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The best character builds for the Elder Scrolls Online

The Elder Scrolls Online is one of the most casual-friendly MMORPGs around. Whether you’re questing, diving into dungeons with a few friends, or taking part in massive PvP battles in Cyrodiil, anyone can instantly jump into the action and contribute.

However, players looking to become one of the deadliest competitors on the field will need to optimize their ESO build. This means constantly checking DPS outputs, sustaining your resources, and living to fight another day. Whether you’re looking to become a PvE expert or solo adventurer or climb to the top of the PvP charts, here are some of the best ESO builds in 2021.

Further reading

  • ESO jewelry crafting guide: How to craft jewelry in the Elder Scrolls Online
  • ESO beginner’s guide: How to get started in The Elder Scrolls Online
  • The Elder Scrolls Online review

Best solo builds in ESO

The Elder Scrolls Online is incredibly friendly to solo players — especially with the recently introduced Companion System. However, if you’re looking to optimize your playstyle without relying on others, there are a few things to keep in mind with your build.

  • Focus on DPS and self-healing: One great build style for solo players is to combine DPS with self-healing. This will essentially let you take on the role of two players in the “Holy Trinity” — with only the tank class missing — and gives you room for error in combat. Plenty of skills in ESO will restore your health while dealing damage or killing foes, and it’s a necessary combo for solo players who don’t want to be a simple tank.
  • Focus on tanking: A simpler route for solo players is to just build out a “tanky” character with tons of HP. These sorts of builds typically aren’t as effective for high-level solo play, but they will make your time exploring Tamriel rather stress-free. Beyond picking up skills and passives that boost your health and resistances, you can add one or two high-DPS skills to help take down powerful foes — although your true advantage is the amount of damage you can absorb before getting knocked out.

With those two core concepts in mind, here are a few of the best solo builds for both PvP and PvE in The Elder Scrolls Online. Keep in mind that there are literally thousands of ways to customize your character, and there’s really no such thing as a “best” build. Whatever works for your playstyle is the best, and we highly recommend tweaking these guidelines to accommodate your needs.

Best PvP solo build

  • Race: Khajiit
  • Class: Nightblade
  • Main attribute: Stamina
  • Main weapon: Dual Wield
  • Backup weapon: Bow
  • Armor: Medium (Eternal Hunt, New Moon Acolyte, Swamp Raider, or Balorgh recommended)

Dual Wield Mainbar skills

Surprise Attack
Camouflaged Hunter
Deadly Cloak
Whirling Blades
Blood Craze
Ultimate: Incapacitating Strike

Bow Backup bar skills

Shadowy Disguise
Resolving Vigor
Leeching Strikes
Relentless Focus
Ambush
Ultimate: Temporal Guard

Best PvE solo build

  • Race: High Elf
  • Class: Sorcerer
  • Main attribute: Magicka
  • Main weapon: Destruction Staff
  • Backup weapon: Destruction Staff
  • Armor: Light (Necropotence, Magnus’ Gift, Iceheart, or False God’s Devotion recommended)

Destruction Staff Mainbar skills

Critical Surge
Summon Volatile Familiar
Mystic Orb
Elemental Drain
Unstable Wall of Elements
Ultimate: Shooting Star

Destruction Staff Backup bar skills

Hardened Ward
Dark Conversion
Crystal Fragments
Haunting Curse
Restraining Prison
Greater Storm Atronach

Best PvP builds in ESO

While the above build works well for solo PvP, you might want to change things up if you’re running with a group. Damage should ideally be dealt in large bursts, denying your target the chance to heal or escape before being dealt a killing blow. It’s also possible to run several DoTs on them at once, although skilled players might be able to keep their healing up long enough to outlive your assault.

Depending on the exact PvP situation, your team might not need you to deal damage — instead, you might be called upon to be a Tank or Healer. No matter what your task, here are some great builds to play around with in PvP.

Keep in mind that even the best builds will fail without a well-coordinated attack. Chat with your team, establish a battle plan, and figure out the best way to surprise and overwhelm your opponents. Fail to do that, and it won’t matter how perfect your build is — the team with the better strategy will likely be the victor.

DPS build

  • Race: Breton
  • Class: Dragonknight
  • Main attribute: Magicka
  • Main weapon: Destruction Staff
  • Backup weapon: Sword and Shield
  • Armor: Equal mixture of Light, Medium, and Heavy (including Mark of the Pariah or Burning Spellweave)

Destruction Staff Mainbar skills

Fossilize
Flames of Oblivion
Elemental Drain
Engulfing Flames
Burning Embers
Ultimate: Ferocious Leap

Sword and Shield Backup bar skills

Degeneration
Unrelenting Grip
Coagulating Blood
Volatile Armor
Elusive Mist
Ultimate: Corrosive Armor

Tank build

  • Race: Nord
  • Class: Dragonknight
  • Main attribute: Stamina
  • Main weapon: Sword and Shield
  • Backup weapon: Two-Handed Greatsword
  • Armor: Heavy (Ironblood, Torug’s Pact, or Plague Doctor)

Sword and Shield Mainbar skills

Resolving Vigor
Unrelenting Grip
Power Slam
Defensive Stance
Elusive Mist
Ultimate: Shield Discipline

Two-Handed Greatsword Backup bar skills

Immovable
Rally
Wrecking Blow
Stampede
Brawler
Ultimate: Magma Shell

Healer build

  • Race: High Elf
  • Class: Templar
  • Main attribute: Magicka
  • Main weapon: Restoration Staff
  • Backup weapon: Restoration Staff
  • Armor: Light (The Worm’s Raiment, Earthgore, or Spell Power Cure)

Restoration Staff Mainbar skills

Siphon Spirit
Illustrious Healing
Radiating Regeneration
Combat Prayer
Healing Ward
Ultimate: Life Giver

Restoration Staff Backup bar skills

Breath of Life
Ritual of Rebirth
Extended Ritual
Inner Light
Repentance
Ultimate: Solar Prison

Best PvE builds in ESO

Building out a good character for Dungeons and Trials is radically different from building a character for PvP. Instead of a couple of hard-hitting enemies, you’ll be going up against dozens of weaker opponents. Eventually, you’ll come face to face with some high-level bosses, although careful positioning and timing will help you avoid their powerful, telegraphed attacks.

Here are three ESO builds for the “Holy Trinity” that will help you through PvE in The Elder Scrolls Online.

Tank build

  • Race: Argonian
  • Class: Dragonknight
  • Main attribute: Health
  • Main weapon: Sword and Shield
  • Backup weapon: Destruction Staff
  • Armor: Heavy (Ironblood, Torug’s Pact, or Plague Doctor)

Sword and Shield Mainbar skills

Absorb Missle
Unrelenting Grip
Igneous Shield
Defensive Stance
Heroic Slash
Ultimate: Shield Discipline

Destruction Staff Backup bar skills

Sanguine Blood Altar
Elemental Blockade
Inner Rage
Balance
Inner Rage
Ultimate: Magma Shell

DPS build

  • Race: Khajiit
  • Class: Nightblade
  • Main attribute: Stamina
  • Main weapon: Dual Wield
  • Backup weapon: Bow
  • Armor: Medium (Eternal Hunt, New Moon Acolyte, Swamp Raider, or Balorgh recommended)

Dual Wield Mainbar skills

Deadly Cloak
Killer’s Blade
Whirling Blades
Relentless Focus
Rapid Strikes
Ultimate: Thrive in Chaos

Bow Backup bar skills

Resolving Vigor
Endless Hail
Leeching Strikes
Ambush
Lethal Arrow
Ultimate: Rapid Fire

Healer build

  • Race: Breton
  • Class: Templar
  • Main attribute: Magicka
  • Main weapon: Restoration Staff
  • Backup weapon: Destruction Staff
  • Armor: Light (The Worm’s Raiment, Symphony of Blades, or Spell Power Cure)

Restoration Staff Mainbar skills

Energy Orb
Repentance
Radiating Regeneration
Combat Prayer
Healing Ward
Ultimate: Life Giver

Destruction Staff Backup bar skills

Elemental Drain
Elemental Blockade
Elemental Ring
Balance
Overflowing Altar
Ultimate: Practiced Incantation

Best beginner builds in ESO

If you’re just getting started with The Elder Scrolls Online, don’t bog yourself down trying to craft the perfect character. Not only is that a recipe for disaster — there are a lot of moving pieces to watch out for — but there’s no guarantee you’ll like the playstyle you’re building toward. Because of this, there really isn’t the best beginner build in ESO.

Instead, it’s best to spend some time picking up skills you enjoy and homing in on which role you prefer in combat. To this end, you should roll a few different characters and test out healing, tanking, and dealing out damage. You’ll also need to dive into all the PvE and PvP content ESO has to offer — some experienced players love PvP and can’t get into Dungeons or Trials, and vice versa.

The Elder Scrolls Online is incredibly forgiving to new players, and it even gives you the option to respect your skills and attributes down the line. Because of this incredible feature, there’s truly no need to worry about the best beginner build as a newcomer. Pick a class that looks cool and jump into the action — it’s hard to go wrong with any choice. However, keep these general tips in mind when chasing after your personal ESO build:

  • Don’t forget passive skills: You’ll typically want to max out every single passive in the skill lines you are using. These will radically improve your performance with active skills in the line and can also boost related stats and attributes.
  • Focus on a few weapons: Since you can only use a Mainbar and a Backup bar, there’s really no need to upgrade more than two weapon lines. Instead, funnel those points into leveling up all the skills on your Hotbar.
  • Mix up your armor: While it’s usually best to focus on one set of armor, it’s totally possible to make an excellent ESO build that uses Light, Medium, and Heavy armor simultaneously. Because of this, don’t be afraid to mix and match your gear — you never know what will give you the upper hand.
  • Try a new class: Before hitting max level with a character, trying rolling two or three others and see if you like their playstyle more. While you can always go back and respec your skills, you can’t go back and change your class — making it important to figure out which one you like best before heading into the endgame.

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