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The Elder Scrolls Online Class Guide – Learn How To Play Your Character Better
Classes in The Elder Scrolls Online will have skills and abilities meant to build initial characters from, but they aren’t going to be the limiting, sometimes frustrating experience that Oblivion offered us. However, they won’t be the wide-open, interchangeable options that Skyrim offered via the Mage, Warrior, and Thief stones either. Instead, they’re simply starting points to build a character around. Unlike every other MMO out there, Elder Scrolls Online will allow any class to use whatever weapons and armor they want – meaning your dream of a heavy armor assassin character can finally come true.
The four Elder Scrolls Online classes are Dragonknight, Nightblade, Sorcerer, and Templar, each with three Skill Lines to choose from to allow even more customization to your play style. Each class offers 3 ultimate skills, 15 active skills, and 12 passive skills divided among three special branches of focus. A player can then decide to specialize in one skill line or be a jack-of-all-trades, picking and choosing the skills important to them.
ESO Class Guides & Character Builds:
- Best Dragonknight Builds – Get the best Dragonknight build templates for Solo Leveling, Tanking, PvE DPS, & PvP.
- Best Nightblade Builds – Get the best Nightblade build templates for Solo Leveling, PvE DPS, & PvP.
- Best Sorcerer Builds – Get the best Sorcerer build templates for Solo Leveling, Healing, PvE DPS, & PvP.
- Best Templar Builds – Get the best Templar build templates for Solo Leveling, Tanking, Healing, PvE DPS, & PvP.
Use Our ESO Class Builds The Elite Players Use
You may have seen some players posting ESO Builds around the internet but these character builds are not very good, they are poorly tested and optimized. The fact is that the top elite ESO players don’t publicly share the builds that are allowing them to hold the top spots on the leaderboards for Craglorn Trials and Cyrodiil Campaigns.
Our ESO Character Builds Guide contains extremely detailed blueprints on how to use the currently top performing builds for each class, playstyle, and role. By following our perfectly designed and tested class builds you will be able to do 20,000+ DPS, main tank boss fights, or solo heal your group with maximum efficiency no matter what class your character is or what type of weapons you want to use.
How do class skills work?
Your class is something you’ll decide at the start of the game, just like your race. Some races will fit more naturally with certain classes, but you don’t have to pick a particular race or alliance just to be able to play the class you want. Once you choose a class to play, you can’t go back and change it later and are limited to the class skills within that class. A Nightblade for example, can’t learn the abilities of a Templar. The best way to choose your class is to pick one that fits with your play style and is comfortable for you.
Each class then has three Skill Lines to advance along, similar to the skill perks you could unlock in Skyrim. Higher ranked skills will be unlockable only after you use other skills in that skill line enough times. Unlocked class skills will then be available to use regardless of what weapon or armor you currently have equipped, and active ones will consume Magicka when used. You can also decide whether to focus on just one skill tree or build a more general character initially, based on how you want to play and what other skills interest you. Class skills will gain experience the same way any other skill would, by being used in or out of battle, and some class skills will eventually morph into a better version of the old skill.
Class skills differ from Weapons, Armor or Guild skills in that they can only be learned by their respective classes, just like Racial skills are limited to being learned by members of that race. Weapons, Armor and Guild skills will be able to be learned by any character, and will be critical to making the most out of your initial class build. For example, most MMO’s won’t allow you to take a mage character and turn them into a melee fighter who tanks hits. The Elder Scrolls Online will, provided you take that initial set of Class skills and add the right combination of Weapons, Armor, and Guild skills to your character.
Are some classes better than others?
Not at all! Think about it like a cell phone – you pick whatever model you like, and then add the apps you think you’ll want to use. The Elder Scrolls Online classes are just like this – a starting template for everything else you decide to add to your character. Each class in The Elder Scrolls Online is carefully balanced to have its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and it will be the skill sets you add to your class skills that will end up giving you a great build or a terrible one. Some Weapon skill sets and Armor skill sets will naturally complement the class you’ve picked, and some will be more neutral if they don’t stack with class abilities naturally. The same thing applies to any Racial and Guild skills you might want to augment your class abilities with – nothing is stopping you from making an Orc mage who uses stealth and a pickaxe to slay enemies, but some combinations are clearly going to have more benefits than others.
The Elder Scrolls Online Classes also won’t bar you from learning any particular set of skills. You won’t be able to switch classes or races once you’ve chosen them, but using different weapons and armor will allow you to master those particular skills, even if you’re a Sorcerer who wouldn’t typically use something like heavy armor or a two-handed sword. Likewise, ESO classes won’t prevent you from joining the Mage’s or Fighter’s Guilds and learning their skill sets, and you’ll still be able to do whatever dungeons, adventures, and quests that you wish. Classes also won’t dictate what dungeons, zones, or places you can go, and you can increase your health, magicka and stamina however best suits you. The ESO Mastery Guides team has developed a detailed and comprehensive ESO Class Guide that will teach you everything you need to know about your class and give you loads of highly optimized and perfected example builds for every class in The Elder Scrolls Online.
Why have classes?
Since the Elder Scrolls Online is an MMO, it needs to balance game play. In Skyrim you could learn anything and everything you wanted, and by level 50 the game tended to get boring since your character was an over-leveled demigod by that point. ESO has avoided this potential problem by creating the four classes, each with strengths and weaknesses so that no one player will be able to do everything. It also encourages people to team up and tackle the bigger obstacles, like the massive battles in Cyrodiil and Heroic dungeons. Finally, it gives players who are new to the game a template to work with, allowing them to experiment within the talents and skills of a class or ignore them completely.
Which class is best for me?
The options and customization for your character in ESO can be a bit overwhelming at first, so here are our recommendations on each class to help you get started. We’ve included links to each ESO class and their skill trees, as well as details on the advantages, disadvantages, and play style of each.
A mighty warrior who excels at offensive combat and destructive magic, comfortable with any weapon and especially proficient with two-handed weapons. A Dragonknight is the perfect balance of combat, whether you prefer to get up close and personal, or rain death upon your enemies heads from afar. They can also augment their armor’s strength with their defensive skills, making this class a great choice for the berserker or paladin character you’re considering.
Skill Lines: Ardent Flame, Draconic Power, Earthen Heart
Skill Base: This class can either use fire and dragon-type powers for DPS, tank massive damage, or crowd control & buff their allies.
Best Races to Play: Dunmer, hands down. The Dark Elves have a racial bonus to fire damage, which will turn any Dunmer Dragonknight into a very capable killing machine. Orcs, Redguards and Nords would also fit well within this class due to their battle prowess, and the Argonians would be an interesting possibility for tank characters with their Histskin ability to rapidly heal themselves. Bretons would also make a well-rounded defensive tank, given their innate magic resistance.
Solo Play: A solid, well-defended fighter build who can soak up damage and ensure even newcomers to the game aren’t overwhelmed by combat. The Dragonknight has a great combination of weapon experience, buffs, debuffs, and magic to use in a fight, making this class a excellent choice for those who’re experiencing PvP for their first time.
Guild Play: It’s going to be absolutely necessary to have at least one Dragonknight in your party. This is a class who can tank hits, deal out massive damage and debuffs, and deal maximum DPS while crowd controlling any mobs you might encounter.
Pros/Cons: This class is a powerful one, but will require a group of allies to truly shine if you aren’t a jack of all trades. Sticking too much to any one path will give you a great specialist character for parties, but a terrible solo combatant. The Dragonknight is an exceptional character for combat, but going the pure damage route of Ardent Flame’s skill path will leave your character stuck as a glass cannon with no healing spells to recover from the massive damage you’re going to be soaking up. With a party, you’ll be able to leave the healing to another member and just focus on a truly specialized damage dealing role.
Earthen Heart also suffers a bit when not used in a group, given that its primary strength is in AoE attacks and crowd controlling lots of enemies, but will be an absolute necessity for any fighting in Cyrodiil with enemy alliances. It also has the potential to be obscenely overpowered if used properly, thanks to the passive skill Mountain’s Blessing – a skill that adds an additional ultimate charge when you activate an earth ability. The possibility of being able to spam Magma armor isn’t game breaking, but it’ll certainly be a nice bonus for big scale warfare.
Draconic Power has the most potential for single players without a guild, though this class focuses on defense almost completely, having only one ability that has a great potential for damage and healing at the same time. Inhale is a siphon attack that absorbs health from your enemies and restores yours. Very little will hurt you with this option, but you won’t be killing anything very quickly.
The Nightblade is the master spy, thief, assassin and rogue of the game. Few will see you coming, and even fewer will live to tell the tale. These shadow warriors shun open combat and achieve their goals by trickery, stealth, and a quick getaway. If you’re considering an archer, look no further – the Nightblade offers the perfects skills to turn you into the most feared marksman alive. This class lets you strike from afar undetected, slip in close for a kill, and nimbly dodge any blows your enemies might send your way.
Skill Lines: Assassination, Shadow, Siphoning
Skill Base: Buffs, debuffs, dark magic and siphoning attacks.
Best Races to Play: The Bosmer is a natural choice for this class, given their skills as archers. For those looking to build the ideal sneak thief, the Khajiit is the best in the game, with a bigger stealth radius, better critical rates and healing, and a boost to medium armor – perfect for your fragile assassin character without sacrificing movement or speed. Argonians or Altmer could also be a viable option for those who want a boost to health recovery or magic.
Solo Play: For people who already know they’re going to be joining the Dark Brotherhood or the Thieves Guild, this is the class to pick. Augmenting the Nightblade’s skill set with the skills and bonuses these Guilds have to offer will make you a formidable opponent, and adding in possible racial bonuses could further that advantage. The Nightblade may suffer a bit in PvP depending on the build and experience of the player, but finding a few allies to fight alongside will negate that weakness.
Guild Play: Like the Dragonknight, the Nightblade is going to be a must for any party. They have great options for crowd control such as Death Stroke, an ultimate skill that reduces the amount an enemy can heal itself, and a damage boosting skill called Mark Target that will make them essential to any PvP fight. Another skill called Agony is a fantastic attack for any group that stuns and does DoT to enemies for a long duration. Sure, the effect is broken when more damage is dealt, but if you can stun-juggle enemies in between hits, do you really care?
Pros/Cons: Agony is widely agreed to be the most spammable, over-powered attack the Nightblade possesses, with the ability to stun enemies and finish them off without ever allowing them a chance to attack. Whether Bethesda and Zenimax decide to nerf it a bit or not for balance by the time the game launches remains to be seen. Mark Target is definitely the next must have ability, especially when it comes to players who intend to strike from a distance via archery or magic. But the silent dark horse of skills is definitely Catalyst, which boosts the effectiveness of potions. Potions can be made and stored before battle, and allow more flexibility than the Hotbar skills might otherwise. Suddenly having a better heath regeneration or magicka resistance potion can be incredibly useful in a pinch, and is only one of the many options you could use this passive effect for. Nightblades also possess the only true in-combat stealth of the game.
Most are going to want to combine skill trees to maximize their damage potential, and the only true downside to the Nightblade class is defense and play styles. This is not likely to be a character a beginner will pick up easily and use successfully, due to their lower defense and less direct methods of healing and doing damage. This class has the potential to be a fragile speedster if defense, health and armor aren’t chosen carefully, so dealing damage from afar seems to be their best option.
The Sorcerer is your typical Mages Guild character, a master of the arcane arts and uses spells to attack and dismay their enemies. Whether channeling the primal forces of the universe, summoning the undead, or confusing their attackers, this class is supreme. In a group they can truly shine, letting their party tank the most damaging hits while attacking from afar.
Skill Lines: Storm Calling, Dark Magic, Daedric Summoning
Skill Base: Lightning, summons, and dark magic.
Best Races to Play: Without question, Altmer will have the upper hand here, with extra magic stats from the beginning and the Highborn ability to quickly replenish spent magica. Any character who plans to spend a lot of time crafting and working out potion and armor effects to reduce spell costs will easily make up for the Altmer’s initial advantage though. Bretons, Nords, and Dunmer would also make excellent choices for their innate magic resistance, giving your squishy wizard a better chance at surviving even the most heated combat. A Khajiit would also make an interesting choice for a stealth mage, due to their racial bonuses, and an Argonian’s Histskin ultimate would offset the fragility of most mage builds nicely.
Solo Play: Like the Nightblade, Sorcerers are a more subtle character who rely on keeping their enemies distant and preoccupied with something else. Ranged attacks are an obvious must, and working on maxing out the Daedric Summoning tree will net you two permanent pets and an atronach, great for being your own crowd against powerful enemies. It’ll be a more technical character to play, but when done right will manage to devastate foes and clear dungeons just fine.
Guild Play: Technically, the three other classes have enough magic and spells in their bag of tricks that you could theoretically leave Sorcerers out of a party and do just fine – except for one important skill. The Dark Magic skill tree offers an ultimate skill called Negate Magic, an AoE attack that dispels enemy magic, silences all enemies currently casting spells, and does damage to them as a final insult. No other class has anything similar to this, and for PvP, crowd control and certain boss fights it’s going to be absolute gold. There are lots of benefits to having a Sorcerer along, but that skill will be the one a guild can’t do without.
Pros/Cons: Sorcerers are a solid mage class, well rounded with the usual array of summons and spells to heal or hurt as needed, but they’ll truly shine in a group. Building a tough, survivable mage that can tank hits is certainly doable, but it generally happens at the expense of other more useful abilities. People looking to make a true specialist of their mage will want the support of a party, but will have an incredible array of damage they can rain down on their enemies. Bound Armor, Dark Exchange, and Conjured Ward are really the only options for restoring health and increasing defense however, meaning many Sorcerer builds will be glass cannons.
Storm Calling is a skill line that will likely need maxed in order to show its true potential, but has many good AoE and DPS skills that will be popular with any Sorcerer. Dark Magic has the incredibly useful Negate Magic, and an interesting option that may become popular in PvP zones called Daedric Mines. This skill summons 3 mines that arm themselves and then immobilize enemies with some magic damage thrown in. Depending on the length of time this skill stays active for, PvP and even some PvE challenges will benefit from laying this trap – especially in darker environments.
The entire Daedric Summoning line also offers some great skills, both for bringing familiars to your aid and increasing your chances of staying alive via health regeneration and better defense. Sorcerers will be the class that most requires a careful, thoughtful build for optimum use.
A champion for all that is good and just, the Templar is the paladin character of the game, or a cleric for the hardcore role player. They are the defensive foil to the Dragonknight class, a heavy armor character who absorbs the worst hits an enemy can dish out while healing their companions. Not all of a Templar’s magic is defensive though, and those who dare to cross one by dabbling in the arcane or dark magics may discover their error the hard way.
Skill Lines: Aedric Spear, Dawn’s Wrath, Restoring Light
Skill Base: Light magic, the sun, and healing abilities.
Best Races to Play: Bretons or Altmer. For a class that’s mainly about tanking, damage control, and casting great healing and damage spells, Bretons will augment these traits with a solid resistance to magic, an absorb magic ability, and spell cost reductions that will make your Templar character a solid, unyielding wall against enemy attacks. Likewise, the boosts to Magica and destruction spells that Altmer have would make a perfect Templar character for the gamer who wants a more offensive-based tank.
Solo Play: The Templar is another great character for newcomers and veterans of the game, boasting a solid defense, good offensive skills, and healing. While all other classes are forced to rely on siphoning health, using a potion, or finding a restoration staff, the Templar can heal themselves just fine and survive huge amounts of damage. For anybody looking to be a one man army, the survivability and healing this class offers are critically important.
Guild Play: The same things that make a Templar so useful in solo combat are what make them truly shine in a party. While the Dragonknight focuses on dealing massive damage and shrugging off the occasional hit, a Templar can support, heal, and do some very useful AoE damage and crowd controlling as well with abilities like Radial Sweep. A Templar will certainly hold their own in offensive combat, but smart strategies will allow them to be the healer and damage sponge of the party, allowing the other party members to be freed up for pure damage, crowd control and debuffs.
Pros/Cons: The Templar has many strengths as a class, but like its counterpart the Dragonknight, suffers from the need to specialize. Players will need to choose carefully if they decide not to focus on one or two skill trees at a time, as many of the most useful skills for this class are among the last to be unlocked. Piercing Javelin offers one of the best spamming attacks in the game, and Aedric Spear’s skill set has many appealing options for both offense and defense.
The Dawn’s Wrath skill set offers lots of great sun-based damage, whether through AoE attacks or DoT. Eclipse offers the ability to reflect incoming single target spells, something that may make a world of difference for a difficult PvP or mage encounter. The most interesting thing about this skill tree however, is its future potential – when vampires are finally released into the Elder Scrolls Online, a sunlight wielding paladin will be on every Guild’s must-have list.
Finally, the Restoring Light skills offer two instant heals that require no casting time whatsoever, a necessity for anyone in a tight spot. It also allows the Templar to reduce damage for their allies, cure ailments for themselves and others, and generally save players the time and effort of constantly chugging potions to stay alive while fighting. They can also resurrect party members as long as they have soul gems in their inventory, with an occasional chance to resurrect without consuming any resources. It’s not a skill line most players will want to pursue in favor of the other two, but everyone will want at least a few basic skills off the list for utility purposes.