What does weapon items do for Wizards in Diablo 3? Does
weapon item DPS matter? Do item qualities such as
steal/+damage etc. transfer to actual spell damage? Can I use a regular attack?
and more will be answered in this article!
Unlike in D2, a wizard should care deeply about his weapon in
Diablo 3. It isn't just a “stat stick” with bonuses on
it anymore. No longer are casters fairly equipment independent.
All offensive skills have their damage based on the
weapon item you have equipped. For example Magic Missile does
110% of your weapon damage, as arcane damage.
Weapon damage is used for spell damage. And weapon
attack speed factors into your casting speed. Faster
weapons will cast faster spells too.
How does Damage WORK?
Lets take a look at Magic Missile, and a wand (weapon or
axe) with a 8-12 damage range, once per second, this
results in an average 10 DPS. This is what your weapon
reports as DPS, the other stats are there, but in the
The weapon damage is the actual damage the weapon has,
not DPS. This is why 2 hand weapons are often favored.
They do more damage, but slower. So they may do 15
damage, but only 0.65 times per second. That’s still 10
DPS. But the spell amplifies the damage more, as it
starts with more.
+damage items, such as rings, increase this base damage.
This is a key factor to increasing your total damage
output, as it gets magnified by all other damage
multipliers (spells, int, skills).
The intelligence percentage works like this. Each point
of intelligence boosts damage by 1%. So 110 int,
increases damage by 110%. That is a 2.1 multiplier
(shifting it from % to decimals, and treating it as a
Magic Missile then comes into effect, and deals damage
specified it by its spell effect, listed as 110% under
the skill. So it takes the damage listed in your
inventory screen, and does 110%. If you did 100 damage,
MM will hit for 110 damage.
Putting it all together
To determine the spell damage you take your:
(Weapon Damage with +damage from items) * Intelligence %
* Spell Effect
So, if we start with a wand that averages 10 damage we
Weapon Damage (10) * Intelligence (2.10) * Spell Effect
(1.10) for: 23.1 damage.
Now, if you increase the weapon damage, the effect
grows. Not only does the weapon provide a bigger base
damage to start with, but the % increase from
intelligence and the spell have a bigger impact. 10% of
15, is larger than 10% of 10 for example.
So if we use a weapon that does 15 damage (the extra 5
damage from the weapon, or +damage items) we get:
15*2.1*1.1 = ~34.6 Damage.
That 5 additional damage gave us a head start, but the
int and spell effect also gave us ~19.6 damage from
intelligence and spell effect, while the 10 damage
weapon only gained us 13.1 from our base.
This means, especially at low levels, that an increase
in weapon damage, either from the weapon, or +damage
rings etc, can have a huge effect on your damage output.
That +damage is added to your base weapon damage, so
it’s also amplified by your intelligence and your spell
effects. If you have to choose between +damage or +int,
go for the damage.
At higher levels, when adding 5 or 6 damage to your base
isn’t that big an increase the need to prefer damage
over intelligence boosts evens out a lot more.
So where do I see spell DPS?
The short version of this is that the damage reported on
your inventory screen is the damage the skills boost
when you cast them. If you get that number up, through
whatever combination of items, your spell damage will go
up. It factors in all items and modifiers before the
The damage increase listed in the stat summary of the
items, when you compare them, is accurate, as best as I
can determine. If it says your damage will increase 10
points by swapping the items, it appears accurate when I
test by monitoring Hydra damage.
There is only one catch. For the time being, when
comparing a 2H weapon to a 1H weapon, the game only
reports the damage increase from swapping the weapons
only. It does not factor in the loss of any bonuses from
your offhand item. After you swap out a 1H item for a
2H, check the inventory screen for the final result,
listed on the left side of the inventory window. When
comparing a 1h to a 1h or a 2h to a 2h, the item reports
the correct change in stats.
Elemental or Bonus Damage on a weapon:
So you have a 10dps sword, with +2 cold damage…why don’t
you strike for 12 damage?
--The damage listed on the weapon is already integrated
into the weapons base damage. The DPS takes it into
account. You can confirm this by socketing a Ruby into
your weapon. The base damage jumps, AND it lists the
rubies bonus…so it does the math for you, but lets you
know in case you have any +Cold damage % skills, which
will only effect the +2 cold damage (not the entire
--The spells you cast usually replace the elemental
damage type with their own. +2 cold damage from a
physical blow will chill or freeze an enemy. From Magic
missile, it’s converted to arcane, and will not chill
your target. The damage is still there, in the base
damage. It just isn’t cold damage anymore. Some spells
retain the damage type. Spectral blades IIRC will deal
cold damage if using a cold weapon.
2H vs 1H weapons
Now, does this mean that bigger base damage (i.e. 2H
weapons) are always better than 1H? First, that’s gear
dependent. If you get a nice off hand item you may end
up doing more damage if you factor in it’s bonuses.
Second you give up any other perks the off hand item
provides. So no blocking from shields, less magical
abilities (only one items worth in the 2H, vs the two
items worth in the 1h & offhand). That can factor into
Wizards still care about this, as many spells casting
time is linked to the weapon speed. If you have a faster
weapon you can cast more spells per second. This is
really good if you rely on signature (free) spells, or
have abilities that you want to trigger. This, btw, is
often refered to as a "proc" for programmed random
occurance. For example the lightning rune on magic
weapon can trigger extra lightning strikes. Faster casts
mean more chances for it to proc. (Thanks Leetnoob)
However if you like big burst damage spells (arcane orb)
you may just want more damage. The limiting factor for
them is not how fast you can cast them, but that you can
only cast 3 or so before you are out of AP. Some spells,
like Hydra, are extreme examples. You only get 1
hydra….doesn’t matter how fast you cast it, so more
damage outweighs faster weapons, so 2H weapons win
there. (Thanks Morphos)
For channeled spells (rays and torrent) the 2H weapons
can still out perform faster 1H weapons, and this comes
down, again, to mana cost. The two weapon types will
have similar DPS, but the 1H weapons trigger more often
(as seen by a "pulse" in the beams), draining AP more
often. So you spend more AP per damage point, for the
same DPS. Unless you have some abilities you want to
proc, this may be to inefficient for some builds & gear
sets. (Thanks Dedna & JumpSec)
This doesn't mean 1H weapons (with a good offhand) are
automatically worse. It is possible to make up for the
AP "inefficiency" of 1H weapons. Faster casting
essentially costs more AP per second, meaning a fast
caster will be out of AP and have to wait for the
recharge. The advantage of the 1H is that they won't
just wait during this phase. A skilled player will spam
the "free" signature spells during this time. This may
be enough to close the damage gap between the weak AP
spells of faster casts, compared to the strong AP spells
of slow casts.
It can also be argued that it allows more flexibility
and control. A fast caster will throw out 3 weaker
Arcane Orbs (AO) really fast to smash the front ranks of
a crowd, then fire off some chain lightning to catch
stragglers, or try to get the back ranks (where
summoners like to hide). If you throw in some other
abilities triggered on each hit (paralysis, AP on crit)
you may make up for the AP inefficiency in other ways
(signature spells runed for AP gain)
Whether or not it's worth the extra work is up to the
user, the available gear and their playstyle.
Damage Boosting Skills (MAGIC WEAPON)
Magic Weapon boosts your weapon damage, which increases
spell damage. This bonus is applied alongside the
intelligence and spell effect boosts. So a 10% boost
from magic weapon on a 100 damage item, makes it a 110
damage item. If you have a 200% intelligence boost, and
spell effect (to make the math easy) that gives you 440
damage output. Without the magic weapon, you would get
Note: Magic weapon may be bugged, and providing a 20%
damage boost instead of the 10% reported on the skill.
These skills all stack, so if you get 10% from MW, 20%
from the slow time rune, those both multiply your base
damage. So the 100 damage item is run through:
100 damage * 2 (200% intelligence) * 2(spell effect %) *
1.1 (10% MW) *1.2 (slow time rune) = 528 damage
Some skills, like Familiar, do not boost the damage, as
they fire their own bolt of energy at your target. The
end effect is the enemy takes more damage (at the 20%
familiar reports) it’s just not from your arcane orb, or
other spells. That is unless you select a specific rune.
Quick FAQ to sum all this up:
1) Do Weapons MATTER for a wizard?
Yes. All damage dealing skills are based off of weapon
Want to know how much your weapon damage is boosted by
--Hold "ctrl" while hovering over the skill.
--Or select "advanced tooltips" from the "gameplay"
But wizards shouldn’t use axes!
If you say that doesn't make sense...I say it's MAGIC!
If you think it makes wands/staffs obsolete…they get
comparable DPS to other weapons (compare wands to 1h
ranged, and staffs to 2h weapons), and get wizard
desired bonuses (+AP on crit, etc).
2) Want more spell damage?
In general order of effectiveness:
--Equip a weapon that has a higher base damage.
--Equip items with +damage bonus (this is added to base
--Equip items with +intelligence bonus (this multiplies
base weapon damage).
--Use skills that boost weapon DPS. (Magic Weapon).
Boosting weapon damage, boosts spell damage.
--Higher attack speeds affect cast rate…this one is a
bit more complicated, but all other things being equal,
higher attack rates win.
3) Do Weapon effects transfer to spells?
Yes. Life steal, experience gain, damage, it all
transfers to your spells.
4) Where is the regular attack? I want to shoot my bow!
Your signature spells (your "primary" skills) are free
to cast, and will do more damage than your base attack,
plus other nifty status effects. There is no real reason
I can imagine to want your basic attack. Other classes
don't use their basic attacks either, and even in D2 it
usually fell to the wayside.
If you want it: Merely drag your selected skill off of
the primary or secondary skill slot. The default is a
normal weapon attack.
If it's because you want a close range spell, like
spectral blades, and a long range, like magic missle at
the same time, but can't set it up...you can!
5) Want two defense spells? Two signature spells?
Turn on "Elective Mode" in the gameplay options
and you can now map any skill to any hotbar slot. So you
can have both slow time and diamond skin, or spectral
blades and magic missile.
For more in-depth guides for Wizards I would check out
Diablo 3 Billionaire guide.