Shield vs. Double Swing

In various Hack&Slash games, I avoid Dual Wield, feeling that a shield is better. But looking at the skill tree, and reading various posts on this thread, it seems that Double Swing is better than using a one-hand axe and a shield. I’ve tried it with two powerful axes (but no buffs) and it seems to be an improvement, despite my drop in Defense. Am I correct?

you are going to hit so much more with double-swing/frenzy than going with shield. Concentrate with shield is really slow killing, but might get you out of a jam with a few powerful monsters. I don’t think most people bother wasting all the dex though.

For some PvP builds that face other physical damage/blockable attack characters you’ll want a shield with max block, but for PvM it’s largely unnecessary. The DR from Stormshield can be really nice.

Dual wielding is required with skills like Double Swing and Frenzy, and it gets you more hits on skills like WW, so it can be very powerful if you don’t need the def/res/block from a shield.

With Grief RW being BiS and not using the base weapon damage for it’s damage modifier, it’s common to make them in a 1h weapon, usually PB or Zerker axe depending on the goal. That leaves your other hand free for another weapon to maximize the WW hits or use the DW skills.

The other consideration is that in D2 defense is part of the “chance to hit” calculation (the chance that you will hit an enemy or the chance they will hit you), but the respective level of the attacker vs. the target plays a larger role. Defense does not reduce incoming damage once the game has calculated that a hit will land. That’s why I mentioned shield blocking above, since blocking the damage outright is one of the main benefits of a shield, aside from being a “stat stick” for things like resistances.

Again for certain PvP situations, having maximum defense is desirable, but often for PvM it’s more of a “nice to have if you can get it without sacrificing something else better”.

It also goes to zero when you run (but you can walk to retain it, and you retain it during WW - at least according to D2R character sheet) which lessens it’s benefit depending on if you mostly run. I’ve found with the speed bonus from frenzy that I can toggle down to walk and still move plenty fast, and retain my defense. For WW you’re usually using WW if you’re in the thick of things, so you have defense up there.

Barb also has several ways to boost defense (Shout, Iron Skin) via skills, and the fact that many barbs are pumping strength anyway means they can wear heavier armor that (typically) has higher defense can help get high defense without bothering with a shield. So even a DW Barb can have decent defense depending on skills and gear.

It’s not uncommon to spec DS/Frenzy for leveling into normal/NM, but then switch to WW depending on your goals and gear, since in the earlier levels “The best defense is a good offense” really holds true. In later difficulties you have to pay more attention to resists and defense since the enemies start to hit harder and die slower (depending on your gear).


I’m running a barb with a shield and I love it. It may take longer then say a Paladin/Kicksin, but my barb can solo ubers. I also play hardcore only so survivability is #1 priority, so playing with a shield just makes sense.

The only place I won’t go (solo) is Nithilak (spelling?). It’s a crazy tanky build and does pretty good DPS. I pumped enough into dexterity for the 75% block chance, enough into strength for gear and the rest into vitality (have approximately 4200 with warcries/2100ish without).

Here is my current build if interested:

Main Attack Skill: Whirlwind

Warcries: Battle Orders, Battle Command and Shout

Mastery: Axe

Head: Arreats

Chest: Fortitude

Belt: Thunder God’s Vigor

Boots: Gore Riders

Weapon: Ethereal Beserker Axe/Breath of the Dying

Shield: Stormshield

Amulet: Highlords Wrath

Ring 1: Ravenscroft

Ring 2: Nothing special

Accessories: 19/19 Torch, Anni, and loads of charms.

1 Like

No PVM barb ever needs a shield. That’s a huge dps decrease. Learn to use leap and howl skills in sticky situations. Double swing itself is only useful when you are manaburnt. Frenzy does insane dmg and is uninterruptable so you continue to hit even when manaburnt.

1 Like

LoL that is not even remotely true. Using a shield or not, depends 100% on the overall barb build.

Nope, shield in pvm promots noob play with a barb who can tank and hit like a truck. Gimping damage potential means less kill speed. There is no single pvm barb build which is more effective with a shield.


Dude stop trolling barb builds lol.

For players who are 100% running hardcore only, a shield barb is amazing and does ample damage. My barb build uses a shield and solos ubers, so feel free to keep talking about “there is no single barb build that’s effective…”

But hey, to each his/her own.


While I prefer double weapon damage, and use it 90-95% of the time, I have stormshield on swap with another weapon. I find it handy vs undead dolls, zerking wsk PI witches, and the occasional frenzy, mana-burn, amp damage demon pack.


He isn’t playing hardcore. All you need to escape sticky situation is leap and howl which stuns everything around. I never come even close to dying.
In HC, yeah, I wouldn’t go all dmg, stormshield and WW+Berserk would be my skills.

1 Like

Don’t you think that it’d help to survive better in Hell difficulty though? I personally haven’t made it that far yet but ive heard that having a good shield helps emencially.

The thing about Barb is that he’s very gear dependent. With end game gear you can have really good survivability even without a shield. While you’re gearing up, a shield can be helpful. For builds like WW, Conc, and Berserk, you don’t have to lock yourself into shield vs. not shield, so if you get into Hell and find you’re taking too much damage, throwing a shield with good resistances and/or Damage Reduction (like Stormshield) can be really helpful.

For builds like Frenzy, you can’t use a shield, so you have to commit to dual weapons. It’s definitely possible to go through “single self found” using DS/Frenzy, but IMO if you don’t have “twink gear” to pass to your barb farmed/traded for with another character, using WW is an easier way to progress through the game. And you can switch between 1H with Shield, 2x 1H and 2H weapons as you go depending on what you find (but have to be wary of mastery from weapon type changes).

With skills like BO, Shout, Iron Skin, and Natural Resistances, Barb’s typically have pretty good life/defense/resistance anyway, and there are relatively common armors like Duriels Shell, Smoke RW, Lionheart RW, Treachery RW, etc. that can bulk up resistances, so Barb can still have good survivability without a shield.

That said, for hard core where you die once and it’s all over, using a shield is probably the way to go, at least until you’re very experienced at the game.

pvm use ebotd and edeath zerkers highlords ammy a dual leech ring ravenfrost tgods dracs gores arreats


if using a shield to pvm you will take less dmg but your dmg will be low and you will have to rely on your merc but if you use ebotdz andstormshield should be fine