For my first build I wanted to create a character that could combine stealth and magic in a unique, perhaps never before seen fashion. What I ended up with was an amazingly effective decoy and ambush specialist. I proudly present...

"They are the threat lurking in the shadows, the conjurers of your darkest fears, and the daggers in your back when you least expect it. Shadowcasters are spell casting assassins that employ misdirection, and personal decoys in the form of foul daedric minions, to waylay their enemies with devastating attacks. Enemies seldom catch glimpse of their assailant, let alone land  single blow, before they're viciously cut down, and shadowcasters hold little interest in frontal assaults."

The shadowcaster is a lethal combination of dual wielding assassin, conjurer, and illusionist; The end result being arguably one of the most effective ways to play a dual wield assassin! Dual wielding alone is normally a messy venture, what with the blocking with your face part. But the aforementioned lethal combo of skills allows the shadowcaster to capitalize on a key vulnerability in all enemies' AI that compels them to relentlessly attack the first target they spot until it dies. Once employed, this tactic allows the shadow caster to remain completely unnoticed all the while viciously cutting the enemy down with impunity. 


Khajiit  work best for this class. Sneak is by far the most important skill tree of this build and the khajiit get a fantastic bonus of 25 levels to sneak right from the start. They also get a nice starting bonus of 20 to One Handed. Night eye is always useful for those dark places and your claws deal solid damage until your weapon attack starts to improve. 


Take the Mage Stone early on to level up the Illusion and Conjuration skill trees. Take the Shadow Stone once those trees are maxed out. On those rare occasions you happen to mess up and the enemy is hot on your tail, you'll want to disappear immediately, without delay. The shadow stone provides an instantaneous escape for those situations.


Sneak: Essential for staying hidden while moving about and setting up ambushes. Also serves to make you very difficult to detect once the fighting breaks out

Enchantment:  Enables you to keep your magicka levels full by simply attacking. Prevents running out of magicka to summon decoys from ever becoming an issue

Conjuration: Used to create decoys and keep enemy attention diverted. 

Illusion: Used in conjunction with conjurations to divert enemy attention away from you and to ensure frenzy rune will work on just about anything

One-Handed: The main damage dealer. The dual wielding perks are vital. They will grant you both the speed and power to end enemies very quickly. 

Smithing: Steel smithing and arcane smithing are the only perks you will need here. The blades sword has strong base damage, and only requires steel smithing to improve, and arcane smithing will allow you to boost your nightingale armor a bit.


  • Armor - Nightingale Armor, boots and gloves; Silver circlet

             Armor: Stamina Boost, Frost Resistance
             Boots: Muffle
             Gloves: Fortify Lockpicking, Fortify One Handed
             Circlet: Fortify Conjuration

  • Although the quest to attain the Nightingale armor is a bit lengthy, you'll come out of it with a very high sneak level and a lot of coin. The Nightingale armor set is both aesthetically and functionality wise, perfect for a shadowcaster. The boost to illusion and one-handed damage are especially helpful.
  • Weapons - Blade's Sword and Daedric Dagger

            Sword: Absorb Magicka                                                                             Dagger: Soul Trap 

  • The great thing about the blade's sword is how early in the game you can attain it, and the fact that it only requires steel smithing to upgrade. Simply make the trip to Nightgate Inn and kill the man who has it. The daedric dagger can also be attained relatively early with no smithing skill required. Just take a trip to the Atronoch forge in the Midden and dump in the necessary ingredients. The enchantments on these weapons are designed to enable the shadowcaster to maintain a high magicka pool and keep this cycle flowing with a fresh supply of souls with every kill.
  • Ring/Pendant - Fortify One-Handed Damage
  • One-handed damage is essential for heightening the shadowcaster's damage and ending battles quickly once the decoy bait is taken. 
  • Misc. Tools - Azura's Black Star
  • This nifty daedric artifact acts as an infinitely reusable grand soul gem. With this, you'll be able to easily maintain the charge levels on your weapons without needing to haul around tons of soul gems. 


  • Illusion - Invisibility, Frenzy   
  • Conjuration - Wrathmen, Ash Spawn, Frost, and Storm Atronach


  • Throw Voice: A staple in many rogue builds. Enables you to lure your hapless enemies to one location to be ambushed.
  • Slow Time: Useful for taking an enemy out before they can react. More on this below.
  • Marked For Death: The perfect way to worsten the plight of your enemies once they've fallen for your ambush tactics. 

Perks & Stats 

Magicka 2; Health 1; Stamina 1

You are going to want to prioritize magicka as the shadowcaster is highly reliant on two schools of magick with high spell costs. Once your Health totals hit 200 you will want to switch to a 2:1 ratio between Magicka and Stamina. This ensures your spell costs are met while ensuring you have enough Health to scrape by if you slip up, and enough stamina to get in a good number of power attacks. 

Sneak, Enchanting and One Handed are the top priority to level up. Luckily you can have sneak and one handed maxed out within an hour if you're willing to use the Ralof/Hadvar exploit. Sneak alone can be maxed out in mere minutes this way. 

Enchant your dagger with soul trap as soon as possible. You'll find that Enchanting is a very easy crafting skill to level up. Soul gems are easy to come by. Draugr infested tombs make excellent hunting grounds for souls. Convert all the dwarven junk you come across into dwarven ingots. Making dwarven bows is the most effective way to level up Smithing. You're only going to need to get Smithing to 60 to get all the needed perks, a task which should be simple.

Illusion is very easy to level up with the muffle spell. Once you have access to frenzy rune and invisibility, mastering the Illusion tree becomes a cake walk. Lastly, Conjuration can be leveled up to max very easily by casting soul trap on dead bodies.


The overall strategy surrounding this build is simple: Keep the enemy distracted using your conjurations to act as a diversion and illusions and stealth to break line of sight as necessary. For whatever reason enemies never switch targets unless one of three conditions are met: Their target dies, line of sight is lost, or a new target enters their line of sight for too long. Ideally you want to keep as many enemies as possible huddled around your decoys attacking them.

Various Conjuration work best against different enemies. Creating the best distraction requires knowing the best decoy to use in every situation. Generally you want to force enemies into melee range against your decoys. 

Flame Atronach: Very good for the early game. It works especially well against fire wielding mages and dragons. By mid and late game the flame atronach is rendered obsolete by the storm atronach which performs better against dragons, and the frost atronach which perform far better at melee range. Flame atronachs have a tendency to back away from the fray to fight at range, which is the opposite of what you want unless you're against a dragon.

Ash Spawn: If the situation absolutely calls for a fire resistant melee decoy, the ash spawn is perfect. It may not be completely immune to fire damage like a flame atronach, but its sturdy and costs very little magicka to summon. Unlike a flame atronach, this summon tends to favor closing in on his target rather than gaining distance.

Frost Atronach: Very good even in late game against most enemies. It comes with frost cloak which does wonders against warriors. While not as durable as the Wrathman, it remains the go to option against frost magic users. If you're lacking Dawnguard, stick to this decoy for all your melee needs

Storm Atronach: Much like the Flame atronach this guy prefers to fight at range, but its chainlightning attack absolutely wrecks dragons. Enough zaps from these guys make it harder for dragons to use their breath attacks. These guys are strong enough to take down even an elder dragon on their own given enough time. 

Wrathmen: The overall best summon to use. Summoning cost is quite cheap for an expert level spell, and wrathmen come with nearly as much durability as a dremora lord. The only flaw with these guys is having to get a fair ways into the Dawnguard questline to get them. 


Special Techniques


Requires:  Invisibility + Shadow Warrior


The Shadowcaster vanishes in a shroud of darkness causing all enemies to lose sight of their target. Enemies are forced to seek out more readily visible targets

Shadow warrior causes enemies to lose track of you and invisibility keeps it that way. This combo lets you disappear anywhere anytime, no running and hiding required. Combine this nifty trick with conjurations and you get.....


Requires: Any Summon(s) + Shadowcloak


The Shadowcaster vanishes in a shroud of darkness leaving up to two daedric minions behind to act as decoys. Enemies focused on decoys are left vulnerable.

With this combo you can not only vanish, but also shift your enemies' focus onto your summoned daedra. Enemies will not bother targeting you until those daedra die. This skill is fine for a small, close group, but enemies are often spread out. To counter this you can lead them into an....


Requires: Throw Voice Lvl 3 + Decoy + Marked for Death


A deadly trap is sprung that leaves all affected enemies distracted, weakened, and unable to respond to attacks at their flank. 

The perfect way to lead a small but scattered group to one location to be slaughtered all at once. Lure enemies to one spot, then summon your decoys next to them. The mob huddled around your decoys are lined up perfectly to get hit with Marked for Death. Once the ambush is set, enemies will find themselves in a near inescapable situation; Attacks coming from all sides, weakened armor and their lifeforce ebbing away.

Devious Harm

Requires: Slow Time + Dual Wield Power Strikes (Repeat until enemy is thoroughly eviscerated)


A poor unsuspecting target is singled out and mercilessly slaughtered with a series of deadly precision strikes. 

Enemies far enough from the fray have a small chance of turning their attention towards you once attacked. This combo allows you to counter this by making it impossible for them to retaliate or retreat fast enough.


Requires: Throw Voice Lvl 3 + Frenzy + Summon(s) + Marked for Death


The Shadowcaster weaves a malicious spell that leaves all enemies confused and frenzied. Affected enemies will attack allies as well as decoys, lose armor every second, and are left highly vulnerable to attacks at their flank.

A more powerful version of Ambush which enables you to take on an overwhelming number of enemies by turning their numbers against them. Lure enemies to a single point with throw voice. Cast Frenzy Rune in the middle of the mob, then send out your decoys. A frenzied, confused, and weakened mob makes for a very easy target.


  • Your goal in battle is to contain your enemies by forcing them to engage your decoys at melee range. This allows you to freely attack your enemies with deadly dual wield power strikes. Their attention will be so intensely focused on your decoys that standing right behind them attacking will not cause them to turn around.
  • Against a small group decoy works just fine. If they're scattered far away from each other, find a good hiding spot with a good vantage point and start setting up for an ambush, but if the enemy is very numerous (6+), use pandemonium instead.
  • When fighting a group consisting of mostly mages, try to use an atronach that matches the element they plan to use. If they're lacking back up elements, they'll be forced to resort to melee attacks
  • Atronachs are very useful against mages. Always seek to match the atronach you summon with the element the enemy mage is using. Doing so will force them to forgo magic in favor of melee attacks, which is exactly what you want. 
  • When up against mostly archers try to place your decoys as close to them as possible. This will often result in them switching to a melee weapon.
  • Go after anyone attacking from a long range first. They have a small chance of spotting you from their distant vantage point. If they turn to engage you, use Devious Harm to take them out. Alternatively you can cast frenzy rune on them. Enemies unaffected by frenzy will still attack any of their affected allies.
  • When up against dragons, use storm atronachs as your decoy of choice (flame atronachs if you havent gotten storm atronachs yet) and attack with marked for death. By the time the dragon works up the courage to land, it will have been severely weakened by marked for death, making it easy to take out at close range. 

Recommended Mods:

  • Cover Khajiit - A simple Hi-Res texture replacer for Khajiit faces. If you're going to go on a killing spree, you may as well look good doing it.
  • Enchanted Arsenal - Grants you complete and total freedom to customize the appearance of all weapon enchantments. 
  • Capeless Nightingale Armor & Nightingale Phoenix - As the name suggests, the Capeless Nightingale Armor mod removes the cape from the Nightingale Armor. The Nightingale Phoenix mod is an awesome looking black Hi-Res texture replacer thats compatible with the afor mentioned capeless mod. Together they make a bad ass Nightale Armor set.
  • Mithrodin Sword & Brotherhood Daggers - A sinister looking sword and dagger that go very well together. The sword is on par with the Blades Sword and requires Steel Smithing to improve. The Dagger is on par with a Daedric Dagger and considerably lighter. 
  • Enhanced Blood Textures - A must have for any savagely violent character build. This mod offers you a much more satisfyingly bloody and gruesome combat experience. Now get out there and paint the streets red!

Closing Remarks:

                Any compliments or constructive criticism is very much welcome. I really enjoyed creating this build and hope you enjoy it as well. If you enjoyed my build and would like to see more like this, be sure to 'like' it. You support means a lot. Thanks. 

Tags: Character Build Illusionist, Character Build Nightblade, Character Build Summoner, Curse Never Dying, Decoy, Hall of Fame Build, Hybrid, Rank:Legendary, Shadow

Views: 70770

Replies to This Discussion

Not bad, but you tagged it incorrectly. You need to put the tags in "inverted commas", eg

"Character Build Illusionist" "Character Build Nightblade" "Character Build Summoner"

Thanks for catching that. It's fixed. 

Great first build dude! I really like it. +1
Thank you for the approval guys. If anyone is wondering, I left out roleplay suggestions intentionally. I'm simply not that great with lore, so I didnt want to take away from the build by tacking on a half baked story that does not fit the lore.

Role play ought to be open and up to the player, in my opinion. I'll give you the perk spreads and the strategies, you can do as you please with them. I personally play my shadowcaster as a villain, whose made a name for herself by killing the emperor with the Dark Brotherhood. Its fun having a price on my head in every hold in Skyrim.
Yeah, I usually ask about roleplay for builds, but this one was obvious to me. Evil, necromancer type build who is hunted and feared (like you said, bounty in all holds).
I'd personally use the pic above the Strategy section as the main one, but otherwise I don't really have much criticism at all lol. Very solid, well-focused first build. Easy +1.

PS I know I've seen your avatar before. You play ME3 on 360?
Im a huge fan of ME3, but I play on the PS3. If youre also a member of the ME3 board I think youre a member of, you 'll probably guess who I am pretty easily. I use the same avatar there too.

As for the pic, its placement was intentional. I wanted to catch the reader's interest, then realize half way through reading that this is essentially a ninja build. The names of my special combos also play a role in that
Hmm I thought you were Saints, but I also thought he played on 360, so not sure any more. I haven't been on those boards in forever though since the overall douchiness in the air was stifling lol, so I could be mixing people up. That's def gotta be where I've seen it though!
I decided to add a little bit of roleplay into the build. The hunted and feared bit from Samjt has given me some inspiration. Not fair after all to leave the role play enthusiasts hanging.

I'll make the addition very soon.

This is your first build?

Wow, I would have never known man, this is good!!!

Ive been playing around with a similar concept (Coming soon) But with more conjuration based on my rp build, I like this!

Well put together and a great start as a builder!

+1 from me

That's a very nice build! +1

Nice to see the use of Nightingale Subterfuge. It's my favorite Nightingale power - it even works on dragons! 

I personally love it because, unlike frenzy spells it can't be resisted.


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