Monday, 12 October 2009

Weapon Speed – so what does it mean?

Our guild has seen a few interesting choices in weapons lately. I honestly believe that not all of those choices were motivated by greed (The famous: It’s all hunterloot – you know) but rather by people not understanding what weapon is best for the class.

Do I? Well … I’m sure I can find a lot of screenshots from PUGs all over the last two expansions telling me that I have no idea. However, I can also offer a few posts on tanking weapons that generally agree with my choice (like this one or even better this one). Please note that the above two posts are valid for warrior tanks only! Please!.

So what is this weapon speed discussion all about?

Weapon stats are usually not as simple as in this example:

But it’ll do nicely to cover the different aspects.

First on many a persons “check here” list is the DPS of the weapon. Correctly identified as “damage per second” indicator this shows how much damage your weapon will do as an average over a large number of autoattacks if you had no attack power, haste, crit, special attacks etc. I would say “this is the damage paladins did in vanilla WoW”, but even that was (slightly) higher.

The DPS value is calculated from the min-max damage range and the weapon speed (by the formula: [(Min Damage + Max Damage)/2]/Weapons Speed). Again, min and max damage values are given if you had no attack power (and I have this nagging suspicion even holy priests do not manage to go entirely without attack power from their strength – ludicrously low as it may be).

Weapon speed is given in “time between individual swings”, so a lower number here will mean a faster weapon. There is a certain resemblance to real life examples: most daggers are faster than two-handed maces, but don’t rely on that rule-of-thumb overly. There are faster maces than daggers about.

Most weapons also grant certain stats: those can range from simple statistic bonuses (+23 agility) to weird triggered effects (chance on hit to decapitate target, causing 220 to 232 extra damage) to sneaky additions that are hard to spot (like 430 armour). Set bonuses and such are always a possibility – and I will completely ignore and disregard them for this post.

So... which weapon is the right one for me?

Well, this is where the confusion begins. I’ll try and list a few examples of what weapons do before giving a recommendation.

Faster weapons:

Advantages: more steady damage, less impact of single misses (dodges, parries), more frequent use of “on-next-swing” abilities

Slower weapons:

Advantages: higher single damage hits per swing (more bursty damage), higher procs of swing-dependent enchants and abilities (Mongoose)

What is the trick then? Well… instant attacks do not rely on your weapons speed at all. They do not “wait” for the next swing timer and are instead performed when you press the button. Examples are a rogues sinister strike, a warriors devastate or mortal strike, a deathknights obliterate or a shamans stormstrike. If your main damage comes from one of those instant attack sources a slower weapon will always always always be better than a fast one.

If your main use comes from a “on next swing” ability – or just the poison you have smeared on your off-hand dagger – a faster weapon will usually be better.

Case in point:

Deathknight DPS:

Two-handed weapon – the slowest you can find.
One-handed weapons – 2x the slowest you can find, as you’d probably be sporting “Threat of Thassarian” to allow your strikes to use both weapons.

Deathknight Tanking:

Two-handed weapon – the slowest you can find. This goes a little against the “early miss” theory; however your strikes at the beginning of combat are based on rune availability, not so much swing speed. Your normal white damage won’t keep threat off the healers.
One-handed weapons – Not a good idea for tanking. If you really have to: slow/slow. The problem is that no class except deathknights can dual-wield while tanking. With two weapons you will be parried twice as often as any other class. Parry speeds up the next attack of the thing you are hitting – and this can lead to disastrous results. Higher than normal expertise is a must – and then you are wasting valuable itemization points on not getting insta-gibbed by a combination of attack + special + parry-enhanced attack from a boss.

Warrior DPS:

Two-handed weapon – the slowest you can find. Mortal strike, Overpower, Whirlwind, Bladestorm, Bloodthirst all benefit from a slow weapon.
One handed weapon(s) – With the advent of Titans Grip there are currently no useful one-handed dps weapons. Just use a two-hander or two.

Warrior Tanking:

Two-handed weapon – No.
One-handed weapon – the fastest you can find. If that means you need to tank with a dagger, tank with a dagger. Most of your high threat moves are based on raw attack power (revenge), your shield (shield slam) or need to be spammed constantly to use up rage (hello Heroic Strike). Heroic strike spam can make up for around 35% of your damage total on fights where you are not rage capped – like Patchwerk – if you manage to press your heroic strike button often enough.

Paladin DPS:

Two-handed weapon: Slower is better. You get a strike (cunningly labelled crusader _strike_) and there are no on-next-swing abilities to speak of. Most of your damage is holy anyway and makes warriors jealous.
One-handed weapon: No.

Paladin tanking:

Two-handed weapon: No
One-handed weapon: I am completely without an opinion here. All of the paladin threat abilities are based on the shield or on holy damage, so the little pigsticker seems mainly to be there to show the monster that he is, in fact, fighting an armed and dangerous opponent – and not a steel-tortoise.

The right speed depends on the spec here. Mutilate rogues want two extra-super slow daggers, as Mutilate uses both of them to instantly strike. Combat rogues want a superslow mainhand and a fast offhand to apply poisons. For special fun: use two fast weapons with low expertise and stand in front of the enemy on top of your tank to make sure he gets hit more often than usual. It’ll cheer the healers up immensely when the squishy rogue does (for once) not die first.

Enhancement Shaman:

Two-handed weapon: Not nearly as good, although an extra slow one while levelling makes windfury procs that much more impressive.
One-handed weapons: Slow/slow. Your strikes again utilize both weapons.


Whatever gives the best stats. Melee hunters are a strange breed (and I hope I don’t have to drown too many more quietly in the Fjords). In theory you’d probably want a fast two-hander or a fast/fast combination, as Raptor Strike is an “on next strike” ability. Yeah right.

Priest, Mage, Warlock:

Allow me to lump you all together. Stick to using magic. Really. There is no point in trying to bash something over the head while armoured with a shiny (if slightly sissy) robe and a pearl headband. You’ll just break a nail. And then cry. The subtle hint of your weapons having a vastly lower DPS score than proper weapons should have been noted.

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