How to Play Best as a Mage in Skyrim's Elder Scrolls V


Why Play a Mage?

In the world of Skyrim, most inhabitants are warriors, thieves or archers. Mages are few and far between. That's why being a mage in this land can be a real challenge, though, done right, it is an incredibly rewarding and fun way to play the game.

Of course, whether you're a battle-mage, a healer, or a pure mage, in the end it all boils down to the question, "Are you good at it?" With this guide, you will learn new tips for how to improve your battle tactics with better gear, enchantments, skills, and attributes.

In Skyrim, the advantage of every class is the flexibility of the system. You can alter a build just by clicking a different perk or wearing different armor. This gives you lots of options: not least is the choice between building a Pure Mage or a Hybrid Class of Magic. You only need to be a little familiarized with the game for this tutorial to work wonders for your gameplay. Playing a mage can be hard but super fun. It just depends on your abilities and your level of patience.

Note: I will be explaining the raising method with a X/Y/W style. This refers to points spent on Health, Stamina, and Magicka. For example, if I say that every 10 levels you should use 5 points on Health, 3 points on Stamina and 2 points on Magicka, this would be a 50/30/20 (in percentages).

Which Races Make the Best Mages?

An Altmer (High Elf) mage
An Altmer (High Elf) mage | Source

The High Elves begin with a +10 in Illusion and +5 in Alteration, Conjuration, Destruction, Enchanting and Restoration schools of magic. This kind of advantage is amazing for any magic wielder. The Altmer are the best option for a player willing to take the risk of being a pure Mage, but they can be also good as Battle Mages, Conjurers, Wizards, Necromancers, Dark Knights and Paladins. They lack a good defense in comparison to other races but you can sacrifice some damage for some armor, or apply a magic defensive spell.

Bretons get a +10 in Conjuration, +5 in Alteration, Restoration, Illusion, Alchemy and Speech. This is a jack of all trades magic race, which makes them especially good for the hybrid Mage classes. They can also absorb magic attack thanks to the racial spell "Dragonskin," making Bretons more durable against magic users. The Bretons are good as pure Mages, but they are most dangerous and powerful when played as one of the hybrid classes. You can choose to make a Breton a more durable class like a Paladin, Death Knight, Wizard or Magi-Assassin. In my personal experience they also make great Battle Mages, though this can be a hard task.

Dunmers, also known as Dark Elves, start with +10 in Destruction and +5 in Alchemy, Alteration, Illusion, Light Armor, and Sneak. Their mastery in Destruction Magic makes them really dangerous early in the game and can cause serious damage in the hand of a good player. Dunmer are hard to level up as mages but with patience and perseverance they can be real champions. They are best oriented as Wizards or Magi-assassins.


Types of Magic

There are six schools of magic in Skyrim. You can create a unique combination of skills, attributes and tactics from any of these. There are also classes of mage that include combinations of skills. You can take the basic skill build of one of these classes and adapt it to your play style.

Schools of Magic
Conjuration: Summons magical creatures and weapons.
Destruction: Offensive elemental magic such as fire, frost, and shock.
Restoration: Creation and life force magic. Used for healing and defense.
Alteration: Uses reality-altering barriers and spells.
Illusion: Manipulates the mind of the enemy to cause fear or confusion.
Enchanting: Adds magical effects to weapons and armor.

Types of Mage

There are several ways to combine the schools of magic into a good mage build. Here are the six most popular types of build for a mage:

Mage Builds
1. Pure Mage
2. Battle Mage
3. Conjuration-Oriented
4. Illusion-Oriented
5. Destruction-Oriented
6. Restoration/Alteration-Oriented
A dual-wield spell in action.
A dual-wield spell in action. | Source

Pure Mage

The Pure Mage is the basic build for a magic oriented character. This build focuses heavily on magic and mostly ignores the use of weapons or armor. I recommend relying heavily on Magicka and the use of spells with a single enchanted dagger and a couple of magic staffs for backup.

  • Offense: Most of the pure mages use Destruction and Conjuration magic as offense and Restoration magic as a backup. This gives you the option to use dual-wielded magic or one-handed spells. Of course, always have a staff on hand for backup and for extra damage.
  • Defense: In this build, you can use Light Armor with Alteration for defense, or you can go hard-core purist and not wear any armor at all. This will be challenging at first, but using those armor points for magic and spellcasting will pay off.
  • Leveling: You will need all the magic for this build! I recommend leveling up Magicka/Health/Stamina in a 60/20/20 ratio.

This video from TrendKiLLv01 shows you how to create, level up, gear, and use the proper spells in battle as a mage. Stay patient! At first, you will die sometimes (actually a lot of times), but when you get used to the rhythm of being a mage you will be unstoppable.

Battle Mage

This build is a hard one to master. It's really fun but requires some serious planning to get the right balance of skills. A battle mage in the right hands can destroy everything. They are known for being a Jack of all trades, simultaneously mastering arcane power and physical combat. This build relies on a magic/combat mix. When your spells are out of Magicka then your faithful weapons are ready for battle, unleashing powerful attacks.

  • Offense: Some builds recommend having a dual wielded spell ready at the beginning of combat, but personally I prefer to play with a One-Handed weapon/staff in one hand and a spell in the other hand. Make sure to use Smithing for upgrades in weapons, and always try to have the best one-handed weapon available. One-handed and Destruction are your main damage sources, with Conjuration Magic as backup.
  • Defense: Use Heavy Armor as protection, with Enchanting for extra damage in your armor and weapons. Restoration will come in handy for support, both for healing yourself and members of your party.
  • Leveling: This build requires a leveling up in Health/Stamina/Magicka with a ratio of 30/30/40. When you reach level 200 in Magicka then swap the balance into 40/40/20 or 50/30/20.

This guy has a set of full Dwemer armor.
This guy has a set of full Dwemer armor. | Source


This build is useful for players who don't know how to be agile with their mages. The conjuration school of magic gives you access to powerful minions. These minions bring you extra damage and support and are great for tanking.

Necromancers and death knights tend to use the most conjuration for the extra support in battle. Necromancers are more fragile due to light armor but suffer less stamina penalty. Death knights, on the other hand, use heavy armor, making more use of stamina but also making them ideal tanks for close quarters combat.

  • Offense: One-handed and Destruction are your main damage sources, Smithing for upgrades in weapons (always try to have the best one-handed weapon available). Use Enchanting for extra damage in your armor and weapons.
  • Defense: Heavy Armor as protection, Restoration for support,
  • Leveling: For a Necromancer: Magicka/Health/Stamina: 60/20/20.
    For a Death Knight: 60/20/20. When magic hits 200, switch to 20/40/40.

Conjure a Storm Atronach to fight beside you
Conjure a Storm Atronach to fight beside you | Source


Illusion oriented is a tricky build that requires a lot of knowledge of the game. Illusion magic is usually limited to support and crowd control, but some sneaky mages known as "Magi-Assassins" can use this type of spell to diminish enemies in the field and finish the fight with Destruction and Conjuration Magic. This is a really fun build though it can be frustrating at first. You must be good at Sneak and be mindful of tactics. The proper spell against the proper enemy can make a big difference with this build.

  • Offense: One-Handed and Destruction are your main damage sources, with Illusion for crowd control.
  • Defense: Light Armor allows you speed and flexibility, with Sneak for covert movement in battle.
  • Leveling: This build requires a leveling of Magicka/Health/Stamina of 60/30/10.


This is the classic build for almost everyone in Skyrim. It offers full damage and movement on the battlefield, allowing you to evade attacks and destroy the enemy as fast as possible. It's really fun at the beginning but can be a little monotonous in the later levels.

  • Offense: You can Dual-Wield Destruction Magic for max damage and choose between Conjuration or Alteration for support
  • Defense: Light Armor for defense and Restoration for healing, especially in dangerous situations.
  • Leveling: This build requires a leveling of Magicka/Health/Stamina of 60/20/20.

WARNING: This build requires a good tank as a companion because the destruction magic is really noisy and attracts the attention of more enemies, sometimes causing a mess in the battlefield.

The three types of destructive magic are frost, fire, and shock.
The three types of destructive magic are frost, fire, and shock. | Source


The almighty Healer or Buffer of every game. In this case, using Restoration/Alteration Magic will bring death only to the undead and vampires in the game. However, if you create a Paladin, you'll be a master in buffing yourself with Alteration Magic and restoring health and Stamina. Add the proper perks in Restoration Magic and wield an enchanted blade with the support of Conjuration or Destruction. You'll find this is a fun way to play and means you can endure a lot of damage.

  • Offense: One-handed and Destruction are your main damage sources. Use Smithing for upgrades in weapons. Always try to have the best one-handed weapon available.
  • Defense: Use Heavy Armor as protection, Restoration/Alteration for support, and Enchanting for extra power in your armor and weapons.
  • Leveling: This Build requires a leveling up in Health/Stamina/Magicka in a ratio of 30/30/40. When you reach 200 in Magicka, then swap the balance to 40/40/20 or 50/30/20.

Best Companions

As a mage you need to have some good companions with you. Here are some of the ones best suited to be your companion as a Mage in Skyrim.

  1. Lydia. She is the first to fight with you in your journey and is valuable in the first missions. Lydia is extra useful for mages because she's a really good tank in battle.
  2. Erik. You must fulfill a quest in Rorikstead before being able to fight alongside him. He's a good tank and he has good AI.
  3. Aela. Available with the Companions, she is a Master in ranged attack. Perfect for ranged support for mages.
  4. Cicero. The funniest companion and famous because he's silent and deadly. Specialized in Sneak, he can deliver mortal strikes against your foes in battle. SPOILER: he's available in a series of quests in the Dark Brotherhood. You must let him live if you want him as a companion.
  5. Barbas. The dog follower. Barbas is useful because he can be used alongside the Dark Brotherhood Initiate, making a double combination of bodyguards. Find him outside of Falkreath, where you will begin a quest for a Daedra Lord.
  6. Marcurio. The most famous and intelligent AI wizard in the game, this companion is inside the Bee and Bard in Riften. He's perfect for a double combination of magic, making your Destruction even more powerful in battle.
  7. J'zargo. Really powerful Khajiit with an amazing dual casting in Destruction Magic. He is also able to wear heavy armor, making him a powerful Battle Mage.
  8. Mjoll the Lioness. Simple. Mjoll is the invincible Barbarian-style warrior, making her the perfect tank in the game.

What class do you play?

  • Pure Mage
  • Battlemage
  • Conjuration Oriented
  • Restoration Oriented
  • Destruction Oriented
  • Illusion Oriented
  • Alteration Oriented
See results without voting

About the Author

I'm David Zermeño and I love video games, especially RPG, RTS and MMORPGs. I'm a pro-gamer and reviewer of many video games. I love Skyrim and its sequel, the Elder Scrolls Online.

Give some feedback, vote up or comment with your experiences and adventures!

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Comments 29 comments

Austinfett23 9 days ago

Man, I was really blown away from the lack of magic users in the world. I messed up on my first character when I started playing oblivion. Restarted with an Altmer mage because the diversity in its usefulness. (Lockpicking and invisibilty) you pick very hard locks in a poof I'm saying. But the levels come fast on a high born, tho you are really underpowered at first folks, so just give it time, the rewards are awesome. I ended the game lvl 100 on all schools of magic. You are simply untouchable. I play as a main magic user in any game I play now. Also, nothing beats putting a fireball up a dragons ass while it's in mid flight. I am the one.

Conji 2 weeks ago

Had a lot of fun with a Conjuration Build Based on a conjured 2 handed Battle Axe and Summoning Combined with Mage Armor. Just the Role Playing fun of being a normal guy in normal clothes and suddenly, ... BAM ... Demons to scare you and invincible Armor and Battleaxe to the face out of nowhere :)

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Dvd Zermeno Perez 4 months ago from Mexico Author

Thanks a lot for checking my Hub CYong74 .

I know that the Magic combat in the Vanilla Skyrim is awful, it lacks of power and orientation, that's why I would recomend you to get some Mods from the Nexus, in that community you'll find tons and tons of mods, some really useful others not so much, but you'll find a tab with Categories, look for MAGIC, and you'll find the Apocalypse Mod, the best one for overhauling the Magic in Skyrim giving you and all de NPC's new types of spells. Have fun :)

I will also leave you the link to the nexus:

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CYong74 4 months ago from Singapore

I've been trying to play a mage since the start, but inevitable I resort to melee. The latter usually being far more effective. :( I think some reviews might be right in saying mage gameplay is somewhat underpowered.

Skibar 13 months ago

Excellent infos. Thanks!

I'm trying to make a Destruction Oriented mage. But always carry with me a good shield, okay It is not a common combination, but shield on the left and destruction on the right proved to me an excellent way to combat warriors enemies.

Especially when you block those deadly attacks with two-handed weapons.

By the way, as would be classified, a mage with a shield? xD

Think it would be very similar to Cap. America with their shield and no weapons. But as a mage, using destruction and conjuration.

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Dvd Zermeno Perez 21 months ago from Mexico Author

Thanks a lot for the feedback Ethan, it's great to see this kind of comments; I will try to make another 2 hubs, one about the stealthier classes and range classes, and aother hub about PC moddification for the Ultimate Skyrim Game (still lore friendly).

Ethan Digby-New 21 months ago

This was very interesting. Although Skyrim didn't get the best of reviews, I greatly enjoyed it, though I was more of an overpowered archer. Great Hub, with a ton of information!

Papoy D Wizzard profile image

Papoy D Wizzard 21 months ago

Arch-Mage, simple, nice, I like it, but not very much :P Anyway, thanks for the answer.

About that guide, I'm not sure if i can tell you anthing new.

I started with using only destruction and restoration (if needed) and cast mage armour before fight. I wanted to use maokai, but i accidentally took mage armour perk in alteration xd so i had to stick with mage circrlet. And after i got maokai, he's just gathering dust in Hjerim.

After mastering Destruction and Aletration, I'm now relying as much as possible on conjuration (going kinda slow, only 30), and I have power lvled illusion. I have made a plan of witch perks to take in each scool.

Destruction: all perks except rune master.

Aetration: all perks (had to xd)

Restoration:Novice-Adept, Ward Absorb, Regeneration (2 or theres just 1 can't rememb :3) , Necromage, Recovery (2), Avoid Death.

Illusion: All perks (some1 who doesn't like doesn't need to take all, but I just love it).

Conjuration: Novice-Expert, Summoner (1), Atromancy, Elemental Potency, Twin souls (2 dremoras, no better companion)

Sneak: Stealth (1), Muffled movement

That would be all that I would take,.. I was counting long ago, and I think that, to take all these perks, one must be lvl 65, but don't hold me for my word, it just hates me to count again. There are still 15 perks to use, And i was thinking, Enchanting, or two more perks in sneak: for light foot and silent roll, but its all up to u guys.

For guardian stone I use atronach, aprentice would do the job to, but i just despise weaknes to magic.

Shouts: 1) definitely Slow Time 2) Marked for Death 3) Aura Whisper (1 word, more are unnececary)

Fire Breath, Frost Breath, Unrelenting force by situation. Oh, they are all by situation. Nvm use witch u prefer, there isn't a bad one.

About Magica, Health, Stamina... I have 210 hp and bout 600 magica and 100 stamina, I don't have any special schedule, I simply go by need, not sure how that helps xd. Anyway, having 400 base hp, and 720 base magica is nice idea to me, so I'm going that. Arch mage robes Maokai or mage circlet (witch will deside will u take 3 mage armour perks in Aletration) Arch-mage boots, gloves (dark elfs hands are ugly), ring and necklase by wish, I prefer larger magica pool.

P.S. Owning master spells from all schools is NECESSERY, you're strongest mage in Nirin, and game isn't fun without certan dose of role plays. I hope this helps.

Dvd Zermeno Perez profile image

Dvd Zermeno Perez 21 months ago from Mexico Author

You're a Jack of all Trades or I would like to name it as an Arch-Mage, the master of all the magical sources.

You can name it if you like, I can add your style in this guide also if you give me some tips to do a nice guide.

thanks for reading.

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Dvd Zermeno Perez 21 months ago from Mexico Author

Thanks for reading, it's a pleasure to help the community :)

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Papoy D Wizzard 21 months ago

If these classes are all,... THEN WHAT THE HELL I AM?

I'm playing my mage with dark elf. I'm 39 lvl and i have maxed destruction (all perks except rune master) maxed aletration (1 mage armour perk left),.. My point is, that i have maxed 2, witch combination: destruction aletration isn't mentioned here, things and now started to take all perks in illusion and only neccecery ones in conjuratin (so summoning 2 dremoras wouldn't be a problem), restoration (so healing myself and companions would be easyer), illusion (my favorite and to be able to calm those damn dragon prests). I simply want to be good in every mage skill tree, and there just isn't name for it. How should I call it? Shalidor Second Generation? Certanly all mage-type-lovers in skyrim tried to make somethin like this at least once, but i didn't see any1 name it yet. All-mage-skill-trees-mastered-type of mage, I would want to know official name for it. Please :-3

P.S. 2 perks in sneak (stealth, muffled movement) some NPC's are better not taken head-on from very start, and make that damn invisibility useful.

NathaN 24 months ago

Grear guide!! Thanks for the tips.

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Seanspage 2 years ago from USA

I was always a fan of simple hack-and-slash warrior way in ARPG because creating mage character in Skyrim was a bit too complex for me. But, this article has opened by eyes into realm of different mages in Skyrim. It's like I've realized a bunch of whole new features in the game! Thanks for the article dude!

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SimilarSam 2 years ago from Australia

I've always wanted to find the time to replay Skyrim as a mage, I made my way through my first playthrough as running a rogue/archer type class but always wished I had gone the mage route.

I feel like the traditional destruction or conjuration is probably the path I'd be inclined to take.

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Janus Joshua 2 years ago from Philippines


Link10103 profile image

Link10103 2 years ago

Got my enchanting up to 100 with next to no problems by using Azura's black star and a soul trap warhammer.

Now that I can have 2 enchantments on items, I can cast infinite destruction spells along with infinite restoration spells, or any combination I choose now with just one set of items. Really interesting stuff to be able to cast the most powerful magic spells in the game for free...of course I had to be primarily melee to get to that point.

Roger Tyson profile image

Roger Tyson 2 years ago

@Patrik Siljestam:

Actually, with Enchanting at 100, it's possible to get spells down to ZERO mana cost - in TWO different schools of magic. There are many tutorials about how to do this on the net...

...and it makes your mage nearly invincible.

Patrik Siljestam 2 years ago

The BEST way to be an awesome mage is to get your enchanting skill up to at least 50 or preferably 75 and get Armor, Helmet, Ring and Necklace with the enchantment Fortify Destruction which will reduce the cost of Destruction magic by 15 - 20% per item. With 4 enchanted items, the cost will be reduced by a total of 60 - 80% which will allow you to use as many Destruction spells as you want, making it easy to be a pure mage.

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ravenrage07 2 years ago from Richmond, VA

Thanks man! I've been looking at stuff about ESO. I would write a hub on it but I wont a proper review until its released. I can't give the game justice while its in Beta and about to be released in April.

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Dvd Zermeno Perez 2 years ago from Mexico Author

The best thing about Skyrim ARE the mods... I still play Skyrim and even Oblivion, also a lot of MMO including BETA Testing.

ravenrage07 profile image

ravenrage07 2 years ago from Richmond, VA

The best thing about Skyrim were the mods.

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Dvd Zermeno Perez 2 years ago from Mexico Author

Thank you for the comment, I'm glad to see that this article is giving new people some ideas to create new classes and fighting styles. Thanks for reading.

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Dreamhowl 2 years ago from United States of America

Thanks for the Mage advice! I have a Mage character and having a good idea of builds will make things easier.

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Dvd Zermeno Perez 3 years ago from Mexico Author

Thanks ThatCoolKid, thanks for reading :)

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ThatCoolKid 3 years ago

Great article!

Dvd Zermeno Perez profile image

Dvd Zermeno Perez 3 years ago from Mexico Author

Thanks to you for reading :)

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discopig 3 years ago from USA

Great infos, thanks.

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Dvd Zermeno Perez 3 years ago from Mexico Author

Thank you TopTenDeals! I also love Skyrim and I urgently need ESO, I need to review that game as fast as possible. Thanks for the follow :)

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toptendeals 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida

Skyrim was fun, looking forward to Elder Scrolls Online! Following you.

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