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Addon Spotlight Alternatives: Cooldown bar timers

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Each week, WoW Insider's Mathew McCurley brings you a fresh look at reader-submitted UIs as well as Addon Spotlight, which focuses on the backbone of the WoW gameplay experience: the user interface. Everything from bags to bars, buttons to DPS meters and beyond -- your addons folder will never be the same.

The Addon Spotlight Alternatives series continues with a look at cooldowns, timers, bars, and anything falling into the category of timing. Timing is a crucial factor in many of World of Warcraft's angles. You've got DPS rotations that can be made or broken based on the time between skill use. You've got tanks making split-second decisions on ability usage and timing -- what if you're only a few seconds away from a Shield Wall, but heroic Nefarian is about to use his thunder electro-whatever? Yeah, you have better been timing those cooldowns better, buddy.

Cooldown and skill timing management are some of the game systems baked into the game to separate the better from the best, the true test for the most hardcore WoW players out there. People are still tackling Dragon Soul heroic content and succeeding because of good timing -- ask anyone about the gruesome slog that the Madness of Deathwing fight is on heroic. I did. I asked Rossi. He growled at me.

We've established that timing is important, right? Good. Addons can greatly help you with the timing and cooldown tracking of your abilities because the game does a pretty poor job of it. That's not Blizzard's fault, either -- tracking your cooldowns in such an elaborate and specific way is not exactly what the game is designed to showcase to every player. This is all information we are willingly taking on in excess from what Blizzard is providing.

Emails prompt the topic, as usual:
Mat,

I truly do enjoy your blog (and most of the others that at produced at WoW Insider). I sincerely appreciate the efforts that you and the other writers go through to share your passion of WoW with the rest of us. Now all that ego stroking aside...

I'd love to see your take (and perhaps a post) about bar timers. (FortEx, NeedToKnow, Event Horizon, etc...). I've been playing for a while, and am finally coming to the point where I feel I need one (and think I'm running 2 or 3 too many) but am just having some troubles trying to find 'The One' that I can really train my eye to see and understand as a Rogue (with a million alts) that is trying to move his guild into DS regular as we're all doing DS Raid Finder separately. I think I want one to max my DPS, but am actually a moderate casual raider, so don't feel the overwhelming need to top the DPS charts.

I'm fortunate to have a very strong gaming system with a large monitor, and a rock solid travel laptop (MacBook Pro) that runs a ton of addons through various international networks (I travel a lot, so connections are usually the short pole in the tent for me).

Much obliged for your input, and please keep up the great work!

Lathomere
Elder Th'alas
Thanks for the email, Lathomere. Cooldown trackers and timers are not the most CPU/memory-intensive addons out there, which is great news, even if you've got the biggest, baddest system on the block. However, before we get into all of those addons mentioned by Lathomere, let's take a walk through the annals of history.

Beginnings: Cooldowns, timers and other stuff

OmniCC was the first cooldown addon that grabbed my attention, because I was woefully underwhelmed with the Blizzard cooldown interface. The only indicator that your abilities were coming off cooldown was the creeping ticks of the clockwise color reveal -- you had to wait until the ability glowed and settled. The clockwise ticks felt imprecise, and especially because my eyes were awful when WoW first came out, it was just plain hard to see. OmniCC gave you a numerical readout of the time placed over the ticking ability, a clear understanding of the measure of time.

Soon, I began to tank in the later days of The Burning Crusade and later in Wrath of the Lich King. With my new role, I required a new suite of addons to better manage my cooldowns and abilities and track certain buffs and debuffs. SexyCooldown was my real love at the time, easily alerting me to potion cooldowns and heavy damage mitigators. It was a good time to be a tank, all things considered, and the right amount of cooldown knowledge was plenty for the later days
of Northrend and into Cataclysm.

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Class-specific or not?

There are two types of timer addons: class-specific and non-class-specific. Class-specific timer addons like MageNuggets are used primarily by the class that they are intended for. If you have a mage and are not using something like Mage Nuggets, you are missing out on a lot of information that might be useful to you. It can't hurt to try, right?

Non-class-specific timers like NeedToKnow and ForteXorcist (nowadays, at least) are used by any class to track their own internal cooldowns, procs, abilities, big defensive cooldowns, and more. Some addons also feature extra features that assist in spellcasting rotations with overlay casting bars, temporary enchants and abilities based on encounter. They can even track multiple buffs and debuffs with a single bar.

If you read any of the class-specific columns on WoW Insider, you already have a pretty good idea of what's out there for your class in terms of addons tailor-made for you. Back in the day (and I can totally say that now), I wrote a series of articles on a few addons that were cool and class-specific. They started here, all the way two years ago. I'm still recommending ForteXorcist, apparently.

My recommendations and links here are for the more general addons, considering that many of the classes that have a bunch of specific addons are classes that I don't play. Mages and warlocks? Feh. I need to be in my enemy's face, preferably with some sort of weapon. That doesn't mean those aren't lovely addons with grand purposes, of course.

The trifecta

With SexyCooldown going the way of the SexyDodo, there are three major players in the cooldown timer bar tracker universe -- ForteXorcist, NeedToKnow, and EventHorizon. All of these addons are good but serve different purposes and go about the whole bar timer thing in different ways.

ForteXorcist is the renaissance addon, capable of doing most things very well. For warlocks, it's still the best class-specific addon you can install, says my buddy Steve the warlock. Steve is also a guy who is very set in his ways when it comes to playing his warlock, so take that with whatever amount of grains of salt you care to. Customization with Forte is pretty simple once you get over how different the window usually looks, but other than that, it's super solid. It looks pretty damn nice, too. Aesthetics matter when most addons do the same thing, don't you know?

NeedToKnow is my choice for the beginner cooldown/timer bar user, mostly because it seems to work the best out of the box. There is still customization that you want to do, of course, considering this category of addon is fairly more advanced than most, but the hassle level is significantly lower, in my experience. NeedToKnow is so incredibly competent and works well that saying it's the beginner's addon is like saying Honda makes beginner cars; just because everyone has a Civic doesn't make it a bad car.

EventHorizon works differently than the others, relying on a time line of abilities to gauge your rotation and let you know what events will be happening in the future to better aim your button presses. You see what is happening around you in relation to your other abilities rather than a static time line. It's weird to grasp, I know, but for casters like shadow priests, knowing these types of spell/time relations can help you max out DPS. For the advanced user, see if EventHorizon is something you'd like to sink your obsessed teeth into.

Download ForteXorcist at [Curse].
Download NeedToKnow at [Curse].
Download EventHorizon Continued at [WoWInterface].

As for the question (I didn't forget), I think Lathomere needs to buckle down with whichever addon he thinks is the easiest to configure and looks the prettiest. Hunker down and make it work for you, if you want to have this type of ability and timer tracking. Personally, as a rogue, I'd recommend a class-specific utility called RoguePowerBars, a great resource for all rogues. Check it out, let me know, and we can sing your roguey praises.

Next week, let's look at traditional buffs and debuffs. Hit me with your favorites. Yes, Satrina's will be there. Yes, Raven will be there.

Addons are what we do on Addon Spotlight. If you're new to mods, Addons 101 will walk you through the basics; see what other players are doing at Reader UI of the Week. If there's a mod you think Addon Spotlight should take a look at, email mat@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Add-Ons, AddOn Spotlight

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