Thursday, October 6, 2011

Daggers: Dual Wield Edition

Welcome back to Disenchanting Azeroth!

First off, thanks to our readers! Y'all have been great and we appreciate your support and readership. We also appreciate your patience as we took some extra time to get our Daggers review completed. There were a few events that slowed our process a bit over the last week that are worth mentioning.

We learned from our testing on the PTR that items without "stats" appear to be eligible for transmogrification. We were about halfway through compiling our charts when we learned this, so we had to step back and retool some of the values we had compiled. We also found that with Daggers in particular, the 1H/MH/OH rule made for some extremely tricky navigation to get to our final results. And last but certainly not least, I personally had to step away from the team for a few days for the birth of my son! Exciting times!

Differentiation Analysis:  Daggers Eligible For Dual Wielding
With that said, onward to our Daggers review. We found that in navigating the 1H/MH/OH rule, there really was a clear need for reviewing Daggers from the two angles listed below. We realize this also applies to One-Handed Swords and One-Handed Maces and we'll likely step back and review those with greater scrutiny if the measures we have taken here review well with our readers.

- Melee that can equip two (2) Daggers and may wish to dual wield the same model.

- Casters that can only equip one (1) Dagger and need to know what their MH/1H options are.

Therefore we are parsing our Daggers review into two articles. The first, released today, will be focusing on assisting players that can equip two (2) Daggers and may wish to dual wield the same model. We'll follow a day or so from now with the second article focusing on players that can only equip one (1) Dagger. And remember, you only need one unit of a particular model in order to transmogrify two weapons with the same look.

The chart you see above (click for larger image) represents every Epic, Rare and Uncommon Dagger model currently available in-game that can be transmogrified.

One key change we have introduced here is the gray horizontal band across the top. For the purposes of dual wielding models, Daggers that fall in this row are actually ineligible for dual wielding because they are MH or OH only. Our hope is that this will make for easy identification of what you can dual wield, and what you cannot.

And as always, our Visual Positioning Analysis, Editors' Picks and a Map Key identifying every model reviewed here can be found at the base of the article.

If you're familiar with the way we segment our Differentiation Analysis and the models in the chart, feel free to jump to the next header and our initial conclusions.

For those of you who are new to Disenchanting Azeroth and our methodologies here, we refer to the chart above as our Differentiation Analysis. This is a visual analysis of design language and form, so the different variations of color and model skin for each version of a particular model is not represented here. That being said, if you find something here you'd like to inquire about further, scroll down to our Map Key and links to WoWhead for details on where you can acquire the model or various recycled versions of it.

We arrange each individual model (not each skin) horizontally by the expansion in which it was introduced to the game, and vertically by the number of weapons the model is shared with other weapons in-game. The more it is recycled, the lower we rank it because it is technically less unique. The less it is recycled, the more unique it becomes and thus the higher we rank it. The models in the white row, second from the top, labeled "exclusive" retain exclusive rights to the model, as there is nothing else currently attainable in-game that can be dual-wielded and match it with transmogrification, not even a Heroic equivalent.

We also identify Heroic alternates in their own row, and if a recolored skin is available we've highlighted it by reversing its position and placing a white halo around it. As you'll note, not all Heroic versions have been recolored. In fact the majority of them are identical to their normal mode versions.

The goal of our evaluations is to determine just how much visual parity there is among weaponry in the World of Warcraft, and where the niches lie that players can leverage as a means to visually differentiate themselves from their peers with Transmogrification in 4.3.

Our Initial Conclusions

  • Dual wielding actually increases the perceived value of certain models. It's really interesting, and will be easier to understand this particular point once we release the second of these articles on Daggers. What happens is certain models, like the 1H Dagger of the Rising Moon from Wrath which shares its model with the MH Dagger of Lunar Purity and the MH Spectral Kris, though it shares its model with these two other weapons - it doesn't actually share its model with any other 1H weapons. Both Lunar Purity and Spectral Kris are Main Hand Daggers, models which cannot be dual wielded per Blizzard's rule that MH items can only transmogrify into other MH items. So for the dual wielding chart above, Rising Moon ranks as "exclusive".  You'll find in our follow up article, though, that it ranks much lower when we consider Daggers for casters that can only wield one.
  • Wrath really pumped out the models. This is the first chart we've put together where we've seen a substantial increase in the number of unique models post-Burning Crusade. The theme has consistently been the opposite, where numbers have generally been in decline since TBC. Here we see Wrath not only matching TBC's output of unique models, but also upping the ante by nearly 25% more. 
So is our Differentiation Analysis enough to determine what you should be using for dual wielding Daggers to stand out from your peers? In short, no. Which brings us to our next exercise: a qualitative, visual analysis of all the models represented above.  Since we're only focusing on dual wield models in this article, we've removed the MH/OH models identified earlier from our matrix below.

If you're familiar with the way we segment form language in the matrix below, feel free to jump to our Red/Green highlights.

For those of you who are new to Disenchanting Azeroth and our methodologies here, we refer to the chart below as our Visual Positioning Analysis (click for larger image). We use this matrix as a means to provide a visual landscape to what is currently attainable in-game for Transmogrification.

Visual Positioning:  Daggers Eligible for Dual Wielding

The vertical axis here is a continuum of INTROVERTED forms (singular geometry, quiet) to EXTROVERTED forms (multiple, intersecting geometry, loud). Basically weapons at the bottom of the matrix are visually much quieter than those at the top.

The horizontal axis here is a continuum of STATIC forms (rectilinear, sharp transitions) to FLUID forms (organic, smooth transitions). Basically, weapons to the left appear more stoic and angular and those on the right appear more organic and curved.

The goal here isn't to determine the exact placement of each individual weapon, rather it is to identify deltas between them as a means to draw some conclusions and inform our recommendations that follow. For the sake of argument, we're also going to take Blizzard's "exclusive" Daggers for dual wielding from the white row in our Differentiation Analysis and cross reference them with this Visual Positioning matrix. This will let us know if the models that have maintained their exclusivity over time can actually stand out in the crowd (click for larger image).

Visual Positioning Analysis:  "Exclusive" Models

Red ellipses identify a Dagger from the "exclusive" models that looks too much like the other weapons around it. In other words, the value of being an exclusive model doesn't do it much good if its aesthetic is too similar to its peers. A great example here is Webbed Death (45, 55). There are just too many other Daggers that visually compete with it for it to stand out in a crowd.

Green ellipses identify a Dagger from the "exclusive" models that is far enough removed from the mass of parity that it should be able to maintain its identity. Equip one of these, and you're more likely to stand out among your peers. A great example here is the Messenger of Fate (10, 50), as it remains in a niche by itself.

Another interesting example here is the Torturing Poker (1, 99). It didn't make our Editors' Picks, but this would still be an easy one to recommend because there's simply nothing else in the neighborhood. Don't be alarmed if you look it up on WoWhead and note that it shares its model with four other items in-game. Two of them are wands, so this model is actually going to be pretty rare. A great item to have some fun with, and an easy one to make yourself appear more unique.

Also worth noting are the three Daggers we've extracted from the Deathwing raid PTR files (50,1), (30,30) and (15,30). Each of these stand alone for dual wielding. What we don't know yet, however, is which of them are One-Handers and which are going to be the token Main Hander for casters.

Our Final Conclusions

  • There are a lot of options here for dual wielding. As you can see, Dagger model designs are pretty well spread out and though there is some clustering going on, it's not nearly as nasty as what we've seen from other weapon categories. We would be perfectly content with players opting for models like Death's Sting (1, 35), Boundless Agony (50, 25), or Alysra's Razor (30, 10) and others that appear to be occupying their own little niche. The landscape gets a bit more condensed when we switch up values and target casters wielding just one Dagger, but it's not too bad of a shift. Stay tuned for our next article where you can evaluate the shift for yourselves.
  • Daggers seem to have received the novelty nod more than other weapons. With weapons like the Fang of Oblivion (see below), Alysra's Razor, the Torturing Poker, Direbrew's Bloodied Shanker and others, the Daggers category sure seems like it has the most animation-driven/novelty designs. We initially grabbed a number of these for our Editors' Picks because they were so unique, but then we backed off a bit for fear of coming across too gimmicky.
  • Blizzard's future aesthetic could progress in a number of directions. As our readers are aware, we like using our visual matrices as a means to try and project where Blizzard may take their weapon aesthetic in the future. Whereas some other matrices we've put together depict quite clearly where the opportunity lies, here it's much more inconclusive. Really Blizzard could head in a number of directions and have a lot of fun with some new designs.

We hope you've enjoyed our first of two articles on Daggers. If your goal is to truly take advantage of Transmogrification in patch 4.3 and stand out among your peers, we encourage you to reference these charts. For those players desiring a kickstart to their selection, we've included our Editors' Picks below based on our analysis. And remember, a Map Key identifying all the models reviewed here, as well as links to WoWhead and the actual items can be located below our Editors' Picks. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for our next article targeting Daggers for casters, due out in the next day or so.

Thanks for your patience y'all,

The following models are in no particular order, and are intended for dual wielding:

1. Unknown Dagger, a potential drop from the Deathwing raid and extracted from the PTR files. Based on our analysis, this Dagger will be the most frighteningly bad ass model available in-game for transmogrification. Our hope is it will be a One Hand item intended for melee, and as such we've included it as a candidate for dual wielding rogues. If this turns out to be a caster's Main Hand spellblade of sorts, however, then our balloon will deflate along with with those of our rogue readers, because it would be a damn shame to not be able to dual wield these.

2. Twinblade of Mastery, a potential drop from Pandemonius in Mana-Tombs. There are a few Daggers with actual twin blades protruding from the hilt, but this model accentuates that fact the most. Extremely angular, and with very little competing with it visually, these would make a great selection for dual wielders.

3. Hungering Spineripper, a potential drop from Harbinger Skyriss in The Arcatraz. With a number of models falling into the realm of this organic, claw theme, we wondered if it would be worth pulling one of them for our Editors' Picks. When we saw the animation for this model, it locked it in for us. The bulbous form at the base of the hilt pulsates as if something is living, breathing inside.

4. High Warlord's Razor, a legacy PvP reward available for Honor Points. We fell in love with it during our initial review and posted to our Twitter followers that it was likely to end up in our Editors' Picks because we didn't think there would be anything quite like it. We were right. We reviewed so many skull models as part of some of our previous weapon reviews, but you can tell someone really put some love into this design. It's so classic that it's modern, and it wouldn't surprise us to find something similar to this actually being toted around right now by someone in real life. If we could commission @Epic_Weapons, creators of the original Frostmourne replica, to forge something fresh for us it would be this little beauty. Our weapon crush aside, there's nothing quite like in our analysis and it's really carved out its own little niche.

5. Fang of Vashj, a potential drop from Lady Vashj in Serpentshrine Cavern. Remember that fish in Finding Nemo that went berserk whenever he saw bubbles? Exactly, he'd be cuckoo for Coco Puffs on this one. Not quite as organic as our team may have positioned it, though uniquely fluid in its visual elements just the same, this item is one-of-a-kind, which is amazing thinking about pairing two of these together and going into battle with them. They would still have likely made it into our EPs even without the bubble animation because as we pointed out in a previous post, in-game aquatic-themed weapons are so scarce. That said, the animation definitely helps it hit a home run.

6. Messenger of Fate, a potential drop from Gurtogg Bloodboil in the Black Temple. Simple, sturdy, and another weapon we tweeted out early on in our data mining, this item has carved out such a great little niche for itself. We almost didn't include it here because it didn't feel unique enough compared with some of the other animated and/or novelty Daggers we came across. But when we stepped back and realized we needed to incorporate more stable designs, MoF was at the head of our bench. A fantastic, planar design.

7. Fang of Oblivion, a potential drop from Steelbreaker in Ulduar. It is what it is, and we probably don't need to say much about it. Whereas the "spectral" theme has been a bit overdone in the mounts department, we feel this item has been able to maintain its appeal because there simply aren't any other weapons that attempt to match it, the MH Starshard Edge aside. The Fang is the only weapon you could actually dual wield and attain this look.

8. Dagger of the Rising Moon, availble for Champion's Seals at the Argent Tournament. As we mentioned earlier in our article, this is one of those weapon models that becomes more intriguing when you consider it for dual wielding. There's simply nothing else like it in-game, it's exceptionally fluid in its design, and because of its origin at the Argent Tournament it's likely to be overlooked. Stay classy San Diego, and pick up one of these to see if you meld with our mojo here at DA.

9. Warp Splinter's Thorn, a potential drop from Warp Splinter in The Botanica. When we've suggested woodsy or Druid-like aesthetics for Emerald Dream in previous posts, this is one of those models that falls on the fringes of what we're alluding to. This is a bit more overt in that it's literally trying to embellish on an actual wooden thorn of sorts, but nevertheless it starts to head in the direction we have in mind. With that said, this design in its current state is so fashionably unique that it warrants consideration here as well as in our article to follow targeting casters. So grab yourself a violet thorn from Outland, see if you can pair it up with some matching digs with our new friends over at the Visual Roleplay Gear List.

10. Shard of Azzinoth, a potential drop from Illidan Stormrage in the Black Temple and another green-themed weapon in our Editors' Picks. We were between the Shard and the Twinblade of the Hakkari here, and the Shard had two things going for it. First, the Twinblade was recently resurrected so it feels like current content. Second, the Shard has a very familiar green glow about it that could prompt just a sliver of envy among your peers.

Map Key (click for larger image)

95. Murder


  1. why do you make the distinction with dual wield models for the argent tourney dagger but not perdition's blade, the only other item currently obtainable in game that shares the model is MH only.

  2. Thanks Stasis! Perdition shares its model with another One Hander, Shadowsong's Sorrow and it looks like we mistakenly counted that as an active model. Shadowsong's Sorrow is actually no longer in the game, so Perdition did deserve a bump and we've therefore updated the chart. Daggers were a real bear this time around, with over 700 models up for review, so we appreciate the little catches like this that help tune our charts! Thanks again! -Keel

  3. Thank you for this list! Been needing a visual guide to daggers a long, long time coming.

  4. sheesh 700, no wonder. I only caught it because that happens to be my favorite dagger model >.<

  5. Great work, really enjoying and finding it useful!

  6. #98 (Chilled Heart of the Glacier) is main-hand only. #118 (Sun Strike) is a one-hand sword.

  7. Thanks Fletcher! Looks like we need to shift Sun Strike off this list for it's MH dagger equivalent, the Potentate's Letter Opener. We'll update the chart. The Chilled Heart, however, is in it's rightful place if you double check our chart. We've listed it as MH only. Thanks for the catch! -Keel