HoTs and DoTs: A Restoration Druid and Shadow Priest

A Revelation (and some Key Binds)

Caesandra outside Hellfire Citadel

This story takes place inside Hellfire Citadel...

Tam prompted me to relate a little story, a small moment of glory (oh the glory!) when he blogged “this is probably quite obvious to anyone with a serious alt habit but it’s interesting to see the way transferable knowledge operates in WoW.”

I had a revelation. Yes, a revelation. In Shattered Halls.
I’ve been loving playing my Mage. I didn’t much in the beginning. In fact, I was well and truly bored until around level 60 when all the good stuff starting coming my way: my water elemental – my partner in crime! and I think he deserves a proper name – and a whole bunch of free procs: free Fireball! free Ice Lance damage! free stun!

Actually playing the Mage had really cemented one truth in place: I love casters. I just love them. That’s why I can’t pursue my baby Paladin, or Death Knight for that matter, with any real effort. I know that even if I dabble with all three specs I won’t play a level 80/85 melee (Ret or Prot) or a healer (Holy) with any real dedication. And that’s why I rolled a Warlock on Argent Dawn instead.

Before I tell you about this revelation I had playing while playing the Mage I want to tell you how I go about wrapping my brain around new class abilities as I learn them.

I started playing a Rogue. And like all newbies, I played with the Blizzard default UI. I leveled as Assassination, and switched to Combat at level 70. Basically my keys were set up something like this (to this day they haven’t much changed)

Sinister Strike Eviscerate Cloak of Shadows Vanish Cloak of Shadows
Instant strike Finisher Stun Drop threat Oh shit! Oh shit! Oh shit!

I don’t think you can get match abilities when you go from a Rogue to a Shadow Priest, but I tried. As I learned each new Priest ability I tried to match it to a similar Rogue move and bind it to the same key.

In the heat of battle, I often reach for the same keys to do the same kind of job – drop threat, hide, cast an instant spell, absorb damage – regardless of what character I’m playing.

My key binds for Cassandri have changed over the years but some of the “matches” have been around for years. For example, my Priest’s Fade (even when it was crappy in BC) took my #8 key in the same place I keep my Rogue’s Feint. Both are threat reducers. And Every Man for Himself (or Escape Artist on my Gnome) goes straight on the Equal keybind whenever I start up a new character.

If I don’t follow through and put, say, an instant attack where I have a utility spell … then you can end up doing something like pulling Faction Champions with Shadow Word: Death instead of buffing. Which is something that I actually did, because on my Discipline UI, I had moved SW:D onto a key that was perfectly harmless while playing Shadow spec. That was one of the most embarrassing moments in my virtual life.

Of course, classes are different enough that you can’t always do a direct translation. But nevertheless here’s my keybinds character to character:

Key binds across damage dealers

Key binds across DPS classes

And the common theme for each:

  1. An occasional, but important attack/spell. Part of the rotation.
  2. Almost always an instant. My opener.
  3. And occasional, but important attack/spell. A nuke. Or cool down spell.
  4. Stun/Slow
  5. AoE
  6. AoE
  7. Utility spell
  8. Drop Threat!
  9. Pet/Utility spell
  10. An occasional, but important attack/spell. Part of the rotation.
  11. Oh shit!
  12. Oh shit!

During combat I reach for 1, 2, 3, 4 and 0. That’s where you’ll find my cast rotation spells.

I almost always open up with #2. And it’s almost always an instant spell, or a DoT. Shadow Word: Pain, Corruption and Flame Shock are all on #2. Blizzard automatically placed Corruption elsewhere and gave me Immolate on #2 instead. However, in my mind Immolate is more comparable to Vampiric Touch (both with a cast time, both DoTs).

I’ll confess I bought into the “Mages are easy” mentality that gets thrown around. And you can kind of understand why: I usually start hitting 1, 2, 3, 4 and 0 the moment I enter combat on my Mage after playing another character of mine. When in fact I should be just hitting 2, 2, 2, 2, 2 etc.

Unfortunately I was slightly worried about the mental lull induced by Mage-ing. Anyone can hit their Frostbolt button over and over again. How is this teaching me to be an excellent Mage? As I approached level 80 I was starting to get pretty damned worried that I might need to head into a battleground to really master the Mage.

I don’t worry so much about that now.

It had been almost two years since I’d been to Shattered Halls. Caesandra (my Mage) and Pixii (Lathere’s Warlock) had been sent there by the dungeon finder. I had forgotten a lot about the dungeon in that time. Lath and I argued about what could open the door to the first boss (she had never gone by way of the sewers – to which I pointed out that I had always been around to unpick the lock). I did remember that ranged had to kill the first boss when he started whirlwinding… because he wasn’t going to stop. I couldn’t remember how threat worked for the ogre boss, and ran around like a crazy gnome trying to stay both in range of our tank’s taunt, and out of range of the angry ogre/s.

After eating dust on that boss I didn’t really have any expectations, or high opinions, of my own performance.

As a group we took a few steps into the final corridor to approach the last boss.

And I heard our tank get sapped.

I was already running away as I hit Frost Nova, exposing the enemy assassin from stealth, and freezing him in place far enough away from everyone else in the rest of the group that he couldn’t do anyone any damage. The sap wore off and the tank picked up the mob.

Not only did I identify the sound of the sap, I pulled out the reason for it from my memories of Shattered Halls: remembered that there are stealthed mobs in the lead up to the last boss, and that they always incapacitate the tank (or whoever they spy leading the way) and then proceed to stun and slaughter the very next member of your party.

And, if all that wasn’t enough, I automatically reached for the very best spell on hand – on my alt Mage – to deal with it. I could have blinked away and saved myself, I could have Arcane Explosion-ed or AoEed to expose the Rogue and bring him out of stealth. I probably could have even used Cone of Cold + Polymorph to expose and render him harmless.

One spell. At the exact right time. Used when my party members weren’t in harm’s way (if a Mage Frost Nova’s something right next to you they enemy will just hit whatever it can reach… usually an unsuspecting healer).

The human mind is an amazing thing.

I never really ran Shattered Halls back in the day with a Mage beside me either. I don’t think I’d ever seen a Mage deal with that exact situation in SH using Frost Nova. And certainly I don’t think any other class that I play has an ability similar to Frost Nova.

Yet I still knew to reach for that key, that ability. Oh it was glorious. I think I almost fell off my chair as I started to think about what I’d done.

(Lathere didn’t seem to appreciate my genius).

28 Responses to “A Revelation (and some Key Binds)”

  1. KeevaNo Gravatar says

    I have the same kind of system! I think I have to, or I’d just get lost.

    This way, I can drop a character for weeks or months, but still “remember” how to play when I jump in again – because it’s the functions of the keys that I have memorised, not necessarily the spells themselves.

  2. KurnNo Gravatar says

    Awesome story! It reminds me of my first time in heroic Pit of Saron, in the first few days of its opening, where I was in a pug on my hunter. My poor hunter who has been woefully neglected for the majority of this expansion.

    No one knew the Ick and Krick fight, but I know better than to stick around when a boss says something like “Quickly! Poison them all while they’re still close!”

    My ENTIRE group, except for me, died. Along with my pet. And I just went straight into full-on hunter mode, letting my mostly dormant experience take over. I kited. For a good thirty seconds. And killed him. I hadn’t kited anything in a long, long while, but there I was, pulling out every trick in the book. It was glorious.

    By the way, my friend Majik dubbed his water elemental “Billy”, back in the day. My mage has dubbed hers “Clyde”. And another friend has named his “Walter”. All water elementals should have a name, even if we can’t get it to display in-game. ;)
    Kurn’s last post: Cataclysm Beta Build 13066

    • CassandriNo Gravatar says

      I don’t know what I’d name my water elemental. But I don’t think it’s fair he has no name either. Even the summoned Warlock pets get a name.

      And those moments of awesomeness are the reason why we play, I think.

  3. AtaraxavenNo Gravatar says

    I like your setup, it’s a lot like my own- I keep the same rough ‘idea’ keys in the same places across all my characters so muscle memory goes where they need to go whatever the toon.

    Only difference is, rather than WASD for movement, I shifted over to RDFG, and use all the keys around those to be my spells, like QWEASTYUIHZXCV. Lots more options that way.

    I did some pics of the setup a while back on KissMyAlas:
    Ataraxaven’s last post: Something seems funny here

  4. I have tried to do this, but for the most part I had to drop the idea after I kept ending up with commonly used spells in the wrong places. Though my paladin and priest share sacred shield and PW:S and 7 is vanish, iceblock, and divine shield.

    P.S. I hope you followed that up with a frostbolt, but hitting deep freeze fast enough to be able to use the frost nova for that, then having frostbolt crit on the deep freeze, and then an instant fireball because that procced!

    • CassandriNo Gravatar says

      I must admit that after spending a fair bit of time with a character at level 80 I’m more likely to move spells around to suit that character. I think my AoE and “utility” spells for the Ele Shaman are in odd places (in hindsight) but they’re pretty much in the spots that are convenient for me to reach for lengthy play now.

  5. shortfingersNo Gravatar says

    Anytime i see those keybindings “1″-”´” i ask myself why doesn’t one use the much easier reachable keys around ASWD, and if more needed in combination with shift, alt, ctrl?
    So you can leave your hand always on the same spot and save time(=sometimes lives).
    (sorry for bad english, non-native here)

    • CassandriNo Gravatar says

      Heheh, yes I have very short fingers :(

      I actually find it very difficult to consistently reach for and hit combinations with modifiers (like Shift, Alt, Ctrl) – even if the 2nd key is around my movement keys. My right hand is my dominant hand and I just find it easier to pick it up and smash a key nearby. What I didn’t mention in the article is that I keybind a couple keys on my numlock pad – mostly survival/occasional spells – to make that easier.

  6. PsynisterNo Gravatar says

    Same thing here, and interestingly we use some of the same buttons for them as well. I don’t often bind pet abilities, instead I just use the default ctrl+key built in to activate them. The one exception is the Water Elemental as I tie his Freeze to my Frost Nova key and activate it with alt+6.

    And yes, Squirtle most definitely deserves to have a name of his own.

    1. Important attack, never an opener, also bind my mount here when no combat.
    2. Instant nuke or spammable attack for melee
    3. Always my opener and/or most spammed attack for casters
    4. Instant attack spell, preferably with some CC/Interrupt effect
    5. Utility or cooldowns macro (Ice Barrier, Icy Veins, Trinkets, etc)
    6. AoE/Slow (Frost Nova, Psychic Scream, etc)
    7. Utility, most common CC. (Poly, Fear, Hex, Blind, etc)
    8. AoE/Debuff, preferably instant-cast (Arc Explosion, Blood Boil, Holy Nova)
    9. AoE, channeled or cast time (Blizzard, Flame Strike, Hurricane)
    10. DPS cooldown or resource restore (Deep Freeze, Evocation, Innervate)
    -. Utility, Silence/Interrupt, Resource restore (Slow Fall, Life Tap, Rune Tap)
    =. Racial almost w/o exception (mage’s Ice Block goes here)
    Psynister’s last post: Welcome to the Hollowed Core

  7. MetaneiraNo Gravatar says

    I swear, reading about other people’s keybinds gets me more worked up than discussing politics or religion. How on earth can you reach ice block fast enough to save your life if it’s all the way over there? Doesn’t your hand hurt from reaching over to hit blink every cooldown when you’re running back to dungeon wipes? ARGH!

    Put the oh-shit buttons in places where 1) you won’t accidentally fat finger them and 2) in places where you can reach them readily. Last stand is Shift-D. Iceblock is Shift-A. I’m not going to accidentally hit those things, but they only require my right hand to get them off.

    And mages are probably one of the few classes where it’s easy to do decent damage but difficult to put out great numbers. There’s a lot of jokes about arcane being two buttons, but put a mediocre mage next to a pro with the same gear, and if both are playing arcane, the pro player will kick the pants off the person just hitting two buttons.


    • CassandriNo Gravatar says

      I honestly don’t understand why people rant over this issue like it’s black & white. How we use our input devices is personal and will differ from person to person. As I mentioned in reply above, I have very short fingers and am right handed and find it nearly impossible to use modifiers or 2 button combination with any accuracy.

      I much prefer the flexibilty of reaching for my numlock pad or the 0, -, = keys with my right hand while I’m on the move (WASD). Strafe (E) + 0 (Numlock zero that is) for a Dispersion on the run comes easily to my hands.

      And I don’t think anyone I’ve played with has commented on my poor reaction speeds :)

  8. RebeccaNo Gravatar says

    Interesting post. For a looooooong time I did the newbie thing of trying to put all my abilities on my bars, and then getting confused about where things were. Then I realised that I only use X number of abilities on each class, and my keybindings suddenly got a lot more manageable and reachable.

    Oddly I don’t think I quite use a system from character to character, but something sort of like that from role to role. Particularly for healers. My healing keybindings are all on the same keys so that when I pick up another class I know what I’m doing, which was particularl helpful when I was progression raiding on my resto shaman then logging and trying to work out how to heal as a levelling disc priest.
    Rebecca’s last post: Deuwowlity- Report Of Cata Changes From Deep Undercover

    • CassandriNo Gravatar says

      I think playing at level 80 gives you the knowledge of which abilities can be dropped off your UI buttons to help you focus. I, too, throw every new ability I learn on the bars as I learn it. But I also try and use-it-in-a-sentance as I learn a new ability too – something I couldn’t remember to do if I left it in my spellbook.

      Healing spells are easy to match class to class, too. And, yes, like you I have a click cast set up that is almost identical for each character that can heal. I do struggle to get all the Priest heals I like to use into the setup, though. And that’s with modifiers.

  9. RazorstormNo Gravatar says

    I have built a standard pattern that I use for most characters, especially my tanks.

    R- spammable, or short cooldown offensive
    F- short cooldown, often AOE
    I then have shift R and shift F variations of proc based or longer cooldown powers.

    2, 3, 4- Interrupts, or responsive powers

    C, V- Defensive powers
    Shift variations for “oh-Shit” powers

    1-Something I use for impact (charges, usually),

    T- taunts, or other utility for non-tanks

    5,6- utility that don’t rely on “twitch reactions”

    G- different for every toon

    The key is that creates a nice ring around my ASWD center. Anything not listed above is usually something I click.

    I have similar patterns for by healers on Healbot.

    Lclick- small quick heal.
    RClick- Big bomb heal
    Shift Lclick- cleanse/purify/remove nasty shit.
    Shift Rclick- instant powers
    Center and shift/ctrl variation- bubbles, or other “Save you” powers

    • CassandriNo Gravatar says

      I totally agree – 5 and 6 – are the hardest keys to reach for consistently. I can see how a tank would want their defensive powers at close reach. Unfortunately I actually use the “c” default keybind (Character panel) all the goddamn time so I’m unwilling to keybind that one to something else so many years later.

  10. ManbearcatNo Gravatar says

    I honestly don’t know how anyone gets by with so few keybinds….
    I guess it’s the hybrid class in me that makes me need to have every single ability in my arsenal bound to a key. Currently sitting at 50+ usuable keybinds and I haven’t even hooked my razer naga up yet.
    Altoholics ftw tho :)

    • CassandriNo Gravatar says

      I do have a couple extra keybinds (mostly on my numlock keys) that I didn’t mention in the article – mostly because 1-0,-,= do just fine for me while leveling. And VuhDo handles a heck of a lot of abilities for me too.

  11. GabriellusNo Gravatar says

    It wasnt until a couple of weeks ago that i went back to tanking on my pally, after a rather long stint of just DK tanking.

    Took me about 3 mobs to remember the correct rotation of my actions bars, and it was then about 3 more mobs in i tried to interrupt an enemy spell cast, only to try to taunt it again. Ive been tanking on my DK for so long that i had just reached for Mind Freeze to interrupt without even thinking about it.

    It was then that i actually looked at my bars and realised that none of my keybinds were even close to similar spells on my DK’s tanking bars. Conc and DnD, both of my taunts, my single target attack, my cleave attack, all of them had different keybinds on both toons.

    Thinking that this was a little odd that after so long of not playing this particular tank yet still jumping back into it and being able to respond with the right spell at the right time sort of threw me off that my mind was able to work that well, with the exception of interrupt, cause well lets face it, Pally sort of lacks in that department.

    It was almost like logging on to a different toon or even different spec, my mind just seemed to load up a new profile and fit right back into it as though nothing was different. After all that i decided to check my other tanks so see if any of them shared common abilities and slots. Too my surprise, only 2 of them shared one of thier “oh shit!” slots, other than that, everything was in a different place. Yes even the taunts…

  12. Jayson! - IllisisNo Gravatar says

    “pulling Faction Champions with Shadow Word: Death instead of buffing. Which is something that I actually did, because on my Discipline UI, I had moved SW:D onto a key that was perfectly harmless while playing Shadow spec. That was one of the most embarrassing moments in my virtual life.”


  13. XeppeNo Gravatar says

    I do something similar with heals and click binds in Vuhdo (and previously Healbot) – big slow heal on the left, little insta heal in the middle and the utility medium heal on the right. As I’m the world’s worst at changing toons/specs and adjusting my mindset quickly to the abilities of the toon I’m on, it saves my bacon over and over.
    However, Shift-middle is Renew in Disc and Levitate in Holy, and if I had a Frostie for every time I’ve ended up walking on air when I meant pop on a Renew . . .
    Xeppe’s last post: I may never be a proper Tree

    • CassandriNo Gravatar says

      Interesting! I mean, since both Disc and Holy use Renew I guess I’d put them on the exact same key/button. You must have it on a more convenient button for Holy I’m guessing.

      • XeppeNo Gravatar says

        Yep, started out trying to use the same keys for spells I use in both specs, but it wasn’t working. You don’t want a 2 key combo for a spell you need to cast every second or so. So middle mouse button is always my go-to spell – Renew in Holy, Shield in Disc, Chain Heal on the Shaman and Rejuv on the Drood. Renew is the only one that trips me up . . .
        Xeppe’s last post: I may never be a proper Tree

  14. TamNo Gravatar says

    Seeing other people’s keybinding is like discovering some kind of weird alien lifeform that exists only on biros and old socks. IT’S JUST SO WRONG!!! Ahem. I guess they become kind of integral to your game – embedded in the grammar of play.

    I have a similar system for my multiple inept healers – similar buttons for similar spells so I can reach instinctively for the “type” of heal, even if it’s not necessarily the heal I think it is.
    Tam’s last post: what a long strange trip it’s been

  15. BruteNo Gravatar says

    Ctrl-C for bringing up Character Pane for me, though I’m weaning myself onto clicking it as its rarely required mid combat and its another bind I can free up for the incoming Cata abilities. My secret as to why I occassionally ‘talk’ invent while jumping in Dal is out :D

    Its funny, but almost everything in my bindings setup has been configured around being able to smash whatever keybind while simultaneously making my Heroic Strike/Cleave key explode with delight. With an internal CD coming on this in Cata, I maybe able to revise that, but it certainly won’t be as fast paced or keyboard breaking.

  16. MalamuteNo Gravatar says

    Playing as a mage for several years now, I have learned that there are quite a few things that we can do to improve situations. Popping mirror image at the right time so you can “off-tank” for a few seconds and kite a mob/boss while you bring it down. I’ve done a similar thing a few times on Ick and Krick like the above hunter and gotten cheers when he went down after kiting.
    I must admit that my keybinds for my alts are all over the place. I haven’t ever tried anything like yours where similar spells are bound to similar keys. Maybe I will look into that setup.
    Found something good for you if you don’t already know. You can rename your water elemental, but it is permanent. To rename your water elemental, just type this script below.
    /run PetRename(“NAME HERE”)
    Where of course Name Here is the name you want for your pet. Make sure you include the caps, and there is a 12 character limit I believe. Also it only works for the water elemental and not warlock pets. Named mine a few days ago so it should still be working.

  17. NixyNo Gravatar says

    This is my same system and while this is an old post, I was reading back a few posts (I love this blog :3) and saw this one and had to comment.

    I have learned to change it up but generally… it’s the system I’ve used since day one and it works for me (also learning disabilities + Warcraft = it’s difficult learning new classes – though now I’ve one of everything so I don’t have to worry!) :] Glad I’m not alone in this, though, haha.
    Nixy’s last post: 11. End of Spring Bucket List.

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