The big pre-patch event for World of Warcraft’s next expansion, Shadowlands, goes live today. If you’re coming off the game’s “free weekend for all lapsed players,” or you’re an old-school player with a new case of expansion excitement, this is the best time to get your character in shape for all the new content. You’ll also want to spend a little time figuring out all the third-party addons you’ll need to simplify your return to Azeroth.
While it’s entirely possible to take a straight shot of World of Warcraft, there’s nothing wrong with using a chaser — or several — to ease your way back and give you a helping hand for your upcoming adventures. WoW addons can help you manage your sprawling inventory, show you where to go if you’re feeling a little lost on quests, and even tell you where to not stand so you don’t get smoked by a boss.
There are so many addons out there, it can be hard to know how to mix-and-match your way to greatness. To help, I’ve rounded up what I think is a pretty thorough list of addons that should get you back into the game without them feeling as complicated as the raids.
Step one: Install a great addon manager
You’ll want to take a moment to grab an addon manager to help you find, install, and update addons. You can certainly install addons manually, but it’s a thousand times easier to use an app. A great app also helps ensure your addons stay updated with the latest features and fixes, especially important when something in the to-be-launched expansion (or any upcoming Blizzard update) breaks your favourite third-party helpers.
There are plenty of amazing guides and databases you can use to find the best addon manager for you. If you want a quick answer, I wholeheartedly recommend Ajour. It’s an open-source app that downloads as a single executable — nothing to install, and no bullshit to wade through (save for your browser suggesting it might be a malicious file, which I’ve noticed on Edge Chromium).
To get started, park Ajour in any folder you want and run it — doesn’t matter where. Let the app know the location to your World of Warcraft addons folder (something like [wherever you installed WoW]World of Warcraft_retail_Interface, if you’re playing both WoW and WoW Classic). Then, go shopping for addons by clicking on the handy Catalogue link in the upper-left corner:
Which addons should you install for an easy introduction back into World of Warcraft? Let’s begin.
Whether you’re starting World of Warcraft fresh or you’re revisiting a character you haven’t touched in months (or years), one of the best things you can to do keep your sanity — insert your best N’Zoth /funny here — is to have an addon manage your character’s inventory. I love AdiBags more than any other bag addon, including Bagnon, because of one key feature: It automatically sorts your stuff into different categories, which makes it so much easier for you to see what you have (and what you can get rid of) at a glance.
Little will annoy you more in WoW than manually selling junk items in your inventory whenever you visit a merchant. That, and clicking the “repair items” button over and over to fix all the gear that got dinged up when you accidentally ran into a high-level world boss. Solve this with the AutoVendor addon, which automatically sells your crap and fixes you up whenever you talk to a merchant.
Even with WoW’s recent stat squish — which is why you’re going to be fighting up to a maximum level of 60, not 120+, in the new Shadowlands expansion — I still find all the different variables that play into your character’s overall power a wee bit confusing. For example, when some shiny new sword drops, should you prioritise Haste over your current sword’s Mastery stat? What about Versatility? Critical Strike?
Take the brainpower out of upgrades using an addon like Pawn, which tells you whether something in your inventory makes you stronger than a piece of gear you’ve equipped. And if you’re looking at a quest’s reward options and see no great upgrade, you’ll at least know which item sells for more sweet, sweet gold.
Nothing against World of Warcraft’s default user interface, but I like being able to completely control where its various windows live. I also like hiding and revealing UI elements based on what I’m up to, whether that’s exploring around with no purpose or jumping into combat. Short of a full-on reskinning, which you can do using plenty of other addons, I think Bartender4 provides a great way to get extra customisation without relearning a brand-new custom UI.
Deadly Boss Mods
You will, at some point in your adventuring, want to tackle trickier bosses — an instance, perhaps, or even a raid. They’re super fun so long as you don’t stand in the glowing stuff. (Consider this rule reversed if you happen to be in one of those dungeons where standing in the glowing stuff is actually highly encouraged or the only way to beat said boss.)
Unless you want to really enjoy a “purist” experience, Deadly Boss Mods does a great job of telling you key details of any larger boss fight, including what fun powers-that-can-hurt-you might be coming next, and when powers-that-can-hurt-you have been used by said boss. You’ll typically get a big air horn warning and a quick tip about what you should or should not do in these moments. These callouts won’t make you a master raider out of the gate, but they’ll definitely help you learn trickier fights faster than you’d expect. Also, they’ll help you die less, so long as you pay attention to the can’t-miss warnings.
(Yes, I know about WeakAuras, too; I haven’t yet ventured down that road.)
Blizzard’s default window for displaying your active quests is a bit bulky, to put it nicely. I much prefer the svelte look of Kaliel’s Tracker, which also comes with a bunch of useful automations and filters so you can hyper-focus on quests, say, in your current zone. If nothing else, though, you can limit the height of your quest window. It’s much nicer to scroll to see what you have to rather than staring at a gigantic sidebar on your screen.
BtWQuests (and its many “quest packs”)
If you’re ever curious just what the hell you’re doing in a particular area — whether you’re on the right questline for whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish or you need a quick refresher how what you’re doing fits into a larger picture — BtWQuests is the answer. This addon shows you every single questline WoW offers, giving you a little tree you can follow to review what you’ve done, what you have coming up next, and how the various questlines relate to form a larger narrative. Honestly, I just use it to see how much I have left to do in zones that are a bit more of a slog than others.
Where is everything in World of Warcraft? Rather than having to look up all the various items, treasure chests, dungeon entrances, and all that, just grab HandyNotes (and its various supplemental packs). All the fun, unique items littered around the terrain that you might want to pick up will appear on your in-game map, and you can even ALT+Right Click to leave yourself notes about any particular area.
This one’s simple. If your character does any kind of ability or power that requires you to wait some time before you can do it again — equipment, too — OmniCC gives you a lovely looking countdown right on top of whatever button it is you used to do that thing. You’ll know know exactly how long it’ll be before you can transform into the mighty Millhouse Manastorm again.
TomTom and TomCat’s Tours
Like its name implies, TomTom is a handy little addon that drops a GPS-like navigation arrow directly on your WoW UI. Drop a waypoint on your map, or use an addon that pulls your quest objectives directly into TomTom, and you’ll be able to see in which direction you should run/ride/fly — as well as a handy little distance measurement that tells you how much farther you need to go. This won’t stop you from getting lost in Nazjatar, but every little bit helps. (And, yes, you can move the arrow wherever you want on your screen.)
As for TomCat’s Tours, this separate addon works directly with TomTom to dump a list of all the various rare enemies in the game directly on your map. Given how much WoW has transitioned into “fly around and kill important things” gameplay, these lists are infinitely helpful for figuring out where you need to go — saving you an ALT-TAB and a Wowhead search, that is.
(I tend to prefer RareScanner if you’re really interested in hunting down everything, as you get incredibly useful callouts — and an annoying noise — whenever the addon detects a rare enemy near you or anything that’s appeared from in-game yells.)
If you’ve been bashing your head against the keyboard because the one object you want in WoW refuses to drop — those pesky Horseman’s Reins — then Rarity will at least let you look back at how many times you killed a particular creature and how many times you failed. Er, how many times the game’s RNG failed you.
Give a little Marc Rebillet sexiness to that normally meh minimap stuck in the upper-right corner of your screen. With SexyMap, you’ll get a better-looking minimap that you can customise with your active coordinates, adjust how you’d like your many icons to appear, and tweak your colours until your minimap looks just right. I’m trying to make this sound exciting, but this addon is mainly designed to slightly pretty up your interface. Given how much time you’ll probably spend staring at your minimap, why not?
World Quest Tracker
One of the best ways to gear your character up is doing the game’s many daily world quests, once you unlock them. Grab World Quest Tracker so you can quickly see what’s available, sorted by reward type so you’re not wasting countless time trying to find the perfect quests for the hour or so you have to play that day. This is a must-have for the Shadowlands pre-patch event up in Icecrown.
If you’re going to be doing any in-game mail — to your other alt characters, to guildmates, or to your friends — get Postal. It makes it so painfully easy to send items to other people within WoW that I’m truly amazed Blizzard hasn’t just incorporated its features directly into the game by now. Set up contacts you frequently mail or use one of the handy mouseover lists to mail your other characters, friends, and guildmates.
Azeroth Auto Pilot
If you truly need a big helping hand to get back into WoW, or you don’t want to waste a single second, then you can use Azeroth Auto Pilot to follow some of the fastest routes for levelling your newbie character all the way to the maximum level of 50 — soon 60. I’ve tried using it and, well, it kind of sucked the joy out of the game, but I understand if you want to be as efficient as possible with the old stuff so you can get to all the new stuff.
I mean, the guy in the above video did it in under five hours. I suspect you’ll take longer, but crazy runs are possible. Here’s a glimpse of how Azeroth Auto Pilot works:
I’ve covered most of the basics, but there are plenty of other addons worth calling out as honorable mentions. If you’re into WoW’s Pokémon-style pet fights, grab Rematch and PetTracker to make your life a lot easier. If you’re a completionist, you’ll want All The Things so you can see just how much WoW you have yet to uncover. If you’re planning on playing multiple characters, Altoholic will help you keep them organised (and give you a way to view your other characters’ stats and equipment at any time). Details! is a great damage metre for seeing how much you’re leeching off of everyone else’s accomplishments in an instance or raid. Master Plan is an excellent addon for managing your Warlords of Draenor garrisons. And, finally, MountSpy is a fun little tool that tells you where to get the wicked-cool mount that you just saw flying by you.