For almost every hunter who raids -- and the vast majority of those who don't -- addons are an essential tool for optimizing gameplay. While it could be argued that the only addon the hunter class needs is a pet (and possibly a frothing mug of awesomesauce), addons can contribute a lot to your performance. Properly used addons can help you avoid void zones, keep you alive and improve your DPS.
Join me after the cut as we take a look at some of the key addons that every hunter should consider using. We aren't going to cover every possible addon, of course, but instead look at what I consider the most important hunter addons.
Where to download them
Every boss mod mentioned here is linked to its download page on Curse.com. Curse also has thousands of other mods that you can filter through at your leisure.
A note on UI addons
I am not going to cover UI addons here. Many people love them to death and spend hours upon hours customizing their UIs. It's such a passionate undertaking that WoW.com even has a Reader UI of the Week column. There are tons of addons for it, tons of different ways to do it and even a healthy number of options in the WoW default UI section these days.
However, I do not believe that custom UIs add a whole ton to improving your gameplay as a hunter. To me, it's more like painting your walls and decorating your house. Different people put different amounts of effort into it, and we all agree that the ones with lots of effort tend to look great. But it doesn't really change the structural benefits of your house, its ability to provide shelter. I'm not dissing UI customization in any way or the theoretical benefit of increasing your field of vision, but it's not remotely required to play your hunter at a high level. However, there are other addons that are essentially required for raiding.
The concept of boss mod addons is to improve your awareness of vital boss fight mechanics. In a way, you could say that their purpose is to heighten your situational awareness or to compensate for lower situational awareness. They put giant warnings on your screen for important abilities like void zones, they include timers that count down to important abilities and then warn you when those abilities are about to happen, and they put raid symbols over people's heads when boss mechanics are affecting those characters -- sometimes even having those characters shout out warnings so you can see how close you are to them by the chat bubble.
You can certainly raid without a boss mod addon, but it is certainly much, much harder. They improve your reaction time and warn you when your mind slips for a second, effectively reducing errors and letting you focus more of your attention on your DPS. Once you play with a boss mod, you'll wonder how you ever managed to raid without one. I consider boss mods essential for raiding, and they are required by just about every raid team out there.
The two main boss mods are:
- Deadly Boss Mods (DBM) Does everything you need your boss mod to do. I use this primarily because most people I raid with use it.
- BigWigs Bossmods Another boss mod that does everything you need your boss mod to do. Either of these addons should serve you just fine.
I feel that threat meters are absolutely essential, and every hunter should use some kind of threat meter addon. The in-game threat meter is just not nearly as good as a threat meter (although I use both). For most fights these days, threat isn't a huge issue and you're just about always going to be safe after your first FD; however, there are plenty of fights that have adds jumping in the fight or threat decay built into the mechanics, where threat starts to matter again. Keep in mind as hunters, it's not just our threat we want to pay attention to -- if we see someone else getting dangerously high on the threat meters, we can help them out with additional Misdirections.
I've talked before about my reasons for why every hunter should use a damage meter, but essentially, the one reason we are brought to a raid is to do as much responsible, quality DPS as possible. Now, our DPS doesn't matter if we can't avoid fire waves or shoot the right target, but our situational awareness doesn't matter if our DPS is in the garbage. Damage meters don't just let you know how much damage you're doing; they also let you break down your damage and see how many of each shot you're firing, what your crit and hit chances are, what shot is doing how much damage ... Everything you need to analyze your DPS. Just don't look at it during a fight. It's there to look at after the fight is done. And never, ever, spam it to public channels. That makes you a horrible person.
- Omen The primary threat meter, which displays the top handful of people's threat as easy-to-see colored bars and shows you exactly how much threat you need to pull aggro. Also makes a loud, explody sound when your threat gets dangerously high.
- Recount One of the most popular damage meters; does everything a damage meter should do. Note that it has an option to hide the meter during combat. I highly recommend this. You have better things to pay attention to during a fight. I prefer Recount for my damage meter only because I'm the DPS captain for my raid and I need to know what other people are doing. Since most people use Recount, and Recount synchs with other Recount users, it gives me the most accurate information during raids. Most people will not need to know what anyone else is doing, however.
- Skada The other damage meter, Skada also has a built-in threat meter. So while you're in combat, it acts as a threat meter, and afterward, it shows you the damage meter with all the damage meter info that you need. One window, twice the addon.
I'm an incredibly huge fan of Power Auras. This addon lets you customize visual and audio warnings when certain events happen. You can use it to make a warning when one of your shots comes off cooldown, or if your Serpent Sting falls off, or when your trinket or your set bonus procs, if you're missing certain raid buffs, or just about anything you'd ever need.
You can make these warning look like anything you want: giant, pulsing-colored graphics; text warnings; transparent, colored layers; whatever. I've seen lots of really nice, elegant and gorgeous implementations of Power Auras. Personally, I'm more of a fan of giant, in-your-face idiot lights.
Power Auras also includes an ability to export your settings so others can easily duplicate your auras. (If you're interested, you can see many of my settings at Frostheim's Power Auras.) The big advantage of Power Auras in my mind, and why I consider it such a vital addon, is its function as an idiot light. You should be able to do your rotation without warnings, but it's very nice to have that warning there if you forgot to reapply your Serpent Sting or accidentally stayed in Aspect of the Viper, as well as notifications for trinket procs and Lock & Load procs.
PAWN is an addon that you can use in conjunction with hunter spreadsheets to easily compare the quality of gear in game. For those of us who spend far too much time examining gear and coming up with our lists of gear that we want in advance, this isn't that necessary. But if you're the type of hunter who waits for gear to drop and then tries to decide if it's better than what you have, PAWN is for you.
Basically, you just enter the spreadsheet DPS values for each stat into PAWN; then every time you scroll over a piece of gear, it will show you the PAWN numerical value. Whichever has the higher number is typically the better piece of gear. Just be aware that PAWN does not take procs, on-use abilities or set bonuses into account. Also, it always assumes that you are getting benefit from your hit rating -- if you're hit capped, you need to adjust your PAWN accordingly. You can also make multiple PAWN profiles, such as a hit-capped profile and a non-hit capped profile, or MM and SV, etc.
A couple of other nice ones
Here are a handful of other popular hunter addons. You can absolutely live without any of these, but they could end up improving your gameplay as well.
- SexyCooldown Tracks your cooldowns. This is most commonly used by hunters to track the internal cooldowns of their trinkets, so you know when your trinket is about to track for purposes of stacking cooldowns.
- ViperNotify Warns you if you're in Aspect of the Viper while at full mana. I just use Power Auras to warn me of this, but ViperNotify is certainly an easier way to get the warning if you don't already use Power Auras.
You want to be a hunter, eh? You start with science, then you add some Dwarven Stout and round it off some elf-bashing. The end result is massive DPS. Scattered Shots is the WoW.com column dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter. See the Scattered Shots Resource Guide for a full listing of vital and entertaining hunter guides, including how to improve your heroic DPS, understand the impact of skill vs. gear, get started with Beast Mastery 101 and Marksman 101 and even solo bosses with some extreme soloing.