Unless you can convince me otherwise. I've tested both extensively on my own Barbarian in Act 3 Inferno Rakkis Crossing as well as Towers of the Damned, and I honestly cannot fathom how people possibly think Frenzy/Sidearm is the way to go cookie-cutter status for Barbarians.
I have ~1600 Life on Hit + 3.2% Life Leech--and I tried out both skills. Cleave sends back 50% or whatever lower value of your Life on Hit, problem is you are hitting 3 or 4 enemies per attack and thus you are simply getting more life back faster.
I see my health go steadily up or maintain its level using Cleave. Using Frenzy I see my health steadily going down.
Even aside from that, Sidearm just seems to be a junk rune. You only toss that axe 1/4th of the time, and sometimes it just goes out into nowhere and hits nothing. I just can't see it being consistent enough to bank on that hitting more enemies for more Life on Hit procs. I need solid convincing that Frenzy/Sidearm is better, because I'm just not seeing it.
The only thing I can imagine is that Frenzy may become better than Cleave once you reach a certain base attacks per second breakpoint. I only have 2.02 attacks per second so maybe that's why Cleave is giving greater returns than Frenzy.. so my question is how fast do you have to be before Frenzy becomes this "consta-heal" people paint it out to be? Or is it just another case of a miscast cookie-cutter?
Cleave is great for groups. Frenzy is great for single target.
There is no way frenzy can beat cleave vs groups of enemies and there is no way cleave can beat frenzy vs single target. It comes down to your build and ultimately your playstyle.
The real benefit of Frenzy/Sidearm is not because of the small AOE it provides, it is the axe hits the main target on top of the standard swing. So essentially getting a 'double-hit' for double damage.
Cleave absolutely performs better when you're hitting three or four monsters at a time with every swing. But the thing is, big packs of monsters are relatively easy to deal with. Just tank them and spam Revenge. Cleave isn't necessary for them.
Pife only gets difficult when facing a champ pack or rare mob, and when you've gotten into a drawn-out fight with those, you need to be ableto focus down one monster or minion at a time. You simply aren't goig to be granted the luxury of hitting three elites with every swing of Cleave.
So while Cleave may outperform Frenzy in certain environments, Frenzy is more useful when it comes to the actual difficult encounters, the ones you should be gearing/skilling for.
Agree with above poster. Cleave is better on groups of monsters, but groups of monsters are rarely dangerous anyway.
Frenzy is better where it counts. It's better on bosses, it's better for finishing off the yellow elite after the minions die, and it's better when you have to chase ranged champion packs around that refuse to group up.
Cleave is better for big groups of trash monsters and easy melee elites, but Revenge does all of the heavy lifting here anyway.
In addition, Frenzy attacks faster. If you attack faster, you can proc life on hit and crits more often. If you do those things, you stay alive longer and have greater success with crit-based skills (notably Overpower) versus single-targets you need to get down quickly (every champ pack).
Can't really say I agree with any of the replies thus far. Have you guys TRIED cleave vs elites? You always hit more than one of them at a time. The whole "frenzy hits harder so you get more life on hit" thing just seems off to me.
I've extensively tested both. I stay at full life using cleave. Using Frenzy my life dances up and down.
It just seems bad to me.
The point is frenzy fills in the gap where revenge fails, giving more life per hit and more damage on a single target, and as far as I'm aware more life per hit on 2 targets as well.
Cleave does have damage advantage more often than not (though it has the disadvantages in situations you need it the most, so use your judgement to decide which you prefer). Frenzy lets you survive better in the situations where you would die due to lack of revenge effectiveness.
I don't know about your experiments. Maybe post a video, because what you're saying makes little sense. If you're hitting enough for cleave's life per hit to out-do frenzy's life per hit, you should also be hitting enough for revenge to greatly out-shine your life per hit anyway...