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Addons 101: The other essentials


Addons 101 is a four-part series for beginners dedicated to understanding what an addon is, how they enhance the gameplay experience of World of Warcraft, some popular addons in certain categories, and popular venues in which to research, download and find addons.

Addons 101 has covered a lot of ground for new players looking to get into addons for the first time. We have discussed what addons are and why you would want them, and we have gone over some of the basic elements of the World of Warcraft user interface and how they can be improved upon. I hope that some people have gained some knowledge into addons and have had their fears alleviated somewhat -- addons won't hurt you, I promise!

This week, Addons 101 looks at what I call the other essentials. These are interface elements that have become important over the lifetime of WoW but are not intrinsically understandable just by looking at the user interface the game presents you with. Before I start, let me say that Blizzard has taken steps in the right direction on many of these items, but addons still do the job better, for the most part. We will discuss terms, recommend certain addons and hopefully give some good explanations for any questions that might be had. As always, if you're an interface and addon newbie, I'm more than happy to field questions at (remember the one "t").

The "other essentials" of the World of Warcraft user interface are DPS and threat meters, raid warnings and cooldowns. We will tackle each individually, hopefully making some nebulous concepts more clear.

DPS and threat meters

The DPS and threat meter has almost become a thing of art in World of Warcraft. What was once an incredibly inaccurate diagnostic tool and an encounter-specific crutch (Vael, KLHThreatmeters) has become something much more, evolving into a true component of the game's structure.

DPS stands for "damage per second," but more colloquially it refers to the amount of damage you are capable of doing to an enemy. "Threat" is the primary way of judging who a boss is going to hit. If you're at the top of the threat meter, the boss will attack you. DPSers need to be careful not to do as much threat as the tank, or else there could be trouble.

Blizzard recently introduced an in-game threat identifier, but it never seemed substantial to me. There just aren't enough options, and the data output isn't substantial. Like most of the built-in user interface, it works, but it could be better -- and that's where addons come in.

Why are DPS/threat meters considered an "other necessity?"

If you're new to the game, you haven't yet experienced the ins and outs of group content. You will! And after reading this, you'll be prepared. The basic group setup includes the defensive character who will take the hits (the tank), the healer who keeps everyone happy and healthy (the healer), and other characters whose role is to damage the enemies until they die (the DPS). Threat and DPS meters show you who has the enemy's threat, let you know how close you are to taking threat away from the tank and onto yourself (we don't want this), and how much actual damage you are doing. This is a good statistic to know as sort of a diagnostic for whether you're doing the best you can with what you have.

These types of addons are mostly used in 5-man and raid content. Knowing how the tank is doing on threat is crucial for DPS so that they do not go over the tank's. Knowing your DPS can't hurt, as it helps you evaluate your game, like knowing how well your car is running by the sounds it makes.

Recap -- DPS and threat meters:
  • show DPS and threat during combat of both you and your fellow group/raid members
  • allow you to see the damage you do relative to others
  • help you make sure you don't take threat away from the tank
Some examples of DPS and threat meters are:
Raid warnings

A large amount of the end-game content in World of Warcraft deals with raiding, grouping up 10 or 25 people together to tackle harder boss challenges. In addition, group content for 5-man dungeons also makes up a large amount of the end game for many players. Raid warning addons are used to alert the player when a boss is going to do an ability of some kind or when the encounter is changing in some dramatic way.

Here's an example. Let's say the Lich King is going to cast one of his signature spells, Defile. With a raid warnings addon, you are clued into the timer on his ability, when it can be cast again and what to look out for. Many encounters rely heavily on these notification systems, and having one of these addons is usually mandatory in larger raiding guilds.

Recap -- raid warning addons:
  • give you warnings and notifications about a boss' special abilities and timers on those abilities
  • allow you to react to the changing circumstances during WoW's intricate boss encounters in 5-, 10- or 25-man instances and raids
  • are usually required by higher-end guilds for their incredible functionality and help in dealing with harder encounters
Some examples of raid warning addons: Cooldowns

Many classes, from warriors to rogues, paladins to druids, and everything in between, have abilities that have time-sensitive cooldowns, or a period of time before the ability can be used again. Addons that track a player's cooldowns, therefore, have the potential to be very powerful -- the more information you have about the time between your abilities, the better you can plan for the immediate future.

Take the warrior's ability Shield Wall, for example. This ability reduces all damage that the warrior takes by 60% for 12 seconds, on a five-minute cooldown. A warrior engaged in combat with a particular hard-hitting boss has to know when his Shield Wall cooldown is ready to go again, just in case the boss is going to cast an ability he knows might kill him or his healers request the damage reduction while they tend to other issues.

Monitoring your cooldowns effectively can also lead to an increase in DPS. Checking out any of the class columns here at can greatly help you in that area. A cooldown monitor can provide some added functionality and help you with your awareness of your own abilities.

Recap -- cooldowns:
  • A cooldown addon monitors your abilities and the time until they are usable again.
  • Cooldown management can lead to better DPS and situational awareness and use of abilities on tricky fights
Some examples of cooldown addons: Next week, in the last installment of Addons 101, we will explore the basics of UI customization and the lay of the land, so to speak, of the World of Warcraft interface. Stay tuned!

Addons are what we do on Addon Spotlight. This special edition of Addon Spotlight is aimed at you newcomers out there, to help you learn a little bit about addons. We are so happy to have you! If you have any questions or suggestions for Addons 101, email Mat at

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