Now that you understand a little bit about stats (if you read part 2 anyways), it’s time to think about what skills and gear you should use. These, along with your attribute and champion point distribution, define your build.
Don’t forget to unlock all possible skill lines!
Skill Line Unlocking
Newly-created characters will now have all skill lines hidden except for the 3 from their class, the goal being to improve a new player’s experience by reducing the initial number of skill line choices to a more manageable number.
- Skill lines will now unlock when your character takes specific actions.
- Armor skill lines unlock when you equip 3 pieces of a given armor type (light/medium/heavy).
- Weapon skill lines unlock when you get a killing blow while the weapon is equipped.
- Crafting skill lines are unlocked when you visit the appropriate crafting station.
- Your racial skill line unlocks at level 5.
- The AvA skill lines now unlock when you gain Alliance Points.
- Other skill lines will continue to unlock as they did previously, such as the Mages Guild skill line when you join the guild.
- Note: This feature only applies to newly created characters; all existing characters will be unaffected.
(Oh, and mundus stone. Having the right mundus stone can give you a lot of free stats! There’s a list here… dps typically go for the Thief; Healers and tanks might prefer The Atronach).
In ESO, different builds have different strengths and weaknesses. You can be very tanky, but you won’t do any damage. You can be a pro at healing your allies, but all those healing spells don’t leave you a lot of space on your bars for damaging spells.
In solo play, you can pretty much do whatever you want and be successful. While you might kill things more slowly if you’re wearing heavy armor, than if you wore medium (stamina) or light (magicka), that’s ok!
For group content a degree of specialization is necessary to be successful. ESO group content is built for the “holy trinity” of MMOs – tank, dps, and healer. While you can do normal dungeons with 3 dps and a healer, or even 4 dps, veteran dungeons demand that you have one tank, one healer, and two dps in order to complete them, and vet trials require 2 tanks, 2 healers, and 8 dps to be successful, due to the various mechanics.
If you’re not sure what I mean by tanking, dpsing, or healing, this guide covers it fairly well.
In short, a tank’s first job is to taunt the enemies to attack him and not die, and their second job is to buff the group as much as possible to maximize group dps. If they have any resources left over, they might try to dps a bit. A healer’s job is to keep the group alive, buff the group, and if they have any resources left over they can dps a little. Dps job is to do as much damage per second (dps) as humanly possible, while not dying (and paying attention to mechanics that might cause the rest of their group to die, like totems, adds, etc.)
Figuring out what skills you need is also important as you level – you don’t want to get to max level and then realize you never leveled an essential skill or skill line! While it’s always possible to catch up later, it’s easier to level everything at once.
In ESO, you can have 12 different skills at once. 5 regular skills on each bar, and two ultimates.
(Confused about the “two bars”? At level 15, you unlock “weapon swapping” – weapon swapping lets you equip a second weapon that you can swap to at any time – even in combat. This weapon comes with its own ability bar that can have a totally different set of skills than your main one).
Therefore, the biggest differentiation between different builds is what skills you choose to take.
You’ll want to take skills that are cohesive. Running a magicka burst spell alongside a bow doesn’t make a lot of sense! They don’t scale with the same stats.
However, you may realize that in order to unlock skills and morphs that work for your build, you’ll have to use skills that don’t make any sense with your current stats. This is part of the leveling process. For example, even a stamina sorc build needs to use the pet (which scales with magicka) for a while in order to level daedric summoning and get the cool, stamina based, bound armaments skill.
When you’re questing and such, you’re at fairly low risk of dying horribly, so focusing into dps with a few self-healing or tank skills is probably the right way to go.
For group play, you’ll want to work on a build that suits a tank/healer/dps archetype. This will be different from your solo play build – using an addon that keeps track of different bar and gear setups, or writing the builds down, can be very helpful!
For PvP… well it’s a whole different beast. You can be very tanky – disrupting the enemy, preventing your opponents from returning to the keep or retreating… you can heal… but the different builds have very different priorities than dps builds, and end up looking different.
Skills come in two flavors – active and passives. You want to prioritize getting active skills that you know you’ll need first, then passives that buff those skills. If you have leftover skill points, you can put them into actives you might want to try out, “just in case” passives, and lastly crafting (crafting might be a higher priority if you don’t have any crafter yet).
To level weapon and class skills, they must be on your active bar when you earn exp (like from killing monsters or quests). Many players put their most used skills on their front bar to kill enemies, then switch to their back bar when they turn quests in so that all skills level equally. It is also possible to put one or two skills you don’t use (for example, putting a resto staff ability on your destro staff bar) to help it level faster.
Usually your core skills will be from your class skill lines, and the appropriate weapons (DW/bow/2H for stam dps, sword and board for tank, destro/resto for healer and magicka dps). Fighter’s, Mage’s, and Undaunted guilds also provide crucial skills, as do the Alliance War skill lines. You can run any combination of these skills on your bars, although note that you must have the correct weapon equipped in order to use weapon skills!
(Note: There are two ultimates that give a third action bar: werewolf and overload. Note that these bars cannot have weapon skills on them!)
Here are some guidelines for skills you might want:
- A spammable attack. For templars, this would be jabby jabs. For magicka sorcs, this would be force shock (not crystal fragments!) from the destro line. DKs might use flame lash. Stamina builds might use flurry from the DW line.
- Two different ultimate abilities.
- Buffs: If you’re a stamina build, you’ll want major brutality. Magicka wants Major Sorcery. Various other skills might buff you in other ways, increasing your stats (or decreasing the enemy’s!)
- Survivability: For stamina this usually means self-healing… which usually means Vigor from the alliance war. Magicka can also heal themselves, but they also get access to powerful ward spells (from the light armor line, or daedric summoning for sorcs).
- Damage over Time (DoTs) – Whether ground dots like elemental blockade or poison injection from the bow line, casting these, then going back to spamming your main attack, will greatly increase your damage.
- Execute – Executes do bonus damage when the enemy is at low health. In some cases, executes don’t do more damage than your normal spammable (for example, even though Radiant Destruction does bonus damage when your enemy is below 50% health, it only does more damage than sweeps when your enemy is below around 25% health).
If you are healing, here’s a few crucial abilities (not the only ones of course).
- The first resto staff ability. This is your group heal. You need it.
- Combat Prayer (morph of the 3rd resto staff ability). This buffs your group by 8%.
- Luminous Shards (Templar) or Necrotic Orb (Undaunted skill line). This restores your group’s resource pools so they can keep doing their thing.
If you are tanking, you must have (among other things):
- An ability that provides major protection/major ward. All classes have access to one.
- A taunt (there’s two in the game: the first ability in the sword and board skill line, and inner fire (undaunted).
- Shields. Some stuff just can’t be blocked. Bone Ward from the Undaunted line works really well and buffs your allies too! Classes might have even better ones.
- Other survivability tools and group buffs at your description (one really popular one: Aggressive War Horn from the alliance skill line).
Gear is the second part of your build. Superficially, armor seems simple. It has an enchant which gives health, mag, or stam (or other things for weapon and jewelry), a trait which can do anything from increase gold drop rate to increase your penetration by 5000, and the quality, which increases the magnitude of the enchant and the trait.
However, you may notice you get gear drops that are part of a “set”. There are over 300 sets in the game. Some can be crafted; others are received from overland content; yet others from dungeons, trials, or pvp. These sets give powerful bonuses that are crucial to end game builds, and different combinations of sets can greatly increase your power.
The leveling player shouldn’t worry about gear too much. Because of the way scaling works, your stats will be pretty boosted right up until the gear cap of cp 160 (you won’t be stronger, you’ll just not die as easily). Also, like with any MMO, you end up needing gear every few levels.
However, if you do want to farm or craft a nice set, keep in mind it can be used on your alts too!
You should be able to keep your gear updated through what drops for you. When replacing gear, consider:
- Does it have the stats that boost my skills (stamina vs. magicka and so on)?
- Could it help complete a set bonus, or is it going to break one and therefore actually decrease my stats?
- Does it have a trait that is useful (sharpened on weapons, etc.)?
Once you hit 160 champion points… congratulations! you are now max level. Any gear you get could last you, potentially forever (at least until you decide you like a different set better). The gear cap hasn’t been raised in ESO for a year and won’t be raised for at least another year, quite possibly much longer.
At this point you have a bewildering number of choices. However, one thing narrowing it down is that the absolute best gear for PvE drops from dungeons, so you do need to get good enough gear that you can do dungeons and get the best gear. For PvP, since there’s more flexibility in sets, a wide array of gear is useable – most PvPers end up using a mix of PvP sets, dungeon sets, and overland drop sets… (hope you are ready to farm).
One thing to pay attention to is traits. Weapon trait is the most important. In order to do decent dps, you need sharpened weapons. Nirnhoned and Precise don’t even come close. dps also get the most benefit from Divines armor, but infused (on large pieces, aka head/chest/legs) comes very close, and if it’s in the set you want even prosperous is better than nothing.
Most healers prefer infused on large pieces and divines on small. Tanks prefer infused on large and sturdy on small (although some run divines). Healer and tank weapon trait just don’t matter as much as dps. Healers can use powered or precise, although for trials the meta is to run defending resto and charged destro (due to a rather complex aspect of the meta). Tanks run at least one infused weapon with the crusher enchant to debuff the enemy; the other is their choice, although defending is also popular.
Enchants can be changed. Quality can be improved. If the piece you want drops but it’s blue or green, that can be fixed!
Crafted gear is only a few percentage points worse in dps than dropped gear. Here are some good crafted sets:
Magicka dps or healer: Julianos, Magnus, Seducer’s, Kagrenac’s (Julianos and Magnus for dps, Seducer’s to be sure you don’t run out of mana ever, kagrenac’s for survivability or pvp).
Stamina dps: Hunding’s Rage, Night Mother’s Gaze, Twice Born Star (NMG is higher pure dps than Hunding’s, but Hundings is a little easier to use in different groups. TBS gives better survivability).
Tank: Tava’s Blessing, Armor Master, Hist Bark
If you can’t craft these yourself, do not despair! It’s fairly easy to find experienced crafters who can help you out. Keep in mind, you do want to provide the materials yourself to keep the cost down – you can use this to determine how many mats you need to craft the gear you need.
Some good overland drop sets (these can be farmed solo)
Magicka DPS (PvP) – Spinner’s (for PvE, spriggans would lead to over penetration in most group compositions)
Magicka DPS (Both) – Necropotence (for sorc and warden, this is Best in Slot), Queen’s Elegance, Silks of the Sun,
Stamina DPS – Spriggan’s (stam dps inherently have less penetration, so spriggan’s is good for all content), Briarheart
Healer: There really aren’t any overland sets worth farming.
Tank: Akaviri Dragonguard, StormKnight’s Plate (honestly these kinda suck compared to the crafted sets).
- The most important kind of dungeon set is the monster helm. Monster helms are special types of 2-piece sets that can only be worn on head and shoulders. They give powerful bonuses – better than most 5 pc set bonuses! The shoulders drop from chests in the Undaunted Refuge in the faction capital – these chests can only be opened with keys earned from undaunted pledges, a type of daily quest that sends you to different dungeons. The helms drop off the last boss in the dungeon where the helm namesake lives (for example, bloodspawn is the first boss in spindleclutch II… the last boss of spindleclutch II drops the bloodspawn helm).
Even in PvP, undaunted sets are crucial.
Some other important dungeon sets:
Magicka dps: Burning Spellweave, Lich
Stamina DPS: Er… there isn’t much.
Healer: Spell power cure. You need spell power cure. You can’t heal without it. Worm is also good.
Magicka DPS: Infallible Aether, Moondancer (pick one)
Healer: Mending, Twilight Remedy
Tank: Alkosh (yeah, it’s a medium armor set. You wear it in jewelry + weapons).
Stamina DPS: Vicious Ophidian; Alkosh (if your tank doesn’t have it),
Oh and maelstrom weapons.
The last part of your build is Champion Points. Once you hit level 50, you start earning champion points which are account wide and can be spent on all characters (even level 1 characters!) Each character has their own independent build. There are up to 600 champion points in the game.
Blue tree: Focus first into increasing the type of damage you do (magic or physical), then into either direct damage or dots depending on which type of damage you do more (most end game builds do higher dps from dots).
Green tree: get some points into the appropriate regeneration asap, then kinda do what you like.
Red Tree: Split points between Hardy and Elemental Defender, then maybe into Bastion or Quick Recovery or Ironclad.
Here are some good websites to go to for easy-to-follow guides for all kinds of builds: