One of the most important features of our class is our totems. Finding a way to manage them effectively has always been a task. Recently, Blizzard has upgraded the in game user interface for better totem management, allowing us to group them into three pre-determined sets and also allowing us to drop all four schools of totems at once, eliminating the need for bulky macros. Some people still have trouble with the default UI for totems and look to addons to make it more to their liking.
Totem Timers has been long at the forefront of shaman totem management. It provides movable bars for all four schools of totems as well as timers for each. It also allows you to quickly swap between all three pre-made totem sets, as well as swapping individual totems from each school with as much ease as mousing over the current totem.
In addition to giving fast access to all of your totems and providing timers, the addon also tracks who is within range of each totem, so you know if you need to reposition your totems. You can see this in the image to the left, indicated by the red number inside of the totem icon. Not only does it track people in range of your totems but it also tracks people in range of fellow shamans in the group. So if you are running with multiple shamans, you can tell who needs what buff.
In addition to tracking totems, it tracks your self-resurrection timer as well as how many Ankhs you have available, your water and lightning shield charges as well as the charges, target and duration of Earth Shield. It can also manage your weapon imbues. When your totems or shields are about to expire, it will also give you a warning through various outputs of your choosing. You can also set it to alert you before a timer has run its course. The addon also tracks cooldowns on your abilities such as Fire Elemental Totem and Fire Nova. The addon has a lot of customizable features and is my totem manager of choice.
Other popular totem managers include:
In the same vein is another up-and-coming addon that is in a beta phase right now. TotemRadius adds rings to the mini-map to show you who is in the affected range of totems. Like Totem Timers, it does track other shamans in the raid as well, but this one gives you a visual cue for placing your totems.
Knowing when Water Shield has worn off or when Earth Shield is about to expire is very important. Many shaman-specific mods will inform you of this. Almost any totem management addon you find will indicate to you when your shields are about to expire. If you want to use the default UI for your totems or are just looking for something simplistic to give you a heads up when your shields drop, ShieldsUp might be for you. To quote the site description:
It features an easy-to-read text display that shows the number of charges remaining on each active shield, as well as the name of the last person you cast Earth Shield on. Other features include a visual indication when another shaman overwrites your Earth Shield, text and audio alerts when one of your shields expires or is removed, and a condensed display while solo (or for shamans without Earth Shield).
It does just what it promises and does it very well in a compact package.
Another important set of mods is bar modification. While the default UI has provided us with ample space for our buttons, sometimes being able to modify when they are viewable or move them to better suit your playstyle can be very important. There are quite a few out there that will do this, so I will just highlight a couple.
Bartender is one of those mods that has been around for a long time. It is highly customizable and can be tailored to fit almost any playstyle. You can set conditionals to have only certain bars show in combat and out of combat, and you can adjust the look, grouping, size and reaction of any of the buttons and bars.
Dominos is another big name in the action bar addon game, and it allows a similar set of customizable options to Bartender. It is also the addon that comes packaged with the Razer Naga mouse.
When using action bar mods, you should also consider investing a little time in a cooldown tracking mod. OmniCC places the cooldowns of each ability in their action bar and is compatible with most action bar addons. Another mod I've found useful for cooldowns is OmniCC pulse, which flares the action bar button when a cooldown for a spell is over. It helps with a subtle visual cue to let you know your spell is off cooldown.
There are various action bar and ability cooldown addons. Spend some time poking around sites like Curse and Wowinterface and find ones that work for you and that you feel comfortable with.
Unit and raid frames
Moving your unit and raid frames can be a healer's greatest asset. One of the largest problems a healer has is healer tunnel vision. Often we get so consumed in our healing that we lose sight of our own health -- and as the saying goes, you can't heal when you're dead. One of the things that a lot of healers find useful is addons that bring the healer's health to a point of high visibility. Some prefer heads-up displays or HuDs such as Icehud or Archud, while others perfer to use unit frame addons like Pitbull or the various skins of oUF like Diablo Orbs to draw attention to their health.
Keeping an eye on your health is as important as keeping an eye on the raid's health. When tracking the raid's health, you can certainly use the default game UI, but some find the lack of information or options limiting. Most unit frame addons like Pitbull will supply you with raid frames. Again, there are many out there, so I'll only talk about a couple of them.
Grid has been around for a very, very long time. This addon allows you a large amount of control over the information that is displayed, as well as the visual presentation. The addon allows you to see players' health (or health deficit), incoming healing amounts from other healers (as well as yourself), mana and energy and various debuffs. On top of this, you can add various debuffs and buffs to the display. This can be extremely helpful when trying to keep track of debuffs and debuffs such as Valithria Dreamwalker's Emerald Vigor. You can even program it to track stacks of Earth Shield and to show how much time is left on Riptide on targets. A full guide to the addon and its various components can be found here. Grid is my pick for raid unit frames.
Another contender for superiority is VuhDo. This is another extremely powerful raid frame addon that not only allows you to track the raid as well as buffs, debuffs, health and energy, but also has the added functionality to program healing spells to various mouse clicks and modifiers to accompany those mouse clicks. This functions similar to the way Clique works. This added functionality has made this addon a favorite among healers from every class. Like Grid, this is highly customizable; a full guide to setup and options can be found here.
While these do take some time to set up, the payoff is well worth it. Whether you choose to use the default UI raid frames or one of the various mods such as Pitbull, Grid or VuhDo, take some time to find one you feel comfortable with. The amount of information they give you as a healer is insanely valuable, and it helps to keep those you need to heal in easy-to-reach groupings.
Do you have any addons that you've found particularly useful? Feel free to leave them in comments or email them directly to me. I will make sure they get posted and that credit is given.
That is it for this week, folks. Until next time.
Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk, whether reading Mike Sacco's Elemental edition, Joe Perez's coverage of Restoration or Rich Maloy's Enhancement edition, we have you covered.