Diablo® III

Barbarian: A Guide to Dual Wield

Posts: 152
(Updated as of patch 1.0.3)

EDIT: This is still a work in progress and a progression section will be added in the upcoming week.

Links to my stats, spec, and gear can all be found on my stream:




Benefits of Dual Wield

Gear and Stats


Strategy and Playstyle
Edited by Cyrac#1893 on 7/9/2012 9:32 PM PDT
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Posts: 152
There has been much debate on the viability of specs, setups, and gear for a dual wielding barbarian. Currently the most common dual wield build is the double tornado build:


While this is a solid spec and offers a radical playstyle for the barbarian, I hope to shine light on a more traditional style of play that can still be achieved with surprising effectiveness. However one thing is for certain, dual wield barbarians aren’t cheap, and with that in mind I hope this guide can clear up some of the misconceptions and confusion that surrounds the dual wield barbarian.
Edited by Cyrac#1893 on 7/8/2012 8:21 PM PDT
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Before we can jump into discussing specs, gear, and strategies, we need to identify the major benefits of dual wield. The first benefit that often gets overlooked is the built in 15% bonus to IAS. With equal gear, spec, and buffs in mind, dual wield will always win when it comes to attacks per second. This means that dual wield will take maximum advantage of on hit effects including fury generation. Another major benefit of dual wield is that you have the possibility to gain higher stats than simply using one weapon. This just isn’t a benefit over 2handed weapons, as using a weapon over a shield in your offhand grants access to weapon specific stats. This includes critical damage, weapon specific gem bonuses, life steal, life on hit, and others. While there are other benefits to dual wielding, such as looking cool, I believe these are the most impacting on performance.
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Gear is at the heart of a barbarian and if you plan on succeeding with dual wield, you need to take this concept very seriously. Never short yourself on gear. If you can't afford it, just keep saving until you can find a good deal. A goal you should set when it comes to shopping for gear on your barbarian should be that each piece needs strength, vitality, and all resist. Depending on your current stats, you may be able to get by without all resist on a piece or two, though making this a habit will end up hurting you in the long run.

Socketed gear is usually best for a couple reasons. First, socketed gear will outperform non-socketed gear with similar stats due to gemming. Next, socketed gear allows you to move around stats to accommodate other pieces of gear. For example, say there are bracers that will upgrade my DPS considerably at the cost of lowering my hp past what I am comfortable with. Since my chest piece has sockets with rubies in it, I could simply replace a ruby with an amethyst to compensate and still come out ahead in DPS. With that being said, do not ignore non-socketed gear on the market with competitive stats at bargain prices. While you lose customization, you still get the performance. Lastly, a socket in your helmet should be mandatory as 15%+ life with an amethyst is just too much to pass up on.

Your goal with weapons is to find ones with crit damage and a socket, though that's a perfect world scenario. Often times, they will be beyond overpriced or a weapon without a socket or crit damage will simply outperform anything else you can afford. Use a DPS spreadsheet to benchmark weapons against one another before making a purchase. Also, even though faster weapons scale with on hit effects better, I've found that a slow, high damage weapon in the main hand to be better performance due to harder hitting revenges and overpowers.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about stats. Do not get hung up over stat priorities as this can get you in trouble. Instead, I suggest setting a goal of ideally what you want your stats to look like IE: 60khp, 1k AR, 60% crit chance, 500% crit damage, 100k character sheet DPS, etc. Once that’s established you can now start building towards your goal. This will keep you on track when purchasing upgrades and lower the chances of buying pieces that will set you back, thus wasting your time and resources. So what should YOU set your goal at? I can’t really answer that directly, however I can recommend having 60k+dps(buffed), 55k+ hp, and 900+AR to seriously do act 3.

Critical chance and damage have been popular stats as of recently for a good reason. The general consensus is that combined they currently provide you with the highest DPS gains and I agree. When searching for gear, try to get as much crit chance/damage on your gear as you can as these stats will quickly push your DPS towards your goals. Lastly, life on hit and life steal are not required but help with sustain. I'd recommend life steal as its much cheaper and will beat life on hit at higher DPS levels(especially with WOTB).
Edited by Cyrac#1893 on 7/8/2012 8:45 PM PDT
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The spec I recommend and use personally is:


However, let’s take a closer look at this spec and talk about other options as well.

Frenzy – Sidearm
I have a love hate relationship with frenzy. On one hand it provides the highest single DPS of any of our primary abilities. On the other hand, you need to commit to your target without moving to gain maximum benefit from it. This translates to your performance dropping drastically while moving compared to other abilities such as cleave. Regardless, the single target DPS of 5stack frenzy cannot be ignored. Additionally, side arm complements dual wield rather well as you get more procs. With high weapon damage, side arm procs can really put a dent in swarms of mobs as well as provide even more single target damage. Lastly, side arm crits can lower the cooldown on overpower.

Overpower – Crushing Advance
Even with such an offensive setup, you want to have access to at least one ability that provides a good amount of mitigation. While ignore pain is probably better in this spot, crushing advance does have its advantageous. First, overpower deals 165% weapon damage which is fairly decent. Next, it has a shorter cooldown than ignore pain. With enough critical chance overpower can reach extremely low cooldowns to the point where you can have the crushing advance buff up constantly. Lastly, crushing advance’s unique property of reflecting damage allows it to synergize extremely well with life on hit. Even with life steal, crushing advance can nearly negate the damage from plague or trails of molten.

Revenge – Provocation
220% weapon damage that’s AoE and heals for 5% life. This is one of the best abilities barbarians get. Excluding dual tornado and weapon throw builds, every serious spec should be running this. At my current gear level critical revenges will sweep entire waves of mobs in one go, while regular hits will provide enough damage to stagger mobs. The healing provided by revenge is also substantial and smart use of the skill is one of the keys to playing a good barbarian.

Battle Rage – Marauder
Marauder provides a very large DPS boost that should have 100% uptime in combat. There’s not much to be said here other than it providing more actual DPS than Bloodshed.

War Cry – Impunity
Resist mitigation is extremely vital to survival. One of the biggest things you will have trouble with as a dual wield barbarian will be ranged enemies with damaging ground abilities such as molten and plague. Impunity gives you a whopping +50% resist which is huge and in my opinion mandatory on any barbarian venturing into inferno.

Wrath of the Berserker – Insanity
This is the best ability in the game, period. WoTB by itself provides you with 15seconds of 10% critical chance, 25% attack speed, 20% dodge, 20% movement speed, and immunity to crowd control effects. If that wasn’t enough, insanity provides 100% additional damage during the duration. Due to the huge boost in damage, life steal scales insanely well with it. There have been times when I was at 5% hp, jailed with a full elite pack about to deliver the killing blow to me, and I simply popped Wotb to end up moments later at full health with another NV stack.

Demonic Tremor elites with shielding fast? WOTB

Phasebeast with nightmare fast? WOTB

Goat caster with molten knockback jailer? WOTB

Angry significant other nagging your head off? WOTB

WoTB is simply too good not to use.

Berserker Rage
25% more damage is huge. This spec runs no rage dumps and builds fury quite fast so it’s pretty easy to keep this up.

Weapon Mastery
I use this for the added critical chance via mace. Remember, weapon mastery only looks at your main hand weapon when determining the type of benefit provided.

Critical chance and damage, nuff said.

Now that we’ve discussed some of the choices made into the spec I currently use, let’s take a look at some other options I recommend regarding abilities.

Cleave – Broadside
While the AoE capabilities of this ability and rune setup are well known, there is another huge benefit this package provides over frenzy. With cleave you can effectively move in between weapon swing delay with the goal of keeping mobs in front of you instead of surrounding you. This method not only prevents you from getting trapped within swarms of mobs, but also lowers your exposure to enemy attacks. This also works wonders against arcane enchanted, molten, fire chains, etc. This tactic can also be used with frenzy, though is nowhere near as effective.

Ignore Pain – Iron Hide/Ignorance is Bliss
It is common to run into situations where you will likely be exposed to extremely high damage output for short periods of time. This includes being vortexed into multiple arcane beams, being forced to run through damaging ground abilities to avoid being trapped and killed, engaging hard hitting monsters with the succubus debuff up, etc. Sometimes in situations like the ones I just mentioned crushing advance simply will not cut it for mitigation. Enter ignore Pain. As the name suggest, IP allows you to shrug off just about any amount of damage thrown at you for its duration. Additionally, when IP is combined with WotB, your barbarian will often be able to stick onto a target without having to worry about the 10000 arcane beams rotating on top of them. Often times, all you need are a good 5-7 seconds of uninterrupted damage output with WotB to cripple an elite pack. In the end, Ignore Pain should be brought in over Crushing Advance when the content you face is very challenging.

Furious Charge – Dreadnought
Dreadnought is an outstanding ability which gives you tons of healing potential and good mobility. It also packs a decent punch at 195% weapon damage. Additionally, it can be used to interrupt attacks from enemies through the built in knockback. An important property to note with charge is that you are immune to CC effects while the charge is in effect; this extends to the very last few frames of the charge attack animation. You can also charge while jailed which can definitely be lifesaving in certain situations.

Leap – Iron Impact
Leap with Iron Impact is another excellent tool. Not only does it give you extremely high mobility, but also provides you with a huge boost in mitigation for 4 seconds. This package is also very versatile as it can be used both offensively and defensively. Offensively it can be used to quickly close the gap on a high priority target. Defensively it can be used to escape fatal situations in a pinch. Combined with a fairly low cooldown and 300% armor buff, this is another VIP skill that you should strongly consider.

Threatening Shout – Falter
One of the most dangerous enemies of dual wield, and melee in general, are the Demonic Tremors in act3. Their high damage output combined with their knockback and built in shielding truly makes them a difficult foe to engage. Often times I have found that the protection of IP, Iron Impact, and Crushing Advance is wasted when Demonic Tremors decide to randomly shield during the duration of these abilities. A fantastic solution I have found has been Threatening Shout (TS) as its effects can be kept up indefinitely. The flip side is that TS is particularly weak against ranged enemies that have a tendency to split up, thus lowering your chances of tagging all of them with the shout.

Nerves of Steel, Tough as Nails, Inspiring Presence
I’ve grouped these together as they serve the purpose of improving your survivability. If you find yourself taking too much damage in your ventures, try replacing one of your offensive passives with one of these. In general, nerves of steel will provide the most armor gain for someone with a decent amount of vitality. Inspiring presence scales with hp and provides you with great sustain.
Edited by Cyrac#1893 on 7/8/2012 11:38 PM PDT
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Posts: 152
Do not get fixated on a single set build while progressing. Some abilities work better than others depending on gear level and situation. For example, leap is fantastic against melee elites that have arcane enchanted and waller. However it is weak against ranged caster elites that have molten as they will simply change directions as soon as you leap towards them resulting in you landing in a trail of molten.

Smart use of Wotb will improve your overall performance. Try to get into the habit of only using it for difficult situations and extremely dangerous elite packs. Remember, you want to make the most use out of the ability, so pulling elites away from plague pools and arcane beams to ensure uninterrupted DPS is smart play. Do not forget that Wotb breaks and provides immunity to CC during its duration as this is one of the more powerful aspects of the ability.

If your hp gets dangerously low against an elite pack to the point where another engagement is certain death, you can attempt to run towards a pack of white mobs with the intent of getting a revenge proc and healing for a large amount. This tactic has saved me countless times in my ventures.

While this isn’t specific for dual wield, Leap – Iron Impact and Furious Charge – Dreadnought used together provide some of the best survivability in the game. For example, if you find yourself corned by an extremely large swarm of enemies, you can charge through most of the pack for very large health gains, and then leap even further out of the swarm for an advantageous position. Another example would be to leap for the iron impact buff and then charge through foes to ensure maximum gains in health in a hostile environment. This tactic works particularly well against molten and/or plagued elites.

“Stutter stepping”, that is repeatedly attacking and then moving, is an important part of melee play. It is much harder to do effectively with high attack speed as your DPS can drop drastically. As a result, using cleave or bash over frenzy can be quite ideal when using this tactic. This is extremely effective at gaining and keeping advantageous positioning thus leading to taking less damage, preventing surrounds, and minimizing your exposure to damaging ground abilities.
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Posts: 152
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Posts: 152
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Posts: 152
Please feel free to leave any questions, comments, or concerns about this guide in this thread.
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Nice guide.

Question, did the last hotfix make it much harder for you to dual wield Act 3? I did just one full test run while dual wielding before it and I found it rather easy, but after the last hotfix feel more squishy than I remembered, especially against elemental damage.

I still get through Act 3 dual wielding (68kdamage/850 LoH or 73k damage/500 LoH, 800-930 res with physical being the highest and 7.5k armor) but I die somewhere between 5-10 times during a full clear and feel squishy against molten/arcane and some mobs with fire (hellflyers and goatmen casters).

If I can expect the squishy feeling to be temporary, I might dual wield more. Now I do it one run out of four and use my shield with high res, crit and MF the rest of the time.
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Thank you Freudian!

I haven't really noticed a difference in difficulty after the latest hotfix. However, arcane beams do feel more dangerous and I have seen others agree or at least mention it. You will always be squishier than sword and board. However, at my current gear level I can steam roll through the content with minimum deaths. I also do quite well in 4 player games. Lastly, I feel that life steal with high damage output really helps with mitigation.
Edited by Cyrac#1893 on 7/8/2012 11:41 PM PDT
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Just curious, what is your survival rate on act3/4 Inferno? I don't see a passive skill defense buff at all that's why I'm curious.
Edited by NagaBrutal#1873 on 7/8/2012 9:04 PM PDT
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I rarely die solo. In team games I may occasionally die due to play mistakes. Also, I've noticed that I die a lot less with ignore pain instead of crushing advance, though I do clear faster.
Edited by Cyrac#1893 on 7/8/2012 11:40 PM PDT
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I'm not really sure how to go about getting anywhere near the stats you suggest. Am I supposed to be spending 20 million on one piece of gear?

My stats are around
38k hp
33k dps
6k armor (warcry and nerves of steel)
600-700 resist (warcry)
43% crit
260% crit dmg
5% lifesteal
1k life regen

My build:

Been farming act 2 with ease for weeks. Some elites in act 3 just crush me and others are faceroll. I can only get as far as level 2 in bastions keep on the way to gohm.
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I believe with your stats you can definitely find fairly solid upgrades in the 5-10mil range if you shop hard enough. Barbarians are not cheap to gear and unfortunately that's the price we pay. In game farming has become a bit better with the recent patches, though I still find playing the AH(buying low, selling high for profit) a better avenue for generating funds.
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Cool guide.

I disagree w/jsut about everything but w/e.
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Great guide, I wish I could get 60k Life / 1k Resists/ 100k DPS but that's gonna take a while :<

Gonna stick to farming Act 1 instead of wiping 7 times in a row on every boss pack in Act 3, at least for now :)
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I disagree w/jsut about everything




note: this is not the spec i use. was curious what my dps would be with his spec.
Edited by Ennui#1560 on 7/9/2012 1:45 AM PDT
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i just think all of this focus on pure dps + survivability due to obscene amounts of gear rather than attainable survability combined with solid dps is a bit absurd

everyone wants one or the other, but you just are not going to get both without the absolute best gear

i'd write up a guide on how to make a versatile dw/life steal build work for poverty barbs but i'm way too lazy

60k hp and 1k resists sure is nice but most people are not going to see those numbers with any kind of "great" dps, they aren't going to be able to throw berserker rage in instead of an armor passive, and they're going to get !@#$ed by bad affixes or bad packs in act 3 because they focused too much on single target dps and have no actual reliable counter vs ranged packs, etc.
Edited by Ennui#1560 on 7/9/2012 1:39 AM PDT
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