As you level up the dragons you encounter will become more and more powerful. For the most part these changes are purely cosmetic, but there are a few differences between the various breeds the Dovahkiin must slaughter through the course of his adventure. There are a number of named dragons you will encounter, but these are just stronger versions of a particular dragon breed.
This is your basic type of dragon. They don’t have much in the way of special abilities although they can still tear into an unprepared character. Their attacks consist of either ice or fire breath, and depending on the dragon, a bite attack or a thrash move that hurts those on its sides. It doesn’t turn particularly fast though so it’s possible to strafe circles around the beast while beating on it.
The Blood Dragon is a big step up over the regular dragon thanks to one major addition: a devastating tail smash. Those who try to flank this beast will find themselves flattened by its heavy, spade-tipped tail. If you have flanking on your mind the only safe spot is between his tail and his wing, closer to the wing than the tail. Standing here will force him to turn at least a bit before he can tail or wing smack you.
In a sense, the Frost Dragon is basically an amped up basic dragon, although it is incredibly dangerous to underestimate this beast. While other dragons may use cold breath attacks, the Frost Dragon will use an incredibly powerful blast that can easily drain your entire stamina meter in a single attack. This will leave you unable to use power attacks or run from the blasted thing. We’ve seen plenty of situations where one of these beasts did a fly-by to drain our stamina and then landed some distance away and began spitting huge balls of ice at us to pile on the damage.
This is the real deal here. Elder Dragons are some of the strongest enemies the Dragonborn can encounter in Skyrim. They have powerful bite and tail attacks and their breath attack is intensely debilitating. It also leaves you on fire for a very long time which causes you to take extra damage from further attacks. All of their attacks inflict a large amount of damage so it’s imperative that you have equipment to protect you from them.
Ancient Dragons are basically just Elder Dragons with a slightly different color palette and do the slightest bit more damage. By the point they start spawning in, when you’re in the 40 – 45 range, this difference should be barely noticeable.
For all intents and purposes the Skeletal Dragon is basically a really strong Blood Dragon although it can use both fire and ice breath at the same time. It’s fairly resistant to damage, plus it has all of the strengths and weaknesses of an undead. The one dragon of this ilk that you will encounter is found in Labyrinthian, while the others seem to be glitches that cause a dead dragon to keep attacking you. Since the dragon is ground bound it’s possible to run away from the beast, take a few pot shots and then run away again. Just keep watch of your stamina if you’re not going to simply go toe to toe with the beast.