Why WASD May Not Be the Best Control Setup

Ever since Quake popularized the use of WASD keys, gamers have taken it for granted as the default bindings for movement. And while WASD is way better than using the Arrow keys, I personally think it’s a subpar setup.

Check out this run-of-the-mill diagram:


Assuming you put your ring finger on A, your middle finger on S, and your index finger on D, there are only seven non-movement keys that you can use to bind other game actions (like using abilities, cancelcasting, summoning your mount, etc).

And none of those keys are pinky-friendly.

Most people reserve their pinkies for holding down Shift or Ctrl, but you aren’t using those modifiers most of the time — and it seems like an awful waste of potential to leave your pinky hanging, so to speak.

That’s why I’ve been using the ESDF setup for the past few years. It took a little while to get used to, but has proven so nice that I would never consider going back to WASD:


Notice how you get access to the same keys that you had with WASD (except shifted over one to the right), but you also get access to three more keys that you can press with your pinky. This gives a total of 10 bindable keys — and Shift and Ctrl are still within easy reach when you need them.

My personal bindings in Battlerite:

  • E, S, D, F for movement.
  • M1, M2, Space, W, R, T, G for abilities (M1, M2, Space, Q, E, R, F are default).
  • A for cancelcast.
  • C and V for quick-EXes.
  • Q for mount.

Using A for cancelcast was a game-changer for me, but C and V for quick-EXes has been very nice as well. If champions ever get additional EX abilities (hinted at by the four total quick-EX hotkeys you can change with in the settings) then I can eventually bind them to Z and X.

And then you have completely unconventional setups, like the one shared by Xcite:

  • Q, W, E, S for movement.
  • M1, A, Space, M4, D, F, M3 for abilities (M1, M2, Space, Q, E, R, F are default).
  • M2 for cancelcast.
  • Alt and M5 for quick-EXes.
  • Z for mount.

Is ESDF right for everyone? Not at all. If you’re happy with WASD, stick with it. But if you’ve never tried it before, I suggest giving it a go for about a week. If you still don’t like it, go ahead and change back — but I think you’ll be surprised by how well ESDF plays out. Otherwise, play with whatever setup is most comfortable for you!

What do your keybindings look like? Do you use WASD, ESDF, or something else? Does it really even matter? Let me know what you think.


He is the lead writer at Battlecrank. You can find him on the Battlecrank Discord.

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37 Comments on "Why WASD May Not Be the Best Control Setup"

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I used QWSD to move around, and my mouse buttons are bound to my abilities. I feel the keyboard should be exclusively used to cast utility buttons such as EX modifier, Mount, Self cast and Movement


My problem is i cant use quick EXs abilities. I tried with 1-2 but is weird. I have to remember which button go in order and then execute, so i lost time. Also i always have problems with R and F so changes binds too. I use WASD but change EX modifier on M3 mouse button, F to M4, cancel to wheel mouse, alt selfcast and R to Shift



For Battlerite, WASD is enough. Other games (like World of Warcraft) ESDF is useful.


At some point in my WoW-Career I fussed around with ESDF too. Since there I had a bazillion things to macro. Diefferent Buffs/Dispells and so on for a five man arena team. I could not wrap my brain around the widened gap between the ,movement and modifier keys. I could not get rid of my need for modifiers at all – had over a hundred bound keys and combinations – and to relearn so many buttons is a very tedious task.
For BLC and BR I don’t see the need for a wasd-movement-movement (hah). I rebound Ex1 to 3 and Ex2 to G with cancelcasting via Mousbutton6 (or something).

There is one stupid thing that works for me but won’t work for anybody else I think: I unbound RMB as I tend to get imprecisions when clicking with my middle finger and aiming at the same time. I rebound RMB to V. At some point I played with the thought of unbinding LMB aswell (to E and relocating E) to completely free the mouse of spammable buttons and only use it to cancelcast and aim. But for that to work there is one button missing for me. C could work…

Beware of relocating buttons though: You’ll tank a lot of rating while doing so.


Fellow ESDF here, been playing this way for over a decade. I started doing it initially because I didn’t like pressing CTRL with my palm in FPS games. With decent sized hands (I’m also a lefty), U/J/N are playable keys, and if you master movement with your 3 smaller fingers, I/K/M are within reach.

SkillBar (as read L->R): M1 / M2 / Space / W / R / Q (energy skill)/ A (Ult)
EX1: Mouse 4 (thumb)
EX2: Mouse 5 (thumb)
Mount: Z

The only thing I’m trying to figure out is where to put CancelCast. I have it on default, but I’m strongly considering ‘G’ after reading this post. I’m currently trying all the Champions, but I’ve been ranking with Varesh, and found this setup pretty good.