When I first started raiding a few years ago, I was an obnoxiously overconfident priest determined to prove to the world that I was the best discipline priest who ever lived. Fast forward two years, and I'm still trying to get comfortable with the reality check that resulted from meeting amazing priests like Kinaesthesia or Kras. I realized I wasn't competitive enough, dedicated enough, and that my growing ability to self-critique every tiny aspect of my play was holding back me back more than it was pushing me forward. How I wish I could be that overconfident idiot again.
On the bright side, the whole thing has left me quite good at helping other priests identify what they need to do to get to the next stage of their development as players (without becoming overly paranoid from self-awareness). So when I recently met someone who was up against a massive wall in his development, I decided I ought to tap into that ability in a more formal way by writing an article about it.
Bob (we're going to call him Bob) wrote me and described various problems he was having as a healer, explaining that raid damage was unmanageable and that he couldn't keep up. I thought for a while he might have been going OOM, but as we talked more and more, I realized certain things he said just didn't making sense. Eventually, I asked him for a picture of his UI and was immediately horrified by what he sent me.
Thus today, we're going to talk about addons and setting up your first healing priest UI.
Escaping the default
Now, before I get started, I need to quickly note that what Bob sent me was not the default UI; it was something much, much worse. (I dare not describe it for fear that one of you might find parts of it and install it.) Today's discussion is going to be about getting away from the default UI, but I'm going to try and guide you guys in a direction instead of the wrong one that Bob took. I understand that there are some players out there who don't use addons because they can't (computer limitations) or won't (purist pride.) If that's you, I hope you'll hear me out anyway and try to find a compromise that works for you.
Escaping the default UI is one of the most important steps a healer can take toward becoming a stronger player. Though the default UI works, it's limited by the fact that it's designed for everyone. Try to think of your UI as a video game controller. If you've ever played a fighting game one a home console and then played it at an arcade, you'll probably find that the arcade offers much better controls to play the game. That's because the arcade cabinet is designed for that one game, while the controller on your home console is designed to work with several different games. See where I'm going?
All right, let's talk about specifics and how a healing priest in particular can use each one.
The absolutely most essential part of a healer UI is your party and raid frames (aka those little health bars you click on to change between friendly targets in your party). You really can't heal well without one, and the built-in one (yes, the new one just released in Cataclysm) can't compare to a third-party version.
How information is arranged is what really sets each raid frame apart, and the default UI doesn't allow you to customize that information enough to make it comparable to a third-party frame. If you look at the picture to the right, you can see just how much information can potentially be crammed into a 1/3-inch box. This particular addon is Grid plus GridManabars.
You can see that what I've chosen as essential information is specific to my discipline spec. Making sure Inspiration is up on the tanks is one of my jobs, so I've used a border to indicate that. I don't have any debuffs on in this picture, but should I have one, the type of debuff I have (curse, poison, etc.) would be indicated by a colored box in the top right corner, and the icon of the debuff would display where Pain Suppression currently is.
Obviously, it does take some practice to get used to reading all this information in combat, but with practice, you'll be able to have a much better understanding of the status of your party or raid at every second.
Suggested addons: Grid, Healbot, VuhDo.
Though a bar addon isn't essential, it makes life a lot easier in a couple ways. First, it allows you to set your keybindings faster and easier than the default UI allows. This is important because yes, you really do need to use keybindings over clicking to cast your spells as a healer. Your job is to save lives, and if you use your cursor to select a target and the spell you want to cast, you are going to be late applying heals and defensive abilities like Guardian Spirit or Pain Suppression.
The second reason to use a bar addon is that it allows you to condense your abilities into a very small space, reducing visual clutter in general and also allowing you to see all your available abilities at once. (Some players may eventually opt to hide their bars and use a spell alert addon to notify them of when an ability is available for use, but if you're still a UI novice, I think this is the easiest first step.) This is particularly useful for healing priests, since we have two sets of healing spells we could use in combat instead of one. Our bars will always be more full than those of other healers.
One thing to remember with addons in general is to leave as much space on the screen as possible for your character and the immediate surroundings. Blizzard's "scale UI" feature can be a big help here, reducing the size of all your UI features so you can get the information you need but can still see fire on the ground.
Suggested addons: Bartender.
Next to a raid frame, an alert addon is the next best addition healers can make to our UIs, because we have so many abilities that we need to keep track of to do our jobs. Here are some examples of things a healer might need to keep track of.
- Defensive cooldowns Guardian Spirit, Power Word: Barrier
- Buffs Power Infusion, Fear Ward, Inner Focus
- Mana-regenerating abilities Hymn of Hope, Shadowfiend
- Short-duration healing spells Prayer of Mending, Circle of Healing, Desperate Prayer
- On-use trinkets Core of Ripeness, Jar of Ancient Remedies
Suggeted addons: Power Auras, forteXorcist, EventAlert.
Extra addons for priests
There aren't many priest-specific addons these days, but I figured I'd list a few that some players might find handy.
Ingela's Rapture Every second that a holy priest is in combat, he passively regenerates an additional amount of mana through Holy Concentration; a disc priest, on the other hand, gains some of her additional mana through Rapture, which must be consciously acquired through Power Word: Shield. Ingela's Rapture is an addon that simplifies the process by tracking when Rapture procs.
DoTimer Though this addon is historically popular with shadow priests, a healing priest can use it to keep track of things like Weakened Soul and Renew on his current target. A discipline priest would want to track the former on his current target so he'll know when he can next cast Power Word: Shield (particularly if he's specced into Strength of Soul.) A holy priest would want to keep track of Renew on her if she is in Serenity stance of Chakra stance and needs to know when to refresh Renew on a tank or off tank.
Substance over style
I want to stress again that building a custom UI is about making a UI that will help you raid or do whatever it is you need to do. It's not about making something stylish or installing every useful addon you can think of. It's about identifying the information you need to do your job, and then building your UI around those needs. That's why this list is short; you really don't need much more than this.
If you have any questions about using or setting up these addons, need help with your Power Auras, want to make a suggestion, or just want to yell at me for writing such a basic article, get to the comments.
Spiritual Guidance has the inside line on pre-raid gear, valor point and raid gear, and healing strategies for bosses such as Atramedes and Chimaeron. Newcomer to the priest class? Look into Discipline Priest 101 and Holy Priest 101.