The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim offers some of the most build diversity that an RPG has seen. Mages, warriors, and thieves can be built with relative ease while more niche, hybrid-focused playstyles are just as easy to make.
Spellswords are a great example of this, an archetype that focuses on using swords and magic to take down any foe that stands in their way. Creating such a character revolves around using One-Handed and Destruction to deal serious damage. That said, there are a large number of ways to make this playstyle even stronger. Here is a complete guide to creating a Spellsword in Skyrim. This guide is for the vanilla game and does not include mods.
Spellswords are masters of blade and magic, charging into battle with durable armor and various magical buffs. This playstyle focuses more on using spells for utility rather than a sole means of dealing damage. Destruction spells are excellent for dealing damage from a distance, Illusion spells make crowd control a breeze, and Alteration and Restoration improve your survivability. Conjuration can also be used to summon allies or conjure ethereal Daedric weapons if your gear is lackluster.
In gameplay terms, Spellswords focus on using a one-handed weapon and a spell in their off-hand. Before a battle, Spellswords will typically apply a few buffs such as Ice Cloak or Oakflesh to give themselves an edge. During combat, Spellswords focus on closing the gap while they pelt deadly Destruction magic from a distance. Once they close the gap, a flurry of swings and deadly magic ensues to utterly annihilate any foe they come across. If things become uncontrollable, a well-timed Shout or Illusion spell can disrupt a group of enemies with little resistance.
Spellsword Stats And Perks
Building a Spellsword is somewhat tough due to the number of skill trees you’ll need to invest in. Besides One-Handed, pick two schools of magic that interest you the most. Support your build with either Light or Heavy Armor, and focus on leveling up your crafting skills—Alchemy, Enchanting, and Smithing—to create the best gear in the game for your Spellsword.
Here are the stats and skills you should focus on leveling during your playthrough. For clarity, major skills refer to skills that you should focus on leveling. Minor skills are still important but not nearly as crucial to the build.
- Breton: 25% increased magic resistance is absurdly strong and makes reaching the 85% cap rather easy.
- High Elf: Starting the game with +50 additional Magicka is a massive boon for spellcasting.
- Dark Elf: They start with higher stats in most skills a Spellsword will use. They also have 50% fire damage resistance which is excellent against dragons.
- Imperial: Starts with at least 15 in every stat this build uses.
Every other race is viable for playing a Spellsword despite having less optimal benefits.
- Attributes: Split between Health and Magicka. To counter the low Stamina pool, use Vegetable Soup.
- Major Skills: Alchemy, Enchanting, Smithing, One-Handed, Destruction, a magic school of choice, and either Light or Heavy Armor.
- Minor Skills: The three magic schools you didn’t focus on.
- Must-Have: Armsman (One-Handed), Impact (Destruction), Augmented Flame/Frost/Shock (Destruction), all crafting perks (Smithing, Alchemy, Enchanting), and Respite (Restoration).
- Useful: Conditioning (Heavy Armor) or Unhindered (Light Armor), Quiet Casting (Illusion), all One-Handed perks, Magic Resistance (Alteration), and Necromage (Restoration, only useful for vampires).
- The Lord: Grants 25% magic resistance and +50 armor. This is absurdly strong in the early to mid-game.
- The Lover: Makes leveling every skill 15% faster. This is a great all-around choice.
- The Atronach: Increases your Magicka by 50, reduces Magicka regen by 50%, but grants 50% spell absorption. Only useful for Vampire Lords wanting to reach 100% spell absorption. In that niche case, this is by far the best Standing Stone in the game.
- Agent of Mara: Grants 10% magic resistance. Obtained from “The Book of Love” quest.
- Ancient Knowledge: Supposed to make Dwarven armor 25% better, but due to a bug, it makes all non Dwarven armor 25% better. Obtained from completing the “Unfathomable Depths” quest.
- Sailor’s Repose: Healing spells are 10% stronger. Obtained from completing the “Frostflow Abyss” quest.
- Seeker of Sorcery: Spells cost 10% less Magicka, and Enchantments are 10% stronger. Complete “Black Book: The Sallow Regent” to obtain this buff.
- Vampire Lord: Makes your character undead, making all spells and enchantments 25% stronger if you have the Necromage perk. This synergy can be utilized to grant immunity to spells. Obtained during the Dawnguard questline.
Spells are the backbone of any good Spellsword build, granting powerful buffs or devastating attacks at will. Destruction spells are a must for this build, granting useful buffs like Frost Cloak while also allowing the likes of Firebolt or Chain Lightning to damage targets from a distance.
Illusion spells are best used for crowd control. Fear and Frenzy are great for large fights since they make every enemy fight each other. Calm is also useful if you accidentally anger a friendly NPC.
Restoration is an excellent backup school of magic to use since it provides various means of healing. With the Respite perk, you can use healing spells as a means of recovering your Stamina.
Alteration is mostly useful for the early-game for its armor buffs such as Oakflesh. This school becomes much less useful late-game when your armor reaches 567 or higher—the hard cap for armor effectiveness in Skyrim. Reaching above 567 armor does nothing.
Finally, Conjuration is fantastic early-game for drawing enemy attention away from you, although this becomes much less useful once you have good armor. If you plan to reach 100% spell absorption (explained in the “Gearing” section), Conjuration spells will cease to function and become useless for this build.
- Destruction: Frost Cloak, Firebolt, Chain Lightning, Ice Storm, and Fire Storm.
- Illusion: Fear, Calm, Frenzy, Pacify, and Mayhem.
- Restoration: Healing and Close Wounds.
- Alteration: Equilibrium, all flesh spells, Telekinesis (for leveling), and Paralyze.
- Conjuration: Conjure Frost Atronach, Soul Trap, Bound Sword (while leveling), and Flaming Familiar.
While not spells themselves, Shouts are also useful as a Spellsword. Use any Shout that suits your playstyle; nearly all of them are worth using. If you care about being optimal, Slow Time is arguably the most overpowered Shout in the game that can be further enhanced with the Stability perk in the Alteration tree.
If it wasn’t clear in previous sections, Spellswords will want to craft their gear by using Smithing, Alchemy, and Enchanting. As powerful as some of Skyrim’s unique items are, nearly all of them pale in comparison to what you can craft.
Armor enchantments should focus on obtaining magic resistance and Magicka cost reduction for schools of magic. Destruction is the most important school to reach 100% Magicka cost reduction. This also makes elemental damage enchantments drain no energy from your weapons, meaning you never need to recharge your weapon. For gloves and boots, Fortify One-Handed is the best option followed by increased Magicka for gloves and Stamina regeneration for boots.
Gearing: Unique Gear
For unique armor, there are a few options that are worth considering:
- Dragon Priest Masks: Solstheim’s Dragon Priests have masks that increase the damage of certain Destruction spell elements. Ahzidal buffs fire, Dukaan buffs ice, and Zahkriisos buffs lightning.
- Aetherial Crown: This allows you to align with two Standing Stones instead of one.
- Ring of the Erudite: Increases your base Magicka regeneration from 3% to 5% per second while also increasing your total Magicka by 100. This is a multiplicative effect with other sources of Magicka regeneration. Ring of the Erudite can be obtained through a Vampire Lord quest in the Dawnguard questline.
Gearing: Preparing To Craft
To maximize the strength of your gear, make sure to use armor and potions that enhance the strength of Smithing, Alchemy, and Enchanting. If you lack armor that does this, purchase two unenchanted helmets, three gloves, and two boots from a merchant. Enchant one set of boots and a helmet with Fortify Alchemy, then create a potion that increases your Enchanting skill. Drink the potion, then create a set that enhances your Alchemy once again.
Make one more Enchanting potion and drink it. You can now enchant your final pair of boots and gloves with Fortify Smithing, although you can repeat this process as many times as you wish to make slightly better potions each time.
Gearing: Crafting Your Gear
Now that you have crafting gear, equip the Fortify Alchemy items and craft a few Fortify Smithing and Fortify Enchanting potions. Go ahead and craft your armor set and weapon of choice. Once done, equip your Fortify Smithing armor, drink the Fortify Smithing potion, then reinforce your newly crafted armor set and weapon. This should allow you to easily hit the armor cap of 567 while granting your weapon over 100 extra damage.
Head to an Arcane Enchanter and prepare to enchant your items as quickly as possible. Since enchanting items happens in real-time, you are limited by your potion’s duration for how much time you have to upgrade your items. A clever way around this is to use the Slow Time Shout just before crafting to drastically increase how much time you have.
Here are the recommended enchantments for your gear:
- Head: Fortify Destruction, Fortify Magicka Regen
- Chest: Fortify Destruction and Magicka Regen, Fortify Health
- Gloves: Fortify One-Handed, Fortify Magicka
- Boots: Fortify One-Handed, Fortify Stamina Regen
- Amulet: Resist Magic, Fortify Destruction
- Ring: Resist Magic, Fortify Magicka or Health
- Weapon: Chaos Damage, either Frost or Fire Damage
With all of your other perks and boons active, you should be able to cast Destruction spells for free, reduce all magic damage taken by 85%, and regenerate 5% of your Magicka per second—9% if you’re wearing the Ring of the Erudite. Combined with the weapon damage enchantments and tempering, most enemies will die in a single strike on Legendary difficulty and deal virtually no damage to you.
Becoming Immune To Spells
If you are a Vampire Lord, you can become immune to every spell in Skyrim. To achieve this, obtain the Necromage perk in the Restoration tree. Since you’re undead, every buff in the game will be 25% stronger on you including enchantments, Standing Stones, and perks.
From there, obtain the Alteration tree’s Atronach perk to gain 37.5% spell absorption. An additional 62.5% can be obtained by using the Atronach Stone. With both effects active, you will become immune to every spell in Skyrim. Unfortunately, this also means you can no longer cast Conjuration spells as they need to target you to work. The payoff is more than worth it, however, as you’ll be able to stand in front of dragon attacks while taking no damage whatsoever.
Leveling a Spellsword can be somewhat difficult due to the importance of both melee and mage skills. Fortunately, most of the crafting and magic skill lines can be leveled to 100 rather easily if you can stomach a little bit of grinding.
Leveling: Levels 1-10
Straight out of Helgen, obtain either The Warrior or The Mage as your Standing Stone. Focus on leveling One-Handed, Restoration, and Destruction—using a blade in one hand and the Flames or Shock spell in the other. Take as many items from Riverwood as you can to help with making Vegetable Soup, a consumable item that allows you to heavy attack infinitely for a long duration. Complete the main quest “The Way of the Voice” to unlock the Unrelenting Force Shout, an excellent means of creating distance when necessary. Grab a companion along the way to help draw attention away from you.
Obtaining the Bound Sword spell should be your top priority. This spell grants an ethereal Daedric Sword that does as much damage as the real thing. It weighs nothing and simultaneously levels your One-Handed and Conjuration skill lines. Court Wizards typically have this spell for sale. If they don’t, Phinis Gestor in the College of Winterhold always sells it if your Conjuration skill is at least 25. Should you have enough coin, also pick up Oakflesh to increase your armor rating.
Allocate skill points into Destruction and One-Handed while leveling.
Leveling: Levels 11-20
Grab The Lover Stone to increase the leveling speed of all skills by 15%, replacing the previous Standing Stone you had. You can grab this much earlier, but it’s easier to do now that you have better equipment and a companion.
Begin to level up your Conjuration skill if you haven’t already. Purchase the Soul Trap spell and find a dead body. Cast Soul Trap on the dead body repeatedly to level up the skill. You can do this until it reaches level 100 or until you get bored, whichever comes first. When you reach level 40 in Conjuration, speak to Pinis Gestor in the College of Winterhold and purchase the Conjure Frost Atronach spell. This will serve as a meat shield for most of the early to mid-game. If Restoration is high enough, purchase the Close Wounds spell from Colette Marence at the College.
Now that you have a few means of tanking damage and healing, complete “The Book of Love,” “Frostflow Abyss,” and “Unfathomable Depths” quests to receive some powerful passive buffs. This is also a good time to start the Dawnguard DLC. Decide if you want to become a Vampire Lord or not before starting this quest, however, as you’ll have to choose between working with the vampires or Dawnguard rather early in the quest chain.
Leveling: Levels 21-30
After you defeat the Solstheim cultists, travel to Solstheim via a boat in the Windhelm Docks to start the Dragonborn DLC. Complete the main quest and any side quests you stumble across, granting you ample resources and the ability to mine Stahlrim. During the “Black Book: The Sallow Regent” quest, grab the Seeker of Sorcery buff to improve your spellcasting.
Purchase any new Destruction and Illusion spells you come across, as this DLC gets rather difficult at certain parts. Invest skill points into your armor skill line of choice and obtain Respite from Restoration if you haven’t done so already.
Leveling: Levels 31-40
Now is the time to metagame; use your newfound resources and wealth to craft the best gear possible. Most Alchemy ingredients you have should be used to make potions to sell to merchants. Before you begin to level your crafting skills, consider completing the “Lost to the Ages” quest to obtain the Aetherium Crown. Allocate The Lover Stone and one Guardian Stone (Mage for Enchanting, Thief for Alchemy, and Warrior for Smithing).
To level Smithing, start by creating Iron Daggers until your skill reaches 30. Obtain the Dwarven Smithing perk, then craft as many Dwarven Bows as possible. Refine these bows for even more experience. Keep crafting and refining bows until you reach 100 Smithing.
Leveling Enchanting mainly involves taking those Iron Daggers and Dwarven Bows and applying the Banish enchantment to them. Enchant every item you crafted to reach 100 Enchanting. For a more in-depth guide on how to do this, consult this article.
Alchemy is the easiest to level, requiring you to make a few hundred potions. Any potion works here, but try to make valuable potions so you can sell them to merchants for massive profit.
With that out of the way, consult the “Gearing: Crafting Your Gear” section of the guide to begin making your perfect set of equipment.
Leveling: Levels 41+
Core skills should start reaching level 100 around this point. Invest perks into all of your major skills to maximize your damage and survivability. If you have perks left over, start investing in minor skills. Besides that, your character should be an unstoppable Spellsword at this point. Obtain the Slow Time Shout if you don’t already have it to make your character even more overpowered.
Next: Skyrim: Top 15 Quest Mods, Ranked
Charles Burgar is an expert on all things tech and gaming. Graduating from Pikes Peak Community College in 2018 with an Associate of Science, Charles has spent his time dissecting popular video games, movies, and technology. With an understanding of games for as long as he can remember, Charles has a large interest in understanding what makes things fun. He is currently a Freelance writer for TheGamer and Game Rant.
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