Having read various threads and discussions (both here and on other sites) I'm wondering how to effectively play as an offensive mage (note that I do not mean a mage who goes around offending people).

It would seem that while base damage increases with every skill level for physical attacks, the only way to increase base damage for offensive spells is to...buy stronger spells?

Since I don't have access to them until I a) level up quite a bit, b) I actually find someone who sells the specific spells I want and c) can afford to buy them, how do I keep my destruction spells from becoming useless when my physical attacks are constantly getting stronger?

Even the upgraded spells don't seem to make up the damage difference by the time I get them (e.g. Firebolt is 25 dmg vs base Fire which is 8/sec).

Am I missing something about how to effectively use destruction magic in the game? Is it currently not worth focusing on being a mage? (that last question is a bit subjective so feel free to ignore it)

7 Answers 7


You are 100% correct in your misgivings. Due to destruction magic not scaling, you will lag behind in terms of damage done late game (especially if you up the difficulty). The only way you can make up for this is via the enchanting perks that lower destruction magic costs so you can cast and spam more spells. If you can get it down to 10% or less cost via multiple enchanted items, it is still viable due to the fact that you have instant stagger at your beck and call with the dual casting and impact perks, not to mention heavy aoe with fireball and such.

If you don't mind modding, there are already mods out there that improves destruction magic.

Finally, you'll still need a backup plan in case you run into some highly magic resistant foes (Breton with dragonskin activated, for instance.)

  • I think I noticed casting rate improving when my skill level got higher. If that actually happens, it would increase your DPS on spells like ice spike and fireball. In any case there are several perks for increasing destruction damage, so that is still some scaling, hickupy as it might be. Finally, with higher levels other mages will be selling you better spells. Personally I haven't had any problems up to level 38 on expert playing a mage that only uses destruction, restoration and conjuration. Most enemies die in 1-4 fireballs anyway.
    – Joren
    Commented Dec 7, 2011 at 12:31

On the other side of the equation, while physical attacks get more powerful, the armor they must overcome also gets more powerful. Magic resistances stay flat.

Don't forget about resistance poisons for a bit of extra kick.

  • I didn't think about it this way, this is useful. However, isn't it reasonably to expect that higher-level monsters have magic resistances of some sort or another? If I've only been able to upgrade my fire spells, I'll be SOL if I'm fighting something that happens to have high fire resistance, even if its other resistances are low
    – Alex
    Commented Dec 7, 2011 at 13:28
  • 2
    @Alex: If you are specialising in destruction, then you can't afford to specialise in one spell school for exactly this reason. Going for at least two spell types isn't particularly difficult for perks, and money for spells shouldn't be too much of an issue either. Commented Dec 7, 2011 at 13:39
  • @MatthewScharley true - guess I was just thinking of what-if scenarios, but they're rarely the case for most of us.
    – Alex
    Commented Dec 7, 2011 at 14:00
  • Dark elves have 50% fire resist regardless of level. Nords have 50% frost resistance regardless of level. Bretons have 25% magic resistance regardless of level.
    – Amy B
    Commented Dec 7, 2011 at 14:23
  • 2
    Shame there isn't perk which reduces armor... Oh wait, there is! Thanks to smithing, Physical DMG will outpreformed Magic by huge margin.
    – StupidOne
    Commented Dec 7, 2011 at 14:37

You are forgetting about Alchemy. If you get Alchemy to level 100 and couple that with Enchanting level 100 with all your gear increased with Fortify Alchemy, than you can craft a Super Fortify Destruction potion, giving you a total of 150% Damage increase! Plus the 50% from perks, you're talking a 200% total damage increase.

Incinerate 60 damage one-hand, add the 50% perk bonus, 90 damage one-hand, now add 150% to that, 225 Damage one-hand, now with two-hands its 2x the Damage totaling 450! But that's not all, now add the Impact perk which adds another 20% for a grand total of... 540 Damage per blast! Not to mention the Stagger from Impact, I do say destruction completely has physical damage beat!

  • You can apply potion effects to physical damage as well, though (Fortify One-Handed, for example).
    – user6789
    Commented Jan 22, 2012 at 21:59
  • True but you cant beat the stagger + aoe + range + elemental weaknesses which could add another 50% to your damage.
    – JMR
    Commented Jan 22, 2012 at 22:01
  • 2
    This sounds pretty cool, but all the while I'm waiting to get Alchemy and Enchanting to 100, as well as Destruction in order to buy the high-end spells, magic will be underpowered compared to the constantly-increasing DPS of physical attacks. Also, you need a supply of those uber-potions, which usually only last a minute at most. Seems like a sprint vs marathon problem :)
    – Alex
    Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 14:15

These are all great points, but I would like to add a tip to your magic user. You could add some Sneak skill and Illusion skill to make a rather deadly mage, remember that an attack while hidden doubles damage, unless it's magick-based I made a lightning sniper, using the silent casting perk and invisibility spell with illusion. Additionally, a good Sneak skill to help avoid detection. Using the theoretical damage of 540 as mentioned before, double that to 1080 (that's without criting mind you), then consider that certain lightning spells have incredible range and accuracy, coupled with silent casting you could take down a large group outdoors without ever being detected. Happy hunting :D

  • 1
    This sounds awesome. "Lightning Sniper" ftw.
    – Alex
    Commented Dec 13, 2012 at 9:51

Resists are flat and my only problem with killing any enemy has ever been mana. Skyrims mobs scale with your level and most of the time if you have problem killing its because you're working trade skills too much early pumping your levels up too quick for the damage you can output with the magic. Do this - All Destro magic until you can't place points. Anytime you can't put a skillup on that put it on alteration first, resto second. (you'll see why in a second). Alteration gets game breaking paralyze and that changes everything without how hard it is for you to win. 1200 weapon hits are powerful, but considering the damage shields and being armor capped as a mage you aren't too worried about them. If you allow your destro to lag then you have problems at all levels -- it is your top priority skill followed by alter for the protection/para. Spend points on mana until you have 250 base and then spend heavily on health -- you actually can rock more health and have as much armor as any melee class albiet with a spell. Work your trade skill points in only when you can buy nothing in other areas (mid-high level). At that point you want to enchant your armor for dest and alteration since these are the spells you cast the most you should be casting mana free except for conj and resto -- resto is already terribly efficient and I wouldn't waste the enchants on it as one double cast fast heal can nearly fill your health bar.

At low level do the mage college quests to get the mask and arcane mage robes they will allow you to continue with the insanity until you reach high level. ;)

Oh yeah.. pump fire and lightning first... fire deals with all undead and nords... lightning for enemy casters of all races. Use cold on argonians, dark elfs, brentons.


With One Swing of my Battleaxe, damage inflicted is 1102 ! I've maxed out my two-handed fully, with enchanted gauntlets and boots. I think magic is useless for offensive, in skyrim, that too in master level difficulty.


You can make potions that increases your enchanting, and make enchantments that increase your alchemy. Alternate between the boosts until you have a potion that does increase enchanting by 1000000+% and then enchant something for either Fortify (whatever weapon you use) or fortify destruction and viola! You have a warrior that permanently does potentially millions in damage or a Mage that does millions in damage. :)

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .