Tag Archives: Keybinds

Warlocks, Trash Your Keybinds

You’ll get all sorts of advice before having your first kid. Most of it will be bad. “Get plenty of sleep now!” sounds great, but it’s really bad advice – it makes you freak out about the impending sleep deprivation while not actually helping you cope with the reality of the first year or so of raising an infant. Getting 8 hours of sleep during the second trimester does you no good when your 8 month old is still waking up every three hours and oh god could I haven’t had a complete REM cycle in forever. It’s even worse advice if you’re the one who is pregnant, because getting a good night’s sleep during the final month or so is basically impossible due to the very large, very active kicking being in your belly.

“Assemble the crib in the nursery” is a bit better, because it points out something you might not realize if you’ve assembled furniture but not cribs before – they’re too wide to fit through doors, but not so wide that you’ll immediately realize it. So if you assemble the crib out in your living room (where there’s more room) and try to get it through the door, you’re bound for frustration. But you can also probably figure this out yourself.

The best advice I got before having my first kid, and I’m now giving to you, is to start lifting light weights as soon as possible. Get some light dumbbells, curl gallons of milk or six packs of diet coke, do some pushups – whatever you can to start getting your arms ready for carrying 8-10 lbs of baby around all the time. I wasn’t prepared for that, and even with the advice (which I didn’t follow enough) I found myself still struggling with how much more physical I was going to have to be. Kids are gradually increasing weights, so you catch up – but I could have used even more of a boost.

So, I’m going to pass on something that I learned in the beta which you might not have considered. You can take it, or not, but if I had to go through the experience of picking up my Warlock all over again this is what I’d do.

Trash your keybinds.

Take everything off your bars. EVERYTHING. Take every ability off your action bars and start with a blank slate. Look over the spec you’d like to try, open up the spell book and read over the new abilities. Go to a training dummy and start, slowly, bringing stuff back onto the bars.

My initial experience in the beta was awful. It was terrible. I told Xelnath that after the first hour of trying to make sense of the changes, I nearly quit in frustration. This was before the Core Abilities tab, or the What’s Changed Tab – I was trying to set everything up like I was used to having them and it just didn’t work. Warlocks have changed too much to bridge between the patches. Your macros are probably useless. (Stop trying to cast Fel Armor, you don’t need to do that anymore!)

Start over from scratch.

My second day in the beta, I threw everything out. My intricate bindings were gone. I switched, for the first time in years, to a WASD setup, and started adding things back onto my bars. I remapped to different buttons. I looked at the spellbook and threw out what I thought I knew about playing a Warlock. It wasn’t easy. But instead of being totally frustrated with the strangeness of it all, of cursing that it doesn’t work this way and why doesn’t my buff macro work it was, oh, I have a suite of defensive CDs now, I should group them over here, and Fel Flame can always go here, and …

I was amazed at how much better this went, how much easier it was to adapt to the changes of the class. Forget that, I was amazed at how much room I had on my action bars now! By giving up mouse driving and going WASD (and eventually ESDF), by admitting that my previous strategy of having 120 potential binds wasn’t needed, I got rid of my expectations that I knew the class and got back to learning it anew.

The class is different now. Even Affliction – the spec which is the most similar – is really quite different. Don’t assume you know what you’re doing – you don’t. Not yet. That’s what this next month is for.

Start over. Nuke your whole UI if you have to, but start by jettisoning your keybinds.

Your keybinds carry expectations with them.

Today is a day to reset and start over.


Filed under Cynwise's Warcraft Manual

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.


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.


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:

/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:

/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
/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!


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.


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.


Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

From Warcraft to Outlook: The Razer Naga as a Productivity Tool

I received the Razer Naga gaming mouse over the holidays, and it’s a sweet mouse. With 12 buttons on the thumb rest and 5 on the top, there’s a lot of ways that you can use your Naga in WoW to help improve your play.

But I’m not going to talk about Warcraft very much today. Mostly because I’m still wildly experimenting with how to best use it in game, but also because the Naga has a lot of applications outside of Warcraft which make it a really interesting input tool. The efficiencies you get while gaming translate directly to other computing tasks… like answering email.

Yes. Email. Outlook, Mail.app, even Lotus Notes – whatever you use, the Naga is here to help you out.

I spend a lot of my professional life dealing with email. I get a lot of it (200-300 emails a day) and have to triage it quickly. I follow a lot of Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero principles, where you don’t try to manage your work life through your Inbox. Emails either prompt an action from you, or they do not, but whatever you do, don’t keep them hanging around as reminders.

(I really recommend his original video and some of his follow-up posts on 43 Folders. It can really change your relationship with your email. Yes, you have a relationship with it.)

So here’s how my email life is set up.

  1. The Inbox is for deleting. Once the email has been read and the task captured (and, hopefully, the response written on the spot), the email should be deleted. An empty inbox is the goal.
  2. I delete instead of filing for several reasons. Deleting is faster than filing in nearly every interface I’ve worked in – one button and done. I don’t even try to categorize emails, because I use global searches instead. It’s easier to search a single folder in Outlook 2007 than many folders. I don’t want to have to remember where I put something. Where is it? It’s in the Sent folder. Always.
  3. All of my email – inbound and outbound – is saved in my Sent folder. I do this through an Outlook rule that puts a copy of all inbound email into my Sent folder. My outbound mail gets saved there anyways, so everything is in one place.
  4. I do keep a few folders around for saving copies of emails that shouldn’t get archived. Two, actually – Reference and Good Job – but things go in there rarely so I don’t feel the need to automate them.

So the tasks that I need to automate with my Naga are relatively straightforward.

  1. Delete email with one click.
  2. Reply to email with one click.  Reply to All and Forward are special cases of this one.
  3. Copy, Paste.
  4. Close windows when I’m done with them.

But I don’t want to assign these features everywhere, just my email applications! I especially don’t want to bind keys that are used in Warcraft to Outlook!

The Naga handles this with ease. The key is in Razer’s application-specific profiles.  Each application can have a unique configuration on the Naga, which lets you assign specific keys for just that application.

Here’s the Mac version of the Profiles preference pane; the Windows version is functionally similar, but much more… green. I’ve set up two separate applications here, in addition to the default.

  • Remote Desktop is for when I am working on my Windows machine. I work from my Mac remotely into my WinXP machine, so the “application” that is running is RDC. If you’re running natively, select your mail program of choice here. (Entourage, Outlook, etc.).
  • Warcraft is for WoW, of course.  I made a separate profile so I could change keybinds without fear of modifying the default behavior.

You’ll notice that I have Auto-Switch on for these two profiles. This means that if I am working in one application and switch to an app with a different profile, the Naga will switch automatically. So when I’ve got RDC going with Outlook and I switch back to the OS X Finder or Safari, my keybinds revert.

Let’s look at those keybinds.

I had to experiment a bit with this, but the best way to pass keys through Remote Desktop is using macros. A macro is a series of keystrokes you record with the Razer software, like so:

See that Record button at the bottom? Press that, execute the keystrokes, and then press stop. You can modify the delay as desired.

I made the following simple macros:

  • Delete – Ctrl-D
  • Reply – Ctrl-R
  • Reply to All – Ctrl-Shift-R
  • Copy – Ctrl-C
  • Paste – Ctrl-V
  • Close Window – Ctrl-W

and assigned them to the thumb buttons on the Naga.

And let me tell you, the experience of using the Naga to control Outlook is great. Absolutely fantastic! I read an email and delete it without thinking about it. It sounds silly, but saving yourself from having to reach over and hit Function-Delete (which is how you do it in RDC), or even the delete key, is quite nice. I drive with one hand instead of two. Zip zip zip zip zip email’s done.

I’m experimenting with other ways to automate tasks in different applications using the Naga; post-processing photo workflow comes to mind, especially with a combination of Automator actions and keybinds. I’m really happy with it so far and am completely hooked.

Can’t wait to see what else I can automate with this strange, wonderful, black-and-blue mouse!

With 12 Keys of Automating Goodness to Choose From!


Filed under Cyn's Guides To Almost Anything, Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

Warlock Keybinding and UI

Pink Elekk.png

The search for the perfect interface with World of Warcraft is much like the search for pink Elekks:  both are goals that really only exist in your mind.  The highly customizable WoW interface leads users towards finding a balance of changes to suit their needs.  With that customization, however, comes an onslaught of choices that players have to make about how their game looks.  And that tyranny of choice can sometimes be overwhelming.

I’ve received a lot of requests on Twitter to share my UI and keybindings for PvP.  I totally understand why people ask this; seeing how other players function inspires me in trying to optimize my interface with the game, of trying out new things, of thinking of ways to arrange functions that work better than the default, and better than what I have now.  I know I can always improve my layout.  Maybe looking at mine will help you with yours.

TL;DR version:  this is my UI.  There are many others like it, but this one is mine.


Any consideration of UI should really start with the very basic elements of the user’s interface, starting with the input devices.   My UI is completely based upon the limitations of my computing setup, where I play, and how I control my characters.   Your UI should take your setup into account, too.

I play on a laptop in various locations around the house — sometimes on a desk, but often in bed, at the kitchen table, or on a couch watching football.  Here is my black Macbook and Logitech trackball:

Cynwise's WoW Computer

I don’t know what your setup is like, but mine is space-constrained.  I do not have a numberpad, or extended keyboard.  I have a small screen (13″) so space is at a premium.  I have a touchpad, but vastly prefer the trackball for Warcraft, mostly because the trackball allows for easy right-clicking.  The touchpad requires an Option-Click and that is cumbersome, both in terms of time and muscle strain.

I know most players don’t like trackballs, and that most players prefer to not play on laptops.  But that’s okay!  I’ve got what I’ve got.  Yes, there are a lot of sleek rigs, cool mice and great keyboards out there.  If those are your thing, try them out.  For me, with all the locations I play in, an external keyboard is not possible.  While the trackball is not something I like lugging around the house, I found the cramping in my hands and difficulty in moving without it to outweigh the extra weight.  So the trackball goes with the laptop now.

Be honest with yourself when assessing your input methods, and don’t worry so much that the devices are holding you back until proven otherwise.


Before I show a single screenshot of my UI, I need to talk about keybinding.  My UI doesn’t make any sense without knowing how my keys are mapped out.  The title of this article gives away that I am an avid keybinder.  I bind everything that could be useful in combat to a key; there is very little clicking when I fight.  Some people can click icons effectively in combat — I am not one of them.  I think the improved reaction time you get from keybinding is essential to success in battlegrounds, Arena, and most PvE encounters, too.

I play with my left little finger resting on the tab key and my right hand on the trackball. (Yes, I tab target, I used to play affliction.)  The tab key provides an anchor for me to put three fingers on the 1, 2, and 3 keys, and my thumb on the space bar. The following picture lays out degrees of movement required to hit certain keys.

Keyboard Color Coded

Essentially, I consider my WoW keyboard as a one-handed input device, all radiating out from the Tab key.   Here’s how I think of each zone.

  • Dark red (Tab, 1-3, Q-E, Space) are no motion at all (or very little motion) and are therefore my primary action keys.  On my warlock, these are things like Immolate, Incinerate, Conflagrate.  I am hammering these keys EVERY combat.
  • Pink keys require minor reach, and so are filled with useful spells and abilities.  These will usually see some use in most combats.
  • Orange keys I can stretch to reach but don’t have to leave the Tab key, so they are more infrequent items.
  • Yellow keys require me to lift off of the Tab key and are infrequently-used abilities.
  • Blue keys are system keys and not used in combat.
  • White keys are movement keys, used as backup and for special modifiers (mounting, autorun).

This layout evolved from my original setup, which used the arrow keys to move and 1-10 to cast.  The left hand became my primary casting hand, while my right hand would move with the arrow keys.  (, and . were originally bound to strafing, actually.)  With the introduction of the trackball I realigned the keyboard for one-handed use, and only use two hands when typing text.

Once I had the keyboard divided into zones, I quickly noticed that I did not have enough room to bind all my abilities and the default system commands.  This was a big challenge for me to overcome; I couldn’t accept that it wasn’t necessary to have the PvP pane keybound, for instance.  The ASDW movement keys stuck around for a long time, but eventually, the need to have keys available won out.  You only really need a few system functions available.  Experimentation helps determine what ones you really need.


The hardest part of keybinding is not the honest assessment of your input devices and how you interact with them, honestly.  Organizing and mapping out your keys is the most daunting part of the process.  Trying to organize them logically is tough. Dual specs make it tougher, since now the same character can have two different keybinds.

And alts?  Trying to map out the keys on my alts made me cry.

The keys to managing all this is priority and consistency.  Priority is grouping your most important spells where your fingers are, and consistency is keeping similar functions in similar locations across characters.

Prioritization is very class-specific, and I’ll go into my warlock mapping in a little bit.  Consistency, however, is something that is independent of class and can be achieved by sticking similar things similar places on your keyboard.  So I use a standard way of mapping the keyboard to the screen, no matter what character it is:

Keyboard Bartender Map

There are, essentially, three full action bars worth of keys here.

  • Red keys are the top action bar on screen.
  • Pink keys are the middle action bar on screen.
  • Orange keys are the bottom action bar on screen.
  • Yellow keys are “stance keys” off to the side of the screen.
  • White keys are not displayed on screen.

You can use the default UI to do this mapping, but I prefer Bartender because it allows me to essentially provide a visual representation of the full keyboard on my screen, like this:

This is actual size, which means these buttons are all but unclickable.  I display this so that I can remember my “yellow” key mappings, and to give me a visual representation of the global cooldown.

Could I get away with hiding this?  Probably, on my warlock.  I do swap out some keys (-, =, p) if I need to have a quest item, bomb, or RP-GG keybound, but in general I have this list memorized.  But then I wouldn’t be consistent between characters.  And I like seeing the GCD spin.

Here’s the breakdown for those who would like to know more.

  • Red Keys (fingers at rest)
    • 1: Attack Macro — Immolate, Chaos Bolt, Conflagrate, Incinerate x5
    • 2: Incinerate
    • 3: Conflagrate
    • Q: Nuke Macro — Chaos Bolt, Immolate, Conflagrate, Incinerate x5, [alt] Soul Fire
    • W: Pet Special Ability, [nopet or alt] Drain Mana
    • E: Shadowfury
  • Pink Keys (one step removed, frequent use):
    • 4: Fear
    • 5: Life Tap
    • R: Death Coil
    • T: Demonic Circle: Teleport
    • A: Medic Macro — Healthstone / Health Potion / Lifeblood / Demon Armor
    • S: OH SH_T Macro — Every Man For Himself, Lifeblood
    • D: Buff Macro — Shadow Ward, [shift] Detect Invisibility, [alt] Unending Breath
    • F: Bandage Macro — Heavy Frostweave Bandage
    • `: Smart Mount/Dismount (shared with ,)
    • Z (not shown): Fel Armor/Soul Link Buff Macro
    • X (not shown): Demon Armor/Soul Link Buff Macro
  • Orange Keys (two steps removed, stretch):
    • 6: Howl of Terror
    • 7: Drain Soul
    • Y: Demonic Circle: Summon
    • U: Rain of Fire
    • G: Curse of Elements, Corruption x6, [alt] Curse of Agony
    • H: Shadowflame
  • Yellow Keys (must leave Tab to reach):
    • 8: Drain Life
    • 9: Drain Mana
    • 0: Food
    • -: Wand
    • =: RP-GG/Seaforium/Net
    • Delete: Reverse camera view
    • I: Inferno
    • O: Banish
    • P: Hellfire
    • [: Firestone Macro
    • ]: Create Healthstone
    • \: Toggle Vent
    • J: Shadow Bolt
    • K: Fishing
    • ;: Fel Domination, Summon Demon
    • ‘: Heal Pet/Consume Shadows [Voidwalker]
  • White Keys (non-combat:)
    • L: Quest Log
    • C: Character Pane, [shift] Currency Tab
    • V: Social Pane, Guild Tab
    • B: Open Backpack, [shift] Open all bags
    • N: Talent Pane
    • M: Map
    • ,: Smart Mount/Dismount
    • .: Autorun
    • /: Chat
    • Arrow Keys: Movement

You may find some of my Warlock Macros post helpful in understanding what I mean when I have multiple functions assigned to each key.


One of the trickiest things about dual-specs is keeping the keybindings consistent between your different specs. I try to keep everything consistent, except for the Red keys (1-3, Q-E), which I’ll dub the Red Zone.  I’m fortunate in that I have two extremely similar specs (one is Destro PvP, the other Destro PvE), which is pretty straightforward to switch between.

There are only a few differences here:

  • W: Pet Special is replaced by Curse of Doom.  This is because PvE Destro relies upon the Imp, who does not need his special abilities mapped.
  • E: Shadowfury is replaced by Rain of Fire.  My PvE build doesn’t have Shadowfury, and I use Rain of Fire all the time in instances.
  • J: Shadow Bolt is replaced by Soulshatter.  Soulshatter has no use in PvP, and there’s little need for a Destro lock to ever throw a Shadow Bolt in an instance.  (There is ALWAYS a better spell I could cast.)

I really try to maintain consistency between the different specs, especially in the Red Zone keys.  Even though E changes to a different spell, it’s still an AoE spell.  I don’t have to retrain my muscle memory to do something different, if I want to hit a lot of mobs I hit E.  And W is still a special attack, just a curse I don’t use very often.  (Curse of the Elements sees a lot of use in my PvE play.)

You’ll notice something else in this example: I don’t unmap U from Rain of Fire.  While it would free up a key for something else, I don’t want to have to relearn keys outside my Red Zone.  (The J Soulshatter/Shadow Bolt switch is my only exception here, and it’s not one I sit well with.  I just couldn’t rationalize putting Soulshatter in a PvP build, and occasionally I need to fling a Shadow Bolt at a fire-immune mob while questing.  But this doesn’t sit easy with me.)

Radically different dual specs present an interesting challenge.  Limiting the changes to the Red Zone helps keeps them manageable, because you can focus on grouping actions together.

I don’t have a screenshot of it anymore, but Affliction looked like:

  • 1: Curse of Agony, Corruption
  • 2: Haunt, Unstable Affliction
  • 3: Drain Soul, [alt] Drain Life
  • Q: Shadow Bolt
  • W: Pet Special
  • E: Seed of Corruption

These keys and macros, with appropriate timers and resets, allowed me to keep a boss fully dotted up with a minimum of changes.  I could spam AoE with seeds on E, and execute at 25% life with Drain Soul with 3.

The key to maintaining my sanity between the two, though, was keeping everything else exactly the same.  Yes, that meant I had Drain Soul in two places.  But it also meant that I could switch between the two without having to relearn the entire keyboard.

I love my Red Zone keys.


Now that I’ve gone on entirely too long about my keyboard bindings, let me talk about moving my character around.  I’m a trackball user.  It works like a 4 button mouse, so I can run, change camera positions, and strafe, all with different combinations of keys.  I’m right handed, so it is easier for me to strafe left (using my thumb) than strafe right (using my pinky).

I still have the arrow keys bound for movement. I used to use them all the time, but I honestly don’t think I’ve touched them in months.  Mounting and dismounting quickly is very important in battlegrounds, which is one reason I have it in the Red Zone (`) as well as near the arrow keys (,).  I do use Autorun (.) a lot while doing dailies, especially while flying… but it’s dangerously next to my dismount button.  This has led to some unfortunate hilarity.

Perhaps I should do something about this?



After all this discussion about keybinding, you’re probably expecting my UI to be a carefully planned out minimalist work of art.  It’s not.  Actually, it probably looks a lot like yours. Playing on a 13″ screen has drawbacks.  You have only a little space to put a lot of information that is dynamically changing. Your needs for one kind of fight might be different than another; certainly I wish I had less information in PvE and more information in PvP.

As I’ve been writing this post, I realize how much a work-in-progress my UI is. Even now I see things I want to change, to reconfigure, to take out, to add…

Enough excuses. This is my screen UI, there are many like it — but this one is mine.

I have two modes, in and out of combat.  Out of combat, I display extra bars with Bartender for items that I may need access to:

UI Shot - Cynwise, Stonehearth Field Marshall

Oh Bal, you tease.  We were just there to help!

When I enter combat, the bars to the left and right fade out completely. I do this to increase visibility and reduce distraction from the flow of numbers on the screen, like so:

UI Shot - Cynwise, The Azure Front, In Combat

(Yes, I normally play in windowed mode.)

Because they do not convey much information to me during a fight, my Bartender icons are very, very small on the screen.  The pet bar is right on top of it, but I rarely click it, instead preferring to control my pet with the keyboard.

If you are interested in which addons are used for which feature you see here, I have an annotated version of the combat UI. I’m using the following addons:

  • Bartender4
  • DeadlyBossMods
  • DoTimer
  • MikScrollingBattleText
  • MobInfo2
  • NeedToKnow
  • Omen
  • Quartz
  • Recount
  • SaySapped
  • SexyMap
  • WinterTime

In addition to the UI addons listed above, I also use:

  • Altoholic
  • Auctioneer
  • Cartographer
  • DagAssist
  • Gatherer
  • Outfitter
  • TrainWhistle

As I look at my screen, I see several areas which need improvement.

  1. Cooldown management and debuff timers are spread across three different addons, each giving me a little different view on what I need to know.  I should spend some time consolidating them and making it so that the information is consolidated so I do not waste so much space in displaying it.
  2. Combat text is in two places.  I like the information associated with MikScrollingBattleText, but I also want to know the location of the damage — you can’t hide behind a wall from a Warlock who has dotted you up.  I’d like to get the best of both worlds, but don’t know how yet.
  3. I am still uneasy with different Unit Frame addons.  I should try some out, since the default ones don’t convey enough information (and take up a lot of space.)

So, that’s my Warcraft interface.  While it’s not perfect — or a pink Elekk — it gets the job done.

But there’s always room for improvement.


Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual