Life in Group 5 – A Resto Shaman Blog
A resto shaman perspective on raiding


March 15, 2010

An Argument for Addons

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Written by: Vixsin
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A month or so ago, I had one of most all-around discomforting experiences of my raiding career. I had a moment, not dissimilar from showing up to class stark naked and lacking your homework, where I was simply stunned into immobility, slackjawed. Of course it was a moment prefaced by a memory error message and complete WoW shutdown (with some added /facepalm action as well). And when I recovered from it all, there I was, smack dab in the middle of a ToGC Faction Champs encounter with not one add-on to hide my modesty behind, a raw WoW interface on display for everyone to see. It was mortifying, but it was also a learning experience that was a long time in the making.

I remember it most distinctly because I had originally intended to the night’s back-to-back ToGC and ICC raids as a chance to finally sort out the IED versus RSD debate. But, sadly, with my addons in a disshelved mess around me, I spent the night trying to cope instead of putting my best foot forward. It did leave me with an interesting question though, as I was frantically trying to identify my “key raiding addons” so that I could continue through the night with minimal impact—am I someone with a healthy appreciation for helpful mods or am I a 12-step program shy of full add-on addiction? More so, were the addons making me better or simply making me more dependant?


It starts with the Gateway-Mod

Why yes, that is auto-attack on my bars … along with every other spell.

Way, way back in the beginning, I raided Karazhan. Actually, more to the point, I was on my guild’s list of players to take to Kara when none of the other “regular” folk were on. I was in that phase of trying to prove myself, but which could also be interpreted as “bumbling around button mashing in the hopes I did something right”. So to support my noob efforts, at the urging of a guildmate, I downloaded my first ever epeen meter. Yes, that shot to the right is genuine, and yes I am whispering a friend to proclaim my awesomeness of topping meters on a trash pull. So clearly I was doing the major dps. Life was good, I could prove my worth in the group of players who didn’t quite want me there, and I was happy with my one mod (which I had no clue how to configure).

And then I learned about threat. (This was back in the day where only frost mages had iceblocks.) So naturally, at the urging of my slightly antagonistic Kara group, I went and downloaded KLH Threat Meter. It told me when I was in danger of meeting an untimely demise and I learned how to respond correctly to visual stimulus. And again, the world went back to the natural order of things and I was content with 2 mods. I still couldn’t configure them, but I knew I was better off with them on my screen.


An Add-on Explosion

It so happened that my introduction to raiding and to the wide world of add-ons was hastened by a crafting request and a miss-tell to a fellow mage, the crafter in question (intending to whisper my friend, I whispered the mage how shocked I was that I wasn’t being ripped off on the crafting cost. Whoops.) Two months and many hours of talking mage mechanics later, I received my first raiding guild invite and a spot in the evening’s Lurker attempts. Aside from the warm greeting I received, were the instructions to download three things—DBM, Decursive, and Xperl. Since I was incredibly green I happily went along, adding 3 new mods to my list despite the fact I had no clue what they did.

I think I can safely say, it was downhill from there. Combing back through my folders, I estimate that I’ve downloaded and tried over 100 addons, ranging from map mods to button facades, art panels, meters, the mage version of pally power, auction management and everything in between. At first, I started with a blanket template for each of my toons, but as my playtime increased on each of them, so too have they developed their own unique UI’s with character-specific information. For Vixsyn, this means raid frames are front and center, but for my DK, it means that rune management is a priority, while on my feral, BadKitty takes center stage. At the moment, my addon folder contains 39 separate addons, spread across 6 level 80s. Suffice to say, patch days are busy days for me.

But let’s get back to what I asked in the introduction—how useful are all the mods I run with? Are they necessary or are they simply “dumbing” things down?


The Innovation Misconception

There’s always an argument presented when the addon discussion comes up, even when it’s focused entirely on PVE—that great players can do what they do without addons; that using addons is a crutch that only bad players and noobs rely on. To this I say, resoundingly and wholeheartedly … bullshit. If you think that world firsts or even world 25th’s occur with a Vanilla interface and no innovation, then I have a frozen throne that I’d like to sell you. When I was testing Ulduar on the PTR, I was lucky enough to come across one of the most amazing rogues that I’ve had the pleasure of playing with. Why was he so amazing? Because Mister Falcx wrote an add-on right there on the spot, after our Mimiron attempt #3, that announced who was being targeted for the Napalm Shell and did a countdown for the Plasma Blast and Phase 2 spin-up. It wasn’t that we needed a crutch because we were bads—we simply realized that that kind of innovation would allow us to prioritize other information about the fight. With his quick and dirty macro in place, we could spend less time evaluating the arc of the Napalm to preemptively determine whether it was going to hit the priest or the boomkin and more time getting where we needed to be and *gasp* pushing healing/dps buttons.

In fact, the whole “real raiders play without addons” argument to me always seemed incredibly silly. It’s like claiming you’re hardcore because you wrote your thesis by hand instead of using your laptop. Or, for the excel geeks out there, that you manually sorted a data array into different sheets based on a single variable instead of taking 15 minutes to write a Visual Basic macro that could do it in one keystroke. Yes, the end result is the same, but what did you gain by doing it the harder way? Why cast aside innovation because it makes things easier?


How many is enough?

There is of course, the extreme case of innovation, where all of the cooldowns, timers, and alerts pile on so high that you are actually making things worse on yourself. Surely you’ve seen the examples of the information overloaded UI—those that track every conceivable buff and include every spell in the player’s spellbok and every consumable imaginable on a cluster of bars, with the combat log pulled out and scrolling, showing raid, target and party frames, etc. etc. etc. (An example of utter madness, compliments of In this type of case, the pursuit of ease and innovation has gone awry, and you’ve basically swung to the opposite side of the spectrum. Your addons will actually hinder your ability to view, interpret and process incoming information.

So in the end, innovation and ease need to be tempered with insight and careful consideration. This is what a number of top-end players are exceptional at and what good raiders practice every day—separating vital information from the immaterial; condensing, segmenting, and prioritizing. Thus, the “how many addons” question is really answered by another question: what is it that you absolutely need to know? For Vixsyn my answer, listed by priority, looks like this:

  1. Raid frames (Grid)
  2. Healing Capacity (Keybinds/Clique)
  3. Dispelables (Decursive)
  4. Alerts (PowerAuras, OmniCC)
  5. Encounter information (DXE, Quartz)
  6. My health/target’s health (Pitbull)
  7. Text-based instructions (Prat)

Notice the common things that I don’t have on there—buffs, minimap, general chat (lawl), meters, totems, a threat meter, hps graphs, floating combat text, an overall status bar, etc. Things that I can manage through basic means or simply don’t need to do my job. (OMG big healing numbez are important!)

That incident over a month ago, while the source of much frustration at the time, also wound up being a nice wake up call. It was a not-so-subtle urging for me to re-evaluate the tools I was using to make sure that I had them there for a reason, not because I was simply too lazy to disable them. And then, with my UI back in place, I could be confident that it was being used as a resource and not a crutch.


  1. I think most add-on proponents start in a similar fashion. You just try one to figure something out, then you join a raid team, and gradually, your folder starts to grow ^^

    I’ve found that decursive ended up being one of those “too many places to look” factors–having my decurse priorities on grid gave me one less place to look :)
    .-= Windsoar´s last blog ..Technical Doohickey =-.

  2. Your addon list is eerily similar to mine (except for Descursive). That’s always been a dirty word to me ever since the day the original auto-cleanse button was broken and my old guild proceeded to wipe endlessly on Chromaggus.

    I’d have to say my funniest “my addons are gone” moment was on Reliquary of Souls. I had crashed and logged back in as Phase 2 was ending. All of my raid frames were gone, totem timers, everything. I resorted to turning on the friendly name plates and using my mouse over chain heals to keep going.

    I’m surprised a solid bar mod is missing from your “essentials” list. Bartender is something that I can’t do without these days (despite almost all of my bars being hidden).
    .-= Borsk´s last blog ..What does Arthas Menethil look like? =-.

  3. Most of us will probably slightly disagree on the “essentials” but I couldn’t agree more with your general addon philosophy. It’s about being able to process more information quickly and easily so you can do your job, which you’d be silly to pass up if you’re trying to improve your performance.
    .-= Wugan´s last blog ..Pimp my Resto Shaman: Kattastrophe =-.

  4. Actually, one of the reasons that I favor Decursive over showing cleansing information in Grid is that I find it keeps me from tunneling into the minutia of information I could have displayed in every rectangle. I’ve found that the more things I can process using peripheral vision, the more I can focus on what’s going on in the encounter (and what I need to do to counter it).

  5. I would like to make a small caveat: the amount and types of addons are also dictated by the size of your screen. On my 13inch macbook, I roll with a default UI for the most part. Grid with some configuration to it and totemtimers are the only addons I really need on that screen, the rest of the information is nicely condensed in a 30 degree arc in front of me.

    On my larger screen on my imac I found myself straining to the topleft for information about my health and the tanks, so a unitframe addon does come in handy there. But other then that and perhaps some more addons since I can get away with it I also tend to run a simple UI.

  6. My fully fledged suite-like addons extend to Grid and Clique but beyond that I’m in favour of minimal impact from any addons. That’s why I love Tekkub’s addons so much ( They are very simple and basically do just what they say they will.

    @Zorkolak: I’m not sure I agree 100% since on both my laptop and large screen I use the same minimal setup: Dominos, OUF, Grid+Clique, Shields Up!, Bagnon and a few smaller helpful addons.

    Apart from Grid+Clique the only other suite-type addon I use is DBM, I know some people prefer the Deus Vox timers, but I’m used to DBM for now.

  7. Kali

    I believe most will agree with me; the “problem” addons are all ones that make the game easier, not simply show information. DBM is a constant offender, and while it may of been true once upon a time, these days you can set up macros to utilize the ingame alarm system for the same effect – I, for one, find it highly doubtful such ability would of been made possible if the addon of similar nature were deemed to detract from the game.

    If Blizzard truly wishes, they can easily make encounter components that can be given no assistance; Randomly occurring, no cooldown terrain elements cause no combat log entries.

    Ultimately, there may be some addons which indeed make the game significantly easier, but to the largest degree most are quality of life addons: I know 90% of mine are there solely because I am “efficient”(read: lazy).

  8. Blessie

    I agree with the mass of addons….when i have a dc or wow error mid battle, i log on and literally cannot do ANYTHING its a nightmare…and i get what u mean with the standing there naked in all your pathetic glory unable to do your job….but thats because my ui is set up to do a particular style of playing…

    …i use healbot…it saves miliseconds of time targeting, its literally decide which is needed and click while doing acrobats with your fingers on the keyboard…a good healer i think is someone who can decide which heal to use in the least amount of time and balance people out

    i went for one of those all in one things….i found ALL i needed was….HEALBOT even things like dbm etc i didnt really find omg useful, maybe for more confusing fights but u could generally see, who was about to get smacked in the face…and heal them…job done

    so yea… you only NEED 3 or so addons….yet i still have my growing add on folder with stuff which makes my buttons pretty, more compact, something to add pink leaves around my map…something to make silly noises when cooldowns come off (i mean come on, its only really used for riptide…im sure i can tell what 6 seconds is) my UI is very all singing all dancing…but i dont see the point when all i use is the healbot box i have no where to put….

    also you forgot to mention the amount of time people put in to make their ui asthetically pleasing…ask me to heal for 6 hours on the default with a healbot….i will be crying….i love my pink and white ui Q.Q

  9. “I believe most will agree with me; the “problem” addons are all ones that make the game easier, not simply show information. DBM is a constant offender…”

    Blizzard acknowledged (at Blizzcon 2007) that they wanted to incorporate more noticeable warnings when bosses use abilities. This was well after BigWigs/DBM were required raiding addons through at least 4 tiers of content. They also said they were balancing encounters knowing that players had these tools available to them.

    I don’t see how timer bars tracking (at times) 3 to 4 running cooldowns makes the game “easier.” It’s as much an aid to raid leaders as external voice chat. One could argue they are as much a quality of life addon as a mod that auto-sells all of your gray items.
    .-= Borsk´s last blog ..Blood Queen Lana’thel: Overbite Correction =-.

  10. I would think that the premise that mods make WoW easier depends on what you are defining as an inherent challenge in an encounter. Is it a challenge to recognize that you do or do not have a debuff? Is it a challenge to recognize that the boss does a particular emote before doing raidwide damage? Is it a challenge to recognize that you are standing next to certain death? Or is it a challenge to make the best decision possible given the aforementioned scenarios?

    Personally, I don’t think that addons make the game easier, for the simple point in fact that they do not generate the appropriate response to stimulus for you. While an addon like PowerAuras may make a visual queue like a debuff more visible, or DXE might provide an arrow indicating the relative directions of a Bonespike, the difficulty doesn’t lie in the recognition but rather in the response you generate. Now multiply that factor of difficulty by 25, because let’s remember that raiding is a team sport, and then you might see that the challenge of raiding extends far beyond the capabilities of addons.

  11. @Vixsin
    I suppose this is personal preference. I can’t deal with 2 different raid frames on the screen with different information, so I’ve always just put all my decursing info on grid. I have the extension “GridIndicatorSideIcons”, and I have them in two buckets. Poisons and Diseases show up as an icon on the left side, while Curses show up as an icon on the right side. This lets me distinguish between the debuffs that cleansing totem can remove and the ones that have to be addressed directly. It also lets me use the same icons for debuffing when I’m in my ele spec, as I can just ignore icons on the right side when I’m dpsing.

    I have to say, one thing you’re missing is a hot timer. While Quartz is great as a castbar replacement, I don’t like the hot timer in that it doesn’t keep track of hots you have on multiple targets. As I like to roll 3 riptides in certain fights, I find that a mod like ForteExorcist, or SpellReminder is invaluable.
    .-= Zigi´s last blog ..Is mp5 irrelevant on progression fights? =-.

  12. I generally tend to stick Riptide Icons in Grid, but for the most part I generally don’t track rolling RT’s (aside from tank/focus targets which are displayed using Classtimers.)

    But, GridIndicatorSideIcons, eh? I might just have to extend my folder to 40 addons … Thanks for the tip!

  13. I started using the side indicators in Sunwell. They were incredibly helpful on the Twin Eredar. Most recently, seeing the mandible bites and penetrating cold at the same time was a nice tool for Anub’arak hard mode.

    In ICC I think the only place I have side icons is Lich King for infest.
    .-= Borsk´s last blog ..Holding Out For A Hero =-.

  14. Behr

    Personally for a hot timer on multiple targets I as a resto druid use grid. Grid Status Hots allows me to have timers for Rejuv, Regrowth and Wild growth in the top corners and grid indicator corner text makes the numerical. From there I have Grid Status Lifebloom which uses the center text two indicator, to display a timer for lifebloom.

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