Tracking buffs and debuffs is a time-honored tradition amongst raiders and non-raiders alike. We've been watching for poisons, debuffs, debilitating magic, and disables since the beginning of WoW. Being able to quickly react to your own debuffs, whether you're the Living Bomb or you have a snobold on your back, is what separates the best players from the rest.
We will be exploring the traditional type of buff and debuff display this week on Addon Spotlight, shedding some light on some old favorites, addons that have passed on, and distant favorites making a resurgence. Buffs and debuffs have also held a crucial spot on my own interface for years, right above my own status bar. As a tank, debuff tracking has always been a priority.
Email begins the journey:
I've been reading your column for a while and it's been one of the major reasons why I've tinkered with my UI so much. I used to be a default-UI person but after I got my Razr Naga it just didn't make sense to use Blizzard's bars - but my UI is still definitely a work in progress. Tinkering with some elements of the UI has proven to me that I need another addon to manage the other elements. That's where I need your help!
The watchword I've been trying to center my UI around is "transparency." Blizzard made a beautiful world when they designed Azeroth, and I find myself disliking a lot of UIs that have some kind of background frame across the bottom. I like being able to see where I'm flying and what's below me! With that in mind, I've tried to design my UI to create as much open space as possible while still keeping the essential information easily accessible.
I use this UI on all my toons, and I have DPS, tank and heals. The only difference is the appearance of Healbot on my healer and Omen on my tank, neither of which have a permanent place in my UI but float to wherever is convenient for me at the time.
The main thing I've been looking for is a convenient, easy to set up buff/debuff frame that I can put front and center above my Bartender cluster. Another source of frequent annoyance is how SexyMap messes with my quest log, sometimes making quest items unclickable - if you have a solution to that it would be greatly appreciated. SexyMap also seems to make my durability frame disappear - also really annoying. There has to be a convenient addon for durability frame. It must exist somewhere.
Thanks for reading!
My first buff/debuff addons
For the longest time, I used the default Blizzard buff and debuff tracker because I either didn't know better or just didn't care enough. To be honest, I didn't really need to track my own buffs and debuffs as much as others, as I started my WoW career as a healer. Over time, when I swapped to a paladin and eventually to a tanking role, buffs and debuffs began to take the center stage.
My first buff/debuff addon was Elkano's in some form or another. I liked the depleting bar type of debuff tracking, considering the names for many of the debuffs were more important to me as a tank rather than memorizing the icons. Reading those names was a critical component of my decision-making process. Elkano's, however, didn't let the honeymoon last. For reasons unbeknownst to me, Elkano's Buff Bars went away for a while. Then, like a great shaman, Elkano's returned to us more splendid than ever.
During Elkano's absence, I danced around with other partners, straying from my solid Elkano's past. Was it a hard transition? You bet. But I did it, and life was good again. Raven and Satrinas both stood out as ample replacements for Elkano's, mimicking many of the features found in my tried and true.
When Elkano's returned, it returned with all of my settings intact. How impressive, I thought, that I would never really have to set up this addon again. It was set up once, sure, but it's been perpetually going from UI configuration to UI configuration, basically unchanged, since it was first configured. That's how important it is to have buffs and debuffs in the right place.
Personal preference is the deciding factor when choosing between bars or icons. For me, bars were always the way to go because I wanted to read the names of debuffs, as opposed to memorizing their little icons. I did not trust myself enough in a pinch to do so. However, when considering buffs, I much prefer icons because the list of buffs that happen to affect your character during any given encounter begins to get a bit, how do you say, ridiculous? And then you've got this massive tree of bars of buffs and debuffs, and it just looks like a huge mess. Ugh. You don't want this!
Scaling helps in the end, but it's a clunky solution. At the end of the day, what works for you is what you're going to stick with, because otherwise you're just creating complexity where it's not needed. Bar-based displays have this sort of built-in expiration -- when the bar goes away, the debuff is gone. The countdown clock of an icon is less visually informational, since looking at a bar's length gives me a relative understanding of the time left, whereas seeing an actual string of numbers may take longer to process in the heat of the moment. I have no idea, but I like both.
The addons themselves
Each of these addons is great, period. You can't go wrong with any of these recommendations, and at this point, it's all based on personal preference. It takes a talented, diverse community to create three distinct products for three distinct styles and still have enough overlap in features to keep it all consistent.
Elkano's is a standard buff and debuff package that eschews the default icon style for a bar timer style. My personal favorite, Elkano's, does have a tricky aspect to it in that the configuration is menu-driven and not for everyone. It doesn't bother me because I've been using it forever, but many people take some time to learn the ins and outs. That being said, it's a fantastic addon with plenty of scaling and sizing options, behavioral settings for buffs and debuffs, and lots of customization. You like bars? I like bars. You like Elkano's.
Download Elkano's BuffBars at [Curse].
While Satrina's has not been updated in quite some time, the addon still functions and is rocking worlds. However, when Mists of Pandaria comes around, we can't be so sure. A new buff interface is coming that may change many of the parameters that buff and debuff addons use to pull information from the game and display it for you. So while I can recommend Satrina's and any addon with lost development in fact, for Cataclysm, there is no guarantee that anything will work with Mists of Pandaria.
Download SatrinaBuffFrame at [Curse].
Raven was the illicit love affair, the dabbling behind the curtain at what could have been and what, ultimately, never was. I loved Raven from the moment I installed it, and it performed admirably. Casting the then-defunct Elkano's aside, I swore an oath to a new buff/debuff love. And things were great until Elkano's mysteriously reupped itself and I went back. No reason. Just habit.
Icons, bars, timers, custom timers, condition checking, and tons more. This is what Raven offers you right out of the box. Dig into the configuration and you'll find a ridiculous playground allowing you plenty of options to create some awesome displays. I love the hybrid icon/bar template as well -- it's just got it all. You cannot go wrong with Raven.
Download Raven at [Curse].
There you have it -- my personal little history with the buff and debuff frame. It's been quite the journey for the stalwart buff tracker, but time has been kind to our love and our passion. Buffs are getting overhauled to a new, cleaner system. Debuffs will always be there, ready to be cleansed, ready to explode a player up into the sky, causing a wipe. We've been tracking these damn things for a long time -- we owe it to ourselves to look good while doing it.
And, yes, this is my last week here at Addon Spotlight and WoW Insider on the whole. I wanted to give a quick thank-you to everyone in the World of Warcraft addon community who opened themselves up to my questions and inqueiries. WoW would not be the game it is today without the tireless work of dedicated addon developers who took the clay that Blizzard gave them and fixed fundamental problems in massively multiplayer games, not just this one particular world. That's a feat you all should be proud of. Thank you for your support and for your support of this column, which I hope you will give in the same intensity for the next columnist as you did for me.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.