“Your keybinds are bad, let me just fix them for you”.
I think that in any of the 10 million homes around the world where WoW is played, that sentence would get me killed. Every single player I’ve talked to about their keybindings have been fiercely protective about them, to the point of aggression and stupidity in many cases. That to me suggests that these people have been spending a lot of time and thought on their keybinds, how else could they be so proud of them?
Now, reality is that they haven’t. Most likely they made their first keybinds seven years ago when they started their first character, then added more as they got more spells. At some point during this time they swapped to a different class, and made new keybindings, but to keep it simply they had the same type of spells on similar keys as they did on their old class. So in reality the keybinds they have now are not the result of extensive thinking, experimenting or personal researching. They’re just a temporary placement of abilities that has been corrupted for seven years. That’s not really optimal to the same precision as our dear spreadsheets, is it?
If you think the answer to that question is no, then this will be really interesting for you to read, I hope. If you’ve already spent tons of time on them ‘binds, I’m sure you’re open to even more new ideas and would find this worth your time. If you are currently thinking “But I prefer to click my abilities” then fuck off from my guide and go play LFR while licking a Pissicle.
Who the hell are you, trying to tell me what to do?
I’m Tumblebeer, Rogue, Method. That means my perspective is mainly from the melee PoV, and should be treated as such. Outside this game I’ve studied medicine for 2 years, then another 2 years in physical therapy with a special interest in anatomy and ergonomics. Many of my ideas here are based on personal experience in the game, but just as many are from the medical sciences with ergonomics in mind.
I understand if this gaming business is just a hobby for you. You don’t really want to spend that much money on a good keyboard and mouse. I mean, it’s not like you spend 4-5 hours every day of your life holding these things, is it?
If you for some reason do decide to spend some money on the piece of equipment you use the most during a day, consider these things:
Keyboard – They do come in different sizes, just as we do. Try to get a small one if you have small hands, to reach more, and get a big one for them sausage fingers of yours if you’re a big guy. As to the keys, you should get keys that have just enough actuation force for you to be able to rest your hand on the keyboard. Any more than that and you risk muscle and joint pain from the wrist and finger extensor muscles (yes, the extensors. Trust me, it works like that. Comment if you want it explained), especially while using the keyboard to type. Other than that it’s pretty much personal preference, I like macro keys and mechanical switches, but I can’t use the mechanical keyboards without my fiancée tearing up the place to find things to throw at me. You decide! Mouse – Get a comfy one for starters. This is the most important part. Some of us use claw grip, some the palm grip, some use the fingertip grip. Adapt your choice of mouse to your preference. Go to http://www.razerzone.com/mouseguide/ergonomic to read more if you’re interested. DPI stuff doesn’t matter at all for mmo gaming, don’t even consider these things when buying a mouse. What does matter are the side buttons. Some of you might be using a Razer Naga, I’m not, and my guide is not aimed at you. At all. About these side buttons, you do need them. If you haven’t got them, go buy a mouse with them asap, the more the merrier. The side buttons on a mouse should have minimal actuation force, and this is important. If you follow my guide, you will be using these buttons a lot, and the thumb is especially prone to stress related injuries. Also, if they’re silent it’s a good thing for your roomies.
Movement, or why we’re doing all this
Like I said earlier, this guide is written from a melee perspective. That means that you will be moving pretty much all the time, and all your abilities can be used while moving. This also means that all your abilities should be usable while still having full control of your movement keys.
I sometimes look at my fellow raiders, and even in a guild like Method I sometimes see melee stopping their movement to use an ability, or moving jerkily and erratically because their dps buttons impede on their movement buttons. Now I’d stake my money on that none of them know they’re doing
this, because they’re all very experienced raiders, and this stuff is all in the cerebellum, no thoughts involved at all. Still, it’s not good, and it doesn’t have to be like that.
At the same time, your bindings should be reachable very fast, especially for the abilities without a gcd. Later on we’re going to set up a list of “best”, “good”, “decent”, and “shitty-but-useable” bindings.
But first, movement buttons. I guess many of you are using wasd. I want you to swap to esdf (with s and f for strafing, not turning, if this even needs mentioning). Making the switch from wasd to esdf isn’t going to be pleasant at first. Really, you’ll hate it. It took me almost 6 months before I felt comfortable with using those keys. The other two downsides to it is first that you get a worse angle for your forearm and shoulder, but that is solved by just moving the keyboard a little to your left, and secondly that it gets harder to reach your modifier keys (ctrl, alt, shift) which will also get solved later on. The benefit is huge though. You get a ton more keys, good keys. This brings us to the next chapter of the guide…
If you’ve stayed with me this far, you’ve already made the swap to esdf. This has given you a, w, z as new keybindings. The next part of improving your keyboard is to download some sort of program to remap the keys in the registry. I suggest Sharpkeys or Keytweak, but you can even do it manually if you want. What I want you to do is to remap some other keys that you rarely use, like the numpad or the higher Fx keys, to capslock and the windowskey. If you remap capslock, you should also remap capslock to for example scroll lock (do you even know what it does?), since it’s needed on the forums. That way you bought yourself another two keybinds, yay.
The main thing to consider when making keybinds is that you should never have to reposition your hand to reach a keybind, not even a small twist or turn. This is not always achievable, but should definitely be a fact on at least all your rotational and panic buttons. The thing about esdf is that the modifier keys are now out of easy reach, for my hands shift still works decently but that’s it. But here comes the magic (at least I think so, then again I think magnets are like magic as well). You have a mouse with side buttons right? At least two of them probably. Take the one that is the least easily accessible (but still a good one if you have many), go in to the software for your mouse, and rebind it to alt. In one single stroke of brilliance you just doubled all of the keybinds of the “good” and “decent” categories (yes, I’ll get to it). Depending on your coordination, this may actually be a bit of a strain on the brain to get used to coordinating both hands to perform one ability, but you’ll get used to it.
The actual keybindings
Now we get to these categories that I’ve been talking about. What I’ve been taking in to consideration when making them have been things like speed, precision, ability to use movement keys, repositioning the hand and to some point tradition. “Best” – This has very few keys in it, as could be expected. They are the sidebuttons on your mouse. These keys are useable while still having absolutely full control of the rest of all your peripherals. The thumb is a finger with good motor skills, and is usually completely passive. What a waste.
In this category you should place at least one modifier and the rotational ability you use the most if you are a melee, and some good ability to use while on the move as a ranged. I have alt, Sinister Strike, Revealing Strike and an “encounter key” (I’ll get to what this is later) on my four sidebuttons.
Another thing I’ve done here is actually to, since my mouse software allows it, have the SS key and the RvS key be spammed while I hold the button down. This is allowed by blizzard as long as the macro doesn’t contain any delays, and lets me combat lag in spammy situations and browse kuvaton.com while building up to another finisher (every decent raider needs a second screen for things like this). “Good” – What will be placed here depends a bit on the shape of your hands, but can be summarized as the keys you can reach while still having all three fingers on esdf. For me this is a, <, caps, space (it can do more than jump, and can be bound with a modifier!?), windows button, z, scroll wheel (scroll up, down, left, right, click. Whatever your mouse allows) some of these will inevitably be easier to reach accurately than the others, choose those you feel comfortable with. On these keys I’ve placed all of my panic buttons (cloak, vanish, healthstone, things like that) and whatever rotational abilities I use the most. “Decent” – These are the buttons that can be reached very very fast, but requires you to move your fingers from esdf. We have w, r, t, g, v. Place things that aren’t used very often, but needs to either be used very fast or can be planned out a bit ahead here. I have interrupts, finishers, aoe here.
“Shitty-but-useable” – All the other stuff you can reach without moving your hand, but that needs some kind of repositioning or stretching. Buttons like 3, 4, 5, q, tab and all of the bindings that include a modifier not placed on your mouse end up here. Around here you place everything else, things that aren’t used in combat, things that you can plan a long time ahead, you know...
When using the modifier you placed on the mouse together with any of these keybinds, they retain their respective categories, because the mouse buttons are awesome. Using a button together with another modifier (shift, ctrl) instantly pushes it down to “shitty-but-useable” or even below that.
A very quick comparison of the amount of keys you get in “best” and “good” (multiplied by the amount of modifiers you put on your mouse) categories in the good old wasd-no-mouse-sidebuttons version and the keybindings I suggest would be like 2 in good old (< and spacebar) and a fuckton in my version. Or my way is better, to put it simple.
General stuff about keybindings
In this section I’m going to mention a few, smaller, random things that could be considered, easily missed or otherwise noteworthy. It’s nothing super major, but good enough to keep reading.
Now, what should you be keybinding?
My answer is simple: Everything. There’s really no reason to have anything unbound, be it a buff or summoning a fucking soulwell. If you’re ever going to use it, it’s faster to have it keybound than clicking it. You will have more keybindings than you have abilities for if you’ve followed me so far.
Even if you think clicking something is good enough, don’t. It makes you look like a retard, srsly.
Because you have so many keybinds, there’s really no reason to use a castsequence macro either. They’re bad, and you will have enough good bindings to never have to use them.
In a recent patch Blizzard implemented a “activate on key down” feature, something I previously used an addon called Snowfall Key Press for. Activate this if you haven’t already, no reason not to.
If you’ve kept largely to standard keybindings, you’ll notice that you’re going to lose things like Show Enemy Nameplates, Chat Reply and a few others when you start keybinding like this. Find some other keybinds for these abilities before you notice mid fight that you need to use it. For example, I placed my chat reply binding on backspace, next to enter, instead of on r. Actually better, not just a passable substitute, I think. Just go through blizzards standard keybinding interface and keybind things you think you’re going to use, you might even find things you didn’t know existed, like interact with target or focus mouseover.
While you’re going through all standard keybinds, make sure you unbind all esdf + any modifier that might still be there. You will be using your modifiers a lot, especially the ones on your mouse, and you don’t want some old unused keybinding interfering with your movement.
When you’ve made you new keybindings, learn them as fast as possible. As soon as you feel comfortable with one keybinding, hide that bar (I’m going to assume you use some kind of bar addon, like bartender). You know your keybindings, you don’t need a visual crutch. You need your screen to see the fire and stuff.
Oh, and before I forget. Remember I talked earlier about having an “encounter key”? Every now and then you need to do something specific in a fight, with recent examples being the Ultraxion key, or a macro to target tendons on spine. Having a good keybinding ready to throw on this ability or macro is nice, makes for fast adaptation in progress. Bitches love fast adaptation during progress.
It’s finally over
Almost. Like I said earlier, relearning your keybinds is hard work, and many people are prickly about their precious binds, however bad they may be. But we’ve got Mists of Pandaria coming up, your bindings are probably going to have to be remade soon enough anyway, why not take this chance to make a full overhaul?
Either way, if you liked what you just read, or didn’t understand a thing, or are just preparing to show your intellectual and social superiority by linking an internet meme that someone else made in the comments, I’m sure you came through this read with something worth using.
I followed the same principle when making my diablo 3 keybinds. I didn't plan for the silly fact that there's only 6 abilities to keybind though, and ended up with everything on my mouse.
I my dismay was shortlived however, as that means I can fulfil my lifelong dream: Playing optimally with one hand in my pants.
Just like Kuznam. Except he plays with both hands in his pants. And he's not optimal.
Thank you very much for this awesome guide :) I have felt for a while not that my awefull keybindings have be holding me back. I have tried a few variations and none of them felt right. I shall be trying ur recommendations out as soon as possible :).
I would like to ask however why you do not use a razer naga? do u not find them usefull or is it just preference? I have one but I am currently unsure how to best utilise the 12 side buttons and i use my mouse to move, and I find that relying on the mouse buttons so much can often hinder my movement.