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?