spec, is by far the lowest warrior spec, and if fury and protection warriors are counted together, they don't equal arms warriors. Of all the tanking classes, only DKs are most represented by their tanking specs. Paladins and druids are most represented by their healing specs and warriors by what was their PvP spec for most of the expansion.
Where are the warlocks?
As for warlocks, while all three of their specs are better represented than the true outliers (the non-survival hunters, frost mages) as a class, they're far under those classes. There are nearly twice as many survival hunters in heroic Dragon Soul than there are warlocks, period. There are more than twice as many combat rogues. Even fire mages have more than three times as many raiding heroic DS as any competing warlock spec, and there are more raiding fire mages than raiding warlocks of all specs combined.
We can take away from all this that the presence of a legendary can completely skew class and spec representation, but that it's not always necessary for there to be a legendary involved for that perception to get skewed. The dramatic popularity of survival among hunter specs points to a perception among hunters that survival outperforms beast mastery and marksmanship to a significant, imbalanced degree. The surge in arms and the massive decline in fury points to the ridiculously punitive nerfs that completely gutted the spec and in turn lowering warrior representation, which was further lowered by the ascendency of blood DKs to the top of the tanking charts.
Druid versatility is somewhat reflected in the remarkably close levels of druid spec representation. Healing classes tend to see their highest numbers in their healing specs, save priests, whose two healing specs are eclipsed by their DPS spec, which has better numbers than many pure DPS classes, including mages and warlocks. There are more shadow priests raiding heroic DS than there are warlocks of all three specs combined.
Finally, players clearly have given up on raiding as frost mages. And they may have almost given up on warlocks.
Overall, it's a fascinating set of data points to consider. I leave you to completely dissect every conclusion I drew and point out my many flawed arguments. That's why we have comments. Thanks again to the folks at GuildOx for the detailed information.
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