So in my writers block this afternoon, I opened up my trusted google reader and started checking out all of the new posts that have popped up in the past day on the protadin blogging circuit. As I was reading a post by Rhidach titled Four Characteristics of a Great Tank, Part 1: A sense of ownership, I found my inspiration for my next senseless digression, the user interface or UI for short. A players UI is something that is unique and special to them, and for those of us that love to tweak the way our game looks, it is a passion and necessity.
When you first start out on your adventures in Azeroth, your UI is more often than not the standard Blizzard UI. A bar at the bottom that has (at the time) more buttons than you know what to do with, a few green and blue bars, and a map. Thats it! I really dont think that much more is needed to level all the way to level 80. Once you get there though, you have the opportunity to start custimizing your interface to provide you with pertinent information that will help you be a better tank, react quicker, and understand more mechanics of an encounter.
The Essential UI modifications
There are a few mods that every person should have if they ever want to set foot in a raid instance. The first and foremost is BigWigs or Deadly Boss Mods. These are mods that inform the player of specific abilities that the encounter is employing to try to get you to have a lovely run back from the graveyard. Another near essential mod is called Omen, or something similar if your guild uses a different threat meter. I as a tank rarely spend more than a split second looking over at omen, however the fact that I have it installed means that my threat is showing up on my DPS’es meter and they know where they are. It is also useful to understand who to salv and if you need to start concentrating more on your rotation and less on other things.
Other than that, you can probably get away with nothing more than the standard blizzard UI and be a sufficiently successful tank. But, what can you do to increase your knowledge of an encounter, enable better play, and become successfully as an all around player? There are a few mods that I use, that I cannot raid with out any more, and I will discuss them in a bit more detail later on in this post.
Your UI and your awareness – managing your Real Estate
One of the first things to consider when compiling a UI, or selecting a pre made one from someone who has much more experience making them than the normal player, is to understand what the purpose of your UI is. No matter who you are, and what you do, your UI is there to give you the important information that you need in order to do your job. Whether it be knowing what skills are on cool down and when they will be up next, if you have all of your buffs, how much health you have, who the boss is targeting, etc. However if you have too much information in front of you, you will not be able to see the most important part of what you are doing, the encounter.
I have seen too many tanks with UIs that have tons of bars, and scrolling combat text, and useless junk so close to where their character is positioned on the screen. The general philosophy is to arrange your most important information where you would find your eyes resting on the screen. For most of us that is the center, where our character is, however that doesn’t mean that you should ever obstruct the view of your character. You want to arrange things around your toon but at the same time, in a logical place.
What I use to keep me informed
Power Auras – this mod is handy little add on that allows you to fully customize a heads up display of sorts to let you know when a certain buff or debuff is active, in active, on cool down, ready for use, or anything else that you can think of. Personally have two things set up for this mod on my paladin, Holy shield, which is a gold glowing translucent shield in the bottom middle of my screen. And more importantly, Divine Plea, which is two blue crescents on either side of my character. If either of the buffs fall off the graphics are triggered and i have a visual cue that i have to refresh them.
Omni Cooldown Count – This is a simple mod that places a time value over the icons on your action bar that are on cooldown, so you know just how long you have until they are up again. nuff said…
Pitbull / Grid – This is a very customizable modification to your unit frames that allows you to color them, move them, alter their size, the information that the provide, etc. I believe this is almost as essential to a tank as omen, however you can very easily succeed with out them. One of the greatest benefits of having this mod is that you can move your player, target, and target of target bars so that you can see them at all times. Default position is way up in a corner where you would have look away from the action, this way you dont even have to glance away from what you are doing.
Bartender – This is also a highly customizable modification that removes the blizzard default action bar and replaces it with up to 10 bars that you can size and place anywhere on the screen you would like. In addition you have the option to have modifers, so if you hold down control, a new bar will appear, showing you a whole new set of 12 actions if you so choose to set it up that way.
Pally Power – This mod is also borderline essential. it tracks your blessings and with a click of the button buffs each class with their designated blessing.
In the end you want something that works well and provides all the information you need right at your fingertips at a moments notice. Below is a screenshot that I took in the middle of a yogg saron encounter about two months ago. I am of the mindset that you give credit where credit is due, and not claim that it is an adaptation or your own. My UI was created by Caith, is his and will always be, but I loved the organization, feel and simplicity. All I needed was a few tweaks and I made it my own, but I would never claim to have put a 1/10 the effort into it as he has.
Happy UI tweaking!