Raid Frames: Which One is Right for You?

Back in vanilla, I didn’t know raid frames existed.  I had oRA and it had everything I needed to know: what tank was hitting what target.  However, if you heal, raid lead, tank, or decurse (i.e. damn near everyone) you should probably have some kind of raid frame to give you information.  Blizzard UI has improved by leaps and bounds over the years, but it IS still clunky and frankly, ugly as sin.  Never fear, there are plenty of options to choose from!

The Healing Frames

Many raid frames are designed specifically with the healer in mind.  For example, those that have libcomm communication share information between players so you can see whether a heal is incoming on a party member.  They generally also provide debuff status information, and can also provide missing buff information on demand.  I usually suggest healing frames for raid leaders as well.

Grid

WoWInterface, Curse

I personally use Grid across all my characters and have found it to be the one I keep running back to.  I can do exactly what I want, every time, but it is not for everyone, and can be difficult to configure.

Pros

  • Can show…. everything.   Buffs / Debuffs / Libcomm / Aggro
  • Compact design
  • Minimal design for information (boxes in the corner), with priority notifications able to be centered and huge.
  • Numerous 3rd party plug-ins can provide additional information without you having to build it yourself.
  • Does not have built in click 2 cast.  Good for those who already use click 2 cast add-on (such as Clique) for functions other than raid frame casting.

Cons

  • Not user friendly.  It is actually possible to “break” the add-on so it provides no useful information.
  • Lots, and I mean lots, of option & option menus.
  • Numerous 3rd party plug-in options can be daunting.
  • Can be beautified, but takes a LOT of fiddling.
  • Does not have click 2 cast.  You will require another add-on to provide this functionality.

Resources

Healbot / Vuhdo

WoWInterface, Curse / WoWInterface, Curse

Ok, I’m cheating here, but really, Healbot and Vuhdo provide the same services with different menus.  A choice between Healbot and Vuhdo comes down to personal preference — which menu makes more sense to you, how the frames fit into your user interface, and the “look” of the frames.  I personally prefer Vuhdo over Healbot, based on aesthetics and flexibility of the options.  Those who like things to just work would probably prefer Healbot.

Pros

  • Usable immediately out of the box
  • Can show everything you need (buffs/debuffs/aggro)
  • Click 2 cast packaged with the addon (no 3rd party needed)
  • Will accept macros
  • Vuhdo: Can arrange your raid groups separately (i.e. you don’t have to have a square/rectangular format if you want tanks on your right and the rest of your raid on the left)

Cons

  • With everything active, it can be possible to have a hard time seeing your health frames
  • Healbot: Pre-configured frame options are clunky.  It took me 1/2 hour on my last test of Healbot to get the size of the health frames to something that could conceivably fit in my UI.  I was still unhappy at the result of the appearance with my “flat/matte” look.
  • Vuhdo: On my last testing, I found the menu was becoming bloated.  (From a Grid user, this is bad right).  Vuhdo is excellent an addon and would be my choice if I didn’t have this grid compulsion; however, as it has been tweaked and loved, so has its options menu — it takes me longer to do a full Vuhdo setup than a Grid setup.

Resources

It Came With My Player Frames

Almost every unit frame package comes with raid frames standard.  These options can be as good as healing specific raid frames and in some cases superior; however, they generally take quite a bit of fiddling to get just right since they tend to be mini versions of the player/target frames in terms of appearance and information layout.  On the flip side, you can end up with raid frames that are immune to tampering — so you better like the default!  As a healer, you will need a 3rd party click 2 cast or mouse-over macros for all of these options.

Pitbull 3

WoWInterface, Curse

Pitbull is a great option for many players because they already have tweaked their player/target frames to perfection, and want their raid frames to match… exactly.  Can provide all the information anyone can need!

Pros

  • See whatever you want — health / mana / buffs/ debuffs / aggro.
  • Easy to make a seamless match between your standard unit frames and raid frames
  • Possible to configure the size / shape of your raid frame to your liking.
  • Pitbull 4: streamlined menu process for easier setup

Cons

  • Many users have complained about the memory drain Pitbull 3 is on their systems.  Pitbull 4 is supposed to be improved in this area.
  • Daunting menus for a first time user.  With the power to tweak every option also comes the multiple menus to make it happen.
  • If you don’t know dogtags (PB3) or lua text (pb4), or don’t want to learn, this probably will not be the greatest option for you.

Resources

X-Perl

WoWInterface, Curse

For a great out of the box, just work dammit experience, X-perl is one of the best set of player/raid frames I’ve ever seen.

Pros

  • Minimal setup!  You don’t even HAVE to setup if you don’t to.
  • Provides aggro / debuff coloring — perfect for decursers and raid leaders.
  • Raid groups can be manually placed by group anywhere you want them

Cons

  • My personal opinion: they’re just butt ugly.
  • Minimal tweaking available.  Debuff coloring can be VERY annoying on bosses’ where you don’t want to cleanse — and you can’t do anything about it.

Stuf

WoWInterface, Curse

Stuf is becoming a heavy hitter for unit frames because it’s just so darn lightweight while being highly, highly configurable.

Pros

  • Lightweight — you won’t notice a system bog because you’re in a 25-man raid.
  • Stuf Raid is a separate addon — if you don’t want it, or want to turn it off  because you’re not raiding today, you can do that.
  • Highly configurable.
  • Configurable by lua or text pattern.

Cons

  • Sizing is an issue.  If you don’t like the size of the out-of the box raid frames (and they are huge for a smaller monitor/laptop) then you should probably just skip this one.
  • If looks matter (and you know they do) it can be hard to achieve the end result you want because you can’t see what’s happening with your raid frames in configuration mode.

AG_Unit Frames

I only mention ag_uf raid frames because they supposedly exist.  However, I’ve never had them actually work — they sometimes show up, sometimes not.  Why AG_UF player/target frames are great, I would never suggest their raid frames.

Standing Alone — From All Purpose to Single Job

Decursive

WoWInterface, Curse

My absolute favorite mage addon of all time.  If you only want raid frames because you decurse this is the raid frame addon for you.

Pros

  • Tiny!
  • Lights up only when a raid member has a condition YOU can cure.
  • Built in click 2 cast (right click: cure spell 1; left click: cure spell 2)

Cons

  • There is absolutely no player information whatsoever.  If you do anything OTHER than decurse, please, pick another raid frame.

sRaidFrames

WoWInterface, Curse

If you liked CT Raid Frames you’ll love these.

Pros

  • Familiar changeover from default raid frames to an addon.
  • Allows for buff / debuff monitoring
  • Lightweight
  • Whitelist / blacklist to show only the buffs / debuffs you want to see
  • Small number of plug-ins available

Cons

  • Look is set in stone — you either like it or you don’t.
  • Limited area for buff / debuff monitoring
  • 3rd party add-on required for predicted health.

SmartDebuff

WoWInterface, Curse

Like Decursive, primarily for non-healing classes that have decursing abilities, while providing a bit more information.

Pros

  • Standard unit frame “look”.  Name / health / mana.
  • Class spells automatically assigned for debuff management. (click 2 cast)

Cons

  • Not for healers.  The raid frames / click 2 cast options are not configurable, so you cannot heal with these frames.
  • No aggro monitoring, so limited versatility for tanking classes.

All in all there is no perfect raid frame for every user.  I have friends (and a husband) who still uses the default raid frames, and there is me, who changes every little detail of their grid setup.  I hope this guide can help you find the right frame for you!

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12 thoughts on “Raid Frames: Which One is Right for You?

  1. Wow, this is awesome and comprehensive. I'm obsessed with my UI at the moment, mainly because I can't seem to make it look like the model of streamlined perfection I imagine it ought to be.

    The problem with Grid, for me, is that it has too many options – because it has the flexibility to let you do everything, I end up not making it do anything. Let's have this purple … with a square … uh … wait.

    But, yes, thanks for this – I guess I'll be revisiting my UI. Again.

    • It took me a long time to finally go with Grid, but I got uber frustrated with Pitbull's performance in large raids, and just can't seem to get anything else to do exactly what I want without it looking awful.

      I thought about doing a Grid how-to but their are really a lot of good options out there, especially if you know what you want (or you really like how their Grid looks and just want to match it.)

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  3. Thanks for a really nice overview of healer UI choices; my own UI is under constant revision, but it's at a place right now that I really like. A few months ago I tried my hand at writing a character management guide for my guildies, entitled At The Top Of Your Game and found at http://aegis.wowstead.com/forums/thread/89. The last section of the guide deals with a healer’s UI and talks about mine, and I thought I’d link it here in case it appeals to anyone. Having looked and thought long and hard about both Grid and Vuhdo, I still use X-Perl raid frames as my healing frames, but in a setting and with settings as well as additional information from other sources, that I think is as functionally thorough and easy to use (and nice, not butt-ugly!) as anything out there.

    • I'll have to link you back one of my old tanking UI's — looked pretty darn similar, and with X-perl/quartz no less!

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  5. Grid compulsion, I'm glad someone else suffers from it, all in all VuhDo for a healer may be the better option in the long run….. but well I've tried it thought it was brilliant, recomended it to others and……. went back to grid, why? it just didnt "feel" like grid I cant explain it, my vudo set up basically resembled my grid set up, but it wasn't grid, guess its a first love thing

    Fantastic Artcle look forward to more :-)

    • I find myself doing the same thing when healers want a set of raid frames "go try Vuhdo." "Do you use it?" "No, but try Vuhdo anyway." "Ok……Vuhdo is awesome, why aren't you using it!!!"

      I just can't live without my mini-boxes!

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