After the Oblivion Crisis, many mages throughout Tamriel sought ways to better harness the powers of Oblivion for good. They recreated an ancient Snow Elf combat style, seamlessly blending use of magic, bound weapons, and protective spells which is still seen in the Falmer today. This combat style was applied to create four new classes of fighter: the Arcane Bladesman, wielding the bound sword, the Arcane Assassin, wielding the bound dagger, the Arcane Marksman, wielding the bound bow, and the Arcane Barbarian, wielding the bound battleaxe…
The Arcane Barbarian
Before I go on, I'd like to give a big thank you to Teccam for these awesome screenshots; they really help make the build! You can check out the whole album here. Anyway, this build is one done in the style of Ponty's old Arcane series, which were builds based on using bound weapons and flesh spells to create fighters that wielded no physical weapons or armor. He never made one based on the Bound Battleaxe, so I decided to give it a shot.
Race: I recommend Orc. Berserker Rage is too good a power to pass up on for this build, and they also get +5 boosts to Two-Handed and Block.
Stone: The Lord Stone is the ideal choice, primarily for the extra 50 Armor Rating, but the 25% Magic Resistance is quite nice as well.
Stats: In the early going, go with a 1/1/0 ratio. Once you have a decent Magicka pool that will let you cast a flesh spell, summon an atronach, and conjure the Bound Battleaxe, go with 1/3/1. The Arcane Barbarian, despite being a fighter build, isn’t too stamina intensive since the Bound Battleaxe is weightless, making power attacks use less stamina, and there’s no armor to weigh him down.
Apparel: The Alik’r Hood with Ulfric’s Clothes/Bracers/Boots provides a nice, stylish look. This obviously necessitates the completion of the Imperial side of the Civil War questline. The bracers, despite being light armor, do not interfere with Mage Armor. With self-made enchanting potions, you can also make somewhat decent enchantments. I put alteration on the hood, conjuration on the clothes, and two-handed on everything else.
Shouts: I used Unrelenting Force for crowd control, Become Ethereal for safely closing in on distant enemies and casting Master level Alteration Spells, and Marked For Death against particularly tough foes. As such, you’ll want to do the Main Quest up to completing the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller for Unrelenting Force and the first word of Become Ethereal, and Destroy the Dark Brotherhood for the first word of Marked For Death.
Two-Handed: The Arcane Barbarian is trained in the use of the Bound Battleaxe. Focus on getting Barbarian and the power attack perks. Note that due to a glitch, the Bound Battleaxe is unaffected by Limbsplitter.
Block: While relying on Mage Armor for defense leaves something to be desired, complimenting it with Block helps to further soak up incoming damage. Grab Quick Reflexes, all ranks of Shield Wall, and the bash perks on the right side of the tree.
Alteration: Extensive knowledge of Alteration grants the Arcane Barbarian the power to shield himself from physical damage, better resist magic, and eventually paralyze enemies. Try to get all the perks in this tree except for Alteration Dual Casting and, for those without the Unofficial Skyrim Patch, Atronach, due to the spell absorption glitch.
Conjuration: In combat, the Arcane Barbarian summons both Flame Atronachs and the Bound Battleaxe. Perkwise, you should get Apprentice Conjuration and all of the Atronach and Bound Weapon perks.
Alchemy: The Arcane Barbarian uses potions to heal himself and fortify his skills and poisons to coat his Bound Battleaxe. The primary perks you should aim for are Alchemist, Concentrated Poison, and Benefactor.
In total, you should have 50 perks once the build is completed.
Restore Health: As your primary means of healing, you'll want to have a bunch of potions with this effect on you at all times.
Restore Stamina: You shouldn’t be running out of stamina that often, but it's still nice to have a backup option.
Fortify Two-Handed/Fortify Marksman: Your damage booster, naturally. Unfortunately, there are only a few ingredients with fortify two-handed as an effect, so you can use fortify marksman as an alternative, since it actually boosts all forms of physical damage due to a glitch.
Resist Magic: While your inherent magic resistance from your Alteration perks and the Lord Stone should be enough by endgame, you may want a little extra for tougher battles (e.g. dragons) fought earlier on in the game.
Paralysis: This will be your only source of paralysis in the early going, though you can use the Paralyze spell as an alternative once you perk Expert Alteration.
You might find it odd to play an Orc that uses neither physical weapons nor armor, so I came up with a backstory for that reason. Born in an Orc Stronghold, the Arcane Barbarian was trained from a young age in the art of fighting with large, two-handed weapons. However, he wanted to see more of the world, and thus joined the Imperial Legion. It was there that his ultra-aggressive fighting style earned him the nickname of “The Barbarian.” Despite Orcish stereotypes, however, he began to read books in his spare time, particularly anything to do with the arcane. He was honorably discharged from the legion a month before the Stormcloak Rebellion began. Following that, he spent some time in the Imperial City, reading and studying more, and eventually setting out for the College of Winterhold for the opportunity to formally study magic. However, he was captured with some Stormcloaks when he crossed into Skyrim, and with no way of proving his status as an ex-Legionnaire, he was sent to Helgen to be executed.
In the early going, your magicka reserves aren’t going to be enough to let you cast a flesh spell, summon an atronach, and conjure the Bound Battleaxe all in one battle, so simply stick to casting just the flesh spell and use a standard battleaxe. Eventually, you’ll be able to conjure a Bound Battleaxe, and after that be able to summon an atronach as well. The flame atronach is our summon of choice for two reasons. First, it is an apprentice level spell, just like the Bound Battleaxe. Secondly, its attacks are ranged, which nicely complements our melee range barbarian. Something to note is that since the Bound Battleaxe is weightless and thus uses little stamina for power attacks, it's comparatively easy to stagger-lock an enemy into submission compared to other battleaxes.
The main problem with using the Bound Battleaxe with this build is that due to its status as a two-handed weapon, it swings slowly, and you yourself move slowly midswing, hindering your ability to dodge incoming attacks. This wouldn’t be an issue if you could tank in heavy armor, but unless you use Dragonhide, Alteration’s flesh spells won’t be providing a ton of defense. Thus, the Arcane Barbarian’s strategy is to overwhelm the enemy with powerful offense before they can kill him, with only momentary pauses to block. However, the Bound Battleaxe’s damage can be lacking at higher levels, so this build does just about everything possible to keep the damage up. Aside from getting all ranks of Barbarian and Mystic Binding, this build also uses fortify Two-Handed enchantments and potions as well as debilitating poisons to keep the damage up. Using Marked For Death liberally also helps; with all three words, it decreases an opponent’s armor rating by 75 points per second. If all else fails, you can use Berserker Rage to double damage output.
The combat itself is pretty simple. Cast your flesh spell, summon a Flame Atronach, conjure the Bound Battleaxe, use any potions, poisons, or shouts relevant to the situation, and charge in. Use power attacks liberally - the Bound Battleaxe’s weightlessness means that they cost very little stamina - and block blows as necessary. Finally, be sure to drink potions to regain Health and Stamina, since switching to a Restoration spell will cancel the Bound Battleaxe spell.