Home > Bronte, World of Warcraft > “How I Use My Keyboard in MMOs” or “Too Many Keys, Not Enough Fingers”

“How I Use My Keyboard in MMOs” or “Too Many Keys, Not Enough Fingers”

Perhaps it is time to invest in the Razer Naga, because frankly, there are just too many keys to press as a hunter at WoW endgame, the only MMO I am playing with some level of consistency.

But maybe, in the interests of providing some context, I should explain how I use my keyboard.

The Rules

There are a few rules for me when I set up my keyboard to play any particular game.

  1. There should be as few keys as possible
  2. The keys should be in close proximity
  3. I should be able to press Alt to change the function of a key completely.

The Primary Keys

The traditional bar (which I don’t use), allows you 12 keys, ‘1’ all the way to ‘=’. This clearly violates rule # 2, so the most I will work with is six keys. Since the ‘`’ key is not used in the original game, this makes ‘`’ through ‘5’ usable.

I also use the ‘Q’ and ‘E’ keys, while ‘WASD’ are used for strafing and lateral movement.

‘F4’ through ‘F9’ are used for ‘Trap Launcher’ and the five subsequent traps respectively. ‘F5’ has ‘Freeze Trap’ on it. The logic is that in the heat of battle, I can hit ‘F4’ (easy to find), then ‘F5’ (next to it after a dip) without having to look at my keyboard.

‘X’ is used for autorun.

The built-in shortcuts for various WoW menus and interface panels remain largely untouched.

The Alt Key

I also use the Alt key to completely change another key. For example, pressing ‘E’ normally triggers ‘Rapid Fire’. Pressing alt changes ‘E’ to ‘Readiness’. It makes sense two me because these two abilities are used closest together in a raid environment. The same logic applies to several other keys. For example, ‘4’ fires ‘Chimera Shot’. Pressing alt changes this to ‘Serpent Sting’. So you press alt to cast ‘Serpent Sting’ once, and then release alt and over the course of the fight, press ‘4’ to cast ‘Chimera Shot’, which refreshes ‘Serpent Sting’. The following macro makes this work:

#showtooltip [nomod] Chimera Shot; [mod:alt] Serpent Sting
/targetenemy [noharm]
/petattack [@target,exists]
/petfollow [@target,noexists]
/use [nomod] Chimera Shot; [mod:alt] Serpent Sting;

The lines regarding the pet simply directs my pet to attack the target I am attacking. This is rolled into about every ability to ensure they assist me every time. I find the pet bar option to be unreliable.

The Mouse

Left, Right and Middle buttons are a given. I also have two side buttons on my mouse, so both of those buttons ‘B4’ and ‘B5’ also get used. Using the alt and ctrl keys transforms these two buttons into six buttons. For example, my “survival” abilities are ties to ‘Button 5’.

‘Button 5’ = Disengage (used most often)
Alt + ‘Button 5’ = Feign Death
Ctrl + ‘Button 5’ = Deterrance

Clique Mod

In addition to this, I also use Clique mod, and some of my abilities are directly programmed into it, for example, alt-clicking any portrait will cast ‘Mend Pet’ on my current pet. Middle clicking on any portrait will cast ‘Misdirect’ on that person.

Here is a screenshot of my keyboard set-up:

I hope the commentary above now makes sense with this.

The following are some of the problems that I think exist with this setup.

  1. The Clique mod is being used for only two abilities. I think I can intelligently ramp up this number and tie in some keys that can get em out of a pickle in the heat of battle.
  2. The Ctrl key is hard to reach, and only programmed into one of the “survival” groupings. I think I should get rid of this.
  3. The ‘Z’, ‘Shift’, ‘F’ and ‘8’ – ‘=’ keys are not being used. Thought it must be said that aside from ‘F’ most of these are hard to reach, given my set-up.
  4. The keys ‘F1’ – ‘F3’ are not being used. But I don’t know what to put in there.
  5. There are too many buttons. This may be really screwing me up in the grand scheme of things.
  6. Since I use the mouse buttons very extensively, I think I should get a Naga-esque mouse with more than just two extra buttons to play with.

Any suggestions for improvement?

Categories: Bronte, World of Warcraft
  1. January 25, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    For many years and in various MMO, I’ve also used specific right edge buttons on the numeric keyboard, mostly for “Oh Shit!” abilities.

    Being a right handed player, the mouse is close nearby the numeric keyboard. If shit happens, I can quickly move the right hand and slam e.g. KP+ or KP- without looking at the keyboard and be back on my mouse before the mob(s) knew what happened.

    In WoW, I used to have my Paladin bubble ability on KP+. These days in SWTOR, I play a Jedi Sage (one of the advanced classes for Consular) and I have Force Armor on KP- and Force Wave on KP+. If I get too much aggro from my tank companion, KP- will bubble me up. And if a lot of mobs runs over to kick me around, a slam on KP+ will push them away. I also have Shift + KP- and Shift + KP+ set up for similar stuff, and sometimes KP Insert and KP Delete for slower abilities such as e.g. CC or a group HOT with a long cooldown.

    I have also found that these KP button work well for healers where a fast button can lower my threat and make the mobs run back to the tank. I used this for my Rune-keeper in LOTRO, for instance. In SWTOR again, I have de-aggro for my Jedi Sage on Shift + KP-. It works very well with Force Wave on KP-. Suppose I overaggro mobs. They run over to me; I then hit KP- to knock them all on their behinds immediately followed by Shift + KP- to lower threat. They get up and (hopefully) run back to the tank.

    For my tank companion in SWTOR, Qyzen Fess, I have even experimented with a bizarre shield and target changing key scheme. I send him to the target with F (attack) then select Qyzen with KP* (star) and shield him with KP- (see above). Then Shift + KP- will target the enemy that Qyzen is hitting and I’m ready to assist with DPS. Since these KP keys are close to each other in the top right corner of the keyboard, they’re easy to remember and I don’t have to click any icons on my action bar for this part.

    • January 26, 2012 at 1:32 pm

      @Chordian: It seems to me that there are two options here. Either get a mouse with several buttons like the naga, so that you never need to use the KP, or use the ‘KP+’, ‘KP-‘ and ‘KPEnter’ keys.

      But I will give the KP combination a spin tonight, see how I can use that to my advantage…

  2. January 25, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    In the fourth paragraph with “overaggro” and KP- and Shift+KP-, that should have read KP+ and Shift+KP+, but I’m sure you get the gist of it. =)

  3. January 25, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    Get the Naga, it’s great!

    • January 26, 2012 at 1:33 pm

      @Gank: What are you a Razer representative? 😛

  4. Potent
    January 25, 2012 at 10:10 pm


    Not having a forward or backward button is probably the biggest change. Also if you want the alt key accessible move the whole shape 1 key to the left so you hover over WASD rather than ESDF. Q and E to strafe. With this setup you get 16 easily reachable keys, doubled to 32 if you have you use an alt modifier on all of them.

    • January 26, 2012 at 1:35 pm

      @Potent: That is actually a great idea. But the one thing that I continue to struggle with is accidentally hitting the ‘R’ key, which starts a reply to someone. And all subsequent key press commands end up as chat letters, and by the time I realize what is happening, it is already too late, and my rotations, DPS and positioning is screwed.

      • Vatec
        January 26, 2012 at 2:41 pm

        “Reply” is one of the first things I unmap in any MMO. The “R” key is just too valuable a piece of real estate to be wasted on /tell-related foolishness. If I want to reply to someone, most games recognize “/r” just fine.

        Unrelated, but the one thing I couldn’t adapt from Taugrim’s arrangement was lack of a “forward” key. There are just too many times when I want to be doing something with the mouse other than holding down both buttons in order to move. Also, I play LOTRO, which has horribly unresponsive movement controls. If I relied on the mouse buttons, I would overshoot my objectives all the time.

        The “back” key though is completely optional. The only gameplay where it’s even marginally useful is tanking, when sometimes moving backward slowly is the best tactic. Every other form of gameplay tends to benefit far more from strafing, as Taugrim recommends.

  5. Vatec
    January 26, 2012 at 8:54 am

    Alternately, follow Taugrim’s arrangement, but map Ctrl and Shift to the thumb buttons available on most entry-level gaming mice. I have a Logitech G5 mouse: the big thumb button is Ctrl and holding it down activates all my AOE attacks. The smaller thumb button is Shift and activates my situational abilities.

    But the =real= key is to always use the same keys for the same types of abilities. That way, if you switch classes or games, your fingers will still remember that “~” is Taunt, “1” is Interrupt, Big Thumb Button + “4” is your spammable AOE Attack, etc.

    • January 26, 2012 at 1:45 pm

      @Vatec: Oh yes, I already tend to do that. Using the same keys for the same general functions across characters. And as I said in the post, even on the same character, I will bind similar keys to one key. For example, ‘6’ activates ‘Concussive Shot’, and Alt+’6′ activates ‘Scatter Shot’.

      That being said, I think Taugrim’s idea is brilliant, and he’s right, we keep trying to find new ways to make the existing set-up work, but by just moving the WASD keys one key over to ESDF fixes most issues, and gives you several other keys to play with.

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