Lunchtime Key Binding Review – Advice and Sample Setup (Resto)

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 [6] 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:

1: Lifebloom

2: Rejuvenation

3: Regrowth

4: Healing Touch

5: Berserking

Q: Wild Growth

E: Swiftmend

R: Nourish

G: Barkskin

X: Entangling Roots

Mouse Button 4: Focus Target

Mouse Button 5: Cyclone

Shift+1: Use Engineering Gloves

Shift+2: Innervate Swap

Shift+3: Tranquility

Shift+4: Nitro Boosts

Shift+5: Parachute

Mouse Button 6: Rebirth Macro

Mouse Button 7: Concentration Potion

Shift+E: Bear Form

Shift+R: Travel Form

Shift+Q: Soothe

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):

1: Rend

2: Shield Slam

3: Thunder Clap

4: Devastate

5: Shockwave

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

R: Charge

Shift+R: Intervene

E: Taunt

Shift+E: Challenging Shout

X: Heroic Throw

G: Shouts

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!

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7 responses to “Lunchtime Key Binding Review – Advice and Sample Setup (Resto)

  1. Deandre - Dalaran

    I rebound qwe-asd-zxc with shift, ctrl, and alt versions of them, along with putting 123 on shift, ctrl, and alt. My mouse has 5 buttons on it so I moved my strafe onto that and control all my movement with that.

    The biggest downside I’ve found to it is I can no longer easily use clique with it, if I try to do something to another player, the keybinds tend to take second string to clique. That and it’s somewhat difficult to heal on the move if I need to switch players.

    It gets me 48 keybinds, I just put less used spells on less comfortable to hit button combinations. Alt+z, x, or c is a good example of those.

    I keep qwe and it’s alternates as my primary use abilities, same with 123 due to the size of my hand, and I like to place abilities that are natural lead up spells on the base buttons with their follow up in shift. A good example is my Rogue combo point generators are usually on q w e, and finishers would be on shift+q w e.

    With the number of alts I have, I found trying to assign the same general spells to the same buttons, like my interrupt key across all classes is s, and shift+a is a slowing ability like rend or curse of exhaustion. Doing that keeps the speed bump of character switching to a minimum.

    • That’s an impressive number of key binds for sure. I completely agree with your decision to try to keep like spells on like keys such as interrupts, emergency cooldowns, and certain heal types. Anything that can minimize key bind shock when swapping characters helps.

      It doesn’t remove brain shock though like when I try to activate water shield when playing my druid on occasion.

  2. I find shift-tab and control-tab are also accessible. Control-tab might sound funny, but it works well if you have remapped the caps-lock key to be an extra control key.

    Like Deandre, I also map shift- and control- versions of each key separately. Thus, I don’t like all the macros people propose that do something different when shift or control are held down. Instead, I would arrange the two separate behaviors as separate macros entirely.

    I gave up on using alt- give separate binding. I find it too convenient to press alt-3 or the like to cast a spell on myself. Besides, just control and shift already give ~30 keybinds, and how many different spells do you need to have at your fingertips??

    Stepping back, dealing with key bindings is something I wish Blizzard would build into the UI a little better. They could, by default, go ahead and set you up with ~30 keybinds on your bars that match the kinds of things discussed on this page. Dare to dream, they could even put your abilities on reasonable keys by default. Dorking around with keybindings I find tedious; the fun part is deciding what to press, not deciding where on the keyboard to put it.

    • I think i’m just weird…I really dislike the control button for key binds as i constantly flub to the wrong button with my pinky finger when attempting to use it.

  3. When I first started playing WoW, and I choose Druid for my first toon, I stuck the healing spells onto the far right side of the bar, convinced I was going to be a kitty. However, as I leveled, I ended up being forced to heal through dungeons. I refused to move the heal buttons off the far right side of the bar as a protest. Eventually, once I hit max level I started raiding as a full time tree (I ended up falling in love with healing), I had buttons 6 through = and Backspace bound to heals. No modifiers. My pinky rested on the 8 (and stretched to reach 6 and 7), my forefinger on the – (and stretched to reach = and backspace). My thumb rested on the R:CTRL key, which was my Vent push to talk button.

    As a traditional gamer, my husband thought my keybinds were insane; I never used 1-5. Me, on the other hand, I’ve never been proficient at WASD movement so I had no innate need to stick to the left side of the keyboard. I moved only by using the mouse. As healer, I never saw any use in being able to move backwards (or, really, strafing) so that wasn’t really an issue.

    Now a days, I use an n52te. I’m much more proficient with keybindings, macros, and the like. I can even strafe and walk backwards, thanks to the D-Pad on the n52, which has changed my game in a way I didn’t think was possible. But I remember the days when I used the “wrong side” of the keyboard quite fondly. =)

    • I smiled reading that story. Thank you for sharing that. It find it fascinating at times reading about people who came to the game from completely different gaming backgrounds than myself and all of the fun quirks and habits associated with them.

      Glad that your Nostromo has helped you out though. That is something I’ve thought about but have never really had the nerve to try out.

  4. Pingback: “I’m not a pianist” – Keeping keybindings easy | MMO Melting Pot

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