After realising that with my Paladin that much of my stamina was spent shield-bashing and left not much for power attacks I was wondering how I could still make a build able to defend itself but still deal more damage. This idea came to me after seeing the loading screen with the Thalmor wielding the Daedric sword and grew from there. With plenty of new content from DLC I decided to revisit one of my favourite builds. Thus I present:
The Arcane Bladesman
After the Oblivion Crisis, many mages throughout Tamriel sought out ways to better harness the powers of Oblivion for good. They re-created an ancient Snow Elf combat style, seamlessly blending use of spells, Bound weapons, and protective spells which is still seen in the Falmer today. This overarching combat style was applied to create 3 new classes of fighter - the Arcane Bladesman, wielding a bound sword and specializing in destructive spells, the Arcane Assassin, using a bound dagger and specializing in Illusion magic, and the Arcane Marksman, using a bound bow with unrivaled skill.
The Bladesman is a very versatile combatant, with high mobility, impressive skill with a sword, offensive spells, necromancy, and a variety of support spells. The Bladesman fights with a Bound Sword in his right hand and something else in his left - healing, flesh spells, lightning, or even another Bound Sword just to name a few. This arsenal allows a skilled Bladesman to take on any challenge with ease, from a single tough enemy to a larger group. In battle, the Bladesman relies on Flesh Spells, enhanced by his study of Mage Armor, along with high mobility to avoid damage. Since he wears only cloth and wields a weightless weapon, he tires much slower than other warriors.
Race: I recommend the Altmer for their sizable Magicka boost, allowing levelups to focus more on Health and Stamina. Their height also increases their speed, making them more mobile in combat. Bretons and Redguards also make good Bladesman with their skill boosts and special abilities.
Stats: I recommend leveling 2/2/1. Magicka and Health are both important for the Bladesman, while Stamina isn't as important since power attacks only cost 30 stamina with the Fighting Stance perk.
Stone: I recommend the Lord Stone, as it gives the Bladesman an impressive boost to his durability. You can't go wrong with the Mage Stone either, with 5 of the Bladesman's 6 skills being magic skills.
Conjuration: The Arcane Bladesman uses Conjuration magic for two purposes - first and foremost to conjure Bound Swords - the Bladesman's primary offense in combat - and secondly to raise the dead. Raising fallen foes ties up enemies allowing you to take on individuals or strike from their flanks while they're concentrating on your zombie. Key perks are Expert Conjuration, all the way up the Necromancy side to Twin Souls and up to Mystic Binding.
Alteration: Alteration is the Bladesman's primary defense, and it serves a number of other uses. Flesh Spells with the Mage Armor perk can grant up to 300 armor, and other spells like Ash Shell and Paralysis can grant an edge in combat. Key perk are up to Expert Alteration, Stability, and Mage Armor.
Destruction: The Bladesman utilizes Destruction magic to blast enemies with lightning from range. Since you'll be dodging around a lot, shock spells are the best choice since they just hit where you're pointing. The Disintegrate perk is very effective along with Lightning Cloak, basically instakilling any enemy in range below 15% health. Key perks are up to Adept Destruction and Disintegrate.
One-Handed: The Arcane Bladesman wields a Bound Sword with impressive skill. The weightless weapon is deadly in the right hands, with the wielder able to press the attack, giving his foe to room to retaliate. The Bladesman excels in 1v1 combat, and should use other spells to immobilize or distract enemies! At times, the Bladesman will summon a second blade for the off-hand. Key perks are up to Savage Strike and a rank or two in Dual Flurry.
Restoration: As a melee combatant, the Bladesman needs some way to heal his own wounds. Restoration magic is good for a quick heal, and can also restore Stamina. Wards are also a big help, blocking difficult to dodge magical attacks such as dragon breath. Key perks are Regeneration, Respite, and Apprentice Restoration.
Enchanting: Enchanted apparel are key to the Bladesman's viability at later levels - since the Bound Sword doesn't scale with you, you need a way to improve its damage. Key perks are the 5 ranks in Enchanter and Insightful Enchanter.
A swift stroke from the Bound Sword removes this Bandit Leader's head
Weapon: Obviously the Arcane Bladesman's weapon of choice is the Bound Sword. Only a Novice level spell, it can be cast as soon as you pick up a spell tome - either from random loot or from a merchant (Lucan in Riverwood usually has one). Once the Mystic Binding perk is acquired it does the same damage as a Daedric Sword. It's one advantage over the Daedric sword is that it's completely weightless, costing just 30 stamina to do a power attack with the Fighting Stance perk, compared to a normal Daedric sword's 54 - almost half the normal cost. It's one flaw however, is that it can't be improved, relying on enchantments and perks to increase its damage.
Apparel: I think I developed a pretty badass look combining Miraak's Robes, Thalmor Gauntlets and Boots, and an Apprentice Hood. The Miraak's Robes explosion effect is very effective against groups of enemies, and triggers quite frequently. Here's the enchantments I used:
- Thalmor Gauntlets - Fortify One-Handed
- Thalmor Boots - Fortify One-Handed
- Amulet - Fortify One-Handed
- Ring - Resist Magic
- Apprentice Hood - Fortify Magicka
- Miraak's Robes
Before you can enchant your own equipment, just use some robes of choice (Thalmor/Apprentice look good). If you don't want Miraak's gear you can always enchant a different clothing item (unenchanted College Robes from Radiant Raiment come to mind) with Fortify Health or Resist Magic. Remember you don't want any armor items otherwise the Mage Armor perk won't work!
An Arcane Bladesman with two swords is not to be underestimated
People who have played spellswords before should be relatively familiar with how this guy works. Start out combat with your strongest Flesh spell, and if you think it's necessary, use a Soul Cairn summon - they use the Necromancy perks. Cast Lightning Cloak if you're up against lots of baddies, then conjure your blade and switch to ranged spells, blasting away at enemies while you close the gap. Remember to use any shouts that might benefit when closing on ranged opponents - Become Ethereal and Whirlwind Sprint will bring you right to the baddies without you having to dodge. Press the attack by keeping them staggered - easily done with the meager power attack cost - but remember to dodge. Dodging is key to staying alive, as you don't have as much health or defense as a 'proper' warrior. While evading a power attack for example, use the opportunity to blast your enemy with some lightning or give yourself a quick heal.
You're quite vulnerable against groups of opponents - you can only dodge so much - so use spells like Ash Shell to thin the ranks down to one or two enemies. Alternatively, use shouts like Unrelenting Force, Cyclone, and Ice Form to give yourself some room, or just Slow Time to make it easier to dodge.
After felling an enemy - assuming you haven't disintegrated them - bring them back as your zombie. This is especially key at higher levels when enemies hit harder. Your minion can keep them distracted and take the hits for you while you blast from a distance, heal up, or hit them from the flanks.
Against something like a dragon, use wards to block the dragon breath, and simply move out of the way of their bite attack. With your unhindered movement you should easily be able to evade the attack - the animation is extremely predictable.
A blast of lightning means the end for this bandit
The roleplay for the Bladesman is pretty open-ended. I played mine as a power-hungry Thalmor, taking control of the College from that weakling Ancano, slaying Imperials and Stormcloaks wherever I found them, and advancing the Thalmor's interests wherever possible, such as through gaining the trust of the people of Skyrim through various town sidequests.
Overall I hope you enjoyed reading - this has long been one of my favorite characters. If you've got questions don't be afraid to ask in the comments!