The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim Special Edition: Best Spellsword Build

Spellsword is a Light Armor user who’s quicker on his feet and attacks primarily with a One-Handed sword, although he’s also proficient in Destruction magic. While not a completely stealth based character, the Spellsword is also levelled in Sneak and can start an offensive by taking out at least the first enemy by surprise. This sneak element is Enchanced with his mastery of illusion magic. The Spellsword can also heal himself with Restoration magic.


Attribute Distribution

The above recommendation gives a balanced preference to magicka (for using all your spells), health (so you’re not too squishy) and deprioritises stamina (because you’ll be unlocking a restoration perk that makes stamina easy to replenish – Respite).

That being said this mix is purely down to personal preference. You’ll see in the screenshots further on in the guide that by the time I reached level 56 I had a distribution of Magicka: 450, Health: 300 and Stamina: 100. I chose to boost the magicka side of things more because I rely much more heavily on the spell half of being a spellsword.

If you’re a spellsword who spends more time in melee combat with only a touch of magic for backup, then you might like to put more points into stamina so you can complete more power attacks before needing to replenish your green bar. Likewise if you’re an experienced player and feel like you can skillfully avoid death with your strategy and natural talent then feel free to take all those points you would have put into health and use them to boost your other attributes instead.

Best Spellsword Race

We picked Dunmer (Dark Elf) for their starting skill-level proficiency in a number of magic schools as well as Light Armor and Sneak. Their Ancestor’s Wrath flame cloak power and fire resistance also work well with our perk and spell choices which we’ll go into later in the guide.

The only benefit you get from choosing one race over another is starting skill level buffs (which can be easily compensated for later on if you want to choose a race without starting skills that match your build) and racial powers/attributes. While these racial powers can be very useful, especially early on (e.g. An extra 50 Magicka for Altmer helps a lot in mage builds), they’re often not dealbreakers if you want to pick a race without a power or ability that matches your intended build.

Magic Perks

1. Illusion Perks (11 Perk Points)

  • Novice, Apprentice, Adept & Expert Illusion: — Cast XX level Illusion spells for half magicka. — You’ll be using Invisibility a lot for sneak attacks so will want the Expert Illusion perk to reduce the Magicka cost. For power levelling Illusion with the Muffle spell you’ll want to unlock Apprentice Illusion ASAP.
  • Animage: — Allows Illusion spells to work on higher level animals. — This isn’t necassarily a perk that is particularly important for your build. You just need to unlock it to get to quiet casting.
  • Kindred Mage: — Allows Illusion spells to work on higher level people. — More useful than animage, as this will allow you to get better use out of your Fury spell. Also needed to unlock Quiet casting.
  • Quiet Casting: — All spell casting is silent. — If you want to sneak up to a group of enemies and cast either healing, a destruction spell or an Illusion spell like Fury without being detected then Quiet Casting is essential.
  • Hypnotic Gaze: — Calm spells work on higher level opponents. — Needed to unlock Aspect of Terror, which is important for our build. Otherwise, this isn’t essential, but if you do want to use calm spells it’s helpful.
  • Aspect of Terror: — Fear spells work on higher level opponents. — As well as it’s stated effect, Aspect Of Terror also boosts fire based destruction magic by 10 damage points. If it’s taken after the Augmented Flames (1 & 2) Destruction perks it increases flame spell damage by 15+. I’ve looked everywhere online but can’t find an explanation of why this effect works. I’ve recorded a video below demonstrating the effect. This perk is important for our build as we’ll be focusing primarily on fire magic. Remember to activate the Augmented Flames perks before Aspect of Terror to get the full benefit.
  • Rage: — Frenzy spells work on higher level opponents. — The same as Aspect of Terror (without the fire magic buff) and Hypnotic Gaze, but a bit more useful as we’ll be using Frenzy as one of the core spells in our arsenal.
  • Master of the Mind: — Illusion spells work on undead, deadra and automatons. — If you’re going to invest in a number of perks to boost the effectiveness of your Illusion spells, you may as well go all out and get Master of the Mind so they apply to those pesky Draugr and Dwemer constructs as well.

Optional perks: As we’ll be keeping our sword in our right hand and switching between spells in the left hand, we won’t need either Illusion Dual Casting or Master Illusion as all Master Illusion spells require both hands to cast. If you wanted to vary this build you could always unlock Master Illusion and learn Master Spells like Mayhem to turn whole dungeons against each other. For the purpose of our Spellsword build we’ve kept magic to one hand though.

2. Destruction Perks (6 Perk Points)
To conserve perk points we recommend choosing one branch of destruction magic to focus on, either: Fire, Frost or Shock. For our spellsword we’re going to choose Fire. The reason being that the Augmented Flames perk that increases the damage of fire based spells also boosts our Ancestor’s Wrath racial power and because we’re levelling Illusion magic we have access to the Aspect of Terror perk which boosts our fire spells even further.

  • Novice, Apprentice, Adept & Expert Destruction: — Cast XX level Destruction spells for half magicka. — Will allow you to get the most fire destruction out of your Magicka pool. As we’re only using one handed spells we haven’t gone as high as Master Destruction.
  • Augmented Flames (1 & 2): — Fire spells do 25% more damage (level 1) / Fire spells do 50% more damage and the blast radius of fireballs are increased (level 2) — With both levels of this spell unlocked you’ll do 90 damage with your Incinerate spell (which will be boosted to 105 damage after you take the Aspect of Terror perk).

Optional perks: As with the Illusion perk tree, due to focussing on one handed magic we won’t be taking the dual casting perk or Master Destruction. The only down side in this case with not taking dual casting, is that it’s needed to reach the Impact perk, which is quite useful. We’ve done without it in this build, but if you wanted the extra punch you could waste a point on dual casting to get to it. We also didn’t take Intense Flames as personally I don’t like making enemies flee, I’d prefer to keep them close by so I can finish them off.

3. Restoration Perks (9 Perk Points)

  • Novice, Apprentice, Adept & Expert Restoration: — Cast XX level Restoration spells for half magicka. — Cast high level Restoration spells for less Magicka.
  • Regeneration: — Healing spells cure 50% more. — You may as well get the best bang for your buck when you cast a healing spell.
  • Recovery (1 & 2): — Magicka regenerates 25% / 50% faster (depending on perk level). — This is great not only for a general magicka regeneration boost, but can also negate the negative aspect of the Atronach Stone, which gives 50 extra magicka, 50% spell absorption, but also reduces magicka regeneration by 50%.
  • Respite: — Healing spells also restore stamina. — This is an absolute must have in our build. As mentioned in the attribute distribution section, we’ve put less points into stamina. Without the Respite perk that would make getting around in Skyrim annoying because you’d be constantly running out of running juice. But with this perk unlocked you simply equip a healing spell in one hand and cast it as you run. Voila – infinite running.
  • Necromage: — All spells are more effective against undead. — This spell is useful for fighting high level Draugr, Dragon Priests, Wispmothers, Vampires and Skeletons (and any other undead enemy). It can also be used as a crucial buffing mechanism if you choose to play as a vampire, as a number of spells cast on yourself then become more powerful.

4. Sneak Perks (9 Perk Points)

  • Stealth (1, 2, 3, 4 & 5): — Makes you 20% to 40% harder to detect when sneaking (depending on perk level) — This one is a no brainer. If you’re going to attempt stealth kills, this will make it easier to sneak.
  • Muffled Movement: –— Reduces noise from armor by 50% — You’ll already have less armor noise than a Heavy Armor user, but still this will also help you stay undetected.
  • Light Foot: — You no longer activate pressure plates — This seems to only work when you’re sneaking and there is anecdotal evidence that it doesn’t work on every pressure plate for every player. Still it can come in very useful when you’re trying to hurry through a Dwemer ruin.
  • Silent Roll: — Perform a silent forward roll if you sprint while sneaking — This makes Light Foot much more useful because it speeds up your sneaking A LOT. Regardless of your combat style this is a great perk to get because it makes moving around a dungeon a lot of fun. Parkour!
  • Backstab: — Sneak attacks with One-handed weapons do 6 times normal damage —– This one is a must have. With levelled One-Handed skill and a decent sword you can one-hit kill most things.

Combat Perks

1. One-Handed Perks (11 Perk Points)

  • Armsman (1, 2, 3, 4 & 5): — One-handed weapons do 20%-100% more damage (depending on perk level) — This is essential for getting the most damage out of your sword during combat. It’s also going to help deliver massive damage with stealth attacks.
  • Bladesman (1, 2 & 3): — Attacks with swords to have a 10%-20% chance of doing critical damage (depending on perk level) — 20% might not sound like a lot, but it sure makes a difference to have every 5th swing you take with your sword get a significant damage buff. Also when criticals trigger on a stealth strike, you get an absolutely insane damage output.
  • Fighting Stance: — Power attacks with one-handed weapons cost 25% less stamina — If you remember from earlier in the guide, we decided to prioritise Magicka and Health over Stamina. So we’re not going to have a particularly huge stamina pool. This makes reducing your power attack stamina usage a great strategy for fitting in more big hits before you need to cast a healing spell for replenishing you stamina bar.
  • Critical Charge: — Do a one-handed power attack while sprinting that does double critical damage — If you feel like a different start to a battle, you can switch it up from opening with a stealth incursion to just sprinting in at full speed and smashing someone with a power attack. Fun, dramatic and does a whole heap of damage.
  • Savage Strike: —Standing power attacks do 25% bonus damage with a chance of decapitating your enemies — Once battle starts you’ll probably find yourself doing a fair few standing power attacks, especially if you’re surrounded by a few enemies that are making it harder to run around as you fight. A damage boost in this situation can really help you out. And it’s totally badass when it triggers a decapitation.

Perks not taken/Optional perks: As with the magic skill trees we’ve avoided the dual weilding based perks, because we’ll be keeping our off hand free for spell weilding. It also make sense to pick either Swords, Maces or Axes as your primary weapon and then choose the corresponding weapon specific perk. In our case we chose Swords which use the Bladesman perk. Obviously if you decide to focus on a different weapon then pick the corresponding perk relevant to your weapon class, instead of Bladesman.

2. Light Armor Perks (9 Perk Points)

  • Agile Defender (1, 2, 3, 4 & 5): — Increases your armor rating for Light Armor by 20%-100% (depending on perk level) — Much like the Armsman in the One-Handed skill tree, this is your core perk for increasing the amount of protection afforded by your armor.
  • Custom Fit:— Get a 25% Armor bonus when wearing all Light Armor: head, chest, hands, feet — Most armor perks in both light and heavy skill trees require that all armor worn be of the same class. So because you’ll be in a matching set anyway to access these perks, you may as well take this one and get a decent boost to your overall damage reduction. This also helps make the most of the benefits gained by the Agile Defender perk by adding a percentage multiplier to your defense.
  • Unhindered: — Light Armor weighs nothing and does not slow you down when worn — This allows you to run further before casting a healing spell for replenishing stamina and also reduces noise while sneaking.
  • Wind Walker: — Stamina regenerates 50% faster when wearing all Light Armor: head, chest, hands, feet — You definitely want to unlock Wind Walker, because as mentioned above you’re not going to have a huge stamina bar. Using this as well as the Fighting Stance perk from One-Handed (power attacks use 25% less stamina) will mean you can still fit a number of power attacks into your modest stamina pool.
  • Deft Movement: — Provides a 10% chance of avoiding all damage from a melee attack while wearing all Light Armor: head, chest, hands, feet — This one isn’t a game changer, but it doesn’t hurt (no pun intended) to have that 1 in 10 chance of avoiding the damage of a melee strike.

Best Spellsword Weapon – Dawnbreaker

While not the most powerful sword in Skyrim in terms of pure damage output, Dawnbreaker has a number of other benefits. It has a synergy with perks in our build and it also just looks really cool. What synergies? The bonus burning damage is increased by Augmented Flames and the explosion that destroys and turns undead (a special enchantment called ‘Meridia’s Retribution’) is buffed by Necromage.

Best Spellsword Armour – Ancient Shrouded Armor

The long way to get this Armor set is by completing the Dark Brotherhood side quest ‘Locate The Assassin Of Old‘ after meeting the bonnus requirement of the quest ‘Breaching Security‘. That’s fine if you want to get it that way, and definitely feels like an acomplishment. But if you want to obtain the armor much earlier in the game, you can use the Ritual Stone to bypass a locked door that would otherwise keep the armor hidden until completing the aformention Dark Brotherhood quests.

The Ancient Shrouded Gloves in particular are a game changer for stealth attacks. They double sneak attack damage with one handed weapons, which when stacked with the backstab perk leads to sword attacks with a twelve times multiplier.

Dragon Priest Mask or Ancient Shrouded Cowl?
If you want, you could wear the entire Ancient Shrouded Armor set and then also take the Matching Set perk, mentioned earlier that we didn’t take. This would give you a 25% improvement to armor rating and a boost to bow damage (from enchantment on Ancient Shrouded Cowl). Seeing as how we’re not using a bow in this build, and not using the Matching Set perk, we decided to swap out the cowl for the Morokei Dragon Priest mask, which gives an impressive 100% increase to Magicka regeneration. As the mask is classed as light armor, you’ll still receive the benefits from perks that require you to wear all light armor.

Best Spellsword Spells

Your spell choice really comes down to personal preferance. The only must haves for this build are a flame spell (to take advantage of our fire magic buff from Augmented Flames and Aspect of Terror), Invisibility (for stealth attacks) and a healing spell (for staying alive and also stamina replenishment). Other than that you can feel free to develop your own play style by picking whatever spells from our focus magic schools that work for you. The choices below are a recommendation.

1. Illusion: Invisibility

Invisibility is an extremely useful spell in Skyrim. It makes sneaking up on an enemy and landing a devastating stealth attack a lot easier. It can also be used strategically to sneak through much higher level areas than the player’s current character level for the purposes of attaining high level weapons, armor and special items earlier in the game than would otherwise be possible.

2. Illusion: Frenzy

This spell isn’t a must have for every player but as you’ll be levelling your Illusion up to Expert level for using Invisibility it can be a very useful Spell to have in your arsenal in the early to mid game. Especially when taking out dungeon bosses solo, casting Frenzy will send all the minions fighting each other and even helping take down the boss, while you can focus your efforts on the biggest threats in the room.

3. Destruction: Incinerate

Incinerate Vs Fireball
Why use Incinerate over Fireball, isn’t Fireball better? Well… yes and no. It all comes down to playstyle and how accurate you are at spellcasting. If you find it hard to hit your targets dead on then Fireball is probably a good idea, as it does damage over a wider area. You can just shoot your fireball in the general direction of the enemy and it will explode with a decent area of effect, potentially hitting several oponents.

If you’re more of a dead shot and enjoy sniping your foes one at a time then I’d recommend Incinerate. It does more damage and when levelled with Augmented Flames and Aspect of Terror becomes deadly at both short and long range. Also does extra damage when hitting targets already on fire.

4. Restoration: Grand Healing

Even including master spells, Grand Healing is the quickest way to regain health using magic in Skyrim. Healing you and any nearby allies for 200 points (300 points when you unlock the Regeneration perk) and able to be cast one handed, Grand Healing is one of my all time favourite Skyrim spells.

How to Play this Build

One of the simplest and most effective ways to play this build is simply to keep Dawnbreaker equipped in one hand and Grand Healing in the other, slash and stab your way through all your foes and when your health gets low just cast Grand Healing to stay alive. If you want to get around without fast travel you can cast Grand Healing on the go to replenish your stamina without stopping for infinite running.

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