Discussing addons is a tricky business. On the one hand, Mat McCurley does his weekly Reader UI of the Week segment, which is a sure sign that some of WoW Insider's readership are fans of customized UIs. On the other, we're all aware from comments, forum posts, and blogs that there are players who find anything outside of the default Blizzard UI to be sacrilege, and that using addons detracts from the experience of playing the game.
This is a post about which addons I feel are most beneficial to playing an elemental shaman. If you're a fan of totally customized UIs, these are the addons I think would help the most in improving your performance on an elemental shaman. If you're not a fan of addons or customizing your UI, that's cool, too. This just might not be the post for you, but I hope you read on and decide for yourself!
There was a time in The Burning Crusade when totem addons were all the rage, with addon developers almost competing to make the most user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing totem addon. Totem addons are designed to make managing your totems -- a pivotal mechanic of shaman -- easier, and to help you avoid the need to keybind or place all of your buff totems on an action bar. They also provide clear timers for each of your totems, which I consider a vast improvement over the small icons on the default UI.
With the coming of Call of the Elements and Blizzard's default totem manager, totem addons have become less of a necessity than they were in WoW's earlier expansions. TotemTimers, my personal recommendation and the most-visited totem addon on Curse, has reacted to Blizzard's introduction of totem bars by diversifying to become more of an all-encompassing shaman addon. It includes shield timers, an ankh timer, and a consolidated weapon imbue interface for easy use of Flametongue Weapon, as well as a lightweight timer addon for all three specs. It combines most of the shaman-specific functions I need into one easy to use addon, which is why I suggest it. I'm only one person, though, and some shaman swear by FloTotemBar or Yata, so they're worth looking into.
Shaman Friend is another shaman-specific addon, but it varies greatly from Totem Timers. While TT exists to help consolidate your abilities, Shaman Friend consolidates information. It shows you when Elemental Overload procs, warns you with a loud sound when your imbues/shields fall off, shows/broadcasts the buffs you Purge and the casts you interrupt, tracks your CC, and shows you what your Grounding Totem absorbs. In a sense, it's a shaman-specific scrolling combat text and one I've definitely made use of.
I've been using OmniCC since the first week I played WoW in The Burning Crusade, after finding myself constantly frustrated by the Blizzard default cooldown timer. With the importance of Lava Burst in elemental's priority list and the unpredictability of Lava Surge proc, I find that having an easy way to monitor ability cooldowns is crucial for maximizing my DPS. OmniCC helps by overlaying the actual seconds of the cooldown on the ability icons themselves, making your off-cooldown abilities very clear.
If I were only allowed to use one addon, it would be Power Auras, which provides you with visual and audio cues whenever specific parameters set by you are met. I'm especially a fan of Power Auras' sound feature, which allows you to play a sound when the aura is triggered. I personally have "Hadouken" from Street Fighter set up to warn me when Lava Burst is available for us. I also like the Wilhelm Scream for nine stacks of Fulmination. Power Auras can be daunting to set up for the first time, but don't get discouraged. If you need a hand, check out The Ultimate Shaman Auras.
Shaman AOE is well-known for being clunky and annoying to use. Fortunately, I found AOE a lot more manageable once I learned how to use the debuff widget on Tidy Plates/Threat Plates. This addon is a replacement for the default Blizzard nameplates, and I believe it does three things really well. First, it looks much cleaner than the default nameplates. Second, the nameplates' borders change color when mobs are aggroed to you, which gives you time to run away, ready a Thunderstorm, or Wind Shear them. Third, it gives you an easy way to monitor your Flame Shocks on multiple enemies. Combined with a mouseover macro, it helps to improve elemental AOE DPS significantly.
While not shaman-specific at all, GTFO is an addon that I recommend to every player in existence, regardless of their role. GTFO is a very simple addon that tells you when you're standing in the bad (or at least, it tells you when you're getting damaged, which often means you're in the fire). Just because we can ankh does not mean we should allow ourselves to die easily, and any second spent dead is a DPS loss. Nine times out of 10, you'll notice the fire yourself, but this addon exists for the one time in 10 that you don't.
The last UI element I'm recommending is a damage meter. I know I'll get flak for saying this (especially from raid leaders who know how distracting meters are mid-fight), but I do think that a meter is something every elemental shaman should have.
Fire Elemental Totem does now show up on other people's Recount or Skada. Especially now with our tier 12 two-piece bonus, this is a major flaw in the way combat meters work. As a result, if you're middle of the pack on your damage meter, it's very likely that you might be last on someone else's. For elemental shaman who are pugging, being last on DPS makes you an easy target for angry raid leaders looking for an excuse to kick someone. Since your general PUG doesn't upload to World of Logs, this is a pretty good idea to keep a combat log running, just so you have proof of your own performance in case you need to argue for it. However, please meter responsibly, and don't allow yourself to get tunnel vision on Skada mid-fight.
Show your totemic mastery by reading Totem Talk: Enhancement every week. We've got enhancement-specific advice on the latest gear and tier gear set bonuses, and we'll help you dig in and learn to level the enhancement way.