Managing Cooldowns

It’s probably something everybody’s already on top of, but I thought it’d be fun to trade our methods for managing cooldowns and arranging our button bars.

Why? Because it’s something everybody has to do, and some folks might have ways they like that someone else will think is an interesting idea to try.

For example…

I was playing my Warrior the other night (Prot spec while leveling) and noticed I had a neat ability called Concussion Blow on my toolbar.

Okay, so I get a single target stun. That’s cool. My Rogue got a lot of use out of that little button while leveling.

But wait! When I got that ability and stuck it on my button bar, I put it where it’s a little away from my ‘use all the time rotation’ abilities. It’s over in the area of my button bar where special abilities with long cooldowns get placed and saved for rainy days.

See, when I lay out my button bars, I use the default layout… with all ‘extra’ button bars enabled. Left, Right, and both the ones on the side. I do that so on borked/broken addon patch days, I am mostly unaffected. Vanilla WoW cured me of UI changing addons forever.

I arrange the center of the bottom bar with the abilities I use most often, and then radiate outwards from there in both directions for the lesser used abilities. Typically, pulling/initial abilities radiate outwards to the left, while healing or taunting/aggro control abilities move out to the right. I’ll start the pull on the far left, gravitate to the center for the most ufrequently used abilities, and when I need to pop something special dart the mouse to the right. If it’s utility or situational, OR cross-form, then it goes right above. I’m looking at YOU Druid and Priest!

The abilities that complement them, or should be triggered first, or are situational/utility typically go on the bar right above, again starting in the middle for most used/fastest cooldown and working outwards to both sides.

This leaves me with a small area in the middle of the button bar where I’ll be spending most of my time, and a relatively short distance for mouse travel no matter what other ability I need at a moment’s notice.

I did that automatically, because first, I like clicking buttons, and the more alts I make, the more I click buttons. I just don’t use number keys for abilities on all these alts. On my Druid, sure, I use number key shortcuts. But not the alts, thank you very much.

Second, when I did a time analysis study on the ‘pick and place’ SMT equipment I used to program, it was very clear that this method was the second most time effective technique in picking and placing surface mount computer components from feed trays.

Lemme ‘splain.

In building modern circuit boards, you use what are called surface mount components. Rugged components are still soldered ‘through hole’ style, connectors and toggle switches and big doodads, but the rest are small, flat bottomed components that are shipped in reels. You load these reels up by the hundreds into a pick and place machine, one reel per part. So, you’ve got a long bank of hundreds of reels of computer parts. In the center of the machine is a fixed pick and place head, basically a vacuum system attached to teeny nozzles that can move up and down and rotate, with camera inspection.

The entire rack of parts reels is on moving rails. The pick and place vacuum head is fixed in the center. So, when you program a machine to build a circuit board, you have a list of all the parts that will be populating the board. You have sizes, shapes, part #s, etc. You want to create a build program that will populate a single circuit board in the shortest time possible, because the board is going along on a conveyor one at a time, and the longer you take to place parts per board, the fewer possible boards you can build. It’s a natural choke point.

So, say you’ve got 1200 parts to place on a single circuit board. You’ve got maybe 230 different part numbers. You use 250 of one particular part, 80 of the next, 63 of the next, and so on.

In this second fastest technique, the first thing you do is analyze what the most frequently used parts are. You want to minimize travel time of that big honking rail full of reels of parts. A single parts reel can be from 1 inch to 5 inches across depending on the size of the part in it, and if you’ve got hundreds of reels on a machine, travel time sliding that rail back and forth to get from one reel to the next to present a part under the pick and place head is… slow.

So it’s all about minimizing rail/reel movement as much as possible. Orrr…. minimizing mouse movement as much as possible? Eh?

Now, you might think that the best way to do it is stick all of your most used reels on one end, and slowly work your way down the row.

The problem with that is, when you optimize your pick speed, you find that you have to take ergonomics of rail motion into account… and also the fact that frequently, in order to minimize PCB board travel (that thing you’re sticking the parts on, which itself has to move around for the fixed pick and place head to stick parts down), you’ll start populating one section of the board… then when it’s mostly full, move on to populating another PCB board section.

You end up wanting to come back to those most frequently used parts throughout the course of the board build, not just blow through them all up front. If you stick them all at one end of the reel rail, then after a while you go all the way down one end, get a part, and all the way back to the first, over and over again.

So, when in a situation where you have several parts (buttons), some used more frequently than others, some with longer delays before able to be used again, and some you need to come back to more often than others, it’s more time effective to put your heaviest hitters in the center of the rail (bar), with the lesser used parts (buttons) going further and further out in each direction based on frequency of use, linked part associations and length of cooldown. Err, pick speed.

I’ve done a lot of time studies on programs like that, and it just works real well. So, if you’re, basically, a clicker, it’s a great default system for button placement. 🙂

Now… when you really crunch the numbers, this is, as I said, the second fastest button clicker technique I know.

You want fast? You take rotation sequence into account, and you streamline those sequences to make the mouse flow smooth across the board, then mirror it for secondary button placement about the bar. I actually did that with my 969 rotation for my Paladin tank button arrangement. Since you’ve got a fixed cooldown sequence for the rotation, it only makes sense to optimize placement based on mouse movement and associate buttons with similar cooldowns.

Anyway, for me, a button clicker with lots of alts, that’s what I do. And a lot more information than you care to know, I’m sure.

Where I am going with this behind the scenes look at the way I setup my button bars/UI, is that I had initially placed Concussion Blow with the ‘long cooldown, to be used in tight spots only’ abilities on my bar, up on the top bar and far to the right of bottom center.

Re-familiarizing myself with the abilities caused me to take another look at Concussion Blow.

The cooldown is only 30 seconds.

Well, dip me in mustard and call me a weiner if that wasn’t a bad mistake, pardner.

I typically break cooldown abilities into sub categories.

There is the “this is my oh shit button, to be saved for when it’s REALLY an oh shit situation”, and then there are the “this is pretty good, but the cooldown is long enough to only break it out on boss fights, and trash fights when I can expect the cooldown to be up when the next boss fight done cometh”.

And then there are the cooldowns that go into the sub category of “short enough to pop every bloody fight at least once in the beginning.”

A few examples?

Enhancement Shamans have one of the medium cooldowns, boss fight plus early trash – Shamanistic Rage. Geez, a 1 minute cooldown sounds bad, but it’s up for 15 seconds and gives you just tons of mana on top of the damage reduction. I pop that sucker all the time.

Feral Druids have Survival Instincts, which is great but on a 3 minute cooldown. That’s definitely long enough to make it an “oh shit,” held in reserve button. But, it’s also complementary to another long cooldown, Frenzied Regeneration, which is, hey, on a 3 minute cooldown.

Now, one common method of getting the most out of that 3 minute long cooldown is to only use those two together. You pop Survival Instincts, which raises your maximum health, and then you pop Frenzied Regeneration, which bases healing per point of Rage off of max health AT THE TIME IT’S ACTIVATED. So, SI boosts Healing Per Second/Healing Per Rage of FR when triggered first, for the entire duration of FR.

A few folks I know, during boss fights, actually don’t do this. What they do is stagger the cooldowns. Instead of one really big huge whomping heal with a 3 minute dead time, they space it out, taking the reduced survivability benefits of only having one effect up at a time, in exchange for having them up twice as often. 1.5 minutes and pop, 1.5 minutes and pop… If all you need is a little ‘oomph’ to help your healers out, why drop the big bomb when a well placed single shot will do?

But what about Barkskin? Barkskin is right on the edge, isn’t it? It’s a 1 minute cooldown, so if you’re doing fairly middle of the road content, heroics and easy raids, it’s no problem to incorporate it into a macro that pops it whenever it’s off cooldown. It’s not on the global cooldown, so no worries on working it in. 100% uptime. Doing this means it’s uptime is maximized, so you’re getting it’s benefits and saving your healers’ mana as much as possible for the long term fight over the course of a run.

BUT… 1 minute is long enough, and Barkskin’s 20% damage reduction is powerful enough, that if you’re raiding something serious you most likely want it OFF a macro so you can pop it in sync with a boss attack, perfectly timing that 20% damage reduction for when it’ll do you the most good. Like, say, when the entire raid is taking massive damage, and you want to give the healer on YOU the chance to ignore you for a few seconds to help keep the squishies alive.

The trade off, of course, is then you’ve got another button to remember to pop during the trash fights, and that might lead to suboptimal usage and reduced overall uptime.

Umm, wah.

Oh, wait.

Anyway, I wanted to bring it up all up to see if I could inspire you to share your own thoughts on how you like to arrange your abilities, what your philosophy behind it may be, maybe even what UI addons you just couldn’t live without, and how you like to control your cooldowns.

And to leave you with this one, key point…

The only truly bad use of a long cooldown ability is when you save it for a rainy day… and then never use it all when it might have saved your butt.

Practise using them! Much better to use them all the time and sometimes have them on cooldown when you’d like them than to never use them at all!

If you use them all the time, and get used to using them, then after a while you can back off and use them more strategically.

But use them!

27 thoughts on “Managing Cooldowns

  1. I’ve got a button-mouse- as a healer I often need to be moving my mouse for target frames so this lets me keep my right hand on the mouse at all times. The buttons take over my primary heals off the right side of my number-line-thing. I don’t like awkward hovering while waiting to press 7-9. More importantly, it has one ‘rotational’ ability- Plea (which I use like your Shamanistic Rage) and one ‘OSh!’ for hard patches of fight.

    Typically these are interchangeable- if I was a DPS I’d use my attacks on the mouse instead. For tanking, I try and sort them by relative cooldown- with 969, I pick one of the 9s, then a 6, and then another 9. With a rotation I’d likely do a similar thing.

    Anyway, on the bars I have Judgements and Shock- used often, but not primary to healing, and a couple of Hand-cooldowns. I must admit that Freedom is the least used; Protection is a lifesaver but overused; and I don’t usually need Sanc.

    Above them on the clickbars are my minor cooldowns- Avenging Wrath and the like; as well as my other ‘rotationals’- Beacon and Shield. They’re both keybound for transitions, but I prefer to click Beacon if I can because this often interferes with GCD- which leads to wipes.

    Usually once I get used to the cooldowns and the situations they’re used in, I adjust accordingly. Admittedly, I’m still training myself on most, but I know that thoroughput + FoL = mini Holy Light. I’m going to have to try and work DivIllum into the mix (experience I’d think, preempting the big strikes for maximum impact) and Aura Mastery, as well as using Hand of Sacrifice as my Pain Suppression. I’ll get there in the end- but using Divine Illumination as means to it will likely help a lot.


  2. My primary attack abilities where always F-G-R-T
    secondary attack ablilities were H-Y-4-5
    all hit by the finger next to the thumb
    My primary defense abilitie were always D-S-A
    (In bear form these became aggro grabbers)
    My primary misc abilities were always Q-W-E
    secondary misc abilities 1-2-3
    My shape shifting abilities were Z-X-C-V-B (and eventualy N)
    I discovered the hard way that moonkin and tree shift bird form over one letter
    so do not jump off cliffs after changing until figuing out where bird form is
    fortunatly I have parachute cloaks, unfortunately my moonkin was not wearing his.
    My healing abilities were all macroed attack abilities F-G-R-T-H-Y-4-5
    if taget = friendly/neutral heal; if enemy attack
    one side effect of this is you do not accidently aggro friendlies/neutrals
    The remaining bars tended to be rarely used things so I often mouse clicked
    but they were still assigned control and alt keys
    ctrl t – parachute cloak (make sure you packed one Before jumping off the cliff)
    ctl q – alert – your healer is running out of mana
    ctl w – alert – your healer has aggro
    I normally move using a mouse, but had movement and camera control keys assigned as backups on the mouse itself

    With the exception of shape shifting abilities I could switch to an alt fairly easily because each key has about the same function
    and so even if I had not played that toon recently I would have a general idea of where each ability should be.
    This becomes way more important since I only play casually and don’t want to memorize lots of new stuff for each toon.


  3. I’m a little late to the party here, but I just read your post and it got me thinking not about keybindings so much, but about medium cooldown abilities. I too played my warrior for ages leaving cooldowns like concussion blow and bladestorm for those ” just in case” moments where I was in trouble.

    However, when I levelled my destro lock alongside my wife, I had a Cooldown Revelation – in relation to levelling at least. The reason was, she complained endlessly about me dominating on damage done (by a factor of 2 to 3- and yes, we had recount still switched on for levelling) even though I was in the same cruddy gear as her shadow priest. The reason was that I was using two short-medium cooldown (10 and 12 seconds) abilities in my opening attack salvo (immolate-conflagrate-chaos bolt) and doing lots of upfront damage. My subsequent casting (incinerate spam) would have been much less DPS, except obviously by this time the mob was dead. Then, of course, by the time we had looted and run to the next mob, both cooldowns were up again and I could unleash the same spells.

    The point being, when there’s time to be spent running around, or waiting for the next pull, that’s not time where you’re regretting not having the ability to use the spell, as you wouldn’t be able to use it anyway.

    So now when I look at say a 30 second cooldown ability like Conc. Blow – I think “well, a good 15-20 seconds of that will be spent running to the next mob, so it’s only really 10-15 seconds of actual waiting”. Now when levelling other characters, I tend to use my medium cooldowns ASAP. More fun that way anyway!

    As an aside, Concussion blow is a fab dps cooldown anyway – decent damage, and if you time it right after a revenge and/or sword and board proc, you can make sure that the enemy eats a shield slam /revenge to the face with no chance of dodging or parrying! A good time to use shield block as well… Shield Block -> Force a Revenge proc (don’t use it) -> Conc blow -> Huge Shield Slam -> Revenge -> Devastate for a lucky Sword and Board proc = fun


  4. I play a Holy paladin and of course, we have some cooldowns that should be used regularly as well. These same cooldowns get ignored easily. And I’m not even talking about all of these Hand of… spells.

    Divine Favor, it forces a crit on our next healing spell. I have this spell macro’d to both Holy Shock (our instant-cast) and Holy Light. I never forget to use it, because it’s just there. It’s not important enough to save the day, imho, but it helps a whole lot to get that forced crit out once every 2 minutes.


  5. I also often feel like I am squandering Barkskin by constantly saving it “for emergencies.” Though I have had some success in being more liberal with its use, I still kick myself every time I go through a series of trash pulls without ever popping it.

    I like the idea of just attaching it via macros to my other abilities, but share your concern about needing it off cooldown to mitigate punchy attacks like a fully charged Festergut or Sindragosa’s breath. Perhaps the answer is something akin to what I have done with Maul. In the world of endless rage, I have attached Maul to every single one of my attacks using a macro. It is great because I do tons of damage (especially with Glyph of Maul) and never waste a drop of rage.

    The problem is that, since I have Glyph of Maul equipped, my macros turn me into an automatic multi-target attacker. This presents a challenge on Deathbringer Suarfang as I was constantly Mauling Blood Beasts. Sure, I could just swap glyphs for the fight, but that gets expensive after a while. My workaround: I perfectly replicated my primary action bar on my second action bar only without the Maul macros. That way, with a simple shift-scroll wheel, I could turn my Maul macro off and avoid attacking anything other than my primary target. Currently, I hot swap bars mid fight right before the Beasts come out and then swap back once they are out of range for maximum threat, but minimum Blood Power.

    I could see this same system working for Barkskin auto-macros. Have one bar where every one of your attacks also triggers Barkskin and have another where you need to select Barkskin separately to activate it. You could then have maximum Barkskin up-time where you do not need to be selective about its use, but still be able to swap into discretionary mode for particularly challenging encounters. Perhaps I will give this a try…


  6. Thanks for making me think about my rotation and bar….

    For the most part, I have managed to make my main bar the focus of my rotation. With my finishing moves clumped together – rip, ferocious bite, maim. finishing off the bar with pots, and the “help” invisibility button.
    Above the main, I have my shred, swipe, savage roar, survival, tranquility brez and my macro for innervating the healer.
    My other bars are filled with such things as fishing, eating, instant “grats”, heartstone.

    of course these bars only exist when I am in kitty, the main changes completely when I ahve to pop out of kitty and heal or do ranged damage in elf form.

    My cooldowns are mostly unorganized, but work for the way I play my kitty.


  7. I learned a long time ago that screen real estate is at a premium so I try to have as few things on action bars as possible. I keybind macros with key modifiers for non combat activities: Ground/Flying mount, Warrior Shouts, Professions and put them in places where they can be seen and easily reached but not necesarily needed all the time. My main abilities I put on the 1 to “=” keys and will put macros to combine them if they similar, like the DK interrupts. A cast sequence macro with a reset works perfectly to combine the two but use them in the most logical order. With my warrior’s Warbringer prot talent I have a macro to combine Charge, Intervene, Intercept together. And since I always have my bags sorted, other things like gadgets or weapons I can easily go into my bags for and find what I need.

    Using macros in a logical way to combine abilities limits what you have to clutter your UI with and with Bartender4 gives a clean and useful layout. When the new patches come my default UI isn’t a pain to get used to since every bar isn’t filled to the max with various items and abilities.


  8. I forgot to mention one of the coolest addons for clickers and keybinders alike: omnicc. It adds a countdown to anything you use, instead of relying and the annoying hourglass shading in the default ui. There are also modifier addons that you can get for omnicc that make the ability sparkle when it’s available again. Pretty dang nifty imo.


  9. My keybinding rotations on all my toons generally go in sequence from 3-0 on the keyboard On these keys I don’t bother matching similar attacks from one alt to the next, I simply find the rotation that makes the most sense in my head and run my finger down the line. 1 is always a ranged attack and 2 is always my taunt if I have one. I put my aoe caster ability and oh crap macros above numbers 3 -5 on the bar, and all my heals, utility stuff, and anything else I can make work is bound to my healbot addon. This has been a big help to unclutter my paladin’s toolbar. I also always make a left click on healbot in my nonheal specs to be “assist”, that way i’m always attacking the tank’s target without needing a fancy macro and I can yank things off the healer quickly when the tank gets tunnel vision.


  10. I enjoy feral tanking because the rotation fits pretty nicely on the 1-4 buttons. Then taunt goes on number 5, and ranged pull and O.S. buttons can be clicked. Never knew how lucky I was with that until I got my pally up to 80 and finally looked up this 969 rotation everybody was talking about…SIX buttons? That constantly have to be kept on cool down for max threat? That fubar’ed my tanking style up harshly, until I found a 969 macro that just takes up two buttons. It’s nice, though not mana efficient, so it doesn’t work well on trash though. On trash I have my secondary button bar up that I can select which spells to use that make the most sense.

    I’ve basically set up my druid tank and pally tank bars exactly the same. Taunts are located on the same key, as are ranged pulls, O.S. buttons, trinkets, healthstones, pots. I try to make my tanking buttons as similar as possible so that I can swap between them seamlessly. I’ll also be doing this with my warrior as I bring him up.

    I never really thought about button placement, though since you mention it, I now realize that the ones I actually click on the most are located right in the middle of the screen. I think it made sense to me since you can keep your mouse right there in the middle of the action incase you need to select another target or whatever, yet keep the long cool down buttons handy and ready to pop.


  11. My lovely wife bought me a Razer Naga for my birthday this year, which drastically improved my play. In order to maximize the benefit, I use Bartender4 to set up a single bar with 12 buttons in a 3×4 grid matching the placement of the buttons on the mouse. That bar is bound to the numpad keys, which maps to the Naga easily, and uses Bartender’s custom paging options to swap out bars based on form/stance/etc. The keybindings never change, only the buttons, so I don’t need to relearn bindings on every alt. I move with a combination of the mouse and the WER/SDF keys (strafing, no keyboard turning, R is toggle auto-run, W is jump).

    Then I have a matching 3×4 grid on the other side of my unit frames (which are centered below my character) with cooldowns and commonly-used situational buttons. Those are all keybound to the function keys (F1-F12), easy enough to move my left hand and hit.

    At the very bottom of the screen I have a much smaller bar with buffs, less common situational buttons, etc. These are keybound to Shift+function keys, but not used very often.

    None of which is very helpful outside of a Naga (or maybe Logitech G11/G15/etc) type environment, but it works nicely for me.


  12. Heck yes.

    I have macros that change what spell is cast by them if you hold down a different key and hit the macro.

    For example, on my warrior tank, I have this macro on my first button:

    /cast [nomod:shift] Charge
    /cast [mod:shift] Intervene

    This means when I hit 1, I charge whatever I’ve targeted. But, if I hold shift and hit 1, I cast intervene on whatever I’ve targeted. This is really handy as far as familiarity, because it’s easy to remember when I need to get to something fast, 1 is for enemies and shift+1 is for friends.

    Button 2 is shield slam normally, but shield block AND shield slam when I hit shift+2.

    Button 3 is revenge normally, and concussion blow on shift+3.

    Button 4 is my SAVIOUR. I’d imagine later down the line it could help your warrior tank too, BBB (if only a little down the line, although this could be macroed for Sunder instead of Devastate).

    /cast [nomod] devastate
    /cast [mod:shift] devastate
    /cast [mod:shift] heroic strike
    /cast [mod:ctrl] devastate
    /cast [mod:ctrl] cleave

    Now, this seems a little weird, but let me explain.

    One of the warrior’s deals is that you’d like to be using HS or cleave (depending on the situation) as much as you can. This macro helps you. How? Let’s say you’re on a single target, and you’ve got too much rage. It happens. Press shift+4 to cast Devastate on the target, and prepare HS, which is on the next attack. Let’s say you’re in a group. I don’t care about your rage, you need threat FAST. You’re not a bear, prot pally, or DK tank. You gotta work for that level of AoE threat. Hit control+4 to cast Devastate and prepare Cleave. Low on threat? Revenge/Shield Slam down, and need a way to get some quick threat and a possibility for SS proc? Just hit four, and it’ll cast Devastate all on its own.

    Now, my 5 button is the one I hit the most right after I’ve charged into a group of mobs. 5 is thunder clap, shift 5 is Shockwave, and control 5 is Demoralizing Shout (which one should NEVER underestimate, because with large amounts of incoming damage, every bit of mitigation helps, and with imp demo shout, it’s more than just adding 2 armour. It could easily save your ass), so on group fights I usually charge, 5, shift+5, and ctrl+5.

    It helps me keep everything I need commonly in the first 5 keys on my keyboard, because when you’re a tank you gotta have very fast reaction-time. This just helps.

    No button on 6, just to keep the two sections of my hotbars seperate (for visual reasons), and on 7 and the button above 7 I have Heroic Strike and Cleave, which I’ve kept to just have a quick visual, non-numeric queue of my rage (if i have enough for HS but not cleave, shift+4 is gonna do nothing, because I’ll only be able to cast devastate). 8 is Taunt, shift+8 is Mocking Blow, control+8 is Challenging shout. 9 is Bloodrage (glyphed), 0 is Commanding Shout, – is Spell Reflection, = is Last Stand.

    As for the macros, I got most of them off the Wowhead warrior forums, I believe.


  13. Well – I’m a key binder not a clicker, but here’s how I’ve optimized: I switch to ESDF for movement – then, my most frequently used abilities get mapped to R, T, G & V as these are the easiest to hit with my left-hand forefinger. Then anything that is less frequently used, or used in combination with another ability, gets mapped to SHIFT R, T, G, V. No matter what – Taunt on any tank is always mapped either A or Z as it is then very easy to be moving/strafing and taunting at the same time (you wouldn’t want Taunt mapped to RTGV as this would prevent you from both right strafing and taunting at the same time as you would have to take your right forefinger off of strafe to hit RTGV). On my bear – Taunt is Z and Swipe is A.

    Opening moves and mid-range cooldowns seem to always get mapped to Q and W – these would most likely be closest to the mid-range cooldowns you mention above. Lastly – the oh-crap-i’m-gonna-go-push-up-the-daisies button is always mapped to C simply because there is less of a chance to hit that one by accident :).

    Another handy trick is to have mouse-wheel configured to shape change: wheel up=kitty, wheel down=bear, shift+wheel up=flyer. This is also useful for quick stance switching on Warriors/Aura switching on Pallies. On the subject of Pallies – I’m not sure and have never done the research – but they have so many abilities that I simply forget ’em all and what they do (all of the ‘hand of …’ are really hard to remember – anyway, if you are a key binder and Pally – this may not work so well as there seem to be a ton of abilities). To make this work – I created a power point with the keys of my keyboard and what abilities they mapped to for a Pally – and I did run out – so the process could use some improvement. Great article – thanks for sharing –


  14. For me, everything is keybound. And since my keybinds were made back when there was no such thing as Elitist Jerks or “best rotation”, their position on the screen don’t really make sense.

    For example, X and Z are some of my most commonly used keys. But they are placed on last two positions of the right-side “extra” toolbar. I have CTRL+1 though CTRL+5 bound, and those icons are located near the middle of my screen. On the other hand, ALT+1 though ALT+5 are on the far left.

    It’s actually not uncommon for me to forget where an icon on the screen is LOCATED, but I know what spell is bound to that keybind.


  15. Dominos, I keybind 123, qwe, asd, zxc (before you panic, 5 button mouse, I put my strafe keys on that). I also bind shift plus all of the aforementioned, and alt get the same treatment. That gives me 36 skills I have easy access to. Some classes that’s waaaaay more than I need, others (I’m looking at you Prot Warrior) it’s just not enough.

    Common use abilities are on qwe, abilities that are generally based on qwe abilties are put on shift+qwe. For some reason I decided my primary interrupt is going to live on s for all classes, my primary snare lives on shift+a. So if I obey the general rules, it doesn’t matter which class I play or which role. Frequent cooldowns? Shift+123. Doesn’t matter if I’m using Arcane Power, Shield Wall, or my Bear tank’s ‘Oh crap!’ button (Yes, I really did make a macro that uses all my healing and defensive cooldowns and named it Oh crap!).


  16. I make macros for each key 1-5.
    Each macro selects a different spell based on which modifier is pressed and which spec the character is (if they have dual-spec). I also include a “if fishing pole is equipped cast fishing” on #2, for fishing characters.

    I’ve also got shift, ctrl, alt, and shift+ctrl middle click bindings bound to a hotbar, as well as ctrl / alt Q and ctrl / alt E. (usually for trinkets and defensive spells respectively).
    This allows me to access 28 different keybinds without moving my hand away from the movement arrows OR remapping.

    Situational abilities with narrow timing windows (like divine sacrifice or lay on hands) get mapped to 6 through ‘=’, and utility spells and items go elsewhere to be clicked on. Healing items all go together to facilitate eating all at once if needed.


  17. I generally am a full time keyboarder — comes from sitting in front of one all day long I suppose. I use the vanilla button bars. Anyway, I generally put my main rotation buttons on the bottom toolbar — handy for a druid or rogue, since they’ll change based on what form I’m in. The most commonly used abilities and the pull buttons go towards the left, since that’s closest to the W key. Then I put oh crap buttons, and situational abilities across the top. The trick is that those buttons are keyed to ALT-x to match up the with button below — So when an oh crap moment comes up, I hit ALT-1, breath a sigh of relief, then move on.

    On the right, I put things that I rarely use, like hearthstone, mounts, elixers, long buffs, etc. These aren’t hot keyed at all, I just push them with the mouse.


  18. I tend to arrange my bars such that the buttons I use most are available for the number keys 1-5… because those are the ones I can comfortably reach without moving my left hand, although it’s not necessarily in order. Actually, I find that, for whatever reason, numbers 2 and 4 tend to be my most often-used abilities. Anyway, form- or spec-specific abilities then go to the right of that, nominally in order of importance, although sometimes it’s in the order i got the ability in. Utility stuff goes just above the 1-5 buttons, spreading out to the right as they get less and less used. Random abilities, normally food/potions/etc, go up on the right side bars, although things like my paladin that have a LOT of abilities tend to use that space as well. Out-of-combat things (non-battle resurrections, mounts, professions, etc.) tend to go on my #2 bar.

    I’ve been telling myself for some time I need to rework my bars to make things more user-friendly… but I’ve been used to this setup for quite some time, and it’s hard to break old habits.


  19. A couple of months ago I treated myself to a Razer Naga mouse – it’s the one with 12 little buttons on the side. So I had re-jig my bartender setup as it really helped me to have the visual cue of having 3×4 bars of buttons.

    So now I have key rotational abilities on 4 – 9 (easiest for me to reach with my thumb), short CD stuff that I use often on 1-3, situational stuff (like AoE or stuns) on 10-12. Then for symmetry (I like symmetry in my UI 🙂 ) I have another 3×4 bunch of buttons next to it with longer CD / very situational stuff. They are then flanked on either side by 2×2 or 2×3 button sets. On the left is my health / mana macros, speed pots, assist macro – things I want to be able to reach easily during combat. On the right side is my buffs, flasks, buff food.

    I did try to be clever about where I put stuff between alts so that stuns are always on the same button, but that ended up doing my head in so I gave up. And gosh is there a difference between button usage for kitty and boomkin! I ran out of buttons for the kitty, whilst with the boomkin I have empty button slots all over the place. And don’t get me started on paladins – too many abilities by far! 🙂


  20. Proofreading is your friend. Apparently not mine, but hopefully yours.

    I use the number pad for most of my rotation on all my toons, should say “I use the numbers on top of the keyboard for most of my rotation on all my toons,”. I use the numpad for marking. Ignore the man behind the curtain…


  21. I am a key presser/clicker. I use the number pad for most of my rotation on all my toons, and the bar right above it for the things that either don’t get used frequently or have long cooldowns. I also am a Healbot user somewhat to excess.

    Example, on my paladin (prot) Healbot does not do any healing whatsoever. Right-clicking a party/raid member does a Righteous Defense on that target. On the prot warrior, it does an Intercept. Middle-clicking on the paladin does Divine Intervention (cause let’s face it, when you know you’re going to wipe, do you normally have time to figure out who is still up that can res and then find them and target them and then click the button? No.) Middle clicking on the warrior does Viligance on that member. Left-clickon from the paladin does a Cleanse, while on the warrior, we have Intervene. I love using Healbot for things that are target-specific. On both of my healers, of course, it heals. I use the modifier keys there and have a ton of things I can do. Decursive sits right smack on top of Healbot so my mouse never strays far during a fight. (I only recently started with Decursive, so the paladin still uses Healbot for Cleansing out of habit)

    Basically I use the keyboard numbers for rotation, click above that bar for longer cooldown abilities, and use Healbot for most of the rest. I have a very mobile mouse, even though things on the screen are located near each other. I try and tie things together with macros as much as possible as well. I have 2 macros with Revenge on my warrior. One does Cleave and the other Heroic Strike. I rotate them between 2 and the spot above 2 depending on the fight at hand. Cleave is there by default for trash pulls. HS normally just for boss fights.

    I have also been playing with my bars quite a bit as my resto druid is leveling. I have tried a few setups and have found myself mainly clicking due to almost everything she does being thru either Healbot or Decursive.

    One other thing I do is keybind my = to my middle mouse button (the game allows you to keybind 2 different key combos to the same thing). Now I can put whatever ability I want for any class on = and either hit it with the keyboard, click it, or use the scroll wheel click to activate it. Shaman Riptide, Druid Rejuvenation, Paladin Consecrate, Warrior Thunder Clap. The great thing about that is that it works unless I am using a middle-click on Healbot. I can middle-click on Healbot to do something, move off Healbot and middle-click again in empty space and do something totally different. It actually works nicely.

    I also keybind the numpad numbers to mark targets. Patches never break my UI addons and I never have to worry. 1=skull, 2=square, etc… Numpad buttons are great for quick keybindings.


  22. Generally .. left to right on the bottom left side is the spell rotation, starting from the pull to the left hand side, so that closer to the centre of the screen are the “maintaining dps” buttons. Top left are generally initially the defensive buttons (for example i have barkskin linked to trinkets that lives up there), then further right towards the centre of the screen you get closer to the “oh shit” buttons … further to the right but still close to the centre are my health and mana potions.

    The only slight change to this is my druid and, to a lesser extent, my priest, who have the “stance change” type auto-change of bars. Plus I’ve never really gotten into cat dps and therefore have kept pretty much ALL my dps abilities on my cat bar, which means its full. And then some 😛 For the druid especially, I try to keep those abilities that are specific to a form, on that particular forms bar, and then anything that is “multiform” (such as faerie fire) goes on the bar above. Its a bit messy therefore, but it works for me 😉

    And …. yes, I use the default bars as well. I did look at others, but I didn’t like them much – possibly now set in my ways and I didn’t like the potential for complete havoc when/if they broke. The two right hand side bars are generally for buffs, mounts, etc.


  23. I have to admit to being guilty of that last point – I’m terrible about saving my cooldowns ‘in case I need it later’. Of course, ‘later’ almost never comes! Timely reminder there.

    As a newish player, I’m still working out what my optimal UI in different situations is. My main is a feral druid, but currently has a weird hybrid spec instead of two decent feral specs (something that will change when I have the money!), so getting everything I need to use into accessible places in the same UI format is a challenge. Bartender is definitely my friend there. Currently, I’ve ended up with all the bars at the bottom of the screen – one row for main rotation, one for damage abilities that are situational/on cooldown, one for beneficial/save-my-skin buttons and one for buffs and other nonurgent stuff. It works OK…but it doesn’t take an Einstein to know there must be more efficient ways!

    Thanks for the post – useful principles and thought-provoking 🙂


  24. I do a number of things similar to you…but one thing quite differently. Every max character that I have (dps, healer or tank) has cooldowns in the same place. They’re all in a very convenient location near my movement keys so I can pop them anytime. Mostly I have an “a little bit of shit” button and an “OMG Shit” button. It seems to translate well from class to class. And I macro in anything off a GCD like healthstones to make them more powerfull.


  25. I typically use my 1-4 keys and maybe 5 for my most frequent abilities. 7 is always my ranged AOE if that class has one, 8 is a shield of some sort and -or= are my heals.

    The only exceptions are 7 is my Berserk for my Feral Druid and 8 is my Ice Trap for my Hunter.


  26. YAY 1st reply!

    Sorry.. back to the point. Awesome post… you made me think about my distribution, and most of all (since I’m rolling a DK tank, my rotation since the DK is basically a big bag of cooldowns (I miss my druid tank QQ ).

    So, first of all… Im an addon junkie, mainly cause I like my screen to be as clean and little as humanly possible, and the Blizz UI is not very efficient. So, my list is basically Bartender4/Dominos, plus some other stuff like Druid Bar, MagicRunes, Healbot. I use Bartender/Domino cause I can put 36 slots in the same space the Blizzard UI would only put 12… so I dont use the extra bars, and use up precious screen space. Having said that, on the subject of button placing.. 3B your paradigm is kinda interesting, but mine is sorta similar now that I think about it.

    The idea is simple, the first 6 buttons are used for “in the rotation” skills, for example… druid bear 1 through 6 was: Maul, Mangle, Lacerate, Bash, Demoralizing Roar and Swipe. Bash and Swipe should have their buttons swapped, but I did it looooong time ago and now im used to it, so … no chance in hell im changing it, even though It doesnt make any sense at all. Then buttons 7 through 0 are usually taunts/crowd control/fast cooldown useful spells.
    Again, example using the druid… Taunt, Challenging Roar, Faerie Fire and Feral Charge… and then 11 and 14/15 (remember… 36 button bar) are the “oh shit” that basically were Frenzied Regen, Moroes Pocket Watch (I know… but im a TBC guy, bare with me) and other stuff. Same thing with the DK, my DK has Vamp Blood, Mark of Blood, Gift of the Naaru, Herbalism based HoT, Pots, Icebound Fortitude, Raise Dead/Death Pact all beautifully sorted by Cooldown/Usefulness…. for example, Vamp Blood is by far the most usefull of them all, and it only has a 1 min cd, so thats first… and Death Pact is the holy mother of Oh shit and it has a 3 minute cd, cause it depends on Raise Dead, so those are last cause their use are when you really fear for your life and you’ve used everything else and your life is still in danger.

    The last 20 something are used for skills not used on battle such as… buffs (except if I use a paladin, in which case I create a special square bar above the 36 button one, to put every buff both greater and simple there, so I dont waste precious space in my bars for it), professions, bandages, etc etc etc.

    Why do I use that? well, you say you are a clicker…. but Im not, and the mouse is only reserved for moving the camera, changing targets when needed, and clicking the Fastmark icons for Skull & Cross (theres another helpful addon for tanks) and since my skills are grouped in such a way, I can cast them all by using my keyboard: 1-10 with the numbers and 11 to 18 with f1 through f8 since, 1-10 are the most used (rotation + taunts/short cds) and the F# are more rarely used ones.

    On a final note, I do make the mistake often enough to be more conservative on the usage of “high” cd skills like Vamp Blood/Frenzied Regen than I should be, cause I save them for “life & death” moments, which usually never come…. but I prefer wasting cds than use them too soon and die because of it. Though Im not a fool, and when my life gets below 30% I light them all up like a christmas tree sorta speak, cause I usually use them by pairs…. like VampBlood + Gift of the Naaru or Icebound Fortitude + Mark of Blood, but… most of the fights go by without me using those skills, which may cause one of the “squishies” as you call them, to die cause the healers were too focused on me surviving, so… guilty there.

    Anyways, thats my take on UIs and tanking buttons (though for DPS distribution I use something really similar)

    Sorry for the wall post and hope someone gets to read it xD


  27. At last count, I’ve got 10 “alts” sitting at level 80, and not really a main among them. I’ve just got what I’m currently playing. Some toons have progressed further than others (my druid managed to get a fair way into her Resto T9, which is okay in my book considering I don’t raid), and some are just there for their professions.. they’ve progressed enough to run heroics, but usually don’t.

    I tend to work out the rotation, then, unimaginatively, arrange them from 1 to whatever, across the main button bar. I tend to use Bartender, my bar arrangements are usually the same, but some are different. Usually, I’m a clicker, but some toons will use keybindings. For example:

    My Resto druid used the addon LifeBloomer for healing, and these were activated by keyboard, typically numbers 1 to 6.

    My Prot Pally also used a keyboard/click combo, depending on how I was feeling at the time. The 969 abilities were spread between numbers 1 and 6 on the bar, and I would got from 1 to 6 to 2 to 5 to 3 and perhaps back to 6. It’s been a while, and the rotation would change depending on the need for mana over AoE threat over body pull threat.

    My Blood DK was keyboard operated, and I changed my usual WASD mapping to ESDF for movement and straffing, with abilities mapped to QWRTAG and shift modifiers thereof. I also had mousewheel mappings for the on next strike ability. It’s been a long time since I played him in anger. Usually he’s in Unholy, doing herb farming when I need it.

    When I first started playing WoW, I had Alt-4 mapped for PW:Shield, even though every other ability was clicked. To this day (4 years after starting WoW), Alt-4 is ingrained in my muscle memory, and even though it’s not a part of my Shadow Rotation, bad things happen when I try to move it somewhere else.

    Across all my toons, Ctrl 1 is my land mount and Ctrl 2 is my flying mount.

    I used to have keybindings for my Prot Warrior (leveled from 70 to 80 as Prot, too). He was my first toon to 60, back in Vanilla, but I always clicked back then. In TBC, he did a few heroics, mostly Steamvaults but I was never confident enough to get him to run the one that dropped the Prot sword (was that Arcatraz?). I used to do crazy stuff, like swap out my mace for a fast dagger to do something useful with the excess rage, in the middle of the boss fight. And then as rage decreased, I would swap back to the mace.

    I ended up raiding Kara with my Holy Pally, who used HealBot and PallyPower almost exclusively, via clicks and modifier clicks. Ah, downranking.. you were so good to me.


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