Let the wind blow. Let the sand scour. Let the magic of air and sand be free to roam the Alik'r. From the mystic membranes that stand between the two, absorb and convey unto me and all who may understand the deep essential powers of the desert.
The Desert Spellsword
My inspiration for this build came from two different books in The Elder Scrolls games: The Alik’r and Wind and Sand. Basically, this build focuses around what is known as “desert magic.” The former book speaks about the heat and light that the stones of the Alik’r give off, while the latter talks about the sand and air of the desert. It is these four elements that I have combined to recreate desert magic and make this build, a fighter skilled with both scimitars and magic who has come to Skyrim seeking opportunity in this war torn land. As Wind and Sand says, for those who live in the desert, “a driving hardiness develops that serves them well in all environs should they ever choose to live,” and the Desert Spellsword is hardy indeed. This build uses a decent amount of content from Dawnguard and Dragonborn, but is still perfectly playable without either DLC.
Heat is easily represented via the flame magic of the Destruction school. Aside from that, the Desert Spellsword can use his Thu’um to project it via the Fire Breath shout and can also imbue his weapons with flames (more on that later).
On the other hand, the element of Light is manipulated via the Restoration and Alteration schools. For the former, it is used offensively against the undead (Turn Undead and Sun Spells) as well as for shielding (Wards) and regeneration (Healing Spells). For the latter, it is used for illumination (Candle/Magelight) and defense (Flesh Spells).
Air is utilized via a variety of shouts. The Desert Spellsword can throw his opponent into a whirlwind (Cyclone), imbue his or his allies’ weapons with the power of wind (Elemental/Battle Fury), blow away inclement weather and stagger enemies (Clear Skies), create a shockwave to send enemies flying (Unrelenting Force), send himself rushing forward (Whirlwind Sprint), or even become one with the very air itself (Become Ethereal). In addition to these, the Desert Spellsword can use Destruction magic to manipulate the air around him (Whirlwind Cloak).
Of all the elements at his disposal, the Desert Spellsword uses Sand the least, only to encase and immobilize his enemies (Ash Shell/Rune). Refrain from Ash Spawn/Guardian; such Conjuration spells are aberrations of desert magic. Also, the Atronach perk interferes with summoning them.
The Desert Spellsword alternates between mage, dual-wielding, and spellsword combat styles. As such, he uses two scimitars, one of which is unenchanted while the other is enchanted with Fire Damage as well as Fiery Soul Trap for trapping souls in the Black Star. When dual-wielding, make sure the unenchanted scimitar is in the left hand so you can use Elemental Fury. For apparel you can go with Ulfric’s Bracers (I renamed them into the Dueling Bracers) and either the standard Alik’r clothing set or Nazir’s version. Though the bracers are light armor, they do not interfere with Mage Armor. Obtain the Shield of Solitude to disenchant it for its more powerful variant of magic resistance.
Alik’r Hood (Restoration/Alteration)
Necklace of Sands (Destruction/Magic Resistance)
Hammerfell Garb (Destruction/Alteration)
Dueling Bracers (One-Handed/Magicka)
Ring of the Desert (Alteration/Destruction)
Redguard Boots (One-Handed/Stamina)
Wind and Sand describes the casting of an Alik’r wizard as having “a certain economy” to it. To reflect that in gameplay, I focused enchantments on magicka cost reduction, which, combined with the Respite perk, allowed me to invest in Health more than Magicka/Stamina. A 1/3/1 ratio is adequate.
This is pretty open-ended with the Desert Spellsword; I played mine as a bounty hunter from Hammerfell who came to Skyrim to collect on Kematu and Nazir’s heads. While in Skyrim, he’s hired as a mercenary by General Tullius to quell the Stormcloak Rebellion, and discovers his destiny as Dragonborn, which he pursues in order to learn how to use his Thu’um with desert magic. This eventually leads him to Solstheim, where he confronts Miraak and learns more about magic from Master Neloth. He also joined up with the Dawnguard to learn more about sun spells, and the College of Winterhold to research magic in general.
As an alternative to destroying the Dark Brotherhood, you can join them instead. This means giving up Nazir’s clothes, but instead you can get the almighty Windshear. Completing Bound Until Death also removes Bryling’s essential status, which means you can kill her and use her Fine Armguards as an alternative to Ulfric’s Bracers, which in turn means that you can complete the Civil War questline for the Stormcloaks or ignore it altogether.
With regards to Black Book options, I recommend the following: Dragonborn Force, Secret of Strength, Mora’s Boon, Seeker of Sorcery, Scholar’s Insight, and Bardic Knowledge
First of all, a couple of notes on things I haven’t mentioned elsewhere. While any race could theoretically learn desert magic, Redguards are the best for both gameplay and roleplay reasons. They get the most appropriate skill boosts for the build (+10 to One-Handed and +5 to Destruction, Alteration, and Smithing), and their passive ability and racial power are both useful. As far as Standing Stones go, I recommend the Lord. Mage Armor builds tend to be a little light in the armor rating department, and the extra magic resistance is always useful.
Combat with the Desert Spellsword is very fast-paced. At a distance, he can throw out plenty of fire spells and can also paralyze enemies come lategame. In close-quarters, he’s very deadly with his pair of scimitars (honed to a razor’s edge via Smithing), and can augment himself with flesh spells and flame cloaks, while Restoration is always useful for healing and warding. Defense is a little low, however, so it’s important to be able to dodge attacks and kill your enemies before they kill you.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this character. Redguard is my favorite race in the game and it was great to finally play a build appropriate for them. And yes, I’m aware that the Desert Battlemage would be a more accurate name due to greater reliance on magic rather than combat skills, but I like how "Desert Spellsword" sounds, and it’s fitting since he wields, well, swords. If you liked this, then check out my other builds to see more!