Our last Blood Sport article featured the first in a two-part series about the strategies of PvP keybinding. You'll probably need to check it out for this article to make sense, seeing as there's lots of confusing colors and everything.
That article had lots comments praising ESDF hand positioning. Well, we're going to start things off with a crowd favorite.
Read A guide to PvP keybinding, part 1.
ESDF is keybinding code for a type of hand position that moves the hand slightly to the right. As you can see, the movement keys are no longer WASD, but ESDF (hence the name). (See last week's column for an explanation of the colors in the charts used here.)
There is a reason ESDF is so widely praised as a fantastic adaptation: It gives you access to more keys with very little sacrifice! I highly recommend this variant for the user who is currently using the common WASD with roaming pinky positioning.
This type of hand positioning gives the WoW player access to more keys on both the left and right. A roaming pinky can now access A and Z without much trouble. Moreover, the index finger can find its way back to home row much easier because of the little ridge on F. ESDF positioning also allows the hand to have easy access to more keys to the right, such as 6, Y, H, and B.
Roaming index is another type of hand position variant, but this type is much different than ESDF. Most WoW players rest their hand on the A, W, and D keys using their ring finger, middle finger, and index fingers respectively.
However, players who use a "roaming index" style instead rest their fingers on home row and use their ring finger to touch the W key. This means their index finger is free to "roam" amongst the middle keys, giving them a more friendly access to F, G, C, V, R, T, and 5.
I haven't played a lot of games other than WoW, so when I started playing, the roaming index style was very natural to me. I haven't tried to break the habit, because as we'll see very shortly, this positioning is arguably the most optimal hand position for keybinding.
Roaming index definitely allows the user to have the most keys easily accessible without using modifiers. Perhaps the biggest draw of roaming index is the ability to access 7, U, J, and N without much difficulty.
The Z key is much harder to use in this configuration, but this is an acceptable sacrifice in light of the large amount of access the user has in the middle of the keyboard. R, T, G, C, and V all become prime real estate for the roaming index. Moreover, if you use your mouse for autorun, the Z key is actually fairly accessible with the ring finger.
Spell Interrupts: The key to the castle
While this is certainly debatable, I believe the most important keybind a PvPer has access to is his keybind to interrupt enemy casters. Stopping a heal is the difference between victory and defeat far more than I'd like to call attention to.
I highly recommend binding your primary spell interrupt to E, R, or F, if you're not using ESDF. If you're using ESDF, your spell interrupt key should probably be R or G, or possibly T.
Your index finger is probably the quickest and most reliable finger on your left hand. You want to give it access to spell interrupts to maximize your chances of hitting that enemy spell. A thumb button on a mouse is another great place to put an important spell interrupt ability. On my death knight, I have multiple spell interrupts, so I bind them to E and R, and Strangulate is on my thumb button.
My personal keybinds
As I've mentioned, I use the Roaming Index WASD keybind system -- I'll be disclosing my keybinds for my warlock. I use a very similar keybind system on all my other characters, which I will explain after the wall of text.
1 Curse of Exhaustion and Conflagrate
2 Bane of Agony
4 Unstable Affliction, Hand of Gul'dan, and Shadowfury
5 Haunt, Metamorphosis, and Chaos Bolt (51 pointers)
6 Drain Life
7 Shadow Ward (previously Drain Mana, Shadow Ward was on 8)
Tab Demonic Circle: Summon
Q Life Tap
E Pet macro / interrupt (Sacrifice, Spell Lock, Seduce, Axe Toss, etc)
R Death Coil
T Tab target" (because I have a roaming index, it's easier to tab target on T)
Y Howl of Terror
G Pet attack
H Pet follow
J Move pet
Z Bane of Doom
X Searing Pain
C Fel Flame
V Shadow Bolt
N Curse of Weakness
SHIFT + `~ Incinerate
SHIFT + 1 Soul Fire
SHIFT + 2 Racial ability (except for Every Man For Himself)
SHIFT + 3 PvP Trinket (Every Man For Himself is also here)
SHIFT + 4 Power macro (on-use trinkets + Demon Soul + engineering use items, etc.)
SHIFT + 5 Soul Link
SHIFT + 6 Fel Armor
SHIFT + 7 Demon Armor
SHIFT + Tab Demonic Circle: Teleport
SHIFT + Q Other pet ability macro (Felstorm, Succubus Knockback, Imp Dispel, Felhunter Dispel, etc.)
SHIFT + W Flying mount
SHIFT + E Pet focus macro (Spell Locks, Seduces, Axe Toss on my focus target)
SHIFT + R Death Coil focus macro (Death Coils my focus target)
SHIFT + T Seed of Corruption
SHIFT + A Ground mount
SHIFT + S Soulshatter
SHIFT + D Focus target (acquires my focus)
SHIFT + F Fear focus macro (Fears my focus target)
SHIFT + G Healthstone macro (eats healthstone, uses battlemaster trinket, etc)
SHIFT + H Health Funnel
SHIFT + Z Curse of Tongues
SHIFT + X Pet attack focus macro (tells my pet to attack my focus target)
SHIFT + C Soulburn
SHIFT + V Soul Harvest
SHIFT + B Banish Focus macro (Banishes my focus target; I do not have a regular Banish cast)
SHIFT + N Curse of Weakness focus macro (CoWs my focus target)
SHIFT + SPACE Immolation Aura (Metamorphosis)
CONTROL + `~ through CONTROL + 6 cast the normal spell on my focus target (I rarely use these)
CONTROL + Q Drain Soul
CONTROL + E Summon Imp
CONTROL + R Summon Succubus
CONTROL + A Bandages my target
CONTROL + S Bandages myself
CONTROL + D Fel Domination
CONTROL + F Summon Voidwalker
CONTROL + G Summon Felguard
CONTROL + Z Curse of Tongues focus macro (CoTs my focus target)
CONTROL + X Summon Felhunter
CONTROL + SPACE Demon Leap (Metamorphosis)
MOUSE MIDDLE BUTTON Autorun (I use this far more than I use W to move)
MOUSE THUMB BUTTON 1 Ventrilo push-to-talk key
MOUSE THUMB BUTTON 2 Tertiary spell interrupt on certain classes
An explanation of my keybinds
These keybinds aren't intended to be "perfect." Perfect keybinds are keybinds that work for you, not a set that works for other people. I'm just listing my personal keybinds because I've found that organizing spells and abilities in a logical manner has helped me to improve my game.
I'm not a big mouse guy, unfortunately. I just haven't shelled out the cash to get a mouse with a ton of buttons on it. I'm not sure I'd really want one, either. One of my friends considers it a godsend for pet movement. More power to him!
I don't care much for Alt modifiers, as my roaming index positioning can make it complicated to use Alt while stretching to 7 or J. Control is also an awkward modifier, but it's the price I pay for having lots of nice, index-based keybinds.
You'll notice that most of my DoTs are from 1 to 5. These are instant-cast, spammable abilities that whatever class I'm using has access to. I try to not put long cooldowns on the number keys unless they're on 6 or 7. Your mileage may vary.
Shift keybinds are important cooldowns that I don't want to accidentally hit. Demonic Circle: Summon is the regular keybind, while Demonic Circle: Teleport is the Shift keybind. This is important because I don't want to accidentally hit my teleport at any given time during an arena match or rated battleground. If I accidentally hit my summon, that's fine because I'll probably be on the move anyway (and it has a cast time so it won't do anything), or I'll just relocate my portal. It's certainly less devastating than getting out of a good position or burning an important survivability cooldown.
Shift also allows me to (pun incoming) shift my abilities from affecting my target to affecting my focus. I prefer Shift to do this in most circumstances to control because my roaming index hand positioning allows for greater reach with Shift, as well as less awkward positioning if I hit Control.
Also, notice that abilities that cannot be used in multiple trees (Unstable Affliction and Shadowfury, for instance) occupy the same keybind. This is to save on space -- it also feels nice knowing that my 4 key is bound to important abilities all around the board, even if they're pretty different in what they do.
Listening Music: Whitney Houston. Few voices will ever be heard that are as incredible.
Want to ascend the arena ladders faster than a fireman playing Donkey Kong? We'll steer you to victory with the best arena addons and let you in on some rank 1 gladiator PvP secrets. If you're looking for the inside line on battlegrounds and world PvP, read The Art of War(craft).