Escaping the default
Now, before I get started, I need to quickly note that what Bob sent me was not the default UI; it was something much, much worse. (I dare not describe it for fear that one of you might find parts of it and install it.) Today's discussion is going to be about getting away from the default UI, but I'm going to try and guide you guys in a direction instead of the wrong one that Bob took. I understand that there are some players out there who don't use addons because they can't (computer limitations) or won't (purist pride.) If that's you, I hope you'll hear me out anyway and try to find a compromise that works for you.
Escaping the default UI is one of the most important steps a healer can take toward becoming a stronger player. Though the default UI works, it's limited by the fact that it's designed for everyone. Try to think of your UI as a video game controller. If you've ever played a fighting game one a home console and then played it at an arcade, you'll probably find that the arcade offers much better controls to play the game. That's because the arcade cabinet is designed for that one game, while the controller on your home console is designed to work with several different games. See where I'm going?
All right, let's talk about specifics and how a healing priest in particular can use each one.
Party and raid frames
The absolutely most essential
part of a healer UI is your party and raid frames (aka those little health bars you click on to change between friendly targets in your party). You really can't heal well without one, and the built-in one (yes, the new one just released in Cataclysm
) can't compare to a third-party version.
How information is arranged is what really sets each raid frame apart, and the default UI doesn't allow you to customize that information enough to make it comparable to a third-party frame. If you look at the picture to the right, you can see just how much information can potentially be crammed into a 1/3-inch box. This particular addon is Grid
You can see that what I've chosen as essential information is specific to my discipline spec. Making sure Inspiration
is up on the tanks is one of my jobs, so I've used a border to indicate that. I don't have any debuffs on in this picture, but should I have one, the type of debuff I have (curse, poison, etc.) would be indicated by a colored box in the top right corner, and the icon of the debuff would display where Pain Suppression
Obviously, it does take some practice to get used to reading all this information in combat, but with practice, you'll be able to have a much better understanding of the status of your party or raid at every second.
Suggested addons: Grid, Healbot
Though a bar addon isn't essential, it makes life a lot easier in a couple ways. First, it allows you to set your keybindings faster and easier than the default UI allows. This is important because yes, you really do need to use keybindings over clicking to cast your spells as a healer. Your job is to save lives, and if you use your cursor to select a target and the spell you want to cast, you are going to be late applying heals and defensive abilities like Guardian Spirit
or Pain Suppression.
The second reason to use a bar addon is that it allows you to condense your abilities into a very small space, reducing visual clutter in general and also allowing you to see all your available abilities at once. (Some players may eventually opt to hide their bars and use a spell alert addon to notify them of when an ability is available for use, but if you're still a UI novice, I think this is the easiest first step.) This is particularly useful for healing priests, since we have two sets of healing spells we could use in combat instead of one. Our bars will always be more full than those of other healers.
One thing to remember with addons in general is to leave as much space on the screen as possible for your character and the immediate surroundings. Blizzard's "scale UI" feature can be a big help here, reducing the size of all your UI features so you can get the information you need but can still see fire on the ground.
Suggested addons: Bartender
Next to a raid frame, an alert addon is the next best addition healers can make to our UIs, because we have so many abilities that we need to keep track of to do our jobs. Here are some examples of things a healer might need to keep track of.
Though not essential, an alert addon will let you take your eyes off your bars and leave you more time to keep an eye on your character's surroundings and raid frames. You save more lives simply by being able to pay more attention to other things.
Suggeted addons: Power Auras
Extra addons for priests
There aren't many priest-specific addons these days, but I figured I'd list a few that some players might find handy.
Every second that a holy priest is in combat, he passively regenerates an additional amount of mana through Holy Concentration; a disc priest, on the other hand, gains some of her additional mana through Rapture, which must be consciously acquired through Power Word: Shield. Ingela's Rapture is an addon that simplifies the process by tracking when Rapture procs.
Though this addon is historically popular with shadow priests, a healing priest can use it to keep track of things like Weakened Soul
on his current target. A discipline priest would want to track the former on his current target so he'll know when he can next cast Power Word: Shield
(particularly if he's specced into Strength of Soul
.) A holy priest would want to keep track of Renew on her if she is in Serenity
stance of Chakra
stance and needs to know when to refresh Renew on a tank or off tank.
Substance over style
I want to stress again that building a custom UI is about making a UI that will help you raid or do whatever it is you need to do. It's not about making something stylish or installing every useful addon you can think of. It's about identifying the information you need to do your job, and then building your UI around those needs. That's why this list is short; you really don't need much more than this.
If you have any questions about using or setting up these addons, need help with your Power Auras, want to make a suggestion, or just want to yell at me for writing such a basic article, get to the comments.
Spiritual Guidance has the inside line on pre-raid gear, valor point and raid gear, and healing strategies for bosses such as Atramedes and Chimaeron. Newcomer to the priest class? Look into Discipline Priest 101 and Holy Priest 101.