Encrypted Text: Tips for key binding your Rogue abilities

Chase Christian
C. Christian|04.15.09

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Encrypted Text: Tips for key binding your Rogue abilities
Every Wednesday, Chase Christian of Encrypted Text invites you to enter the world of shadows, as we explore the secrets and mechanics of the Rogue class. This week, we discuss the how to properly bind your abilities to the keyboard.

While on a Sartharion 25 raid this past weekend, I noticed one of the other Rogues in the group moving very peculiarly. It took me a second to put my finger on it, but I figured out what was happening. He would be running around normally, and would then stop in place for two seconds every time he used Fan of Knives. I sent him a friendly whisper, asking why he was pausing when using Fan of Knives. He replied back that he had to stop moving and click the FoK button on his action bars, of course. I asked why he didn't simply bind FoK to a key for easier access, and he replied with "My 1-9 keys are already full!"

Many Rogues spend hours choosing between different gems and weapon choices, when often the difference is less than 1% of their DPS. I see the control aspects of the class as more important than gear choices (not that gear is unimportant!). Without the ability to perform your rotations and combinations with finely-tuned timing, you could be losing as much as 25% DPS on certain fights. Making proper use of key binds and user interface addons are crucial to maximizing your DPS and reaction times in PvP.

Key Binds:

A few weeks ago, I was shopping at Fry's Electronics for a new flash drive. While strolling through the aisles, I came across the Belkin n52te. I'd heard about it on the Roguespot forums, as well as from a few other sources. I'd never actually seen one used in person, but I figured it couldn't be to terribly hard to get into. After convincing my significant other that buying the n52te was purely "for work", I began the great task of mapping and binding keys.

Several hours into the project, I abandoned all hope. I simply have too many keys bound to fit them all on the n52te. (EDIT: I will be giving the n52 another chance after reading user comments, will report in next week!). Even using Ctrl and Alt modifiers to increase my options available, I simply couldn't get all of my macros and abilities bound properly. I don't feel that there's any true replacement for a keyboard, especially for an ability and macro-heavy class such as the Rogue. While some Rogues are content with simply binding the "important" abilities, I strive to maintain a setup where I am not required to click any spell.

Abilities that are off the GCD:
Using the traditional W-A-S-D movement structure (with A and D being strafe, and using the mouse to turn), I focus first on the keys nearest WASD. This is where I bind any of our clutch abilities, and specifically moves that are off the GCD and therefore are usable at any time. I bind Q to my PvP trinket, R to Cloak of Shadows, and E to Kick. This enables me the quickest access to three of our most important reaction-style abilities. I had experimented with my PvP trinket bound to F1, but in this burst heavy environment, I found myself being killed before my finger could even reach the top row of the keyboard. I recommend binding any ability to which you will need instant access to one of these clutch keys.

Rotation abilities:
I typically bind 1-2-3-4-5 to my DPS rotation abilities, as this minimizes the movement necessary on static fights like Patchwerk or Loatheb. It also makes it simple to remember my abilities when switching between different specs. I know my combo point builder is always button 2, Fan of Knives is always button 1, etc. By giving each button the same 'purpose', this ensures that my muscle memory and reactions are the same for every spec and play style, minimizing the learning curve when switching back and forth. With the recently released patch 3.1 and dual-specs, this design makes even more sense.

Powerful Cooldowns:
I try to bind each spec's powerful cooldowns to a single group of buttons, again enabling me to know where to look when I need that trump card. I typically use the G key for these, and I utilize Shift and Ctrl to add even more when necessary. With Combat, G will be Killing Spree and Adrenaline Rush; and while Mutilate, it's Cold Blood and Hunger for Blood (Preparation when PvPing). Of course, for a Subtlety build, G is bound Eviscerate and Eviscerate, as is every other key! I tease, I typically reserve G for Shadowstep, Preparation, and Shadow Dance.

Non-emergency abilities:
For those techniques that don't require split-second reaction times, I use the lower row of keys: Z-X-C-V. I have C and V bound two my two Tricks of the Trade macros: one for the main tank, and one for another Rogue if we are trading Tricks for extra DPS. For the record, Rogues should only be using Tricks on the tank or another Rogue. We need to keep our buffs in the shadow family! I use Z and X for Sprint and Evasion, as these are abilities with long durations are able to be pre-cast whenever you have a spare second to press the key.

Shift, Ctrl, and Alt:
With only a few keys readily available from the home WASD position, the key to binding all necessary abilities is the use of the modifier keys: shift, ctrl, and alt. By using these combinations, you can multiply the number of abilities available. Per my key bind philosophy, I try to keep my bindings very uniform. Shift+1-5, for example, are bound to all of my finisher abilities. When I want to use a finisher, I know that I'm always going to be pushing Shift. I have all of my stealth abilities bound to Ctrl+1-5, for easy access while I'm in Shadow Dance. I tried using the special "Shadow Dance Bar", but myself along with other Rogues have been having issues with its responsiveness.

When designing key bindings for your Rogue, I recommend keeping these 3 ideas in mind: Maintain uniform bindings between specs, keep your reactive abilities close at hand, and use macros to keep your total button count as low as possible. Once you make the transition from clicking to keyboard, you'll find that every rotation is tighter, every combo is more precise, and every reaction is quicker. With Rogues based around the ideas of reacting to our opponents and maintaining control of a fight, we just don't have the time to click around to find our abilities. Bind your keys now, and you'll be thanking yourself when you take your first trip into Ulduar!
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