Since Two-Weapon Fighting (TWF) only allows you to make an off-hand attack if both the weapons you wield are light, many new players are tempted by the allure of upgrading that damage die with the Dual Wielder feat. Often an Ability Score Improvement (ASI) to your attack stat is the more effective and versatile choice.
The Dual Wielder feat provides as follows:
Dual Wielder was voted as a good feat in the Feat Strength Tiers, with the second most votes going to average:
ASI: Finesse vs. Strength
When comparing an ASI to a feat, it’s important to contextualize what ASI we’re talking about. In the case of an ASI that increases melee damage, we’re talking about Strength and Dexterity. If you’re a lost Hexblade that stumbled upon this article, take the Charisma ASI and move on.
While both Strength and Dexterity ASIs are compared below, the primary analysis is Dexterity, because TWF is most often used with finesse weapons.
Rogues are the subject of the feat’s allure. Since Rogues do not get the Extra Attack feature provided by many other marshal classes, they are mostly swinging to proc their Sneak Attack, which is where the bulk of their damage comes from.
Rangers are historically the class that defines the “whirling dervish” archetype, but I find them better suited to Archery in 5th Edition. Because of this and their medium armor proficiency, they are suited to invest in Dexterity.
Barbarians lend themselves to two-handed weapons, due to Brutal Critical.
Clerics and Paladins are suited to sword-and-board because they can use their shield as a casting focus.
Fighters may be the most versatile melee class, stylistically. They can take Two-Weapon Fighting to apply their ability modifier to the damage of their second TWF attack, but it’s unlikely. Among Fighting Styles, TWF is considered a low-tier option:
Notwithstanding class, Dexterity is the strongest Ability Score in 5e. I don’t agree that Strength is a “dump stat”; the sentiment is just evidence that DMs should be using a lot more environmental factors. In a vacuum, Strength is inferior to Dexterity.
Dual Wielder vs. ASI
|Dual Wielder Feat||Dexterity ASI (+2)||Strength ASI (+2)|
|+1 Armor Class||+1 Armor Class||+0 Armor Class|
|+2 Damage||+1 Damage or
+2 Damage (with TWF)
|+1 Damage or
+2 Damage (with TWF)
|Draw/stow 2 weapons as an Object Interaction||Draw/stow 1 weapon as an Object Interaction; Drop 2 weapons as a Free Action||Draw/stow 1 weapon as an Object Interaction; Drop 2 weapons as a Free Action|
|+0 to Hit||+1 to Hit||+1 to Hit|
|+0 Skill Bonuses||+1 DEX Skills (Acrobatics, Sleight of Hand, Stealth)||+1 STR Skills (Athletics)
+15 lbs. Carry Capacity
+30 lbs. Push/Drag/Lift
|+0 Saving Throws||+1 DEX Saving Throws||+1 STR Saving Throws|
Dual Wielder Benefits
You already get most of the Dual Wielder perks from the ASI:
AC Bonus. A finesse attacker invests in Dexterity, which will increase the character’s Armor Class (AC), just like the feat. A Strength ASI will not provide this benefit.
Damage Die Upgrade. Abandoning the light weapon restriction only provides a small improvement. Here’s the most damage that RAW weapon types can do:
- Light weapons do d6 damage (3.5 average)
- One-handed weapons do d8 damage (4.5 average)
When you take Dual Wielder, your damage only increases by +1 damage/hit. When you invest an ASI in your attack stat, you are getting this same +1 damage/hit bonus on the first attack. If you have the Two-Weapon Fighting Fighting Style, you get the +1 damage/hit bonus on the second attack as well.
Criticals. The feat’s damage die upgrade can double on a critical hit (from +1 damage/hit to +2 damage/hit), which the ASI modifier cannot. However, the net damage increase for the ASI is still higher, due to other considerations discussed below.
Object Interactions. There is no other way to get the ability to draw or stow two weapons during an attack. However, the actual impact of this is minimal, for a variety of reasons:
- First, Object Interactions are often loosely enforced at the table. Let’s put that aside and assume you’re playing strictly by the rules.
- Second, a player can avoid most of the drawbacks by making judicious use of their Object Interaction every turn. For example, if you still have an Object Interaction at the end of your turn, stow one weapon for maximum flexibility.
- Third, even when a player is not judicious, they can generally cheese around a lot of Object Interactions by just dropping their weapons. Picking up a weapon is the same Object Interaction as drawing one, so this works by RAW.
The ASI also offers other benefits which you don’t get from Dual Wielder:
Hit Bonus. This is the big one: the ASI provides a bonus to hit and to damage. A little extra damage doesn’t matter if you aren’t hitting your target. Your net damage/round increases more from your hit bonus because it incorporates all the other things you get damage bonuses from, such as sneak attack. When adding another 10d6, its more important to ensure you hit than to make sure the eleventh die is a d8 instead of a d6.
Skill Checks. The ASI boost can also assist characters outside combat, by increasing their skill checks. Dexterity features the most two prominent Rogue skills (Acrobatics, Stealth) and perhaps the most flavorful (Sleight of Hand). While Strength is limited to Athletics, it tends to be the catchall for performing physical acts.
Grappling. The +1 AC bonus from Dual Wielder does not assist with grappling, since it’s a skill contest. Conversely, the Dexterity ASI will help you escape from a grapple. The Strength ASI will help you escape or engage a grapple.
Saving Throws. Investing in an ASI also gives a bonus to Saving Throws. Dexterity is arguably the best “strong save” for a melee class because it counters evocation magic. Strength is arguably the best “weak save” because, while it does not interact with many spells, it is often the target of environmental effects.
Case Study: Rogue
Heres the damage benefit from Dual Wielder and ASI for a Level 4 Rogue @ 16 DEX:
Heres the damage benefit from Dual Wielder and ASI for a Level 8 Rogue @ 18 DEX:
As you can see, the damage bonus from the ASI is higher than Dual Wielder.