Addons (not to) Die For
Two objectives here: (1) share with you, Gentle Reader, the addons that help me through the day, and (b) solicit recommendations for better. Simple enough?
Quick Definition: what’s an addon?
Addons are little programs written in a language called LUA that interface to the WoW game client using a carefully exposed API (Application Programming Interface). It is not intended to take over playing the game for you, and in fact that sort of addon ((Called a Bot.)) is explicitly forbidden by the Terms of Service (ToS) for WoW.
Thus, these addons have a narrowly defined purpose and functionality; usually cosmetic, though often the cosmetics are pretty far out.
The purpose of using them is to make your WoW life nicer, easier, more enjoyable. However, some have become nigh-required in certain situations. I will point those out as I go along.
We’ll work this from the most essential to least; working up to a raid-ready UI in part 1 (this part), and then covering the less-necessary convenience addons in part 2 (the other one).
I apologize, but I won’t be doing PvP addons. I suck at PvP and would have very little to offer in useful advice.
Unit frames are those little panels that have a character’s stats, such as health, mana, level, name, and so forth. Illume did a whole series on unit frame addons two years ago, but the essentials are still the same. You’ll need to do some research on which ones are still supported, but the big names are still active. Right now I’m using Shadowed Unit Frames, which covers what I need covered, rather than something a little more involved like PitBull.
Another useful addon of this sort is a Heads Up Display, or HUD. So happens we did a review of those as well, back in 2011. For most people I’d recommend IceHUD, but for myself I’ve gone with a modified version of CircleHUD, which is worth it if you’re up to hacking some config files.
Finally, for my healers, I use Grid 2; this wasn’t part of the above Unit Frames overview, but its predecessor, Grid, was. Grid2 implements a lot of the additional addons that Grid required to be really useful, so it’s a net positive.
The default UI has several default button bars, and a few that you can turn on as well, but button bar addons take it to a new level, allowing you to change the shape, appearance, and position of all your buttons. They also allow you to shoot yourself in the foot, so you need to be careful. For example, button bar 7 is actually used by the default UI for stance changes; you don’t normally see it as a button bar on its own, but if you mess with it in an addon, you can really get confused when you stance-dance. Cautious tweaking is advised.
For my own modding I use Dominos, which actually does more than just the button bars – it also lets you reposition the loot roll panel, cast bar, XP/Rep bar, and more.
Bartender 4 is also a fine alternative. I ended up on Dominos after Bartender3 went AWOL for an extended period of time. Just me being impatient. 🙂
OmniCC puts cooldown indicators right on those buttons, and is so useful that you can almost use your button bar as an aura tracker in some cases.
Masque allows you to apply “skins” to your buttons, changing the shape, size, and appearance in a uniform manner. Masque isn’t limited to your button bars, either – among the addons it’ll dress up are GupPet and Bison (both which I’ll cover later). ButtonFaçade is the predecessor to Masque and shouldn’t need to be installed unless you have an older addon that requires it.
Clique makes binding actions to your mouse and buttons so easy it’s amazing. I use it to bind, for example, my healing spells to various mouse buttons for the hover target, or the hover target’s target. I would rank it much more critical than the button bar addon, in fact.
Auras are things like buffs and debuffs, and tracking these are a really big deal, especially when you get into raiding ((Though most raid addons will alert you to encounter-specific debuffs, it’s best not to count on it.)). The default Blizzard interface is decent enough, but Bison takes it to a new level, allowing you to move things around and split them up. It also supports Masque skinning, so you can make this part of your UI consistent with your button bar.
NeedToKnow is another popular addon for aura tracking, but I did not have a positive experience with it.
WeakAuras is my weapon of choice when it comes to really powerful tracking options. Where Bison displays common buffs in a manner consistent with Blizzard’s default, WA expands what it will track and gives you powerful notify options. I use it to track many things, such as missing buffs (well fed, fortitude, etc) when critical actions are available (cooldowns and so forth), and when certain conditions exist on the target (needs reapplication of a debuff, for example). It is a well-rounded and capable addon.
PowerAuras predates WeakAuras, and was my weapon of choice up to the point that PA started to balk on tracking certain pet-related conditions. It is under renovation so I may go back, eventually, if it proves lighter on its feet. TellMeWhen has an interesting interface, but it didn’t allow me to define certain auras for tracking across multiple alts.
Status / Info Displays
Display bars have been common for quite some time, such as FuBar and Titan Panels. Later technology now involves something called the LibDataBroker API, so some of the older display bar systems eventually broke. At that point, I moved to ChoclateBar, as it natively supports LDB.
Attached to it, I have several little tools and displays.
- Broker Currency – displays various currencies on my toon, also tracks alts. What currencies to track is configurable.
- Broker Equipment – Swap between equipment sets, show which one’s equipped.
- Broker Garbage – shows what items in your bags are garbage, automatically dumps garbage when you talk to a vendor.
- Broker DualSpec – Shows what spec you’re using, swaps you between specs as needed.
- Repair Broker – Shows overall equipment durability status, automates repairs when you talk to an appropriate vendor
- shPerformance – shows latency, memory consumption, frame rate
Skada is a DPS/HPS/Threat meter combo. It automatically swaps between these modes based on the circumstances. An alternative DPS/HPS meter is Recount, and in that situation you will need something like Omen to track threat.
I use Skada over the other two for two reasons: 1) it takes less memory, and 2) the DPS meter seems to give lower numbers, which I prefer. I’m looking at the DPS meter for opportunities for improvement, not e-Peen. The lower number ensures I don’t get complacent.
Okay, you’re outfitted with all the right mods to do your best, now we step into raids and encounters.
The defacto standard for this kind of addon is Deadly Boss Mods, or DBM as most call it. It tracks encounter events, event-specific buffs and debuffs proximity to harmful things (such as your fellow raiders), and has a number of ways of presenting this information to you. It focuses on current raid content but offers modules for older raids, heroics, and other encounters such as world bosses and holiday events. It’s huge, but also modular, so it doesn’t have a gigantic download profile every time a raid boss is updated.
Alternatively, BigWigs (and its 5-man consort, LittleWigs), presents a lightly more modern interface, but doesn’t seem to keep up as well with the changing endgame boss situation, or at least didn’t so much during Cata, so I landed back in DBM-land.
Boss Notes lets you create information specific to boss encounters in a way that you don’t have to dig for it. For example, you could write up which spec, glyphs, and talents were needed to best perform on a per-boss basis, and use that as a guide to prepare.
Raid Checklist might sound like something similar, but it’s far more generic in that it simply lets you know which buffs are missing / needed. Hunters especially find this useful for helping pick out the right pet for buffage purposes ((Argh, don’t get me started again!)).
Finally, GTFO is a general-purpose early-warning system that lets you know when you’re about to get in trouble – standing in bad, low mana, low health, etc. Useful in and out of raids.
To be Continued
In part 2, I’ll cover the convenience-based side of the coin: bag mods, professions, social, and so forth.
See you then!