Good macros are an essential part of battleground success. WoW macros are small scripts that automate your activities to some extent, allowing you to do more things with a single click. Coupled with keybinding, macros let you do amazing things in and out of combat. But even if you are a point-and-clicker, macros can help improve your play. Once you start using them you’ll wonder how you got by without them.
The idea behind using macros in battlegrounds is to make killing you opponents as easy as possible. You have too much to think about in a battle to be worrying about setting up your combos or selecting targets. No, really!
I’ve held several macro classes in guild chat, and the biggest problem I see with macros — usually the only problem — is getting started making them. Their flexiblity and power can be intimidating. What I’d like to do here is start with the basics of designing and making macros. Once we’ve covered that, I’ll follow up this post with specifics on the two classes I know best, Warlocks and Death Knights.
Ready? Let’s begin.
Macros let you do things you never thought were possible!
WHAT IS A MACRO?
Macros are small user-defined scripts that do stuff when you press a button.
What kind of stuff? Well, I think of macros as doing a few different kinds of things.
1. Space savers, allowing multiple abilities to be bound to a single button. These make use of modifier keys or different mouse buttons to work. These are really good for leveling.
2. Combos, which let you do several things at once, several abilities in sequence, or both. If you find yourself casting the same sequence of spells over and over again, a macro can do that for you.
3. Targeting and focus macros, which allow you to do things without changing your current target. This sounds more complicated than it is; I use target macros to apply bandages to myself, or do things to my pet, without having to switch my current target out.
4. Utility macros, which automate a lot of non-combat activities, like mounting the appropriate type of mount, pulling items from the mail, or telling people to click on your Doomguard altar.
These broad categories are how I think about my macros, but they’re just there to help me organize my thoughts about what I want macros to do for me.
For example, just about all my characters get the following macros while still in the starting area:
- Healing (Medic!)
As they get older, and I discover what things I do all the time with that class, more macros get added. But let’s stick to the basics for now and start making macros.
MACRO 101: THE /MACRO PANE
Let’s start with a simple attack macro for early level use. Using the default button layout, I would press one button for my ranged attack or nuking spell, and then another button for my autoattack, and make sure to not press my attack button again until the mob is dead.
That’s way too complicated! I prefer “press 1 until dead.”
So what we are going to do is:
- Create a new macro.
- Start attacking the mob, even if they’re out of range.
- Cast your nuke.
(If you haven’t made a macro before, I really suggest you follow along and make one as we go. It helps to learn by doing.)
- Open macro pane with /macro.
- Choose either general or character specific. Either will work for now.
- Choose New Macro.
- Choose icon ? and name it “Attack”.
- Type: #showtooltip
- Type: /startattack
- Type: /cast Shadow Bolt (or whatever your low-level nuking spell is)
- Save and drag icon to actionbar in the 1 position.
- Press 1 until dead!
Here’s what we did:
First, you opened up the Macro Pane to access all your macros. You can have ones that are shared by all your characters, or character-specific ones. How you organize them is really up to you, but I find putting character-specific abilities into the general tab only makes sense when they’re common macros I want to copy to other characters. Even then it gets confusing.
When you created a new macro, you have to select an icon and choose a name. You can choose from the standard list of icons if you like, but I find the ? icon to be the most useful. The ? icon looks to the macro text to determine what icon to show, which is very useful later on. The line #showtooltip tells this icon, show the tooltip of whatever is active right now. If you said #showtooltip Frostbolt, the Frostbolt icon would be displayed instead. But we don’t want that, so just use #showtooltip.
The text we entered is WoW’s macro syntax. The first line specifies the icon. The next line, /startattack, tells your character to start attacking and do not stop. This means, unlike your standard auto-attack button, if you press it repeatedly autoattacks will not toggle off.
This is vital because the second line, /cast Shadow Bolt, can be used to fire SBs at your opponent while they close the gap. You can usually squeeze off 2-3 before they get you, at which point you will start hitting them on the head with a stick.
PRO TIP: If you have a pet, you can add in /petattack to have them start attacking while you are casting your nuke.
The attack macro is an example of letting you do two things at once: cast a spell and toggle auto-attack on. This works because these two actions do not share a cooldown, that period of time while the buttons refresh on you bars. But what happens as you level up and start casting more than one spell?
Well, you cast them in order using /castsequence. This command lets you press the same button but rotate which spell is cast. If, as a leveling warlock you find that you cast the same sequence of spells over and over, they can be combined into a single macro using /castsequence.
The sequence you should be using as a Warlock in her early years is: Curse of Agony, Corruption, Immolate, and then either Life Tap, Fear, Drain Life, wand, or melée attack. The first three spells are ordered to keep initial aggro low and match up durations as much as possible.
Open up your /macro pane again, and let’s make a new macro for this sequence.
- Open macro pane with /macro.
- Choose either general or character specific.
- New macro.
- Choose icon ? and name it “Grind.”
- Type: #showtooltip
- Type: /petattack
- Type: /castsequence Curse of Agony, Corruption, Immolate
- Save and drag icon to actionbar.
Now, this is good, but if for some reason I don’t cast all the spells on the first mob, I’ll be stuck in mid-sequence. Sometimes this doesn’t matter, but in this case it really does. So let’s modify it slightly so that the sequence resets when we switch targets.
/castsequence reset=target/combat Curse of Agony, Corruption, Immolate
This will work much better.
The reset variable is very flexible. You can do time-based resets in addition to combat resets, like so:
/castsequence reset=target/combat,4 Curse of Agony, Corruption, Immolate
This will reset your sequence after switching targets or 4 seconds of not pressing the button. Timer resets are good safety codes to include so you don’t get stuck with a spell you don’t want.
When you see me do this, RUN.
MANY ABILITIES ALL AT ONCE, AKA THE PANIC BUTTON
Everyone needs a panic button to hit when everything goes wrong. You can activate your racial defenses, pop a healing pot, use a healthstone, trigger a pvp trinket — and all at the same time! All of those little abilities can add up to a complete reset of a fight if you fire them all at once.
I find it helpful to have two panic buttons: one strictly for healing, the other to also remove snares, stuns, etc..
The key is finding abilities that do not share cooldowns. Potions and Healthstones are on separate CDs, as are racial abilities and Lifeblood. This means you can trigger them all at once. Here’s a sample panic button:
#showtooltip /cast Every Man For Himself /use Fel Healthstone /use Lifeblood
This will invoke the human racial to break stuns or snares, use a healthstone, and cast the Herbalism HoT Lifeblood. If you aren’t human, you can specify your own racial, or tell it to use a pvp trinket with the /use 13 or /use 14 command.
To make this into a stronger heal, you can add in some additional lines to use potions:
#showtooltip Fel Healthstone /use Fel Healthstone /use Lifeblood /use [combat] Runic Healing Potion
See that [combat] modifier I added in there? This will only consume a potion if I pop it in combat. This limits my potion intake somewhat.
The key with these sorts of macros is experimentation. Start simple and then add as you go.
SAVING SPACE: MODIFIER KEYS
So, that [combat] modifier isn’t the only modifier you can use on your macros. Modifier keys let you change a button’s behavior by holding down the shift, ctrl, or alt/option keys, thereby effectively putting four actions into a single bar slot.
I’ll be frank; I used these a lot while leveling, but I hadn’t remapped my entire keyboard yet. Now I find it’s better to have single keys bound to single functions, with only a few multi-function buttons for use out of combat. Here’s an example for warlock buffs:
#showtooltip /cast [mod:alt] Create Healthstone; [mod:ctrl] Unending Breath; [mod:shift] Detect Invisibility; Shadow Ward
Each macro modifier tells what kind of modifier key is necessary to press the named spell. The icon will change as you modify it, so you can see exactly what you’re doing.
There are a lot of good uses for modifier keys in macros. If you haven’t remapped your keyboard yet, they can really help keep all your important abilities at your fingertips.
Last, but not least, we come to utility macros. Macros can be used to get all the gold or loot out of your mailbox, automate selecting a flying or land mount based on your zone, or tell you your location. There are a lot of situationally useful macros that I use, but aside from mount macros they aren’t very useful in battlegrounds.
For more information on macros, may I recommend the following WowWiki pages:
In part two, we’ll dive into specific Warlock macros and how I use them.
15 responses to “An Introduction To Macros”
cyn…that reset part just made my whole day. Or it would have if this weren’t the day season 7 starts. I had set up a castsequence macro for my mage but dropped it because mobs kept dying mid-rotation and then i’d be stuck on the next mob solo-casting the spells leading up to where i was in the sequence. I had no idea you could force the macro to reset!
You’re very welcome!
I noticed upon reviewing some of my current macros that I’d misremembered the syntax for resetting — it had changed in one of the recent patches. I updated the post with what I think is correct. Here are two examples from my current macro files, in all their unedited glory.
First, Cynwise’s Press 1 Until Dead button:
/castsequence reset=target/combat,3 Immolate, Chaos Bolt, Conflagrate, Incinerate, Incinerate, Incinerate, Incinerate, Incinerate
And then Cynwulf’s:
/castsequence reset=target/combat,6 Icy Touch, Plague Strike, Pestilence, Howling Blast, Blood Boil, Frost Strike, Frost Strike, Death Strike, Icy Touch, Plague Strike, Blood Strike, Death Strike
/cast Mind Freeze
There’s a lot going on in each of those that I’ll go over in future posts, but it’s enough to at least get the correct forms out there. Sorry for the mixup!
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I’m such a simple player that sometimes I feel like a noob lol.
What exactly does the #showtooltip do? Does it line out in a tool tip everything that is written in the macro?
No, it changes the “?” icon to be the icon of either whatever ability is currently ready in the sequence, or whatever is specified in that particular line. It is somewhat confusingly named because the tooltip it references is the icon, not the mouseover tooltip you’d expect.
Even though this comment is now going to be two months after the original post I have to say THANK YOU!!!! You have explained to me what my husband doing demos could not…stupid men. I even posted about it and liked to you from my blog. Thanks a bunch!
You’re very welcome! I’m glad it was useful!
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I realize this is an old post but I just found your blog (seen some of your vids though) and really have to say thanks, I’ve always been really confused on making and using macros and your macro 101 helped a lot.
I recently dinged 80 on my first toon, a lock of course, and I find myself using the same cast sequence over and over in instances. It’s either the usual affliction rotation or spamming SoC on trash mobs.
I think after reading your blog I can come up with some macros that will make my life much simpler. Instead of having to press , or click 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8…3,3,3..on each boss
I can combine them into one simple button.. and maybe even have time to type a response in the party chat in between.
I put this macro together with your help, but I wanted to know if there was a way to make it cast shadow bolt if immolate misses and I can’t conflagrate. Something that’ll be like “spell unavailable” skip onto the next one.
/castsequence reset=target/combat Bane of Agony, Corruption, Immolate, Conflagrate
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Hi there. For starters, I would like to know how to use netherward in a macro. What I mean is, every 30 seconds, netherward needs to be replenished by pressing the active, associated icon.
Also, in Battlefield (BG) such as Warsong Gulch, chars quickly die and get resurrected. I need my char to set fel armor, netherward, and call the battlepet, Felhunter, to cast the shared mana (with the icon on the bar that sorta looks like a brain – not the one on top indicating fel intelligence). I need this sequence to be automated whenever the char is in BG, especially Warsong Gulch. Thanks.