My last column dealt with the basics of macros and focus targets and their use in PvP. This time, we're tackling an even more heady topic, one that is arguably even more key to PvP success than macros and the use of focus targets. This article is a rare occasion when I will assert that one course of action is better than another!
Clicking is a tricky subject. People may be surprised to see it in the title up there hanging out right next other key PvP skills. I would like to say that, with one caveat that will come up later, I wouldn't encourage clicking in PvP.
First and foremost, what is clicking? When PvPers (and for that matter, probably PvEers) talk about clicking, they are referring to the practice of putting your abilities on your bars and clicking them with your mouse. In order to do this and move at the same time, you pretty much have to move with your keyboard.
OK, so now that it's completely clear what clicking is, why is it bad? First and foremost, let's look at movement. Moving with your keyboard is slow. It's really slow. If you don't believe me, stand your character still and spin through 180 degrees with your keyboard. Now do the same with your mouse. Much faster! Rather like the difference between a d-pad and a thumb joystick on a console controller, mouse movement is far more intuitive, far easier to fine tune and far faster.
Now, let's look at the actual clicking itself for a second. Is that inherently not as good as the alternative, keybinding? Let's consider some aspects of the two casting systems. With clicking, you need to be aware of where your mouse pointer is in relation to your action bars. I've been using computers for a fair while, and I often lose track of my pointer. I've not lost track of my E key for a very, very long time.
Furthermore, the movement of the mouse pointer across the screen is, it seems, certainly not faster or more accurate than the movement of your hands across a keyboard. Of course, a very important part of ensuring the efficiency of keybinding is putting the right abilities in the right place, and we'll get to that. But that aside, it seems to me at least that it is far faster to hit a key on a keyboard than to locate and click an ability with your mouse. Additionally, if you're one of the many people who are still using the default UI, your action bars are highly likely to be arranged in long, thin lines. Not the most efficient layout for either clicking or keybinding; at least with keybinding, those lines of abilities can be clustered into easily reached groups.
I wouldn't say that keybinding is an absolute solution. There are certainly some spells or abilities (particularly those with long cooldowns) that you could click and possibly get away with it. But if you can, I would certainly advise a change to keybindings.
Making the change
So if you're a clicker, how do you change over to keybinding? I would advise you to take a key like 1 that is near to your hand position for movement, and bind your main spammable ability to it. Choose the one you're hitting when you're not hitting anything else -- even better if it's one you can cast while moving. Put another on 2 and another on 3, and try to begin to use those and move with your mouse. Don't do it all in one fell swoop; add in new keybinds gradually, with the shortest cooldowns first, and try to do so sensibly. If you're struggling, a great way to train yourself can be to put textured stickers on your keys, so you can tell by touch whether you're in the right place. Make sure they're easily removable, though!
This is the standard keybind setup that was no doubt on your UI when WoW was installed, with no modification or reworking. The red keys are abilities, and the blue keys are movement.
This is not an example of good keybinding! Why not? Well, for starters, you're turning with your keyboard. We've already discussed why that's bad, but most PvPers still have WASD bound to movement and strafing. That's all good. So your left hand will be hanging out over on the blue keys, meaning 1 through 4 are very easily reached, 5 requires a small movement of your hand, 6 a larger one and so on. Consider, then, if you're mouse running and strafing and need to hit the ability on the 0 key? Yeah. Not so good!
How do you alter your keybinds? Hit Escape, go into Key Binding, and look for the buttons you want to reassign. Addons like Bartender make this far easier to do.
So here's a different layout for you:
What's changed? Well, we've lost two movement keys. Q and E have been sacrificed to the almighty mouse gods, and A and D are now strafing keys. W and S still take care of forward and backward movement. So that is still home base for your left hand. The abilities have moved, though, and are clustered around the movement keys. There are no substantial hand movements required to access any of those keys.
A word on the S key and backpedaling I do think this merits a mention. Backpedaling is a very slow way to move and should not be used as a primary mode of transport in PvP. However, it has its moments -- for example, if you're under attack from a class like a rogue that does more damage from behind. With backpedaling, you can easily back yourself into a wall or to the edge of a ledge so they can't get at your backside. Whether it merits a really awesome keybind like S is up to you.
Sit your hand on your WASD keys. The easiest ones to get will be Q, E, and numbers 1 through 4. The further away the keys are from your home base, the harder they will become to reach at speed. Let's see what I mean. (Warning: If you're offended by bright, clashing colors, look away.)
Aw, yeah. Check out that color scheme. So the blue keys (WASD) are for movement. The green keys (1234QERF) are easiest to get to, followed by the pink (`ZXC5), then the purple (6TGV), then the turquoise (7YHB). If you have a small keyboard or big hands, the turquoise may well be easily within your reach, so extend that out a row!
I feel the need ... the need for speed
A gold star to anyone who gets that film reference. OK, so you've established what keys you should be using -- now for God's sake, what should you put there?! Well, it's all about speed. It should be noted that this section is where it all gets a lot more personal and begins to relate far more to playstyle and preference -- but here we go anyway!
The green keys should be abilities you use all the time, the ones you need to get to a lot. The pink should be used for key cooldowns or short cooldowns. These can either be ones that you use regularly or ones you'll need to get to in a hurry when you do need them -- say, when the proverbial's really hitting the fan, perhaps a paladin bubble, a mage Ice Block or Cold Snap, or a shaman or druid Nature's Swiftness.
Move on to the purple keys. These can overlap with the pink keys, but I would recommend prioritizing the pinks for cooldowns you really need to get to in a big hurry. Offensive cooldowns could be great for the purples, as they are perhaps not so crucial to survival.
The turquoise keys could be used for abilities that have long cooldowns, like a priest Hymn of Hope or Shadowfiend, or ones that aren't used often or can't be used in combat -- the ones that you still want to have on your bars.
Where do I put the rest of my stuff?!
Now, this arrangement of keys only gives you 25 keybinds for PvP abilities. This may be plenty, but it may not, and that's where modifiers come in. Time for another amazing keyboard picture!
Whoa, there are red keys (Ctrl, Shift, Alt, CapsLock) now! Amazing! These are modifiers. Without ever creating a macro, you can bind Ctrl+R to a different spell to R, and Shift+R to a different one again. My column on macros deals with the use of modifiers within macros, if that's your thing. So, your 25 keybinds just became 100, depending on how acrobatic your hands are! And frankly, if that's not enough, something weird is going on.
Now, the observant ones among you will have noticed that CapsLock was in the modifiers. You'll also probably be muttering about how I'm a noob and an idiot and the like, but wait! With a bit of jiggery-pokery within your operating system, you can make capslock into CTRL. Yeah, this is pretty amazing. For me, CTRL is the most awkwardly placed key of them all, while I find Shift and Alt really easy to get to, Alt being used with my thumb. I also disable the Windows key.
And why is Tab empty? Because I use it for targeting. It is definitely a viable button for keybinding, but it comes with pitfalls, such as accidentally alt-tabbing out of the game. Bad times!
Practice what you preach?
A final word on this, in the interest of honesty. I have a Razer Naga mouse, and I strafe, auto-run and backpedal with the side keys. I also use the mousewheel up and mousewheel down for cleansing, and some of the other mouse buttons for other skills. My setup is not the standard one above, and this should not be seen as the bible of PvP keybinding -- but it's a great place to start.
Do you want to capture flags, invade cities, attack towers, and dominate the enemy for your faction? Do you dream of riding your War Bear with pride? We'll steer you to victory with secrets of Battlegrounds and Arena, prepping you with proven addons and keybindings that win! Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.