This is an old build from 2012, though overhauled dramatically in 2015. I thought the original was broken, though I've since learned it was not -- however, I still think the overhaul is a massive improvement. This character is immensely satisfying and brutally effective. I am sincerely proud to present the TRUE Undying!
Although Altmer are blessed with long life beyond any other race, there are some among them who are unsatisfied with their life expectancy. Although vampires may live far longer still, there are some among them who are yet discontent. The Undying is such a being, an ancient creature who in his obsessive efforts to cheat death, took things ... too far. His experiments have left him a warped, twisted shell of the man he once was.
But despite their costs, the experiments were not unsuccessful. Indeed, those who have sought to defeat this creature — and there have been many — have all failed, to a man. Few have survived to speak of their encounters. And those lucky souls all agree: This is no human. It is a monster. A monster that cannot be slain by any means known to Man or Mer. It is ... The Undying.
Race » Altmer Vampire
Stone » Atronach
Attributes » 2 M : 2 H : 1 S
Major Skills » Alteration, Alchemy, Archery
Minor Skills » Two-handed, Restoration, Block, Sneak, Light Armor
Shouts » Drain Vitality*, Marked for Death, Become Ethereal
Passives » Blessing of Talos, Sinderion’s Serendipity, Seeker of Shadows, Force Without Effort
In addition to the above "core equipment", pick up Auriel's Bow, to blot out the sun when traveling by day. Note also that all gear is buffed by Necromage! This is especially awesome for the Ring of the Erudite, which buffs MagickaRate (the percentage of your total Magicka pool which is recovered each second) by +2.5 both in and out of combat ... it's normally 3.0 out of combat, and 0.99 in combat, for reference.
Also note that, for players who struggle to come across a Daedric Helmet of Peerless Alteration — it is a rare end-game item, after all — an Ebony Helmet of Extreme Alteration is a slightly easier alternative to locate. Or if you really don't want to rely on RNG, just grab an Apprentice Hood, and drink a Balustrade Brew (see the alchemy section below) to grant yourself enough Magicka to function properly. The Daedric Helmet is the ideal endgame option, but it is not mandatory for the build to function!
The core principle of the Undying is that — shocker — he doesn't die. As such, defense is the primary focus. We can split this up into two basic archetypes:
- Physical Defense. In the endgame, the Undying uses a uniquely enduring form of Dragonhide to maintain 80% passive damage resistance for 10+ minutes at a time. (See the Special Moves section for details.) Furthermore, he is able to block with his greatsword, nullifying 85% of the damage that isn't passively resisted by Dragonhide. All told, only 3% of the original attack will breach his defenses when they are properly bolstered.
- Magical Defense. The Undying boasts 100% Spell Absorption via the Atronach stone and perk (buffed from 80% by Necromage), affording him complete and constant immunity from all magical effects.
To further aid the motif of being unkillable, the Undying uses the Ebony Blade in close quarters. This can absorb up to 30 Health per hit at its maximum charge state — you can use the Ritual stone to resurrect and "re-kill" the same target multiple times to quickly sate this weapon's hunger. Or just kill ten different targets if you prefer.
As he is a truly ancient vampire, the Undying spends little time in the sunlight. He prefers instead to remain underground during the day. In particular, Dwemer ruins fascinate this creature. For my purposes, I roleplayed him as being so old that he had been alive when the Dwemer disappeared, and that he had studied many of their ways in his attempts to prolong his own life.
Consequently, I spent a fair bit of time in Dwemer ruins, collecting books, bolts, oils, and various instruments. The bolts will of course be useful in general combat — if you ever run low, just give a couple to a follower and let them generate infinite copies by shooting at a target. The oils will be useful in alchemy — further experimentation to extend your lifespan!
When you must travel during daylight hours, Auriel's Bow with Bloodcursed Arrows can really make it less painful. It's a good idea to keep those in your inventory at all times once you obtain them, even if you won't be needing them for combat purposes.
Though the Undying is a defensive juggernaut, he is crafty and formidable on the attack as well. Of particular note to this character are the Ravage effects. As outlined in James's wonderful Argument for Drain Vitality, the Ravage Stamina and Ravage Magicka effects are tremendously useful. These effects cut the targeted attribute by the stated magnitude again and again for every second they last, and furthermore, they keep these attributes from regenerating.
Sparks fly when you combine a heavy-hitting Ravage potion (with the default 10 second duration) alongside the Drain Vitality shout. And rather than using the normal Drain Vitality shout, I highly recommend using the glitched version, which is added when you learn words of Marked for Death while the Dawnguard DLC is active. This glitched version has a 20 second duration, but only a 12 second cooldown — 9 seconds with the Blessing of Talos active. In other words, you can keep it active constantly!
There are several ways this can be used to make combat a breeze:
- Dragons. Use a Ravage Magicka poison to cut their Magicka by 60 points per second for 10 seconds, emptying their reserves in no time. Hit them with the glitched Drain Vitality to make sure their Magicka doesn't begin to regenerate — Dragons require Magicka in order to use their Shouts, so if you can keep their pool from refilling, they're effectively "muted". This allows you to clean them up with ranged attacks at no risk to your own life!
- Living Enemies. Use a Ravage Stamina poison to cut their Stamina by 60 points per second for 10 seconds, likewise emptying their reserves quickly. Again, use the glitched Drain Vitality to keep them from regenerating Stamina. This will keep them from sprinting. Furthermore, you can throw in a Slow effect to hobble them further still — with no Stamina, they cannot power attack either, so the Slow effect will not be broken nearly as often (if you didn't know, certain animations such as sprinting and power attacking will break the Slow effect). You can run circles around these slowed, hobbled foes, slashing them to bits or filling them with bolts as you please!
For enemies against whom neither of these tactics are as effective, stealth is the best way to initiate combat. A bolt or two from the shadows can take out many targets, or at least tip the odds heavily in your favor.
Most of these ingredients may be grown with Hearthfire. There are a few exceptions, however.
Poison Bloom is only available in Darkfall Passage, and I've heard it cannot be picked more than once ... I'm using a mod that allows me to grow it, but if you play on console, River Betty may be used instead. It will actually make a stronger potion, but the problem then becomes allocating River Betty between the "Endurance Drain" poison and the "Tonic of Inner Strength" — you're going to need as many of the latter as you can get. You may have to swim through rivers and lakes whenever possible to keep your stock up.
Garlic is another ingredient that cannot be grown without mods. The best way to get it is from the kitchen at the Thalmor Embassy. There are 18 samples in the kitchen, which respawns every ten days. You can't normally return there, but thanks to a handy trick provided in this thread by Albino, it can be done. Another good spot to tide you over is Boulderfall Cave, which has 16 samples in a basket. Take care not to kill the necromancer in there — if you do, it will take 30 days to respawn, compared to ten days if you keep him alive! Become Ethereal may be helpful to that end, or perhaps Ash Shell.
The third and final ingredient that cannot be grown is Dwarven Oil. You may use Jazbay Grapes instead, but keep in mind that you'll need those for the "Balustrade Brew" too. Personally, I found I was able to maintain a decent stock of Dwarven Oil from my frequent runs through Dwemer ruins, and I also fell back on Salt Pile and/or Jazbay Graps if I ever did run out.
One final note: Thanks to Necromage and Seeker of Sorcery, in the endgame, you can use Muiri's Ring in conjunction with three items of "Peerless Alchemy" to get effectively +133% Fortify Alchemy. Throw in the additional 25% buff from Necromage, and your potions will reach heights you could never have imagined!
- Effects » Ravage Stamina 70 pts/sec, Slow, Damage Health 105 pts
- Ingredients » Deathbell, Poison Bloom, Thistle Branch
- Effects » Ravage Magicka 70 pts/sec, Damage Health 105 pts
- Ingredients » Deathbell, Lavender, Red Mountain Flower
Tonic of Inner Strength
- Effects » Fortify Alteration 175%, Restore Magicka 274 pts, Fortify Carry Weight +175
- Ingredients » Creep Cluster, Grass Pod, River Betty
Essence of Undeath
- Effects » Regenerate Health 218%, Regenerate Magicka 218% [7.5 minute duration!]
- Ingredients » Dwarven Oil, Garlic, Juniper Berries
- Effects » Fortify Block 175%, Fortify Magicka +175 pts, Resist Magic 44%
- Ingredients » Bleeding Crown, Jazbay Grapes, Tundra Cotton
- More Plants and Recipes for Hearthfire — Lets you grow Poison Bloom and Garlic
- No More Glowing Edges — Makes flesh spells look better by removing the shiny effect
- Nightingale Prime — Makes the armor look extra badass! (I like the leather version.)
Since some of the key spells and perks will be unavailable for at least the first 30 levels or so, the build does play a bit differently in the early game. Grab the first Sneak perk very early on, as it'll be a major help in clearing dungeons. Also focus on your physical combat skills — Two-handed, and Light Armor. We'll be using Waking Dreams to clear the Light Armor perks down the road, once we hit 100 Alteration. But those will be a major help up until around level 30-35 or so!
Join the Thieves Guild very early on for some good Light Armor — not to mention a gateway to three of the eventual endgame armor pieces — as well as an excuse to practice your stealth skills a bit, make some underground connections, and get a bit of gold. Don't hold off on the Main Quest for too long; it can be a good way to keep your combat skills up to snuff, and you will need the ability to Shout by the mid-game.
Consider training Archery with Faendal — he can take you up to level 50 for free; just pick him up as a follower, and take back the gold you pay him from his inventory after each training session. I did this in a few bursts of around 5-10 levels at a time, to keep my Archery from getting too far ahead. Sneak, Two-handed, and Alteration should all level pretty quickly. Alchemy mostly takes care of itself. Block and Restoration may lag behind a bit, so consider paying for training in these skills whenever you can. Spare potions can be sold to help finance skill training....
Join the Dawnguard ASAP and grab as many bolts as you can carry. If you wait around after getting the first quest from Isran, you can get free bolts as he trains the other new recruit. Be sure to grab a crossbow from Durak outside, as well as a second one in the main entrance hall on a box. You will want to give one to a follower to farm bolts if you ever get low later on. (I didn't actually use a follower in general gameplay, personally. If you do want to, I'd recommend Serana as she is essential, a fellow vampire, a generator of bloodcursed arrows, and quite proficient in combat.)
You will not, of course, be siding with the Dawnguard. Join the Volkihar clan by level 10-15 or so, and go all in on that quest line, as it will yield several key items and shouts. Drain Vitality (glitched version) is the go-to shout for this build, but Marked for Death works very nicely with the Ebony Blade, and Become Ethereal is very useful for setting up Dragonhide in a pinch.
Later on, once your Health hits 250, dump all your points into Magicka for the next 6-8 levels: As noted earlier, you may have difficulty finding a Daedric Helmet of Peerless Alteration, and in the meantime, an Ebony Helmet of Extreme Alteration can be a worthy substitute. With the cost reduction from an Extreme enchantment, dual Dragonhide will require 504 Magicka to cost, so you will want to go heavy into Magicka around level 35-45 to allow you to cast it around the time you hit 100 Alteration.
Also as discussed previously, you may simply use an Apprentice Hood in tandem the "Balustrade Brew" custom potion (which fortifies Magicka) to dual-cast Dragonhide, without any Alteration cost reduction equipment. So even if you have the worst luck in the world, you can play this build and still look sharp!
In the endgame, my attributes were 507 M / 280 H / 240 S at level 50, with all relevant passives/enchantments. This is enough Magicka to dual-cast Dragonhide with either an Extreme or Peerless Alteration helm, or with the Balustrade Brew and Apprentice Hood.
Ultimate Flesh Beast
The Undying is able to extend Dragonhide from its base duration of 30 seconds, to beyond a staggering 10 minutes at a time. If you ever need to cast the spell in a pinch, Become Ethereal is a good way to pull it off (it has a casting time of around 4-5 seconds) without taking any damage.
Throw in the "Essence of Undeath" for even more oomph!
Thanks to Curse and the SkyForge TV channel for this excellent demo of the build in action!
Thank you to everyone who helped make this possible. Too many people to name without forgetting someone, but a few folks who really stand out include Albino, Brewmaster, Vazgen, and Raidriar. Thanks to everyone else who commented in the thread with advice/feedback, and to everyone on Skype who offered the same.
Thanks to James, Noodles, and Mr. C. N. Dying, each of whom contributed mechanical knowledge that helped to shape this build.
Thanks also to Elysium, who offered some assistance on the build, and whose presentation style I shamelessly ripped off (especially with regard to the equipment spread).
The header image is called "Shadow Atronist", made by deviantartist Tamerr. If you like it, show your appreciation by supporting the artist on his page!
The perk spread image is "Falconer" by Cristi B. Thanks to Mason for editing that image to suit the perk spread!