Picking a Covenant right when you hit 60 can feel pretty ‘high-stakes.’ What if you pick the ‘wrong’ one – will you fall behind and be under-powered? If one is over-powered and you pick it, will it later be nerfed into the ground?
After spending a lot of time analyzing Covenants, I am here to tell you that with only a couple exceptions, you will have multiple options that can feel good.
In this post:
- The basics (what Covenants give you)
- My approach for advice (gives context)
- Generic abilities
- Soulbinds (DPS, tanks and healers)
- Class abilities (Death Knight, Demon Hunter, Druid, Hunter, Mage, Monk, Paladin, Priest, Rogue, Shaman, Warlock, Warrior)
What do Covenants give you?
- Generic ability which is the same for all classes that doesn’t really matter much
- Class-specific ability that gives you a little power – we’ll discuss these in more detail for each spec
- Three different Soulbinds that have traits of varying quality
- An advantage in 2 of the 8 dungeons
- Transmog set
- Access to some Covenant specific content like the campaign and daily/weekly stuff. I don’t have all the details on that but it doesn’t affect player power.
This post covers the first 3 (generic abilities, class-specific abilities, and Soulbinds).
My approach to evaluating Covenants for each class
As I’ve been theorycrafting across different classes and roles for Shadowlands, I’ve been running simulations to get a good feel for the relative power of each Covenant. I’ve tested the Covenant abilities for each spec in-game, to get a good feel for them too.
The way I’m going to structure this blog post is to give you some notes on the Covenants that may not be totally obvious from the descriptions – I’m not going to restate the tooltips, you can read those in-game or on our optimizer and simulator.
I am considering completely unlocked Soulbinds for this evaluation. There might be some min/maxing or small optimizations to be had by starting in one Covenant and then switching to another. You will probably finish the first raid tier before you ever get the last Soulbind trait opened up and maybe before you even get two potency Conduits. If you want to do the whole switching Covenants to get a small edge in the first raid tier thing… go for it!
In a few places I’ll make notes where I think the last traits you unlock could swing the balance of the Covenants enough to feel it, but I’m not doing anything near an exhaustive exploration of that approach. In general Covenant swapping is going to fall well under the threshold I have set for “noticeable”.
Player power perspective
My recommendations are based on a power difference that you can actually notice in game. That is, you will not need a simulation to tell you which Covenant is better because you will actually *feel* the difference just playing the game. I’ve determined this from both simulations and in-game play testing, and comes out to about 5% in a simulator.
(I don’t know much about PvP so I won’t consider it in my comments.)
Why use this approach for advice?
Why do it like this? Don’t I spend all day doing simulations? Doesn’t 1% simulated DPS matter?
I’m not going to define what level of simulated DPS actually “matters” since that threshold varies from person to person. Even if we all agreed on the same threshold (say 1%), to tell you *for sure* that Kyrian would always simulate better than Venthyr for a certain spec… I would need a way to test every relevant combination of Talents, Soulbind Traits, Conduits, Legendary, Gear Effects (trinkets), Stats and a rotation script that matches how you play, your team composition, and so on.
The generic Covenant abilities are mildly useful. From a player power perspective, you do not need to worry about them. I suggest you do not consider these heavily in your ultimate Covenant decision unless you need a mental tie-breaker.
Kyrian: Summon Steward
An extra potion to use in battle. Could be nice once in a while since it removes status effects.
Venthyr: Door of Shadows
Kinda like mage blink except it has a cast time and 35 yard range. One minute cooldown.
Night Fae: Soulshape
Turn into a cute soulshape with bonus move speed and blink. Nice mobility when you need it. 1.5 min cooldown.
A shield you can put up before a fight. Maybe channel before some big boss ability if you have to, but the channel is long. There is a Soulbind trait that lets you channel while moving, making it more useful.
Soulbinds are a tougher choice. The traits you get from the Soulbinds have to be weighed against your Conduits, since sometimes you have to give up an optimal Conduit to get an optimal trait.
So… you really have to know how good your Conduits are to evaluate the Soulbind traits. Certain Conduits have synergy with talents and legendary items. Now you need to know how good the legendary items are too. Talent/Conduit/Legendary builds will prefer different stats and gear – so you don’t even really have a hope of simulating every combo.
Looking purely at the Soulbind traits and not the Conduits, each full path through the tree can increase your damage as a DPS spec roughly 0 to 10%. 0? Yeah, the path through Plague Deviser Marileth’s tree that gives you two potency Conduits provides no throughput Soulbind traits, unless you count Volatile Solvent… which is highly situational. Same with the path through General Draven’s tree that give two potency Conduits. On the other end, the 10% gain is mostly due to a couple traits still sitting at a higher power level than they will end up, or requiring fairly unrealistic conditions to reach max potential (like always standing still). The vast majority of the time, your actual Soulbind traits will account for no more than 5% of your power, and the difference between the different Soulbinds is minimal.
To get the full possible DPS increase from Soulbind traits, you would have to give up a potency Conduit in many cases. The strength of Conduits right now is kind of all over the place. Some specs would benefit from ditching a potency Conduit to get a strong Soulbind trait. Some specs have Conduits that are better.
The balance of the Soulbinds keeps changing, so right now it is a moving target. At the time of this post, these are the Soulbinds that tend to be favored:
Kyrian – Pelagos, Kleia, and Forgelite Prime Mikanikos all show up in some of the best builds.
- The recent nerf to Pelagos brought him in line with most other Soulbinds.
- Pelagos will be stronger for specs that prefer Mastery.
- Kleia has Pointed Courage on the last row, which is a strong trait often worth giving up a potency Conduit for.
- Forgelite suffers a bit because Bron’s Call to Action is under-tuned, but he is decent for multi-target with short-lived mobs because of Hammer of Genesis (if your spec likes haste).
Venthyr – Nadjia the Mistblade and Theotar the Mad Duke show up in most of the best builds.
- Nadjia shows up most often in the best builds.
- Theotar is another good Soulbind for specs that like mastery. On the last row, Refined Palate can be great for damage on a number of specs.
Night Fae – Niya and Dreamweaver are typically the best.
- Niya’s trait, Niya’s Tools: Burrs in the last row is very strong, probably too strong. With a fully unlocked Soulbind tree, she is probably the strongest Soulbind in the game right now.
- Dreamweaver may end up being preferred by players who want earlier power, since you get your second potency Conduit earlier than any other tree.
- Specs with good Conduits may lean towards this one.
- The final trait, Field of Blossoms is strong for many specs too, making this good overall.
Necrolord – Emeni and Bonesmith Heirmir are best.
- Emeni’s first trait, Lead by Example was too strong, so it got nerfed a little, but he’s probably still the strongest.
- Bonesmith can show up in a lot of good builds for specs that like crit because of Heirmir’s Arsenal: Marrowed Gemstone. The buff to his first trait to give 3% primary stat increase gave Necrolord a much-needed second viable DPS Soulbind.
At this point, Soulbinds themselves aren’t a huge differentiator of player power between Covenants. The traits that seems to still be outliers are Niya’s Tools: Burrs and Exacting Preparation for DKs with Fallen Crusader. It will be a while before anyone gets those, and I bet we’ll see a re-balance to bring them in line with everything else.
As a tank, you’re probably going to want to use Soulbinds and Conduits to maximize damage, so I’d use that as the main consideration.
- Dreamweaver (Night Fae) is probably not going to be a consideration because Podtender can troll you if you die and need to be quickly battle res’d. You’re stuck in the pod for 10 seconds and cannot be res’d.
- Most endurance Conduits aren’t awesome for tanks and the Soulbind traits aren’t life changing either.
- Bonesmith Heirmir (Necrolord) is worth mentioning for tanks because you can get a damage boost while tanking from Serrated Spaulders if you really want those Endurance Conduits.
- Korayn (Night Fae) also has a trait, Hold the Line, which can provide a solid damage reduction – but you need to manage to stand still for 5 seconds before you get hit, which isn’t very practical in many situations.
Probably not what you want to hear… but I just don’t see the Soulbind trees as a deciding factor for which Covenant a tank will use.
- Pelagos and Kleia are the best.
- Pointed Courage on Kleia’s last row is especially good for raid healing since it is easy to get max benefit.
- General Draven tends to be the best if you can make use of Hold Your Ground in the last row. How much uptime you could realistically get on a Soulbind trait that requires standing still a lot is hard to predict, but, the potential is there for it to be a particularly good healer Soulbind.
- Nadjia and Theotar both offer good stat buffs at the top of their trees as well.
- All the Soulbinds are good for healers.
- Korayn’s Wild Hunt Tactics tends to be strong for healers and is often best from pure healing potential on hard fights.
- Niya is another solid choice, with the added bonus of being able to grant Haste to other allies.
- The free death from Podtender works well for healers on hard fights, but beware some potentially buggy interaction with Holy Priest’s Spirit of Redemption.
- You will generally favor the same Soulbinds as DPS, Emeni and Bonesmith Heirmir.
- Plague Deviser Marileth isn’t all that great unless you are really making a lot of use of Fleshcraft.
To summarize for healers: we’re still talking max around 10% potential HPS gain for the best Soulbind traits (Kleia and Draven under perfect circumstances). But that is with only one potency Conduit. Looking at two potency Conduit builds, the spread between Covenants is significantly less than 5%. The actual Covenant class ability will most likely be your deciding factor as a healer, as there is a Soulbind you can make work for all the Covenants without losing a noticeable amount of healing.
Covenant Class Abilities
When looking at Covenant abilities for specific classes and specs, I’ll make some notes that may be helpful for your choice. I’m going to keep with my general methodology of noting when the differences get big enough that they are noticeable without a simulator.
With all the balancing and changes going on, a small simulated difference isn’t noteworthy. For tanks, I’m mainly evaluating them on their multi-target AoE DPS. I have not seen large swings in toughness due to Covenants.
My evaluation here doesn’t look at the class abilities in a vacuum: I make these estimations in the context of a good set of gear, access to Conduits, and a legendary item. I feel like what you really want to know is: once I optimize my entire build with this Covenant, will I be competitive?
For each spec, I list all the Covenants that are within the 5% threshold of the best performing Covenant. I won’t use the word “viable” because honestly any build is viable in WoW depending on the context.
Shackle the Unworthy (Kyrian) is a solid pick that does good damage. It will only spread to targets that don’t already have it, so to keep it going in AoE you will need to switch to targets that it spreads to in order to get the most possible spread. That target swapping can be a little tougher for Unholy because of your wounds, so keep that in mind if you pick this Covenant. This Covenant is top tier for both single target and multi target situations.
Swarming Mist (Venthyr) had a target cap added, so it isn’t as overpowered as before. It might even be a little weaker than other choices now. As I mentioned in the Soulbind section, Exacting Preparation is over-tuned right now for Fallen Crusader. That makes this Covenant significantly stronger than the others at the current time. It is hard for me to believe this will not be changed sooner than later, so I also looked at data ignoring that Soulbind trait.
Death’s Due (Night Fae) is a good pick for multi target damage. It falls back a bit for single target. It is going to be a little weaker than the other Covenants for DPS. It may be more attractive for Blood than the DPS specs.
Abomination Limb (Necrolord) is a strange Covenant ability. You have to be careful of the periodic pull mechanic, which only occurs on enemies more than 8 yards from you. The pull can be undesirable in certain situations. A lot of players just don’t like this ability regardless of the numbers. That being said, the overall damage done is solid for both single and multi target since they changed the extra benefit to always occur on each cast instead of be tied to the pull mechanic.
Good covenant choices for a Death Knight
- Blood – Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae, Necrolord*
- Frost – Single: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae, Necrolord. Multi: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae, Necrolord
- Unholy – Single: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae, Necrolord. Multi: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae, Necrolord
*If you can make good use of Serrated Spaulders on Bonesmith Heirmir in multi-target it can push Necrolord up high enough such that the lower damage options like Night Fae and Venthyr fall off to a degree you could feel.
Sinful Brand (Venthyr) is exactly what it sounds like – no particular notes or comments.
The Hunt (Night Fae) is ok by the numbers, but fairly difficult to make use of against multiple targets. It is hard to get the DoT portion applied to all the targets you want due to hit boxes and the channel time can throw off your aim since it has to be targeted on an enemy (which might be moving). But, it is really cool, iconic, and hits the main target like a truck.
Fodder to the Flame (Necrolord) might take the cake as the weirdest Covenant ability design. The add you summon doesn’t die instantly – it has a decent amount of health. The pool on the ground was removed, so now you aren’t tethered to a location to get your damage reduction buff. If what you care about most is toughness as Vengeance, this could be a decent choice for you. The damage from the demon soul is ok for Havoc, but can’t keep up at all for Vengeance.
Good covenant choices for a Demon Hunter
- Havoc – Single: Venthyr, Night Fae. Multi: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae, Necrolord
- Vengeance – Kyrian, Night Fae
Kindred Spirits (Kyrian) is an ability that is hard for me to evaluate without running actual raids or mythic+ dungeons. The tank version seems fairly undesirable overall, but could provide the opportunity for a squishy party member to survive some otherwise impossible situations. The healer version seems like the easiest to make good use of – it is essentially a temporary resto druid beacon of light. The DPS version will require timing with your bonded partner, but shouldn’t be too hard to use.
Ravenous Frenzy (Venthyr) is a strong burst damage cooldown that aligns well with Berserk and Celestial Alignment. I’m not sure why they included a negative component to it, since no other Covenant ability in the game has a kiss or curse design.
Convoke the Spirits (Night Fae) has logic to pick what spells to cast that is unknown. We modeled it based on some blue posts that told us how it likes to favor spell choices (and in-game testing), but we of course don’t know the logic for sure. This ability can be super random and may be significantly better or worse than what our data suggests. Keep in mind that if you stand in melee range, it will use melee spells like thrash and rake. If you stay out of melee you can void having those spells chosen by it.
Adaptive Swarm (Necrolord) could probably use a little more power, but it is also a little hard to estimate/simulate because of the long travel time and bouncing from friend to foe. I’m going to keep an eye on this one to see if it is a little stronger in-game than simulations might suggest. The relatively short cooldown can make it feel a little higher maintenance than most Covenant abilities.
Good druid covenant choices
- Balance – Single: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae. Multi: Venthyr, Night Fae
- Feral – Single: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae*, Necrolord. Multi: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae*, Necrolord
- Guardian – Night Fae, Necrolord
- Restoration – Raid: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae*, Necrolord. Mythic+: Kyrian, Night Fae*, Necrolord
*Night Fae might feel stronger than the others, but it depends on Convoke the Spirits, which we are unsure of.
Druid Covenant abilities have to span all 3 roles and 4 specs, so it was always going to be a tall task for Blizzard to “balance” them. I think what we have gotten are 4 rather unique abilities that are harder than the other classes to quantify. Convoke the Spirits is a wild card in general, probably by design. Ravenous Frenzy as Restoration – a 3 minute cooldown ramping buff with a possible stun if you can’t keep casting… is hard to work with and mana intensive (since you can’t stop casting), so I’d be careful with that one.
Resonating Arrow (Kyrian) is strong for multi-target damage, but you need to deal with a stationary area within which enemies are debuffed. Being able to ignore line of site is an interesting perk that makes this ability unique. I look forward to seeing what people figure out to do with that component of the spell.
Flayed Shot (Venthyr) is single target specific and has been nerfed too far to stand out in that role.
Wild Spirits (Night Fae) is an extremely powerful multi-target damage cooldown.
Death Chakram (Necrolord) is another single target specific ability, even though it bounces, the damage does not increase with target count.
Good covenant choices for a Hunter
- Beast Mastery – Single: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae, Necrolord. Multi: Kyrian, Night Fae
- Marksmanship – Single: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae, Necrolord. Multi: Kyrian, Night Fae, Necrolord
- Survival – Single: Kyrian, Night Fae. Multi: Night Fae
Both Flayed Shot and Death Chakram are single target focused, but they both fail to beat out Resonating Arrow and Wild Spirits in that role, making them difficult to choose or recommend, even though you can technically get within 5% on single target using them for Marksman and Beast Mastery.
Radiant Spark (Kyrian) is more difficult to use than it would seem. Spell like Arcane Missiles will chew up the charges. For its relative fussiness, it isn’t stronger than the other options, so keep that in mind as you make your choice.
Mirrors of Torment (Venthyr) is strong, just remember that you need an enemy that will be alive for around 15 seconds to get maximum use. Also you wouldn’t want to use it against enemies that are or will be cc’d and remain that way for a while. They need to be acting to proc the mirrors.
Shifting Power (Night Fae) has good output, but you will need to get in a bit closer to enemies and channel it to get maximum output. Getting interrupted due to environmental effects is a potential downside.
Deathborne (Necrolord) is fantastic against 2 or 3 targets with an Arcane Mage. Once you get to 4 or more targets it doesn’t end up helping you beyond the 10% spell power buff.
Good covenant choices for a Mage
- Arcane – Single: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae, Necrolord. Multi: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae, Necrolord
- Fire – Single: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae, Necrolord. Multi: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae, Necrolord
- Frost – Single: Kyrian*, Venthyr, Night Fae*. Multi: Kyrian*, Night Fae, Necrolord*
*I’m listing these because they might just barely squeeze in that 5% window I’m using for these suggestions, but it will be close.
Weapons of Order (Kyrian) is a fun buff with a little flavor for each spec. Being able to use Essence Font almost back to back as Mistweaver can be a handy tool that this gives you every two minutes. If you like mastery, of course this is for you.
Fallen Order (Venthyr) is a strong 3 minute cooldown, but you need to be prepared for the AI on the fallen monks to be sub-optimal sometimes. It is especially good for Mistweaver because there is very little mana cost attached to it.
Faeline Stomp (Night Fae) has a bit of randomness to the shape of the fae lines, but it looks really cool. Particularly good for Windwalker multi-target damage.
Bonedust Brew (Necrolord) is the least exciting of the bunch. You have to spend time targeting an AoE on the ground to apply a buff which lets your attacks/heals proc extra damage/heals. It ends up being quite fussy for a spell that isn’t ultimately very potent. **Update (11-25)** After noticing that a lot of people like Bonedust Brew for Windwalkers, I spent some more time optimizing for it in the simulator’s rotation. It is better for multi-target damage than I initially thought.
Good Covenant choices for a Monk
- Brewmaster – Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae, Necrolord.
- Mistweaver – Raid: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae*, Necrolord. Mythic+: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae*, Necrolord
- Windwalker – Single: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae, Necrolord. Multi: Kyrian, Venthyr**, Night Fae, Necrolord
*Mistweavers have issues with mana. If you are using Refreshing Jade Wind as your talent, it ends up not making much sense to also take Faeline Stomp. They end up being rather interchangeable as far as what they do and how much mana they do it for. If you are going to use Faeline Stomp, I’d recommend pairing it with the statue or Chi-Ji. Venthyr can end up seeming a little inflated in the simulator with Hold the Line on General Draven, so keep that in mind if you are doing your own simulations. You probably won’t get as much uptime on that buff as the simulator is right now (an update that includes more movement in healing simulations is forthcoming).
**After some addition tweaking of rotations and slight bug fix, Venthyr is right on the edge of falling off for multi-target, but still right around that 5% threshold. Being on a 3 minute cooldown is probably going to hurt it in a lot of situations, so I could see an argument for shying away from it if you care most about multi-target damage.
Divine Toll (Kyrian) is easily one of the coolest new Covenant abilities. Regardless of what the balancing of it is… its just fun to use. Who doesn’t want to throw 5 shields or judge 5 targets at once!? The main issue you will find is that it is really weak in single target, so you need to treat this as multi-target only.
Ashen Hallow (Venthyr) allowing you to use Hammer of Wrath more is fun. The area of this is quite large, but you still are tethered to an area to get max benefit.
Blessing of Summer/Autumn/Winter/Spring (Night Fae) – I find this Covenant ability to be tedious. None of the buffs are amazing, and it requires you to keep track of which blessing is coming up for not that big a payoff.
Vanquisher’s Hammer (Necrolord) seems good in theory, but I think the numbers just aren’t quite there yet. The actual hammer itself needs to have some more power.
Good Covenant choices for a Paladin
- Holy – Raid: Kyrian, Venthyr. Multi Target: Kyrian, Venthyr
- Protection – Venthyr.
- Retribution – Single: Kyrian*, Venthyr, Night Fae, Necrolord*. Multi: Venthyr
*There is a gap between Kyrian/Necrolord (weaker) and Venthyr/Night Fae (stronger) – very close to the 5% range. The Soulbind traits for Night Fae are pushing that Covenant up for Retribution single target. The Covenant ability itself is not particularly strong.
Boon of the Ascended (Kyrian) suffers right now because Ascended Nova isn’t strong enough to use as a filler in many (most?) situations. Ascended Nova only stacks up Boon of the Ascended when it does damage, so spamming it as a heal is largely worthless unless you are out of mana. You will get the most use out of it as Holy if you use Boon of the Ascended before big damage will come out while your group doesn’t need a lot of heals. Spam Ascended Blast and Ascended Nova on enemies and try to time it up so the eruption hits after a big raid damage event. This does better as Discipline because Ascended Blast is strong with Atonement. The damage of the eruption scales down based on number of targets hit, so you will get significantly more Atonement healing from it the fewer targets you hit, since Atonement only procs off your main target. Oddly enough, this entire ability is much stronger for single target situations.
Mindgames (Venthyr) is simple, yet generally very good, especially for Discipline.
Fae Guardians (Night Fae)… I’m going to break from my normal commentary style here and just tell it to you straight: This ability fuckin sucks. Don’t go Night Fae unless you just don’t give a shit about using your class ability. Worst one in the game, no joke. Awkward to use, totally invisible output. Just… ugh. Blizz I love you but please just scrap this one.
Unholy Nova (Necrolord) does really good multi-target damage. They changed it late in beta so you can cast it on a target instead of centering it on yourself, which make sit much more flexible. The heal component of it isn’t amazing, but you can overlook it when you want to see big numbers on packs of enemies.
Good Covenant choices for a Priest
- Discipline – Raid: Kyrian*, Venthyr. Mythic+: Kyrian*, Venthyr, Necrolord*
- Holy – Raid: Kyrian, Venthyr. Mythic+: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae
- Shadow – Single: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae, Necrolord. Multi: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae, Necrolord
*If you care more about damage, Necrolord crushes the others for multi-target DPS. Venthyr wins for healing with no contest. Kyrian’s Boon of the Ascended has potential for being a strong 3 minute cooldown – but you have to plan really hard around it.
The reason Venthyr is so good for Discipline is because 100% of the throughput of Mindgames can be converted into Atonement healing. AoE damage only procs atonement off of the main target, which puts both Kyrian and Necrolord at a disadvantage. This is one of the few specs where I would tell anyone who asks, that one Covenant is best: play Venthyr.
Echoing Reprimand (Kyrian) requires some getting used to, but it is quite satisfying to use. I like big hits. This is a flexible Covenant for single target and multi target situations that has good burst damage potential.
Flagellation (Venthyr) is the most recent addition after they redesigned Slaughter Poison. You have a good amount of control over when to give yourself the haste buff, although you wouldn’t want to wait too long because that reduces total uptime. I find this one to feel the best on sub rogues, but that could be personal preference.
Sepsis (Night Fae) changed a couple times during beta. The current iteration lets you use an ability that requires stealth, which feels way better on Subtlety than the other specs. I wish Ambush were a stronger ability – then this would be more exciting for Assassination and Outlaw. You do not get stealth benefits from the free ability, like Nightstalker or Subterfuge.
Serrated Bone Spike (Necrolord) is a multi-target focused Covenant ability that excels at sustained damage.
Good Covenant choices for a Rogue
- Assassination – Single: Kyrian*, Venthyr*, Night Fae. Multi: Kyrian*, Venthyr*, Night Fae, Necrolord*
- Outlaw – Single: Kyrian**, Venthyr**, Night Fae. Multi: Kyrian, Venthyr**, Night Fae, Necrolord
- Subtlety – Single: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae. Multi: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae, Necrolord
*For Assassination, the last Night Fae traits you unlock give a noticeable bump in power, especial Niya’s Tools: Burrs and Field of Blossoms. In that context, Night Fae is probably going to feel stronger than the others once everything is unlocked, but it is dependent on Blizzard not changing the balance of those traits.
**Same note as Assassination: These Covenants will fall back enough to feel it if you take into account current balance of Night Fae’s final traits.
Vesper Totem (Kyrian) is a simple, yet thematic ability. No special interaction with any spec.
Chain Harvest (Venthyr) is another simple, thematic ability. It offers a fun burst of damage for Enhancement especially because it benefits from Maelstrom Weapon stacks.
Fae Transfusion (Night Fae) has been less favored for Enhancement during beta because the channel time is a bit awkward to deal with on a melee spec. The output is in line with other options for the most part, so don’t shy away from it if you like this Covenant.
Primordial Wave (Necrolord) has the most interesting interaction and mechanics. Getting the most out of it for DPS requires multi-dot’ing Flame Shock, which can be challenging because of the cooldown. Enhancement in particular has a hectic multi-target rotation that requires some skill and practice to also handle multi-dot’ing. If you can do it, the pay off is strong and fun. All Lightning Bolts cast via Primordial Wave will get buffed with Stormkeeper or Maelstrom Weapon, but not both. Stormkeeper takes precedence. The Maelstrom Weapon buffs will be ignored if you have Stormkeeper. You can set up some fun burst damage combos. Elemental can also do some great combos with tons of Lava Bursts flying everywhere as well. This ability is very fun. Resto has the easiest time making use of this, as you will be sending Riptides around your group/raid anyway.
Good Covenant choices for a Shaman
- Elemental – Single: Night Fae, Necrolord. Multi: Necrolord
- Enhancement – Single: Kyrian*, Venthyr, Night Fae, Necrolord. Multi: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae, Necrolord
- Restoration – Raid: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae**, Necrolord. Mythic+: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae, Necrolord
*The spread between Kyrian (worst) and Necrolord (best) for single target is just on that edge of where I consider it noticeable.
**Night Fae might lag enough in raids to feel a little weak, but it’s right on the edge.
I’ve seen a decent amount of talk out there regarding Necrolord being not viable for Enhancement. My experimentation and testing have shown the opposite: strictly by the numbers it is potentially the strongest choice. It requires a decent amount of ramp-up and setup time before the pay-off, so take that into account.
Scouring Tithe (Kyrian) gives you an extra DoT. This has obvious and strong synergy with Affliction as it increases Malefic Rapture damage. Affliction also has low soul shard generation, so getting the 5 shards on a kill has high value. **Update (11-23)** Damage reduced by 10% in hotfix.
Impending Catastrophe (Venthyr) has been over-nerfed. It is holding back this Covenant across the board. It is not even worth casting in single target for Destruction/Demonology. The Conduit that pairs with it only increases its single target damage. There is the slightly intangible benefit of the curses it puts up… but I don’t know many people willing to give up a chunk of damage for that. **Update (11-23)** Damage increased by 15% in hotfix, so now it is more competitive with the others.
Soul Rot (Night Fae) is a solid choice for multi-target damage. It is especially good for Affliction to help get some big Malefic Rapture going on multiple targets. It can also pair with Inevitable Demise for some fun burst damage.
Decimating Bolt (Necrolord) is obviously strong for single target damage. Keep in mind that the function of this spell changes slightly based on talents. It has reduced effect if you take Fire and Brimstone, but then it becomes decent for multi-target as well. With Drain Soul it only benefits one cast of Drain Soul (which is still very strong). **Update (11-23)** Damage increased by 15% in hotfix (just for its own missiles).
Good Covenant choices for a Warlock
- Affliction – Single: Kyrian, Venthyr*, Night Fae, Necrolord*. Multi: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae,
- Demonology – Single: Night Fae**, Necrolord. Multi: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae, Necrolord
- Destruction – Single: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae, Necrolord. Multi: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae, Necrolord
Venthyr and Necrolord are right on the edge of feeling weak for single target, but I’m not ready to say don’t pick them. Same with Necrolord in multi-target. Venthyr and Necrolord can stay within range for single target now. Venthyr might need the Venthyr conduit to do so. Necrolord fell too far back in multi-target now that Venthyr got buffed up.
**Night Fae could come close enough to Necrolord in single target, but that relies on Niya’s Tools: Burrs at current tuning levels.
Demonology and Destruction have very little synergy with Kyrian, Venthyr, and Night Fae. Necrolord ends up being a good choice for both of those specs, but then you will feel weaker when playing Affliction. If you want to play all three specs and not feel like you are giving up too much in any spec, Night Fae is probably the all around pick. A lot of people consider Kyrian a must pick for Affliction because the damage increase against a single target is quite noticeable, but the recent nerf to Pelagos dampens the differences enough to where you could pick differently without as much fomo.
Spear of Bastion (Kyrian) has some interesting utility because of the tether. Straight forward to use.
Condemn (Venthyr) is a replacement for execute. It has probably been over-nerfed – it doesn’t actually do more damage than execute, but you can use it more because it hits targets above 80% health as well. It is very satisfying to use from an attack animation and thematic perspective. I hope they buff it just a little.
Ancient Aftershock (Night Fae) is another AoE with some interesting utility because of the periodic knockdown
Conqueror’s Banner (Necrolord) has hidden value because two of your buddies also get a 10% crit buff. If you are into sharing power with friends, this is cool.
Good Covenant choices for a Warrior
- Arms – Single: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae, Necrolord. Multi: Kyrian, Night Fae
- Fury – Single: Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae*, Necrolord. Multi: Kyrian, Night Fae
- Protection – Kyrian, Night Fae
*Night Fae could pull ahead for Fury single target with current tuning on Niya’s Tools: Burrs
Overall, warriors have 4 fun choices to pick from. Condemn is hard to make much use of as a Protection Warrior unless you are so tough you don’t need to spend much rage on Shield Block and Ignore Pain. This is probably the main weak point of the Covenant design for Warriors. If you plan to do any significant amount of tanking, you’ll end up leaning towards Kyrian and Night Fae because of the superior damage output and utility they offer. Necrolord is in a bit of limbo because it’s not terrible, but seems like it is balanced to take into account the crit buff it gives to your two allies – which is more or less hidden to you.
I have purposefully used a very liberal measure for what is an “outlier” regarding Covenant power. I expect this will all shift over the next weeks as balance hotfixes fly left and right.
I will try to update this post as promptly as possible when those come out. Eventually I will also get some generated data on our guides once they are ready for Shadowlands. This is a bit of a stop-gap for you to use as another perspective in your choice at the beginning of Shadowlands.
I honestly have not looked at what “everyone else” is recommending for many of the classes, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of these recommendations would be considered completely wrong by other parts of the internet. Start a discussion in our forum anytime and we can talk it out!
More than just covenants
You might also be interested in a few of our other Shadowlands articles:
- Crafting your first legendary
- How the new weekly cache works (The Great Vault)
- How Mythic+ gear works in Shadowlands
- The fastest way to get rid of old BfA gear
As you collect gear from leveling and end-game activities, Best in Bags and Worst in Bags are indispensable.
Worst in Bags
Worst in Bags: The quickest way to get rid of all of that extra gear – we find items you don’t need and you can export it to the addon for easy vendoring. (tutorial)
Best in bags
We’ve run a crazy amount of similuations and processed the results to find the best gear from your bags in about 1 second. No extra simming required. (tutorial)