I haven’t had a whole lot to write about as of late so I thought I’d talk a bit today about key binds. I had someone asking me some questions about how best to set it up for a restoration druid and I found it a difficult question to answer. Why you might ask? Everyone has their own conditioning when it comes to pressing buttons as a healer and muscle memory is absolutely key. With that in mind if I told her where to put her spells and what buttons to attach them to it may be completely foreign for her and cause her a bit of a learning curve when trying to implement it.
That being said there is still some validity to discussing key binds, the mindset behind them and our choices, as well as what keys work best for our hands and play style. I say hands because some people fat finger their keys a bit and don’t always drop their pinky down to meet the “Ctrl” button properly. Ahem. For those people Shift would be the optimal modifier to use.
What Buttons Work?
I am not a piano player nor a typist. I do not have great reach with my fingertips and I have trouble knowing where in space certain buttons are without looking down at the keyboard. Because of this I work within a fairly limited number of key binds on my characters. When mapping buttons on my toons I break my bindings into three classes – spells I use all the time / critical spells; spells I use slightly less often; spells I want access to but are situational. Each category gets its own cluster of keys to work with.
For critical spells I use the following keys: 1,2,3,4,5 Q,E,R Mouse Buttons 4,5
There are a few reasons why my critical buttons stop here. I have trouble hitting the  key while not looking down at the keyboard and often risk hitting a nearby key instead. I have more mouse buttons on my Razer mouse however given how I seem to hold the mouse in my hand it isn’t always easy for me to slide my thumb to meet them. These are personal limitations and your mileage may vary.
For the slightly less used spells I use the following: X,G Mouse Button 6 Shift+1, Shift+2, Shift+3
For me X and G are pretty much part of my core group of bind keys and are only demoted because they take a tad more work to move my thumb to. The shift modifiers are extremely easy to hit for 1-3 (and arguably 4).
The more rare spells or abilities I like to have on hand may use: Shift+R, Shift+Q, Shift+E Mouse Button 7 Shift+4
These are not necessarily harder to hit with your fingers except for possibly shift+4 and my deep mouse button. Shift coupled with E,R,and Q are very accessible they just require some mental training to not overlap with the existing base usage of those buttons. For toons such as my warrior, which I will talk more about later, I clustered like abilities between the Shift and non-Shift letter key binds.
My Restoration Key Bindings:
4: Healing Touch
Q: Wild Growth
X: Entangling Roots
Mouse Button 4: Focus Target
Mouse Button 5: Cyclone
Shift+1: Use Engineering Gloves
Shift+2: Innervate Swap
Shift+4: Nitro Boosts
Mouse Button 6: Rebirth Macro
Mouse Button 7: Concentration Potion
Shift+E: Bear Form
Shift+R: Travel Form
I’m doing this slightly from memory but I believe that’s about everything. This covers most of the gambit as far as spells I like to have on hand. Note I don’t currently have hibernate, mark of the wild, revive, or faerie fire bound in any way. Those spells are either used infrequently or in situations where clicking is acceptable. You may not use this exact set of button mappings but perhaps It gives you an idea of how you could set things up. Am I the master at key bindings? Definitely not and I may even have some people flame me for how I have things set up. That is perfectly ok as it clearly is a “different strokes for different folks” kind of thing.
What is interesting about key bindings and your interface is how organic they can be. Your interface and button layout grows, changes, and matures as you become more familiar with your class, level up, or simply alter your raiding play style. For me Lifebloom and Rejuvenation have been my number 1 and 2 keys as long as I have had those two spells in my spellbook. My vanilla bars were a hot mess of multiple Healing Touch ranks so I don’t think I want to go there at this time. The reason I mention this is because as my warrior has been leveling up I have been molding and changing my keybinds to facilitate a more fluid tanking experience. I doubt it is an optimized way of doing things but it feels good to me. Here is what I have currently (including my planned spaces for later abilities):
2: Shield Slam
3: Thunder Clap
Shift 1: Shield Block
Shift 2: Spell Reflect
Shift 3: Last Stand
Shift 4: Shield Wall
Shift 5: Victory Rush
Q: Heroic Strike
Shift Q: Cleave
Shift+E: Challenging Shout
X: Heroic Throw
Mouse Button 4: Revenge
Mouse Button 5: Pummel
Mouse Button 6: Disarm
I’m probably leaving some stuff out but I’m pretty sure that’s how it goes. Is this the bestest ever warrior key bind list? Probably not. I’m sure veteran warrior raiders could tell me quite a few things about why this is a horrid way to lay things out but for me, right now while leveling and tanking, this works perfectly.
So why should you aggressively key bind?
This is fairly simple: Clicking is slow. I’ve read reports from some players who claim they can click and still maintain a competitive play style to those they key bind but I’m highly skeptical. If anything these people are more than likely doing a hybrid mix of the two. What that says to me is that if they took the extra step and enhanced their set-up they could be even better! When healing in a PvE environment you may not lose that much performance with partial key-bindings (in PvP I would think it absolutely necessary due to human reaction time issues) however it may be enough of one that it hurts your throughput and responses when faced with critical decisions. If you don’t currently map more than a small number of spells spend some time this weekend and experiment with a more robust key bind setup and see how that feels. It will take some serious getting used to but I think you’ll find it rewarding in the end!
I hope this little key binding review was helpful and didn’t come off as too preachy. Hopefully I can clean it up and find a way to implement it into my guide as an additional resource for new and veteran players alike. So long and happy hunting!