7 Apr 2010

UI Quest: Cast Bars and Cool Downs

In previous episodes of my UI quest, I’ve covered how to configure your own action bars and set up your own target frames. For this instalment I wanted to focus on two areas that are crucial to caster classes – casting bars and cooldown trackers. When used well, both of these will help to maximise your performance without needing any equipment improvements.

To start off with I’m going to cover how to replace the default cast bar. The cast bar is the small rectangle that appears on the screen whenever you cast as spell. When you use a spell like Arcane Blast it slowly fills up, with the spell being cast once the bar is full. For channelled spells like Arcane Missiles or Blizzard, the spell has a continual effect until the bar is empty. As a side note, the mana cost of a channelled spell is spent immediately, while the cost of a cast spell is only deducted when the spell goes off.

Although there are several cast bar replacements, the one I tend to use is Quartz. It’s a fairly lightweight addon that provides a range of functions that are useful to different classes. For mages, the main thing we’re interested in is how our spells are casting, what our target or focus is casting in case we want to counterspell, and what our pet is casting in case you’re frost specced. The configuration window can be found by typing in /quartz in the chatbox or by selecting it from the addons part of the interface menu.

There are four main cast bars: the Player bar, the Target bar, the Focus bar and the Pet bar. If they’re not already present, you can make them visible by unticking the Lock option on each bar’s configuration pane. You can then move them around the screen and position them where you’d like them. I’ve stacked mine, my target’s and my pet’s cast bars in the centre of the screen, while my focus target’s cast bar is above the focus frame on the far left. You can play around with the scaling and transparency of each bar so that they blend in with the surrounding frames.

I’ve also disabled the Buff bars from showing via the Buffs section of the menu on the left. I’ve already got buffs covered by the way Shadowed Unit Frames is configured, and I’ll also get alerts to key buffs or debuffs through raid warning addons like Deadly Boss Mods. Mage-specific addons like MageAlert also provide audio cues on when buffs are ready to use, but I’ll be covering these in more detail later in the series.

To get the most from Quarts it’s worth spending a little bit of time looking at how the new cast bar works. With Quartz, the latency between yourself and the server is already factored in. There’s also a sweet-spot just before the latency cushion that you can use to cast your next spell. By queueing up spells in this way, you can daisy-chain them without having to wait for the server latency between each cast. An even better method is to press the key down early, but then release it just before the cast bar hits that red cushion. Once you get used to it, it’ll increase your DPS because you’re working around whatever server latency you normally face.

The second part of this guide is about tracking cooldowns. In previous episodes I talked about using OmniCC to show the cooldown of spells on your action bars. It’s also possible to add to this by showing trinkets, procs and other effects that have an internal cooldown that’s not always visible. Again there are a number of addons that do this, but for lightweight performance I prefer Sexycooldown.

You can see a configured Sexycooldown bar configured between the two unitframes. It’s showing the internal cooldown of my cloak enchantment and a trinket I’m using, as well as how long before I can use another mana gem. It also helps to track long cooldown spells such as Mirror Image.

Configuring Sexycooldown is pretty simple. Type /sexycooldown to bring up the config window, with which you can move the bar around and adjust the size. You can also give it a skin and change the colour as I’ve done.

If you want to track separate cooldowns on separate bars, Sexycooldown does support this but needs to be configured to add it. Similar addons like ForteXorcist do all this as standard, but also use more resources. If all you need is a simple cooldown tracker, you’ll probably find that this will do the job.Mages will probably be fine with the default configuration, while Warlocks and Shadow Priests will probably want to break out a separate bar to track their debuffs on their current target.

The reason tracking cooldowns – even internal ones – is important is because it means that you can pop your trinkets and abilities at the same time. If you know the internal cooldown on your trinket is over soon, you can time it so that your trinket procs at roughly the same time as the rest of your abilities. This can result in an even higher surge in DPS when you need it.

The UI Quest Series (in progress):

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