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?
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:
1. Pure Mage
2. Battle 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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Aela. Available with the Companions, she is a Master in ranged attack. Perfect for ranged support for mages.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Mjoll the Lioness. Simple. Mjoll is the invincible Barbarian-style warrior, making her the perfect tank in the game.
What class do you play?
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.
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