Monday, July 27, 2009

An Aside- Macros and Talent Specs

Macros and key bindings are a big part of multiboxing. This is particularly true of mixed groups. Now, by "mixed groups" I'm referring to the various roles played in a group. A group of five balance druids can share the same key bindings and macros and do not require a lot of setup time. A group of five druids that consist of one feral, three balance, and one resto will require three sets of key bindings and macros. They don't do the same thing during a fight, and their timing doesn't always match up.

(Note: By "key bindings" I'm referring not only to the assignment of keystrokes to an action bar, but to the action bar setup as well. This is just to reduce the use of terms and make things less confusing.)

I also approach talent assignment differently as a multiboxer than I do when playing a single character. Many talents provide additional active abilities, which must be selected when you want to use them (an example would be the shaman resto talent Nature's Swiftness, which turns your next spell into an instant-cast). Other talents provide passive abilities, which do not have to be activated. They are either always on (for example, talents that increase your critical strike percentage) or they activate on their own when certain conditions are met (such as a talent that gives a percentage chance on a successful attack to increase your critical strike rating for a short time).

For a multiboxer, active talents are a mixed bag. They allow for the precise use of their particular benefit, as opposed to a random activation that will not always occur at the ideal time. But they require an additional line in a macro, an additional key bind, or perhaps both. I want to have a setup that is as streamlined as possible. Simpler macros and fewer key binds are the way to go for me, and anything that complicates the setup makes things more difficult.

Therefore, when I'm considering a talent, I am looking for one that is either passive or that can be folded into an existing macro. An example would be the talent Nature's Swiftness, which is instant cast and does not trigger a global cool down. Due to this, it can be inserted into a healing macro that I use for emergency moments, when I want a big heal and can't afford to wait for it to cast. This talent can be combined with the talent Tidal Force, which increases the critical strike chance of your next three spells. The first spell gets an additional 60% chance to crit, the second gets 40%, and the third gets 20%. Like NS, Tidal Force casts instantly and doesn't trigger a global cooldown. Since trinkets typically work the same way, my emergency heal macro will look like this:

/use 13
/cast Tidal Force
/cast Nature's Swiftness
/cast [target=Bonuss] Healing Wave

I can remove the "target" designation and it will heal Kurianne's target. I prefer to have it explicitly target the tank, because if he dies the group is probably in very big trouble and about to wipe. Losing a party member is bad, but it's also survivable in many circumstances.

The first line (/use 13) will activate the trinket in her first trinket slot. Currently, that is occupied by a trinket with a "use effect" that increases her spell power by 183 for 20 seconds. The next line casts Tidal Force, which will increase the critical strike effect of her heal by 60%. Kurianne's heals have a 28.28% critical chance from gear and talents, which means that the emergency heal will have an 88.28% chance to be a critical heal. The next line casts Nature's Swiftness, which means that Healing Wave (normally a 2.5 second cast) will cast instantly. The final line casts the heal spell, which has now been boosted with 183 spell power, has almost a 9-in-10 chance to crit, and will cast without delay.

When Engaging A Boss or Elite

I have a very basic set of key bindings for when the group is just killing normal mobs or "easy" elite mobs, as there is no need for fancy rotations or macros. For the more difficult elites I switch to a separate action bar with different key binds. Those contain some initial setup keystrokes and then a "rotation" macro for tanking, DPSing, and healing.


Since the paladin is my lead character, I can use the mouse to select actions. I normally use the mouse to select the target and use the abilities that aggro it, build some initial aggro, and buff his block percentage. Although I have all of his tanking abilities on a bar so that I can select them manually, I do have two key binds for him:

4- tank rotation macro
7- Hammer of Wrath


= (the equals key) /assist party1
1- Buffs pet and directs it to attack
2- Casts Misdirection on Bonuss
3- Buff self
4- DPS rotation macro
7- Kill Shot


= (the equals key) /assist party1
1- Water Shield
2- Strength of Earth Totem
3- Mana Spring Totem
5- Heal rotation macro
6- Emergency heal macro
G- Earth Shield on Bonuss

The shaman also has keys F1-F8 assigned to heal the other party members, and both the shaman and paladin have the H key assigned to their decurse abilities (which are cast on the paladin's target). The paladin's decurse can remove poison, disease, and magic debuffs, while the shaman has a talented ability that can remove poison, disease, and curses. That effectively covers all removeable debuffs.

What They Do

The rotation macros all use the /castsequence command to queue up a series of abilities. This is not the most efficient way to run a single character, but for a multiboxed team it makes group management easier. Most fights consist of mouse-clicking the paladin's abilities, and tapping the "4" key every second or so, pausing only if aggro becomes an issue. I tap the "5" key as needed based on the paladin's health, and the "G" key when Earth Shield gets used up. If I remember, I will tap the "2" key to cast misdirection. All of the hunter's have it set up to cast on Bonuss. Since only one misdirect can be active at a time, one gets selected and the other two are ignored. If I press it again within 30 seconds, the one on cooldown is ignored and the other two attempt to cast it. If the paladin needs a heal ASAP, I tap the "6" key. When the mob's health is low enough, I tap the "7" key.

I have a few other key binds (mana tide, healing stream, etc) but these are the ones I use primarily in any "tank and spank" encounter. Even in encounters that require a bit more involvement, I will spend most of my time tapping the "4" and "5" keys. It's not as efficient as it would be when I play a single character, but it's very efficient when multiboxing, at least for me.

Prior to the pull, the paladin is buffed with Blessing of Sanctuary (reduces damage taken, restores mana when he blocks or avoids an attack) and Righteous Fury (increases the threat generated by Holy spells). The paladin's tank macro has a castsequence that goes more or less as follows:

Hand of Reckoning - generates initial aggro and taunts the mob.
Holy Shield - increases chance to block and damages enemies when you block their attacks
Seal of Righteousness - does additional Holy damage per melee attack. When a judgement is applied, it does additional Holy damage. I use this only for the extra Holy damage (which generates extra threat) from using the next ability:
Judgement of Wisdom - attacks against target have the chance to restore 2% of base mana.
Seal of Wisdom - paladin's attacks have a chance to restore 4% of maximum mana. Between this and JoW, the tank should have no trouble keeping his mana bar full during a battle.
Exorcism - does Holy damage, and always crits versus undead.
Hammer of the Righteous - hits up to three targets for Holy damage equal to 4x your main hand weapon damage.
Shield of Righteousness - hits target for Holy damage equal to 130% of your block rating + 390.
Avenger's Shield - hits up to three targets for holy damage and dazes them.

Some of them are repeated in the sequence. Since many of them have cooldowns, I try to space them apart so that they don't run afoul of their cooldowns (at which point I believe the macro skips to the next ability in the sequence, but it may also not fire off the next ability until I press the key again, thus wasting a keystroke). Because I use the mouse to trigger most of his abilities, the macro really just winds up filling in after the initial sequence, which puts JoW on the mob and SoW on the paladin.

The hunter DPS macro is slightly different for one of them, since she is spec'ed for Marksmanship. The other two are spec'ed for Survival. By the time I'm ready to hit dungeons, they'll have the talent that provides a mana boost for the group wen certain attacks hit for critical damage. Otherwise the macros are somewhat similar, with the following sequence:

Black Arrow- (Survival) increases the hunter's DPS and applies a shadow-based DoT.
Serpent Sting- A nature-based DoT. One of the Survival hunters may substitute Scorpid Sting, which decreases the mob's chance to hit with melee attacks by 3%.
Chimera Shot- (Marks) this does 125% of normal weapon damage, as well as 40% of the total damage of Serpent Sting
Concussive Shot- dazes the target
Steady Shot- short casting (1.5 seconds) damage that does extra damage if Concussive Shot is active on the target. Boss mobs are often immune to Concussive Shot, but if they aren't it's extra damage.
Aimed Shot- extra damage and reduces healing on the target by 50%. The healing reduction comes in handy now and then, but mostly this is for the extra damage.
Arcane Shot- extra arcane damage.

I will have extra Steady Shot, Chimera Shot, and Black Arrow in the sequence in order to maintain as high a DPS rate as I can. If their threat is becoming a problem I just stop tapping the macro key. Since I am using the mouse for the paladin's abilities, not using his macro won't affect his threat generation. I can also use Feign Death if needed.

The shaman's heal macro is a sequence with a mixture of her healing spells. It's not nearly as efficient as it would be when playing her solo, but I find it more useful than trying to find three or four additional healing keys while I'm trying to maintain threat, DPS, and positioning. It is mostly made up of Healing Wave, with one or two Chain Heal and Riptide thrown in. The first heal is Riptide, which generates less immediate threat. Since the paladin has an Earth Shield on, Riptide can handle early mob DPS most of the time. Otherwise, I can press "5" immediately and cast a Healing Wave. Or if the early damage output is higher than expected, I can tap "6" and cast an emergency heal.

Depending on the fight, I can tweak the sequence a bit. I can use lesser heals at the start and work up toward bigger heals, or the reverse. Or insert more HoTs or Chain Heals. There is some flexibility in how I set it up, to make up for the loss of flexibility once the fight is under way.

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