Skyrim Character Building » Discussions

Character Build: The Arcane Archer

Tags: #Character Build Archer  #Character Build Elementalist  #Character Build Enchanter  #Rank:Legendary 
  • September 13, 2012

    The clawing hunger to try my hand at another sorcerer build finally got the best of me recently. However, I longed to add something a little different to this build and in doing so discovered a perk that was instrumental when it came to streamlining this characters creation. The result is a nice little build that is quick to put together and thoroughly entertaining.

    The Arcane Archer

    Arcane Archers are rangers that use missile based weaponry as conduits for their spellcraft. Versatility is perhaps an Arcane Archers major selling point, their base skillset of enchanting and archery is so potent that they can adopt many secondary skills to dominate anything that stands in their way. 

    Arcane Archers can do well in virtually any profession ranging from front line assailants, scouts, assassins or simply soldiers of fortune. Their abilities allow them to integrate with any faction...


    Major Skills: Archery, Enchanting, Destruction, Light Armor.

    Minor Skills: Speech.

    Optional Skills: Sneak, Conjuration.

    Stone: Lord.

    Weapons: All marksman weaponry.

    Armor: Mixed light armor.

    Shouts: Become Etheral, Slow Time, Unrelenting Force, Marked for Death.


    The Build

    The concept of an arcane archer is nothing new; there's obviously a ton of potential in taking an average bow and imbuing it with powerful magic, but to comprehend what this character brings to the table you need to understand the basic weaknesses of pure archers and how to turn these weaknesses into strengths.

    In my experience an archer needs just one thing to do exceptionally well...time.  When you consider the fact that even the humblest of bows imbued with minor frost damage is capable of slowing an enemy by 50% you begin to realise how devastating this character can be once they commit perks into archery. An archer with the ranger perk and a bow of frost is capable of outflanking the quickest of enemies, combine this with the fact that your attacks will be staggering 50% of the time and will render foes incapable of performing power attacks or sprinting and you have a cocktail for disaster.

    While elemental cloaks are usually used for mild damage during combat, the specialised elemental perks ‘Intense Flames’, 'Disintegrate' or ‘Deep Freeze’ can ensure that weakened enemies that draw near are either directly repelled, turned to ash or paralysed from cold.

    When your characters primary weapon is two handed you're placing certain limitations on your build; they cannot use spells seamlessly during battle. This presents problems for an arcane archer; although their bows are primarily powered by enchanting they're bolstered significantly by destruction perks. Pure archers also suffer from defence limitations, whatever armor skill they choose will not always develop fast enough to provide significant resistance against hard-hitters that stray too close or ranged attacks from enemy archers.

    Enter the amazing ‘merchant’ perk. This easily obtained perk is the answer to so many build problems. How many times have you had 40+ enchanted iron daggers for sale with no place to go to unload them? What if we could unleash them all on a powerful trainer like Faralda in exchange for some expensive destruction training?

    People (myself included) often say that the speech skill in Skyrim is completely useless. Sure, we could wait and level skills over time, but when are you ready to get on with playing your character?

    For this build I just wanted to equip my bow(s) and wreak absolute chaos! In order to do this I didn’t want to go through the hassle of juggling spell craft during battle just to reach key perks. The way I see it all characters are merchants in their own right; this character is just an exceptionally good one and I was able to reclaim my lost speech perks from the points I saved in the destruction skill by not levelling it the traditional way.

    Because Arcane Archers are so versatile they can be developed in several different ways, each playthrough guarantees a different experience...

    The Chaos Ranger

    Stat Placement: Magicka 0 / Health 2 / Stamina 1


    The Nightstalker

    Stat Placement: Magicka 1 / Health 3 / Stamina 1


    The Bows

    Time to take a look at what this character is really about; enchanted ranged weaponry. The extra effect perk can activate destruction augmentations to bind strong additional effects. The listed effects are created without the use of enchanting potions.


    Bow of Burning Souls

    Soul Trap

    Fire Damage: 15 Points

    Fiery soul trap is obviously a great enchantment for an entry level arcane archer. Expect to use this blow plenty during the rookie levels for harvesting souls. Augmented flames will give the effect a little boost.








    Nexus Raper

    Frost/Stamina Damage: 46

    Fear: Level 37 (Level 46 for a vampiric archer)

    This thing is absolutely beastly. Combining fear and frost means that enemies will be running away slower than usual; in tight dungeons there are few places to hide often forcing foes to run further into unexplored areas and alerting their friends, inviting them to come and join the party of the damned.

    Combined with strong archery skills this bow is capable of reducing a bandit chief to a terrified crawl. 'Slow' becomes 'Stop'.








    Flame Raper

    Fire Damage: 46 (69 vs Undead)

    Turn Undead: Level 37

    This bow comes in very handy, plenty of undead to be purged in the various tombs of Skyrim. Draugr are already slow beasties and have a weakness to fire that should maximise this bows effectiveness.

    Considering draugr deathlords range from levels 30 - 40 this bow allows the archer to sweep through even the most densely populated crypts.








    Cruel Heart

    Frost/Stamina Damage: 46

    Absorb Health: 30

    All absorption spell effects are increased by 50% when linked with an arcane archers chosen element. As a pure magical effect absorb health ignores elemental resistances and blesses the archer with stolen energy.

    Absorb health is classed as a destruction spell effect and will therefore benefit from any existing cost reduction bound to armor.

    It would be almost rude not to use this evil weapon.








    Fire Damage: 69

    Frost/Stamina Damage: 69

    The arcane archers ultimate creation utilises all four of destructions augmentation perks to create a synergised energy weapon, an item that is in perfect harmony with its masters own abilities.

    The combination of fire and frost means no dragon is safe from its awesome power.








    The interesting thing about bows created with a fear or the turn undead effect is that they are strong no matter what difficulty you choose to play on. Although enemies encountered while playing on master difficulty hit harder and have more health they are still bound by their character level. This means that an Arcane Archer will ultimately dominate any difficulty they choose to play on.



    So with the full weight of the merchant perk at our back we can refine our archers skills as we play, there is absolutely no reason to pass up on training 5 times every level if you really want to push for a specific perk. For my archer I visited these npc’s in the following order to literally build my character as I saw fit.

    Revyn Sadri (Sadri’s Used Wears – Windhelm)

    This chappie was my first mark. As a pawnbroker Revyn can already barter in any goods we see fit to sell him. After a quick inner-city miscellaneous quest Revyn will happily train us up to 50 in speech so we can unlock the merchant perk and dominate all other traders in Skyrim. As a new character I needed some seed money to get me started; I recommend two low level methods to create fast cash and leverage Revyn into disclosing the gift of the gab.

    1. Blue Butterfly Wing & Blue Mountain Flower creates an expensive low level potion without needing to perk alchemy. These ingredients can easily be picked up in the areas surrounding Riverwood and Whiterun. Nice easy path for considerable gold at low levels.

    2. Graywinter Watch just to the east of Whiterun holds Froki’s bow guarded by two trolls. The trolls will enter their usual fit of rage when you enter the cave but due to the cells unique design you can easily stroll past both of them grab the bow and walk out before they lay a finger on you. A risky tactic for a level 1 ‘dead is dead’ (RuneRed) player but the stamina damage enchantment is incredibly expensive and will provide a ton of early cash once disenchanted, we are after all creating a character that just buys filled soul gems without thinking.

    Faralda (College of Winterhold - Winterhold)

    Faralda is going to teach us destruction, for my character I wanted the deep freeze perk that requires a skill level of 60. The nice thing about Faralda is that she guards the entrance to the college fiercely, making her a quick stop for training between levels. Chuck your enchanted daggers or potions at her and you can be hitting 60 in destruction before level 20 without casting a single jet of flames.


    Grelka (Riften - Market)

    So once destruction has reached its potential my next concern was defence, Grelka is an expert trainer in light armor and can happily train you up for the Wind Walker perk (an incredibly powerful perk for any archer skilled in steady hand). This npc just provides icing on the cake; an arcane archer is already capable of finishing most fights before they even get started. But its worth being prepared…



  • April 3, 2013

    It isn't really necessary, enchanting nets you soooo much money. An iron dagger with banish/absob health is worth like 2500+gold...

  • Member
    April 3, 2013

    Yeah and the enchanted daggers with the stamina damage does fetch some good coin at early levels and the blue butterfly/blue flower potion is nice too but if you add some hanging moss or glowing mushrooms you can add a few hundred on to the price. 

  • Member
    April 10, 2013

    Quick question - would it be possible to substitute heavy armor for light armor? Steel Plate is one of my favorite sets, and I really feel incomplete without it...

  • April 10, 2013
    I wish Alchemy made for a more seamless substitute of Enchanting with this build. Granted it'd be a different build entirely, as Enchanting more or less IS this build, but I just love the idea of a naturalist Archer who makes his own potions and poisons to slow his enemies to a crawl as he picks them off, rather than Frost magic. I just don't see Alchemy providing anywhere near the same degree of utility and damage as Enchanting does here though, unless I'm missing something. For shame!
  • April 11, 2013

    It's sometimes fun to try a little of both Snakes, there is no reason why a character skilled primarily in alchemy can't enjoy a little enchanted warfare...

    For example the Black Bow of Fate should work great with alchemy!

  • Member
    April 15, 2013

    The Black bow is king over zepher. Auiriels bow is only bow better than it.

    I say, the dwarven bb, a's bow and bow of the stag prince from both dragonborn and dawnguard would be good for this character.

    Weakness to poison the weakness to magic poison combined with the dbb (Dwarven black bow) = death to others whilst you get free health.

    A shame you don't have the 3 dlc's Mason! I bet you could make some awesome builds with the content in them.

  • Member
    April 23, 2013
  • Member
    April 23, 2013
    Thanks so much for this! I'm going to mix the two examples a bit and maybe add a bit of illusion. This is the most detailed and understandable guide I've ever read. I think you've earned that +1
  • April 23, 2013
    Mason, the only thing I dislike about this build is that the old picture was way better than that cartoony new piece o' crap. When you finally posting your next build? The suspense is killing me after that teaser!