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Sunday, 18 March 2012

Comparing different weapon loadouts

This post is a response to Darth Solo's post wondering how Diablo 3 skills work.

Take the Barbarian, Monk or Witch Doctor. They can equip either one of the following:
- 1H weapon + shield
- 2H weapon
- dual-wield 1H weapons

Actually all five classes can equip any of those weapon load-outs.

Edit: In patch 15 my Witch Doctor can't dual wield. Left hand is for offhand only (or half of a two-hander). No idea if it was like that before.

Most offensive spells and skills are based on weapon damage. 

It says that but in practice it's not true. Ability damage is really based on your dps and it's dynamic. So if someone casts a group attack speed buff your nukes do more damage.

The detailed theorycraft is here.

Here are my questions:

How the hell is damage calculated for 2H weapon vs dual-wield 1H weapons? I'm sure this has been explained at some point by the devs but I missed it. It should be fairly obvious, yet I don't know what the answer is.

Dual wield dps is the average damage improved by a 15% attack speed bonus. So if you have a 10 dps weapon in one hand and a 12 dps weapon in the other hand your dps is  (10+12)/2 * 1.15 = 12.65

To express this the other way round let's assume you can find a 20.2 dps two-hander fairly easily off the Beta auction house. To be better dps a pair of one-handers would have to average 20.2/1.15 = 17.56.

So you can throw away any one-handed weapon under 17.6 dps assuming you can buy or craft a 20.2 dps flamberge.

There's a very useful dps calculator here.

In which situations is it preferable to wear a 1H weapon + shield instead of 2H weapon or dual-wielding? 

OK so with a shield you sacrifice 15% of your dps assuming equal 1H weapons. In return you get an item which can take 2 socket slots instead of just one. An item which gives you a block chance and adds some armour. And an item which will have different magical properties because it accesses a different affix pool with more defensive mods in it. For example you could get up to 80 resist all or +100% maximum life on a shield - there's no equivalent defensive mods for a sword.

Essentially shields do the obvious job - they make you harder to kill at the price of some offensive power.

If spells and skills are based on weapon damage, won't a spellcaster pick the hugest 2H weapon she can find? 

It's an option but generally spellcasters will do better using special offhand items that are in the game for them. Wizards get wizard orbs, witch doctors get voodoo dolls. Just pick whatever displays the most dps on the character sheet.

this whole thing feels like lazy design to me

I'm looking under the hood more than you are and to me the system is absolutely fascinating because it throws up so many variables. It fulfills the part of the Blizzard mantra about Hard to Master.

It's certainly not lazy design. You may dislike it and are certainly entitled to if you choose. But there are real and quite clever choices underlying the system. In some ways it's quite elegant.

I will probably go with the highest DPS weapon combo I can find

Yup, do this. Unless you hit some higher level area and find yourself dying a lot then use a shield. Well done, you've solved the puzzle that is Diablo 3 gearing!


  1. Wow this is impressive! I wasn't expecting such a detailed reply when I put out those questions. It has certainly cleared some things up for me. Now that you explained it so clearly, I am becoming persuaded that the design might not be so lazy after all :)

    Now I can see how wearing a shield might be beneficial on higher difficulties and perhaps very beneficial for hardcore characters.

    You also made it clear when dual-wield might be better than 2H.

    As for the other classes, I neglected to consider the fact that they do have class-specific off-hands which give nice bonuses.

    I didn't spend any time doing deep analysis of all these things because I figured they were still working on the system. Thanks for those two links, they are invaluable.

    Oh and one last thing, I added you to my blogroll. And thanks again for this post.

  2. Lovely to have you here and thanks for adding me to your blogroll. I've always enjoyed your writing.

  3. Stabs is a good guy. And he uses shields, of course!

  4. I'm using mojos at the moment. Think of me as a sort of gnarlier Austin Powers.

    Mojos, baby, mojos.

  5. This is a good article to quickly understand dps calcs. It is actually rather simple. Which is always better in my opinion.

    I would like to add that optimal weapon choice for me sometimes (in rare cases) goes a little further than purely dps. For instance, sometimes you might find it advantageous to use a faster weapon with slightly less overall dps if you are over-gearing the content. This mostly pertains to physical dps characters. If you are using a slow 2H that hits very hard and "overkilling" the mobs, you are actually nerfing your "actual" dps. This won't be much of an issue I would imagine however, since the only time you might be overgearing the content is in early normal, or if you are making a twink character with hand-me-down gear.

    Another reason to favor a faster weapon might be the "on hit" application of debuffs. If you have a skill that applies a debuff on hit, then you will want to be striking more often to keep the debuff up, or multiple debuffs for that matter.

    Higher DPS = Better is actually a good rule-of-thumb for most cases.

    1. Yes that's quite correct. There's a string of on crit Barb abilities that would favour this type of adjustment as well.

  6. I have a question, maybe Stabs or someone else could answer this. I am not totally clear on how weapon speed affects the speed of skills. Does this work differently for spellcasters and physical dps?

    The reason I ask is that it would be a bit silly if weapon speed did not affect skill speed and only affected damage. At that point, having varying weapon speeds would not make much sense. For instance, would I be able to attack with "Skill A" more often with a faster weapon than I could with a slower weapon? Does it depend on the skill? This could have a drastic impact on what weapon you choose to use. Things like resource management would also have to be heavily considered.

    1. I just switched from mojo and dagger to a twohander and didn't see any difference. I'll test.

      I don't think it's likely there will be a difference because weapon speed is already factored in. If I can cast Toads faster with a fast weapon that does the same dps and still do the same damage per cast it would be too strong.

    2. So there is no "tactical" advantage to a faster weapon over a slower weapon, or vice-versa? This is very interesting because it would make things a strict "Higher DPS = Better" Damage min/max and weapon speed would be irrelevant other than to calculate the actual weapon DPS (and therefore skill damage).

      I feel as if that takes a great deal of strategy out of the game. It simplifies it down to a single number and eliminates "real" diversity. Would it be safe to say that your character will not play any differently with a slow 2H than it does with 2 1H weapons (assuming your dps stays the same)?

      I was imagining that the advantage to fast 1H weapons woold be that you could use more skills faster and could apply debuffs faster to groups of mobs. The advantage to 2H weapons would be that you would do more damage per unit of resource consumed (mana, spirit, etc). If it were done this way, the choice of what weapon you use would be heavily based on what type of weapon works best with the skills that you want to use.

      Otherwise, it all becomes irrelevant because there is technically only 1 "real" weapon speed.

    3. I think I was wrong before. Looks like slower weapons make the spells hit harder but less often.

      Also it's possible that chance on crit or hit procs are normalised so as not to penalise slow weapons.