Embracing Simplicity: The 5×2 Project, Keybinds, And You

I have a problem with my Druid.

Whenever I log in to her, I’m overwhelmed by the options presented to me. What am I supposed to use to do things? Why do I have so many heals, so many melee attacks, so many different interesting things to cast? And shapeshifting? I have to remember to shapeshift, where are those buttons? Honest to goodness panic sets in as I try to figure out what it is I’m supposed to use.

After about 15 minutes of flailing away at something, anything, I’ll switch to a different character, and I inevitably wonder – how on earth did I ever get this character to level 70? I’ve been a bear, I’ve been a cat, I’ve been a tree – but if you ask me how to play a Druid, I couldn’t tell you what works and what doesn’t. Mangle spam, maybe? Swipe and Maul? Rejuv and Lifebloom?

It’s not that a Druid is more complicated than other classes I play well – Warlock and Warrior, if you’re keeping track at home – it’s that there are too many options, too many things to take in if you only play it very occasionally, and that I haven’t figured out how to organize abilities in a way that makes sense to me. Look at that Druid UI and the keybinds – can you even guess what spec she is?

(Please don’t hurt me if I tell you she’s in her Resto spec.)

I was thinking a lot about my Druid when I read Ghostcrawler’s recent post, Number of Abilities, where he talks about how developers consider abilities and their place in a spec, and balancing abilities to keep play interesting without being overwhelming. There was a bit at the very end that resonated with many of the problems I’ve had with old alts in Cataclysm, where they feel unfamiliar and strange.

So when do we cross over from having “enough” cool abilities to “too many” cool abilities? The depth that comes from lots and lots of content can feel cool to a veteran player, but even for them, the intended role and nuance of every ability can become blurred. For the new or returning player, it just becomes incomprehensible.

I look at the action bars of many of my alts, and I see all these shiny buttons which are useful and I should have ready to press because buttons make me kick ass – and then I wonder why I can’t find the right ability to be effective. Druid, Death Knight, Rogue, Priest: they have bars full of abilities that I probably don’t need to use to be competent on the character.

In fact, I’d argue that having cluttered bars is a sign that I’m not really competent with the character – certainly that I’m not organized with them.

THE 5×2 PROJECT

I was really intrigued by an idea that Mat McCurley (@gomatgo) tossed out on Twitter:

The idea is a great one, and related to Ghostcrawler’s post. How can you cut away all the unnecessary spells so a disabled player can play, in a variety of situations? If you have only 11 buttons, how would you set them up? What would be critical to include for combat, what can you leave out?

While Mat’s project is geared towards disabled gamers, this shares a common theme with most accessibility initiatives in that this has a lot of value for everyone, disabled or not. What do you absolutely need to play? What are your rotational abilities, what are your situational abilities, and what are the top 11? What would you have ready and available to click, but not necessarily keybound?

Poneria at Fel Concentration has been brainstorming about the 5×2 project for warlocks, and has some great suggestions in there about distinguishing between group and solo play (and using macros to save space.) I took a different approach in my own attempt, trying to minimize the use of macros and provide a set of keybinds that would be consistent across different specs, to minimize muscle memory problems when switching:

For reference, entries marked with an asterisk (*) are castsequence macros, either set to reset before the first spell comes off CD (like Haunt/Drain Life), simple quick reset castsequence macros (like Bane of Doom/Curse of the Elements, both with long durations) or a pet ability macro. Click Attention are things you should keep handy for clicking, but don’t need keybound.

(Here’s the Excel file of the above graphic if you want to use it as a template.)

Assembling a list like this is an intensely personal exercise, and one that really makes you think about how your class operates. It also makes you think about what’s really necessary – is Soul Swap really needed, or is it for convenience? If you’re raiding all the time, can you afford to have Demon Soul off your keybinds? If so, what do you drop? Do you actually need your AoE keybound, or can you skip it?

Then there’s the question of arrangement: what is a primary keypress, and what uses a modifier? All of these are important, but some are more important than others. I chose to put rotational abilities in the primary row, with situational abilities like CC and executes in the modifier row, but perhaps you would want to move your interrupt into a primary spot.

There’s also the question of cross-spec consistency: should you design your keybinds so that similar keys trigger similar abilities? I did, but that’s because I think it’s important to keep your muscle memory consistent between specs. There’s a method to my madness:

  • 1 is your most important DoT, which should be up all the time.
  • 2 is your filler spell, or a secondary DoT.
  • 3 is Corruption, which every spec needs right now.
  • 4 is your spec’s special ability, which is on a cooldown.
  • 5 is your non-execute nuke, used for procs and keeping up buffs.
  • Mod-1 is your CC, Fear.
  • Mod-2 is your default boss Bane and Curse.
  • Mod-3 is your AoE.
  • Mod-4 is inconsistent, being either an execute or short range attack.
  • Mod-5 is inconsistent, being either add management or execute nuke.
  • Middle mouse button is mana regeneration.

What I like about the 5×2 Project is that it forces you to embrace constraints and really think about what your class abilities are, and how you use them. It provides a framework for analyzing your own actions, cutting away the cruft, and simplifying your setup to the necessities. You have to make hard choices about what to keep and what to take away. You have to work with macros to cast the right spell in the right situation. You cannot include everything.

The 5×2 Project simplifies keybinds for every kind of player, not just disabled ones. Players new to the class can look at it and know what the important abilities are. Returning players can see the changes and see how new abilities fit in. Players who are dabbling in a class outside of their main – let’s not call them altoholics, they might just have an “alt problem” – can see what they need to prioritize.

I don’t think that you need to play in a 5×2 (+1) setup in order to take something away from it. Thinking about your class abilities in this structured fashion is challenging, and the exercise of getting your character down to 10 primary buttons will make you think about what you really need, versus what you might need occasionally, versus the abilities you don’t need at all.

And that’s a very good thing.

THE CHALLENGE OF LEVELING

I’m leveling a Warrior right now, a by-product of the fun I had questing on Cynderblock getting her the Ambassador title, and I’m really enjoying it. I started off as Arms, but switched over to Prot to tank an instance at level 25 and haven’t switched back yet. Turns out I enjoy smashing my shield into the faces of my enemies, and madly charging around the Plaguelands, pulling more mobs, more, more, MORE MOBS!

I know how to play a Warrior well at level 19, but as I leveled up, the new abilities and talents started making me feel like … like I was starting to not really understand the class. By the mid-40s the feeling crystalized when I looked at my action bars and and realized that while I could continue doing all the things I did at 19 – Rend, TC, Shield Slam/Heroic Strike – I had accumulated a toolbox of tools I didn’t know how to effectively use. Should I use Overpower? It lights up a lot, maybe I should use it. Hamstring, old friend, glad to have you back again, but how do I use you and Disarm together?

And this was just my primary spec – I hadn’t even considered how to set up my offspec, Arms!

I’ve been working on a pet theory about the loss of the no-XP battlegrounds over the past few months. I’m starting to think that being able to take breaks between leveling, while still remaining active in normal PvP, was a very good teaching tool, and that the addition of XP gains to PvP has had an unintended detrimental effect on learning one’s class as you go. Every 10 levels you could, if you chose, stop to PvP for a bit, absorb the new abilities you’d gained, tweak your spec, figure out how things worked – and then move on once you’d had your fill.

Leveling is really fast now, especially with guild perks and heirlooms, so there’s not as much time to absorb the new information. You have a lot of levels to get through, after all! But the lack of a battleground pause button meant that as you practiced to try to really master what you’ve learned, you’re already moving on to the next thing.

That theory is a post all its own.

Anyhow, in response to this, I did what any sensible PvPer would do – I locked my XP at 49 and prepared to spend some time at that level. Not with the goal of making a twink – no, this goal was to get a handle on my growing Protection Warrior, to make sure I really understood how her abilities worked before adding more.

After locking my XP, the first thing I did was sit down and try to simplify her keybinds into something that made more sense than the organic mess which had sprung up.

I went from this, at level 45:

… which is not bad, just disorganized, to this:

The changes are subtle but deep. I went from using non-macroed abilities on paged action bars, and trying to keep track of exactly what would happen in what stance, to conditional macros that grouped similar abilities together.

Here’s a detail of the key area:

(See the spreadsheet for more details.)

You can see the influence of the 5×2 Project already starting to show. There are 10 keys in the primary zone, many of which use context-specific macros to select abilities according to the current stance. For quick kills I’ll only use 1-4, Q-E. Larger pulls will switch to using the Naga 1 and 2 keys to spam Revenge and Cleave once Blood and Thunder has done its work.

One of the big changes I made was consolidating abilities that did similar things in mutually exclusive stances in stance macros. Instead of having Disarm and Hamstring taking up two spaces, I went for:

#showtooltip
/startattack
/use [stance:1/3]Hamstring;[stance:2]Disarm;

This will put Hamstring up when in Battle or Berserker, and Disarm in Defensive.

Similarly, Execute and Revenge are mutually exclusive in stances. Even though they aren’t exactly the same idea, they’re both rotational abilities, so they get a macro and shared button, too:

#showtooltip
/startattack
/use [stance:1/3] Execute; [stance:2] Revenge;

Because Revenge and Execute both hit like trucks filled with explosives driven by angry bears when they’re available, I have them bound to both my keyboard and my mouse keypad, and I spam them gleefully when they light up.

There are some places I opted for a simple modifier of an ability, like having Heroic Strike bound to W and Cleave bound to Shift-W. Both of these are Rage dumps, but one is single target and one hits several. Pretty easy.

Some abilities require a change of stance to use: Charge (early on) and Taunt both require some stance dancing to use. For Taunt I knew I’d need to get into Defensive Stance first, so the macro looks like this:

#showtooltip Taunt
/startattack
/use [stance:1/3] Defensive Stance; [stance:2] Taunt

That’s a simple version of the ones used above. My mouseover Taunt macro (bound to my mouse) is from the web, and therefore a lot more complicated:

#showtooltip Taunt
/cast [nostance:2] Defensive Stance; [stance:2, target=mouseover, exists, harm][stance:2, nodead, harm][stance:2, target=targettarget, nodead, harm][stance:2] Taunt

Basically, if you mouse over a hostile mob, you’ll taunt them, mouse over a friendly mob, taunt the mob targeting them, or taunt your target. Lots of taunting going on there.

I should probably use this macro and not the other one, come to think of it.

See, that right there is the part that gets glossed over when talking about macros and keybinds and setups – that this is an iterative process, something that happens over time. I make a few changes, queue up for a LFD run, try them out, then make changes. Or go run some quests in a level-appropriate zone and see how the keys work there. I’d like to include PvP in this, because I think battlegrounds are actually the best way to really understand your situational abilities, but the XP-locked queues have yet to pop for me at level 49.

This will be a process I’ll continue for a while: tweaking, refining, and adjusting both my keybinds and UI to make sure that I really understand what’s going on. I’m sure that if I respec over to Fury and Arms, just to see how they play, I’ll have an entirely new set of questions, but I’ll have a good understanding of those specs before moving on, too.

And the best part is that after all this, I’ll unlock my experience and hit the battlegrounds with a clue of what I’m doing!

MAKING THE HARD CHOICES (AND SWALLOWING MY PRIDE)

In contrast to my Warrior, where I feel like I know what I’m doing (at least with one spec), my Druid continues to stymie me. Perhaps it’s because Druids are so flexible, able to fill any role, that I sort of drift along with her and never commit fully to an idea. I’ll level as a bear tank for a few levels, get bored or frustrated with it, set her aside for a few months, then decide to go heals, only to discover that I still don’t know how the heals work together.

Some of my incompetence with the Druid is because of inconsistent leveling. If you stick with one spec from 1-80, you learn that spec inside and out, you have the time to absorb it. But spending a few levels as a tank, then a few as a healer, then a few as a melee DPS – that’s not the way to make your knowledge gel. It doesn’t even come close to educating me on the right way to play in different environments, like questing, dungeons, and PvP.

I am the easiest HK ever in the battlegrounds on my Druid. It’s hugely frustrating to know what a class is capable of – I see you awesome shapeshifters out there! – and not be able to replicate even a little tiny bit of that excellence.

More than any other character I have, she’s the one that I most desperately need a 5×2 sheet for. She’s the one I need help with.

She’s the one I need your help with.

I think, and this is open for debate, but I think what I want to do is skip Northrend questing entirely and just do instances and PvP to level up. This likely means staying Resto, but I’m willing to start all over. If you think I should go Boomkin or Feral, make your case!

But what I really need is a good 5×2 grid. Yes, I know I should use VuhDo, but I need to know what to click there. I need to know what my top abilities are. I have a feeling that seeing what an experienced Druid player would do with 10 buttons is exactly what I need to finally find my groove with this character. I think I should use form macros, because paging action bars drive me nuts, but I’m not sure what I should prioritize. Should I have heals up top with mouseover macros? Should I put CC in the primary row and only heal through Vuhdo? Should I skip healing and just level Boomkin?

I don’t know, and I could use your help in figuring this all out.

Her name is Snowfalls, and I just don’t want to level her with Herbalism all the way to 85.

She deserves better than that.

THE 5×2 CHALLENGE

I think you need to do the 5×2 exercise. The act of taking a few minutes to think about what your abilities are, what you would keep and what you would trim away, is immensely valuable. You don’t need to do it for every possible spec your character could be, but you should do it for the ones you play. Just set up a 5×2+1 grid and plug in your spells – once you do that, you’ll start making decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of. It’s an amazing thing to try.

Keep in mind that the value of this exercise comes not from trying to play in the 5×2 grid, though you can certainly do it.  (I’m not advocating that, though it would make for a really interesting challenge.)

No, the value comes in looking at your abilities with a critical eye, and of concentrating your most important spells into a confined space. You’ll definitely use more than ten buttons – but you’ll know which ten buttons are the absolute most important to you.

And I think you should share what you come up with, too. Let @gomatgo know over on Twitter what your grid looks like. If you have a post, leave a link for Poneria at Fel Conecntration, as she’s started collecting pages on this project. Share it with your guild mates, on the forums.

There’s no correct answer for this challenge – people will surprise you with what they come up with. PvP and PvE will color people’s designs, as will their comfort with certain addons, hardware, and macros.

But I really, really want to see what you come up with.

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44 Comments

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44 responses to “Embracing Simplicity: The 5×2 Project, Keybinds, And You

  1. jay/bringing_chaos

    Nicely split. Was a bit disorienting at the pacing, but overall great post.

  2. My main is a resto/balance druid (focus on the resto, I suck at lazerbeams).

    Druids can be either really fun or really overwhelming, as you have experienced. My suggestion is to pick a single spec and just play that one spec. Forget about dual specs for the moment. Once you’ve gotten “bored” of that single spec, then you’ll know you’re ready to play a different one (or add your dual spec). I would even get rid of non-spec abilities from your bars to keep things manageable.

    My suggested Project 5×2 for Restoration & Balance Druids

    In terms of UI layouts, I also use the Razer Naga mouse, but I don’t use the 1-12 buttons as an auxiliary action bar like you do. In my resto spec, I have my heals macro’d to [@mouseover] and placed on my main action bar. I use the default raid frames + DoTimers to heal plus a shift modifier for secondary abilities (CCs & some cooldowns like Cyclone, Barkskin and Innervate) and an alt modifier for tertiary abilities (Swift flight form, tree of life, consumables). I use three action bars: primary (unmodified), secondary (shift) and tertiary (alt) and press my Naga 1-12 buttons plus modifiers accordingly.

    If you want suggestions from a flailing sapling, let me know! ;D

    • Thanks! Right now I’m just trying to make sure my heals are clearly organized on my keyboard before I try to move any of them to my mouse. I’m even staying away from VuhDo until I get the binds worked out.

  3. Darlaan - Sentinals US

    I too have done lots of combining macros and keys to minimize my buttons to 12 buttons. I use the Razor Naga mouse so I key bind all 12 buttons to my mouse buttons so I have no need for a keyboard when I play. This has really improved my play as I am not always looking down to ensure that I have my fingers on the right keys.
    I binded all 12 buttons for each of my druid forms as well, keeping similar actions to the same buttons on the mouse. This has eliminated most of the confusion that came with the druid since each form has a seperate button bar. For example, one button is always heal one is always mount and three are always attacks. I keep this same pattern for all 9 of my toons and within a few minutes of playing a toon that I have not played for a while, I get back in the groove quickly because each class has their abilities in the same locations. If you look at each class, there may be differences in naming and the actual actions of the toons but they all have common ground. Almost all have heals, all have attacks, all have mounts, all have damage boosts, all have procs. When you keep all of these maintained on specific buttons things go much easier.

    • Darlaan - Sentinals US

      One other note, for my druid forms, I have my seal, cheetah and flight form all in a conditional mount macro. If I am in water it goes to my seal, if i can fly out of combat it goes to my flight, if I am in combat it goes to my cheetah for quick escape, if I am not in combat but can’t fly, it goes to my ground mount. For battle I have a seperate button to switch to a different form from what I am in. Since I am feral I constantly switch from cat to bear while in battle so I have this 1 button alternating depending on what form I am currently in. That is the handy thing about a seperate bar for each form, they are in the same location so there is no thinking just reation.

      As for attacks, I have macros set up for my rotaions and my procs. Again I only use 3 buttons for all my attacks.

      For my caster toons, the only abilities that I don’t have binded are my AOE spells like Blizzard for my Mage or The firerain for my Warlock. (But I have them really accessable)

    • I tried just playing with the Naga keyboard, but I found that I was having trouble controlling my character and casting on the run, so I moved only a few abilities over there. Mostly, the Naga buttons are either movement-related, target/focus related, or a few mouseover macros.

      Keeping things the same between alts is definitely essential. I don’t know how people with a lot of alts do it any other way.

  4. I find I never have enough keys on the keyboard (in range of my hand) to bind everything effectively.
    I would love to test myself with this 5×2 idea, but I have a feeling I would end up eating my own face. I don’t want to end up eating my own face.
    As for muscle-memory problems across different characters: I have keys associated with certain ‘types’ of abilities. On my esdf setup, ‘A’ is always my primary interrupt, ‘1’ is my primary AoE, ‘D’ is the spammable or filler ability, and so on. Macros and modifiers are godsends for saving space but I end up getting so confused by the mess of it all, I try and keep everything simple – hit this key to make this happen, then hit that one and watch the other thing happen. Simples.

    • I probably could have said it stronger in the post, but for my PvP warlock, there’s no way I could get down to 11 keybinds and function as effectively as I do now. Absolutely no way.

      But, going through the exercise of making the 5×2 grid for her pointed out some weaknesses in my current setup, which totally made it worthwhile.

      I used to use all sorts of macros, to the point where I usually didn’t know what would happen when I started spamming a button. I’ve move far away from that now, letting Bartender handle switching to different bars for space, or casting spells at my Focus instead of my Target. Simpler is definitely better.

  5. Treespring

    My main is balance and I leveled entirely as balance, though I heal on occasion. Balance now plays a lot like what affliction played like in vanilla/bc.

    going off your established lock binds I’ll try and fill in appropriate moonkin spells
    * 1 is your most important DoT, which should be up all the time.: Use a /castsequence insect swarm, moonfire (side note: moonfire can finally be macro’ed as they fixed the bug when it swapped to sunfire)

    Changing 2-3 cause our dot’s are fairly equal in importance and have 2 equally but separately important nukes.
    * 2 Lunar headed towards solar eclipse nuke: Starfire
    * 3 Solar headed towards lunar eclipse nuke: Wrath
    * 4 is your spec’s special ability, which is on a cooldown: Starsurge
    * 5 is your non-execute nuke, used for procs and keeping up buffs.
    * Mod-1 is your cc, /castsequence reset 3, entangling roots, solar beam
    * Mod-2 is your defensive cooldowns /castsequence barkskin, nature’s grasp, thorns A decent argument could be made for putting thorns here also or Faerie Fire if you were for some reason running with physical dps that couldn’t supply the debuff themselves, or wanted it for pvp for stealthers
    * Mod-3 is your long cooldown dps button /castsequence Force of Nature, Starfall (will drop your treants on first cast, and then pop your 1-2m aoe cooldown)
    * Mod-4 is your 40 yard direectional knock back: Typhoon
    * Mod-5 is mana regen for yourself or a focus target /cast [@focus,exists,help][] Innervate
    * Middle mouse button is going to be aoe since moonkin aoe is intensely dependent on ground placement /cast [mod:alt] Wild Mushroom: Detonate; Wild Mushroom (This will place mushrooms indefinitely though you can only ever have 3 down, and holding alt will trigger the detonate, can be asssigned to whatever pre 85 since you won’t have the spell yet)

    You’d have to be clicking for changing forms which is definitely not ideal for pvp, but liveable, mounts, and healing spells/dispels. Could add in other macros for different pvp utility things like stampeding roar (group run speed buff) dash, skull bash (charge/interrupt in cat and bear) and bash (melee range stun in bear) and there are good macros for all flight/aquatic/travel form/mount needs.

    I don’t think the 5×2(+1) is ideal for healing, especially as a druid. I am really sold on healing with grid + clique. Though I suppose I use a total of 4×2 *1 binds for my healing spells

    all of these are effectively @mouseover spells but only interacting with my raid unit frame and not other parts of the world, cause I find that much easier.

    left mouse: Nourish (refreshes your lifebloom stack on the tank once they’re up)
    shift+ left mouse: Lifebloom (after you get the original stack up, you really don’t want it to fall of pretty much ever)
    Right mouse: Rejuvenation (your main anyone is taking damage hot, used for party/raid healing)
    Shift Right Mouse: Wild Growth – your “Hot everyone in the party or up to 5 people in a raid who need it most” button or “Crap, I don’t have enough gcd’s to rejuv everyone individually”
    Mouse 4: (my top thumb button) Healing Touch Bigger, less efficient direct heal, also refreshes lifebloom stack on the tank
    Shift Mouse 4: Swiftmend, 15s cd that does a decently large single target heal if hots are on the target and drops a smart heal on the ground centered on the target w/ a 6yd radius The button to use when the tank or someone needs a heal RIGHT NOW or a bunch of people need some more healing than wild growth and rejuv are providing.
    Mouse 5: (my bottom thumb button) Regrowth the flash heal + crappy hot that costs a lot of mana. Good for clear casting procs or when someone really needs a quick heal for a decent bit of health and other buttons aren’t available
    Shift Mouse 5: Cleanse your good old dispel button,
    Middle Mouse button: Rebirth your battle res
    Shift Middle Mouse: Innervate

    looks like as long as you have a five button mouse you can actually just easily go 5×2 or just hovercast and use keybinds in conjunction with moving your mouse around. I find it more intuitive to have the spells bound to my mouse buttons though since I have to move the cursor to target them.

    As to feral cat and bear, I honestly couldn’t being to describe binds for them, my feral bars are used more for random movement buffs and interrupts and aoe taunts that might be needed in a bizarre emergency.

    Hope that’s helpful if you decide to heal or go moonkin.

    If you are going moonkin, Pickup lunar shower as soon as you can, it t will basically let you run around chain casting moonfire at a mob indefinitely without running out of mana and doing enough damage to kill random quest mobs and the like. And finding a spot on moonkin bars to self cast rejuv and lifebloom helps a lot when you accidentally pull a mob or two more than you planned too.

    • This is great information. I’m going to try to stay focused on Resto for right now, but once I get that spec sorted out, Moonkin looks like huge, feathery fun!

  6. I’ve played Druids since retail day 1, and they’ve always been my main (even during those times I’ve cheated on my Druid with those Shamans).

    Part of what I love about the class is the frenetic type of play that it allows, by having so many options at any given time. I feel this challenges me to think outside the box. Unlike other classes, which also have a lot to offer, the Druid has to also contend with all of its shapes. Being resto does not mean you won’t have to drop into Bear or Cat, which means you’d better be prepared for when that is going to occur (especially in PvP).

    It’s difficult to be able to do that with one hand tied behind your back… which is what this manner of playing does. Now, that’s not to imply that it can’t be made to work. Of course it can.

    However it’s my opinion that all of those rarely needed abilities which a Druid has at their disposal, actually do fill a need… and when that need arises, you’d best have them there and ready to use.

    We’re meant to tap into each form at any given time. That’s what being a Druid is.

    • I don’t disagree. I’m not going to PvP on my warlock with only 11 keybinds, though the 11 I chose give you a pretty good understanding of what I consider essential to play one well in PvE.

      The flexibility of the Druid is appealing but also overwhelming. I’d love to see some Feral binds, so that I have a clue what I should be putting down as alternate form actions. Ideally, I’d like to hit Cat form and not be limited to Dash, but rather could use some abilities to melee an opponent. Or go Bear and hit all the right cooldowns to stay alive.

      But, I also need to be able to do my job as a healer, and do that first. Hopefully this won’t be too hard to pick up!

  7. Even no-posts appreciated. I’ve been linking comments and Twitpics and spreadsheets as well as posts.

  8. Mangara

    5×2(+1) for lvl 85 dungeoneering Fire or Frost mages:

    1 is your mobile nuke – Scorch / Ice Lance
    2 is your primary nuke – Fireball / Frostbolt
    3 is your proc – Pyroblast / Frostfirebolt
    4 is a high-priority spell with a cooldown – Living Bomb / Deep Freeze
    5 is your orb variant – Flame Orb / Frostfire Orb
    Mod-1 is your CC – Polymorph
    Mod-2 is your interrupt – Counterspell
    Mod-3 is your longer DPS cooldown – Combustion / Icy Veins
    Mod-4 is a ground-targeted spell with a cooldown – Blast Wave / Freeze
    Mod-5 is your AoE – Flamestrike / Blizzard
    Middle mouse button is mana regeneration – Mana Gem macro

    Unbound for both specs: Blink, Evocation, Time Warp, Ice Block, Mirror Image, Mage Ward
    Unbound for Fire: Fireblast
    Unbound for Frost: Cone of Cold, Cold Snap, pet control

  9. stiubhart

    It’s interesting how different everyone’s view of the druid is. My main is a Moonkin, and the only thing I bother changing forms for outside of simple travel is to use travel form to escape in pvp and cat form for the odd utility (Skull Bash, Dash, Stampeding Roar, Cower, Stealth/Pounce). The only reason I would ever go to bear form is for Frenzied Regeneration, and, odds are I’m dead anyway because my first thought is to flee.

    If I were to use the 5×2 + 1, it would go something like this:

    1 Insect Swarm
    2 Moonfire/Sunfire
    3 Wrath
    4 Starfire
    5 Starsurge

    mod 1 Entangling Roots/Cyclone/Hibernate macro
    mod 2 Typhoon
    mod 3 Starfall
    mod 4 Force of Nature
    mod 5 Enrage/Tiger’s Fury/Innervate macro

    Mouse Wild Mushroom macro

    Click Attention:
    Hurricane
    Solar Beam/Cat Form/Skull Bash(Cat Form) macro
    Cat Form/Prowl/Pounce macro
    Cat Form/Dash/Stampeding Roar(Cat Form) macro
    Cat Form/Cower macro
    Bear Form/Frenzied Regeneration macro
    Travel macro (Mount, Travel Form, Flight Form, Aquatic Form,
    Cat Form)
    Shapeshift macro (defaults to Moonkin, with Bear, Cat, Travel)
    Barkskin/Nature’s Grasp macro
    Soothe
    Self Healing macro (castsequence: Rejuvenation, Lifebloom(x3),
    Regrowth, Nourish)
    Tranquility
    Rebirth/Revive macro
    Faerie Fire
    Thorns

    I could heal others with clique + raid frames. I probably wouldn’t bother to change this for forms, as the damage in a balance spec comes from spells, so using the cat or bear attacks wouldn’t be nearly as useful, except as listed in the clickables. Most of the utility abilities druids have are caster form only, with only non-heals available for Moonkin form, and only the form-specifics + barkskin for the others, so you’ll always be pulled caster anyway.

    • It’s interesting, reading all the different ways people do things, and the macros that they feel should be kept in. I’m like, why do I need Cat/Cower? Oh, derp, that’s an aggro dump. Bear/Frenzied Regeneration? Oh, massive healing ability there. Got it.

      I don’t know about Solar Beam/Cat Form/Skull Bash, though. Why would you do that as a Moonkin?

  10. dakotarick

    “In fact, I’d argue that having cluttered bars is a sign that I’m not really competent with the character – certainly that I’m not organized with them.”

    Ouch,that’s me. My UI is so bad that I would never post for anyone to see for fear of being ridiculed.

    I have been thinking about this since I saw it tweeted las week. I keep looking at my bars and wonder what I can do to make this easier and be effective. Do I really need to be looking at all this stuff? Last night I was in a Battle for Glineas and there was another Disc Priest in there with pretty good PVP gear so I tried to pay attention to what he was doing in hopes of getting a few pointers. After the BG I was reviewing recount and realized that I wasn’t even using the spell that was his #2 heal. I was feeling very noobish. It really got me thinking about what else I am missing.

    I really like the idea of this project and embracing constraints to get back to the basics. Hopefully it will give me a better foundation and in turn a better player.

    Sorry, but I won’t be any help with the Druid. I played one into the 50’s but it got too complicated and I went back to the Warlock.

    • I’m willing to take one for the team with my druid’s UI. My rogue is almost as bad, I’m sure, and my Priest… well, I know what spells I should be using (smitespec at 53 isn’t that hard), but it’s hardly an optimal layout I’ve got going on.

      Was the #2 heal Prayer of Mending? I found out I was supposed to be using this spell yesterday, I had no idea. I thought it was all Bubble / Smite x5 / Evangelism / more Smiting / Flash Heals as needed. I’ve been doing it wrong the whole time. :-(

      • dakotarick

        We have a winner! I used it all the time in Wrath and I have no idea why it never occurred to me that it is effective in BG’s.

  11. meski

    Vuhdo for healing, kb for moving aka not standing in the fire. The instant casts that you use primarily on the main mouse buttons, things less used (dispel, direct heals) on ctrl / shift mouse. Having 2 healer toons is hell. WTF isn’t WG working?!!

    As an aside, now I’ve got 3 dispel types, Bliz seem to have made my life hell in some dungeons with things that need dispelling. Or do they? I’d suspect I should be adding some debuffs to the ignore list. Also DPS, don’t be relying so much on me dispelling static cling. :(

    • The VuhDo/keyboard moving thing has got me really confused on my Priest. I move with my mouse, so it’s really taking some adjustment to figure out how to make it work. That’s one reason I’m trying to skip VuhDo on my druid for now, to put the abilities into a comfortable framework. Once I have them down, then I’ll move back over to VuhDo, I think.

  12. As I said on twitter, after seeing how many darn spells my 84 lock has in her spellbook, it just makes me not want to play her at max level at all. I am teribad at remembering a ton of keybinds…

    • She’s Demo, isn’t she? Demo really does have a lot of buttons to push during a boss fight, though you can argue that everyone does, really. :-)

      I’m planning a followup post dedicated just to Warlocks, more about how I’m doing things at 85 than just the 5×2 Project. The core spells are all there, but I’m not going to be able to use just 11 keys to PvP.

  13. Gameldar

    Keybindings are a bane… particularly for druids – and I found it harder to keep up while leveling the druid because:
    a) you level so quick these days as you said you’re getting new spells regularly
    b) with dual specs and multiple bars (and including stealth bar for cats) etc there is so many place you need to set up the new abilities on.
    I’m pretty sure I still haven’t set up my cat abilities properly on my boomkin spec for example.

    Now my bars are a mess in general – but I have thought through the process in general and have everything more or less set up with a similar setup – but I am a hoarder and like to have all my abilities around just in case I might use it. But this does mean in the rare cases I need something I usually can’t find it (what does Tranquility’s icon look like??)

    The basics of it (giving that the toons I’ve been focusing on are all tanks) are the same (categorized by ability types) which makes it easier when changing characters but I’m working again on my warrior and I know that I won’t have enough accessible keybinds.

    The thing that I’ve been finding more difficult recently is I like to mix in pve and pvp on all my characters and finding spaces for something that is arguably more useful in PvP but not PvE (or only very situationally) is adding to the confusion . So I think I need to sit down and draw up a new plan to make the best use of my bindings – and perhaps work on changing some of my muscle memory to a bit better bindings while I’m at it.

    A question (that I think you might have mentioned in the past) – but looking at your bindings for your warrior – how do you do your movement (in particularly strafing?) – is that also bound to your mouse?

    • I am starting to think that dual spec is a mistake if it’s your first time leveling a class. It’s a nice thing if you know what you’re doing, and can switch back and forth without losing sight of the class. But if you’re leveling for the first time? It’s brutal. You level too fast to make sense of it all.

      I suppose having a PvP/PvE version of the same spec might work out okay, but then you run into the problem you described – what do you need, what do you not need? This isn’t an easy problem to solve.

      I use some of the keys on my Naga’s keypad for strafing. 10 – strafe left, 11 – backwards, 12 – strafe right.

      • Gameldar

        I’m not sure dual spec is a mistake – I think it is better to learn as you are leveling where you can make mistakes, even in dungeons, and the results aren’t quite as catastrophic. Although it is a lot better now – I still wouldn’t particularly want to quest level in a healing spec for example.

        But I can see the value in stopping and reevaluating every now and again. I know I’m considering change my druid’s offspec to resto to see how that goes in pvp… but I have never specced resto in all 85 levels (I healed a couple of dungeons as boomkin) and so the learning curve is going to be large if I do go that line.

        I think for those with multiple stances it is a bit more work however. I tended to go 10 levels at a time before switching what I was playing with and that gave me a decent chunk to get used to it.

        I went through my warriors keybinds last night… and I’m more of a 10.5 x 2 than a 5×2 setup (and I use mouse wheel up & down) – but that is with everything bound – (except for trinkets/pots and vigilance) . It was good to work out what matches where however – and actually learn how many of warriors tools can actually be used in all stances (i.e. all the talent based ones). Not everything lined up exactly as I liked, but I could mentally see how it would work – the main issue was working out when/where I would incorporate stance switches – as that is something I would have to care more about for PvP for example. I also was reworking my ui… so haven’t had a chance to test it out – but hopefully tonight I will!

  14. I’ve been doing kind of the same thing with clique for classes that have healing spells for some time — I have a standard 3 button mouse, so I try to figure out what are the twelve most essential spells that should be bound to left, middle, right with no modifier, shift, control, alt. The spells I use most frequently are used without a modifier — healing wave, greater healing wave, chain heal on my shaman and rejuv, regrowth, lifebloom on my druid, for example. I have healing rain keybound, not cliquebound, because of the AOE reticule placement mechanic it uses. The next most frequently used spells are on +shift, and so forth.
    I keep a set of index cards to remind me at a glance which spells have which clique binds when I switch between toons and also to help me figure out where to bind a new spell — so that group buffs like mark of the wild or prayer of fortitude are on the same bind, dispels or out of combat rezzes are on the same bind, and so forth.

    • That’s a great point about how you can think about the twelve different clicks available to you (with modifiers) on your mouse. And I think I need to do the index cards for VuhDo, as well – remembering the binds is hugely problematic for me when switching to an alt I haven’t played in a few weeks.

      Great suggestion!

  15. I won’t hurt you…but I will cry inside.

    I don’t really understand why you have any feral stuff on your bar (unless you’re currently IN a feral form, in which case I have a whole different set of issues) since you get auto-changed bars when you shift anyway…at least it does in the original WoW bars, and Bartender which is what I use(d). Or does your bar addon not do that?

    I bound all healy spells across my 1-0 keys, shapeshifts to the top row (q-bear, e-kitty, r-cheetah, t-tree; w was seal form but I rebound that to something more useful since…well…pvp seal? fer srs?), and defensive cooldowns spaced around easy access to my left hand (w g v a x– a was my trinket, in particular).

    I wouldn’t fault you for staying away from vuhdo, initially — I had it very minimally set up for arena, doing most of my stuff through mouse clicks. But then, I was in 2s, so I could macro in a lot of stuff — alt-clicks for myself, normal clicks for my partner who was usually targeted, and macros to CC my focus. I manually mouse-clicked my offensive spells (BAD IHRA, I know) when I needed to use them…no space otherwise. I tried to use something completely vuhdo-clique-esque but was too tied to the mouse. I ended up using it in BGs where there was a lot more people to heal up…but in arena the movement was too (frenetically) important.

    I think healers who swear by vuhdo (and I do adore it, within its useable confines) tend to be pve ones where movement is rather less necessary. PvP’s always been a more mobile game than PvE (well…when played well :-p), and I made a conscious decision to stay away from using my mouse to heal since it seemed more important to move, a lot of times. YMMV

    Sorry, that was kinda rambly :-)

    • Bartender does all of those things; I’ve actually started disabling that functionality, and instead have started relying on stance macros to figure out the “right” thing to do in any form. We’ll see how that goes.

      The mix of Feral, Balance and Resto bars is due in part to constant respecing. There’s little excuse for it, I know, but I’d leveled from 60-65 as a Bear, and when I went Resto I never cleaned up my bars. I just started tossing stuff around that I thought I might need, reasoning that since most everything was bound to vuhdo, it wouldn’t be that bad. (I was terribly wrong.)

      I’m trying to learn to play without VuhDo right now. It’s a bit of a challenge, since I have trouble switching between people in combat, but I’m getting there. Slowly. I let a tank die twice during a UK run because I couldn’t switch back fast enough, which was embarassing, but I figure better focus macros could help solve that. (I need to get used to mouseover macros, too.)

      Still struggling on my Druid? A bit. But at least the UI is cleaner now.

      • The Dewd

        Honestly, I’ve been Feral on my main since I hit Hellfire Peninsula once the Dark Portal opened and I have no idea if I could do the 5×2. I’ve probably, independently come close, though.

        I can’t even tell you what my keys are bound to, other than a few. I can’t recognize abilities by their icons, either – I just know which buttons I want to hit and when. I don’t use Shift+1 because Shift+6 feels a bit more comfortable – but I do mostly run with a 1-5, Shift2-Shift6 setup. (My MMB is my push-to-talk hotkey.) But I still don’t have room for some abilities and find myself having to either stretch my fingers or click – and I don’t like that – especially since those are things like my interrupts. And don’t even talk to me about my Bear keybindings – I can’t ever seem to get those tamed.

        I should probably switch from WASD to something else (like ESDF) and/or learn to not use my strafe keys for strafing anymore – but old habit and old fears die hard. Plus I’m worried that I’ll try to throw every ability within reach and wind up doing something silly.

  16. I’ve noticed that a lot of these set ups are for caster classes. Is there an inherent problem with melee classes that simply requiring us more keybinds or am I just going crazy with envy?

    If and when I return to WoW, I want to have a set up like this for my (Fem Dorf with twirly braids!) Retribution Paladin so I can actually concetrate on the pvp instead of the truckload of buttons I have to pay attention to.

    I also downloaded the spreadsheet you put for your warrior and I can’t help but notice that your movement keys are also taken up. How do you strafe? If you even do so? I would surmise that you use the ‘push both buttons to move forward and turn with the mouse” to get around, but I can’t help but wonder what a situation where strafing will be needed.

    • I use buttons on my Naga to strafe. I really prefer moving with my mouse and casting with my keyboard. It’s a little odd, but it works for me.

      I don’t think there’s a melee/ranged issue here – if anything, I feel like my warlock has SO MANY buttons compared to my Warrior and DK – but I am sure that’s more a question of competence than actual class. Most classes have a truckload of abilities at 85, but you don’t really need to use ALL of them. Maybe not 10, but probably not more than 20, really.

      • dallanna

        You use the mouse buttons to strife? Hmm, never thought of that before.

        Well, I guess I can use the two additional buttons on my logitech G9 mouse as the strafe buttons. If it works, it works, right?

        And for what it’s worth, I’ll try and get a working paladin spreadsheet, using your template (Slightly modified), and send it to you, if you’d like.

  17. relysh

    I compiled a 5×2 + MMB configuration for all 3 specs of mages for raiding/dungeoning (boss dpsing – no CC, little to no AOE).

    I kept blink in there because it saves your ass on bosses more than you know. just dont try it anywhere near magmaw. and i mean literally near him. unless you enjoy bathing in lava :( and watching his hilariously unfinished middle joint bobble back and forth.

    4 Mages 2 HURRRR

  18. SaintStryfe

    Well I do something similar – I use a Razer Naga mouse. It gives us 12 keybinds, which I love, but I have my thing set up so I can use a 5 button mouse when gaming on my lappy.

    My main is an ENH Shaman and prime alt is a Hunter.

    The way I break it down: I have 3 types of buttons: Mashers, Procs and CDs.

    Mashers are buttons you are using constantly – for my shaman it’s a Stormstrik. Procs are used generally once but they’re your big hitting spells Lightning bolt (used with 5 MW Procs). Then are the CDs. things like Rapid Fire for the Hunter and Feral Spirits for the ENH.

    IF we’re limiting ourselves to 5 buttons, then we’d focus I think on the Mashers and the Procs, leave the CDs on your bar. I would suggest we go with:

    1-Stormstrike
    2-CastSquence Macro: Unleash Elements, Flame Shock, Earth Shock, Earth Shock (this is a minor DPS loss, but I find it frees up my attention so much I’m willing to take that minor hit, and the DPS is compensated by longer periods alive and less mistakes)
    3-Lightning Bolt (For 5 MSW Procs)
    4-Call of the Elements (Drops a set of Four Totems)
    5 – Player’s Choice – (this is changeable – some times I’ll drop Hex there if I’m doing a 5 man where CC is needed, On Cho’gall for instance I’ll drop a second totem set, Call fo the Ancestors to slow adds, and generally I ‘ll run with Magma totem and Fire Nova for faster AoE)
    S1-Lava Lash
    S2-Wind Shear (Interrupt)
    S3-Chain Lightning (or, if you prefer, a heal like Greater Healing Wave)
    S4-Totemic Recall (removes your totems)
    S5 – Player’s Choice

    So basically, 1 is Direct Strikes, 2 is Shocks, 3 are Bolts, 4 is totems and 5 are player’s choice.

    It does hinge on a Macro but i like this setup overall.

  19. MJ

    I love this. My warrior is 84 and I haven’t played her in ages because she has so. many. abilities.

    I’m going to try this when I get home and hopefully clean up those bars.

    This is why I love my arcane mage however. 95% of the time I only use 5 abilities + buffs. ^_^

  20. What’s interesting is that I pretty much play my Resto Druid main with a 5X2 mentality already. I use healbot as my healing mod, so all my heals are bound to mouse clicks. My mouse has five buttons and I use a shift modifier to double the binds available. In addition, I have a few non-heal abilities that are keybound, the most important being Tree of Life form and Barkskin. I also have some cc abilities bound, as well as Soothe, since it’s very useful for dispelling enrage effects. Like many healers, I move using the WASD keys (unless I need to turn quickly), so I keep abilities bound on keys close to that position.

    Here are my mouse binds, in case it helps you with your resto druid. (The fourth and fifth buttons on my mouse are “forward” and “back” buttons that are hit with the thumb.)
    Left – Rejuv
    Middle – Nourish
    Right – Wild Growth
    Forward – Lifebloom
    Back – Swiftmend
    Shift+Left – Regrowth
    Shift+Middle – Rebirth (aka brez)
    Shift+Right – Healing Touch (it would make more sense to switch this with Rebirth, but I got used to where Rebirth was in the days when we didn’t use HT)
    Shift+Forward – Tranquility
    Shift+Back – Nature’s Swiftness (this is not necessarily the best choice of abilities to bind, but I like it here)

    I have the opposite problem that you are having: I understand my druid inside out and backwards, but am completely overwhelmed by my warrior alt. My warrior is shelved at level 30 because I was already confused by all of her abilities. I find druids a lot easier because once you’ve chosen a form you only use abilities for that form – essentially eliminating 3/4 of the spellbook from your bars.

  21. Inquisitor

    I find I use a lot of context-sensitive macros when I really try to keep button count low.

    Thus, I might well make button 1 do something like:
    If mounted, dismount
    If in flight form, drop form
    If in combat and in any form, drop form
    If mouseover is hostile, cyclone,
    If mouseover is friendly, regrowth,
    If target is hostile, cyclone,
    If target is friendly, regrowth,
    If target is friendly and dead and we’re in combat, Rebirth,
    If target is friendly and dead and we’re out of combat, Revive,
    If focus exists and we’re in combat, regrowth.
    If we’re in combat, regrowth on self.
    If flyable, flight form.
    If outdoors, mount
    If not cat form, cat form
    Castsequence reset=140 Dash, Stampeding Roar(Cat Form)

    So, in combat, it’s my cyclone, my emergency heal, and my battleres, out of combat, it’s my res, and my ‘go faster’ button, as well as my flight form toggle for times when tactical falling speeds up transit.

    (I usually run with the tank focussed, and all heals set up to go to focus if no better target presents itself).

    In practice, I don’t do this, because I have the ability to bind and use 30-odd keys, and I prefer to separate out offensive and defensive abilities to make accidentaly mouseover in the heat of things less critical.

    If I, personally, were to suddenly find myself playing with one hand, I’d likely spend a few hours designing a full macro suite along these lines, and I reckon I’d be able to get about 90-95% of my current PvP performance out of it, never mind PvE. I imagine most *players* would find that much overloading a bit overwhelming, never mind the general-case disabled player.

    I reckon that macro would probably stay pretty much as-is, though. (I’m pretty sure I can make that exact functionality happen on a single button, although I might need to chain 2 macros together due to character limits).

    So, yeah. Context-sensitive buttons, rather than strongly limited lists of abilities. Another approach.

  22. Cyn,

    Great post and made me think. My warlock’s buttons are a little more organized, but still needs a lot of work, even after playing since Vanilla WoW. Though some buttons are just there since the time when things were simple, and I just refuse to move it simply because of habit.

    When playing my new 85 druid though, I stumble a lot like you said. Tried arena for the first time last night and I was rofl-face-pwnd in a matter of seconds. Partly due to gear, but I think its also due to skill (or lack thereof) on my part. I can handle myself well in duels, at least surviving a few minutes against well geared opponents, but in Arenas it was a whole different story.

    I’d love to read up on the warlock keybinds. I know I still have lots of improve upon. Somehow I feel your posts are logical and I might apply some of it to my char :)