Tobold's Blog
Saturday, March 28, 2009
The Rage Bar on keystrokes per second

Vads from The Rage Bar asked me what I thought of his blog, and I found it very nice. Clear layout, about 2 posts a week, and a consistent WoW warrior subject. Not that I totally agree with his view that there should be more content which is only accessible for 1% of the player base, but I do agree that WoW is running out of content fast, and Ulduar will only push the bored point back a few weeks.

But the post of him that interested me most was one about Heroic Strike, with a link to a video in which a tank manages to deal 3.3k dps on Patchwerk, doing 10.5 keystrokes per second. 10 keystrokes per second are 600 keystrokes per minute, which translates to 120 words per minute. According to Wikipedia that is the speed of a world class typist, twice as fast as an average professional typist, and 4 times as fast as the average computer user can type. Personally I type at 50 words per minute (you can test your personal typing speed here). No wonder I'm not dealing that much damage with my tank!

I think it is a bad idea to have your damage depending on how fast you can hit your keyboard. Because if your dps depends on your keystrokes per second, the differences between players become even larger. Then either you have content where only world class typists can beat the boss, or you have content which even the slow typers can compete, and the fast typers are bored because it is too easy. Is this what the often discussed "skillz" boil down to, faster button-mashing?
OK, I am at 65 wpm, but I think hitting Heroic Strike or another ability over and over is just simpler and faster than having to read and type a text. But 10.5 keystrokes per second... whoa... not sure if it is good that frantic gameplay gets rewarded.
Sadly, all too many games depend on faster button mashing or "twitch" reflexes, that's a big reason I moved into MMOs to begin with - too many headshots from 12 year olds was the end of my CounterStrike career.

At least the case of Heroic Strike spamming, however, there's a pretty simple solution - put Heroic Strike on an action bar and bind Mouse Wheel Down (or Up) to it. That way every muscle movement from you spams the skill 4 or 5 times. You should be able to do that twice per second easily which will enable you to catch up to all the other Carpal Tunnel cases-in-waiting and their 10 "keystrokes" per second.

As for everyone else - as long as there are no more than two skills in your class that require massive spamming at times, all WoW players should be safe from button mashing for now... at least until another, more button mashing-intensive MMO comes out :)
Thanks for the kind words Tobold, its an honor to be featured here.

Regarding heroic strike, with your average 1.6 speed tanking weapon and blood lust/similar effects up and the occational parry, you're looking at swing times down to 0.5-1 sec. To make the most of your threat each of those should be a heroic strike, so yes it gets pretty spammy. I hope the mechanic gets an overhaul soon, seeing blue posts mention the matter has me optimistic. :)
I play a feral druid and I pretty much spam like this too but thankfully bear attack speed is 2.5 so the spamming is far slower while still not missing any GCDs. I was going to complain that 10.5 keystrokes per second sounds excessive then I remembered why a bear can get away with less.

Honestly, it hadn't occurred to me to main tank any other way!
In the TBC days there were certain hunter macros that had to bound to the mouse's scroll wheel because plain old button-mashing was not fast enough. Fortunately that got fixed with Wrath.
Heroic Strike (and cleave) should be autocastable like the pet abilities. I turn it on, and they are on until turned off. It wouldn't be overpowered, since HS drinks rage like a crazy troll drinks the blood, so one must actively create rage by pressing his other buttons.
I would like to point out that this isn't a general problem with WoW. WoW has the Global Cooldown, which generally limits the number of keystrokes to between 0.67 - 1 keystrokes per second. (High end is rogues, deathknights in Unholy Presence and casters with quick spells and lots of Haste.) The problem is with the fact that Heroic Strike is an "on-next swing" ability, haste and parry leads to very fast weapon swings for tanks, and the fact that tanks have enough rage generation to use Heroic Strike on every swing.

The other problem is that there are a lot of times where you don't want to Heroic Strike, because you don't have the rage for it. As well, Heroic Strike is one of the first abilities a warrior gets, so any change to it will have significant impact on the first few levels of play. HS also affects rage generation from outgoing damage, so it's an ability you have to be very careful with changing. For example, if HS automatically worked on the next 5 attacks, that means that the next five attacks won't generate any rage, and that could have big consequences.

I think Blizzard knows that HS needs to be changed, but I don't envy them the task.
o one must actively create rage by pressing his other buttons.

The other buttons don't generate rage though, they just consume it.
I think Gevlon has it exactly. Make Heroic Strike (and the druid version Maul) like a pet ability -- hit the button and it turns on and will fire every autoattack until you turn it off. Easy. This doesn't change anything balance-wise, it just saves keyboard and finger wear.
On the typing thing, 120WPM doesn't seem like too much of a stretch for me. I certainly don't consider myself a professional typist yet I can do 90 words per minute- if someone puts in the practice it shouldn't be too much of a stretch to reach 120. Wikipedia can sometimes be a fact's worst enemy.
Two things

First a world class typist with 120 wpm is typing something like this:

"Dear Sir/Madam,

Thank you for your letter of 14th April 2008, blah blah blah"

The gamer is typing something like this


Mistakes and wrong key presses count against the typist where they don't count against the gamer. I don't think they're even remotely comparable.

Next Heroic Strike will very rarely be available more than about once per second.

When you parry an attack, the remaining time on your current swing is reduced by 40% of your weapon speed, unless this would result in a reduction to less than 20% of your swing time remaining (Source:

Now bosses typically hit about once per 2 - 2.5 seconds autoattack and may have a parryable special attack as well although they often don't. So it's pretty unlikely that your 1.6 attack speed, reduced by windfury and other raid buffs, reduced a tiny amount by haste (although tank gear generally doesn't have any haste rating) is going to be affected twice simply because most bosses don't give you enough attacks in the window for you to parry twice. You can't parry twice if the boss only swings once. Next you have to actually parry, not dodge or block. So if you have 20% parry chance you have 4% chance to parry 2 successive hits even in the fairly unusual circumstance that there are two attacks for you to parry.

Unless you parry twice your speed reduction is only 40% which takes 1.6, boosted 20% by windfury, boosted 40% by parry, down to 0.768 second.

This means the difference between someone who mashes the button twice a second and someone who mashes it ten times a second is that on the rare occasions when there are actually two attacks available to be parried you'll do an extra heroic strike 4% of the time. That's a tiny difference.

Note that Patchwerk is very atypical since he attacks the main tank very fast. So there will be more opportunity to parry.

Lastly you can macro heroic strike to one of your other attacks
/cast heroic strike
/cast shield slam
will use both skills for one key press provided you have the rage.
Mistakes and wrong key presses count against the typist where they don't count against the gamer.

So you wouldn't mind if the tank does a mistake and presses the wrong key, for example intimidating shout?
Indeed. It does not count against his keystrokes per second ratio at all if he would hit the wrong button at the time. The tank can also not correct his wrong key press, the typist can and will do so.

Slabs presented a very good example why pressing frantically is actually not that much better:
"This means the difference between someone who mashes the button twice a second and someone who mashes it ten times a second is that on the rare occasions when there are actually two attacks available to be parried you'll do an extra heroic strike 4% of the time. That's a tiny difference."

I would like some more input, I never played a tank in high level content... is button mashing really the game. This would be awesome fucking poor...^^
So you wouldn't mind if the tank does a mistake and presses the wrong key, for example intimidating shout?

This is how I do it on my Warrior
1 Heroic Strike
2 Shield Slam
3 Revenge
4 Devastate

Low rage = mash 234 as if it were one big key. I find the bias from hitting those keys with my left hand tends to be towards the left hand keys so I hit the 2 most often which is as it should be in an optimal rotation.

High rage = mash 123 as if it were one big key, sliding sometimes to 234 (you don't need all that many keypresses for Devastates). This fires heroic strikes with my standard rotation.

If I hit 234 when I should have hit 123 it doesn't matter. At worst I might be a fraction late on a Devastate. I can't remember what's on 5 but it's not Taunt or Intimidating Shout or something I'd regret pressing. Shield Bash maybe. My hand never leaves the keys so I'm not going to aim for 1234 and hit qwer or anything. So I can't really cock anything up with a wrong keypress the way I do it.

@ Longasc I mash with my Warrior and DK I pick out specific skills with my Paladin when tanking. I find the Paladin much harder to tank with. The Paladin rotation is called 969 which means you alternate between abilities with a 9 seconds cooldown or greater and abilities with a 6 seconds cooldown. To be fair I don't tank much with her and I guess the best way to do it is to use castsequence macros with resets of 6 and 9. That way your key presses would be 1212121212 with one press every global cooldown.
but WoW doesn't have a limit on the valid keystrokes that can be used per second?

You can type as fast as you want but in theory, the game will take only a certain number of commands every second. And many have to be keyed at the right moment. Even instant spells.
If it's only spamming one button, create a macro that sends it once every tenth of a second. My logitech G15 can do that.

And the main reason I see that some guildies do worse DPS then others is that they do not push their buttons fast enough. Which relates in having less *insert random dps spell* then other players on the WWS chart. Playing a mage (fireball x 100) or warlock (shadowbolt x 100) used to nothing but pushing your one button as fast as you can. On my DK it's still about hitting the right buttons asap.
"If it's only spamming one button, create a macro that sends it once every tenth of a second. My logitech G15 can do that."
It can, but I believe it's against Blizzard's terms & conditions to do it.

Pre-TBC there were plenty of "hate me" macros that could be bound to a single key and spammed repeatedly to generate threat. I do hope we don't end up in a similar place via another route. I like gameplay to be about situational awareness more than button mashing.
Well, I think it's really jumping to conclusions to say that he did 3.3k dps because of his 10.5 button presses per second. Quite frankly, a huge proportion of those button presses are just him damaging his keyboard. No matter how much haste you get, you can't cut down the global cooldown to anything less than a second. So out of those 10.5 button presses, at most 1 of them was for a gcd ability (shield slam, revenge, devastate). I kind of doubt that he did anywhere near 9.5 heroic strikes in 1 second, the max is probably 2 or 3.

As for those casters saying it was about pressing shadowbolt/frostbolt as fast as you can... well you probably just excessively damaged your keyboard too. Just get quartz or any other castbar mod which accounts for latency and press it every 2.5 secs, you do exactly the same dps as when you mash like a madman.

Don't use button presses as an excuse because it really has no impact. As another commenter noted, there's an easy way to handle it by simply macroing heroic strike into your attacks. Kalon was previously talking about this and now has a new post ( up on how to do this, you can check it out.
Did anyone even watch the movie?

Even though he possibly could be pressing 10.5 keystrokes per second, only maybe 1.5 per second have any use.

Yes, it's a bad idea to require your players to press buttons that fast, which is why Blizzard doesn't do it.

Glad I checked back here, thanks for the link to the ability toggle addon Pockie, it sounds like a godsend for rage plentiful fights like patchwerk. Checking it out after work. :)

To spam or not to spam heroic strike/other on next strike abilities.. I can't imagine there are many tanks who have enough overview on everything we need to watch and also keep eyes on when the exact moments your swings land and predicting speed increses from parryhaste to press HS just once per swing.

Would be more doable if we didnt have a number of balls in the air already, so its much easier to just mash that button silly. ;) It works a bit differently than just watching your cast bar trying to time it right while compencating for latency.
I observed a definite increase in DPS via button smashing.

I raid with another hunter. When Beast Mastery was king, we were both doing similar dps to one another.

When Blizzard patched and Survival became King, we both dropped down in DPS, however, I dropped much more than the other hunter.

We wear similar gear, have near identical spec, similar pet, etc. We discussed shot rotation and priority at great length and we were doing very similar attacks.

Through some experimentation, I discovered the problem. I was waiting until my cast bar and my global cooldown indicator (sweep arm on action bar icons) were visually indicating that it was time to press the key for the next attack.

This leaves me very susceptible to the effects of lag and network latency.

I started spamming my attack buttons well before the cast bar or GCD indicator say that I am ready to fire. My DPS jumped nearly 1K, bringing me up to very similar output as the other hunter in the raid.

Some of the other commenters note that WoW only accepts a certain number of key presses or GCD/weapon speed dictate how fast I can tell WoW to attack. Yes indeed. If I spam the button 5 times in rapid succession, only one actually causes the real attack, and the rest get discarded due to ability cooldown or GCD. However, the spamming causes there to be the absolute minimum amount of dead time between the ability's availability and the actual invocation of the ability. Waiting for the GCD before pressing a button (or keeping it pressed in advance and releasing it as soon as GDC seems to be ready) actually makes lag kick your butt.

Also, I have Quartz installed, and visually aligning my button press with Quartz is not as effective as just pounding the keyboard.

At least I'm not spamming a macro like the good old days, but rather I am spamming the button of whatever shot I select to be next in my priority rotation. Blizz has made enough changes that I'm actively choosing my shots based on a priority, and need to continuously change up what shot is next due to various ability procs and other random events.

It is sad that the best way to overcome network issues is to slam your buttons feverishly, however my experiment leaves me without doubt that spamming improves my performance.
And I thought the shadowbolt spam of my warlock was dumb... this spam is even dumber. Note that I do not call the people who press buttons like mad dumb, but the system that rewards button mashing. I am quite glad that I had more to watch out when a dot ended to re-apply it and other things, this button mashing thing seems to be related to physical attackers, right? Now I know my why friend Steve was killing the key for Sinister Strike.

BTW: I and my friends are blessed with a very good "ping" and connection in general. But somehow I cannot understand that DPS or threat shall go up that much if people manage to hit the button for an ability somewhat faster than others who do not mash buttons like crazy.

If this button mashing stuff is really true, I wonder why people still want to play this way. I mean, how much more DPS do we need to kill Naxx bosses without major problems, come on...
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