Hotkeys Guide – Building for Speed
Whether you play arena or are a hardcore raider, developing a set of solid keybindings is of absolute most importance. Binding all of your abilities allows for a quicker and more responsive utilization of skills, spells, and attacks. But building the perfect keybinding and hotkey layout is no easy task. It can take days, weeks, or even months to really get used to a new set of bindings, but if constructed properly it will result in vast improvements in your abilities and performance in all aspects of this game.
Most WoW players are going to use a standard left hand on ASDF (home row) and right hand on the mouse. This allows you to have access to the largest number of potential hotkeys via your left hand, reach of all modifiers (shift, control, alt), and also have your hand always on the mouse for quick movements and change of position. It’s from this base that we’ll build the entire layout from.
Dismantling Blizzard Defaults
By default large portions of keys are bound to something. This is great for new players as it allows them to quickly get acquainted with the world of warcraft user interface, but for more experienced players many of these keys become antiquated. Fortunately, many of these keys are in the optimal position, allowing us to simply add a whole arsenal of potential keys without having to add unnecessary modifiers.
Let’s start off with the movement keys. By default blizzard has 6 movement keys…
Q – strafe left
W – move forward
E – strafe right
A – rotate camera left (move left)
S – move backward
D – rotate camera right (move right)
If you’ve played any other FPS or game which uses and WASD movement system then you know this is a bit unorthodox. But essentially, you do not need the rotate camera buttons. The mouse allows you to adjust your camera position much faster than keybindings, and unbinding these will give you 2 new buttons.
Personally I’ve chosen to move my strafe left and right keys to A and D, as I play a few other games which use the WASD movement structure it was just easier for me to play like this. You can decide if you’d like to move them or keep them as is.
Below is a list of other keybindings which you should consider unbinding. Many of these are unnecessary, and will have alternate hotkey or graphical selection tools in game.
R – Reply
F – assist target
G – target last hostile
V – nameplates
C – character screen
X – sit
Z – unsheathe weapons
B – toggle backpack
T – attack target
F1 – Target self
F2 – Target party member 1
F3 – Target party member 2
F4 – Target party member 3
F5 – Target party member 4
*additionally you may want to use all of the shift states of the above, not going to list all of those out though.
All of these keys are found within reach of left home row, making them ideal for our setup. There are many other unnecessary bindings on the right home row, if you’re a lefty (and play with a left hand mouse) you may consider unbinding these instead and going with a reverse approach. Essentially, unbinding these hotkeys gives us many additional keys that we otherwise would not have. Also, it prevents you from having to use excessive modifier keys in order to accommodate all of your abilities and spells.
Bindings Built for Speed
Ideally, you want to build your keybindings in such a way that you never have to use a modifier. Now, for some classes (especially if you use focus macros to help consolidate abilities) this may be attainable, but there are some that just have no other options than to break out the shift key. That said, it’s best when we can avoid it.
For starters we want to decide the bindings which we used most often. These keys should be given the “sweet spot” (yellow zone) on the keyboard. Now, your individual hand postion (and hand size) may vary this, but for me this sweet spot includes 3, 4, 5, 6, E, R, T, F, G, and Y. All of these keys can be hit very quickly regardless of what my movement and modifier finger is doing, allowing me to continue strafing and positioning while also never missing a beat with my attacks and specials.
Just as a quick example, my elemental shaman’s raid key bindings look something like this…
3 – Lightning Bolt
4 – Chain Lightning
5 – Totem of Wrath
6 – Wrath of Air
E – Mana Spring
R – Earth Shock (Max Rank)
T – Earth Shock (Rank 1)
Y – Frost Shock (Max Rank)
F – Elemental Mastery
G – Grounding Totem
V – Tremor Totem
This takes care of all of my most used abilities right away. Additionally, I’m always a fan of keeping my interrupting spells on my index finger (always just feels more precise). As such, I have my both of my earth shocks located in an optimal position for a fast hit to make sure I nail my interrupts.
Obviously, we still have several others abilities you’d want to have bound, and we’ve got plenty of keys left to bind them (1, 2, Q, E, Z, X, C). Since I don’t use these spells as often I don’t put them in my “sweet spot”.
1 – Lesser Healing Wave
2 – Healing Wave
Q – Poison Cleansing Totem
E – Earthbind Totem
Z – Water Shield
X – Warstomp
C – Purge
This keybinding setup takes care of probably 85-90% of the necessary keybindings you’d need as a pve elemental shaman. Some of these could be considered excessive, but I like to make sure I am prepared for any situation that may arrise. Additional abilities and spells could be added easily using a modifier (I prefer shift, but you may feel more comfortable with alt or ctrl).
We basically have 3 assignment levels of keybindings.
1. Sweet Spot (Yellow) – These are your primary keys and most used spells.
2. Secondary (Red) – These are important keys, but since you may have to use your movement key to access them efficiency it’s best to use spells you do not use as often as you do on your sweet spot keys.
3. Additionals (Not Color) – These are basically going to be modifiers (shift, alt, ctrl) of the two above zones, classes that require many abilities may have to use all of the available modifiers in order to accommodate all of their classes abilities.
4. Movement (Pink) – These are minimum required movement keys.
If you’re comfortable with the reach you may also consider using some of your home row positioned F keys. This typically means just F1-F4 (F5 if you have big hands like me). I would not recommend putting very crucial items on this bars. Personally I found them ideal to load up potions, healthstones, bandages, and water. Kind of like my consumable row.
The Right Equipment
In any competitive activity you’re only as good as your equipment, WoW is no exception. New gaming peripherals are making it easier than ever to take your game to the next level. The mouse is a great way to easily add additional quick access keybindings (I’d put these into your secondary section simply because your primary activity with the mouse should always be movement and camera adjustment). Most new mice come with at least 2 key buttons on the side and a middle mouse. These are great and you’ll definitely want to take advantage of them.
For those of you curious I’m currently using a Razer Tarantula keyboard and a Razer Anarchy Red mouse. I’ve had the mouse about 8 months and the keyboard for 4 and I’ve been extremely happy with both of them. Razer produces some of the best gaming peripherals out there and they have my 100% approval.