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Tanking Add-Ons

Blizzard’s UI is lacking in some key elements for every role in the game, and tanking is no exception. For the most part you can make do without addons, but for a few vital bits of functionality, here’s what I recommend every tank have:

Must-Have Tanking Addons

A threat meter – Blizzard’s default UI gives you your current threat on your target as a percentage – if you have aggro, it displays 100%, and if you don’t have aggro, it will display up to 99% depending on how close you are to drawing aggro. This is all well and good for non-tanks, for whom the question is merely, “how close am I to death by boss?” – but tanks require a little bit more information. Tanks need to know who is top on threat, who is next on threat, and how close the current 2nd-in-line is to pulling aggro. On a few fights, notably Patchwerk and Deathwhisper hardmode, it’s important that the two tanks be at the top of the list, meaning you need to keep track of three different players’ threat status – information which the default Blizzard UI cannot currently give you.

Omen Threat Meter

Thankfully there are threat mods that can. The most popular is Omen, which has a variety of configuration options including the number of bars to show, and audio alarms when something is amiss.

A HUD – HUD stands for Heads Up Display, a common interface for viewing health and resources in first person shooters. As a tank, you need to be mindful of your health at all times – or at least at the times when it’s in danger. Flicking your eyes back and forth between what’s actually going on and the top left-hand corner of the screen is time-consuming, prone to error, and interrupts the flow of play; but with a HUD, you can put your health and resource bars right in the middle of the action.


There are a few different HUD addons out there; personally I use IceHUD, which I have set up to show my health and resource bars, the enemy’s health bar, the enemy’s cast bar, and text summaries of their percent and total values. I also have them set up to fade out out of combat, and disappear entirely when full or empty (as appropriate to the resource).

A buff display mod – For the most part Blizzard’s buff UI is functional, if crowded. The problem is that a few buffs are very important to keep track of in combat, notably cooldowns; but in a 25-man raid, there are so many other buffs flying around that you may have a hard time keeping track of them. Misjudging the expiration of your Shield Wall because you lost track of the buff duration among all of the random raid buffs that don’t even benefit you is one of the more frustrating ways wipe your raid.

Satrina Buff Frames

Satrina Buff Frames is an extremely popular buff mod, with a number of options for displaying categories of buffs at customizable levels of intrusiveness – more or less transparent, visible or invisible in combat, etc. It’s great for hiding the mess of buffs that normally take up most of your upper screen, and for displaying front and center easy-to-miss procs and other effects. What I find SBF most useful for is displaying enemy buffs. Blizzard’s default UI displays these only as tiny icons below the target’s frame – just as out of the way as our default health bars, and smaller. Boss buffs are often the most deadly part of their abilities – think Vezax or Halion – and bringing them down into your normal frame of vision is one of the best things you can do for your survivability on these sorts of encounters.

Recommended Tanking Addons

A nameplate modifier – I touched briefly on the importance of nameplates in tanking in my quick and dirty guide to five-man tanking. Well, once you’ve gotten over the incredible jump in awareness you get from running with nameplates, you may notice that Blizzard’s default nameplates are not very convenient. They’re long and narrow, and obviously designed for DPS – the red auras around the nameplates of mobs you have tend to obscure the merely white-lettered nameplates of the mobs you don’t. Thankfully, there are addons that can change that.

TidyPlates - Grey Tank

I personally use TidyPlates, a nameplate mod with support for wild amounts of skinning (though I use the default tank theme, GreyTank). Using TidyPlates themes you can resize and recolor your nameplates to your own preference. Some themes, including Grey and ThreatPlates, can be used to resize the nameplates of escaping mobs in combat, making them significantly easier to see.

Auras – Despite its versatility, there are a few things that SBF can’t do, which is where auras come in. Auras are more than just buff display mods – in fact, using them as your sole buff display mod would be tedious to set up and require modification every time a new encounter was released. Instead of modifying, filtering or moving your buff frames, auras allow you to set visual effects to show up on your screen when certain conditions are true or false. One common use of auras is to monitor ability cooldowns and procs, so that you don’t need to keep flicking your eyes down to your action bars to see if Shockwave is back up yet – just set up an aura to show you the Shockwave icon when it’s available, and you’re set. Where auras shine, in my opinion, is in debuff monitoring.

Power Auras Classic

I personally use Power Auras Classic as my aura addon. Unlike SBF, which can only show you buffs and debuffs which are currently on your target, Power Auras can be configured to display an icon when the target is not affected by a given debuff or set of debuffs. This is invaluable for tanks because, as we’ve discussed, there are many tanking debuffs which often overwrite each other. When Vindication falls off your target because the retadin is helping out on the valk, you’re unlikely to remember to apply demo roar on your own; but with Power Auras configured to display a warning when your target has no AP debuff on, the moment Vindication falls off you know it. (Full disclosure: I am lazy and don’t actually have these set up to display other people’s debuffs correctly yet. I am not running sans debuffs in this frame, we’re using a carrion bird and Frost Fever. It’s OK.)

A rotation alert addon – I actually don’t use one of these, as I prefer to keep my rotation flexible (for example I rarely use Shockwave rotationally, so that I can have it in reserve if something hits the fan); but many people, both tank and DPS, find rotation alerts helpful. Basically what this class of addons does is throw the icon of whichever ability is next in your rotation up on the screen, so that you don’t have to keep track of procs or cooldowns. The Faceroller family of addons is a good example of what I mean.

TankMastery's Taunt Alert

An event alert – This isn’t really necessary with good groups, but for pugs or even when running with that one absent-minded ele shaman (you know the one, the one who had Thunderstorm glyphed until Saurfang came out and keeps forgetting it’s not for AoE anymore) it can be nice to know who just did what insane thing during the encounter. I personally use Tank Mastery, which includes an event alert with multi-tank support for trash: it displays an icon indicating whether or not a tank (as marked in the raid interface) is your current target’s target.

A boss mod – Boss mods are popular among people of all roles, and unless you’re told otherwise by the group, you’re probably expected to have one to raid. Nevertheless I list this as a merely recommended addon because, as useful as it is, any boss mod can be equaled through good raid awareness and knowledge of the fight. Deadly Boss Mods is the most popular boss mod on my server, and I would recommend it.

Deadly Boss Mods

There is a boss mod out there – I’m not sure what it’s called – that gives bad instructions in raid warnings. You want to be very careful about following instructions you see in /rw, because sometimes, they can wipe your raid. The bad instructions seem to have been a result of lazy coding, or lack of understanding, on the subject of taunt switch fights. The mod will order the tanks to taunt when debuffs reach a certain level, on fights for which this is not the proper way to taunt – for example, the mod yells at the raid to taunt Lady Deathwhisper when Touch of Insignificance reaches 3 stacks, whether or not the off tank has cleared his stacks yet. If they follow the advice of this mod, both tanks will be stuck at 5 stacks, unable to generate any direct threat, for much of the fight. The mod has similar problems on Toravon, Festergut and probably Sindragosa. Be warned.


Button's UI

OK, there are a few addons I use that I didn’t list here; some of my addons are redundant; and some of my addons are not set up for optimal performance. (I actually don’t have an enemy buff frame set up in SBF yet – shhh!) I just wanted to give the whole picture, so that you can see how these addons fit into a semi-cohesive whole. I’m also hoping that this article will nudge me out of complacency and get me to clean up my UI some. A cow can dream.

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