Addons are not essential to being a good player, but there are many that are very helpful. Very few addons are great in an unconfigured state, so it will take some time to configure them in a way that allows you to get the most out of them.
Weak Auras is basically an extension of the “Spell Alerts” feature that was added in Cataclysm. It allows you to take any condition you can imagine and add a visual effect or spell effect to it to make it more obvious that it occurred.
Visual “auras” are commonly used with Weak Auras, but you can also make it send chat messages or trigger sounds. A potentially valuable feature is the ability to send the sounds through the game’s Master Volume. This will allow you to hear notifications for whatever Auras you create even if all other game sounds are turned off. If you don’t like using game sounds, I strongly recommend using this feature.
This is a simple timer bar addon. Simple in the sense that it does what it’s meant to do and nothing else. It will track the timer for any buff, debuff, spell cooldown or internal cooldown on you that you tell it to, as well as many target buffs and debuffs that might be important to you.
Other options: Weak Auras, TellMeWhen, OmniCC, and many others with similar functionality to these.
Skada and Recount track the combat log and make it look pretty for you. These addons can be very useful. What they are good for is seeing if gear changes, improvements, or changes to your ability usage are making a noticeable improvement in your performance. It’s also useful for seeing what another person of your class and spec might be doing better than you if you end up grouping with one, especially if they are at a similar gear level.
Use it as a tool to improve your performance or find useful information about a pull of a boss. If an important target died slowly or didn’t die in time, you can use Skada or Recount to quickly determine who was doing well and who wasn’t. Don’t use it to brag.
A useful feature of nameplate addons is the ability to show buffs and debuffs on the nameplate. TidyPlates can be configured to show whatever buffs and debuffs you wish, and can filter out the nameplates of unimportant targets. You can also change the color of the nameplate or have some other indicator of whether a target is attacking you or not, making it more obvious than the default ones do. There are many other features, but these ones specifically are very useful.
BigWigs Bossmods and Deadly Boss Mods are addons that offer a lot of timers, warnings, and other features related to boss encounters. They are very valuable – many see them as required – for performing at a high level in raids. I suggest using these but with an added warning – they come with a lot of pointless sounds and warnings that can mask the important ones. I strongly recommend turning the majority of warnings and timers off and turning on only what you absolutely need to have.
Clique, Vuhdo, Healbot
The most valuable feature of these addons is the ability to cast spells on targets by clicking on them. For me, if I right-click on a friendly player on my raid frame, I begin to cast Chain Heal on that target. This allows you to skip the step of targeting a player, and it allows you to free up keybind space. This will save some time targeting, and allow you to bind more abilities for easy access.
Clique provides this functionality for any frames you might use, and is compatible with many unit frame addons (such as Shadowed Unit Frames).
Vuhdo and Healbot are intended primarily as raid frame replacements for healers with a lot of customization, and have the click-casting feature built-in.
If you’re a class with a lot of friendly target utility like a Paladin has, or if you’re a healer, learning to use one of these addons is a huge help.
Useful Scripts and Macro Commands
A full list of Scripts and Macro commands can be found here. I’ll list a few basic and very useful ones.
/console CameraDistanceMaxFactor 4
This increases the maximum distance your camera can zoom out. A “comfortable” distance for myself and for many players is further out than the game initially allows, so using this command lets you see more of the action and play field.
/console SET Sound_ListenerAtCharacter “0”
This sets the location where you’re hearing sounds to the camera’s location. The default is your character’s location. If you’re zoomed out, this means a lot of the noise of combat is filtereted out, but important stuff isn’t.
/cast Unleash Elements
This very simple command starts your auto attacks on your target. It is very useful for melee classes, as it’s quite often you’ll have to switch targets and not immediately have the resources to use an ability. If you make a macro like this and replace your Unleash Elements button with that macro, it will cause your Unleash Elements button to always start auto attacks even if Unleash Elements is on cooldown. This will give you higher DPS in many situations.
Whenever you’re making changes or adjustments to game settings or addons, it’s a good idea to reload your UI by using this command when you’re finished. That saves all of your changes.
Reloaduing your UI is often also necessary to fix bugs such as replacing glyphs or placing raid markers.
Just be aware that – unless you’re using certain addons – it will wipe your chat log of anything said recently in any channels you’re in, whispers, party chat etc.