State of the Ladder: Month 2 in the Shadowlands

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Another month has passed in the Shadowlands. Let's take a look at the state of the ladder.

Summary: Holy Paladins have emerged as the strongest healer in the meta. Windwalker Monks and Arms Warriors remain the strongest 2v2 melee, with there being a relatively balanced selection of the top melee in 3v3. The top 3v3 melee consists of Enhancement Shaman, Arms Warrior, Retribution Paladin, Feral Druid, Subtlety Rogue, and Windwalker Monk. Elemental Shamans, Fire Mages, and Shadow Priests are the strongest ranged DPS by some margin in both brackets. Balance Druids, despite having significant one-shot potential, are not overrepresented on the leaderboard. Underperforming specs which warrant attention are Unholy Death Knight, Havoc Demon Hunter, all Hunter specs, all Warlock specs, Restoration Druids, Restoration Shamans, and Mistweaver Monks.

Rating distribution

Median rating for 2v2 is 1368 and 1386 for US and EU servers, respectively. In other words, 50% of people have a rating lower than these numbers. For 3v3, the median ratings are 1407 and 1444 for US and EU realms, respectively.

In 2v2 players have generally higher rating on EU realms compared to US realms. It is not immediately obvious why this would be the case, but this is an effect that we can also see if we compare the US vs. EU 2v2 leaderboards. In the US, the 1000th ranked player has around 2200 rating, while in the EU they have around 2400 rating. A similar (albeit weaker) effect is also seen across 3v3 and RBGs, but disappears toward the top of the ladder (not shown).

Quantifying spec performance

There are multiple ways we can quantify spec performance. Traditionally, leaderboard representation has been used to quantify how well a class is doing. The trouble with leaderboard representation is that it does not account for the fact that some specs are simply more popular than others, and thus you would expect to see more popular specs more often (even if all specs were equally strong). Another way we can quantify spec performance is to look at the representation on the leaderboard relative to the representation on the ladder. This relative representation thus tells us how often we see a spec on the leaderboard compared to how often we see it on the ladder. If a spec is seen as often on the leaderboard as on the ladder, it will have a relative representation of 1.0. If it's seen twice as often on the leaderboard as on the ladder, it will have a relative representation of 2.0.

Relative representation better captures "strength" than leaderboard representation alone. But other aspects, such as overall ladder and leaderboard representation, are also important dimensions to consider. I have therefore included these metrics in a dropdown should you wish to interrogate the data for yourself. The default is set to relative representation, which is the most useful for quantifying the strength of a spec.

Spec performance in 2v2

Melee (2v2)

Windwalkers continue to be the kings of 2v2. With arguably the highest single-target damage in the game and extreme mobility, they are firmly a tier above any other spec. Monks have long been the least popular class in the game, and thus, leaderboard representation alone understates how strong Windwalkers actually are in 2v2. Despite having a ladder representation of 5%, WW Monks enjoy a leaderboard representation of 8.25%.

Second on our 2v2 melee list are Arms Warriors. Arms Warriors are the most popular melee on the leaderboard and are one of the most played on the ladder. They remain one of the strongest 2v2 specs in the game. Further on, we find that Retribution Paladins and Feral Druids come in as middle-of-the-road 2v2 specs, with Retribution being a significantly more popular spec than Feral. Subtlety Rogues are also a very middling spec in terms of their relative representation, but are the most popular of any spec on the ladder. An important caveat with Sub Rogues is that they enjoyed a period of being incredibly performant due to Echoing Reprimand, which led to very high 2v2 participation in the first month of the expansion. The ladder tracks all historical representation, so it seems plausible that active representation is significantly lower for Subtlety Rogues now that they are significantly weaker in 2v2.

Towards the bottom of the list, we find familiar faces: Unholy and Frost DKs (with Unholy being incredibly weak at the moment), Havoc Demon Hunters, and Enhancement Shamans.

Ranged (2v2)

Elemental Shamans are currently rivaling Windwalker Monks in terms of their relative representation. However, despite being relatively well represented on the leaderboard, Elemental Shamans remain a relatively unpopular spec, both on the leaderboard and on the ladder. Elemental Shamans constitute only 3.3% of the leaderboard characters, while Windwalker Monks make up 8.3% of leaderboard characters.

Number two and three on the list will come as no surprise. Fire Mages and Shadow Priests are both performant and popular specs. These three specs are clearly the top tier for ranged DPS in 2v2. After this, there is a significant drop to Arcane Mages, Balance Druids, and Affliction Warlocks. Balance Druids are played by a fair number of players on both the leaderboard and on the ladder. However, they are given a modest relative representation namely because they are played by so many people on the ladder. Balance Druids have virtually the same leaderboard representation as Elemental Shamans, but half as many people play Elemental.

Towards the bottom of the ranged list, we find Frost Mages and both ranged Hunter Specs. Marksmanship Hunter has consistently been one of the most popular ranged specs, being second on the list in terms of ladder representation. However, they are virtually absent from the leaderboard.

Healers (2v2)

The healer list continues a trend we have seen over the past month: the emergence of the Holy Paladin as the strongest PvP healer. Second and third on the list, we have Discipline and Holy Priests. Do note that the number of Holy Priests on the ladder is relatively small, but they do, nevertheless, have a non-trivial representation on the leaderboard. Discipline Priests are by far the most popular of the two healing Priest specs, accounting for 9.2% of the leaderboard, and 5.12% of the ladder.

Restoration Shamans appear to be in the B tier of 2v2 healers, while Restoration Druids are arguably one step below that. In the dumpster tier we still find Mistweaver Monks who have, unfortunately, been completely abandoned in PvP this expansion.

Spec performance in 3v3

Melee (3v3)

Joining Arms Warriors at the top of the melee list are Enhancement Shamans. I reported this seemingly strange result a few weeks ago, and the result has persisted. Enhancement Shamans are seen far more often on the leaderboard than you would expect based on their ladder representation.

Towards the top, we also see a range of other performant melee specs: Retribution Paladin, Subtlety Rogue, Feral Druid, and Windwalker Monk. The popularity of these specs vary, but overall, the strength of the top melee seems relatively balanced. You observe a very different result, however, if you look at leaderboard representation alone. In fact, the leaderboard representation is mostly what you expect to see from how often these classes are played on the ladder. Indeed, this highlights the danger of looking at leaderboard representation alone.

Ranged (3v3)

As with 2v2, the top three specs in 3v3 are Elemental Shaman, Fire Mage, and Shadow Priest. These three are the most performant by some margin. Elemental Shaman remains a relatively unpopular spec despite their apparent strength.

Balance Druids remain exceedingly popular in 3v3 (5.4% of ladder representation), but are not overrepresented on the the leadeboard (3.4% of the leaderboard representation). There are no real surprises down the list: most of the remaining specs perform relatively poorly. As with 2v2, Marksmanship Hunters are played by a huge number of people on the ladder, but are essentially absent from the leaderboard. Beast Mastery Hunters appear to be uniquely terrible in PvP.

Healers (3v3)

Holy Paladins and Discipline Priests remain the top healers in 3v3. Holy Priests are also making an appearance, but do note again that very few people play Holy Priests so this figure needs to be interpreted with a great degree of caution.

Restoration Shamans are relatively popular on the 3v3 ladder, but are greatly underrepresented on the leaderboard. In general, both Restoration Shamans and Restoration Druids are doing far worse in 3v3 than in 2v2. The good news is that Mistweaver Monks are not doing any worse in 3v3 than they are in 2v2. Of course, the bad news is that they are terrible in both brackets.