My first post about user interface elements was back in October? Seriously? Sheesh. Since then I've talked about unit frames, how your spells spread in space, macros, two proc tracking addons, keybinds, and shared some of my Weak Aura strings.
The final topic is to use a boss mod effectively as a DPS, even when you're not the raid leader calling everything. The two popular boss mods, Deadly Boss Mods (DBM) and Big Wigs (BW), both work pretty fantastically out of the box, but using a boss mod properly can really enhance your spellplay during an encounter.
What are boss mods for?
Boss mods alert you to what encounter mechanics are happening when, including all boss abilities, add spawns, or selected player mechanics like debuffs that need to be cleansed or healed through. Typically boss mods will display this information through timer bars that count down to an ability or with special warnings in a selected area of the screen (usually center).
Boss mods can also include verbal warnings and countdowns; in fact, a fork of DBM called Voice Encounter Mods (VEM) is almost entirely verbal, and can be run without DBM if you prefer sound to visual timers. VEM includes some visual aids like a HudMap and direction arrow for certain mechanics. For example, VEM will display a pie graph for Malkorok's smashes so you can tell where not to stand when the big three-at-once purple smash goes off.
Edit: Guardian druid theorycrafter Arielle pointed out that the pie chart for Malkorok on was rather buggy on 10man. My 25man guild played with it for a week and didn't have much issue with the pie chart's accuracy. Your mileage may vary.
The point of your UI is to acquire all the information you need to be a complete badass DPS and filter it down to the essentials in combat so you're not overwhelmed by being so "power-fel." Boss mod timers can easily get to be too much, so it's a good idea to portion off parts of your screen for specific alerts.
For what it's worth, I play with Big Wigs, so that's the setup I'll be showing off today. I played for nearly two expansions under Deadly Boss Mods, with a brief fling with the old Deus Vox (DXE) in ICC. I've returned to Big Wigs because I like the customization with the bar colors for specific types of warnings over DBM's tried-and-true single gradient. If you like DBM more, that's fine; it works well.
In the top center above my character's head go all the specialized warnings and countdowns. If I need to know something now, I want it in my face where I can't miss it. Of course, some stack-up strategies with blazing amounts of ability graphics going on may clutter the background, but most specialized warnings will come in a readable and outlined font. Just above the specialized warnings, I have a box for other messages, but these won't be emphasized.
To the far side, under my minimap, I have the regular bars that are far away from happening. When the bar gets down to 10 seconds, the bar grows and moves to the lower center of my screen, just under all my Weak Auras and cast bar, which is right where my eyes will often be. This helps me line up my next few casts without being too surprised by a need to deviate due to strategy or mechanic.
The range map that shows up when a spread out mechanic is involved sits just above where my tooltips flash. The bright green or red circle is enough to grab my attention when needed, so I can let it sit in my peripheral vision instead of being front-and-center.
By default, Big Wigs' bars are click-through, which means you can place them over a frame (not advised!) and clicking there will click the frame, instead of the bar. I have a couple of click-binds within Big Wigs dealing with the clickability of the bars. Clicking with just my mouse does nothing, so I can effectively have click-through bars anyway, but holding down shift will add a few functions to my boss mod timers like removing a bar (shift + right click) or reporting a bar to chat (shift + middle click/scroll wheel click). You might never need a reason to click a boss mod bar outside of raid assisting, but the functionality is there and sometimes useful.
What timers you want depends on the boss fight. Both DBM and Big Wigs will determine what role you are playing by your spec and will often eliminate many of the unnecessary bars for a warlock. You don't need to know what stack the tank debuff is at because you're neither tanking nor healing the tank.
But knowing what boss mod timers are useful per fight is like a really light version of a fight strat. You'll find that the encounters are now designed that you almost don't need timers if you are absolutely diligent about playing through the fight.
Immerseus -- The only timer you might want to watch is Swirl, so you can be ready to look up for the Swirl. You might like a special warning for when the heroic Swirling Corruption starts to stack if you zone out in your spells, but Immerseus is very basic.
Fallen Protectors -- With all the boss abilities, you might think this trio would be a boss timer delight, but all the important alerts for ranged DPS -- e.g., the slowing Keg throw or the Inferno Strike -- have pretty good graphic effects already. I keep an alert on if I'm standing in Defiled Ground or Noxious Poison by accident, which usually happens as we all exit Sun's shadow bubble phase.
Norushen -- Blind Hatred is the beam of death, but we fortunately don't need to play the running game as warlocks. Set your Demonic Circle down where the raid stands and wait for the beam to completely pass over before teleporting. Remember to re-drop your circle if you go down to cleanse your corruption; it'll disappear in the interim.
Sha of Pride -- This is a proper boss mod timer fight. Look for Banishment (the little adds come out just prior) and Swelling Pride (the big raid-wide hit with special mechanics depending on pride) as the back-beats of this encounter. The Imprison timer is helpful so you can get back in range of your prison group via a Demonic Circle: Teleport.
Galakras -- The add combinations really serve as the timers for this fight. Remember to drop your Circle before Thranok does his suck-in-and-smash ability. If you're going in a tower group, just be aware of what direction the NPC is facing when shooting.
Iron Juggernaut -- Phase 1 and Phase 2. That's it, really. In both modes, phase 1 is a solid burn phase for warlocks. In normal, phase 2 is still a burn with some knockback interruptions, but in heroic, you might be piled up in the back twiddling your thumbs while you hope you don't die to Shock Pulse or a fire beam. FYI: The tar-throwing just before the first Shock Pulse is enough time to unload a full complement of Chaos Bolts.
Dark Shaman -- On normal, the two are tanked together and we can safely dual-target from afar while dodging the obvious ground graphics. On heroic, the Toxic Mists timer (the big purple swirly) is handy for knowing when you're about to move, and Foul Geyser is useful so you know when to switch to an add to replenish some resources (Shadowburn or Drain Soul). Your raid will deal with Iron Tombs together in the beginning of the heroic fight.
General Nazgrim -- Your boss mod will count down to the switching of Nazgrim's stances. Affliction warlocks can cheat a little by continuing to apply their DoTs during defensive as the DoT application itself does no damage. Otherwise, it's just a delicious multitarget fight.
Spoils of Pandaria -- Mogu-side, be aware when the big golem comes out and watch for Matter Scarmble's three red beams to stand in. Mantid-side -- watch out for the bomb's Extra Action Button to appear on you. What's in the crates will change up your timers, but alerts can help you here.
Thok -- I hope you have an enemy cast bar on so you can see when Deafening Screech is going off so you can counter with Unending Resolve. You'll see an alert in the center of your screen for when Blood Frenzy starts the running around phase, and you'll see the alarming red line from Thok to you when he's chasing you.
Siegecrafter -- Our hunters do the conveyor belt, so I know really nothing about that. I like to know when the Automated Shredder comes out so I can pad some extra damage, but the only timer that matters on this fight is when the room blows you and all the sawblades back (Magnetic Crush).
Paragons of the Klaaxi -- Korven's Encase in Amber and Hisek's Aim are about the only things that need immediate switching. This fight is played mostly on my boss unit frames with little interaction to do.
Garrosh -- Know when Desecration is coming out and know where you're going after Desecration (which can depend on your raid's strategy). Know when the mind controls go out (Touch of Y'Shaarj). Garrosh is a dance with your raid in the end.
Blood Pact is a weekly column detailing DOTs, demons and all the dastardly deeds done by warlocks. We'll coach you in the fine art of staying alive, help pick the best target for Dark Intent, and steer you through tier 13 set bonuses.