Raiding addons: the bare minimum

By now most of you have had a taste of the entry-tier raiding in Cataclysm, and I’m sure many of you will agree that difficulty-wise, the bar is set quite a bit higher than it was in Wrath of the Lich King (and in this dwarf’s opinion, that is a welcome change!).  If you’re leading raids, then you probably know that having the right addons installed can grant you a significant advantage when it comes to progressing through new content. But there are literally hundreds of addons available to you – which ones will legitimately improve your raid’s odds of success, and which ones are a waste of your time?  If you’re looking for a good starting point when it comes to raiding addons, read on.

Let’s start with a few addons that I consider virtually essential for any serious raider.  Everyone in your raid should have these addons (or a direct substitute) installed:

Raiding Addons for Everyone:

1) Omen Threat Meter.  Unless you just started raiding, odds are that you already have this installed, especially if you play a tank or DPSer.  Omen allows you to see exactly where you fall on a mob’s threat list in relation to everyone else in your raid.  For the most part, threat management in the current raid game in a non-issue outside of the first few seconds of a pull, but Omen is unobtrusive when things are under control, so there is no reason to not have this installed.

2) Deadly Boss Mods (DBM).  If your raiders can only install one addon, tell them to make it this.  DBM adds prominent visual and audio warnings to every raid encounter in the game, dramatically improving awareness to what is happening.  On most encounters, DBM will display timer bars for key boss abilities so that your raid knows exactly when they’re coming.  The amount of information that the default WoW UI exposes to you is simply not adequate for some encounters – and while DBM certainly isn’t absolutely required to do well, you’re really severely handicapping yourself if you opt to forego it.  There are other alternatives that accomplish much the same thing that DBM does (most notably Bigwigs) but having your entire raid use the same mod is preferable.  If you want to check whether your raiders are using DBM, simply type “/dbm ver” (without the quotes) while in your raid group.

3) GTFO.  I only recently started using this myself, but it is so useful that I strongly recommended it to all of my raiders.  The addon itself does only one thing – it blares an obnoxious alarm whenever you’re standing in something that is hurting you.  At all other times, GTFO does nothing.  It takes zero screen real estate, and requires no configuration (there are options, but the default config should satisfy 99% of people).  Since our raid has started using GTFO, “standing in the fire” type deaths have become virtually non-existent. 

Serious raiders should be well-equipped to deal with any encounter in the game with just the three above addons installed. 

As a raid leader, you’re tasked with assessing performance and identifying issues on the fly, and and will thus probably want a bit more information available to you during your raiding sessions.  If you’re in the raid leader position, I’d recommend the following addons in addition to the ones above:

Additional Addons for Raid Leaders:

1) Recount.  Most people probably have this installed anyway (especially if they play a DPSer), so you’re likely covered here.  The reason that you’ll want Recount as a raid leader isn’t for the damage meters (although that information can be useful as well).  On progression fights where your raid is struggling, you’re going to need to figure out what is going wrong, and Recount will likely be your best in-game resource for that.  I find that Recount’s Death window is my best friend on progression nights – it allows me to see exactly what killed people, and what those people were doing for the ~10 seconds leading up to their death (and whether or not they were being healed, etc).  Recount will also give you visibility into WHAT people are attacking (so that you can find the DPSers that aren’t properly switching targets), and whether or not people are interrupting, etc.  Unless you have inhuman situational awareness and can monitor all of this stuff yourself in real-time (while you’re playing your own character), you’ll want Recount.

2) EnsidiaFails.  This one might be a bit controversial in your group if you have some defensive and/or soft-skinned types, but it really is a valuable tool that will provide an extra layer of immediate feedback when people make mistakes.  EnsidiaFails (EF) tracks common player mistakes on boss encounters.  These mistakes can be spit out into /raid chat immediately as they happen (which I recommend), reported automatically whenever a boss attempt is over, or reported on demand.  The most common type of mistakes that EF will pick up on involve players that fail to move to avoid damage.  The default configuration of EF is a little bit too spammy for my taste (it reports mistakes as they happen, and then again after the boss attempt is over), but you can easily customize it to suit your preference by typing “/ef” (without the quotes) in-game after it is installed.  I personally prefer simply reporting mistakes to /raid chat once, as they happen – this helps ensure that your raiders know that whatever just happened to them was avoidable, and their responsibility.

I personally don’t use much more than the above during my raiding sessions.  I find that I have all of the information that I need to play my character effectively while monitoring the performance of the rest of the raid.  There are certainly other useful raiding addons out there (Loggerhead is great for ensuring that I don’t forget to capture my combat log for upload to World of Logs!), but the mods listed above are the only ones that I feel would negatively impact my raiding performance if they suddenly went missing.

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