Dual-wielding and Skill Damage in Diablo 3

I had not really looked into this yet but just happened to see a thread asking about optimal dual-wield weapons for Sweeping Wind builds. I did some searching and found a good answer on Arqade (StackExchange) referring to these forum posts. It turns out that most skills only use the main-hand damage. I knew that the Primary skills alternated between weapons. I just assumed the other skills would average the damage between the weapons. That is not true.

Skills with cooldowns will get optimal damage when using a slow main-hand with high damage and a fast off-hand with similar DPS. For example, the following three weapons:

  1. 500 DPS,1.2 Speed, One-Hand Mace
  2. 500 DPS 1.4 Speed, One-Hand Fist Weapon
  3. 500 DPS 1.4 Speed, One-Hand Fist Weapon

Dual-wielding weapons 1 & 2 will be better damage using cooldown skills than Weapons 2 & 3. They all have the same DPS, but since cooldown skills only use main-hand damage, the mace will give you more damage. What this means for gearing is if your dual-wield build depends on lots of skills with cooldowns, you should use a slow and fast set of weapons.

Note that only skills with cooldowns are affected by this. While other skills, such as Wave of Light, also use only main-hand damage, they don’t have cooldowns. Two fast weapons will generate “resource” (Hatred/Spirit/Fury) faster, and you can use the skill faster. It evens out. The only time it doesn’t even out is with cooldown skills and a few other special cases (Sweeping Wind).

After reading about this I thought back to my fast dual-wielding Monk build. In that build, none of the skills have a cooldown, so any combination of weapon speeds for dual-wielding should have equivalent DPS. I will definitely keep this in mind for my future builds though. I believe this also affects the ranged classes, but I don’t have enough experience with them yet to know if they dual-wield all that much.

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