While derided by some purists, addons are a very useful part of your gameplay. In my opinion, they're far from being something that only people who don't know how to play have to use. Addons can help you improve. It should be noted that at top-level Arena tournaments, teams have to play without addons, so if that is your eventual aim, bear that in mind and try to use them to learn rather than becoming dependent on them. I'm not the most technical of ladies, so what you won't find here is anything that needs coding skill or an intimate knowledge of .lua to edit. And, while basic UI modifications are often pretty straightforward, they can still help you enormously.
So for the PvPer, what would I recommend? First things first -- let's get involved in that interface screen. Go into the Interface menu by pressing Escape, click on Combat, and put a tick in that Class Colors in Nameplates box. Why? Well now, instead of uniform red nameplates hovering over your enemies' heads, you have class-colored ones. Remember how I was telling you about reacting to situations? Well, if you don't know who's trying to kill you, how can you react? If you don't have enemy nameplates at all, head to Names and fix that right now! And get your hands out of your pockets!
While we're here in the combat tab, let's just make doubly sure we have some other options checked. Target of target and both cast bar options should definitely be on. You can set up a focus cast key here too if you want to; I personally use macros for that.
Now, pop over into Floating Combat Text. If you're a DPSer in Battlegrounds, I'd like you to switch on the Friendly Healer Names option. In fact, I'd like you all to do that. See who's healing you, and thank them by saving them when you can. The rest of this tab is pretty much up to you.
So, that's the boring bit out of the way, let's talk addons!
First and foremost: Healers Have to Die. This charmingly named addon, while a little brutish, is nigh-on vital for Battlegrounds and relatively handy for Arena, although I don't use it for that. What does it do? Well, it places a massive great symbol over the head of any healer, friend or foe. Enemy healers get a massive red cross over their head, and friendly healers get a symbol rather like the healer symbol in the role check or Dungeon Finder. It should be noted that if you don't have name plates enabled, the addon won't work. It will also send you some huge text whenever a friendly healer is under attack and tell you who's attacking them. This is really handy in Battlegrounds. Remember that healers keep you alive, and if you can help them out, you'll end up with fewer deaths and more honor! In Arena, it should be pretty obvious who the healer is.
Take control of crowd control
LoseControl is a fantastic addon. If you scroll up and have a little look at the header picture, you'll see a rogue Sap icon in the middle of the screen. That's LoseControl at work. It places an icon corresponding with whatever CC you're under and shows the duration of that CC. The displayed duration is in the form of a pie chart, but it is possible to modify it to show a numerical countdown instead if that's more your thing. I personally find the pie chart approach works just fine. There's a clearer example to the right-hand side.
SaySapped is another similar addon. Again in the header image, you can see that a little shaman lost in Duskwood has been sapped by a dastardly rogue. Not only has that shaman's LoseControl told her about the sap, but she's announced her Sapped-ness to those around her. In Battlegrounds, this is very handy, alerting any nearby cohorts to the presence of a rogue -- and much the same applies in the ongoing defense of Goldshire!
In a similar rogue-centric vein, Stealth Alerter can be very handy for detecting invisible people. I have never used this in Arena, but it can be useful in Battlegrounds or world PvP. I wouldn't say this was on the vital list, though. The problem with it is that the person has to cast their invisibility spell in range of you for it to work; this rarely happens in the Arena. Also, you can work out who's invisible if there is one visible player by a quick glance at their buffs.
Know your enemy
Another great addon (although perhaps more useful for the Arena than for Battlegrounds) is SpellAlerter. This informs you when an enemy is casting a spell such as a druid Cyclone onto a friend or when they cast a spell on themselves such as a warrior's Recklessness or a death knight's Lichborne. It can also alert you of debuffs applied to friendly players such as Necrotic Strike. The downside with SpellAlerter is that it comes with very few spells loaded up by default, so you will need to set it up to show what you want it to show. Of course, this approach has its advantages, being that you don't have to remove hundreds of spells from its default settings!
I have mine set up to alert me of casts that can be interrupted like Mana Burn, as well as CC and buffs as described above. Do note that if your enemies are using macros that allow them to cast the spell on their focus as opposed to their main target, SpellAlerter will say "Enemy is casting Fear on Enemy's Target," not "Enemy is casting Fear on Enemy's Focus." It can be adjusted to display spells in shorter or longer form, as you see fit. I say it's more for Arena than Battlegrounds because in a big Battleground it can be way too confusing -- but for rated Battlegrounds it could be a godsend.
I'm also a fan of SmartTargeting. Although it can be set up via the UI if your machine is groaning under the weight of addons, if you have the spare capacity, this can be great. It senses whether you're in a PvP or PvE situation and accordingly switches between binding "target nearest enemy" and "target nearest enemy player" to tab. So, if you're a tab-targeter like many people, you won't have to tab through four totems and a Shadowfiend before you end up targeting the nearest player! Of course, if you never use tab to target, this will be of no use to you at all. It should be noted that in PvP situations this means that if you want to kill a Mana Tide Totem, for example, you'll have to click-target it. Once you return to a PvE setting, SmartTargeting switches back to "target nearest enemy."
Step into the Arena
Moving into the Arena proper, Gladius is definitely the first addon I would recommend. What does it do? Well, dear reader, it updates the standard enemy frames to show various information about your targets such as the cooldown on their trinket or whether they are in a cc cast by you or your teammate, including short stuns. It can be adapted to show even more, too. It has amazing customizability -- you can resize, reshape, remove elements altogether, change how your mouse interacts with it, click to cc, click to focus, click to interrupt ... the possibilities are endless. It also tells you if your enemy is drinking and has a customizable low health alert and various other alerts.
Don't know much about history ...
The last addon I'm going to talk about today is REFlex. It is an "Arena and Battleground Historian" and probably the only addon from those listed above that I have switched on 100% of the time on all my characters. I'm a huge lover of data, and that is just what this addon provides. For Battlegrounds, it tracks and remembers all your wins and losses, putting them into an easily useable chart. It also remembers how many killing blows and honorable kills you got, as well as your total healing and damage and where you ranked for both in that Battleground, within your own faction and within both. It will give you a readout in the chat pane telling you just that. For Arena, it will tell you your entire season's wins and losses in any bracket, which Arena maps you're the most and least successful in, and which comps you win against and lose against the most. It will provide you with a history of your MMR and rating and those of the teams you face. I absolutely love this addon!
A final note, though: If you are currently addon-free, I would recommend you introduce these to your gameplay slowly, maybe one or two at a time, rather than downloading everything I've talked about. That would be overwhelming, and you need to get used to an addon to use it well. I'm not saying all or any of these are vital, so pick and choose what sounds good to you and give it a go. This is far from an exhaustive list of addons I've tried and used and might recommend. There will be many more out there -- perhaps even enough for another column!
Do you want to capture flags, attack towers, invade cities, and dominate the Arena for your faction? Do you dream of riding your War Bear with pride? We'll steer you to victory with the secrets of PvP, including proven addons and keybindings that win!