Monday, June 24, 2013

Skyrim pure mage build

For the record, this is my magic build. I named my High Elf Palpatine. Once he enchanted enough equipment to give him free Destruction magic he liked to madly cackle while blasting his foes with unlimited power.

There are enough perks left over to invest more heavily into one of the magic trees, or into a non-magic skill tree. Destruction is the priority. Obsessively level Destruction before all else. For crowd control pick either Illusion or Conjuration to dump a lot of perks. Personally, I prefer Illusion. Atronachs work best outdoors, and zombies don't start to shine until Conjuration is almost maxed out. With Illusion, mobs tear each other to pieces and the last man standing is weakened enough that you can probably one shot him.

I call this build a pure mage but you'll see I didn't put any perks into the mage armor talent. Mage armor is okay, but ideally you shouldn't be getting hit at all. You have enough perks to max out your mage armor or drop a few into light or heavy armor.

I am a true Nord barbarian because pure mage is probably my least favorite archetype. Pretty much all fantasy games that allow you play a mage scale in the same way: at the start of the game you're lovely and get one shot by everything, and by the end you're a physical god that no enemy can touch anymore. Destruction, unlike weapons, does not scale. This isn't a problem once you've enchanted your gear for free Destruction magic, but it makes dragon fights especially anticlimactic. The Impact perk in the Destruction tree staggers all enemies when you dual cast a spell. If your magic is free, then battles become long drawn out affairs of poking the bad guys to death. You keep them in a permanent stunlock until they fall over dead.

A lot of people think mages are underpowered in Skyrim. I'd disagree with that. Pure mages are absolutely the most difficult builds early in the game before you get your skills dialed in. In contrast, assassins are good to go about an hour in, and warriors can hold their own right out of the gate. I played as a pure mage to get the trophies, and haven't played another one since.

EDIT, 7/26: I see that my Skyrim builds tend to be my most popular posts. If you're new here, welcome. Come for the video games and stay for the crimethink.

EDIT, 8/20: And to be fair, a pure mage is your best bet for breaking the game into a thousand pieces.


  1. The other early-game challenge for a pure magic type is gear. Melee- and ranged-attack types can make their own armor and weapons--and when they do, they get better at making the stuff, either to use for better killing or to sell for more cash. In contrast, a mage character has to buy his/her gear: spell books and soul gems. Which are pretty expensive relative to the available early-game income options. So you spend the first dozen levels running around *avoiding* fights, gathering alchemy ingredients to make potions to sell to buy gems, books, and better ingredients, and mining ores to make weapons and armor that you can't use but can sell. And buying Destruction training when you can afford it, since you can't level that skill without engaging in fights that you'll lose most of the time.

    I just this week started a pure mage (no melee or ranged weapons allowed); she's up to level 14 or so, and is almost ready to take on Bleak Falls Barrow....

    1. And to add insult to injury, making and selling those expensive potions and jewelry levels up your non-combat skills. The bad guys scale beyond your Destruction skill making it even more difficult. It's possible to beat the game as an assassin or warrior without dropping any perks into Alchemy or Smithing. Grinding Enchanting up to 100 is pretty much mandatory for a mage. It's possible to do that in about one, two hours tops if you have access to the College of Winterhold but that's kind of immersion breaking if you care about that sort of thing.

    2. Bleak Falls Barrow is the easiest dungeon to clear in the game, it should be the first place you clear, you're not doing it right.

    3. Yup, totally agree with the above poster. I nailed Bleak Falls Barrow with ease at only levl 4 with my pure caster and picked up lots of goodies to sell. flames in left hand and sparks in the right and heal to quick switch to in left. I picked up a nice hood and robe in starting area that enhanced my magicka regen by 50% so i got off to a really good start.

  2. Seriously, just get good mana regen items, and stick with firebolt/ lightning bolt until the next tier spells font cost tons of magica. When that happens,what I did as a pyromage was I switched to fireball and blasted everyone to bits by spamming that. Mages? Fireball. Tank? Fireball. Three dragons at once? Lotsa fireballs... (This did actually happen to me. No joke