State of the Ladder: Month 1 in the Shadowlands

Summary: Discipline and Shadow Priests, Arms Warriors, and Holy Paladins currently dominate the meta. Specs such as Retribution Paladins and Balance Druids are the recipients of a great deal of attention from the PvP community, but the ladder representation data do not support the conclusion that these specs are overtuned. More problematic than overrepresented or bursty specs are the large number of specs that are currently underperforming in both 2v2 and 3v3. The bottom 20 specs (almost 2/3) account for only 12% of the 3v3 ladder. The weakest specs include Havoc Demon Hunters, Mistweaver Monks, Destruction Warlocks, and Survival Hunters.

2v2 representation

Kicking things off, we first look at the 2v2 class representation. We have combined the ladders of US and EU, and we count all players with a rating of 2000 or above, yielding 6334 players across both factions and regions.

It should come as no surprise that Priests are doing incredibly well at the moment, with both Shadow and Discipline being very powerful PvP specs across the board. Paladins are also doing well, with all three specs being very viable in 2v2 at the moment. Warriors and Monks are third and fourth on our list, with the Arms and Windwalker specs accounting for the bulk of those numbers.

Unfortunately, a number of classes are doing incredibly poorly. Demon Hunters, the kings of 2v2 from last expansion, are coming in at barely above 1%. For reference, the black line on the plot shows the line of equal representation for 12 classes (8.33%). Neither Death Knights nor Warlocks are hardly doing much better. Despite both classes having two specs that have previously been a regular staple of the arena, these classes have now been relegated to the bottom tier in 2v2.

Looking at the spec overview for 2v2, we see that the specs dominating the ladder are Discipline Priests, Arms Warriors, Windwalker Monks, and Subtlety Rogues. The latter observation should be treated with some care given the large nerfs to the Subtlety spec that were introduced after the first week of the season.

Top performing 2v2 specs

Moving on to the middle-performing specs, we find that druids are in general doing pretty okay. Despite laments of Convoke one-shots, no druid spec is performing greatly above the point we'd expect if all classes were equally represented on the ladder (black vertical line). Retribution and Protection Paladins are also making an appearance as solid specs at the moment.

Middle performing 2v2 specs

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we get to the underperformers. For Death Knights, neither Unholy nor Frost seem to be particularly viable 2v2 specs. Mistweaver Monks have been particularly heavily punished by the higher burst meta, and are actually doing worse than Enhancement Shamans (a familiar face in the 2v2 junk tier). Both Frost and Arcane Mages find themselves in the bottom tier, together with three of the strongest 2v2 specs from last season: Havoc Demon Hunter, Assassination Rogue, and Destruction Warlock.

Worst performing 2v2 specs

3v3 representation

As with 2v2, we combine EU and US data, and look at all players with rating above 2000. For 3v3, this gives a total for 6783 players. In general, 3v3 follows a very similar pattern to 2v2. Priests and Paladins dominate, with Shamans and (Arms) Warriors hot on their heels. Warriors having only a single spec means that other classes with more viable specs occupy a larger share of the ladder. Again, the bottom tier is populated by Demon Hunters, Death Knights, and Warlocks, with Hunters also doing fairly poorly in this bracket. Druid, mages, and rogues are all middle-of-the-pack classes in 3v3.

The pattern in 3v3 is very similar to that in 2v2. This means that most specs that are strong in one bracket is usually also strong in another. In addition to the four horsemen of 3v3 (Disc, Arms, HPala, SP), we can see that both Fire Mages and Subtlety Rogues are also doing fairly well (with the aforementioned caveat that Subtlety has relatively recently received heavy nerfs and so might further decay in their representation on the ladder).

Top performing 3v3 specs

Fortunately, we have a decent number of middle-performing specs in 3v3. This season, we can welcome back Afflication Warlocks and Enhancement Shamans back into the mix. By no means are these specs overly strong, but their representation is around what you would expect through equal representation of each spec.

Middle performing 3v3 specs

The pattern for the worst specs is about the same in 3v3 as for 2v2. We have a large number of underperforming specs. Havoc Demon Hunters are doing incredibly poorly here as well, suggesting that this spec needs a serious overhaul. Death Knights are slightly more playable in 3v3 than in 2v2, but should probably be given a bit of consideration when it comes to tuning given the fact that there are currently no specs that are strong in PvP. Mistweaver Monks again continue to underperform, together with Destruction and Demonology Warlocks, Assassination and Outlaw Rogues, Arcane and Frost Mages, and BM and Survival Hunters.

Worst performing 3v3 specs

Concluding remarks

Overall, the level of imbalance this season seems very similar to that of last season. There are a few high performing specs, on par with what we saw in Season 4 of BfA. Many specs are currently underperforming, with the bottom 20 specs of the 2v2 and 3v3 brackets accounting for only 10% and 12% of the ladder, respectively.