Skyrim builds: How to build classic classes for your character

There aren’t any explicit Skyrim builds for your character, but that doesn’t mean you can’t orientate your Dragonborn around a specific combat style. While you have a diverse range of skills and perks to choose from, pouring your experience into certain skill trees in the Elder Scrolls Skyrim will naturally cause you to perform better in some ways than others. That’s why it’s a good idea to outline what exactly you want your character to fight like before you start investing your experience and perks into random stats. Here are the best Skyrim builds for your character based on combat potential.

Skyrim builds: Battlemage

Skyrim builds: Battlemage

Battlemages are some of the most intriguing characters in Skyrim. While some companions fight in this style - like one of the best Skyrim companions Teldryn Sero - it’s particularly effective when you run it yourself because of its devastating damage potential.

If you’re planning on running this combo, you’ll likely be wielding a weapon in one hand and Destruction magic in the other. While Destruction is brilliant for exploiting elemental weaknesses, your one-handed weapon will be your main damage dealer, so it’s probably best to level One-Handed up on its own before adding Destruction into the mix. 

The next thing to do is kit yourself out in light armour enchanted with buffs to Magicka regeneration and spell costs. That way, you’ll have a much bigger pool of Magicka to work with. As for utility perks, you’ll need a decent Alchemy stat so that you can craft potions to keep your health up, as you likely won’t have time to switch to Restoration magic very often. You’ll also need a decent Light Armour stat, and high Sneak won’t go amiss because it will allow you to deal six times normal damage with a one-handed weapon from a hidden position. The best battlemages in terms of stats are Dark Elves, and their Ancestor’s Wrath ability is brilliant for crowd control when you get overwhelmed. However, Redguards and Imperials are also well-suited to this style of play, boasting decent combat skills and an innate proficiency for Destruction magic.

Skyrim builds: Archer

Skyrim builds: Archer

This might seem pretty self-explanatory, but to be the best archer in Skyrim you’ll need more than a fancy bow. You’ll need a maxed out Sneak stat, or as close to it as you can get, as well as high Alchemy and Enchanting.

The goal is to kit yourself out in light armour with Sneak enchantments. On top of this, you’ll need a bow enchanted with elemental damage and soul trap - to keep it topped up - as well as the best arrows money can buy. 

Once you’ve taken care of all of this, you’ll need to use Alchemy to craft devastating poisons.  Applying these to your weapon will make your arrows far more powerful, to the extent that you’ll be tearing through ancient dragons like it’s nobody’s business. The archer playstyle usually involves sneaking to the high ground and raining death from above on an unsuspecting band of unfortunates, but you’d definitely benefit from having a companion with you. While they take the heat at the frontlines, you can loose myriad arrows from a safe distance. The best archers by a long shot are Wood Elves, who are resistant to the very poisons they work with and naturally gravitate towards Archery and Sneak. Truthfully, anybody can make a great archer, but the Bosmer of Valenwood really are the archery elite.

Skyrim builds: Mage

Skyrim builds: Mage

Mage is a vague term in Skyrim, as there are several magic stats to level up, all of which have their own merits. However, there is one kind of mage that stands out from the crowd: the chaos mage (which is a term I just made up for the purpose of this build).

You definitely want to be a Breton, High Elf, or Dark Elf here, all of whom have incredibly well-rounded base magic stats. To be honest though, High Elves are probably best for this because of their Highborn ability, which regenerates 25% of the character’s Magicka per second for 60 seconds - and this is on top of the fact that High Elves start off with +50 Magicka. 

To be a chaos mage, you need to invest in more than just Destruction magic. If you max out Conjuration, you can conjure two atronachs at once. With Illusion, you can Calm enemies, or send them into states of fear and frenzy should you desire to do so. You can even make enemies turn on each other, providing you with an opportunity to drop out of combat while your former adversaries do your job for you. The whole point of this build is to wreak havoc, to fill the battlefield with magical creatures and invoke fear in all who oppose you.

You’ll need good magical gear here, maybe the Archmage’s Robes and Savos Aren’s amulet, as well as a whole rake of Magicka potions. Also, despite how much chaos-stirring potential you have, you’ll benefit hugely from having a tanky companion like Vilkas or Mjoll the Lioness. They can distract enemies while you prepare to turn them on each other, after which point you can join the fray and lay waste to the battlefield with Destruction magic.

Skyrim builds: Assassin

Skyrim builds: Assassin

Assassins are similar to archers in many ways, but Wood Elves aren’t necessarily the best. In fact, the most well-suited races to this build are Argonians, Khajiit, and Dark Elves, as they’re all masters of subterfuge.

As an assassin, you’ll pretty much only be using bows and daggers, both of which get massive damage bonuses if you’ve unlocked the right Sneak perks. Like an archer, you’ll be brewing all sorts of deadly poisons, so grinding Alchemy is an absolute must.

You’ll want to complete the Thieves’ Guild questline as quickly as possible to net yourself some fancy, Sneak-enchanted armour. However, the goal is to maximize Smithing and Enchanting so that you can enchant your own Dragonscale light armour. Ideally you want it to improve skills like Sneak, Pickpocket, and Lockpicking, as these artful talents are an assassin’s bread and butter.

An assassin build allows you to pull off some of the most interesting combat plays in all of Skyrim. If you’ve got a high enough Pickpocket stat, you can actually kill people by inconspicuously planting poison on their person. Also, you can barrel roll around dungeons, silently plunging dual-daggers into the backs of unsuspecting enemies. Assassins are powerful, interesting to play, and highly skilled outside of combat situations to boot.

Skyrim builds: Bruiser

Skyrim builds: Bruiser

Image credit: ManiacalMech/Giantbomb

(Image: © ManiacalMech/Giantbomb)

Bruisers are Orcs, Nords, and Redguards. Here, you’ll likely don heavy armour, although light armour can work too if you’re particularly aggressive and focus on damage output.

This is the build that lets you have some fun with two-handed weapons, but you can also opt for a sword-and-shield combo. Either way, the whole purpose of a bruiser is to be in the thick of combat at all times, tanking tons of damage and dealing out twice as much. You’ll want to enchant your armour to increase its defensive capabilities, and you could definitely benefit from grinding Restoration. You’ll be taking a lot of hits on the frontlines, so using your shallow Magicka pool to keep your health topped off is a good resource to have. Also, if you’re using one-handed weapons, you can heal yourself and deal damage at the same time, making you a stalwart champion that’s nigh unkillable.

Bruisers are also the warriors who rely on Shouts most, as your magic output is next to non-existent. Fus-ro-dah your enemies off cliffs, spit fire and frost at airborne foes you can’t reach with your sword, and command dragons to face you head on by unleashing Dragonrend. 

Character builds in Skyrim are ambiguous, as there aren’t any official builds to adhere to. However, if you’ve decided on a playstyle, you can craft your own builds by investing in specific skills, perks, armour, and weaponry. The best character build for you is the one you enjoy playing most, so see which of the above styles is closest to your desired playstyle and tailor it to suit yourself from there.