This page isn’t a guide to which keys to use for each ability, but instead should give you some ideas for your own keybindings. Everyone is different, and you’ll need to find a configuration that fits for you and flows nicely.
The transition from clicker to keybinder
There are two basic options; you could either go “cold turkey”, bind all of your frequently used abilities, and learn them all at the same time; or, you could bind a few at a time, get to know them, then bind a few more. I found it quite easy to do them all at the same time, because I chose bindings that made sense to me (more about this later). But if you feel it’s a bit too much to learn all at once, just bind a few, get used to them, and then bind another, and another, etc, as you become more comfortable.
As druids, some of our keybinds will overlap with our different forms. Some abilities will be the same in every form, and some will be unique, but share a keybind. Depending on how you set yourself up, this can mean a LOT of keybinds. Because of this, I recommend that you create a table to record your binding choices, so that you don’t lose track of what the bindings are for each form. I’ll explain this more later, too.
Click casting vs keybinds
If you’re used to clicking, you may prefer to use click casting, which means you simply hover over the target’s frame and click a button on your mouse. The more mouse buttons you have, the more heals and spells you can bind (you can also use alt/shift/ctrl modifiers). Some frame mods such as Healbot and Vuhdo have this feature built-in; if you are using Grid or other frame mods, you will have to install a standalone mod like Clique.
Alternatively, you can use keybinds, which is where you have to target the person you want to heal (either by clicking on them or hovering over them if you are using mouseover macros), and then striking a key on your keyboard.
These options are completely personal preference, and neither is better than the other – you just need to find the one that suits you best. You can also use a combination, if you prefer. (Personally, I find that using my mouse exclusively causes fatigue in my right hand, and makes me stumble on my clicks. I find striking keys to be more precise for me, and less tiring on my hands.)
How to actually bind your abilities to keys
If you choose to use keyboard keys, you can set these up through the in-game key bindings menu. However, it’s a huge list, and can be a pain. An easier way is to download “Bindpad“. This mod allows you to drag your abilities, macros, equipment or items (potions, food, etc) into a page of empty binding slots, then you simply left click on the ability you want to bind, hit the key or combination of keys that you have chosen for it, and you’re done.
Most of the good bar mods will also let you bind the slots on your bars, rather than single abilities. This means that when you shift to other forms, your 1-2-3-4-5 (etc) buttons will now be used for your cat abilities, bear abilities, and so on. Some bar mods are also compatible with dual specs.
Druid forms and dual specs
Some abilities will be the same in every form – for example, I want 2 to be Barkskin, because I can use it in every form. Or you might want to keep Tranquility available for every spec – just in case you have to pop out of Moonkin form to save the day. So some abilities will be the same regardless of your forms. But you might like to have your 3 button do something different depending on your form. For me, it’s LB, LB, Mangle, Mangle (caster, tree, cat, bear).
Alternatively, you can build macros that will choose an action dependent on your form. For example, “if I’m in tree form, use Rejuv; if I’m in cat form, use Rake; if I’m in bear form, use Maul”. Or, “If I”m stealthed, use Ravage; if I’m not, use Shred”. This saves on bar space and keybindings; you don’t need to have 3 different keybinds for your different stances; you can just have one button and one binding, and the macro will check whether you’re a cat or a tree before performing the action. Here’s a list of handy macros: Useful macros for druids
For the abilities constant through your forms (eg Barkskin), just bind the ability directly, in bind pad. For abilities that share a bind with feral form abilities, you can either put them on a bar and bind the SLOT, or put them into a conditional macro and then bind that macro in bindpad. Whichever suits you best.
To make it much easier on yourself, I really do recommend that you draw up that table of all the different binds for your forms, so you can remember which are constant and which will change if you shapeshift. This will also make it easier to decide whether you want to bind them directly, or have them share keybinds with other abilities. And, if you accidentally lose your configuration, you’ll have a record.
Using “logical” bindings
When making new bindings, I try to choose keys that remind me of their associated spell. For example, Alt-R is Entangling Roots – R for Roots. It’s simplistic – but it helps.
I also “pair up” abilities that are similar or complement each other. For example, 3 is Lifebloom, and Shift-3 is Wild Growth, because WG to me is similar to LB but on multiple targets. Rejuv is 4, and Swiftmend (which is used with Rejuv) is Shift-4. My two direct heals, Nourish and Healing Touch, are 5 and Shift-5. I keep “pairs” of spells together because I consider them to be similar.
I use similar abilities across various characters. For every class, “1″ is my emergency button. Nature’s Swiftness+Healing Touch, Ice Block, Feign Death, Desperate Prayer, etc. “2″ is my “protect me for a few seconds” key – Barkskin, Power Word: Shield, etc. I use the same bindings for my cat finishers and my hunter pet finishers.
If you keep similar abilities on the same binds across all of your characters, it will help you to commit them to memory much faster and easier.
Other than the logical bindings, keep your most frequently used abilities on keys that are the easiest to reach, and limit the modifiers.
I have small hands, so I try to limit myself to 3, 4, 5, plus all of the left-hand letters except Q and Z (my small hands makes stretching my pinky awkward and clumsy). This is personal preference – if you can comfortably use your pinky, then you open up a few more keys to use.
3, 4 and 5 are my frequent, basic heals – Lifebloom, Rejuv, and Nourish. The modified versions (Shift-3, Shift-4, Shift-5) are WG, Swiftmend, and Healing Touch. All of these are easy for me to hit without stretching, and don’t cause me any fatigue. Don’t bind your most common spells to a key that makes you stretch or strain!
Less important or infrequently used abilities can be bound on the right-hand side of the keyboard to save space on the left. For example, Innervate is Shift-I, Hurricane is Ctrl-H. The cooldowns mean that I can’t use them frequently, so using right-side binds frees up space on the left. It will mean that you have to take your hand off the mouse momentarily though – if you’re not comfortable doing that, if it feels clumsy, then stick with the left side of the keyboard.
Keep your emergency buttons easy to reach. Nature’s Swiftness/Healing Touch, Barkskin, Swiftmend, Tranquility, health stones and potions, bandages. You don’t want to have some obscure binding for your health stone – it has to be easy to get to!
Your mouse wheel is great for changing forms. It’s super fast. I use:
- Down: Moonkin (when I’m playing Balance!)
- Shift Down: Cat
- Ctrl Down: Travel
- Alt Down: Bear
- Up: Cancel all forms (/cancelform)
- Shift Up: Flight form
Tree form is no longer on my scroll wheel as it is too easy to double shift and ruin your cooldown. I now use Ctrl-T, which is fast enough to use, but not so much that I can accidentally slip and use the ability when I don’t mean to.
WASD (keyboard turning) vs mouse turning
Finally, a note on movement.
Using your mouse to turn, reposition, and move your character is faster and smoother than using your keyboard. Keyboard turning gives you that “shuffling” look as your character slowly turns to the direction you want to face. In situations where you have to run out of fire (etc), it can mean the difference between taking a tick or two of damage, or none at all.
Personally, I use a hybrid mix of keyboard and mouse turning, and so do many druids. The reason for this is because many of us use mouseover macros or click-casting (clicking on your target with your mouse button to heal them). This ties up the mouse for periods of time, meaning that you have to fall back on your W key to move forward. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to use your W key to move forward, but I definitely recommend that you get used to using your mouse to do quick turns if you need to run. Shuffling will slow you down. It only takes a moment to move your mouse out into the open, turn, and then go back to healing while you run with W.
Backpedalling (“S”) is okay as long as it’s not used to get out of fire, etc – it’s too slow. I will often backpedal here and there to reposition, if my mouse hand is tied up; otherwise, I simply mouse-turn quickly.
Different people use different methods, but that is mine, and it serves me well.
As always – this is just an insight into how I do things, and what works and is comfortable for me. Explore for yourself, see what works. Click casting, binds, mouseovers – there’s a style for everyone, it’s just a case of finding what’s comfortable for you, and then training yourself to use it – either all in one hit, or gradually.
It’s not difficult – just write down what you want to do, bind a few spells, and start practicing until it’s second nature.