One of my raid's mages swears to use TellMeWhen (TMW) over Weak Auras (use WA2, now). I used to use Weak Auras exclusively, but now I use a combination of both addons in further combination with Raven, a buffs and debuffs addon, and AffDots. While I can list any number of buffs and debuffs addons to help track procs and DoTs (ForteXorcist, Raven, NeedToKnow, Ovale, etc.), TellMeWhen and Weak Auras often top the list of mentioned addons.
What's the difference between TMW and WA? What does one do better than the other? And what's the impact that addons like these have on how warlocks play?
TellMeWhen: Cooldowns, buffs, and debuffs
TellMeWhen is mostly about the cooldowns, buffs and debuffs. It can watch certain items like totems without getting too code-y about it. It can also check for various states like loss of control or diminishing returns or any other combat event. Finally, it has a conditions option where it can display something depending on conditions like what spec you're in, what talent you've taken, what zone you're in, or when a certain stat has reached a certain point in combat. Conditions can apply to a single icon or bar, or they can apply to the whole group.
I think my only complaint about TMW is that it doesn't have a center sort for icons. I can either have static icons that don't sort at all with gaps when certain icons don't appear, or I can have everything being sorted to the left or right.
Icons instead of bars is my personal preference, but I use TMW to display cooldowns and a raid check of buffs. I've found that TMW is fluid at quickly creating cooldowns and buff checks where WA is a bit clunkier.
Dark Soul is the only persistent cooldown I keep whether its available or not, but I have other icons that pop up when spells like Havoc or Shadowfury are on cooldown that disappear when the spell is ready.
For my "raid prep" group, I have icons ranging from a simple check of Dark Intent to a felhunter icon for whether I have a pet out, plus a Grimoire of Sacrifice icon if I haven't sacrificed a pet yet. I even have an aura for when I forget that I still have my Kirin Tor ring or Timeless Isle trinket on. I also have icons with timer bars on them that indicate how long my Mass Res debuff is going to last. While I don't need to decide whether to pop Fel or Demon Armor up anymore, my raid prep group takes a lot out of the "OK, am I ready for the pull?" question.
Weak Auras: Fantasia for your rotation
Weak Auras can also be used for just about any condition, including malicious LUA code at one point. But so long as you create your own auras or download only from trusted sources, WA can do just about anything.
When I want detail, I'll set up TellMeWhen later, but when I need a quick aura in my face for some debuff in raid, I'll pull up /wa first and complete the aura within a few seconds. This may be my greater knowledge and experience with WA over TMW, but WA also has most of its conditions right there on the Trigger page while TMW has them buried in various dropdowns.
You can display procs and buffs with icons, just like any other mod, but I prefer to let Weak Auras be more abstract in its displays. TMW is great if you just need a column of what's going on icons or bars, but the unlimited color and squiggle auras of WA can help tie concepts together.
For example, I have my gear procs grouped together. The legendary meta gem's proc, Lightweave, and Jade Spirit all arc around the trinket procs, which are bursts that fade over time. Wushoolay's (and Black Blood following it) gets a special burst with a text aura stack, but the other bursts are green for a haste proc, purple for a mastery proc, red for a crit proc, and white for intellect or spellpower procs. I've had these colors for so long that I couldn't use any other colors when distinguishing Elemental Blast's effects on my ele shaman alt. Moreover, it's easy to group trinkets from tier to tier this way, since you'll not likely have two haste proccing trinkets in the same tier.
Skill cap and addons
One of the problems with affliction right now is that the spec is very reliant on addons to maximize DPS. Really, any of the warlock specs do well with addons -- and yes, you are completely able to play well without addons at all -- but affliction has a noticeable decrease in effort needed to play it with an increase in damage done when using addons such as AffDots. Addons can go too far and nearly play the game for you, whether predicting your next spell or telling you exactly how powerful that DoT is compared to your last cast.
Snapshotting: One of the ways to "break" AffDots or otherwise make it less useful is to remove DoT snapshotting of stats, which Warlords of Draenor has been promised to do. Mastery and crit will no doubt continue to affect warlock specs, but haste is the main offender when it comes DoTs and snapshotting power.
Because of affliction's DoT strength in relation to mastery and haste in patch 5.4, the gameplay for the spec has gone from one extreme of how many spinning plates can you keep up on the poles to the other extreme of Red Light, Green Light with Soul Swap only. This snapshotting problem has gotten worse over the RPPM system's evolution as the procs get burstier and shorter in reflex reaction time. A bad streak of RNG or lag that leaves your best proc out of the opening salvo of bloodlusting buffs can destroy your comparative metrical damage for the next 3-4 minutes, due to how DoTs carry their applied strength well past the buff's duration.
Visual strain: Buff and debuff addons can do one thing the stock UI can't: they can move your procs and self-debuffs from the top right corner of your peripheral vision to the center of your vision's focus. Addons can also emphasize certain buffs rather than leaving everything in a list for manual searching. Finally, addons can make icons into bars or just bigger icons to reduce eye strain to figure out if that DoT has 3 seconds or 8 left.
The stock UI just barely makes it big enough on the emphasized setting. Too-small icons and timers lead to the same kind of eye strain you get when trying to read too-small text. Being able to move your player and target frames is great, but then your eyes having to jump back and forth from the center to the corners of your likely widescreen monitor is not so stellar.
Remember, you want your UI to help you, not make it harder for you to do your job. Blizzard reduced some of the buff icon bloat by combining all the raid buffs into one collective icon with a tooltip, but it could definitely do better with the positioning and size in general. If procs are meant to be important, don't leave them in the corner!
Clarity: It's fine to have soul shards and demonic fury on the default UI; one is a set of binary icons and the other is just another bar to fill up. But burning embers have a problem in that they are four tiny bars that fill up with no real room to distinguish half-full from three-quarters. As the priority for Shadowburn and Chaos Bolt outside of major procs tends to flip around three and a half embers, you almost need to know how many "emberbits" you have.
Another visual you might need is Fire and Brimstone's change to a toggle; many warlocks have come to think of FnB as not just another spell but as a semi-stance for destruction warlocks, much like Metamorphosis is a stance for demo 'locks. It's annoying to forget you had FnB on and spend all your precious embers, so having a simple visual notification that you're in the AoE ember-spending semi-stance is greatly appreciated by some.
Blood Pact is a weekly column detailing DOTs, demons and all the dastardly deeds done by warlocks. We'll coach you in the fine art of staying alive, help pick the best target for Dark Intent, and steer you through tier 13 set bonuses.