Home Strategy Skyrim Strategy: Building a better battlemage

There are probably thousands of character builds in Skyrim, and no matter how closely you try to recreate one, your current will always be somewhat unique. Why? It comes down to situation. Just because you gave your Imperial two-handed tank has the exact same perks in the exact same sequence, and just because you did every quest in exactly the same order, does not mean that the new tank build is the same as the old. There might be times in build one where you need to block an attack where in build two you didn’t. Or you used a power attack when you didn’t before. And maybe the weapon you’re using has ever so slightly different stats.

The variables are endless. For this reason, I can’t give you a broken character to conquer all of Tamriel with. What I can do is tell you how to create a solid battlemage, since that’s my current build. I’m only thirty-five hours* in, so things might change, but for those of you yet to delve into the snowy reaches of Skyrim, I hope this article helps.


Keep your sword arm strong; disregard shields

The first thing when adventuring with a build like this is to always have a spell in your hand. It doesn’t matter if its Conjuration, Destruction, Alteration or even Illusion, you need magic handy. Since straddling the barrier between physical and magical combat makes you a master of neither, you need both to be effective in combat. I recommend backpedaling while casting any of the continuous Destruction spells (Flames, Frostbite, Sparks), until the enemy’s at about half health. After that, go in for the kill. Use Dragon Shouts liberally, but not wastefully. When in melee, swing away with your weapon of choice, and don’t forget that you are something less than a meatshield. Turning tail to gain some distance is not cowardly. It’s smart play. Take a breath in the selection screen and choose whether to heal with potions or a Restoration spell. The former is quicker, but is of course limited by your stock. The latter is more reliable, but takes far more time to execute in a pinch. I’ve died more times than I like to count trying to heal myself with magic when I had plenty of potions to do the job.

The second is that you’ll want to stick to one handed weapons. While they aren’t nearly as deadly in close quarters, they swing faster, are lighter to carry, are cheaper to purchase, and most importantly, take less to craft (More on that in a moment). It doesn’t matter which type of one handed weapon you choose. I’m a sword guy, but maces and axes are just as useful.

You may, in your travels, find shields that grant you elemental resistances. Significant ones, at that. Since magic is not limited to just your left hand, having a resistance shield in that one and a fireball in your right can be an powerful boon. I can recall one fight I’d not have won without a Shock resistant shield. That bastard was tough. Dumb Chain Lightning spamming whore…*grumble* *grumble* Ahem. If you possess such shields, but no boots, helms, armors, or gauntlets with similar abilities, you’ll be fine. Pair a resistant shield with a resistant article of armor, and dragon fights are much easier. So far, I’ve only seen dragons with Frost and Fire breath, so if nothing else, grab something with those. Shock resistance is nice since that element also drains your Magicka, but cold attacks slow you considerably, and fire is just annoying when you’re not the one using it. For that reason among others I’ve stuck with Fire and Frost resistance.


Speaking of magic…

Which spells are most appropriate for a good battlemage? Destruction is the clearest choice, since it does the most damage early on. That said, don’t be averse to Conjuration and Alteration as well. The first gives you a distracting summoned monster to help you in battle, and while it’s not my style, a pure conjurer is likely a force to be reckoned with. Alteration is more important for the melee minded battle casters, since it gives you the ability to increase your armor rating and take much more damage than without it. Illusion too might be a good choice, making a horde of enemies kill each other for you, thus leaving only weak scraps to sift through. And it lets you shoo off bothersome foes with Fear if things get too hairy.

I cannot, therefore, stress enough how important Restoration is. And not just the actual spells. If you take a look at the skill tree, you’ll see that there are perks allowing Magicka to regenerate faster; that make undead, of which you’ll see many, more vulnerable to your attacks; that keep your stamina as well as health topped off; even one that, once a day, lets you cheat death without the use of potions or the mighty Quicksave feature. Plus, just healing yourself with Restoration spells levels the skill, so there’s no reason not to use it. Since skill levelling assists with character levelling, I’d wager getting into fights you shouldn’t is almost a good thing.


I mentioned smithing, but there’s other stuff too

And I mentioned it with good reason. The first thing you’ll notice when there’s a dead dragon at your feet is that they leave behind bones and scales. While it isn’t available for a long time, eventually you can take those scales and make armor from a dragon’s flesh! But you can’t do it without smithing or waiting a dragon’s age** for such items to be for sale. Even before you reach Smithing 100, improving the weapons you find is crucial. Certainly leaving them stock is fine and all, but it isn’t practical. That Dwarven Sword is great, but if you make it Superior or Exquisite, your life is now a whole lot easier in battle. Plus, if you don’t level up your smithing skills, all those fancy magic weapons lying around will just collect dust or be traded in for quick gold. With Magical Smithing at just level 60, by the time you really need to improve the magic stuff you find, it should be a nonissue.

Speaking of gold, there’s a real good way to make it real easy. It’s kind of cheap, but quite effective. All across Skyrim there are blacksmith shops, several with smelters to refine your ore into ingots. Almost every blacksmith sells iron ore, and you can get the stuff for free at the dozens of mines around. There’s a spell called Transmute that lets you upgrade your iron ore to silver, and the silver to gold. It’s expensive to cast, but gives an effectively infinite supply of gold ore to do with as you please. While just selling the ingots is the easiest way to increase your personal wealth, you can level up Smithing by taking the ingots and crafting them into jewelry. You’ll find a bunch of gems around the world, and combined with that gold, you can make diamond rings and sapphire necklaces, or just plain old gold necklaces. Each is not just a good source of gold but also enchantable, increasing its value again, and giving you an enchantment bonus that could very well save your life.


But wait, there’s more! Just, not right now.

Read the second part of my Skyrim Battlemage guide, updated with more insight, more humor, and more battle-mage…ing.


*Who’d of thought more than a day of playtime could mean just scratching the surface, huh?
**See what I did there? 

29 replies to this post
    • You may indeed be so bold. I can certainly do both one and two, though I think I’ll do number two first, since I want it to be relevant. I’ll put a link to the stream and the T3 channel in both the Gabe article and the next Skyrim.

  1. Destruction is pretty useless at higher levels/difficulties, unless you’re dual casting it with the Impact perk. Chainstunning makes even the most difficult fights doable, if tedious because of the low damage output. I’d suggest not even bothering with it on a sword and spell type of dude, and instead investing entirely in Restoration and Alteration.

    • Interesting. I’ll keep that in mind, maybe for my next build. Like I say, this is far from a complete look at what makes a “good” battlemage, it’s just what’s worked for me so far. And I’m beginning to see your point about Destruction even now. Still, I’ll admit it’s saved me a number of times where I’d have otherwise failed. Your point’s valid though. WEll said.

  2. Magic is weak in this game, really.
    Playing battlemage with destruction means 100% rape.
    Conjurations aren’t as good as in TESIV, alteration may be good for a battlemage, just like restoration.

    If I were you, I wouldn’t even bothering levelling up destruction. I did for 34 levels, and I was even weaker that at the beginning of the game.

    But, this can be (partially) fixed via mods and tweaks.

    • Yeah, I’m starting to see that. At level 28 it’s becoming a chore to constantly fireball things into submission. I’ll probably start working up more Alteration and Conjuration from here, if I don’t become a magic using sneaky assassin.

      • Sneaky Mage is the best. I’m playing with a Mod for more destruction damage (as well as a mod that adds different tiers for each spell, like a master level sparks spell), but the most useful and fun ability I have is the ability to turn invisible . Nothing says surpise like a man showing up with a medieval magical taser in his hands ready to chainstun you.

        Unfortunately, NPCs still have the ability to detect you when that happens, so you have to have a high sneak, otherwise they quickdraw you and kill you dead despite only being able to hear you. I can only assume that at low sneak levels your character is actively stomping the ground everytime he attempts to get from point a to point b stealthily.

    • I play on the hardest difficulty as a mage and if you say conjuration is weak you really didnt see a deamon lord in action. I summon him .. he cleans out the whole dungeon.. Alone. The game becomes to easy once you get him at expert conjuration. Its the best spell in the game imo if you want to win easily. Also destruction is really strong too. I got the archmage robe and a mask that gives 100% mana reg too. I can spam all the high tier spells and even without you coudl just use the novice spells and stunlock the enemys. I tried playing a melee character and he seems to be alot weaker than my mage until level 20 atleast.

  3. My take on this build is destruction focused mage in heavy armor, with occasional use of bound weapons.

    As far as I’ve seen, destruction continues to do real damage if you take all the perks, and any mage squishiness/lack of magicka can be countered by a set of heavy armor enchanted with destruction/conjuration discounts or magicka regen.

  4. This is really off topic but I think it is fun to keep your mind pondering more thoughts of The Elder Scrolls Series. I kind of want to discuss the chances of Elder Scrolls VI. I know it is early, but what does everyone think of this.

    Truthfully I think Bethesda can stay in Tamriel because there are still some more provinces that are not in a game. Though the Elven homelands seem to be just about only forests and not much cool cities (like The Imperial City). Also Elsweyr seems to be the same but with deserts and maybe some cities. Though it is corrupt. Black Marsh is just that a marsh with no cool civilization. Sure Bethesda could beef these up to have cool cities or unlike me you would like the games to be more like these places.

    Another interesting path to follow is remaking the previous games with the Skyrim graphics. This could maybe be possible and would be awesome. They could also add new things to the game. A remake would be nice and hey maybe they could make all the old games (including Skyrim) have a multiplayer. Personally I am a fan of the multiplier but not of the remaking because the games have already been played.

    Another idea is incorporating the other continents in some way. Now they could do them individually like Tamriel or another. Another way is to make the world of Nirn at war. Here they could make several more games where each one you choose your continent that you will fight for then inside that continent your class. Then they could drop you off on a continent and you must fight to win it.

    I would love to know your opinion on this.

  5. so what should i do people are saying no destruction but you are. IDK do you think you could make an updated vesion of this… i know you made a part 2 but maybe you can name this one Skyrim: Low level battlemage and make another one for mediu and high. Just y input :)

  6. Assuming everyone knows how to do the level 15 Septimus quest get to level 81 and level 100 skills, any type of character you do will be able to defeat all enemies. After doing a character with one handed and destruction magic, bow and destruction, and all out mage; ive found that the fun way to play is Two handed weapon, Alteration and restoration. You always want to level up the Speach tree to sell and make money. Likewise you wanna level up Smithing and Enchanting so you can create and double enchant your gear and gear for your followers. Sneak i like to level for traps and to run undetected. I use the Stead sign so armor doesn’t effect my speed. I don’t put any points on my Light and Heavy Armor perks except for the initial perk which after 5 points, gives you 100% bonus to both. My follower is the Companion Aela the Huntress and give her Glass armor set with enhancements on One Handed, Archery, Health and Light Armor. She has a Daedric Legendary one handed sword and Daedric arrows for long range support. Ancient dragons take two swings from Legendary Daedric Greatsword. Bottom line, get to level 15 and complete the Transcibe the Lexicon quest and the following quest to get to Level 81, after that, level your character how you see fit but you best choose One handed or Two handed and level the the tree. I agree with you though BattleMage is the way to go.

    Son of Man

  7. I really don’t know what to do. I want to be a Battlemage with Alchemy, Smithing and Enchanting but also use Heavy Armor, One-handed, Blocking, Speech, and Conjuration. Am I able to level all of these up with the level 81 cap?

  8. The level 81 cap assumes that every single skill is at level 100. Ergo, a battlemage with each of these at level 100 is most assuredly possible.

    Or at least I’m assuming such is the case.

  9. Am I the only one who thinks Skyrim majory lacks the cinematic potential it deserves? In my opinion,(although some might disagree) Shadow of the collosus is the most fun, cinematicly epic, and mysterious game I’ve ever played. There is one problem though. Bethesda braggs about you choosing the way you want to play but the truth is you dont. Because for every single player there is the same armor that you get at 100 smithing, the same spells, weapons, and only 2 buttons to use them with. That’s why I have to say that I enjoy a game with only one main storyline, and not the same supposed free choices that everybody else in the world has the same of.

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