Mythbusting: Priests = Most Nerfed

Periodically, I will select a World of Warcraft game myth or rumor to be put to the test (a la Its veracity will be determined through empirical, experimental, and/or historical research.

Each myth presented will ultimately be categorized as either: TRUE, POSSIBLE, FALSE, or INCONCLUSIVE depending on the results of the research. Myths deemed “POSSIBLE” will be qualified with the necessary conditions under which they could be TRUE. Anything unproven by my research will be labeled “INCONCLUSIVE.” True things will be categorized as TRUE, and false things as FALSE.

The Myth:

Priests are the most nerfed class in World of Warcraft.

The Basis:

Every patch, the official forums are filled with a multitude of threads whining about class nerfs and threats of quitting the game over them.   This behavior is not something limited to the priest class, of course.  Complaints are posted in every class’s forums.

The priest class has undergone some substantial changes since the onset of The Burning Crusade.  Many abilities have been scaled back and too many buffs have been wasted on infrequently used abilities (such as Lightwell).    Again, while large nerfs and minor buffs are not a concept limited to the priest class exclusively, it does not stop players on the priest forum from theorizing about why: 1) Blizzard hates priests,  2) Blizzard ignores priests, and 3) Blizzard nerfs priests the most.

But does Blizzard actually nerf priests the most?  Which class is the most nerfed?

Testing the Myth:

Measuring just how much a class has been nerfed proves challenging.  There is no definitive measure in which we could compare class buffs and nerfs in a qualitative manner.  Quantitatively speaking, however, we have a shot.  What we would have to do is scour patch notes and tally buffs and nerfs.

Big disclaimer: This is, at the most fundamental level, just a count of buffs, nerfs, and other class changes appearing in patch notes.  There are no measures of just how much of an effect each change had, as it would be nearly impossible to create an uncontested criteria to measure the impact of each change on each spec of each class.  If you have any problems with this fact, or do not understand that this is a quantitative analysis and not a qualitative one, then stop reading right here.  This article isn’t for you.

As a starting point, I referenced Madness Lab’s list of class changes.  It has all the class-specific patch notes separated out by class and categorized as either:

  1. Buffs
  2. Nerfs
  3. Changes
  4. Bug Fixes
  5. New Features
  6. Overhauls

Some of the coding of the patch notes I disagreed with.  It also hadn’t been updated since the onset of TBC.  I just used their categorization as a launch point.

I decided to simplify the categories a bit:

  1. Buffs – Anything that gives a direct benefit to the class and is not a bug fix.  Also, any new features to the class.
  2. Nerfs – Anything that adversely affects the class and is not a bug fix.
  3. Changes – Neutral changes and bug fixes.
  4. Overhauls * - Situations where the class was changed so significantly that talent points were refunded.

* Each class ended up with one class review counting as an Overhaul and each class was refunded talent points immediately before TBC.  As every class ended up with exactly two Overhauls by this measure, this category was ignored.  Individual changes mentioned in the patch notes during Overhauls were inventoried and tallied, but the count of Overhauls themselves is irrelevant (since equal for all classes).

So, I have three categories: Buffs, Nerfs, and Changes.  I went through every single set of patch notes to live servers from the launch of World of Warcraft all the way up through patch 2.4.3.  I only counted class changes from the notes themselves, not undocumented changes (as there exists no 100% reliable reference of all of them).

Here is a rough idea of the rubric used to categorize the patch notes:


  • Mana/rage/energy cost of a spell/ability reduced
  • Casting time or GCD time reduced
  • Spell/ability damage increased
  • Spell/ability cooldown removed or decreased
  • New spell/ability or talent
  • Lowered the level necessary to learn a spell/ability


  • Mana/rage/energy cost of a spell/ability increased
  • Casting time increased
  • Spell/ability damage reduced
  • Spell/ability cooldown increased
  • Spell/ability/buff can now be negated or removed by other players
  • Spell/ability given diminishing returns


  • New icon
  • Bug fix
  • Clarified or changed tooltip (without changing the spell/ability itself)

The majority of the class information in the patch notes fell into the “Changes” category as there was a fair number of things listed as “bug fixes.”

The summative data for each class is as follows:

Broken down by pre-TBC (prior to the January 16, 2007 launch of The Burning Crusade), TBC (after launch), and totals.  It is interesting to see the difference in the amount of attention some classes received before and after TBC (such as warlocks).


  • Most buffs: Warlocks (53)
  • Most nerfs: Warriors (17)


  • Most buffs: Paladins (30)
  • Most nerfs: Priests (17)


  • Most buffs: Druids (78)
  • Most nerfs: Priests (29)

Well, by sheer count of number of nerfs only, the priest class has received the most.

If we want to simplify this even more, we can give each class 1 point for each buff, and subtract a point for each nerf (with the changes equal to 0 points). So, buffs, nerfs, and changes you could think of as a +1, -1, and +0, respectively.  Summing these could give us an idea of total net effect of the class developments over time.

Score = (1 x Buffs) – (1 x Nerf) + (0 x Changes)

Druids end up with the highest score (meaning, a high amount of buffs compared to their nerfs) whereas priests are the lowest (high amount of nerfs compared to number of buffs).

Lastly, another thing worth mentioning is just how many times a class has come up in patch notes.  We’ve all seen players complain about their class being overlooked by Blizzard.  Has anyone been skimped over in the patch notes?

Sum = Buffs + Nerfs + Changes

Warlocks received the highest number of total changes in the patch notes, and, quite surprisingly, rogues were the lowest.

The Verdict:


This myth that priests are the most nerfed class is within the realm of possibility! One could argue that this myth is in fact true based on the total number of nerfs that have been listed in patch notes or the total number of nerfs that they have received in comparison to the number of buffs.

However, I cannot justifiably say that this quantitative analysis is proof positive of priests being the most nerfed class (hence, why the verdict is “possible” and not outright “true”).  Since the size and scope of each buff and nerf is not being measured, but merely tallied, my results are not truly comprehensive nor conclusive.

What is a buff anyways?  What is a nerf?  It can be argued that a buff is a change made to bring the class up to where the developers meant it to be, implying that it was underperforming in that given regard.  A nerf means the class could have been overperforming.  Druids and warlocks received a lot of buffs pre-TBC, and if you can remember what those classes were right after the launch of Warcraft, you can understand just why they received so many adjustments.

While priests may be, by a simple quantitative measure of the patch notes, the class that has received the most nerfs, they are not necessarily the weakest class.  Remember, Blizzard is constantly making adjustments to the balance between classes and nerfs are never worth cancelling your account over.

This is just one part of a series that I am doing on “Mythbusting in World of Warcraft.” Feel free to drop me a line if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, or read more about other myths that have been tested.

8 Responses

  1. Having played Druids and Warlocks almost exclusively I can say safely how badly they needed buffing pre-BC. Hurricane as a 31 pt talent? Seriously? Ugh.

    I completely forgot Druids were the feign death test subjects before Hunters were introduced. I want Play Dead again!

  2. The other issue is that this kind of quantitative measure doesn’t count the size of the nerfs. I’d rather 10 tiny nerfs than 1 significant one, especially if the significant one is in the area I’m specced in, you know? So priests might have had the greatest _number_ of nerfs, but are they the most reduced in effectiveness compared with their initial abilities? Or have they just had a lot of minor downward adjustments?

  3. Siha-
    If you actually read TFA he recognizes the inherent flaws in quantitative analysis.

  4. I have a Priest, Rogue, Warrior, Pally, Druid, Mage and Warlock and can safely say that numbers are a pretty good representation of the nerfs and buffs to each class.

    To give you an example how badly the priest has been nerfed – Pre TBC level 60 Disc/holy Priest (geared) the holy fire would crit at 4.2K and TBC level 70 Disc/holy Priest (geared T5+) holy fire Crit 1.8K, that is over a 70% reduction on just one spell. Holyfire became a redundant spell. pain suppression use to help the disc priest survive a few seconds longer which every other class complained, but the truth is it did not change the outcome of a fight the priest still died in the end. If you want too complain about survivability Boomkin is where it is at I have managed to survive up to six player beating on me an still escape thats OP. The only class a uber geared priest could beat occasionally was the mage but even that has been changed in 3.0.

    PVP aside Raiding holy priest where suppose to be the best healers in the game but high level raiding such as Sunwell they barely justify a spot in the raid. Raiders would prefer a pally healer (plate armor) or a Shamy any day (mail armor and chain heals) Shamies rarely oom. So now priests have been made redundant in PVP and BG’s and they have been made redundant in raiding they should take comfort in questing and soloing/farming to get mats or earn some gold…. lol NOT

    It is heart breaking to see your main toon, the one you have sunk countless hours earning rep, achievements, title etc. etc. and Blizz come along and make the entire class redundant. Blizz ‘s intension was to have a rock, paper, scissors type of classes but it becoming a rock beat all scenario. they have no excuses they is more beta tester testing wow than an other single piece of software on the planet. after 4 years they should not be making such huge adjustments to the game. imo

  5. priests < Blizz < rouges tough truth

  6. Despite all the complaints about nerfs, my experience tells me the opposite. Having raided since early TBC, I’ve seen the performance of my priest only go up. It wasn’t rare for me to outheal a shaman or paladin with gear one tier higher than mine. Heck, I outhealed an experienced T6 pally in my T5 priest on my first BT raid. So what’s the problem? You could of course argue that it’s because those healers were terribly bad and my skills are good (doubt it)… but that would imply that skills > gear + class. I wouldn’t exactly call that a problem… quite the contrary.

    Unfortunately, my view is an unpopular point of view. People don’t want to be told they can’t blame it on someone else or have to think it through. People want to hear arguments that justify their grudge. It saves them the trouble of having to find a solution to their problem themselves. And that is a universal truth.

  7. More like you were spamming CoH which was made a smart heal by Blizzard, a mistake that needed putting back to its original form since overhealing and healing on the meters could be used to determine a priest effective raid healing ability prior to making it smart.

    Most people would just spam it all day long and still not overheal but thos poor pallys were working they’re socks off to get a descent piece of the healing pie at the expense of big overheals.

    Put it back to a non smart heal and let the overhealing meters decide.

  8. Healing meters, hah.

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