Skip to main content

The Elder Scrolls Online Beginners' Guide

Nightblade 

Ahh, the stealthy Nightblade. Part thief, part assassin and all around sneaky git, this is the class of choice for anyone who plans to fight from the shadows. You’ll have to pick your fighting style early on (weapons, armour and skills) and really stick with it to make the most of this class. Not all abilities have synergy with all weapon styles so you’re going to need some forethought with that. You can also pick between light armour and its magicka benefits or medium armour and its more solid defences.

Keep in mind that you need to pick a skill tree and stick with it since most of the abilities in a given skill tree are only really effective when you stack them with other skills in that same tree. Because of this the class can fit almost any role in a party you just need to make that decision and run with it – a dual-wielding dervish supplemented with Assassination, a spell caster who uses Siphoning at range, an archer who makes extensive use of Shadow… it’s all up to you.

There are three paths for a Nightblade to choose skills from:
Assassination: This is the path of cold-blooded murder. It specialises in effects that increase your ability damage foes.
Shadow: This is, basically, the magicka heavy path for the Nightblade. It focuses mostly on obscuration and utility effects and not so much on raw damage.
Siphoning: Siphoning is all about getting the most out of your character--it restores health, stamina and magicka, lets you steal health from enemies or just plain stuns them.

Assassination 

Assassin’s Blade - Unlocked at Assassination 1

With a strike of the weapon, your Nightblade inflicts magic damage. In addition targets with low health (the threshold seems to be 25% or so) will take an extra 300% damage from this attack.
Impale
Deals magic damage. Targets with low health take an additional 300% damage. A magical blade is thrown allowing you to use the skill outside of melee range.
Killer’s Blade
Deals magic damage. Targets with low health take an additional 300% damage. Heals the player for 18% of his max health when killing an opponent with this ability.

The bread and butter ability for the Nightblade, Assassination is going to see a lot of use. If you want to make the most out of it then morph it into impale at the nearest opportunity. This will let you use it from outside of the radius where your stealth might be broken while letting you injure an enemy. It also works well for any foolish spell casters who are trying to retreat.

Teleport Strike – Unlocked at Assassination Rank 4

Jumping through the shadows, the Nightblade appears near a target and strikes them. This deals a good bit of magic damage to the enemy and stuns them for 1.5 seconds.
Ambush
Player moves through the shadows and appears near the target. Inflicts magic damage to enemies and stuns them for 1.5 seconds. The next attack on your target deals an additional 30% damage.
Lotus Fan
Player moves through the shadows and appears near the target. Inflicts magic damage to enemies and stuns them for 1.5 seconds. Affected enemies are ensnared for 60% and bleed health away for 6 seconds.

I love this ability. Zipping over to an enemy and not only damaging them but stunning them as well? That’s great. That said both of these skill morphs are actually pretty good but I prefer ambush. Let the enemy’s health get low, use Ambush to bring their health yet lower and then strike them with Assassin’s Blade to take advantage of the 300% damage boost from that and the 30% boost from Ambush. Just see how fast even a tough enemy falls at that point.

Master Assassin – Unlocks at Assassination Rank 8. Passive skill

Increases weapon damage while using invisibility or stealth by 5% per level. A successful attack while crouched stuns the target for a longer duration.

Hey look, even more damage stacking. Use this to get the jump on an enemy so that you can follow up with Assassin’s Blade to bring down foes incredibly fast. Since you’re going to be using stealth attacks anyways this skill belongs on any Nightblade.

Death Stroke (Ultimate Skill) – Unlocked at Assassination Rank 12

This special strike deals a high amount of damage while also reducing the targets ability to heal by 50%. Damage for this attack increases as the players Ultimate charge increases, up to a potential increase of 275%. Get it up to that point and this is one of the most powerful attacks in the game.
Incapacitating Strike
Deals damage while also reducing the healing received by 50% The damage inflicted increases as the player’s Ultimate charge increases, going up to 275%. Stuns target for 4.5 seconds if the caster has lower health than the target.
Soul Harvest
Deals damage while also reducing the healing received by 50% The damage inflicted increases as the player’s Ultimate charge increases, going up to 275%. Passively increases your Ultimate skill when you kill enemies while it is slotted in quick bar.

I’ve always been kind of torn on this ability. On the one hand when you get it all the way powered up its one of the strongest Ultimate skills in the game. On the other hand it means that you really have to dawdle on using this to get the most of it. This can be made easier by morphing it into the Soul Harvest skill but that’s kind of a shame since Incapacitating Strike is honestly the better of the two. That said Soul Harvest makes you able to use your Ultimate more often against regular enemies so it ends up being more helpful while exploring the world.

Executioner – Unlocks at Assassination Rank 14. Passive skill

Killing an enemy with an Assassination ability restores 12 magicka over 6 seconds. At rank 2 this increases to 25 magicka over 6 seconds.

This is a kind of weak skill: Since your magicka regenerates rapidly outside of combat this bonus only matters in a fight. But in a fight the amount you regenerate is small enough that it’s not a humongous help. That said this will help you save money on magicka potions so it has its uses even if they’re small.

Blur – Unlocked at Assassination Rank 20

Through rapid movements the Nightblade becomes much harder to strike, imposing a 15% chance to miss attacks on the target for 20 seconds.
Double Take
Enemies have a 15% chance to miss when attacking you for 26 seconds. The chance to miss is increased to 30% for the first 3.5 seconds of the ability.
Mirage
Enemies have a 15% chance to miss when attacking you for 26 seconds. Missed attacks have a chance to leave attackers off balance for 6 seconds.

This is another solid skill for the Nightblade. You’ll want to immediately morph it into Mirage so that it’ll provide the passive chance to knock enemies off balance. Once a physical fight breaks out use this skill and you stand a very good chance of staggering the attackers during its six second duration.

Pressure Points – Unlocks at Assassination Rank 22. Passive skill

Increases critical strike rating by 1% per level for each slotted Assassination skill.

If you’re making heavy use of Assassin skills then you’ll definitely want this skill. If you’ve got it at rank 2 and equip a few Assassin skills the bonus can shoot up rather quickly. I personally used it with Assassin’s Blade, Blur, Teleport Strike, Haste and Death Stroke with my Khajiit Nightblade and enjoyed watching enemies get torn up by my basic attacks.

Mark Target – Unlocked at Assassination Rank 30

By choosing a target for execution the Nightblade is able to make them more vulnerable to all forms of attack. The target is marked for 60 seconds. In that time: your attacks ignore 75% of his armour and spell resistance, his attacks ignore 75% of your armour and spell resistance and killing a marked target restores your health by 37%.
Piercing Mark
Marks a target for death for 60 seconds. Players’ attacks ignore 75% of the targets armour and spell resistance. The targets attacks ignore 75% of the player’s armour and spell resistance. Killing a marked target restores the player’s health by 40%. The magicka cost for this ability is reduced. You can also see the target if he uses stealth or uses a skill / item to become invisible.
Reaping Mark
Marks a target for death for 60 seconds. Player’s attacks ignore 75% of the targets armour and spell resistance. The targets attacks ignore 75% of the player’s armour and spell resistance. Killing a marked target restores the player’s health by 40%. Killing a marked target increases your weapon and spell power by 15 for 30 seconds.

I’m torn on this skill. On the one hand it makes your enemies quite vulnerable to attacks for a full minute and heals you if they die before it ends. But on the other hand it renders you vulnerable as well. On the other hand it can be incredibly helpful when fighting certain enemies, notably if you use it and then Nightblade against a spell caster or other foe with a small amount of health you can kill them quite easily. It can even be helpful in keeping track of sneaky enemy types if you take the Piercing Mark ability. However there might be better uses of your skill points.

Hemorrhage – Unlocks at Assassination Rank 39. Passive skill

Increases critical strike bonus damage by 5% per level.

Pair this with the Pressure Points passive skill and you’re in for a hoot of a time. As mentioned above, I made a character who aimed for a high critical hit rate and with this skill the damage really begins to add up. Let your basic attacks wear the enemy down and then finish them off with your special abilities.

Haste – Unlocks at Assassination Rank 42

By drawing upon your master training you can increase your attack speed with both light and heavy attacks by 30% for 17 seconds.
Focused Attacks
For 20 seconds increase your attack speed with light and heavy attacks by 30%. Recover stamina while the ability is in effect.
Incapacitate
For 20 seconds increase your attack speed with light and heavy attacks by 30%. Every 10th weapon attack immobilises the target for 2 seconds.

Here’s one of the best Assassination skills. In those 17 seconds you can get in a large number of attacks, up to 20 if you’re fast enough. Since you can only get in about 20 – 23 attacks taking Incapacitate is kind of useless, instead go for Focused Attack to help keep your stamina up so you don’t have to stop swinging.

Shadow 

Shadow Cloak – Unlocked at Shadow Rank 1

The Nightblade wraps himself in shadows, granting invisibility for 2.5 seconds.
Dark Cloak
Gives the player invisibility for 4 seconds. Removes 4 damage over time effects from the player.
Shadow Disguise
Gives the player invisibility for 2.5 seconds. Grants a 100% critical strike rating bonus for 2.5 seconds.

The duration on Shadow Cloak renders it more of a quick use tool than a stealth ability. What morph you take depends on what you’re planning on using the skill for. If you’re going to use it to escape a bad spot in a fight then take Dark Cloak since that will help keep you alive. Shadow Disguise should be taken if you’re planning on using it to open up the combat with a powerful hit. Early on you can make good use of it to break contact in a fight, so sneak up on someone, stab ‘em in the butt and then Shadow Cloak to either retreat or do it again.

Veiled Strike – Unlocked at Shadow Rank 4

Strike the foe with a shadowy magic attack. The real strength of this skill comes if you use it while in stealth since it will knock an enemy off balance, stunning them for four seconds.
Concealed Weapon
Deals magic damage to target. If player is stealthed, attack sets enemy off balance and stuns them for 4 seconds. Passively increases movement speed while in stealth by 18% while it’s slotted in quick bar.
Surprise Weapon
Deals magic damage to target. If player is stealthed, attack sets enemy off balance and stuns them for 4 seconds. Reduces enemy armour by 40% for 15 seconds.

I’m a pretty big fan of this skill so long as I’ve taken the Surprise Weapon morph. As it is the stun ability is fine but the skill really shines when you can knock them off balance and then take advantage of it quite effectively with their reduced armour state.

Refreshing Shadows – Unlocked at Shadow Rank 8. Passive skill

Increases stamina regeneration by 15% per skill level for 6 seconds whenever a shadow ability is used.

I love this skill. You’ll never be hurting for stamina by simply using your abilities as they finish their cool down period allowing you to attack freely.

Consuming Darkness (Ultimate Skill) – Unlocked at Shadow Rank 12

Summoning up his inner darkness the Nightblade conjures up an aura of pitch blackness. Enemies caught within it are ensnared by 70% while allies are protected. They will take 30% less damage while the caster takes 60% less damage. This lasts for a valuable 12 seconds.
Bolstering Darkness
Creates an area of darkness for 15 seconds. Enemies in this area are ensnared by 70%. Nearby allies gain brief invisibility and take 30% less damage. Caster gains 100% of this value. Ensnared enemies take magic damage. Allies are granted invisibility and health regeneration for 4 seconds.
Veil of Blades
Creates an area of darkness for 15 seconds. Enemies in this area are ensnared by 70%. Nearby allies gain brief invisibility and take 30% less damage. Caster gains 100% of this value. Allies are granted invisibility for 15 seconds.

This is a hell of an ultimate ability and possibly the most useful of the Nightblade’s batch. You don’t even need to morph the skill to have a very powerful skill. Bolstering Darkness seems to be the best choice if you do decide to morph it since it makes your party more effective in battle. Veil of Blades seems to be mostly useful if your party wants to pull out of the fight completely.

Shadow Barrier – Unlocked at Shadow Rank 14. Passive skill

Increases armour and spell resistance by 17 for 4 seconds when coming out of either stealth or invisibility at rank 1 and increase by 35 at rank 2.

The bonuses that this skill provides are so minor that I’ve honestly never bothered taking it. There are so many other, better skills to take instead of wasting time with it that I could never bring myself to do so.

Path of Darkness – Unlocked at Shadow Rank 20

The Nightblade creates an invisible lane of darkness only the player can see; enemies in front of the player take magic damage every second for 10 seconds while the player’s movement speed is increased by 50% for the duration. This makes the skill both offensive and defensive at the same time.
Refreshing Path
Enemy targets in front of the player take magic damage every second for 10 seconds. The path can only be seen by the player and increases movement speed by 50% for the duration. The player is healed every second the ability is in effect.
Twisting Path
Enemy targets in front of the player take magic damage every second for 10 seconds. The path can only be seen by the player and increases movement speed by 50% for the duration. Affects a larger area shaped like a cone.

I’ve honestly never had much of a clue what to make of this ability. It deals decent damage to every enemy in your path while also allowing you to move at a pretty good speed. However it does neither of these things especially well making it more suitable for a quick escape so that you can reposition yourself. I’m not entirely sure that this is a very good skill but it can be useful in a few specific situations.

Fortitude – Unlocked at Shadow Rank 22. Passive skill

Increases max health by 2% per level for each Shadow ability slotted.

I have to admit to not having much of a taste for this skill. While the potential for getting a 24% boost to your health is rather damn impressive, you’re not a warrior. You honestly shouldn’t need the health boost that much but if you feel that you do, simply take the skill--I never did.

Aspect of Terror – Unlocked at Shadow Rank 30

Calling upon the fear of the shadow the Nightblade can induce fear in two nearby enemies that will last for 4 seconds.
Manifestation of Terror
Places a trap that lasts for 60 seconds or until triggered. When triggered it induces fear in 2 nearby enemies for 5 seconds.
Mass Hysteria
Induces fear in 2 nearby enemies for 4 seconds. All affected targets have their power reduced by 30% and snares them by 53% for 3 seconds.

Not really too sure how effective this ability can be. Many of the stronger enemies seem to be either resistant or fully immune to the fear status while weaker enemies tend to come in groups where just two being affected isn’t going to make much of a difference. As such I’ve never found much use for this skill even though it seems like it should be more useful.

Dark Veil – Unlocked at Shadow Rank 39. Passive skill

Increases the duration of Shadow abilities by 8% at rank 1 and 15% at rank 2.

Many of the Shadow abilities have durations that are under 10 seconds with the exception of Summon Shade and the Ultimate skill. As such it’s only worth a purchase if you’re planning on making extensive use of these two skills.

Summon Shade – Unlocked at Shadow Rank 42

The Nightblade brings a portion of nearby shadows to life, creating that shade to attack a targeted enemy for 17 seconds. Enemies being attacked will deal 15% less damage for 4 seconds.
Dark Shades
Summons two shades to attack the targeted enemy for 20 seconds. Attacked enemies deal 30% less damage for 4 seconds.
Shadow Image
Summons a shade to attack the targeted enemy for 23 seconds. Enemies being attacked deal 15% less damage for 4 seconds. Activating this ability again teleports you to where the shade currently is.

This is a great skill for both distracting an enemy and making them less useful in combat in general. The Shadow Image morph isn’t especially useful for PvE combat but you can really throw people off in PvP. In PvP you can throw it at someone you wouldn’t mind dealing with in melee, like a mage, and then use this as a retreat mechanism: when the fighting gets dicey just teleport to the mage and continue the fight. For PvE you’re better off using the Dark Shades morph since it makes the bigger, stronger enemies much reduced in combat effectiveness.

Siphoning 

Strife – Unlocked at Siphoning Rank 1

The Nightblade creates a magical link with the targeted enemy that inflicts magical damage to the target while healing them for 25% of the damage inflicted that lasts every 2 seconds for 10 seconds.
Funnel Health
Inflicts magic damage and heals the player for 33% of the damage inflicted, every 2 seconds for 10 seconds total. Heals two nearby allies in addition to the caster.
Swallow Soul
Inflicts magic damage and heals the player for 33% of the damage inflicted, every 2 seconds for 10 seconds total. Player receives 10% more healing from all sources while this ability is slotted in the quick bar.

For an initially unlocked skill Strife is actually pretty powerful. I’ve not found Funnel Health to be too fantastic since it relies on your allies staying near you and honestly you’re probably moving around more than they are. Instead go for Swallow Soul so that you get the passive boost to healing at all times in addition to the damage / healing you get from Strife itself.

Agony – Unlocked at Siphoning Rank 4

Using his magic the Nightblade wracks his enemy with pain, stunning him for 12 seconds. The effect ends whenever the target takes damage from any source. When the effect finally ends the victim is wracked with magic damage for the following 5 seconds.
Malefic Wreath
Stuns the enemy for 12 seconds. The effect is broken by any damage from any source. When the effect ends the enemy takes magic damage over 5 seconds. Damage is increased by 2% for each second after the effect ends (totals up to an 8% bonus). When the damage over time effect ends an explosion damages all near the target.
Prolonged Suffering
Stuns the enemy for 12 seconds. The effect is broken by any damage from any source. When the effect ends the enemy takes magic damage over 7 seconds. Deals more magic damage than Agony itself does in addition to the increased duration.

In its base form Agony is a fairly basic ability that’s nothing special but not terrible either. However when you morph it the thing starts to really shine. Malefic Wreath does a good bit of damage but the area-of-effect explosion often fails to hurt anyone else. Prolonged Suffering on the other hand does pretty great damage and is a nice way of whittling down an enemy.

Catalyst – Unlocked at Siphoning Rank 8. Passive skill

Increases the effectiveness of any potions used by 10% per skill rank.

I’ve got to say getting this bonus is rather nice on health and magicka potions. But is it honestly worth the use of a skill point? That depends. You can heal with Strife and restore your magicka and stamina with Siphoning Strikes so how effective this is really depends on your playing style.

Soul Shred (Ultimate Skill) – Unlocked at Siphoning Rank 12

Tearing at the life force of the enemies around you the Nightblade inflicts magical damage to all enemies in a 6 metre radius while simultaneously stunning them for 3 seconds.
Soul Siphon
Inflicts magical damage to all enemies in a 6 metre radius. Up to three nearby allies are healed every second for 3 seconds.
Soul Tether
Inflicts magical damage to all enemies in a 6 metre radius and stuns them for 4.5 seconds. The closest enemy is tethered to the player and takes magic damage every second.

While it is possible I’m just missing something about this skill this feels like an intensely weak Ultimate skill. The damage that it inflicts is an acceptable amount and the stun is fine but neither effect is all that impressive. If you insist on taking and using this skill then you’ll probably want to take the Soul Tether ability. This increases the damage that this skill inflicts while also stunning them.

Magicka Flood – Unlocked at Siphoning Rank 14. Passive skill

Increases max magicka by 4% per level while a Siphoning ability is slotted in the quick bar.

If you’re using Siphoning skills then you’re probably going through your magicka at a pretty good rate. So getting an extra 8% simply for having your ability equipped is a rather nice, simple bonus.

Cripple – Unlocked at Siphoning Rank 20

The Nightblade can create a magical connection with an enemy that steals away some of their movement speed and gives it to the player, increasing your speed. It also deals magical damage to them for the 8 seconds this skill remains active.
Crippling Grasp
Siphons movement speed from the target and gives it to the player while also dealing magical damage over 8 seconds. On impact it deals magic damage and immobilises the target for 1.5 seconds.
Debilitate
Siphons movement speed from the target and gives it to the player while also dealing magical damage over 8 seconds. The target’s weapon attacks are now 20% slower.

This comes off as a bit of a weak skill at a first glance. Who really cares about increasing their movement speed? I’ll tell you who--archers. If you’re an archer then use it on a target so you can outpace him while retreating. If this is who you are then take the Crippling Grasp morph. If you’re taking the skill so you can catch up to archers and spell casters then take Debilitate since it’ll slow down their movement and make it hard for them to attack you while they’re desperately trying to retreat.

Soul Siphoner – Unlocked at Siphoning Rank 22. Passive skill.

Siphoning abilities will heal you an additional 8% at rank 1 and 15% at rank 2.

The primary source of healing using Siphoning abilities is the Strife skill. So if you’re using that and actually relying on that healing for any sort of actual effectiveness then this is the skill for you.

Siphoning Strikes – Unlocked at Siphoning Rank 30

The Nightblade can choose between inflicting damage as normal or can choose to deal 28% less damage in exchange for restoring 4% of his magicka and stamina per hit. There is a 10% chance that each basic weapon attack will instead restore 15% of your magicka and stamina.
Leeching Strikes
While toggled on, your basic weapon attacks will restore 4% of your magicka and stamina but deal 17% less damage. There is a 10% chance basic weapon attacks restore 15% magicka and stamina. Your attacks will now restore health in addition to magicka and stamina.
Siphoning Attacks
While toggled on, your basic weapon attacks will restore 4% of your magicka and stamina but deal 25% less damage. There is a 10% chance basic weapon attacks restore 15% magicka and stamina. All attacks have a chance to restore magicka and stamina even when this is toggled off.

This is a great ability but you have to be careful how you use it. You can’t just keep it toggled on at all times since it’ll reduce your damage output too much. Instead you have to turn it on when you need the stamina or magicka. Morph it into Leeching Strikes so you can restore your health at the same time. Siphoning Attacks is a waste since its passive healing doesn’t actually seem to kick in very often. If you choose to take Leeching Strikes then you’ll want to take Soul Siphoner so that each attack has a near 20% health gain for a small drop in damage.

Transfer – Unlocked at Siphoning Rank 39. Passive skill

When dealing damage with a Siphoning ability you will gain 1 Ultimate per skill rank.

It may be worth taking this ability and one Siphoning ability, such as Siphoning Strikes, for any Nightblade. By letting you use your Ultimate's more often you will jump in combat effectiveness and Siphoning Strikes can help you out in combat in general.

Drain Power – Unlocked at Siphoning Rank 42

Pulling life force away from up to six enemies in an 8 metre radius, the Nightblade inflicts magic damage to them and uses it to increase their weapon damage by 6% for each enemy for 17 seconds.
Power Extraction
Deals magical damage to enemies in an 8 metre radius and increases weapon damage by 11% for each enemy so damaged. The enchantment lasts 20 seconds. The maximum number of targets increases to 9.
Sap Essence
Deals magical damage to enemies in an 8 metre radius and increases weapon damage by 11% for each enemy so damaged. The enchantment lasts 20 seconds. Nearby allies are healed. The healing increases with each enemy hit by the skill.

This is a great skill and it’s honestly one of the few Siphoning abilities I really loved. It deals a solid amount of damage to anybody foolish enough to be close to you and then it makes your follow-up attacks stronger. If you take the Power Extraction morph then you’ll deal even more damage which makes it the way to go for most people. Pair this up with Transfer and you can throw out damage at an impressively fast rate.

Jump to Section: