My previous post on being a new-player in the age of level-90 boosts skipped over what some may consider an essential piece of knowledge – and one that may, in fact, ideally predate doing any of the things in that post. So considering doing it right now. I am talking, of course, about addons. When blizzard first launched WoW ten years ago – they made a decision that remains allmost unique in the online gaming world ot this day – and yet has been one of their most successful and essential ideas: they released an API which allowed independent programmers to write addons for the WoW User Interface to expand it's capabilities in various ways user's find usefull. This has had a two-fold impact – in many cases addons which provided very useful and successful ideas would later have their functionality added to the main WoW Interface but – more commonly blizzard would actually deliberately refrain from adding this functionality on the basis that the addons already did such a great job at it and this allowed blizzard's developers to rather focus on new content.
Either way – this has made addons an integral part of the WoW experience and, particularly at max-level, one that is essential to being good at the game. So for the new player – a brief overview of them is probably an invaluable part of a guide like this. The very first thing you're going to want is an addon manager. You could manually install and update addons but frankly this rapidly becomes a massive chore. The top-of-the-pile for addon managers is the curse client and if you're on windows or mac you should get that now (unfortunately it still doesn't run well in wine so Linux users who want to use it will need to run a windows VM or partition). Curse's client gets most of it's power from having exclusive access to curse's extensive addon database (many addons are published nowhere else unfortunately) but for those who cannot or don't want to use it there are some alternatives. Wowmatrix is a decent one which supports Linux as well. Another option is the original wowinterface manager – now very dated but still functional though it only works with wowinterface's collection and has a terribly cumbersome approach to installing. The third significant one is the child of the wowinterface manager which is called minion. Minion is a java project currently in beta but developement has been atrociously slow and personally I've never been able to get it to run (I should perhaps try it with the official oracle java sometime, that may work) – that said it seems to have taken some leaps recently (adding support for elder scrolls online for one thing) so this may be the future. Whichever one you choose, you'll have to tell it where your wow game is installed and you're good to go.
Now for the big question – out of the millions of addons out there- which ones do you need ? Well a lot of that is up to you – google will help you rapidly determine if there is an addon for any particular aspect of the game you would like to deal with -and there is an excellent guide series on wow-insider that highlights particularly good addons (and their addon-101 series greatly expands on the basic information I gave here), that said – for a start I will tell you about the addons I consider absolutely essential and won't even try to play without – I would suggest installing some of these right away.
Tomtom: This is a simple addon in many ways – yet it has become one of the most enduring addons in WoW because it's so incredibly useful – what it does it set up a floating arrow on your screen which you can have pointing you to any place on the map. You can configure it to automatically point itself to quest objectives, when you die it can automatically point you back to your corpse and you can set up custom markers very easily by doing a control-right-click anywhere on the map. You can also manually specify a location using coordinates (which you will frequently find on wow-sites when you look something up) by doing something like /way xx yy. Great for finding that hidden treasure. Wowhead (aside: this is the most valuable site for any wow player – you want to know how to do something or where to find a particular piece of gear- they have the data and the comments are filled with useful information) comments are almost always written with coordinates and this is the easiest way to find them.
Auctionlite: While there are many auction house related tools out there, and some like auctioneer are far more feature rich – I find most of them clunky and if anything over-featured. Auctionlite has the features that I find most valuable (like comparing prices, finding the cheapest price on things and selling your own stuff at the best current market price) without much overhead and with a simple enough user interface.
Recount/Skada: if you're going to go raiding you will need one of these addons (recount is the more popular one). What they do is calculate statistics on combat, how much damage was done by who, who did how much healing and how much threat did who generate. All information that is critical to reaching your potential and also to evaluating when a group should change it's tactics. For a start when you're testing out new spell rotations or reforges you want ot head over to the training dummies with this on and start hitting and seeing what numbers you achieve.
Tidy-plates/Threatplates: while there are many threat-measurement addons out there (and they are valuable to everybody – not just tanks – since the rest of you do occasionally need to make sure you don't pull threat off the tank) this is my favorite variety. It shows threat as a function of the nameplate over the monsters head, changing it's colour as threat increases and flashing a big warning if you get aggro. It also shows the mob's casts, buffs and debuffs under it's nameplate – which is very useful for keeping an eye on it.
Bigwhigs/DBM: DBM (deadly boss mods) is one of the most well-known and essential raiding addons, it's essential purpose is simple though – it keeps a timer of various boss abilities and will warn you when they are about to happen and what you're supposed to do about them. Many guilds insist on it for raiding and with good reason. Bigwhigs is the new kid on the blog in the same family – with many newer features and in some ways more advanced. Which one you choose is really up to you and you can even run both (I do) and combine their functionality, but you need to install at least one. They are invaluable for both pve and pvp.
ATSW: AdvancedTradeSkillWindow is an incredibly useful little addon that gives you a much better view of your profession window. It allows you to qeue up varying amounts of crafts to perform and will then automate it. When you ask it to make something it will calculate the materials you need and can auto-buy it at vendors and list it at the auction house for easy purchase. If you can make some yourself it will automatically set up the qeue to make the things you can make first – it's brilliant in so many ways and makes the classic profession window look like a terrible joke by comparison. Personally – I can't live without it.
AddonManager: this one is perhaps the most awesomest addon that has ever existed – and addon for turning addons on and off. Unlike the blizzard UI it doesn't require you to log out and back in if you want to switch and addon on or off, you can simply open it up from the menu, tick the addon selection you need and reload the UI – it saves enormous time and is ideal for handling addons you don't want *all* the time (i.e. to turn off your healing frames when you're in tank spec for example).
Healbot/Healium: If you're going to be a healer – one of these is essential – these provide your with easy to view frames of your team-mates showing who needs dispelling and allowing easy one-click access to your healing spells by simply clicking on their block in the frame – which is much faster than targetting the player and then casting the heal. The two function essentially the same -which one you prefer is really up to you.
Bagsync: I can't tell you how much I have come to love this addon – it's a tiny out-of-the-way addon but once you have more than a few alts with bank tabs it becomes so valuable. When you can't remember which alt has something you're looking for, or if it's in their bank or personal bags – this simple little searchable item will help you locate it. It's great for finding out who currently holds that heirloom you desperately want to put on your new alt, or the mats you need for that recipe.
Outfitter: this addon is either the most annoying or most valuable addon you'll ever have depending on where you are. I always turn it off on characters while leveling but once at max-level you'll want it on. Unlike the default blizzard UI it has automatic responses which allow you to set up gear sets that get automatically equiped depending on what you're doing. A simple selection to get your fishing rod and your fishing had equiped together ? An automatic tool to equip your deepdive helmet when you're swimming ? A tool that makes sure you're wearing your healing gear when you switch to your healing spec and your PVP gear when you enter a battleground or arena ? That's what outfitter provides.
At this point – you should have the essential can't-live-without addons, including the ones you would seriously annoy people if you try raiding without. What comes next and what you add or remove from your addon selection is up to you. Have fun discovering pandaria at maxlevel and, soon, the new world of draenor past.