Skyrim Character Building » Discussions

Let's Build: a Pure Mage. Part III - Skills and Perks

  • Member
    May 25, 2016

    So far in this series, we've analyzed race and the question of vampirism or lycanthropy

    In this discussion, we move into the meat of the matter. Skills and perks offer tremendous customization, and there are a lot of choices to be made.

    In some ways, the "pure mage" build seems incredibly straightforward. There are 6 magic skills in Skyrim. Take them all. Done.

    But let's remember the criteria we're aiming for in the build:

    -A strong focus on magic, with minimal (or no) use of physical weapons and armor

    -a blend of all (or most) magic disciplines. Conjuration + Illusion can win easily enough, but we want to utilize all the tools at our disposal!

    -minimal redundancies/maximum efficiency

    It's those last two points that offer us the most challenge. We want a mage build that is viable at all levels, and doesn't require a 60+-level investment. At the same time, unlike many mage builds, we don't want to over-specialize. In order to play like the iconic chessmaster wizards, prepared for any eventuality, we want a good deal of variety and, ideally, synergy in our skills and perks.

    Let's start by narrowing down our skill selection.


    All of the combat skills can be written off fairly easily, with perhaps a couple of exceptions.

    Two Handed and Smithing are obviously not a good fit. Heavy Armor and Block can be similarly dropped from consideration. There are some pieces of heavy armor that are of great use to a mage (I'm thinking of Ahzidal's set and some Dragon Priest masks - especially those found on Solstheim), but investing in Heavy Armor perks isn't required to make use of those items' enchantments. And a mage wants to be unencumbered, both for mobility and because a lack of Stamina investment will keep carry weight at a premium.

    Block is useful for shield mages - and there are some excellent shields available for a mage. The Aetherial Shield is a great tool for getting rid of melee foes; Auriel's Shield can serve a similar function. Spellbreaker serves as a free ward. Carrying a shield gives you another enchantment slot, and doesn't even interfere with Mage Armor perks. On the other hand, the Block perks themselves don't add much to the specialty shields I've listed. And this build needs to be very careful with perk investment. If you want to carry and use these shields, go for it (though it doesn't fit my image of the iconic wizard) - just don't feel like you need to work up Block.

    There is a stronger argument for some investment in One Handed and/or Archery. Enchanted (and possibly poisoned) daggers are the best melee weapon for a mage - light enough to carry several, each with its own enchantment; and faster than any other weapon, which helps apply the effects more quickly. Only the base perks would be desirable here, since power attacks decrease your attack speed and efficiency (and aren't too much of a help to daggers anyway). But are they even needed? The enchanted effect(s) are what you really care about, not the physical damage of the dagger itself. I'd give this skill a pass, and just carry a few daggers - and hope I don't need to fall back on them.

    Archery gives a wizard something to do while his Magicka regenerates, and has the advantage of keeping him out of harm's way. Bows can be enchanted and poisoned as well, and are preferable to daggers when applying effects like Weakness to Magic or Fire/Frost/Shock. If you go this route, you'll likely be using a follower or summons to keep enemies out of your face, and will want to take the Steady Hand perk to avoid accidentally hitting your allies. Power Shot can act as a poor man's Impact; Quick Shot improves your rate of fire; Ranger helps you stay out of reach. But at this point you're more of an arcane archer - and are sinking a lot of points into perks. A properly built and prepared mage shouldn't need to hang back and plink away at the enemy.

    So much for combat skills. Let's see what Stealth has to offer.


    We can eliminate Light Armor, Lockpicking, and Pickpocket. Light Armor's Deft Movement perk is always nice in theory, allowing you to avoid all damage from a physical attack, but its 100 skill requirement is too steep a price for an ability that works around 10% of the time, and especially for a mage who doesn't want to be in melee in the first place. I suppose Pickpocket could have some interesting flavor for a scoundrelly wizard. But we're looking to reshape the workings of the cosmos, not dig into purses.

    I always want to add Speech to my builds. Useful perks here would be Merchant - excellent for making the most of your training at Winterhold - and I've always wanted to smooth-talk my way into the College by taking Persuade and getting my Speech up to 70 (or just to 50 and using a +20 Fortify Persuade potion). But the road of the mage is a hard one, leaving little time to develop useful social skills.

    That leaves Sneak and Alchemy. I'll discuss Alchemy later, alongside Enchanting. Sneak has obvious utility, especially for solo mages. I'm not sure it's strictly necessary given that we'll have access to Muffle and Invisibility - as well as followers and summons and all the other tools at our disposal. A vampire mage will have an easier time skulking than a non-vampire, but anyone who plans to use Sneak to set up spell combos should probably spend a point or two in the base Stealth perk, and consider enchantments and/or potions that fortify the skill. For my money, I'd avoid the perks and just use the skill occasionally.

    Now to the heart of the matter: magical schools.



    This school offers one of the most useful perk trees in the game. It also offers a conundrum for a perk-starved character: which to focus on, magic resistance or absorption?

    Magic Resistance is early-entry, each perk adding 10% MR for a total of 30%. Use the Lord Stone for another 25% and Agent of Mara for 15% more, adding up to 70% MR. From here, a vampire character sleeping in a coffin gets a temporary 10% boost, and the Blessing of Azura offers another temporary 10%, to 90% MR - over the 85% cap. This is without any enchantments or potions, and without the Breton racial passive. Not bad.

    But some of these bonuses are temporary, 3 perks are required, and a good chunk comes from the Lord Stone, which isn't ideal for a pure mage.

    Chasing absorption, we'd take the Atronach Stone - a great deal more beneficial for a wizard. The only downside is a 50% slower Magicka regeneration rate. This is offset by a +50 Magicka boost, and the 50% chance of absorbing all of the damage from incoming spells and converting that into Magicka. It's an excellent trade-off in my view; I don't even mind the slower regen, since it means we'll just have to use our spells a bit more carefully, which fits with the image of an intelligent planner. (And if we're focusing on absorption, we'll be "regenerating" Magicka from hostile spellcasters much of the time anyway.) The Atronach perk has a 100 Alteration requirement, but we'll be in the neighborhood. It will raise our absorption by 30%. Miraak's Robes add another 15% (with a tentacle explosion as a built-in crowd-control feature, to boot), and if we want to be absolutely certain that no spell damage will get through, we could wear Miraak's Boots as well (which, according to UESP, do not interfere with Mage Armor perks despite being classed as light armor).

    Resistance is easier to acquire than absorption, but absorption will completely negate spell damage and refill your blue bar if it triggers. That makes absorb the better option late-game. One possibility could be for our mage to fill out the Magic Resistance perks as he works up Alteration, with the aim of re-allocating them later (after defeating Miraak and reaching 100 in Alteration). This is possibly the safest option, with resistance as a failsafe in case the Atronach Stone's absorb doesn't trigger, or for spells that make it past our wards.

    The other big question in Alteration is the Mage Armor perks. I think these are a decent deal, despite the 3-perk investment. It's easy enough to avoid armor items, and 300 AR with Ebonyflesh is not a bad thing. You could argue that the perks are wasted once Dragonhide is available (since Dragonhide simply grants maximum physical damage resistance), but we probably won't have Dragonhide up all the time. And with Altmer as the starting race - and the Atronach Stone - we have plenty of opportunities to put some points into Health, making flesh spells more likely to actually save our life against those powerful archers.

    On that note, we'll go all the way to Master Alteration, for Dragonhide as well as the deliciously overpowered Mass Paralysis - superlative crowd control. Along the way, this school will offer single-target Paralyze as well as some ash spells for thinning the herd. Of course, Alteration is also the "utility" school, featuring light spells, Telekinesis, Waterbreathing, and Equilibrium (the last of which won't likely be a prime feature of the build, since we'll have relatively low Health - but you never know).

    The two remaining perks are Dual Casting and Stability, both of which offer essentially the same thing: extra duration to your Alteration spells. Of the two, Stability is more useful, since it doesn't require expensive dual casting, and as a nice bonus it extends the duration of the Slow Time shout as well.

    Perks: Novice-Master, Mage Armor 3/3, Stability, Atronach.


    This is a quintessential school for an aspiring mage. The three main branches here involve atromancy, necromancy, and binding. While bound weapons are undeniably useful, they interfere with your ability to cast other spells, and their special perks (allowing soul trapping and banishing/turning) can all be replicated by actual spells.

    So, atromancy or necromancy? While the latter is more versatile and arguably more powerful, atromancy is more consistent and easy to use. (It also fits the image of a wizard summoning minions from the Outer Realms to do his bidding.)

    That said, the atromancy perks themselves may not be terribly useful. The most handy summon for a pure mage is not one that fights at range, but a tank. The two most attainable tank summons are the Frost Atronach and Dremora Lord. (The Wrathman, available in the Soul Cairn, is also an excellent tank and is affected by the necromancy perks.)

    Elemental Potency is available at 80 Conjuration skill. Expert Conjuration (available at skill 75) is required for the Dremora Lord spell. So making your Frost Atronach potent (heh) is only possible after you reach the point where you could summon a Dremora Lord.

    To my mind, then, we can save on a few perks by avoiding both Atromancy (increases duration) and Elemental Potency. Summoner 1/2 or 2/2 could be useful for throwing your summons right where you want them. Dual Casting affects the duration of all summons, and can raise the level of daedra that we can banish or control, if the situation should arise. It may be a decent investment.

    This means we're missing out on Twin Souls. I think that's OK; do we really need 2 summons at once? If so, there's always the Ash Guardian, which can be cast alongside another summon even without the perk.

    The Master Conjuration perk also isn't needed. Dead Thrall is practically a necessity for necromancers, but the elemental thralls don't add too much apart from bragging rights (and you can't have a Dremora thrall in any case).

    Perks: Novice-Expert, Summoner 2/2, Dual Casting

    [Note:  Luck Ponte has pointed out what should have been obvious to me:  that in the vanilla game, spell absorption has a chance to nullify your atronach summons.  For those who (like me) are playing with the USKP, or another fix, this isn't an issue; for everyone else, there are at least 3 options:

    1.  As Luck Ponte suggested, use the absorption as a 'toggleable' effect - storing the Atronach Stone in the Aetherial Crown, for example, and avoiding the Atronach Perk in Alteration.  It's possible to use the summons-absorb bug to regain more Magicka than you lose - or you can simply 'switch on' absorb when you want it.

    2. Switch over to a focus on resistance rather than absorption.  Lose the Atronach perk and take the 3 Magic Resistance perks instead, and pick up the Lord Stone as well as other sources of resistance.  This allows you to keep the Conjuration perks unchanged.

    3. Keep the absorption, but change over to necromancy.  Swap out the 2 ranks of Summoner for Necromancer and Dark Souls, and take Master Conjuration (for Dead Thrall) as well as Twin Souls.  

    Sorry for the obvious miss on that one - and thanks to Luck for pointing it out!]


    Any respectable wizard has to have some way of dealing direct damage. Fire, Frost, or Lightning - which element will our foes suffer from?

    Fire is a good all-rounder. There are few immune or resistant foes; on mainland Skyrim, you can handle just about anything by burning it enough. Another advantage is the damage, which can be significant. Spec into fire, and you'll be getting the most out of your Augmented perks. A nice side benefit is the fact that those perks also augment the power of Bane of the Undead.

    Frost is good for crowd control, to a degree, thanks to its slowing effect. Deep Freeze's paralysis is affected by Stability, which offers some nice synergy - but then, it's probably not strictly necessary, since enemies who are paralyzed in this fashion are already close to death. Ice Storm is an amazing Adept-level spell that, with Impact, staggers *all* foes who are hit by it (unlike the explosive Fireball and Chain Lightning). But you don't need the Augmented Frost perks to take advantage of that.

    Shock spells are the least likely to be resisted, making it an always effective option. Augmented Shock boosts the damage of Storm Call's lightning - but say goodbye to your followers!

    My preferred route is fire. We can still use spells involving the other elements when needed, but Augmented Flames is too good to pass up, especially in combination with Necromage and other Destruction-boosting factors. I like taking Intense Flames - it's easy enough to learn when an enemy's health is low enough to trigger the fear effect with a small burst of Flames, providing a bit of cheap crowd control - but that's something we can always drop if there's not enough room.

    How high to climb up the Destruction tree? To really affect the battlefield, I think we want to go all the way to Master. With summons and followers, we'll have a good chance to get off those top-tier spells like Firestorm and Blizzard (with Companion's Insight making it more likely for them to survive), and set up some interesting combinations.

    We also want Dual Casting and Impact, the latter for its solidly reliable stagger effect. Finally, Rune Master allows some fun times, especially with the new runes added by the Dragonborn expansion.

    Perks: Novice-Master, Dual Casting, Impact, Rune Master, Augmented Flames 2/2, Intense Flames


    Ah, Illusion - a notoriously perk-intensive school. It's possible - and tempting - to avoid it entirely, since the effects can be replicated to a degree by potions, poisons, powers, or enchanted items. But this is primarily a spellcasting build, after all.

    Illusion allows a pure mage to impose his powerful will on others and control the battlefield. It also offers some great options for stealth. Early access to Muffle is excellent for any mage exploring dungeons, making it possible to take enemies by surprise without relying on the Sneak skill. Quiet Casting is an absolutely iconic "metamagic feat" for a wizard, and will allow us to ply our spells in peace. And eventually, Invisibility will allow us to pull off some tremendous opening moves.

    So far, then, we're aiming for Expert Illusion and Quiet Casting. We'll avoid Master of the Mind (since undead can be turned, daedra can be banished or controlled, and automatons... well, for automatons we'll have fire).

    That middle branch of the Illusion tree is the real kicker. Hypnotic Gaze, Aspect of Terror, and Rage all boost the level of effectiveness of Calm, Fear, and Frenzy spells respectively. But it's a hefty investment. (I've often been annoyed at the structure of the Illusion "tree"; these days, I prefer to view it as reflecting a great dedication on the part of a would-be illusionist.)

    At first I thought about focusing on Calm spells exclusively and just taking Hypnotic Gaze, the low-hanging fruit on the perk tree. But Calm can get a little silly when you're fighting a single enemy, since your summons will break off combat too. Fear is preferable, since the enemy will run and your minions can keep doing damage without breaking the effect.

    Also, the Dual Casting perk in Illusion is more effective than any one of the Calm/Fear/Frenzy perks. Hypnotic Gaze adds 8 levels to the effectiveness of Calm spells; Dual Casting more than doubles it.

    The basic Calm spell affects up to lvl 9. With Kindred Mage (which we're getting on the way to Quiet Casting) and Hypnotic Gaze, the spell affects up to lvl 27 (9 + 10 from Kindred Mage + 8 from Hypnotic Gaze). But the same spell dual-cast (with Kindred Mage) affects up to lvl 41 without Hypnotic Gaze.

    At the higher tiers, with Dual Casting, we'll be able to cast Pacify and Rout spells that affect NPCs of up to lvl 66, and Frenzy that enrages up to lvl 52. This can be improved by potions that fortify Illusion. (Of course, a Necromage vampire would gain even more benefit.) But this is plenty for bandits and most NPCs, I'd wager.

    It should also be noted that in the vanilla game, Aspect of Terror adds a flat +10 to your fire damage. (Those playing with the Unofficial Patch won't get this benefit.) Is it worth a 2-perk dip? I say no - not for this build, anyway. This mage isn't an obsessed pyromancer, and 2 more perks means 2 more levels - which is a serious commitment once you start looking past level 40. If we really want extra fire damage, we'll don Ahzidal's mask or gulp a Fortify Destruction potion.

    Perks: Novice-Expert, Dual Casting, Animage, Kindred Mage, Quiet Casting


    A pure mage wants Restoration for 2 main reasons: wards and circles. Healing is the most obvious use of Restoration, but as a mage you should ideally be using your blue bar for other things - things like avoiding having to heal in the first place. Things like wards and circles.

    Wards have been maligned on many a Skyrim message board almost since 11/11/11. I love them - they introduce a bit of tactics into magic gameplay, forcing you to manage your resources and plan ahead. Pair a ward spell with a staff (boosted by Augmented Flames), and our mage can stand off against a rival wizard for a true duel. Dragonfire becomes a non-issue. And at need, a ward can quickly shore up our defenses, boosting the AR provided by flesh spells. Since this build will pursue spell absorption rather than magic resistance, wards are a necessary active defense during the early- to mid-game. Late game we will be approaching (or at) 100% spell absorption, negating the need for wards; but until then, Ward Absorb is a decent investment to my mind (and it can be re-allocated later if need be). Check out this discussion by Vazgen if you need more convincing.

    Circles too offer excellent benefits. The Expert-level Circle of Protection turns undead and recharges Magicka for mages who have spell absorption. Since we're already going along that path, this is an easy choice for the build.

    At the Master level, we have exactly 2 spells: Bane of the Undead and Guardian Circle. Are they worth it? The latter spell can be used to set up the former, and Bane of the Undead will be boosted by Augmented Flames, so I think this is a decent option. On the other hand, Circle of Protection's turn undead effect is affected both by Dual Casting and Necromage, bringing the level of affected undead up to 55 - higher than Bane of the Undead, which with Necromage affects undead up to lvl 43. And there are scrolls of both Master-tier spells for the buying and finding.

    Of course, if we skip Master Restoration and take Dual Casting instead, we're just swapping one perk for another. Does Dual Casting offer other benefits beside those to Circle of Protection? Healing spells are stronger when dual-cast. Dual casting a ward has some benefits (stronger ward, instant charge-up time), but the huge drawback of requiring both hands. Dual casting Turn Undead spells only affects the duration of the turning, not the level of affected undead. A dual-cast Poison Rune does (I believe) more damage over time, juts as with the Destruction runes - the most tempting aspect of the perk. But even with that, I'm unconvinced that Dual Casting is necessary.

    Without Dual Casting, a Necromage-affected Circle of Protection turns undead up to lvl 25 - not great, but not terrible. It will also recharge our Magicka - a nice little benefit. And if we stack a Guardian Circle on top of that, we get healing too.

    I don't think I want this character to be bound by the random loot or merchant inventories, so Master Restoration seems like a sensible investment - but Dual Casting can take a pass.

    Necromage is hidden behind Regeneration, which probably isn't strictly necessary for this character. But Necromage - even for a non-vampire - is well worth it, delivering all the things you wish Dual Casting did. It pushes the afterburn damage of our fire spells even further against undead targets, and raises the turning level. Given the preponderance of undead monstrosities in Skyrim, I don't think our character will want to pass up Necromage.

    Respite is obviously unnecessary, but what about the 2 Recovery perks and Avoid Death? I typically love Recovery for mages, but I also like the idea of this character needing to plan his spell use rather than blast away at will. Also, our focus on absorption means we'll be getting Magicka back more often than not when we're hit with spells. Rather than trying to work against the weakness of the Atronach Stone, I think by playing to its strengths we can save a perk or two.

    Still, Avoid Death is tempting - a "contingency" spell, if you will; perfect for a character who wants to be prepared for any outcome. Is it worth 2 perks? I'll include it here provisionally - let me know what you think in the comments!

    Perks: Novice-Master, Ward Absorb, Regeneration, Necromage, Recovery 1/2, Avoid Death


    I considered making this a no-crafting build, since both Alchemy and Enchanting are rather perk-intensive, and I picture this character as a spellcaster above all, not primarily a craftsman. But traditional wizards are famous for tinkering with ancient artifacts or concocting dubious brews. The real question became, which skill makes the most sense to dabble in - Enchanting or Alchemy? Or both?

    Alchemy is by far more versatile and useful for a pure mage. Fortify Destruction potions increase your spells' damage; Fortify Illusion potions increase the level cap; Fortify Restoration potions strengthen your wards, healing, and turning spells. More obviously, potions can restore our chief attributes, Magicka and Health. A dagger poisoned with paralysis is a metaphorical ace up your sleeve.

    Enchanting does allow for some great utility. Most obvious for a wizard are the enchantments that reduce casting costs. But by chasing spell absorption, this character is committing himself to certain pre-enchanted apparel. And a hefty investment in Magicka (already boosted by the Altmer race and Atronach Stone), combined with careful casting choices, can reduce the need for reliance on cost-reducing gear. We'll find such apparel over the course of our adventures in any case.

    Any investment in Enchanting might be limited to a 2-perk dip: Enchanter 1/5 and Soul Squeezer. Soul Squeezer makes it easier to keep staves charged, and there are some excellent - and soul-greedy - staves for us to find, notably the Staff of Jyrik Gauldurson and the Staff of Magnus. To make the most out of this dip, we might assemble the equipment necessary for Ahzidal's Genius (+10 Enchanting), down a Fortify Enchanting potion, and learn the Seeker of Sorcery power (+10% to enchantments' power) from the Black Book The Sallow Regent, acquire a Grand Soul Gem and make ... whatever it is we want to make. We *will* be increasing Enchanting anyway, and it might be nice to have a dagger that inflicts fear or turns the undead in a pinch. But I think it more likely that the character will end up finding better items than we can make - eventually.

    Perks: Enchanter 1/5, Soul Squeezer

    We're getting close to level 50 now, which is a little high for my tastes. Still, I think some minimal investment in Alchemy is warranted, since it's not always possible to find or buy exactly the right potion. Can we get by with a single perk in Alchemist? Possibly, if we use our minimal enchanting expertise to craft some Fortify Alchemy gear and switch over to Seeker of Shadows. Even if this character won't be crafting the mightiest potions, he'll still get some utility out of being able to create reliable brews when they are needed. Benefactor is obviously slightly better than any rank of Alchemist, but it's stuck behind Physician, which only increases the restorative variety of potions - I don't think it's worth the perk cost.

    Perk: Alchemist 1/5

    Let's put it all together. So far, we have:

    Race: Altmer

    Stone: Atronach


    Alteration: Novice-Master, Mage Armor 3/3, Stability, Atronach

    Conjuration: Novice-Expert, Summoner 2/2, Dual Casting

    Destruction: Novice-Master, Dual Casting, Impact, Rune Master, Augmented Flames 2/2, Intense Flames

    Illusion: Novice-Expert, Dual Casting, Animage, Kindred Mage, Quiet Casting

    Restoration: Novice-Master, Ward Absorb, Regeneration, Necromage, Recovery 1/2, Avoid Death

    Enchanting: Enchanter 1/5, Soul Squeezer

    Alchemy: Alchemist 1/5

    So, we've got a level 50 character - a nice round number, and fairly manageable in terms of level.

    There may be some fat to be trimmed - or at least some choices I expect a few readers will question. The bolded perks above indicate things this build could arguably do without. For convenience, they are:

    2 ranks of Summoner (1 may be sufficient) and Dual Casting Conjuration

    Rune Master and Intense Flames in Destruction

    Recovery 1/2 and Avoid Death in Restoration

    Soul Squeezer in Enchanting

    So that's 7 potential perks to work with. If desired, it's easy enough to swap out some of these for your crafting skill of choice, or to just save the perks altogether and end up with a character who tops out in the low 40s.

    If, on the other hand, we want to see this character through to, say, lvl 60, it would be natural to invest a bit more in Alchemy, possibly picking up Restoration Dual Casting as well.

    I'm eager to see your thoughts!

    Race and perks are a huge part of any character build, but they're not the whole story. In discussions to come, we'll consider powers and shouts as ways to augment magic, as well as followers, quests, and gear.   

  • Member
    May 25, 2016

    Considering that Restoration is one of the hardest skills to level up, the Avoid Death perk is something I wouldn't try to shoot for.

  • Member
    May 25, 2016

    For an USKP build, the path you chose with conjuration makes sense, but for console or (God forbid it) PC users without the patch, it makes no sense to invest heavily into conjuration with spell absorption (as the absorption eats the summon). However, this opens up some very interesting synergies. With 100% absorb, you can get magicka refilled at will, through staves (sanguine's rose is particularly effective), ash guardian spray attacks or by casting summons with cost reduction (as Oneness described in his Sorceress build, you absorb the base cost, meaning that with cost reduction you can sacrifice magicka to get more of it back). Given the way you want to play mage, I'd suggest the later, as it forces you to pay attention to your magicka bar in order to refill efficiently. I'd also recommend dropping the atronach perk in favor of more control on when you want summons to come out or not through equipment and use the atronach stone on the aethereal crown. If you are running USKP, then all the better, but I thought I'd drop this alternative to anyone without access to it.

  • Member
    May 25, 2016

    Ach, great point!  Forgot about that bug.  

    I guess there's a couple ways around the issue, unless one wants to take advantage of the possibilities you outlined.  (Thanks for doing that, by the way.)  The Aetherial Crown storing the Atronach Stone would be a great workaround - probably use the Lord as a base Stone in that case.  I think you could get away with acquiring the Atronach perk, since a 30% summon failure isn't impossible - and it does make summoning rather less predictable, which can be an interesting ... feature. :)  Just don the crown (and Miraak's gear) to get full absorb.  

    Anyway, a couple of other options:

    1. Keep the summoning focus, but swap out absorption for resist.  This means taking the Lord Stone (not a terrible choice, honestly, as the always-on 50 AR will be nice, and augment the flesh spells), Agent of Mara, etc. etc.  This will also free up the chest slot (which was locked into Miraak's Robes) and for something else, and free up the feet slot (previously Miraak's Boots) for an all-important resist enchant.  This path would require hunting for resist-boosting enchantments for sale and in loot, and potions.  Wards will also help.  

    2. Switch over from atromancy to necromancy.  Keep the Atronach Stone and perk and absorb focus, but just summon dead things.  (See Vargr's Necronomicon series in Tips and Tricks!)  You miss out on the reliability of atronachs/dremora, but you gain a tremendous amount of versatility.  Move perks from Summoner 2/2 to acquire Necromancy and Dark Souls, and spend another perk to grab Master Conjuration for Dead Thrall.  Since you're so close, may as well spend another perk on Twin Souls... raising the level of the build by 2 seems like a very fair price to pay for the kind of potential power you can get that way.  

    I'll add these thoughts to the above discussion.  

  • Member
    May 25, 2016

    I used to find Restoration difficult to level, but lately I find that if I focus on it, it's not so bad.  Healing doesn't seem to give the best XP; wards raise it - even when they're not actually "hit" by anything (just casting them while in combat raises the skill).  Get to Expert level and cast Circle of Protection even out of combat to raise it, too.  

    Restoration is one skill that I do spend a bit to train, too.  

    Avoid Death isn't a necessity, but the Master-level spells will require us to max out the skill anyway, so it doesn't seem too unreachable.  

  • May 25, 2016

    Thanks for the nod Paul. I actually have a little trick to get around that hefty magicka cost of Dead Thrall. it's something I use in my upcoming build. It's a temporary boost that lets you cast spells way above your weight class letting you cast Dead Thrall once before it expires, but once should be all you need. 

  • May 25, 2016

    Another fantastic addition to this series Paul. I play on Xbox so as Luck pointed out some of my choices have to be different.  For me it's pyromancy with necromancy, maintaining absorption. As a side note fire spells are better for the console necromancer since fully upgraded shock destroys possible thrall targets.  deep freeze frost has a bug that causes reanimated targets to just walk in place and do nothing else.  Some builds use this as a feature (Bern Clan) but for a mage looking for a zombie ally it could be a drawback. 

  • Member
    May 25, 2016

    Great, looking forward to it!  I was wondering if there was a way to get enough juice for Dead Thrall without taking the Master perk; hadn't run the numbers on that.  

  • Member
    May 25, 2016

    Good to know - thanks!  

  • Member
    May 26, 2016
    Wow! You really went whole hog for part three. I pretty much agree with everything, and while I personally enjoy Enchanting over Alchemy I readily admit that Alchemy is much more versatile and powerful for a pure mage.

    I also agree with your reasoning for not perking Respite, but I really love its utility with the Close Wounds spell as a way to cover a lot of ground quickly. Granted, Become Ethereal will get you the same effect, but if I'm rolling a no-shouts build or if the shout doesn't fit RP, that combo is my magician's running shoes... and by the time my stamina runs out, my magicka is recharged--free unlimited sprinting :D