The armour in Tamriel is split into three distinct types: Light Armour, more geared towards spellcasters, Medium Armour, seemingly designed to work with Nightblades, and Heavy Armour, which is built for warriors and especially tanks. You’ll want to pick an armour type as early as you can and get yourself fully outfitted since the speed that your armour skill levels up is based upon how many pieces of armour you’re currently wearing.
While it’s indeed possible to wear armour from all three types at once and gain experience in all of these skills, you’re not going to gain much of an impact from the skills you’ll unlock. So while it might be fine to do early on, you’ll want to swap over to a full set of what you’re going to use for the rest of the game as early as you reasonably can.
However to compromise on this end there is one, strongly suggested piece of advice to be given to ensure maximum armour effectiveness. Since you can have seven pieces of armour equipped at one time, wear five pieces of your chosen armour and then one piece of both medium and heavy armours to keep those skills levelling up--this means if you decide to swap out armour types then you’ll have experience in it.
For some character builds you might even find yourself willing to take some of the skills, knowing they’ll only be at partial effectiveness. While you may choose to do this, or not, much of the guide is written with this strategy in mind and that you thus only have five pieces of a single armour type equipped.
To be frank, a warrior or Nightblade can get away without purchasing the skills from the medium and heavy armour trees. But a mage who is using Light Armour is going to want every single skill from this tree, possibly barring Annulment but even that’s a pretty good idea to eventually pick up. The rest of these skills boost your magicka regeneration speed, reduce magicka costs and boost your spell resistance. The last of them even helps you punch through the enemy spell resistance. With these skills any spellcaster will have their capabilities increased measurably.
Evocation – Unlocked at Light Armour Rank 2. Passive skill
For each rank of this skill the caster reduces the magicka cost of all spells by 1% per piece of light armour that they have equipped.
For the very first skill you can get out of this tree, this is a hell of a skill. A 15% cost reduction is nothing to sneeze at and since you’ll be using a whole lot of magicka over the course of your career it’ll help you stay in the fight without needing to use potions to extend your casting abilities. Take it ASAP.
Recovery – Unlocked at Light Armour Rank 6. Passive skill
Magicka regeneration is increased by 2% for each piece of light armour currently equipped. This increases to 4% at rank 2.
Yes please. This skill is impressive enough on its own, but when you think about what you can accomplish with it and the right race / class combo… well it gets even more impressive. An Altmer with this skill and Capacitor (from the Storm Caller tree) can near a 20% magicka regeneration bonus. Get some equipment bonuses to add to this and you can become a veritable fountain of magicka rather early in the game.
Spell Warding – Unlocked at Light Armour Rank 14. Passive skill
Base spell resistance is increased by 4% per rank for every piece of light armour equipped.
So, feel like increasing your spell resistance by 40%? Well here’s the skill for you! There isn’t much to be said about this skill as what it does is rather clear and it provides an impressive boost. The only reason not to take it is if you’re positive you won’t need the SR boost which is… unlikely.
Annulment – Unlocked at Light Armour Rank 22
The caster conjures up a damage absorbing shield in front of them that lasts for 20 seconds. While the shield persists the player takes 50% less damage from all spells.
The caster calls up a damage absorbing shield for 20 seconds. While it stands the player takes 50% less damage from spells. The barriers strength increases by an additional 3% for each piece of light armour equipped.
The caster calls up a damage absorbing shield for 20 seconds. While it stands the player takes 50% less damage from spells. Restores magicka each time the player absorbs spell damage. This effect gets stronger for each piece of light armour equipped.
This is probably the only ability in this skill tree that I honestly can’t immediately recommend. Regardless of whether you’re using the basic form or morph it, it’s only really helpful against spellcaster enemies. In a situation like that it can be very helpful, especially if you take the Dampen Magic skill morph to make the barrier even more impregnable. But in my time playing the game I never found myself having to deal with that many spellcasting enemies until later on in the game so I tend to let my character wait on this until I’m going into PvP.
Prodigy – Unlocked at Light Armour Rank 38. Passive skill
You gain a chance for your spells to cause critical damage while wearing a full set of light armour. This bonus starts at 5% and rises to 10% at rank 2.
While the last skill in this tree might not be too impressive this right here is a hell of a skill. You can have a 10% chance for your spells to inflict critical damage which is pretty impressive when you consider how much spellcasting you’re going to do. That said there are some builds where this skill won’t be entirely appropriate but most mages will definitely want this skill at some point.
Concentration – Unlocked at Light Armour Rank 42. Passive skill
Spells cast by the player ignore 3% of the targets spell resistance for each piece of light armour equipped. This increases to 6% at rank 2.
Considering that you can get this up to a 30% decrease of the targets spell resistance this is a pretty nifty ability. It’s not going to make or break a fight most of the time, and there’s absolutely no reason to take it if you aren’t going full mage, but it can still help you out in a bad situation by providing a greater chance for your spells to work to their fullest capabilities.
When you want to wear sturdy armour that isn’t the super-heavy stuff then you’ll want medium armour. This is the equipment of choice for Nightblades but it’s also suitable for any fighters that want to have armour that boosts their rate of attack capabilities. The boosts that it applies to critical hits and attack speed make the character a bit of a whirling dervish which is makes it highly suitable for Dragonknights (or combat oriented Templars) who choose to make use of paired weapons.
Dexterity – Unlocked at Medium Armour Rank 2. Passive skill
The character’s critical strike chance with physical attacks is increased by 1% for each piece of medium armour equipped. This raises to 2% at rank 2 and 3% at rank 3.
The first in a series of very powerful skills, Dexterity is a must have skill for anyone using medium armour. Getting a potential 15% boost to your critical strike chance is just an amazing sight to see. Pair this up with Agility, which you get much later, and Wind Walker to turn your character into a critical hit dispensing attack machine. All without even looking at any racial or class abilities either.
Wind Walker – Unlocked at Medium Armour Rank 6. Passive skill
Your stamina regeneration is increased by 2% per rank for each piece of medium armour equipped.
If you were wearing heavy armour I’d assume you were spending all your time in melee and this would be a must have skill. But since you’re wearing medium it’s entirely possible you don’t even need this skill. I’ve found that, in my experience, a Nightblade who is making heavy use of his skills and not really blocking doesn’t need the extra stamina regeneration, especially not early on. But if you find yourself running low on stamina with regularity then invest in this skill and remove a good portion of that issue.
Improved Sneak – Unlocked at Light Armour Rank 14. Passive skill
The detection area radius is decreased by 3% at rank 1 and 5% at rank 2 for each piece of medium armour equipped. The cost of sneaking is reduced by 4% at rank 1 and by 7% at rank 2 for each piece of medium armour equipped.
What I really like about this skill is how the detection radius decrease can stack with your natural racial bonuses to give you a near 10% radius bonus. This makes it much easier to get in close to your enemies or to just flat out sneak past them. However it’s not a must-have skill so feel free to pass it up if you find yourself pressed for skill points.
Evasion – Unlocked at Medium Armour Rank 22
Using rapid movements to throw of an enemy’s attack, the character gains a 15% chance to dodge attacks for 17 seconds.
The character gains a 15% bonus to his chance to dodge for 20 seconds. Dodge increases by 1% for each piece of medium armour equipped.
The character gains a 15% bonus to his chance to dodge for 20 seconds. Removes 1 snare effect for each piece of medium armour equipped.
Evasion is a nice skill as it makes for a great counterattack. When an enemy is about to use a powerful attack on you activate it and even if you fail to avoid or block the attack it might just miss entirely anyway. I personally prefer Elude for the further boost to your dodge chance especially as removing snare effects isn’t all that impressive of a bonus. Just take the 20% dodge chance.
Agility – Unlocked at Medium Armour Rank 38. Passive skill
The characters attack speed is increased by 5% per rank when wearing a medium armour set of at least 5 pieces.
This is actually a startlingly impressive skill. While it doesn’t sound like much at first glance a 50% attack speed increase is actually damn impressive. It only really shines if you’re either dual-wielding smaller weapons or using two-handed weapons since it doesn’t really shine with staves, bow or one-hand and shield styles. So far one of my favourite character builds has been a melee focused Dunmer Dragonknight who used the dual-wield style and this ability to become an elf-shaped buzz saw.
Athletics – Unlocked at Medium Armour Rank 42. Passive skill
The characters sprint speed is increased by 2% per rank for every piece of medium armour equipped. The stamina cost of dodge rolls are reduced by 2% per rank for every piece of medium armour equipped.
This doesn’t really feel like a skill that should come as late as it does but not much to be done for that. The sprint speed increase doesn’t mean much of anything since enemies will chase you to the ends of the earth anyway. The dodge roll increase is actually a rather nice perk though, giving you a 20% stamina reduction for your evasive manoeuvres.
When deciding to use heavy armour you’ll be gaining a focus on increasing your armour rating, your spell resistance and reducing the cost of blocking. This is the equipment of choice for Dragonknights, Templars and Sorcerers who are going with a more combat oriented build (often referred to as Battle Mages in previous Elder Scrolls games). Heavy Armour syncs well with the one-handed and shield style as that offers maximum protection but it can leave you somewhat weak on offence unless you have class abilities to make up for this.
Resolve – Unlocked at Heavy Armour Rank 2. Passive skill
Increases your armour and base spell resistance by 1% per rank for each piece of heavy armour equipped on the character.
An up to 15% bonus to the characters armour and spell resist? Oh hell yes. This is one of the best examples of how heavy armour can drive your defences through the roof. That’s without even getting into using active abilities so you can easily build on this bonus even further if you’re smart.
Constitution – Unlocked at Heavy Armour Rank 6. Passive skill
Increases your health regeneration by 2% per rank per piece of heavy armour equipped.
I love this ability since it helps you stack health regeneration so well. Get your Nord, teach him Robust (5% per rank), go down the Draconic Power path and learn Elder Dragon (another 5% at max rank) and suddenly you’re at 25% bonus health regeneration. At that point your health will regenerate rapidly enough that you won’t even need healing for most minor engagements.
Juggernaut – Unlocked at Heavy Armour Rank 14. Passive skill
Increase your melee attack power by 0.5% per rank per piece of heavy armour equipped.
This is a great skill. The passive bonus that it applies to your weapon damage is great bonus especially in light of any further damage stacking from class or racial abilities or even the skill morphed version of Immoveable below. Obviously it’s not quite as useful if you’re not using a melee weapon, so a Battlemage can pass on this, but most others will probably want it ASAP.
Immoveable – Unlocked at Heavy Armour Rank 22
The character prepares himself for incoming attacks, increasing his armour and spell resistance for 8 seconds. This bracing effect grants immunity to knock back and any disabling effects for the duration.
Your armour and spell resistance are increased by 20 for 8 seconds. Gain an immunity to knock back and any disabling effects for the duration. Increases the power of melee attacks by 1% for each piece of heavy armour equipped.
Your armour and spell resistance are increased by 20 for 8 seconds. Gain an immunity to knock back and any disabling effects for the duration. Increases duration of ability by 5% per piece of equipped heavy armour.
This is a fantastic ability especially when it piles upon your other heavy armour abilities. Immoveable is decent enough on its own, increasing your defensive capabilities well enough while making it so that you won’t get knocked around. But if you upgrade it to Immoveable Brute you gain a melee bonus that stacks with Juggernaut, which you’ve just learned, and will increase your melee attacks up to 10% which is a really nice bonus.
Bracing – Unlocked at Heavy Armour Rank 38. Passive skill
The cost to block is decreased by 10% per rank when equipped with a heavy armour set of 5 or more pieces.
Since you’ll probably want to have a full set of heavy armour on anyway this is a nice skill. Even if you aren’t planning on using a shield it’ll help you when you are forced to block with your weapon(s). That said, I wouldn’t expect this skill to help too much if you aren’t using a shield.
Rapid Mending – Unlocked at Heavy Armour Rank 42. Passive skill
Increases all healing received for the player by 0.5% per rank per piece of heavy armour equipped.
This skill is pretty much a big ol’ sack of nothing. Even at maximum rank and effectiveness this only provides at most a 5% or 6% bonus. That’s so small as to be utterly inconsequential in the light of how effective most healing spells are. This boost will have very little effect on that in most situations.