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So I was wandering up to the forge in Whiterun with my Ebony Ingots, Daedra Heart and other assorted bits and pieces in hand. I started to go through the process of smithing out my lovely new one-handed Daedric sword, but then I got thinking; is there even any point to me making this? Is there already a better weapon out there that will have more damage (even after I improve it with my 100 smithing, smithing improvement potions and my smithing outfit with Fortify Smithing encantments).

With all the available enchantments, ability to improve weapons via smithing, and skill improvement potions, is there still a definitive list of 'best' weapons in the game?

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9 Answers

up vote 45 down vote accepted

This answer refers to equipment available in Vanilla Skyrim, without any DLC. I've been informed that there are some notable new items in Dawnguard that warrant inclusion in this list, but until I can play it, I won't be updating this answer.

To pile onto the existing answers, the only time you wouldn't want to use a Daedric weapon is if you're interested in investing fewer perks into the Smithing Tree, while still investing more than 0.

Essentially, at 0 perks, Daedric retains its advantage over a weapon of any other material once improved, (with the notable exclusion of the two noted exceptions in terms of base damage, the Blade of Woe and Chillrend.)

With the Daedric Smithing perk (and all of its pre-requisites), a Daedric weapon will again trump everything, (including in this case, the exceptions like the Blade of Woe, which do not benefit from the Smithing perks).

But, if you're moving up the Light Armor side of the Smithing tree, or if you prefer to spend fewer perks, you may find upgraded Glass, Elven, or even Steel equipment outperforms Daedric thanks to the enhanced upgrades. This is particularly noticeable at very high Smithing levels such as those you'd achieve by stacking Fortify Smithing enchants and potions - particularly if you do so recursively.

Finally, and to the real meat of your question: Are there any unique weapons whose enchantments make them a better choice than a custom enchanted (or Unenchanted, Elemental Fury'd) Daedric _____?

And the answer to that is, it depends.

For raw damage output, as has been noted, Daedric will generally win, with the above noted edge cases providing notable exceptions. However, there are a few unique artifacts that are worth keeping in mind - especially if you have a high enough enchanting skill to stack Fortify 1/2 handed enchantments to a point where base damage becomes somewhat irrelevant. The reason these are useful generally has less to do with their raw power, and more to do with the unique utility they provide.

  • The Ebony Blade - There are a few things that are notable about the Ebony Blade, but the most important is that its Absorb Health enchant is chargeless, meaning it has unlimited uses, and that when used against an NPC who 'trusts' you (i.e. a follower, or someone for whom you have completed a quest), the attack is not considered an assault. This makes the Ebony Blade an ideal weapon for assassinations, or for merely killing shopkeepers who looked at you funny. The Ebony Blade also has some interesting interactions with both your one and two-handed weapon skills that you can read about here.

  • Dawnbreaker - When this weapon is used to strike the killing blow against an undead foe, it causes AoE damage to all other nearby undead, with a chance to cause them to flee. This can be handy in particularly dense crypts.

  • Mehrunes Razor - has a chance to instantly kill your target on hit. Combined with the Razor's fairly high base damage, this is probably the best dagger available for pure lethality without Smithing perks. And competes for the title, even with them.

  • Windshear - the Knockdown effect provided by this weapon is unique. There is no other way to obtain it.

  • Dragonbane - Does a large amount of additional damage to Dragons. This additional damage can be a fairly substantial increase from what's achievable with other weapons early in the game, but with higher level smithing, is eventually smaller than the gain by upgrading to a higher quality blade.

Most other unique weapons - artifacts included - provide effects that you can duplicate with the enchanting bench. As a result, while some are useful, they will generally be outperformed by crafted weapons if you're willing to take the Smithing perks, and in many cases, even without them.

A Note on Dual Wielding: There's one other thing that should be noted with regard to weapon selection that hasn't been noted in any of the answers here, specific to dual wielding. As yx. notes in his answer, Maces offer the highest base damage per swing, and the most potent weapon specific perk. Daggers offer the fastest swing speed. What's interesting is that for dual-weapon attacks, the speed is based on the speed of the weapon in your offhand. This means that with a Mace in the MH and a Dagger in the OH, you can swing with a mace at dagger speeds. In short, when dual wielding, all things being equal, the optimal combination of weapons is a Mace MH Dagger OH.

A Note on Bows, Maces, Etc.: No, the above list doesn't include any Bows. It also doesn't include any Maces. Or Warhammers. The reason is pretty simple: There aren't any worth noting. All of the 'unique' bows, maces, and other weapon types not mentioned here are not actually unique in their specific mechanical properties. You could exactly duplicate or improve upon all of them with existing in game crafting mechanics. The thing that sets apart the blades mentioned above is that they all possess properties which you cannot acquire by any other means. For any other weapon type, you should compare the best results you're capable of achieving with your current enchanting skill to whatever artifact you might be interested in - use the one with bigger numbers. With maxed skills, the crafted and custom enchanted will be the one with the bigger numbers. Without them, your milage will vary as with everything. The only other thing to note is that, in the specific case of bows, there are some unique considerations with respect to weight and speed that will affect your choice.

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Are all the weapons you mentioned single handed blades? Are there superior two handed weapons, bows, etc? –  GmNoob Dec 20 '11 at 9:09
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The Ebony Blade is a two handed weapon. Mehrune's Razor is a Dagger. The others are 1h Swords. There are no notable bows. And to be clear, I wouldn't necessarily argue that any of those weapons are superior - for the most part, you will do more damage if you just make yourself a Daedric weapon. What they are is unique - they offer effects that you cannot get anywhere else, which you may or may not find to be useful. –  LessPop_MoreFizz Dec 20 '11 at 12:04
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Might want to update this now. They now have dragonbone weapons that have better base stats than daedric, and are of course forge with the dragon smithing perk –  A.C.M. Jul 9 '12 at 1:23
    
@A.C.M. I can't play Dawnguard yet (I don't own a 360, and played on the P.C.), so I'm unable to speak to what's changed. I'll add a disclaimer that this answer is based on the base game, but I'm not particularly interested in scouring Wiki's to fill in the blanks for a game I can't yet play. –  LessPop_MoreFizz Jul 9 '12 at 1:25
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Have we forgotten Wuthrad? Base damage is equal to a daedric two handed axe (25) and does 1.2 more damage to elves in addition to what ever echantments are place on it. –  user42298 Feb 12 '13 at 8:34
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For base damage, nothing beats Dragonbone♥, point for point and perk for perk.

But honestly, with Smithing, base damage becomes less meaningful.

Consider: A Daedric Sword has only 7 more base damage than the Iron Sword you get in the tutorial. Percentage wise, this is pretty massive -- Daedric is 200% of Iron's damage -- but once you add in the +10 from smithing, you get 17 and 24. Suddenly, Daedric is only 140% of Iron. The higher above Legendary (Smithing: 91) you go, the closer the relative percentages.

This isn't optimal for apples to apples comparisons (Daedric will always be higher damage), but it does show that once you get your smithing high enough, other weapon attributes, like speed, make for a higher effective DPS (Damage per Second) than simply adding more base damage.

So your Daedric Sword will always be the best weapon (highest base damage) by virtue of it being Daedric, but it might eventually start to lose out to a faster weapon in terms of raw DPS (like a Dagger).

[Before Dawnguard, nothing beat Daedric except for daggers, where the Blade of Woe and Mehrunes' Razor beat it out in base damage (1 point) and lethality (chance of instant kill) respectively.

The level 46+ version of Chillrend (a blue Glass Sword) also narrowly edges out daedric, again, by one base damage.]

♥Dawnguard only.

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@DavidB - No, I mean, "if you have the relevant perks in each case". I'm not contesting that being able to smith daedric weapons takes more perks total. –  Raven Dreamer Dec 19 '11 at 21:47
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As far as daggers go, the Blade of Woe is the highest damage one in the game. With just the Steel Smithing and Arcane Blacksmith perks, it will be better than a Daedric Dagger with the 5 perks that takes to improve. –  agf Dec 19 '11 at 22:12
    
@agf not quite, elemental fury makes the standard daedric dagger the highest DPS* (against unarmored targets). –  z ' Dec 19 '11 at 22:13
    
@yx. I said highest damage not DPS. Elemental Fury is also limited case -- as a stealth character I prefer to keep Aura Whisper up basically all the time. –  agf Dec 19 '11 at 22:28
    
@RavenDreamer I (naturally) agree that Daedric weapons are better when compared absolutely. My point of contention is that the chosen phrase expresses a relative/efficiency comparison. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pound_for_pound –  David B Dec 19 '11 at 23:51
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I found that the more I got into the late game, the more I relied on daggers and maces.

Why daggers?

Daggers have the fastest attack speed in the game and the highest sneak attack multiplier (30x). As Raven points out, when you have the maximum smithing capability, the raw numbers do not vary much between your weapons and this is when daggers (with an inherent 20% faster attack speed) out shines everything else. As for what enchantments to place on them, the best enchantment is actually no enchantment. Why is that? Because with the Elemental Fury dragon shout, you can boost your attack speed by even more. So I tend to use a Daedric dagger while sneaking around.

Finally, as an added bonus, since daggers are extremely light, power attacks with it cost the fewest stamina.

Why Maces?

Maces have this awesome perk called Bone Breaker, which allows you to ignore up to 75% of the opponent's armor. When you are facing tougher and tougher enemies wearing increasingly better gear, being able to ignore their armor is a huge damage boost when you don't have the chance for a surprise attack. Again, daedric has the highest base damage, and you can further enhance this with the elemental fury perk for faster attack speed.

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Bone Breaker sounds good, but it really has limited utility. The reason is that ignore armor works only if the opponent is wearing armor. Practically only thing that this is good for is Bandit Chief. Most monsters do not wear armor and do not have armor to ignore. Dragons? No armor. Trolls? No armor. Draugr Deathlords? No armor. –  Anderson Apr 14 '12 at 2:41
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The Nightingale Blade also has a slightly higher damage rating than daedric, but only if you get it at level 46+, like Chillrend. It's enchantment (absorb 25 health and stamina at level 46+) is fantastic but again, it doesn't get anything from perks. I use it because the unique enchantment is really strong the charge of the enchantment is tied to the destruction skill. At 100 destruction and level 46+ when you get it, it has basically infinite charges and absorbs 25 health and stamina on hit. It works out as stronger and better in a big fight than a daedric because you absorb lot's of health, dish out tons of damage and weaken warrior's (who rely on stamina for power attacks and shield bashing). With a high smithing skill and lot's of fortify, it is slightly weaker than daedric but with a better enchantment.

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Only concerning with One-Handed since I'm to lazy to add in Two-Handed Ignoring Enchantments, skills and armor, The Ghost Blade has the highest DPS In general though Daggers -> Swords -> Axes -> Maces

Ignoring Enchantments and armor, The Ghost Blade wins again in highest DPS. In general Swords -> Daggers -> Axes -> Maces, the crit chance on the sword ups the damage of the swords to pass the daggers rapid strikes.

Ignoring Enchantments, The Ghost Blade has the highest DPS however due to it's lower damage armor affects it more reducing it's damage versus heavily armored foes so it splits what is best between something that weighs more but deals a higher base. The best weapon for dealing with armored foes is the Mace of Malog Bal due to the skill tree boost on armored foes for maces. In general for Light Armor Swords -> Daggers -> Axes -> Maces In general for Medium Armor Axes -> Swords ~ Maces -> Daggers In general for Heavy Armor Maces -> Axes -> Swords -> Daggers

Factoring in everything it's a crapshoot really my money is on Chillrend 46+ being the best overall weapon, The Ghost Blade is competitor due to it being much lighter even taking the hit on the enchantment department and it's permanent enchantment helps with armor, but if you have smithing it doesn't get the benefit from the smithing perks which hurts it. The Mace of Malog Bal is pretty much tied with the Dragonbone Mace for armor if you have the right enchantments on the Dragonbone.

The weapons I'd look for are: Sword User Light Armor - Medium Armor Ghost Blade Heavy Armor Chillrend (46+),

Mace User Mace of Malog Bal or Dragonbone Mace

Dagger User Light Armor - Medium Armor Mehrune's Razor Heavy Armor Blade of Woe

Axe User Light Armor - Medium Armor Nord Hero Axe Heavy Armor Daedric Axe

The Mace of Malog Bal is relatively easy to obtain and doesn't need to be leveled to get the best version I'd say it's a solid choice to use for the entirety of the game, switching to chillrend 46+ if you feel like it or if you're playing Dawngaurd the Dragonbone Mace when you can forge Dragon Gear.

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Get chillrend at level 46+ .Base damage is higher than a daedric sword , plus it's got a sweet enchantment. It's acquired in the thieves' guild questline , in Mercer Frey's home . Be sure to enter the home only AFTER you're level 46+ as the level of the sword scales the first time you enter the house .

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Bows do the most damage when you completely perk alchemy, enchanting, smithing, sneak, and bows. Alchemy + a necklace, ring, grieves, and a head alchemy enchantment let you make a smithing potion that makes smithing 120% better. Than Smith a daedric bow and enchant. Ridiculous damage. Especially if you use a fortify enchant for 30% and make a ring, necklace, grieves, and head armor that fortifies archery for around 47%

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The Longhammer is a two-handed Orcish warhammer that has a perl on it. It swings as fast as a one-handed sword and benefits from Smithing perks. The Longhammer is the most powerful weapon in the game even with Dawnguard installed; in DPS it far surpasses any weapon for damage, even dual-wielded daggers.

The Longhammer (held by Rahd in Liar's Retreat) swings 33.3% faster than a normal warhammer, surpassing even greatswords in speed. Because of that, it has a DPS that surpasses even a mighty Daedric Warhammer - read here for more details. It can be enchanted like any other weapon.

Source: http://uesp.net/wiki/Skyrim:The_Longhammer

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Because of those factors, the Longhammer is my weapon of choice for my characters that focus on the Two-handed skill. Not sure why it is considered "not worth noting" and "not actually unique in its specific mechanical properties", by the current accepted answer, despite those factors. –  galacticninja Jan 31 at 6:49
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Out of the normal (non special) weapons that you can smith yourself the Daedric weapons are the best. You can enchant those weapons then to make them even better.

I found that the with all the characters I played as I liked using enchanted Daedric bows, daggers, and swords over everything else that I found in the game. I believe I found all of the special weapons with at least one of my characters as well.

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