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Event Build: Zurin Arctus

Tags: #Character Build Mage  #Character Build Summoner  #Race:Breton  #Rank:Event Mythic  #Event:Resurrection 
  • Member
    April 2, 2014

     This is my first build to be published on this site, and, with a rather fortuitous turn of event, it was conceptualized during the course of the Resurrection Character Building Contest. A mage at heart, I initially wanted to recreate my first ever Skyrim character – the multi-disciplined Archmage of Winterhold. However, I was without inspiration and did not want to fall into the trap of making yet another potions-gulping spellzerker. This is where the “fortuitous” part comes in. After some hours of ploughing through Tamrielic Lore, I finally found the one mage that checked my entire list: dangerously powerful and historically significant yet incomprehensively studied. I present: 

    Zurin Arctus Resurrected

    The first ever to receive the title of the Imperial Battlemage. A Master of Magicka with a flair for Diplomacy. A resourceful strategist who possessed both knowledge and wisdom of warfare. Zurin Arctus, the renowned magician of the Second Era, was the right arm of Tiber Septim himself and an irreplaceable part of the Emperor’s conquest of Tamriel. His reanimation of the Numidium was, by all means, the ultimate weapon that brought the Aldmeri Dominion to its knees.

    Betrayed and condemned to oblivion by the very King that he put on the throne, Zurin’s thirst for vengence has known no match throughout the realm of Nirn. Now, as Dragons once again cast their shadow of domination on Tamriel, as Vampires hunger to devour the very Sun, as ancient spirits of long forgotten Tyrants stir in their sleep, as the very fabric of existence shivers in the wake of The Elder Scrolls’ ancient magic of, the time is right for the legendary wizard to rise up from his grave and see the world trembling in his wake.

    A few heads-ups

    This is not one of the power-gaming kinds of build (although Legendary difficulty is highly recommended for fun challenge). For this build, I try to stick as close as possible to the persona of Zurin Arctus: his philosophy, his deeds and his achievements when he was alive. Not only does it follow the theme of the contest but the build also gives the character a certain level of role-playing depth and some self-handicapped challenges.

    At first, this build is very weak in terms of defense as you will be focusing on pumping up your magicka reserve. Therefore it is best to start the game at Expert Difficulty and switch to harder modes once some of the following items are acquired: Beyond Ethereal, Slow Time, Aetherial Crown, Staves of Frost/Storm Wall. If you want some extra challenge, start at Master but definitely not Legendary.

    Also sorry about the non-perfect English, I’m not a native speaker.

    Build Overview

    Gender: Strictly male. According to all sources about Zurin Arctus, we are quite sure that he’s no Tiber Spetim’s secret lover.

    Race: Breton. While no one is certain of Zurin’s race, it can be inferred from the fact that he resurrected the Numidium to crush the Aldmeri Dominion that he harbors no love for Elves. Among all the races of Man, Breton is the only true magic-using race. Their skill bonuses in Conjuration, Alchemy and Speech as well as their Racial Power all greatly contribute to the build.

    Stats Distribution: All magicka till level 25, all Health afterward

    Major Skills: Destruction, Conjuration, Alchemy

    Minor Skills:  Enchanting, Speech.

    Shouts and Power: Marked For Death, Become Ethereal, Slow Time, Soul Tear, Breton Racial Ability, Agent of Mara


    • Early Game: the best mace you have. Destruction staves to save mana (optional)
    • End Game: Miraak’s Staff, Staff of Frost Wall/Storm Wall (Enchanted Staves), Mace of Molag Bal.


    • Early Game: Mage robes and hoods and basically anything that give you mana and mana regen. Other than that, put a piece of light armor here and there to prepare for the end game
    • End Game: Aetherial Crown, Vampire Royal Armor, Vampire Boots Light Armor (Custom Enchanted), Vampire gauntlets (Custom Enchanted), Custom Enchanted Ring and Amulet,

    Other items: Black Azura Star, Ancient Helmet of the Unburned

    Stones: Mage first to level up then switch to Lord (for extra defense) or Apprentice (if you are comfotable with the combat mechanic).  Once you get hold of the Aetherial Crown, keep either Lord or Apprentice for your first stone and Serpent for your second.

    Companion: Housecarls or tanky companion with high defensive skills in general.

    Play Style

    “The skillful battlemage ensures that the enemy is already defeated before the battle begins. A close-fought battle is to be avoided; the fortunes of war may turn aside the most powerful sorcery, and courage may undo the best-laid plans.”

    Zurin Arctus, The Art of War Magic

    This is a pure mage: physically vulnerable but more than made up for by his intellect and tactics. Don’t expect to be able to withstand a few power swings from bandit chiefs or some arrows to the knees. There is no Restoration, no Mage Armor, no Ebony Mail to cover for your mistakes. Everything must be planned before the battle begins. There is no room for error; there is no plan B. There is only one carefully executed strategy.  The other option is death.

    Two points that need to be stressed for this build: violence is the last resort but always prepare for violence. Knowing about the battle ahead is very important: the types of enemies, the general geographical layout of the battle field, the possible exploitations. Keep these in mind and we shall proceed to see how Zurin Arctus handle combat in general.

    This build concentrates on being a staff-using mage 95% of the time. He relies only on two school of magic: Destruction and Conjuration. According to Bervo Beravar, accomplished Imperial Battlemages are those who focused on only one or two schools of magic rather than spreading out like a jack-of-all-trades. But even the greatest mage needs to stay alive. Lacking any means of raising his own defensive prowess, Zurin must rely on his summons and a tanky companion to ward off enemies waves. When sheltered from damage, he can safely cast his devastating spells (Blizzard/Lighting Storm for example) to wreak havoc on even the toughest of the bosses.

    But this is only scratching the surface. What really brings this build to the next level is the use of staves for crowd control and synergy.  The Dragonborn DLC makes it possible to enchant staff with certain spells. In this build, I focus on the use of Frost Wall and Shock Wall spells on a destruction staff. These spells work great against a crowd of enemies as they do not only deal damage but also slow the enemy down and drain their magicka/stamina. Having both of these staves with you all the time (after you are able to make them of course) is a must since Zurin must be prepared for all scenarios of battles, whether he is up against a powerful necromancer or the champion of the Arena. What’s more is that these staves save up a lot on magicka usage, enabling Zurin to divert some points into health for better survivability from mid to late game.

    Sometimes, even the best laid out plan fails as Zurin himself admitted. This is where the mace comes in as a buffer weapon in case the enemy gets too close and you are out of mana and your staff out of charge. But didn’t I say that our little Zurin can’t stand getting smashed in the head for a few hits? You bet he can’t. However, we always have a card up our sleeves. As a mage, Zurin is also well versed in potions and poisons, which enables him to create the last-resort paralyze poison that he applies to his mace 24/7 in case of imminent death. Feel free to come up with all kind of fun concoctions to use here but the paralysis effect is a must to avoid the loading screen.

    Moreover, as we will be using the Mace of Molag Bal, his physical attacks, while far less powerful than a Nord’s two-handed swipe, will drain the enemy to the point where they have no magicka/stamina left to fight back. And don’t worry. If you play correctly, by the time an enemy could get to you, a gentle swing would send them flying against the law of physics (which happens more often than not in Skyrim).

    Soul Tear is used occasionally to fill up your Azura Star without the trouble of casting Soul Trap.

    Another wonderful weapon is the Miraak’s Staff, which has the ability to spam staggering, poisonous area traps. This works great as a crowd control ability, enabling Zurin to carry out some of his more complex Special Abilities. Zurin also relies on another weapon, the Flame Atronach. But he uses it not for the DPS but for its frailness: he exploits the explosion effect of the atronach! Further details on this will be discussed in the Special Abilities section as well. For now, let’s look at perk placement and my rationale for choosing or not choosing certain perks.


    Perks Placement at Level 50: (I would recommend getting your magic skills up first, then your alchemy, then Enchanting and Speech as the last two are not too essential in combat). Light Armor and One Hand are used to get to lvl. 50 but no perks should be invested in them.


    “Any hedge mage can burn up his enemy with fire” _ The Art of War Magic.

    Zurin, as all other Imperial Battlemage, was a famed practitioner of the school of Destruction. Surely, he is no mere “hedge mage”. That is why the destruction skill tree needs to be heavily perked. For this build, I put points into all the perks in this tree except the Fire branch for reasons that will soon be explained. The Master Destruction perk may seem redundant since your mana pool and cost reduction enchantments will more than suffice. However, this perk is still taken more as a role-play perk, signifying the position of Zurin Arctus as one of the masters of Destruction.


    Numidium was Tiber Septim’s secret weapon in his bid for supreme power: a thousand foot tall automation”.

    Zurin sacrificed his own heart to resurrect the Brass God, transcending any boundary of Conjuration known to man. His skill tree is significant both lore-wise and gameplay-wise. Everything except for bound weapons branch and the Elemental Potency perks is chosen.  We deliberately avoid spending points in raising the atronach’s power to let them die more often in order to trigger a chain of explosions! Now we also understand why the fire branch of the Destruction skill tree is not used: we want to damage our own flame atronachs!

    Alchemy: I always consider the Imperial Battlemage is to the Emperor what a court wizard is to a Jarl. Therefore, they should possess knowledge in any magic-related area in order to assist their masters. Knowing about Alchemy is important: we don’t want the Emperor to have unexpected bowel movement during a critical battle do we? Take every perk except for Green Thumb and Experimenter. Pragmatically, the knowledge of alchemy enables us to make some very useful poison. Again no hard and fast rule but these are some possible combinations of effects that I’ve found useful: (note: some of the following poisons require the Purity perk)

    • Pain of the Limbo: separated from his own heart, Zurin Arctus spent what felt like eternity lying helpless in a subterranean vault. He knows the pain well and he knows that his enemy is not prepared for such a torture.
      • Effects: Damage Health, Lingering Damage Health, Paralyze.
      • Ingredients: human flesh, slaughter fish egg, imp stool.
      • Usage: either use with slow time to put down all enemies in the area or use as a last resort if enemy gets too close.
    • Overwhelming Presence: (Dragonborn DLC required) Zurin is, after all, the first Imperial Battlemage ever who once dueled Tiber Septim in an unresolved match. His presence is overwhelming for common foes and makes them feel puny and weak against a force so ancient.
      • Effects: Ravage Health, Ravage Magicka, Ravage Stamina.
      • Ingredients: jazbay grapes, scathecraw, spawn ash.
      • Usage: mostly in a one on one fight with a strong enemy. Use at the start to weaken him/her and then execute Mock the King (see Special Abilities) to finish off.
    • Mage Insight: (Dragonborn DLC required) Zurin is well aware of the strengths and weaknesses a mage has. This comes in handy when fighting against other mages.
      • Effects: Weakness to Shock, Damage Magicka, Slow.
      • Ingredients: Deathbell, Hagraven Feathers, Trama Root.
      • Usage: to cripple enemy mage and finish them off with shock spell.
    • Bane of the Ignorant: wizards are haughty. They look down on non-magic users and easily manipulate those who are weak in their minds.
      • Effects: Weakness to Fire, Weakness to Frost, Weakness to Poison.
      • Ingredients: Abecean Longfin, Bleeding Crown, Ice Wraith Teeth.
      • Usage: use with slow time to dsable the entire horde of enemies as a prime before unleashing Hell’s Chaos (Special Ability). This is mainly to deal with melee attacking opponents.


    “The cuirass is one of the greatest artifacts any collector or hero could own. It is constructed of real dragon bone and was enchanted by the first Imperial Battlemage, Zurin Arctus”

    _ on the Dragonbone Mail, Temrielic Lore.

    Besides being lore friendly, Enchanting is a must for any mage who does not want to spend all their points in magicka and become target practice for enemy’s archers. Use Enchanting to reduce magic cost and add magicka regen as you see fit as we only use two schools of Magic and the staves can help a lot with expert level or below spells. More reduction on Conjuration is recommended as we will be using destruction staff for crowd control and damage anyway.


    “Victory in battle is only the least kind of victory. Victory without battle is the acme of skill”

    _ Zurin Arctus, The Art of War Mafgic.

    Okay okay I heard you. These are probably the four most useless perks I’ve ever put into any of my character. But the cry for lore authenticity is just too loud I can’t ignore. Zurin is even rumored to be the one who brokered the deal between Vivec and Tiber Septim regarding the Numidium. This event alone highlights him as one of the best diplomats ever walked the land of Tamriel. Moreover, he has always preferred cunning, non-violent method to solve conflict before plunging the world into hell fire chaos. Use persuasion and intimidation whenever possible but remember the short key to your mace.

    Apparel Choice

    The first Imperial Battlemage resurrected (hair style by ApachiiSkyHair)

    While the Vampire Royal Armor is not exactly the strongest piece of armor for a mage, it looks totally badass and classy. The armor suits Zurin’s position as a high-ranked Imperial officer and exudes an aura of death as one would expect to see from the Underking. Since we are not using Alteration, it is fine to use some armor for the extra protection. But this can level up your character a bit so be careful and stay out of direct combat as much as possible until your main combat skills are leveled properly.

    If you find Vampire (or purple) repulsive then a combination of the Archmage Robes and dragonbone gauntlets and boots is visually pleasing as well. I just don’t feel like it matches the title of Imperial Battlemage as well as the previous choice does. (Look at that badassary again you purple haters).


    There are several items essential to this build that can only be collected through specific quest. So in general, you should do:

    The College of Winterhold Questline: natural choice for any mage. Zurin wants to learn more about the arcane art and how it has evolved after so long a time. The library is also a great source of information about the world that he now lives in. As his principle is to prepare for every battle in advance, reading about people and creatures is a must. Some good items to look out for during mid-game are: Morokei, Archmage Robes, and Ancient Helmet of the Unburned (The Staff of Magnus Quest). This helmet is to be given to your companion to raise their immunity to fire in order to carry out Hell’s Chaos (Special Ability).

    Dawnguard Questline: you should complete this at least up to Lost to the Ages to get the Aetherial Crown for a second standing stone power (The Serpent in our case). The Serpent Stone is very effective against boss or enemy’s archers or mages since we don’t have the luxury of normal paralysis spell in the Alteration school of magic. Other items that this questline provides are: Vampire royal armor and Soul Tear (shout to help garner some souls for recharging staves).

    Dragonborn Questline: you should start this questline and finish up until the point where you can the Staff Enchanter. This is very crucial in our build. If you want, you can finish it to get Miraak’s staff for extra crowd control ability but it is not as essential.

    Main Questline: up until Paarthurnax gives you three meditations on the Words of Power. Take Fus just to be a little extra in your Mock the King Special Ability.

    Civil War (Imperial): what can be better than a chance to crush your nemesis’ little fan club?

    Destroy the Dark Brotherhood: well now there is another emperor waiting for you to save him.

    Daedric Quests: Zurin has a huge interest in magic and any kind of magical items turn him on. Just take part in any quests you find interesting but be sure to complete the House of Horror to get the Mace of Molag Bal.

    The Bard College Questline: a decent detour to raise your speech skill and get educated in culture.

    Miscellaneous Quests:

    • Help alchemists around Skyrim to make them restock faster if you ever need ingredients
    • Become Thane of Solitude: a position befitting your reputation and a house close to the heart of the Empire in Skyrim to feel like home.
    • Become Agent of Mara by completing the quest “The Book of Love” in Riften to raise your magic resistance. Zurin knows well about magic thus he's also prepared to stand toe to toe with other magic users.

    Role Playing

    Some aspects of role playing this character have already been discussed in previous sections. Here, I just want to put some general guidance of how an Imperial Battlemage should behave in Skyrim:

    • Listen to all conversations and read all books. Remember, our guy is a strategist, he must know his enemies to fight well.
    • Ask around for rumors and investigate all the ones related to magic.
    • Learn all spells in Conjuration and Destruction. You’ll only use a handful of them but an Imperial Battlemage must have a rich repertoire of spells.
    • Discriminate against elves, especially Altmer since they are a bunch of asses anyway.
    • Just an extension of the previous point but remember to kick Thalmor’s asses whenever possible.
    • Never accept any blessing of Talos. Kill Talos’ followers whenever possible (exercise this right with caution my friends).
    • Shoot fire at Talos shrines.
    • You hate tyranny. So act to help the oppressed and to maintain fairness.
    • Always try to speak and reason first. Remember, you value shrewdness more than prowess

    Basic Combat Tactics

    Carnivorous Bog: Naming is fun but this ability is actually just your main approach to combat in the earlier stage of the game. Use Miraak’s staff in conjunction with your undeads and companion to bog down the enemy. Then, either use your Adept Level Destruction Spells or your Staff of Frost/Shock Wall to destroy them. Note: Staff of Frost/Shock Wall do not damage your followers.

    Required: Undead summoning spells of various levels + Companion + Chain Lightning/Ice Storm

    Optional: Miraak’s Staff, Staff of Frost/Shock Wall.


    Mage Hunt: this is your basic strategy against enemy mage. You have three choices to open the battle. First, use Breton’s spell absorption racial ability to get close to the enemy’s mage. Second, use Slow Time. Third, use The Serpent Stone to paralyze him/her from afar. After the first step is done, poison the mage with Mage Insight and finish him off with lightning spells.

    Required: mage insight + Breton racial ability + lightning spells.

    Optional: Slow Time, The Serpent Stone


    Special Abilities

    Hell Chaos 

    This is the ultimate combination of every elements of this build, used against horde of enemies (well about 3 and above). The idea is just an extension of Carnivorous Bog, but it requires more abilities and time to set up. First, use Slow Time to apply Bane of the Ignorant to as many enemies as you can. When the effect of Slow Time nearly finishes, summon two Flame Atronachs. Now, remember our atronachs are weaklings but we love them that way. Stand from a far, shoot the whole bunch of them – enemies and friends – with Frost Spells either Adept or Master Level. Now, Bane of the Ignorant will lower their resistance to both fire and ice. Your Flame Atronachs will die soon and they will explode, causing extra damage. It is at this point that you may want to set up a few Frost Runestoo so that a chain explosion can be exploited. Immediately summon another Flame Atronach and continue. However, this combination can be devastating to your companion too. This is where the Ancient Helmet of the Unburned comes into play. This is the only piece of headwear that raises elemental resistance. Enchant your follower’s armor with fire and frost resistance and he/she should be able to withstand the waves of destruction of the First Imperial Battlemage. This ability is a wild one and it does take some crowd control to make it effective. For example, when your atronachs die, immediately use Miraak’s staff to ground your opponent down so they will suffer the explosion damage. It takes some trial and errors but once you pull this off, you will truly feel like a calculated magic-using maniac that can take down the whole world.


    Slow Time + Flame atronachs + Frost Spells (Adept/Master) + Bane of the Ignorant + Miraak’s staff + Custom Frost and Fire resisting apparel + Ancient Helmet of the Unburned + (for follower).


    Mock the King 

    This move is inspired from the battle Zurin had with Tiber Septim. Zurin is an expert at tactics and war but he is also a courageous duelist who never backs down before a strong enemy. This move is used against single strong enemy and aims at defeating them in a humiliating manner. To open, use Marked for Death on them (if they are well-armored) then paralyze them with the Serpent Stonepower from afar. While they are paralyzed, apply Overwhelming Presence on Mace of Molag Baland strikes your foes as fast as you can. Slow Time would definitely help here. After the paralysis ended, their armor, health, magicka and stamina are greatly depleted. Now, use Miraak’s staff to stagger them and place runes under their feet or just spam Destruction spells, your choice. The enemy will be staggered, stunned and enervated before they can even get to you. This certainly looks fun, especially on important characters like Ulfric Stormcloak. They will remember your name, Zurin Arctus, the first Imperial Battlemage, sworn enemy of Tiber Septim.


    Maked for Death + the Serpent Stone + Slow Time + Overwhelming Presence + Mace of Molag Bal + Miraak’s staff + Destruction Spell of choice


    Image Credit


    Stephen Harrison






    Closing Remarks

    Thank you Mason for this amazing contest and thanks everyone for spending time reading my first build.

    Hope you have enjoyed it and any constructive criticism is welcomed!

  • April 2, 2014

    Wow! This is a massive build and really well presented!

  • Member
    April 2, 2014

    Hey, i like it very much! Maybe your armor combo might be better(dragonbone mail), but it's an all around awesome build. Well deserved +1 by me.

  • Member
    April 2, 2014

    Thank you!

    And gratitude for making the event

  • Member
    April 2, 2014

    Thank you! 

    I'm thinking of following up on your suggestion and make heavy armor available to this guy. I'm into the mage look now but heavy armor will definitely improve his survivalbility a lot

  • April 2, 2014
    Definitely one of the very best first builds I've ever seen. Great job!
  • Member
    April 2, 2014
    One of the things this contest has done for me is awaken a respect for Zurin... what an awesome character! This is a fantastic build, and as a first build? Amazing! You have, of course, earned a +1 from me... Again, great job!
  • Member
    April 2, 2014

    Thank you!

    I was very much impressed by Zurin as well. It's sad that most NPC in Skyrim do not have the same depth and interesting personalities as these historical figures do. 

  • Member
    April 2, 2014

    Thank you

  • Member
    April 2, 2014
    Awesome! Another Arctus build :) Although I disagree with a lot of your choices, I do respect a different interpretation. Especially a well-presented one! You mentioned using a Breton because they were the only real magic-using human race. I have got to disagree with that. Also, I doubt he would be Dragonborn if he contained the soul of Lorkhan but roleplay could potentially fix that :p Either way, this is a great first build! Hope to see more from you.