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Knowing your abilities in World of Warcraft isn't a necessary thing to get through the game. Many younger players are happy to know that this spell does good damage and some do okay healing and so on. These players tend to be happiest questing and generally not playing beyond small groups.
But for those planning on high end raiding or Arena and so forth, knowing your abilities (sometimes referred to as 'knowing your class') can make you come across as more competent, more interested in how your class works and generally strengthens your play style.
Knowing class abilities will lead to more confidence
Everyone who has started a new class has felt the 'unsure of what to do' jitters. The spells are all new and there's so many and what I'm supposed to do what? We've all been there. Learning over time what your abilities do and for what situations generally makes a player more confident in using them making them effective at that class as well as a player in general.
I say in general because most players tent to roll alts after maxing out their main; the lessons on learning a class and what it does follow to the next alt and the next making one confident not just in the classes they own but of the way the game mechanics generally run.
Split second recoveries depend on knowing your spells: the bad result.
I remember still being rather new on my druid; rather I was well versed in being a doomchicken but not as a healer (this was before dual spec so I was basically in caster Druid form). I was starting out trying to filling in as a healer due to the group's healer leaving. I was new and the group needed to get on with things so I fumbled and walked through what to do.
Eventually we got to a hard part of the dungeon where a dps and the tank died. I was forced to decided - go and try to dps like I usually did or keep healing. In the midst of this I forgot two things. One, doing anything healing in caster is rather dangerous as you are not as well armored out of form.
Secondly had I've known my spells I would've though of my battle resurrection. With its lengthy cool down and all I had clearly forgotten about it till after the wipe. Had I known about it, I would have used it and saved the day.
Split second recoveries depend on knowing your spells: the good result.
In contrast, on my mage I was in the middle or a rather hairy Mount Hyjal run trying to defeat Archimonde. I had rushed back in after a wipe - and had forgotten my tears. Needless to say I was tossed into the air. Immediately I cast slow fall. Archi did a raid silence. I was still too far off the ground. I then last minute ice blocked to the ground avoiding death. Would I have survived (and avoided giving the raid a painful debuff) had I not known my spells like the back of my hand? I doubt it.