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The Elder Scrolls Online Beginners' Guide

Weapon Skills 

Early on the game it is imperative that you pick an armour style and stick with it to really reap the benefits of that skill. But this isn’t entirely true about weapon skills--you can swap between two different weapon sets once you hit level 15 so it’s entirely possible that you will want to carry a ranged weapon and melee weapon. Or a different weapon with a different sort of effect--so a spellcaster might want to have two destruction staffs equipped; one for shock and one for fire to get around elemental resistances.

A Nightblade might want to have two different sets of weapons for fighting different types of enemies based upon weapon damage and other bonuses. So you have flexibility with how you go through this, don’t stress over it. I’ve had many characters start with one weapon skill and swap over to a new weapon entirely and levelled that up quite rapidly to make up for it.

As you look at these skills you’ll notice that most of the top tier weapon passive skills are actually kind of crappy. Most of them have decent enough perks to them, sure. But it really feels like they come far too late in the skill tree to be of any real use so don’t stress over saving a skill point for them.

One-Hand and Shields 

This is the skill tree for those who want to hide behind their defences as much as possible. Using a shield naturally provides you with higher defence but this whole tree is built around giving you as much protection and damage mitigation as possible. Each of the skills in this tree provides resistance bonuses to help you tank enemies or skills to just generally weaken the enemies so that they won’t be at the top of their game. Even the passive skills serve only to help in this regard. Put a character in heavy armour and give them this equipment skill tree and watch as you become a walking hunk of metal defence.

Puncture – Unlocked at One-Handed and Shield Rank 2

Thrust your blade deep into the foe, dealing physical damage and reduces the targets armour by 40% for the next 12 seconds. This also inflicts a taunt effect on the target for 15 seconds, making yourself a more likely target for the next 15 seconds.
Pierce Armour
Inflicts physical damage to the targeted enemy, reduces the targets armour by 40% for 12 seconds and taunts them for 15 seconds. The targets spell resistance is lowered by 40%.
Ransack
Inflicts physical damage to the targeted enemy, reduces the targets armour by 40% for 12 seconds and taunts them for 15 seconds. The characters armour rating is increased by 9 for the next 12 seconds.

This doesn’t necessarily do an impressive amount of damage to the target but that’s not the strength of this skill. What matters most here are the armour reduction and the taunt effect. If you use this ability to draw in an enemy and lock them on you your allies can take advantage of this to pound on them with relative safety. As such I heavily recommend you morph into the Pierce Armour skill so that you can reduce their spell resistance as well, allowing mages to take advantage of this ability as well. If you’re mostly working solo then you’ll want the Ransack ability instead to help protect yourself.

Low Slash – Unlocked at One-Handed and Shield Rank 4

The character swings his blade at his opponent’s legs, inflicting physical damage and ensnaring the target by 60% for 9 seconds. This has the secondary effect of reducing their weapon damage by 15% as well for 9 seconds.
Crippling Slash
Inflicts physical damage. Snares the target by 60% and reduces their weapon damage by 15% for 12 seconds. The target is immobilised for 2 seconds.
Deep Slash
Inflicts physical damage. Snares the target by 60% and reduces all of the targets damage by 15% for 12 seconds.

This is an ability that’s more about gimping the enemy than really damaging the enemy, that’s almost incidental. What matters most here is the snare effect and reducing their damage. I like this ability a lot because of these traits but it really shone for me once I improved it to Deep Slash. Then you not only reduce their weapon damage but also any of their skill or magic damage which can make a huge difference against enemies like daedra.

Fortress – Unlocked at One-Handed and Shield Rank 5. Passive skill

The stamina cost of blocking is reduced by 15% per rank. The cost of all One-Handed and Shield abilities is reduced by 5% per rank.

This skill is good on its own but it pairs nicely with the level 10 passive, Sword and Board. Then you’ll have a nice improvement to your block mitigation while the cost to do so drops greatly.

Sword and Board – Unlocked at One-Handed and Shield Rank 10. Passive skill

While using a weapon and shield your weapon damage is increased by 3% and block mitigation is increased by 10%. This is increased to 5% weapon damage and block by 20%.

If you go with this style you’re clearly focusing on defence enough that this will be an immediate purchase so you’ll want this ability as soon as you can possibly afford to take it. The damage bonus is pretty nice on its own but that block mitigation is a huge bonus.

Defensive Posture – Unlocked at One-Handed and Shield Rank 14

For the next 30 seconds the character reflects the next spell projectiles back at the caster while the ability is activated. It also passively increases block mitigation by 5% and reduces the blocking stamina cost by 5% while it remains slotted in the quick bar.
Absorb Magic
For 30 seconds the next spell projectile is absorbed by the character, gaining health equal to 100% of the spells damage when activate. Block mitigation and blocking stamina’s cost are reduced by 8% while passively slotted.
Defensive Stance
For 30 seconds the next spell projectile is reflected back at the caster while the ability is active. Block mitigation and blocking stamina’s cost are reduced by 8% while passively slotted. The reflected projectile stuns upon impact for 2 seconds.

This is a must have skill, end discussion. Spells will be incredibly dangerous to a solid tank but with this you can cut off at least some of that. How you morph the skill is based upon what you want from the ability--do you want it to provide some very basic healing or do you want it to stun enemies for you? While Absorb Magic can be impressive if they cast something big, it’s also possible you end up getting something like Mage’s Fury or another minor spell. I’d personally rather have the enemy take the damage and side effects of their spell as well as being stunned so I go for Defensive Stance.

Deadly Bash – Unlocked at One-Handed and Shield Rank 17. Passive skill

Your shield bash ability now deals an additional 50% of damage per rank and costs 25% less stamina per rank.

This is a weird sort of skill. It’s definitely useful since the shield bash does eat up a good bit of stamina. But on the other hand, how often do you actually have to use the shield bash? A lot of the time I’ve found that it’s easier to move out of the way of most attacks when possible and only bash those that actually track your position. But since you’re apt to be using this with regularity just take the skill.

Shield Charge – Unlocked at Once-Handed and Shield Rank 20

The character charges at the target and attacks, delivering a mild amount of physical damage and stunning the target for 2 seconds.
Invasion
Rush at a target and attack, dealing physical damage and stunning the target for 2 seconds. The stun duration increases the farther away you are from the target.
Shielded Assault
Rush at a target and attack, dealing physical damage and stunning the target for 2 seconds. The character gains a damage shield that lasts 4 seconds.

I love abilities that help you close the distance when you need to bring the fight to an enemy and this stands out. Rushing in on them with a stun effect is a nice way to take them by surprise. Since the damage shield from Shielded Assault is so weak and so short, don’t even bother with it. Just take Invasion and enjoy the increased stun duration that comes with doing it further away.

Deflect Bolts – Unlocked at One-Handed and Shield Rank 30. Passive skill

The character now blocks an additional 8% of the damage from projectiles and ranged attacks with their shield. This increases to 15% at rank 2.

I like this ability for its simplicity. Early on in the game bows are often just a nuisance and not a serious threat, something you can deal with by simply blocking. But by the time you get to the late game they can become very dangerous, especially in PvP, and when you reach rank 2 it’ll be very helpful in keeping you alive when there’s a skill archer out there.

Power Bash – Unlocked at One-Handed and Shield Rank 38

Slamming into the target you deal high physical damage and stun them for 2 seconds. After they recover from the stun they are disoriented for 8 seconds.
Power Slam
Cause physical damage and stuns the target for 2 seconds. The target is disoriented for 12 seconds after the stun fades. The attack does more damage and has an increased disorientation period.
Reverberating Bash
Cause physical damage and stuns the target for 2 seconds. The target is disoriented for 12 seconds after the stun fades. The targets power is reduced by 27 for 10 seconds when the disoriented period ends.

What’s nice about this ability is that it’s the gift that keeps on giving. First it hurts them and fully stuns them. Then it leaves them disoriented and half useful while you continue to attack them. It’s also one of the few skills that actually have two solid skill morphs. Power Slam leaves the enemy disoriented by a four extra seconds, which is nice, while Reverberating Bash leaves the targets attacking power reduced by 27 for 10 full seconds. So what do you want; do you want a longer disorientation effect that’s nice but will be removed upon being attacked or do you want the targets offence to be cut down?

Battlefield Mobility – Unlocked at One-Handed and Shield Rank 41. Passive skill

Your movement speed while blocking is increased by 25% per rank.

As I stated earlier, expect to find all of the top-tier skills for weapons to be completely uninteresting and even useless in some cases. Say hello to one of those with this. I’ve found very few situations where I had to keep my shield raised 100% of the time instead of just raising and lowering it.

Two-Handed Skills 

Possibly the most common weapon style currently being used in-game, two-handed weapons are all about raw power. It’s not the fastest attacking style and you’re trading out a shield for the chance to inflict more damage. Generally speaking two-handed swords are the fastest weapons in this category so if the speed matters then you’ll want to go for this. But otherwise the primary difference in weapon choice seems to be how a very particular skill interacts with your weapon. For the most part you’re free to swap around weapons at your discretion.

Cleave – Unlocked at Two-Handed Rank 2

Bringing their weapon down with all the force they can muster the character deals physical damage to all enemies in a cone in front of them (7 metres at its far end). All enemies hit will also bleed for 10 seconds in addition to the physical damage.
Brawler
Inflicts physical damage to all enemies in a cone in front of you. Inflicts bleeding damage for 10 seconds after the initial strike. Adds a damage shield for 8 seconds that grows in strength for every enemy hit.
Carve
Inflicts physical damage to all enemies in a cone in front of you. Inflicts bleeding damage for 10 seconds after the initial strike. The player gains 3 Ultimate for each enemy hit.

This is a damn good skill that is weakened only by how hard it can be to actually hit more than one enemy at a time with your attacks. Because of that its pretty worthless to take the Brawler upgrade since that needs to hit a few people to really matter. Instead take the Carve skill morph so you can gain bonuses to your Ultimate acquisition rate. This way it’s not a total wash if you only hit one enemy.

Critical Charge – Unlocked at Two-Handed Rank 4

Rushing forward at an enemy, the warrior attacks with his weapon and deals high amounts of physical damage. This strike always deals critical damage.
Critical Rush
Character charges at a target, dealing physical damage. This always deals critical damage. The further you travel with the rush, the more damage you deal.
Stampede
The player charges at a target, dealing physical damage. This always deals critical damage. Attacked enemy is immobilised for 2 seconds.

What’s great about this skill is how quickly it lets you close the distance between an enemy, the charge distance of 22 metres being only slightly shorter than the range of most long range spells (28 metres). Move forward a bit and you can bum rush people who are trying to keep you at a distance. Since that’s your primary use for the skill you’ll probably do best by going with the Critical Rush skill morph. This way if someone is trying to retreat from you you’ll be able to rush them down and deal extra damage the further away from you that they get.

Forceful – Unlocked at Two-Handed Rank 5. Passive skill

Light and heavy attacks deal splash damage to one nearby enemy. This amount starts at 13% and grows to 25% at rank 2.

Early on this doesn’t sound impressive since you’ll probably be trying to engage foes one at a time when possible. But later in the game, when enemies are coming in groups or you’re drawing them to you as a tank, you’ll definitely want to spend the skill point on this one. But really so long as you pick it up at some point you’re going to get your skill points worth.

Heavy Weapons – Unlocked at Two-Handed Rank 10. Passive skill

The effect of this ability varies based on your currently equipped weapon: Two-Handed axes provide a 100% chance for the target to bleed for 10 seconds. Two-Handed swords inflict an increased damage of 3%. With the Two-Handed maces ignore 40 points of armour. At rank 2 the axes' bleed damage increases, sword damage increases to 5% and maces ignore 80 armour.

As far as I’m concerned this is the best skill in the Two-Handed skill tree. I generally prefer to use two-handed swords but once I got my hands on this skill I quickly swapped over to maces because I wanted that armour penetration bonus. Axes get the short end of the stick in my opinion since the bleeding isn’t really all that impressive.

Uppercut – Unlocked at Two-Handed Rank 14

The warrior swings his sword towards the enemy as hard as they can, trying to bisect them. The target takes heavy physical damage and is knocked back 4 meters while also being stunned for 3 seconds.
Dizzying Swing
Deals high damage, knocks back target by 4 meters and stuns for 3 seconds. The targeted enemy deals 20% less damage for the next 6 seconds.
Wrecking Blow
Deals high damage, knocks back target by 4 meters and stuns for 3 seconds. The power of your next attack against the target is increased by 40 unless your next attack is another Wrecking Blow.

Wanna knock some enemies around and damage them at the same time? This is the skill for you. What I love about this is not only that it deals good damage and stuns but you can also use it to knock enemies off of cliffs and ledges if you use it properly. What I actually like to do is take the Wrecking Blow skill morph instead and if your attack doesn’t knock them off a ledge then you can use another strong attack to kill them. A good idea is to use Critical Charge, follow with Uppercut and then use a powered up Cleave to finish your combo off.

Balance – Unlocked at Two-Handed Rank 17. Passive skill

When using two-handed weapons reduce the cost of two-handed abilities by 10% per rank.

This ability is still a no-brainer, just like it was in the one-handed and shield tree. You’ll want to take it as soon as you’ve got access to it and the skill point to afford it.

Reverse Slash – Unlocked at Two-Handed Rank 20

Whipping his weapon around the fighter cuts his foe deeply, dealing moderate physical damage. The amount of damage dealt increases based upon how much health the target has lost, up to 300% total.
Executioner
Inflict physical damage to the target with the damage increasing as the targets health gets lower with an up to 300% damage increase. While slotted in your skill bar it passively increases the damage you deal with all Two-Handed weapon skills by 15% if the target has less than 25% of their maximum health left.
Reverse Slice
Inflict physical damage to the target with the damage increasing as the targets health gets lower with an up to 300% damage increase. Two enemies near the target take 20% of the damage inflicted as splash damage.

What I personally find strange about this skill is that it seems like it should be powerful but it honestly isn’t unless the enemy is already mostly dead. At that point you may as well not even bother using this skill since you’re already mostly done with the fight. So unless you’re fighting something with an ungodly amount of health you’re pretty much wasting your time. If you want to make it at least somewhat more useful take the Executioner skill morph which provides a nice passive bonus to make it worth using.

Arcane Fighter – Unlocked at Two-Handed Rank 30. Passive skill

You have an increased chance of applying status effects like burning, chilling and concussion while equipped with a two handed sword. This bonus is 50% per rank in this skill.

This is a very strange skill. It has absolutely no synergy with any of the other skills in your skill tree since no skills apply these status effects. However if you have a weapon that applies any of these effects then it greatly increases the chance of those effects actually occurring. So basically by taking this skill you’re essentially banking on the fact that your choice of weapon will always (or at least much of the time) be weapons with these elemental effects on them.

Momentum – Unlocked at Two-Handed Rank 38

By focusing his efforts the warrior increases his weapon damage by 10% for the next 20 seconds. As the ability continues the bonus increases by 2% ever 2 seconds that pass.
Forward Momentum
Gain a 10% increase in weapon damage for 23 seconds. This increases by 2% every 2 seconds the ability is in effect. When the ability is activated one snare effect is removed.
Rally
Gain a 10% increase in weapon damage for 23 seconds. This increases by 2% every 2 seconds the ability is in effect. When the ability ends the character will heal a small amount.

This is probably the one ability in this tree that I’m in no way fond of. When you read what it does it initially sounds like it’s quite effective. But then you do the math and work out that it will, at tops, give you a 28% bonus to your damage, which is impressive but then you realise that at that point the skill is about to expire. Frankly it just doesn’t last long enough. If you’re hell-bent on taking it then I suggest the Forward Momentum skill to help throw off any negative status effects, allowing you to use it and then close in on your enemies.

Battle Rush – Unlocked at Two-Handed Rank 41. Passive skill

Killing an enemy increases stamina regeneration by 25% per rank for 6 seconds.

It kind of feels like this should have come considerably earlier in the skill tree but it’s a good skill either way. You can do without it but there’s no reason not to take it if you happen to have the skill point available to learn this passive.

Dual Wield 

When making use of the dual wield style you’re essentially choosing to trade in any form of defence for rapid attacks. Where a two handed weapon will inflict more raw damage than this style you’ll be hard pressed to find any way to attack faster than using paired weapons.

Really this is a style that’s more geared towards hitting as many foes as many times as you can as quickly as you can do so. All of the skills basically work towards this barring a few status ailments that’ll get thrown around. This is best paired with medium armour to take advantage of the bonuses that equipment’s skill tree offers. Also take note that the weapon you choose to use only really matters for one particular skill.

Twin Slashes – Unlocked at Dual Wield Rank 2

Strike the enemy twice, dealing physical damage and leaving them bleeding for 9 seconds, dealing more physical damage.
Blood Craze
Attack the target twice. The target bleeds physical damage for 9 seconds. The player recovers health every 2 seconds while the target bleeds.
Rending Slashes
Attack the target twice. The target bleeds physical damage for 9 seconds. The target is snared for 50% while he bleeds.

This is one of the less impressive early skills in the game. The two attacks don’t deal much more damage than just attacking regularly and the bleed effect is very minor as well. Morphing the skill increases its usefulness, especially if you morph it into Blood Craze since the healing is a nice perk. Rending Slashes is mostly useless though since if you’re in melee who cares about a snare effect? I still like to take this skill and use it whenever its available since every little bit can help but it’s not what I would call a game changer like some of the other skills are.

Flurry – Unlocked at Dual Wield Rank 4

Perform six physical attacks in a row on the targeted enemy that inflicts physical damage.
Blinding Fury
Six consecutive hits against a target for physical damage. Each strike has a 4% chance to knock the target off balance.
Rapid Strikes
Six consecutive hits against a target for physical damage. Increases your attack speed by 15% for 6 seconds.

This is where the really good stuff starts happening in this tree. Flurry does a good amount of damage without carrying a huge stamina cost, which is great in and of itself, but when you upgrade it is when it gets really good. Blinding Fury does a very good job of knocking people off balance but I don’t prefer that. I like to take Rapid Strikes and let that stack with the attack speed improvements from Medium Armour, allowing your character to attack incredibly fast for those six seconds after the skill ends. Most people don’t expect that sort of onslaught to suddenly be coming their way so it helps even in PvP.

Slaughter – Unlocked at Dual Wield Rank 5. Passive skill

Your damage with dual wielding skills is increased by 10% per rank against targets who have less than 25% of their maximum health.

This isn’t a skill that’s going to immediately help you in any given fight but when the enemies health gets low you’ll be able to take them down even faster. This will hopefully prevent them from any last minute comebacks. Not a skill that’s incredibly impressive but it’ll make fights go much faster.

Dual Wield Expert – Unlocked at Dual Wield Rank 10. Passive skill

Your off-hand weapon damage is increased by 15%. This increases at rank 2 to 25%.

Your off-hand weapon naturally does a reduced amount of damage; this will help offset that fact. It’s still not going to do its full weapon damage but it’ll help bring it at least close to it. Then again if you’re only using your off-handed weapon for abilities or its bonuses and not expecting it to do any real damage then you can probably pass on this. It’s up to you.

Whirlwind – Unlocked at Dual Wield Rank 14

All enemies in a 5 meter radius are dealt physical damage. This damage increases against enemies with critical health.
Steel Tornado
Inflicts physical damage on all nearby enemies. Damage is increased against enemies with low health. The radius of the attack is more than doubled.
Whirling Blades
Inflicts physical damage on all nearby enemies. Damage is increased against enemies with low health. Restores stamina to the player five times over the next ten seconds. The person hit provides an bonus to this stamina restoration of 50%.

Another great skill and this one can be tuned to basically pay for itself. While I normally suggest that people always take the skill that increases your attack radius, this is one time I will not do so. Here I suggest that you morph the skill into Whirling Blades, ASAP. Once you do so it’ll only take hitting two enemies with each Whirling Blades attack to end up paying only 9 stamina per use, an easily maintained amount especially if you have any sort of stamina regeneration.

Sparks – Unlocked at Dual Wield Rank 20

Striking one weapon against the other, the weapon user blinds the target for 4 seconds.
Ember Explosion
The target is blinded for 4 seconds. The target and nearby enemies take physical damage.
Heated Blades
The target is blinded for 4 seconds. The power of your next weapon attack is increased by 24.

While not always immediately helpful due to the short duration it’s still easy to recommend this skill. The blind effect is nice enough, especially if you’re dealing with someone who has very powerful attacks and you need to start healing. If you upgrade it to Heated Blades it actually becomes a very powerful offensive skill as well, allowing you to blind an enemy and then deal a powerful strike in return. Ember Explosion on the other hand is fairly useless as the damage is minor and it’s not really worth using much of the time. Use this to slow down an enemy, not as the opening move of an attack.

Controlled Fury – Unlocked at Dual Wield Rank 25. Passive ability

The stamina cost of Dual Wield skills is reduced by 10% per rank.

This skill doesn’t do anything too impressive on paper but it’s of some help since it’ll help offset the cost of some of the more expensive skills. If you’re using Whirlwind, Sparks or Fury then you’ll want this. But if you’re only using passives or Twin Slashes then you can just pass this up.

Ruffian – Unlocked at Dual Wield Rank 28. Passive skill

Dual wield attacks inflict more damage against disable targets. This means targets who are stunned, immobilised or disoriented. The bonus starts at 8% and increases to 15%.

There is a skill similar to this in the Bow weapon tree and it’s infinitely more useful in that tree since there are many skills in that tree that inflict this ailments. Unfortunately there’s only one skill that does so in this tree and that’s a skill morph. As such taking this skill is essentially saying that you hope to work with a team that has these skills and will readily use them to allow you the damage bonus.

Hidden Blade – Unlocked at Dual Wield Rank 38

The warrior pulls out a concealed weapon and throws it at a target, dealing physical damage and ensnaring them by 40% for 6 seconds.
Flying Blade
Hurls a dagger, inflicting physical damage and snaring the target by 50% for 6 seconds. Slightly improved range.
Shrouded Daggers
Enemies in a radius in front of you are dealt physical damage and ensnared by 50% for 6 seconds.

Since you’ll have two melee weapons in hand you’re not going to have any access to ranged attacks. But with this you can run towards the enemy and, on the way, fling a dagger at them to snare them so they can’t escape. I generally never bothered with either of the upgrades since neither of them truly increases the effectiveness of the skill in regards to how I was using it. If you have to upgrade it, upgrade to Flying Blade so you can throw your first blade at a greater distance.

Twin Blade and Blunt – Unlocked at Dual Wield Rank 41. Passive skill

Based on the weapon used, this skills effect changes; When wielding axes you gain a 25% chance to inflict bleed damage on the enemy. When wielding maces you gain a 2.5% damage bonus against heavily armoured enemies. With swords equipped you gain a 1.5% base damage increase. With daggers equipped you gain a critical strike chance bonus of 2.5% to all attacks. This increases to 50% for axes, 5% damage for maces, 2.5% damage with swords and a 5% bonus with daggers when at rank 2.

The usefulness of this skill varies based upon what weapons you’re using. I’ve found that the mace bonuses only trigger against very particular enemies and it’s not always apparent when it will unless you’re in PvP. As such its use in PvE feels very limited. I’m also not terribly impressed by the axe bonus since it’s only a chance to do a small amount of damage. But if you’re using swords or daggers then it is most definitely worth it, especially with the daggers. That critical bonus stacks with class and racial abilities incredibly fast and really adds up.

Bow 

The bow is, more often than not, a weaker weapon choice than a melee weapon. However it has the advantage of good attack range and a variety of useful active skills. The passives aren’t that great but in all reality they don’t need to be. To be honest I generally recommend bows to be saved for back-up weapons instead of them being your primary weapon but some will obviously wish to play archers and that’s fine but you’ll have to compensate. Most notably, if at all possible, you’ll want to focus on getting attack speed increases since that’s going to be your primary weakness which means going with medium armour so you can get the Agility skill at rank 38.

Poison Arrow – Unlocked at Bow Rank Unlocked 2

Fire a tainted arrow that deals poison damage to the enemy. The target takes additional poison damage over the next ten seconds.
Poison Injection
Inflicts poison damage to target. They take additional poison damage over the next 10 seconds. The lingering poison damage is increased against targets that are under 35% health.
Venom Arrow
Inflicts poison damage to target. They take additional poison damage over the next 10 seconds. Targets are put off balance, their spellcasting is interrupted and they are stunned for 3 seconds.

Even in a game full of great starter abilities Poison Arrow stands out for its sheer helpfulness. When you first take it, it’s just a nice offensive skill. But once you morph it into Venom Arrow you’ll have a tool to completely screw up a spellcaster’s day. Let them move in to cast their spells, use it to interrupt them and then hit them with a powerful attack while they’re disoriented.

Volley – Unlocked at Bow Rank 4

Fire numerous arrows at a targeted location for 3 seconds, dealing physical damage to enemies within 5 metres of the location six times.
Arrow Barrage
Fire several clusters of arrows at a targeted location. Hits all enemies 6 times over 3 seconds. Has an increased targeting range and attack radius.
Scorched Earth
Fire several clusters of arrows at a targeted location. Hits all enemies 6 times over 3 seconds. When the effect ends a burst of fire deals 6 ticks of damage over the next 6 seconds.

While not as impressive as Poison Arrow Volley is definitely a useful skill since the damage it deals over those 3 seconds can really add up if an enemy stays in there for the whole duration. Obviously it isn’t much use against one individual target but when there are a few enemies in the attack radius it’s a great way to deal some damage to a whole group of them at once. I personally prefer Arrow Barrage since you might be able catch a few extra enemies with it.

Long Shots – Unlocked at Bow Rank 5. Passive skill

You gain a 6% per rank bonus to damage vs. targets at high distance.

A 12% bonus to damage is nothing to sneeze at. My only problem with this skill is that I’m still not entirely sure what the range breakdown looks like since it’s pretty hard to test when someone is bum rushing you. It seems to be that enemies who are at, or beyond inside of, the bows maximum attack range get this damage bonus but once they move even remotely closer it goes away so try to shoot at enemies who are otherwise engaged.

Accuracy – Unlocked at Bow Rank 10. Passive skill

Your weapon critical chance is increased by 3% while using a bow. It increases to 5% at rank 2.

This skill isn’t all too impressive on its own but it stacks with other skills just fine. That’s where its real strength lies. Not much to be said about it otherwise.

Scatter Shot – Unlocked at Bow Rank 14

The archer fires a powerful arrow that deals heavy physical damage to the target. It also knocks them back 6 metres and disorients them for 5 seconds.
Draining Shot
Deals physical damage to the target, knocks them back and disorients them for 5 seconds. The enemy is ensnared by 40% for 6 seconds.
Magnum Shot
Deals physical damage to the target, knocks them back and disorients them for 5 seconds. Knock yourself back 6 meters and does increased damage.

I actually really love this skill but only when it’s upgraded to Magnum Shot. See the basic ability is great since it knocks enemies back and then sticks them there for a few moments. But Magnum Shot? Not only does it knock them back but it knocks you back the same distance, putting a good bit of distance between you and your enemy. Try not to use it when an enemy is in melee combat as you may cause them to miss an ability used or even draw their aggro onto yourself.

Ranger – Unlocked at Bow Rank 17. Passive skill

With a bow equipped, all Bow abilities have their stamina cost reduced by 10% per rank.

Obviously you’re going to have a bow equipped if you’ve purchased bow skills so this ability is kind of a no-brainer. The restriction is incredibly minor while the bonus you gain is actually pretty nice. A 20% reduction of the stamina cost will actually mean that the skills will have a cost drop between 6 – 10 stamina. That’s actually rather impressive.

Arrow Spray – Unlocked at Bow Rank 20

The archer fires a group of arrows at a target, dealing physical damage to them and ensnaring them by 40% for 5 seconds.
Acid Spray
Inflicts physical damage to a target and ensnares them by 40% for 5 seconds. Poison damage is inflicted to the target for the course of the effect.
Bombard
Inflicts physical damage to a target and ensnares them by 40% for 5 seconds. Immobilises the target for 2 seconds.

I’m none too fond of this skill with the exception of the morphed version, Bombard. The basic skills snare effect is entirely unimpressive but Bombard adding on immobilise makes for a great skill. Lock them in place for a few seconds, put some distance between you two and then they’re slowed down enough that you can get away from them to continue picking away at them from a distance.

Hawk Eye – Unlocked at Bow Rank 30. Passive skill

The damage of your bow attacks is increased by 8% when attacking vulnerable targets. This increases to 15% at rank 2.

The definition of vulnerable targets seems to be anyone who is stunned, off-balance or disoriented. The damage bonus would be incredibly nice without the restriction but with said restriction the skill becomes kind of lame. If it passively boosted damage at all times that’d be great. If it gave a greater damage bonus to vulnerable enemies it’d be great. Without either it’s just a sub-par skill. If you’re not using all of the other Bow skills, with their immobilizing and disorienting, but it’s not going to make a huge difference.

Snipe – Unlocked at Bow Rank 38

This is a slightly stronger version of your basic attack except that it can be fired from a much longer range. It carries a fairly high stamina cost.
Focused Aim
Deals high physical damage at a very long range. The attack power of your ranged attacks is increased by 10 against the target. Targets so marked can be hit by ranged attacks from an additional 5 metres (max range is now 45).
Lethal Arrow
Deals a moderate amount of poison damage. Reduces enemy healing by 47% for 10 seconds. Guaranteed poison effect on target.

This is a fantastic skill. Since you can shoot from so far away you’re very likely to not draw enemy aggro if they’re currently focused on another target and, even if they are, you’ll still have enough time to hit them with a few more attacks to further prevent their ability to move. That’s not even getting into how powerful Focused Aim can be. It’s quite possible to take out huge swaths of enemies solo by simply picking one, Snipe him and then start hitting him with other your other abilities to keep him pinned down and unable to close in while your attacks are buffed by Long Shots and Hawk Eye.

Hasty Retreat – Unlocked at Bow Rank 41. Passive skill

Your movement speed is increased by 15% per rank for 2 seconds after a dodge roll while you have a bow equipped.

Yup, isn’t that interesting. Another skill that serves almost no real purpose beyond helping to put some distance between you and an enemy who just attacked you. On the character where I tried this skill out I ended up using it to help me navigate around cities or wilderness faster. Not exactly an impressive use of the skill.

Destruction Staff 

The bread-and-butter of your average spellcaster, this is one of the more interesting skill trees in the game. You see this is a tree of a wide variety of effects that are changed based upon what staff you’re using. So if, for example, you use Force Shock then the actual effects of the spell will vary based upon what sort of staff you were using. If you have a fire staff it will do fire damage as well as having a chance to apply a burning status effect but if you have an ice staff it’ll do ice damage and have a chance of inflicting the chilled status ailment.

So, unlike most weapon types, you’ll definitely want to carry two separate Destruction staffs with different elemental types to avoid an impossible battle against enemies who are immune to whatever damage type you’re currently using.

Destructive Touch – Unlocked at Destruction Staff Rank 2

The caster throws a short ranged bolt of magic energy at a target that inflicts magic damage and a varying effect based on what element is used: fire causes knockback, frost causes deep freeze status and shock causes the target to become disoriented.
Destructive Clench
Deals magic damage to a nearby enemy. Fire causes knockback. Frost causes deep freeze. Shock causes disorient status. Fire now stuns. Frost causes a more effective freeze. Shock throws targets off balance.
Destructive Reach
Deals magic damage to a nearby enemy. Fire causes knockback. Frost causes deep freeze. Shock causes disorient status. Range is now doubled.

There are few things better than a flexible and highly useful low-level skill. They’re usually cheap and recharge fast enough that they will see a lot of use. Destructive Touch only has one main drawback: the short range. If that’s not a huge issue to you then take the Destructive Clench morph to increase its combat effectiveness. If you’re not comfortable with the range then morph it into Destructive Reach--it’ll still have a shorter range than Mage’s Fury but it’ll add to your arsenal just the same.

Wall of Elements – Unlocked at Destruction Staff Rank 4

The spellcaster conjures up a wall of elemental magic on his location that inflicts magic damage to every enemy in the area of effect every second it is in effect. It lasts for around 3 seconds.
Elemental Blockade
Creates an elemental wall that deals magic damage every second to enemies in the area of effect for 4 seconds. The wall is much larger than usual and has a slightly longer duration.
Unstable Wall of Elements
Creates an elemental wall that deals magic damage every second to enemies in the area of effect for 3 seconds. When the walls duration has expired it explodes, dealing magic damage to all nearby enemies.

If you’re doing a lot of PvP then this skill isn’t really worth the effort since other players will almost inevitably just avoid the thing while using their own ranged abilities on you. However enemies have a tendency to just blunder into it which makes it a lot more useful against the computer. Unfortunately even then it’s very limited since its centred on you and you shouldn’t be near the enemy.

Tri-Focus – Unlocked at Destruction Staff Rank 5. Passive skill

Provides a passive bonus to Destruction Staff heavy attacks: Frost attacks ensnare targets by 30% for 3.5 seconds, Shock attacks splash and inflict 5% damage on up to 2 nearby foes and fire attacks have an increased critical strike bonus of 5% against targets. This increases to ice for 40%, shock for 10% and fire by 10% at rank 2.

What’s really nice about this skill is that it doesn’t cost you a thing once you purchase it. If you’re using a frost staff you can keep using the heavy attack to keep enemy movement slowed while pounding on them from a distance with spells. You can even clear out whole groups of weaker enemies with a shock staff and just blasting away.

Penetrating Magic – Unlocked at Destruction Staff Rank 10. Passive skill

All of the Destruction Staff spells bypass 5% of the targets spell resistance. This increases to 10% at rank 2.

I’m a sucker for any ability that either gives or removes spell resistance so this is clearly a must have for me. The only reason not to take this is if you aren’t using a whole lot of actively offensive skills but honestly if you’re using this skill tree then I doubt that’s an issue. Take it, you know you want to.

Force Shock – Unlocked at Destruction Staff Rank 14

We’ve moved away from raw magic and have now turned towards elemental attacks. Based on what type of staff you’re using this either deals fire, cold or shock damage. A second effect is applied based on what element you’re using; Cold carries a 40% chance to apply the Chilled status, snaring enemies by 40% for 5 seconds. Fire has a 40% chance of applying the Burning status, dealing fire damage over the next 3 seconds. Shock has a 40% chance to apply the Concussion status, reducing enemy damage done by 1% for 4 seconds.
Crushing Shock
Effect varies by equipped staff type; Fire staffs deals fire damage and applies the burning effect. Frost staffs deals ice damage and applies the Chilled status. Shock staffs deal shock damage and apply the Concussion status. These effects last 3 – 5 seconds. Targets of Crushing Shock are stunned for 3 seconds.
Force Pulse
Effect varies by equipped staff type; Fire staffs deals fire damage and applies the burning effect. Frost staffs deals ice damage and applies the Chilled status. Shock staffs deal shock damage and apply the Concussion status. These effects last 3 – 5 seconds. Inflicts magic damage to two nearby targets that are burning, chilled or concussed.

Here we have the bread and butter skill for wielders of Destruction Staffs. Not only is this skill powerful, and relatively cheap, but it has a large amount of versatility based upon which staff you’re wielding. When paired up with the following skill, Weakness to Elements, you can do some pretty wicked damage to your enemies, even if they do happen to have resistance to the staff you’re using. I’ve found having a shock staff, for concussion, and a fire staff, for burning damage, on hand to take advantage of this ability.

Weakness to Elements – Unlocked at Destruction Staff Rank 20

Channel a curse through your staff that afflicts a target, reducing their spell resistance to fire, shock and cold by 40% for 15 seconds.
Elemental Drain
The targets spell resistance to fire, shock and cold is reduced by 40% for 18 seconds. Restores 100 magicka to player when attacking target with an elemental effect.
Elemental Susceptibility
The targets spell resistance to fire, shock and cold is reduced by 40% for 18 seconds. Increases the chance to apply elemental status effects on the target by 50%.

This is a fantastic ability and it comes at a relatively early point in the skill tree. It’s damn good on its own but either of the morphs are damn good so you’ll have to pick one based upon your personal play style. I personally prefer to take Elemental Drain--if you cast Weakness to Elements and then follow up with Force Shock you have a net gain of 30 magicka while doing a good bit of damage. Instead you could take Elemental Susceptibility and rely on the elemental effects from Force Shock, Destructive Touch and Impulse to pile on the negative effects. Your choice but I prefer the magicka.

Impulse – Unlocked at Destruction Staff Rank 38

Release a burst of magic energy in an 8 meter radius, dealing magic damage to all nearby enemies with a chance to apply a status effect based upon the elemental staff used. Fire inflicts burning, Frost inflicts chilled and Shock inflicts concussion.
Elemental Ring
Inflicts magic damage to nearby enemies. Has a 40% chance to apply a negative elemental status effect based upon the element used. Deals additional magic damage over 10 seconds to nearby enemies.
Pulsar
Inflicts magic damage to nearby enemies. Has a 40% chance to apply a negative elemental status effect based upon the element used. Reduces enemy’s max health by 10% for 30 seconds.

While this is a pretty strong ability that does decent damage and then afflicts the target with an elemental effect it unfortunately requires enemies to be damn close to you. As such I would avoid this skill and go for something else to help keep you at a healthy distance from enemies. If you do take it then you might wish to go for Elemental Ring in an effort to kill them before they take you down, especially since this is an ability really meant more for a group than just an individual.

Elemental Force – Unlocked at Destruction Staff Rank 25. Passive skill

When using a destruction staff you have an increased chance to inflict the burning, chilled and concussion status effects. It starts at 8% for rank 1 and increases to 15% for rank 2.

To put it honest you’re going to want to take this skill as soon as possible. While these status ailments aren’t the reason to use a spell they’re an incredibly nice bonus, especially the shock and fire ones. By taking this skill you bump up the chance for Force Shock, your bread and butter attack, to inflict these ailments 50% of the time. It’s quite possible to reduce a melee fighters effectiveness by keeping him inflicted with the Concussion effect and using other class abilities to weaken him further.

Ancient Knowledge – Unlocked at Destruction Rank 28. Passive skill

While wielding a destruction staff your heavy attacks charge up faster by 5% per rank.

This is a bit of a strange skill if you ask me. It’s not exactly as if heavy attacks take forever to use so why you would need a skill to make it occur faster is unknown to me. You can sum it up as it letting you take 1 extra attack every 10 attacks but, honestly, that’s a pretty minor reward for spending a skill point. Especially as you’re likely to break up your attacks with cast spells anyway.

Destruction Expert – Unlocked at Destruction Staff Rank 41. Passive skill

Each time you kill an enemy with a destruction spell you recover 17 magicka. At rank 2 this increases to 35 magicka.

As mentioned above this is another one of those crappy, late to the party skills that you can really do without. If the only spells you’re using are Destruction Staff skills and have it at rank 2 you’ll earn back the mana cost of one of your spells. Unfortunately it’ll probably take two to four spells to kill an enemy so you’re honestly better off with just taking every ability you can that’ll increase your mana regeneration speed without wasting time on this skill.

Restoration Staff 

Contrary to what you might expect, Restoration Staffs are actually quite powerful weapons. They fire a burst of raw, non-elemental magic damage from the staff to a distant target that can either be shot as a small blast or a stream of energy that eventually shoots a larger blast at the target. But all of the abilities contained in this tree provide either bonuses to magicka, shields to protect from damage or just powerful healing effects. Even if you’re playing a dedicated party healer you’ll still be able to deal a decent amount of damage with one of these staves.

Grand Healing – Unlocked at Restoration Staff Rank 2

All allies in an 8 meter radius are healed every second for 3 seconds. The strength of this spell is in its 28 metre range that allows long distance casting.
Healing Springs
All allies in the target area are healed every second for 3 seconds. Has an 8 metre radius. The caster gains 100 magicka for each ally affected by the healing.
Illustrious Healing
All allies in the target area are healed every second for 4 seconds. Has an 8 metre radius.

For a level 2 skill any dedicated healers will likely find themselves using this ability for most of the game. Early on the healing ability itself is great but later on morphing it into Healing Springs will provide not just some healing but also restore some of your magicka reserves. Even as I gained access to higher level abilities I still found myself using this for the magicka boost if nothing else.

Regeneration – Unlocked at Restoration Staff Rank 4

Two allies within a 28 metre radius of the caster are healed every second or so for 20 seconds.
Mutagen
Two nearby allies are healed for 20 seconds. Heals extra damage. If the target drops below 20% health the regeration is expended in one, larger healing burst.
Rapid Regeneration
Two nearby allies are healed for 16 seconds. Healing seems to happen multiple times per second now, allowing quicker healing.

And yet another great healing skill. What I like about this skill is that the basic skill is less of a “emergency heal” skill and something more of a maintenance ability--you use it early on in a fight when people start getting hurt and let it try to help prevent that from getting any worse. But once you morph it then it can indeed become an emergency response ability. If you morph into Mutagen then putting it on early will help those allies avoid death while Rapid Regeneration is great for pulling people back from a moderately damage state to full health. How you morph it (if you do) will change how the skill is used but however you do it, it’s still a great skill.

Essence Drain – Unlocked at Restoration Staff Rank 5. Passive skill

The final hit of a heavy attack heals a nearby ally for 15% of the damage inflicted by the attack. At rank 2 this increases to 30% healing.

As a spellcaster your basic light attack does almost no damage even with a strong staff. However heavy attacks are actually pretty strong and that final damage burst is even more so. Since you’ll almost certainly be at range, zapping enemies with the staff while someone else fights in melee this is a nice (but small) passive healing boost that’ll occur while you contribute damage.

Restoration Expert – Unlocked at Restoration Staff Rank 10. Passive skill

When equipped with a Restoration Staff healing on your allies with less than 30% health is increased by 8%. This increases to 15% at rank 2.

Now this is a good healing booster. Ironically enough, I find it more helpful than Restoration Master which comes 30 levels later. See the thing is that that skill provides a very minor bonus at maximum (5% at best) while this gives up to 15% bonus when healing your allies. Your allies are the ones that you should be healing anyway while you should be out of the line of fire entirely so keep it that way.

Blessing of Protection – Unlocked at Restoration Staff Rank 14

The healer creates a mystical “lane” of energy that emerges from him that is 20 metres long and 4 metres wide for 8 seconds. All allies in this path are healed in addition to gaining 15 armour and spell resistance while the effect lasts.
Blessing of Restoration
All allies within the spell lane are healed. Allies also gain 15 armour and spell resistance for 8 until the effect ends. The lanes sise increases and the amount of healing is increased.
Combat Prayer
All allies within the spell lane are healed. Allies also gain 15 armour and spell resistance for 8 until the effect ends. Allies also deal an additional 8% damage for the duration of the ability.

I’d like this spell a whole lot more if it had a wider area of effect. As it stands the spell path is pretty narrow, meaning that it’s only really helpful to any allies who happen to be in the path between you and whatever enemy you’re fighting. If you find yourself using it a lot then you’ll probably want to eventually morph it into Blessing of Restoration since that will provide an increased chance of healing your allies. The duration is too short to use it as a damage booster so don’t even bother, use it to heal and provide defensive bonuses to those who need it.

Steadfast Ward – Unlocked at Restoration Staff Rank 20

The caster summons up a shield that protects whatever ally in front of you within 28 metres has the lowest health. This shield absorbs a small amount of damage before dissipating. The lower the targets health the more damage the shield will absorb.
Healing Ward
Creates a damage absorbing shield on the target with the lowest health for 6 seconds. Shield strength is boosted for those with less health, the lower the targets health the greater the boost. The target is healed based on the shields remaining strength if it expires without being used.
Ward Ally
Creates a damage absorbing shield on the target with the lowest health for 6 seconds. Shield strength is boosted for those with less health, the lower the targets health the greater the boost. Protects both an ally and the caster himself.

I’m actually not very fond of this skill even though I love pretty much the rest of this tree. The amount of damage reduction provided is incredibly small, being about 5 damage and rising to 20 for a character who is near death, and it dissipates on the first attack you take. In PvE this is a fine ability but limited since it’s honestly not much of protection. If you still wish to take it then Ward Ally is probably your best bet since it’ll protect them and yourself. But if you’re playing in PvP it’s very likely that they’ll notice what’s been cast, use a weak attack to dissipate it and then hit you with something stronger. Which kind of defeats the point of it really but if you insist on taking it go for Healing Ward. This way if it doesn’t get used at least it’ll do some minor healing.

Cycle of Life – Unlocked at Restoration Staff Rank 25. Passive skill

While equipped with a restoration staff your damage is increased by 1% for every 20% of your maximum health you currently possess.

I found this skill to be worded in an incredibly odd manner but once I understood it, well it’s not entirely worth bothering. Basically you gain a 1% damage bonus to all restoration staff attacks for each full 20% block of health you possess. So at 60% you gain a 3% damage bonus. It feels like, due to the wording, that it should increase your spell damage as well but I’ve found that this is not the case in my experiments. If I’m wrong then the skill is a lot more useful than I’m giving it credit for but as it stands it’s not really all that helpful of a skill.

Absorb – Unlocked at Restoration Staff Rank 28. Passive skill

Blocking an attack restores 2 magicka per rank in this skill.

I’m not normally a huge fan of block based skills if you aren’t focused on defence and using shields but this is a nifty one. Every attack that you block will restore 2 / 4 magicka so if you’re low on magicka you can put yourself in harm’s way of a weaker enemy, block attacks, heal and then fight back some more. If you’re playing a very squishy sort of wizard you may wish to skip this skill but it works pretty well for a more armoured up character (or one with protective magics up). It still may not be worth the skill point to most character builds though.

Force Siphon – Unlocked at Restoration Staff Rank 38

With a burst of energy the staff user causes all nearby allies to gain health while the player gains a boosted amount of health when attacking foes for 20 seconds.
Quick Siphon
Allies near the caster gain health for 20 seconds while attacking enemies. The caster gains twice as much health. The ability is triggered instantly.
Siphon Spirit
Allies near the caster gain health for 20 seconds while attacking enemies. The caster gains twice as much health. Attackers gain magicka as well as health while attacking.

This is an interesting little skill but it only gets impressive when you morph it into Siphon Spirit. The amount that attacking heals you isn’t very much but if you add on the magicka restoration to it then you’ve got a pretty useful ability. It’ll help your whole party stay in the fight longer and keep them using their abilities while only asking them to keep attacking enemies which is what they’re probably doing anyway.

Restoration Master – Unlocked at Restoration Staff Rank 41. Passive skill

While you have a restoration staff equipped all healing the caster does has its effect increased by 3%. This rises to 5% with rank 2.

This is one of those too little, too late sort of situations. The bonus is just far too small for something that comes at rank 41. You’re probably pretty high level at that point and a less than 10% increase in healing just isn’t worth wasting the skill points on. Instead focus on taking better healing skills to replace your less effective ones and then morph them.

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