Thursday, June 16, 2011

The 5x2 Project for Healing Priests (and Paladins, Shamans and Druids)

Some week ago I read a really interesting post about something called the 5x2 project. When I read that post (and I have of course forgotten who had written it /derp), I didn't realize that it was part of a bigger project, but just thought it was an interesting post by that particular blogger. Then, some day later I stumbled across the name again however, when I was randomly browsing WoWInsider. I decided to dig a little deeper and have since read some other good posts on the subject. I am sure many of you have heard of this already, but here's a run down just in case. Possibly spurred by a post made by ghostcrawler which discusses the nature of spells and when the amount of spells used by a class can become overwhelming, Mathew MacCurley from WoWInsider decided to challenge fellow Twitterers by asking them to map down their class on as few keys as possible. The aim was 5 keys, plus one modifier key, plus middle mouse button, which makes a total of 11 keys (I am also assuming that RMB/LMB and WASD are included) (thanks to Cynwise for helping me out with this). The original idea was mainly aimed at trying to make the game more accessible to disabled players, people who might not be able to reach all across the keyboard or for other reasons are rather limited in their choice of keys. But you don't have to be disabled to see the greatness in exploring this concept, any person basically can benefit from trying to figure out just which keys are the most important and how you can simplify your keying process. Me being one with relatively small hands have always tried to avoid any key beyond the 5th since I started playing. Getting there would actually mean I have to lift my hand and press that key, something that isn't always the best thing to do. A couple of months ago I discussed the problem that I had mapped Prayer of Healing, one of my most important spells, to the 6th key, which really turned into a problem when raiding. Lifting my hand to reach that key meant I couldn't simultaenously move my character, which was bad.

As a healer I happen to have one great advantage over other classes - I target friendly targets rather than hostile ones and that makes a load of difference. Because of game mechanics, Blizzard has allowed us to interact with friendly players without actually having to target them. For some reason (probably counter-bot ones) this isn't possible for most skills used on hostile targets. And even if it was possible, there is no UI (that I know off) that collects all hostile targets into a nice little grid like you can do with your party and raid frames. Come to think of it, that would really be handy for some multi dotting action, but alas. Being able to interact with friendly targets through your party interface means you can use your mouse to do most of the healing by binding a mouse click (left or right) with a modifier key. As a healer, you rarely keep a target up and the press a key, rather you want to execute the skill and press the target at the same time. Because healers have to interact with 5-25 different targets, rather than just a few like a dpser has, it would be extremely time ineffecient to first select your target, and then cast your skill. Doing both at the same time will save you loads of time and work. The only drawback of this system is that you either need an addon or know how to write mouse-over macros to do this. Since I am daft when it comes to writing macros, this post will be around how to bind your keys like this when using an addon. I have used Clique+Grid combo, and currently use Vuhdo which basically is Clique and Grid combined. Clique and Vuhdo work exactly like mouse-over macros, but without you actually having to do anything but tell the addon how you want to map your keys.

Being able to map skills to a modifier + RMB/LMB gives you a lot of "free" space on the keyboard. If you count Shift, Alt and Ctrl as three keys, adding RMB and LMB to those gives 6 possible skills, plus one for unmodified LMB and/or RMB. 7 skills on three keys! The question is really if the mouse should count as a key or not? For this post I have tried not to use more keys than the suggested (aka 5  keys plus modifier plus MMB), assuming that WASD and LMB/RMB are already accounted. But there is of course a huge difference between having a problem say reaching for keys, and therefor wanting to keep it to a minimal, or having a problem with remembering different key setups and therefor wanting to keep it to a minimum. If reach is the only issue (something with which I struggle myself), you could still probably be able to use forward and backward key on your mouse, for example. You could also use keys that are really close to the WASD, like R, F, G, Q and E to mention a few.

The original idea aimed at only using one modifier key, and I definitely see the point. Reaching from Ctrl or Alt to another key on the keyboard isn't easy, and I don't do that myself either. But when using LMB and RMB with a modifier you're actually just pressing one key, which is a lot easier. Because of this I have argued that you could use three modifier keys with RMB and LMB, eventhough you'd maybe only want to use one modifier key for combination pressings, such as Shift + 1. Because of this many could probably use Ctrl, Alt and Shift with the mouse, and then use an added 5 and 5 + mod key skills. But for this particular project that would be bending the rules. That would in fact mean using more keys than allowed! I have therefore decided to use MMB instead, to add an additional 3 skills to the mouse, and I won't add Alt + key/ Ctrl + key because I don't personally think they're good keybinds. To stay within the limit of 6 keys however (5 keys + one modifier = 6 keys), that means I can only use 1, 2 and 3, since the other three is used by Alt, Shift and Ctrl.

As a priest I have two specs to choose from, and personally I love both. Fortunately, most unique heals in one spec has a counter-part in the other which means you can use the same key to use both spells, saving you brain power from having to remember different bindings between the specs. All you have to do is tell your Clique/Vuhdo/other similar addon to do one thing when in Holy and the other when in Disc. For mouse-over macros I think you can just put both spells into the macro, as the macro will only use the one that is available in any case. Here is my suggestion for how to map your keys as a healing priest (and this is actually how I have currently mapped most of my keys).

  • My suggestion does not include an Archangel/Atonement spec unfortunately!
  • You can actually heal by using MMB to scroll up and down on your target. I don't do this, but it does open up the access to two extra skills for those who like.
  • I personally think it's a lot easier to reach keys like F, G and R than say 5 or even Shift+3, but there are other reasons you might want to keep the bindings simple and easy to remember. For this I have preferred consistency over efficiency, which isn't the same to say that you'll be a bad healer for using this setup, but that there in some cases could be slightly better mappings. But again, it all depends on what the goal should be, this time I have tried mainly to stay within the limits of the project.

RMB (unmodified) = Renew (Holy) or Power Word: Shield (Disc)
Alt + LMB = Heal
Alt + RMB = Power Word: Shield (Holy) or Renew (Disc)
Alt + MMB = Flash Heal
Ctrl + LMB = Circle of Healing (Holy) or Penance (Disc)
Ctrl + RMB = Greater Heal
Ctrl + MMB = Prayer of Healing
Shift + LMB = Dispel
Shift + RMB = Prayer of Mending
Shift + MMB = Guardian Spirit (Holy) or Pain Supression (Disc)
1 = Holy Word (Holy) or Power Word: Barrier (Disc)
2 = Binding Heal
3 = Leap of Faith
Shift + 1 = Macro to switch between Inner Fire and Inner Will
Shift + 2 = Race Specific skill if you have a useful one (Rocket Jump, Berserker, Stoneform, Arcane Torrent to mention a few) otherwise Mass Dispel
Shift + 3 = Pot/Healthstone

Various dps skills: Unless your Raid leader shouts "EVERYBODY DPS THEIR PANTS OFF!" because you're dang close to the bosses berserking timer, or you're in p2 of Chimaeron, there is very rarely a reason to dps as a healing priest. My suggestion does unfortunately not include Archangel/atonement (as I already mentioned) or how to proceed if you want to be a questing healing priest (but that's torture, so don't try it).
Out of combat skills like Fortitude, Shadow Protection and Resurrection: Are very rarely used in combat and don't need to be keyd. Resurrection can't even be used in combat, and although you might have to rebuff mid-fight, it doesn't happen often.
Fear Ward: Is actually barely being used in current content, and can also usually be placed well ahead of when it is actually needed, which means it's one of those keys that's safe to keep as a "clicker".
Cure Disease: As Fear Ward, this is barely used in current content (I can't think of a single mob in current raids and heroics that puts up a disease, but I am sure there are some).
Hymn of Hope and Divine Hymn: Because of their long cooldowns they're usually only used once per fight, and don't really deserve their own key unless you have loads to spare.
Trinkets: There aren't that many trinkets with uses, but they do exist and they should be used. Fortunately, you can macro a trinket to be used with a certain skill, and that is by far the best way to make sure it is properly used and never forgotten. The same can go for something like Lifeblood.
Mass Dispel: Most races have a good race specific skill to which they can bind Shift + 2, which means you'll have to click Mass Dispel. The only fight where you'll need to use Mass Dispel regularly currently is Argaloth in Baradin Hold, otherwise it is nearly always to use regular Dispel since you need 4+ targets for Mass Dispel to be mana effective.

Just because I am such a generous person, I will throw in a suggestion on how to map your resto shaman, holy paladin and resto druid (all of which I currently also play). I will basically use the same setup as above, and just change the skills.

Holy Paladin
RMB (unmodified) = Word of Glory
Alt + LMB = Holy Light
Alt + RMB = Divine Light
Alt + MMB = Flash of Light
Ctrl + LMB = Hand of Sacrifice
Ctrl + RMB = Hand of Salvation
Ctrl + MMB = Hand of Protecion
Shift + LMB = Cleanse
Shift + RMB = Holy Shock
Shift + MMB = Lay on Hands
1 = Holy Radiance
2 = Light of Dawn
3 = Judgement
Shift + 1 = Divine Shield
Shift + 2 = Potion
Shift + 3 = Divine Protection

The above setup does leave out some really important skills. I could use my Alt and Ctrl for some of these bindings, but as I mentioned I don't like those combinations myself. Is it better than clicking? Depends on how comfortable you are with the combination bind, to me it's like doing Twister with my fingers. The "problem" about holydins are that they have a lot of self targetted skills, which isn't something you'd want to map to your mouse. I've tried to map the ones I think are the most important to have quick access to during a fight. This is why I've mapped Divine Protection over a skill like Guardian of Ancient Kings, because I feel like eventhough GoAK is a really great spell, I'd rather click that over Divine Protection in a pinch. The same goes with the skills I have left out compared to the skills I've decided to map. Another drawback of this setup is that it doesn't allow you to bind your Rebuke to be able to be a back up interrupter. The same goes with Hammer of the Righteous. On the bright side, most people don't want a healer to focus on much else than healing.
Beacon of Light: Since it has a 5 minute duration, it's hardly necessary to keep on a key bind.
Seal of Insight: Definitely not necessary to keybind.
Divine Plea: Is something I'd ideally bind, but definitely less necessary than the ones I chose instead.
Trinkets and Raid buffs: See priest section above.

Resto Shaman
RMB (unmodified) = Healing Wave
Alt + LMB = Chain Heal
Alt + RMB = Greater Healing Wave
Alt + MMB = Healing Surge
Shift + LMB = Cleanse Spirit
Shift + RMB = Riptide
Shift + MMB = Earth Shield
1 = Healing Rain
2 = Unleash Elements
3 = Spirit Link Totem
4 = Nature's Swiftness
Shift + 1 = Spiritwalker's Grace
Shift + 2 = Potion
Shift + 3 = Ghost Wolf
Shift + 4 = Water Shield

As you might have noticed, I switched out the ctrl modifier to a fourth key instead, because shamans don't have as many friendly targetted skills as the other healers. Because of this, it's not as needed to use many mouse keys. Again, interrupt has been left out, simply because eventhough it is a good skill, if you aim at being a good healer, the mapped keys are probably more important. Same goes with Hex, Tremor Totem and Earthbinding Totem. Shamans are arguably the healing class that has the most benefit from occasionally dpsing, but I personally do this very seldom and have therefor decided to leave them out of the mapping.
Totems: Can usually be placed before a fight, and for longer boss fights they only need to be re-cast occasionally.
Longer cooldowns like Earth and Fire elemental, Bloodlust and even Mana Tide won't be used that often in a fight and I have therefor prioritized other skills.

Resto Druid
RMB (unmodified) = Lifebloom
Alt + LMB = Rejuvenation
Alt + RMB = Nourish
Alt + MMB = Regrowth
Ctrl + LMB = Wild Growth
Ctrl + RMB = Healing Touch
Ctrl + MMB = Innervate
Shift + LMB = Remove Corruption
Shift + RMB = Swiftmend
Shift + MMB = Rebirth
1 = Nature's Swiftness
2 = Tree of Life
3 = Racial
Shift + 1 = Tranquility
Shift + 2 = Potion
Shift + 3 = Barkskin

Druids is possibly the best class to play if you want to have to map as few keys as possible (paladins probably the least good). Even when mapping all the necessary skills I've got room for things like Racials and Potions. What you might want to map that I haven't included is cat form + dash, because it is a good way to get out of trouble fast, but for most fights and most situations that won't be necessary (unless you're into progress raiding).


  1. That grid style thing for mobs would be so awesome :D

  2. Vuhdo has spell binds for hostiles, so (as resto) I tend to set a few CC type spells there (root, hibernate, cyclone) and set focus on what I'm minding. And cyclone is great for mindcontrolled party members.

    Why aren't you using unmodified mouse buttons fully?

  3. @Anon 2
    You mean unmodified LMB? In a sense I am, since I use that to get my target. I could bind target to another key, but that wouldn't make much difference for this project since that still would mean I'd have to bind my target key somewhere else. And personally I like having my target key easy accessible (although I have considered binding PoH there)!

    I am using unmodified back and forward mouse buttons, I just haven't included them in this post since I felt they were out of the limitations of the project.

  4. Why do you target on your raid frames at all? (very confused about why this would be necessary)

    When I'm healing I target only hostiles, and I use clicking nameplates or tab cycling to do it. I never target my friendly targets, except briefly before fights to focus an appropriate tank if I am tank healing.

    Also, for resto shamans using lighning bolt to regenerate mana is a pretty key mechanic and likely to get more key the farther on we go... do you really not regularly cast it in raids? If your setup is for pre-raiding it makes a bit more sense to me.

    Sorry about the belated reply, I missed this post when it was new, but I was very curious!

  5. @Rhii
    Unfortunately target and target is the same word, although the one is a noun and the other a verb. My suggestion is for using clique, which means I just click a target, I don't actually get the target and I also note this in the text;

    "As a healer, you rarely keep a target up and then press a key, rather you want to execute the skill and press the target at the same time. Because healers have to interact with 5-25 different targets, rather than just a few like a dpser has, it would be extremely time ineffecient to first select your target, and then cast your skill. Doing both at the same time will save you loads of time and work. The only drawback of this system is that you either need an addon or know how to write mouse-over macros to do this."

    I can have any target I like, but I still have to click a target to heal it. Clicking name plates or clicking a raid frame is the same thing.

    I haven't raid healed heroics as a shaman or druid actually, and for normals you don't have to use Lightning Bolt much. I thought since someone who had to use this setup probably would be too limited to do heroic raiding anyway, Lightning Bolt wouldn't be very needed. But if someone feels like mana is an issue, they should definitely bind LB!