Maybe you’ve already tried endless play throughs as either a lethal one-handed bandit or a powerful pure mage and you’re just after something different. Maybe you’re looking for a challenge and want to crank the difficulty as high as it will go and find a viable build that offers offense, defense and support possibilities for a wide variety of encounters.
Either way, a Spellsword or Battlemage build has you covered. Combining the melee prowess of warrior fighting skills with the healing, destruction and assistive powers of magic, these arcane/physical hybrid builds are carefully constructed to bring you the best of both worlds.
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- Spellsword Vs Battlemage: What’s The Difference?
- Skyrim Spellsword Build:
- Skyrim Battlemage Build:
Spellsword Vs Battlemage: What’s The Difference?
There’s no black and white answer to this question. If you search through internet forums you’ll find a plethora of definitions of both spellswords and battlemages. The undisputed core definition of both is a class that uses a combination of mage and warrior skills.
A popular differentiation between the two is the theory that a battlemage makes greater use of magic and a spellsword is a mostly warrior class with some assistance from the arcane. Due to the fact that there’s a large number of different opinions out there on what separates a battlemage from a spellsword, for the purposes of this guide I’ve decided on the following definitions:
Our battlemage is a heavy armor user who wields both destruction magic and two-handed weapons. He can also heal himself with Restoration magic. Our spellsword is a light armor user who’s quicker on his feet and attacks primarily with a one-handed sword, although he’s also proficient in destruction magic. While not a completely stealth based character, the spellsword is also levelled in sneak and can start an offensive by taking out at least the first enemy by surprise. This sneak element is enchanced with his mastery of illusion magic. Like the battlemage, the spellsword can also heal himself with restoration magic.
For the purposes of comparison with provided perk choices up to level 56 for both builds below, which equals a total of 55 perks. That leaves plenty of room to include variations in later levels to take these build templates and make the characters your own.
Skyrim Spellsword Build
Spellsword Attribute Distribution
Attribute Distribution over 5 levels
Magicka: 2 | Health: 2 | Stamina: 1
The above recommendation gives a balanced preference to magicka (for using all your spells), health (so you’re not too squishy) and deprioritises stamina (because you’ll be unlocking a restoration perk that makes stamina easy to replenish – Respite).
That being said this mix is purely down to personal preference. You’ll see in the screenshots further on in the guide that by the time I reached level 56 I had a distribution of Magicka: 450, Health: 300 and Stamina: 100. I chose to boost the magicka side of things more because I rely much more heavily on the spell half of being a spellsword.
If you’re a spellsword who spends more time in melee combat with only a touch of magic for backup, then you might like to put more points into stamina so you can complete more power attacks before needing to replenish your green bar. Likewise if you’re an experienced player and feel like you can skillfully avoid death with your strategy and natural talent then feel free to take all those points you would have put into health and use them to boost your other attributes instead.
Best Spellsword Race
We picked Dunmer (Dark Elf) for their starting skill-level proficiency in a number of magic schools as well as Light Armor and Sneak. Their Ancestor’s Wrath flame cloak power and fire resistance also work well with our perk and spell choices which we’ll go into later in the guide.
One of the great things about Skyrim is the flexibility it afford players to create the characters they want and play in the style they want without many limitations. Want to be a sneaking Orc? No problem. A magical Nord? Go for it.
The only benefit you get from choosing one race over another is starting skill level buffs (which can be easily compensated for later on if you want to choose a race without starting skills that match your build) and racial powers/attributes. While these racial powers can be very useful, especially early on (e.g. An extra 50 Magicka for Altmer helps a lot in mage builds), they’re often not dealbreakers if you want to pick a race without a power or ability that matches your intended build.
That being said, I wanted to pick a race for our spellsword that gave us the best headstart on skill levelling in our chosen focus areas and also had powers/abilities that fitted with our playstyle, spells, weapons and perks. After careful consideration I decided that race was Dunmer. Dunmer characters get a hefty boost to the starting levels for: Destruction, Illusion, Light Armor and Sneak – all of which we’ll be using. Their flame cloak ability will be buffed by the ‘Aspect of Terror’ perk that we’ll be taking to buff our flame destruction spells and the 50% boost to fire resistance will assist us when fighting dragons and mages.
Skyrim Spellsword Skills and Perks
As mentioned above, our spellsword will use one-handed and single handed destruction magic as their primary combat method, Illusion to improve their sneak ability and restoration magic for healing and fire magic buffs. We’ll be levelling light armor for protection.
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Illusion Skill Tree (Spellsword)
Let’s get one thing straight. This spellsword build isn’t a completely stealth focussed character. If you’re interested in a completely overpowered sneak build be sure to check out our illusion assasin guide.
Our spellsword will have a full offensive arsenal of destruction magic and one-handed sword attacks plus the protection of light-armor and restoration. So when thrown into one-on-many combat you’ll easily hold your own. But seeing as how the spellsword is differentiated from the battlemage by his lithe build, agility and light armor instead of heavy armor, we felt that it naturally followed that he would be sneakier as well.
By levelling up your Illusion skill tree (which can be done easily by spamming the muffle spell), you can make use of perks like Invisibility for setting up powerful stealth one-handed attacks, and mind control spells like Fury for forcing your enemies to fight each other. You can then jump into the fray to finish off the stragglers the old fashion way with sword and flames.
Illusion Perks (Spellsword)
11 Perk Points
- Novice, Apprentice, Adept & Expert Illusion: — Cast XX level Illusion spells for half magicka. — You’ll be using Invisibility a lot for sneak attacks so will want the Expert Illusion perk to reduce the Magicka cost. For power levelling Illusion with the Muffle spell you’ll want to unlock Apprentice Illusion ASAP.
- Animage: — Allows Illusion spells to work on higher level animals. — This isn’t necassarily a perk that is particularly important for your build. You just need to unlock it to get to quiet casting.
- Kindred Mage: — Allows Illusion spells to work on higher level people. — More useful than animage, as this will allow you to get better use out of your Fury spell. Also needed to unlock Quiet casting.
- Quiet Casting: — All spell casting is silent. — If you want to sneak up to a group of enemies and cast either healing, a destruction spell or an Illusion spell like Fury without being detected then Quiet Casting is essential.
- Hypnotic Gaze: — Calm spells work on higher level opponents. — Needed to unlock Aspect of Terror, which is important for our build. Otherwise, this isn’t essential, but if you do want to use calm spells it’s helpful.
- Aspect of Terror: — Fear spells work on higher level opponents. — As well as it’s stated effect, Aspect Of Terror also boosts fire based destruction magic by 10 damage points. If it’s taken after the Augmented Flames (1 & 2) Destruction perks it increases flame spell damage by 15+. I’ve looked everywhere online but can’t find an explanation of why this effect works. I’ve recorded a video below demonstrating the effect. This perk is important for our build as it we’ll be focusing primarily on fire magic. Remember to activate the Augmented Flames perks before Aspect of Terror to get the full benefit.
- Rage: — Frenzy spells work on higher level opponents. — The same as Aspect of Terror (without the fire magic buff) and Hypnotic Gaze, but a bit more useful as we’ll be using Frenzy as one of the core spells in our arsenal.
- Master of the Mind: — Illusion spells work on undead, deadra and automatons. — If you’re going to invest in a number of perks to boost the effectiveness of your Illusion spells, you may as well go all out and get Master of the Mind so they apply to those pesky Draugr and Dwemer constructs as well.
Optional perks: As we’ll be keeping our sword in our right hand and switching between spells in the left hand, we won’t need either Illusion Dual Casting or Master Illusion as all Master Illusion spells require both hands to cast. If you wanted to vary this build you could always unlock Master Illusion and learn Master Spells like Mayhem to turn whole dungeons against each other. For the purpose of our Spellsword build we’ve kept magic to one hand though.
Destruction Skill Tree (Spellsword)
Destruction magic is your ranged attack option. An annoying bandit archer hitting you from the other side of the dungeon? Take em out with a fireball. You’ll be using your one-handed sword as your primary attack method, but it’s always useful to be able to swap out your healing or invisibility spell in your magic hand for some additional offensive power when the situation calls for it.
To conserve perk points we recommend choosing one branch of destruction magic to focus on, either: Fire, Frost or Shock. For our spellsword we’re going to choose Fire. The reason being that the Augmented Flames perk that increases the damage of fire based spells also boosts our Ancestor’s Wrath racial power and because we’re levelling Illusion magic we have access to the Aspect of Terror perk which boosts our fire spells even further.
Destruction Perks (Spellsword)
6 Perk Points
- Novice, Apprentice, Adept & Expert Destruction: — Cast XX level Destruction spells for half magicka. — Will allow you to get the most fire destruction out of your Magicka pool. As we’re only using one handed spells we haven’t gone as high as Master Destruction.
- Augmented Flames (1 & 2): — Fire spells do 25% more damage (level 1) / Fire spells do 50% more damage and the blast radius of fireballs are increased (level 2) — With both levels of this spell unlocked you’ll do 90 damage with your Incinerate spell (which will be boosted to 105 damage after you take the Aspect of Terror perk).
Optional perks: As with the Illusion perk tree, due to focussing on one handed magic we won’t be taking the dual casting perk or Master Destruction. The only down side in this case with not taking dual casting, is that it’s needed to reach the Impact perk, which is quite useful. We’ve done without it in this build, but if you wanted the extra punch you could waste a point on dual casting to get to it. We also didn’t take Intense Flames as personally I don’t like making enemies flee, I’d prefer to keep them close by so I can finish them off.
Restoration Skill Tree (Spellsword)
Restoration is a useful skill tree for any build to invest in if only purely for the use of healing magic during battle. While you can hoard healing potions, or mix your own if you practice the alchemical arts, theres still nothing as easy and useful as being able to restore your health and avoid death with a quick spell mid-battle.
For our Spellsword, Restoration becomes even more useful with its perks boosting our magicka and stamina regeneration as well as our damage against the undead.
Restoration Perks (Spellsword)
9 Perk Points
- Novice, Apprentice, Adept & Expert Restoration: — Cast XX level Restoration spells for half magicka. — Cast high level Restoration spells for less Magicka.
- Regeneration: — Healing spells cure 50% more. — You may as well get the best bang for your buck when you cast a healing spell.
- Recovery (1 & 2): — Magicka regenerates 25% / 50% faster (depending on perk level). — This is great not only for a general magicka regeneration boost, but can also negate the negative aspect of the Atronach Stone, which gives 50 extra magicka, 50% spell absorption, but also reduces magicka regeneration by 50%.
- Respite: — Healing spells also restore stamina. — This is an absolute must have in our build. As mentioned in the attribute distribution section, we’ve put less points into stamina. Without the Respite perk that would make getting around in Skyrim annoying because you’d be constantly running out of running juice. But with this perk unlocked you simply equip a healing spell in one hand and cast it as you run. Voila – infinite running.
- Necromage: — All spells are more effective against undead. — This spell is useful for fighting high level Draugr, Dragon Priests, Wispmothers, Vampires and Skeletons (and any other undead enemy). It can also be used as a crucial buffing mechanism if you choose to play as a vampire, as a number of spells cast on yourself then become more powerful.
Perks not taken/Optional perks: As with the other schools we’ve not bothered to unlock the Master Restoration perk as we’ll be casting one handed. Also likewise with the Restoration Dual Casting perk.
Sneak Skill Tree (Spellsword)
I wouldn’t be surprised if Sneak is a controversial choice for inclusion in a Spellsword build. Traditionally, Spellswords are more likely to focus on non-stealth combat using swords, shields and spells. If you’re a roleplaying purist and you don’t like the idea of a stealthy Spellsword, then feel free to swap out this skill tree for something else. I’ve chosen not to use a shield in this build as I want to keep our off-hand free for spellcasting, but if you don’t mind the extra switching, you could level up your Block skill tree instead, or even just a useful utility tree like Speech or Lockpicking.
What if you don’t care so much about being a roleplay purist and you just want the most badass Spellsword build? I’d definitely give Sneak a go. You’re going to have a decent Magicka pool and we’ve chosen to focus on Illusion for perks like Quiet Casting, and spells like Muffle and Invisibility. This makes sneaking a breeze.
You’re going to be levelling your One-Handed skill and acquiring a decent sword. So why not combine all that together and start each battle with a devastating one hit kill blow to whichever enemy you want to take out first. This build isn’t really designed to be a full stealth assasin play style, it’s just incorporating some of these elements to build on the natural agility of your Illusion wielding, Light Armor wearing Spellsword. If you want to try out a totally over-powered and fun as heck full stealth build then you should definitely check out Skyrim Assassin Build: The Best Sneak Build In Skyrim.
Sneak Perks (Spellsword)
9 Perk Points
- Stealth (1, 2, 3, 4 & 5): — Makes you 20% to 40% harder to detect when sneaking (depending on perk level) — This one is a no brainer. If you’re going to attempt stealth kills, this will make it easier to sneak.
- Muffled Movement: –— Reduces noise from armor by 50% — You’ll already have less armor noise than a Heavy Armor user, but still this will also help you stay undetected.
- Light Foot: — You no longer activate pressure plates — This seems to only work when you’re sneaking and there is anecdotal evidence that it doesn’t work on every pressure plate for every player. Still it can come in very useful when you’re trying to hurry through a Dwemer ruin.
- Silent Roll: — Perform a silent forward roll if you sprint while sneaking — This makes Light Foot much more useful because it speeds up your sneaking A LOT. Regardless of your combat style this is a great perk to get because it makes moving around a dungeon a lot of fun. Parkour!
- Backstab: — Sneak attacks with One-handed weapons do 6 times normal damage —– This one is a must have. With levelled One-Handed skill and a decent sword you can one-hit kill most things.
Perks not taken/Optional perks: Shadow Warrior is a great perk but only when you want to chain together stealth kills and clear a room without going into non-stealth combat. As we’re not aiming for a full stealth build here we’ve left that one out, ditto Silence.
One-Handed Skill Tree (Spellsword)
When you’re not blasting away Draugr scum with your fire magic, your main combat mechanism is going to be your sword (or mace/war axe if you decide to go that way). So One-Handed is one of your primary skill trees for becoming a formidable Spellsword.
One-Handed Perks (Spellsword)
11 Perk Points
- Armsman (1, 2, 3, 4 & 5): — One-handed weapons do 20%-100% more damage (depending on perk level) — This is essential for getting the most damage out of your sword during combat. It’s also going to help deliver massive damage with stealth attacks.
- Bladesman (1, 2 & 3): — Attacks with swords to have a 10%-20% chance of doing critical damage (depending on perk level) — 20% might not sound like a lot, but it sure makes a difference to have every 5th swing you take with your sword get a significant damage buff. Also when criticals trigger on a stealth strike, you get an absolutely insane damage output.
- Fighting Stance: — Power attacks with one-handed weapons cost 25% less stamina — If you remember from earlier in the guide, we decided to prioritise Magicka and Health over Stamina. So we’re not going to have a particularly huge stamina pool. This makes reducing your power attack stamina usage a great strategy for fitting in more big hits before you need to cast a healing spell for replenishing you stamina bar.
- Critical Charge: — Do a one-handed power attack while sprinting that does double critical damage — If you feel like a different start to a battle, you can switch it up from opening with a stealth incursion to just sprinting in at full speed and smashing someone with a power attack. Fun, dramatic and does a whole heap of damage.
- Savage Strike: —Standing power attacks do 25% bonus damage with a chance of decapitating your enemies — Once battle starts you’ll probably find yourself doing a fair few standing power attacks, especially if you’re surrounded by a few enemies that are making it harder to run around as you fight. A damage boost in this situation can really help you out. And it’s totally badass when it triggers a decapitation.
Perks not taken/Optional perks: As with the magic skill trees we’ve avoided the dual weilding based perks, because we’ll be keeping our off hand free for spell weilding. It also make sense to pick either Swords, Maces or Axes as your primary weapon and then choose the corresponding weapon specific perk. In our case we chose Swords which use the Bladesman perk. Obviously if you decide to focus on a different weapon then pick the corresponding perk relevant to your weapon class, instead of Bladesman.
Light Armor Skill Tree (Spellsword)
Whereas out battlemage is going to be a Heavy Armor user, our Spellsword build is going to make use of Light Armor, for it’s improved agility and improved sneak ability. As well as boosting your damage resistance while wearing light armor, this skill tree also has some very useful utility perks such as Wind Walker, for reduced stamina consumption.
Light Armor Perks (Spellsword)
9 Perk Points
- Agile Defender (1, 2, 3, 4 & 5): — Increases your armor rating for Light Armor by 20%-100% (depending on perk level) — Much like the Armsman in the One-Handed skill tree, this is your core perk for increasing the amount of protection afforded by your armor.
- Custom Fit: — Get a 25% Armor bonus when wearing all Light Armor: head, chest, hands, feet — Most armor perks in both light and heavy skill trees require that all armor worn be of the same class. So because you’ll be in a matching set anyway to access these perks, you may as well take this one and get a decent boost to your overall damage reduction. This also helps make the most of the benefits gained by the Agile Defender perk by adding a percentage multiplier to your defense.
- Unhindered: — Light Armor weighs nothing and does not slow you down when worn — This allows you to run further before casting a healing spell for replenishing stamina and also reduces noise while sneaking.
- Wind Walker: — Stamina regenerates 50% faster when wearing all Light Armor: head, chest, hands, feet — You definitely want to unlock Wind Walker, because as mentioned above you’re not going to have a huge stamina bar. Using this as well as the Fighting Stance perk from One-Handed (power attacks use 25% less stamina) will mean you can still fit a number of power attacks into your modest stamina pool.
- Deft Movement: — Provides a 10% chance of avoiding all damage from a melee attack while wearing all Light Armor: head, chest, hands, feet — This one isn’t a game changer, but it doesn’t hurt (no pun intended) to have that 1 in 10 chance of avoiding the damage of a melee strike.
Perks not taken/Optional perks: We chose not to take the perk Matching Set. There’s nothing wrong with this perk, in fact it’s definitely a viable option. The only thing you’ve got to weigh up is the balance between freedom and protection. To get the additional 25% armor rating this perk provides, you need to be wearing a matching set of light armor. This is the only perk that requires all the light armor worn to be of the same set, whereas other perks with a requirement like this only need all items to be in the light armor class, but allows them to be any mix of items from different sets. If you have a favourite set of light armor that you’re planning on using throughout the game then this is definitely a useful perk to invest in. In our case, I know that I like to use a mismatched collection of light armor pieces, so decided to save this perk point for something else and retain the freedom to wear any light armor that I wanted.
Best Spellsword Weapon
“Mortals call it Dawnbreaker, for it was forged in a holy light that breaks upon my foes, burning away corruption and false life.”Meridia
While not the most powerful sword in Skyrim in terms of pure damage output, Dawnbreaker has a number of other benefits. It has a synergy with perks in our build and it also just looks really cool. What synergies? The bonus burning damage is increased by Augmented Flames and the explosion that destroys and turns undead (a special enchantment called ‘Meridia’s Retribution’) is buffed by Necromage. Basically we’re already a fire focussed Spellsword with a particular hunger for destroying the undead, so what better sword to use than a unique flame enchanted, undead destroying Daedric artifact?
Want a guide on how to find Dawnbreaker? ESO’s video below is a great place to start:
Best Spellsword Armour
The Ancient Shrouded Armor is hands down the best light armor set in the game. I’m usually pretty open minded about this sort of stuff, like you would have noted from the rest of the guide, and not one to push my opinion down other people’s throats. But this is a hill I will die on. The Ancient Shrouded set has an amazing armor rating for light armor, it can be obtained very early on in the game (see note below), and each piece has incredible enchantments.
The Ancient Shrouded Gloves in particular are a game changer for stealth attacks. They double sneak attack damage with one handed weapons, which when stacked with the backstab perk leads to sword attacks with a twelve times multiplier.
The long way to get this Armor set is by completing the Dark Brotherhood side quest ‘Locate The Assassin Of Old‘ after meeting the bonnus requirement of the quest ‘Breaching Security‘. That’s fine if you want to get it that way, and definitely feels like an acomplishment. But if you want to obtain the armor much earlier in the game, you can use the Ritual Stone to bypass a locked door that would otherwise keep the armor hidden until completing the aformention Dark Brotherhood quests.
To use this alternate (much faster and easier) method, check out the step by step guide that I included in a previous article: How To Get The Ancient Shrouded Armour.
Dragon Priest Mask or Ancient Shrouded Cowl?
If you want, you could wear the entire Ancient Shrouded Armor set and then also take the Matching Set perk, mentioned earlier that we didn’t take. This would give you a 25% improvement to armor rating and a boost to bow damage (from enchantment on Ancient Shrouded Cowl). Seeing as how we’re not using a bow in this build, and not using the Matching Set perk, we decided to swap out the cowl for the Morokei Dragon Priest mask, which gives an impressive 100% increase to Magicka regeneration. As the mask is classed as light armor, you’ll still receive the benefits from perks that require you to wear all light armor.
Best Spellsword Spells
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Your spell choice really comes down to personal preferance. The only must haves for this build are a flame spell (to take advantage of our fire magic buff from Augmented Flames and Aspect of Terror), Invisibility (for stealth attacks) and a healing spell (for staying alive and also stamina replenishment). Other than that you can feel free to develop your own play style by picking whatever spells from our focus magic schools that work for you. The choices below are a recommendation.
Invisibility is an extremely useful spell in Skyrim. It makes sneaking up on an enemy and landing a devastating stealth attack a lot easier. It can also be used strategically to sneak through much higher level areas than the player’s current character level for the purposes of attaining high level weapons, armor and special items earlier in the game than would otherwise be possible.
This spell isn’t a must have for every player but as you’ll be levelling your Illusion up to Expert level for using Invisibility it can be a very useful Spell to have in your arsenal in the early to mid game. Especially when taking out dungeon bosses solo, casting Frenzy will send all the minions fighting each other and even helping take down the boss, while you can focus your efforts on the biggest threats in the room.
Long range, highest damage flame spell (before reaching the two-handed-slow-casting Fire Storm behemoth). Quick and lethal, what’s not to love?
Incinerate Vs Fireball
Why use Incinerate over Fireball, isn’t Fireball better? Well… yes and no. It all comes down to playstyle and how accurate you are at spellcasting. If you find it hard to hit your targets dead on then Fireball is probably a good idea, as it does damage over a wider area. You can just shoot your fireball in the general direction of the enemy and it will explode with a decent area of effect, potentially hitting several oponents.
If you’re more of a dead shot and enjoy sniping your foes one at a time then I’d recommend Incinerate. It does more damage and when levelled with Augmented Flames and Aspect of Terror becomes deadly at both short and long range. Also does extra damage when hitting targets already on fire.
Restoration: Grand Healing
Even including master spells, Grand Healing is the quickest way to regain health using magic in Skyrim. Healing you and any nearby allies for 200 points (300 points when you unlock the Regeneration perk) and able to be cast one handed, Grand Healing is one of my all time favourite Skyrim spells.
One of the simplest and most effective ways to play this build is simply to keep Dawnbreaker equipped in one hand and Grand Healing in the other, slash and stab your way through all your foes and when your health gets low just cast Grand Healing to stay alive. If you want to get around without fast travel you can cast Grand Healing on the go to replenish your stamina without stopping for infinite running.
Skyrim Battlemage Build
Battlemage Attribute Distribution
Attribute Distribution over 5 levels
Magicka: 2 | Health: 1 | Stamina: 2
For our Battlemage, we’re still going to need lots of magicka for spellcasting, but we also need a higher stamina than we did with the Spellsword. This is because two handed weapons will use more stamina for power attacks and heavy armor chews up more of your stamina when you run (until we’ve unlocked the Conditioning perk).
So for this build we’ve shifted some of our attribute focus from health into stamina. The reason being that due to our investment in the heavy armor skill tree we’ll be better protected than our spellsword was and therefore less reliant on our base health stat.
Once again, as with the spellsword build, this stat distribution is really up to personal preference and playstyle so feel free to tweak this for yourself as you see fit.
Best Battlemage Race
As with the Spellsword, the race you choose for your Battlemage is really up to personal preference as there are a number of viable options. Another good starter would be an Orc, due to their starting skill bonuses in both Heavy Armor and Two-Handed. But because of the large focus our Battlemage is going to have on magic, we chose to go with a Breton instead.
Breton’s make fantastic Battlemage’s because of two main factors:
- They have starting bonuses to three of our core magic skill trees: Conjuration (+10), Alteration (+5) and Restoration (+5).
- They have an innate magic resistance of 25% which gives them a definite edge from the start as a tough melee warrior.
They’re also the only race to begin with the starting spell Conjure Familiar. Not a game changer but definitely fun to be able to summon a wolf friend early in the game to keep you company.
Battlemage Skills & Perks
Our Battlemage is going to be a chunkier, tankier version of our Spellsword build. Instead of Light Armor we’re going to be levelling Heavy Armor for the increased protection. Instead of Illusion we’re going to be levelling Conjuration for summoning a Bound Battleaxe as our primary offensive weapon. Instead of using the Sneak tree in a supporting role we’ll be levelling Alteration to make use of it’s defense boosting perks, further optimising our armor rating and damage reduction.
(The links below are a jump menu. You can click the links to jump further down the page to the relevant section.)
Conjuration Skill Tree (Battlemage)
Apart from the Conjure Familiar spell that you start with as a Breton, we’re going to be using the Conjuration school of magic purely for the bound weapon spells. In our case, for one spell in particular: Bound Battleaxe. We’ll go into more details on the benefits of using the Bound Battleaxe further down in the Battlemage Weapons section of the guide.
Conjuration Perks (Battlemage)
4 perk points
- Novice & Apprentice Conjuration: — Cast XX level spells for half magicka — As we only need perks related to bound weapons and will only be using Bound Battleaxe we only need to unlock as high as Apprentice Conjuration.
- Conjuration Dual Casting: — Dual casting a Conjuration spell overcharges the spell, allowing it to last longer. — We’re not worried about keeping spell casting one-handed like we were with our Spellsword as due to being a two-handed warrior we won’t be holding our weapon and spellcasting at the same time. This perk will allow Bound Battleaxe to last longer.
- Mystic Binding: — Bound weapons do more damage — Changes your Bound Axe into a Mystic Axe, giving it a damage boost.
Destruction Skill Tree (Battlemage)
As with our Spellsword build, the destruction skill tree will provide our Battlemage with a useful primary attack method, especially viable for long ranged combat. Whereas we focussed on fire magic with our Spellsword, for our Battlemage we’re going to be using primarily shock magic. The reason for choosing a different destruction element is partly for variety and partly because the Magicka draining properties of shock spells work well with our Breton racial spell resistance to make our Battlemage particularly adept at fighting magic users. There are also fewer enemies with resistance to Shock than there are with resistance to Frost which is relatively common, hence making Shock a more widely damaging choice.
Destruction Perks (Battlemage)
9 perk points.
- Novice, Apprentice , Adept , Expert & Master Destruction: — Cast XX level Destruction spells for half magicka — We’re going to go all the way to Master in this build, if we have to put away our two-handed weapon to cast destruction spells we may as well make them as powerful as possible.
- Destruction Dual Casting: — Dual casting a Destruction spell overcharges the effects into an even more powerful version — Same as above, we’re gonna dual cast our master destruction spell and get the highest damage we can.
- Impact: — Most destruction spells will stagger an opponent when dual cast — May as well get a bit of knockback in there as well.
- Augmented Shock (1 & 2): — Shock spells do 25%/50% more damage (depending on perk level) — As mentioned above, instead of going down the flame magic route we’re going to become a full-fledged mage killer with the magicka decimating effects of shock.
Perks not taken/Optional perks: We chose to save a perk point by not unlocking Disintegrate. While it does look very cool it’s mostly an aesthetic upgrade so we didn’t include it in our core perk recommendations for the build. That being said, once you level up past 56 and you’re looking for your next perk unlocks, Disintegrate is a possibility for adding a bit of pizazz to your kills.
Restoration Skill Tree (Battlemage)
Being a solid tank build, the Restoration skill tree is going to ensure we keep our health topped up. We’re even going to include some extra health giving perks above and beyond what we did for the Spellsword build. Like Avoid Death as a back up plan for if our health somehow does fall below zero, and the Master Restoration perk to make use of Guardian Circle.
Restoration Perks (Battlemage)
11 perk points.
- Novice, Apprentice, Adept, Expert and Master Restoration: — Cast XX level Restoration spells for half magicka — We’re going all the way to Master Level so we can make use of the Guardian Circle spell. Being the total tank that you are you’ll be able to cast a mage armor spell, cast the circle and then stand in it fighting with your two-handed battleaxe and regaining health over time.
- Regeneration: — Healing spells cure 50% more. — Get the most out of your healing spells.
- Restoration Dual Casting: — Dual casting a Restoration spell overcharges the effects into an even more powerful version. — This will help us create longer lasting Guardian Circles and more powerful Grand Healing spells.
- Recovery (1 & 2): — Magicka regenerates 25% / 50% faster (depending on perk level). — A must have for pretty much any magic user.
- Respite: — Healing spells also restore stamina. — For our Battlemage you’re not only going to want this for infinite running but also to recharge your stamina for deadly two-handed power attacks during melee combat.
- Avoid Death: — Once a day, heals 250 points automatically if you fall below 10% health. — Hopefully you won’t even need this, but for those rare occasions that you’re caught unawares it’s great to get a second chance.
Perks not taken/Optional perks: If you wanted to you could also unlock Necromage for the extra damage increase against the undead.
Alteration Skill Tree (Battlemage)
Whereas our Spellsword made use of Illusion magic for enhanced sneaking our Battlemage is eschewing stealth attacks in favor of increased physical and magical protection for all out combat. This is where the Alteration skill tree comes in, with the Dragonhide spell that grants significant damage reduction and a number of key spell absorption/resistance buffs to help us become an ultimate tank.
Alteration Perks (Battlemage)
11 perk points.
- Novice, Apprentice, Adept, Expert and Master Alteration: — Cast XX level Alteration spells for half magicka. — You’ll need the reduction in Magicka cost for high-level spells like Dragonhide as they take a ton of magicka to cast.
- Alteration Dual Casting: — Dual casting an Alteration spell overcharges the effects into an even more powerful version. — While Dragonhide is already a two-handed spell, along with our Restoration master spell Guardian Circle, it’s still possible to overcharge by holding down both spellcasting buttons/triggers at once. Even though the animation will remain the same it will take more magicka and the spell will last longer.
- Magic Resistance (1, 2 & 3): — Blocks 10%-30% of a spell’s effects (depending on perk rank). — This is a must have defensive spell that will make a big difference when our Battlemage battles magic users.
- Stability: — Alteration spells have greater duration. — Because our play style is going to be casting protection spells like Dragonhide and then swapping out to our weapon for ongoing combat, it’s important that our Alteration spells last as long as possible so that we can benefit from that initial protection spell for a greater duration of the battle (before having to recast).
- Atronach: — Absorb 30% of the magicka of any spells that hit you. — Along with Magic Resistance, Atronach is an absolutely must have perk. When fighting dragons and magic users you’ll be building your magicka pool with every spell hit you take, so that when you need to recharge your mage armor or cast a healing spell you’ll have the magicka onhand to do it.
Perks not taken/Optional perks: Even though one of the main reasons for levelling Alteration is to make use of mage armor spells like Dragonhide, we’re not actually going to take the Mage Armor perk. The reason being that to gain it’s benefit you need to be wearing only cloth, which obviously won’t work with our heavy armor wearing Battlemage.
Two-Handed Skill Tree (Battlemage)
We’re going to be primarily kicking ass throught Tamriel with our two-handed battleaxe. The Two-Handed skill tree is going to enable us to double our regular damage with two-handed weapons and also add on a bunch of deadly power attacks.
Two-Handed Perks (Battlemage)
10 perk points.
- Barbarian (1, 2, 3, 4 & 5): — Two-handed weapons do 20%-100% more damage (depending on perk level). — Get some serious whack out of your bound battleaxe.
- Champion’s Stance: — Power attacks with two-handed weapons cost 25% less stamina. — This is going to be useful, even with a larger stamina pool than the Spellsword, because of the increased stamina drain from two-handed weapons.
- Limbsplitter (1, 2 & 3): — Attacks with battle axes cause extra bleeding damage (more damage caused the higher the perk unlock). — Especially for taking down large foes like dragons, the damage over time afforded by Limbsplitter is going to be a big advantage.
- Devastating Blow: — Standing power attacks do 25% bonus damage with a chance to decapitate your enemies. — You’re mostly going to be standing in the one spot (inside your guardian circle), holding forth with your draugr whacker. So the increased damage from standing power attacks (and potential decapitation) is going to give you that bit of an extra edge in combat.
Perks not taken/Optional perks: While we wanted to save our perk points for some other trees, you could also unlock Great Critical Charge, Sweep and Warmaster for running, sideways and backwards power attacks.
Heavy Armor Skill Tree (Battlemage)
The Heavy Armor skill tree is one of the most important in this build, along with Alteration, Heavy Armor is the secret to your success as a tanked up Battlemage. As well as giving you up to double protection from your armor as well as an additional armor rating bonus of 25%, Heavy Armor perks will also help reduce stagger, fall damage and armor weight.
Heavy Armor Perks (Battlemage)
10 perk points.
- Juggernaut (1, 2, 3, 4 & 5): — Increase armor rating for Heavy Armor by 20%-100% (depending on perk level). — Get as much as double protection from your heavy armor. A must have.
- Fists of Steel: — Unarmed attacks with Heavy Armor gauntlets do their armor rating in extra damage — We’re only unlocking this because it’s a prerequisite for other perks higher up in the tree. If you’re interested in an unarmed build that revolves around this perk check out this Unarmed Monk Build.
- Well Fitted: — 25% armor bonus if all in Heavy Armor: head, chest, hands, feet. — While we won’t be wearing a matching set (so we can wear a dragon priest mask instead of a helmet), we will be wearing all Heeavy Armor, so Well Fitted is a must have to get the most protection possible out of our gear.
- Cushioned: — Half damage from falling if wearing all Heavy Armor: head, chest, hands, feet. — This isn’t a must have and like Fists of Steel, we’re mainly unlocking because it’s in the way of more useful perks. That being said, Cushioned is a good perk to have. It’s a lot of fun (and quicker) to be able to just jump off a cliff or tower rather than carefull walking your way down.
- Tower of Strength: — 50% less stagger when wearing only Heavy Armor. — There’s nothing more annoying than taking a heavy blow and having to wait the couple of seconds for the stagger animation to finish before you can attack again. With Tower of Strength that annoyance becomes a lot less common. Definitely a good perk to have.
- Conditioning: — Heavy armor weighs nothing and doesn’t slow you down when worn. — This is a must have. Your heavy armor can weigh a lot so not only will this help you eat up less stamina when running, it’s also going to free up a bunch of your carry weight for more loot.
Perks not taken/Optional perks: Like with our Spellsword build we’re not going to make use of Matching Set, because we want to be able to swap out our headgear for a powerful dragon priest mask. Also I chose not to use a perk point on Reflect Blows as to me the 10% chance to reflect a melee blow back against an enemy wasn’t as appealing as some other perks. That being said, once you’ve unlocked all the recommended perks in this build you could definitely unlock Reflect Blows for a bit of extra icing on the badass battlemage cake.
Best Battlemage Weapon
Usually I’d say my favourite two-handed weapon was the longhammer (check out this guide on how to get the Longhammer early in the game), but for our Battlemage I want to go in a different direction. We’re going to use the Bound Battleaxe as our primary two-handed weapon. We’re going this way for three main reasons.
- It just fits so well thematically with the Battlemage build – a magically summoned two-handed weapon, what better mix of mystical and melee could you hope for?
- It does decent damage. Sure, it’s not the best damage in the game, and you can’t improve it with Smithing. But it’s base damage (with the Mystic Binding perk) is 22, which is only 3 off the 25 base damage afforded by the Daedric Battleaxe. Once you’ve got all the relevant Conjuration and Destruction perks you’re going to get a decent DPS out of your Mystic Axe.
- The Bound Battleaxe weighs nothing so therefore consumes much less stamina than regular battleaxes. To test this out I made the video below where I continously used power attacks with both a Bound Battleaxe and then tried the same thing with a Daedric Battleaxe. The difference was massive, while the Daedric Battleaxe only got in 3-5 power attack swings before the stamina pool was depleted, the same amount of stamina was enough for 10-12 full power attacks with the Bound Battleaxe.
Best Battlemage Armour
While Dragonplate Armor would also be a good choice, we’ve gone with the Daedric Armor (the armor pictured has a magicka absorption enchantment added but that’s not mandatory). It’s mix of high tier armour rating and badass looks make it a great choice for our Battlemage. Like with the Spellsword build, we’ve opted to swap out our armor set’s standard helmet for a dragon priest mask instead. If you do go the whole set make sure to pick the Heavy Armor Matching Set perk also to get the added defense bonus when wearing a complete set of armor.
If you follow our advice and choose to swap out the helmet for a mask instead, we recommend Nahkriin. This mask is perfect for our build as it gives a boost to our magicka pool, destruction & restoration casting and also has a very high armor rating with 23 base armor. Being in the heavy armor class it is also compatible with perks that require all heavy armor be worn.
Effects of Nahkriin:
Best Battlemage Spells
Conjuration: Bound Battleaxe
See our notes above in the weapon section for why this is a good choice. Obviously to use the Bound Battleaxe as our primary weapon, the spell to summon it is in our list of core spells.
Destruction: Lightning Storm
This may be a bit of a controversial choice due to the 3 second wind up time required for casting the spell and the speed at which it chews through magicka. But that being said, Lightning Storm‘s damage to magicka-use ratio is the best in the game and it instantly reaches very long ranges, making it a viable choice for taking down dragons. Most of all it just feels amazing to use.
Combined with your Heavy Armor perks and Deadric Armor, the 80% physical damage reduction afforded by Dragonhide turns you into a veritable fortress.
Restoration: Guardian Circle
Particularly useful when fighting the undead, the Guardian Circle gives you the upper hand when standing in the one place and fighting by continuously healing you during combat.
Restoration: Grand Healing
As with any build that has some component of magic, we’re recommending Grand Healing. If you’re low on health or stamina just cast this for a decent top up of 300 points to both.
And that’s it, folks! I hope you’ve found this build guide helpful. If you’re interested in other Skyrim builds make sure to check out some of our other Skyrim guides below: