This build epitomizes synergy, and we all know how much I like synergy. By combining commonly overlooked things in the right manner you begin to become overpowered fairly quickly. Among these underrated things is utilizing Two-Handed and Sneak, actively trying to get off critical strikes, and even using bashing as a resource of significant damage. In order to combine all of these things into a sophisticated play style I found the synergy in each one and the glue that really brings it all together. The glue is the combination of the Ebony Blade and Marked for Death.
The Emissary of Darkness
Stone: Thief then Lady
Major Skills: Alchemy, Sneak, Two-Handed
Minor Skills: Block, Light Armor
Shouts: Aura Whisperer, Dragonrend, Marked for Death, Slow Time, Throw Voice
Powers: Sinderion’s Serendipity, Secret of Strength, Seeker of Shadows
- Shrouded Cowl with Mask
- Solitude Guard Armor
- Vampire Gauntlets
- Shrouded Boots
- Amulet of Articulation
- Ring of Renewal
- The Ebony Blade
Essential Quests: A Return to Your Roots, The Whispering Door, Thieves’ Guild, Join/Destroy the Dark Brotherhood, Main Quest
At its heart the Emissary of Darkness is the hand of Mephala, her chosen one, her champion, the embodiment of all that is the Webspinner. The Emissary is as quick with her tongue as she is with her blade. Because she has devoted her life to Mephala, the Spinner has granted her with gifts only fitting of a daedric champion. The first of which is the vampire, the leech, the Ebony Blade. The blade is said to calm and silence those who it kills as it sucks the life from them. A blade so strong it turns even the most powerful of its wielders insane with greed, but not the Emissary. This is because her intent is not to gain power of her own, but to carry out the requests of her master.
The second gift allows her to pull on the strings of mortals just as Mephala herself would. She has been gifted with the secrets of nearly all living things. Whether it be physical or psychological, this methodical murderer will take advantage of it. This was in part due to the help of Mephala’s sibling Hermaeus Mora. He has archived nearly all the knowledge of the world, the Spider then knows how to use this knowledge to destroy friendships, tear apart families and overturn kingdoms.
Of course Mephala cannot give the Emissary of Darkness everything. She is already a superb warrior, and an excellent killer. Years of training have taught her all there is to know of swords and poisons. The Emissary always knows where to strike and how to strike to obtain the desired results. Due to her surgical precision with a blade, she is said to be able to cut one person nearly a thousand time without them dying. While her knowledge of poisons have allowed her to further exacerbate the weaknesses of her enemies. Being around these toxins so much has helped her develop a very high resistance to poison herself.
But she is not called the Emissary of Darkness for nothing. To accompany her unrivaled blade skills, she boasts an undeniable affinity for the shadows. She is able to move to and fro as if she were a shadow herself. When combined with her blade skills she is not only untouchable, but unbeatable. In the midst of open combat she weaves in and out the shadows at lightning speeds, striking at every opportunity she finds. The Emissary of Darkness is nigh omnipotent thanks to her relationship with the daedric prince of lies, sex and murder: Mephala.
Marked For Death
The basics of this shout are that the inflicted enemy will take damage and lose armor rating for a total of 60 seconds. The key here is the armor rating drop. Each word used increases this effect by 25, so that at one word enemies will lose 25 points of armor per second, 50 at two and 75 at three. To better quantify this, it translates roughly to you will be doing 3%, 6% and 9% more damage every second. This effect will continue well into the negatives thus resulting in a 180%, 360% and 540% physical damage increase at the end of the 60 seconds, if anyone is still alive at that time that is.
This drop in armor rating results in an effective increase in ALL physical damage. This makes so many overlooked sources of damage viable. Two in particular are critical damage and bash damage. Time and time again both are overlooked because they are so minuscule on higher difficulties, but thanks to Marked for Death, they are not only now usable they are actually reliable and even threatening!
Critical damage typically halts at about three-fourths of the base damage of your weapon with all three of the appropriate perks, but can then be doubled by critical charge. Well once you factor in Marked for Death, this extra damage is multiplied by upwards of 5 times on critical strikes and 10 times on a critical charge! No longer is critical damage just something you tack on, it is something you strive for. The same holds true for bashing damage. The base damage of bashing is about one-fourth that of your weapons base damage. Add in Deadly Bash and it becomes 5x stronger, and then another 3x stronger when using a power bash. So once you add in Marked for Death you are nearing 75 times your original base bash damage, much more that of your swords normal swinging damage.
This shout also opens up a ton of weapon options that were previously overlooked because of having a horrid base damage or not being able to be tempered. One weapon that has fallen victim to this plague is the Ebony Blade. It has a whopping 11 base damage and cannot be tempered, go figure.
The Ebony Blade is the ultimate gift from Mephala and as a result, it is the ultimate weapon! Well maybe not at first glance. It is a Two-Handed sword with the base damage of your average One-Handed weapon and it cannot be improved. Wait, what’s that? It has an enchantment that absorbs 30 health per hit? And it swings as fast as a One-Handed sword? And Marked for Death will raise that pathetic base damage for me? Well damn, sign me up. Once you stop comparing the Ebony Blade to other weapons, you can see that it is really a One-Handed sword that you use with two hands and as a result gets the add perks of being a Two-handed weapon. The Emissary forgoes all bows and spells in favor solely of the Ebony Blade because it is just that damn good.
Keeping up with the theme of the sword I thought it was only appropriate for the armor to match (I’m a sucker for good aesthetics) and to add in the Amulet of Articulation. No matter what version of it you get, it results in a 100% persuasion success rate that falls right in line with the themes of manipulation that accompany Mephala. Then there is the armor. The Solitude Hold Guard Armor is really a wonderful piece. Just the design of it feels like it was really meant for a rogue. Especially when you add in some Shrouded armor pieces to set it off. The Cowl has an enchantment that only affects bows, but that mask is just so awesome, it is hard to pass it up on any female character. The gloves on the other hand are a little too bulky and have an irrelevant enchantment so we replace them with a set of more insidious looking Vampire Gauntlets. And finally we have the Shrouded Boots which may be a little bulky, but their Muffle enchantment is actually pretty important.
You see, Marked for Death is not the only way the Emissary boosts the damage of the Ebony Blade. By weaving Sneak into her combat she effectively doubles her damage output, which by default results in doubling the effects of Marked for Death. Rather than staying in the shadows, attacking, returning to the shadows and waiting, this style is a lot less degenerate. It relies on combining Shadow Warrior with Silent Roll and Slow Time or Quick Reflexes to “parry” and perform sneak attacks in the midst of battle. This is really why you want Muffle on your shoes. When added to the Muffled Movement perk you are completely muffled, then factor in the force of taking all five perks in Stealth and it becomes easy to bob and weave through enemies stabbing them in the back at will. To go along with this nimbleness Unhindered and Deft Movement really make a statement. There is a noticeable difference in movement once you get Unhindered and although Deft Movement is only a 10% chance it seems as though you get the dodge at the most opportune times (well I did at least). Not to mention the prevalence of Alchemy here loves the extra room that comes with Unhindered.
Wind Walker in tandem with the Lady Stone and a Ring of Renewal grants a total 125% increase to stamina regeneration which fuels your rolling around as well as bashes and power attacks. For once bashing is relevant for more than just stunning enemies. Once you factor in Disarming Bash and Marked for Death, not only will enemies be running around weaponless, they will also continually take more and more damage just from getting hit with the hilt of the sword. This makes it very easy to hunker down and start blocking. With all the Shield Wall perks and perks that boost Light Armor the Emissary can trade blows with the best of them and retaliate with powerful bashes that have a chance to restore her health via the Ebony Blade' enchantment. When combined with her pure offensive style she becomes a very complete and diabolic package.
The last skill I want to talk about is Sweep. This perk is just amazing with this build. It takes advantage of multiple aspects. The first and most obvious one being that when you use it with the Ebony Blade you will absorb the health of everyone it hits! The next thing is that every time it hits a new person it has another chance to land a critical hit. This will greatly raise your chances of hearing that rewarding ping because every person you hit has their own equal chance of being susceptible to a critical strike rather than making it all or nothing. The final thing that makes sweeping so devastating is that when you poison your sword it will poison everyone it hits and with Concentrated Poison you can hit them all again. Let that sink in for a moment. With ONE poison you can infect an entire crowd! Just imagine using a paralyze poison and watch them all fall in one fell swoop or exponentially raising your health absorb for the remaining duration of the battle.
Although this build is very much sustainable on its own, Alchemy gives you an ace up your sleeve that just makes it close to game breaking. Poisons just feel so right on a dark character like this. They will directly and indirectly raise the damage of the Ebony Blade as well as turn enemies upside down.
Twilight Bloom – Weakness to Poison, Damage Health and Ravage Health
Skeever Tail + Deathbell + Giant Lichen
This is typically the poison you want to start any battle with because it will strengthen every other poison and it will immediately cut the enemies’ health.
Silent Night – Damage Magicka Regeneration and Damage Magicka
Glow Dust + Butterfly Wing + Blue Butterfly Wing
(Hanging Moss + Nightshade + Namira's Rot works well for those with Hearthfire)
This will utterly destroy mages and dragons alike. After a few hits mages will be lucky if they can cast any spells, especially if they have already cast any prior to being hit with this. Dragons will also be rendered useless after taking enough shots. When a dragon reaches zero magicka they typically fly away and come right back down. By first hitting them with Dragonrend then a couple shots of this, they become sitting ducks, well sitting dragons. In combination with Disarming Bash, all types of enemies are now effectively neutralized.
Ivory Tears – Damage Health and Lingering Damage Health
River Betty + Imp Stool + Mora Tapinella
While not being anything special, this is a great poison to tack on in the middle of battle. Especially if anyone is under the effects of Marked for Death or still weak to poison. This poison will continue to slowly chip away at their health with Marked for Death.
Death’s Kiss – Paralysis and Lingering Damage Health
Imp Stool + Mora Tapinella + Canis Root
The name says it all. This poison is usually the game-ender. You can stack it with Marked for Death and sit idly by as death approaches or you can tee off to speed up the effects.
Black Lotus Dust – Slow and Weakness to Magic
Salt Pile + Deathbell + Scaly Pholiota
This is honestly the most important poison. This will inadvertently raise the damage of the Ebony Blade. First it will raise the amount of health that you absorb through its enchantment. But you will also raise the potency of Marked for Death. Which in turn will result in a further increase in the physical damage of the Ebony Blade, its critical damage and its bash damage.
Combat is conducted upfront and with the utmost finesse which is only fitting for someone who knows their way around a blade as well as the Emissary. With everything together it almost looks like dancing from third person.
Battle can be started with either a sneak attack or Marked for Death if it is not worth wasting poisons to boost it. The great thing about this build is that it can start out in the open and still net all of its kills from sneak and vice versa. From there everything will just flow into one another. You can systematically block and bash and swing then if you see an opening, activate Shadow Warrior and Silent Roll out of the way to retaliate with a sneak attack. If you ever have trouble getting the timing down, eating a sample of Vampire Dust after using Shadow Warrior will give you a few extra seconds of invisibility to get into a good position to strike.
Slow Time is where you will rule. It is much easier to dodge and attack under Slow Time, but it also comes with another less obvious benefit. Under Slow Time you of course will be moving faster than everyone which means you will get in more hits than normal which in turn will result in a higher chance for a critical strike to add on to your damage. It should be noted that using one word of Slow Time will result in a very good ratio of slowing opponents and increasing your speed for a relatively low cooldown. Likewise Marked for Death can even be used at one word and continuously stacked throughout battle if need be. Using one word of these shouts will open up more chances to use them effectively.
To brutalize archers in the middle of battle simply use a combination of Shadow Warrior, Throw Voice Silent Roll and Great Critical Charge to close the distance while taking minimal damage. The same holds true for other ranged characters like mages, using the same philosophy just add in the Silent Night poison to render them powerless. When only facing ranged characters it is easy to misdirect them using Shadow Warrior and Throw Voice, form there you can sneak up on them and handle them as you may. The challenge comes when there are melee enemies as well. Do not be afraid of stray arrows because the Ebony Blade's effects more than make up for the lack of a high armor rating. When in melee combat it is almost a guarantee that you will be able to pull of the combination of Quick Reflexes and Slow Time which is a sustained slow time basically. During this time you can dodge arrows and spells to combat melee enemies or leave them to handle the ranged enemies appropriately.
The trouble of a lack of range attack comes when fighting dragons because they love to fly around and shout at you from the skies. Oh wait, there’s a way to ground them? Yes! Thanks to the fruit of Mephala, hit them Dragonrend as soon as possible so you can try to silence them. Then once that is accomplished all avenues of battle open up such as marking them for death, slowing time and even sneak attacks, although it may be difficult it is not entirely impossible. And thus the problems of a range-less character are alleviated.
Quick Reflexes + Slow Time
When the Emissary of Darkness becomes completely focused she reaches the state of Awakening. In this state she is essentially unbeatable and virtually untouchable. She begins to maneuver with such speed and finesse that enemies are lucky to even follow her movements.
By activating Quick Reflexes during a power attack and quickly pressing Slow Time right after a suspended reality is formed. This version of Slow Time can last upwards near a whole minute. If the Emissary ever reaches sustained Awakening it is game over.
Throw Voice + Shadow Warrior (+ Silent Roll + Quick Reflexes)
At times the Emissary of Darkness can become half-Awakened. When this happens she is able to move with the grace of her Awakened state, but for a much shorter period of time. During this time she moves in such a rhythm and at such speeds that she leaves an after image.
I am shocked at how many people do not use Throw Voice. With this build's Sneak prowess, using Shadow Warrior at some distance from an enemy and following up with Throw Voice is sure to turn them. While in the middle of combat it is possible to use the technique of activating Shadow Warrior and using Silent Roll to gain some distance then using Throw Voice.
Silent Roll + Great Critical Charge
While the Emissary moves amongst the shadows she will majestically spring from them in order to land a hellish surprise attack.
This technique is not as special as it once was, but the Emissary of Darkness uses it to its full potential because she can enter this move in a moment’s notice. By either using Shadow Warrior with Vampire Dust to get out of the way and initiate it or going right into it after the use of Rhythm Echo.
Twilight Bloom + Lotus Dust + Ivory Tears + Marked for Death
Once the Emissary of Darkness draws blood, she will continuously strike with every intent to kill. Without remorse she hacks and slashes as her enemy crawls, vying for safety, until they have bled out every last drop of blood they have.
This move is essentially the bread and butter of combat. By using the chain of weakness to poison, lingering health damage and weakness to magic followed by Marked for Death, enemies will find themselves moving at half speed and losing their health at an astounding rate. Enter Slow Time and it is almost as if time has frozen completely while you move at a normal speed and the enemy’s health continues to drain out.
Death by a Thousand Cuts
Death’s Kiss + Slow Time
After reaching Awakening, the Emissary of Darkness will strike in a manner that will leave her prey helpless and near death. It is then that she takes the last joys, the final hope of life away from them by striking them with slow non-fatal cuts and torturing them until they finally die.
This is just downright unfair to whoever is on the receiving end. With Slow Time active, paralysis is extended and the enemy will constantly be taking damage from the lingering poison while simultaneously fueling the Emissary’s thirst for blood. This is a great way to make an example out of a final boss or to restore health while being mobbed.
I would like to extend many thanks to James for all of the research he did. If it was not for him, I don’t think I would have ever found a real justification for using the Ebony Blade. His work really brought this to fruition.
Also a shout out to Vindictive for finding the Slow Time + Quick Reflexes thing.
Thanks to Shinjin and his Mystic Ronin for intriguing me enough to use the Ebony Blade.
And thanks to Alastor for helping with the name and thus inspiring me to finally write this :P
Finally I would like to thank everyone that sat through this all, I know it was a lot, and also thanks to everyone who has supported me over the past year. I think this is going to be my last solo character build.