Back when I first published this build, I called it "my most ambitious build to date, and the one of which I am the most proud". Even now, nearly two years later (wow!), this is still one of my favorite play styles of all time. Shamelessly powerful, gloriously brutal, and deliciously shrewd. I love the synergy and the lore framework as well.
However, as much as I loved the original build, there were a fair few things I felt I could improve. So I put together an outline for these potential changes. And I've sat on that outline for the over a year now, waiting for a chance to revisit this build with the attention it deserved. That time is finally here, and I couldn't be happier with how it came together.
At its core, the build still functions the same, but it's vastly more cohesive. I rewrote it nearly from scratch, trimmed a fair bit of fat, and added a lot of polish. There are new images, special moves, and a new suggested race. There's even a video! This is much more than your run-of-the-mill revision: It's a full-on overhaul.
I'm very happy to present: the new and improved Montalion!
For centuries, the Montalion vampire clan has held dominion in select regions of High Rock. Known for their unique ability to teleport in battle, Montalions can jump from target to target while their enemies hopelessly attempt to locate them.
Very little is known about the Montalion clan — there is only one known written account that even mentions them. This shady group of elite vampire tacticians and assassins prefers to keep it that way: Few who cross them live to tell about it. From what few survivors have emerged over the years, it is evident that the Montalions are unparalleled swordsman, subtle admixturers, and crafty mages, whose manipulation of time itself is a perversion of all that is right and just within Mundus.
Race » Orc or Dunmer Vampire
- Orc — The recommended race as of v2.0. Appropriate because the Montalion clan dwells in regions of High Rock close to Orsinium, and also for their Berserker Rage, which will prove useful in many scenarios. They also look great wearing the Redguard Hood.
- Dunmer — The race advised per the original build, and still very much appropriate as of v2.0. Dunmer look great in the Telvanni Robes, and their Ancestor's Wrath power and natural Fire Resistance are both relevant and helpful.
Stone » The Lady
Major Skills » Alchemy, Alteration, Destruction
Minor Skills » One-handed, Conjuration, Restoration
Essential Shout » Slow Time
Quests » College of Winterhold, Ill Met By Moonlight
Attributes » 1 Magicka / 1 Health / 0 Stamina
Passive Effects » Blessing of Talos, Seeker of Shadows, Secret of Protection, Sinderion's Serendipity
Ahzidal’s Ring of Arcana » Ignite is perfect ... fire damage over time, low spell cost, minimal perk investment. Wear this ring when you pick up the Cursed Ring of Hircine. It will be forcibly removed, but you can re-equip it immediately and its effects will be applied without the ring actually being equipped!
Ring of the Erudite » The above trick allows the Montalion to gain the effects of both Arcana and Erudite simultaneously. This bad boy increases your base Magicka Regen from 3% to 5% per second, and grants +100 Magicka to boot. Its effects even carry over to Vampire Lord form! See this breakdown for why it's the best item in the game.
In the early game, make frequent use of flesh spells and the Bound Sword. Try to get a word or two of Slow Time by level 10, to start incorporating some rudimentary time manipulation into your tactics. We'll get to the good stuff a little later though.
Use the shrine of Talos next to Heimskr in Whiterun to pick up the Blessing as needed — it's mere seconds away from the Dragonsreach fast travel point, and doesn't require you to enter any cells to access. Very convenient!
Join the College early on, and sell excess potions to finance Restoration training with Colette. This skill levels slowly, and we'll want to get it leveled up as soon as possible, so training is mandatory!
The core combat style can be set up right from the get-go; much of the build is based in the idea of buffing yourself with flesh spells and potions prior to combat. With that in mind, I highly recommend building a garden and greenhouse via Hearthfire A.S.A.P. It is essential to ensure that you have a healthy stock of potions and ingredients on hand at all times!
When you get Restoration up to 70 for Necromage, your potions and flesh spells will increase in both magnitude (+25%) and duration (+50%). Better yet, you'll get 50% more time with each Slow Time shout. Later on, Stablity will push this even further, and Fortify Alteration potions will allow you to remain in Slow Time indefinitely! (Alternatively, you can drink a Fortify Restoration potion prior to equipping the Amulet of Talos, to buff its enchantment strength ... But I preferred relying on potions.) This is the core of the build: Superhuman speed, aided by a strong defense — 375 AR in the endgame — when necessary. Which isn't often: You can essentially avoid being hit altogether!
Another benefit of Necromage here is that it extends the duration of the Blessing of Talos to a very solid 12 hours. Keep in mind that, while this is technically 12 hours of real time, it is affected by both waiting and fast traveling. If you're the type of player who avoids those wherever possible, you'll find that your blessing can last a very long time. Conversely, if you fast travel everywhere and wait constantly, you should always keep an eye on your Active Effects page to be sure the blessing is still active.
So, we've covered the infinite Slow Time ... Now, as awesome as that sounds — and it's even more awesome in practice — we haven't even gotten to the best part yet. The Montalion clan's most unique tangible asset is a uniquely powerful ritual for summoning a Bound Sword: By drinking a Montalion Tincture (see the “Alchemy” appendix) the Montalion is able to summon a blade more deadly than any physical sword known to man. More powerful even than the legendary Umbra itself. You see, the Bound Sword is affected by both the Fortify One-Handed and Fortify Archery alchemy effects, allowing for unprecedented damage — when you throw in Necromage, we're talking about more than seven-times the norm (+618%)!
The more you play this build, the more you'll come to realize that flesh spells are largely unnecessary — with infinite Slow Time, you won't be getting hit at all. Though it can be nice to actually hold off on Slow Time every so often, in which case those flesh spells will definitely come in handy. If you do decide to give Slow Time a break, consider Marked for Death, Drain Vitality, and Become Ethereal as other effective shouts to support the play style.
Since flesh spells become pointless with Slow Time active, the Montalion instead turns to Ignite. That's right, this vampire is so badass that he wields fire with relish, rather than cowering from it like his kin. Ignite suits this build incredibly well, because of the synergy damage over time lends to the Slow Time theme. And it stacks upon itself!
Another thing to consider: The Bound Sword can be poisoned. Custom poisons of Lingering Health Damage — Plaguing Fumes — complement Ignite as another source of damage over time. In the endgame, these poisons can get up to 509 net damage (169 + 34 × 10). Ignite, meanwhile, caps at 18.7 DPS (280 cumulative damage per hit), with Augmented Flames and a custom Destruction potion, the Infernal Brew ... Or 41 DPS if dual-cast (61.6 with a Destruction scroll from Shalidor's Insights). And, again: Ignite can stack upon itself!
Between these two sources of damage over time, you'll basically be able to run through dungeons at the speed of sound, slapping burns and blights on your enemies and leaving the room before they even realize they're roasting to death. You can make it to the end of many dungeons while half of the inhabitants are still burning or bleeding out.
If you encounter an enemy who resists both poison and fire, you'll have no trouble at all taking them down with your blade — with or without Slow Time — in a style reminiscent of the earlier levels. Alternatively, there's always Vampire Lord form ... With the Ring of the Erudite, and optional flesh spells and/or cloaks prior to transformation, the Montalion optimizes that form very effectively as well. Indeed, Magicka is virtually endless, and new perks and abilities can unleash tremendous damage to enemies of all shapes and sizes.
As discussed in the gameplay section, Alchemy is of the utmost importance to the Montalion's success. I highly encourage you to build Windstad Manor via Hearthfire, for its unique fish hatchery. The Montalion’s skill in Alteration allows him to transmute iron into gold, which is a great method for earning money for construction materials early on. (Later, custom potions can fund skill training and home furnishing.)
Key potions in the Montalion’s arsenal are listed below. Note that all of the ingredients can be grown using Hearthfire’s garden, greenhouse, and/or fish hatchery, except Hanging Moss. Which can be harvested en masse at the Solitude Catacombs — there are over 70 samples inside, and the zone respawns every ten days! You may also want to go fishing for spare River Betties in the swamps around Windstad manor, and any lakes you happen to come across.
For your convenience, all magnitudes listed here assume you're wearing a Peerless Alchemy Circlet & Necklace, Eminent Alchemy Gauntlets, and the Ring of Pure Mixtures — all of which can be obtained by level 40.
Effects » Fortify Destruction +211%, Fortify Health +168
Ingredients » Glowing Mushroom + Nightshade + Wheat
Effects » Fortify One-Handed +618% (yes, you're reading that correctly!)
Ingredients » Juniper Berries + Canis Root + Hanging Moss
Effects » Damage Health -169 & Lingering Damage Health -34/sec for 10 seconds
Ingredients » Imp Stool + Mora Tapinella + River Betty
Effects » Fortify Alteration +168% (Slow Time lasts 168% longer)
Ingredients » Grass Pod + River Betty
Incinerate your opponents with stacking gouts of flame. At more than 60 DPS per cast, you will burn through armies in mere seconds, leaving naught but a trail of ash in your glorious wake.
Requires » Dual Casting, Infernal Brew, Shalidor's Insights (Destruction), Ignite
Channel your bestial nature into a relentless onslaught of vicious, brutal strikes. With each slash doing approximately 12.5x normal damage, opponents won't have time to beg for mercy.
Requires » Berserker Rage, Montalion Tincture, Mystic Binding, Bound Sword
Watch in full screen HD! Consult the video description for a list of mods used.
Many thanks to Albino and Vazgen for their input and advice! And thank you for reading.