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If I want to focus on magic, can I ignore weapons entirely?

I bought Skyrim a few days ago and have only been playing it for a short while. I am playing a high elf mage and would like to know if you think it would be possible to play with spells only or will I need to invest in a sword, mace or maybe a shield?

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    Hi SimonBS, I'd recommend splitting this up into two questions: one about playing with spells only, and one about the College of Winterhold. You should be able to get excellent answers to both. Dec 24, 2011 at 15:19
  • Thank you for your advice. I have done so. This question is now only about playing a high elf mage with spells only and my question about the College of Winterhold can now be found here: gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/43683/…
    – SimonBS
    Dec 24, 2011 at 15:38

7 Answers 7


I have made a pure mage (high elf) with just using destruction for damage, but here are a few pointers:

  • Yes, join the college asap. By the way you can get a carriage from the whiterun stables to winterhold for some gold (50), so thats as good as fast travel. You can get a nice spell like summon flame atronach for only 30 gold while joining the college. (I do not want to spoil it too much for you)
  • Get the impact perk from destruction if thats your only source of damage (it is for me)
  • My mage build and a small discussion about is at this link

(There might be small spoilers), hope this helps

  • Thank you for your answer. It is great and I will definitely take a look at your build. I believe it might come in handy. As your post answers both of my original questions, I have made a link to it at the following linka as I was advised to split up my question. gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/43683/… Also, thanks for the tip about the stables. I should've thought about that.
    – SimonBS
    Dec 24, 2011 at 15:43

The beauty of Skyrim, is that you can do whatever you want (of course there are consequences for some actions), but with that said you can take whatever route you want, if you find that at the lower level you are just running out of magicka, then grab a dagger (if you want to stick with small weapons).

It really comes down to how you want to play. Typically it is more difficult playing as a 'true' mage class (in most games, not just Skyrim) as the character usually wears light armor or no armor at all, you have to depend on your spells more and more.

Also the 'College of Winterhold' is just something you can visit, but you can pick up spells as you slowly work your way through the (very very) large world of Skyrim.

With all that said, there really is no right answer to your question, if you want to go to the college, go for it, i you want to invest in some armor / weapons, go for it. You can do what you like.

My character is a heavy armor wearing archer (I just fell in love with bows after awhile), plus I fall back to shield and sword when close quarters.

  • Thank you for your answer. I didn't really think of Skyrim as a game in which there is no right and no wrong. For now, it seems that I can do fine with spells only but later on I might have to pick up a shield or a dagger. As your post answers both of my original questions, I have made a link to it at the following linka as I was advised to split up my question. gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/43683/…
    – SimonBS
    Dec 24, 2011 at 15:45

Short answer : yes.

You can play for example full Destruction mage, but from level 35 you'll need conjuration to summon tanks, or high Stealth and Illusion to whisk away unnoticed. And Alteration for increased mage armor will be essential in some unlucky occasions (40+ you become 1 hit dead, with mage armor you'll resist 1 or 2 more hits, just enough to run/cast restoration spells...).

A full mage will end up using all the magic schools in the long run.


I have a high elf Mage at level 81. I only focused on the schools destruction and illusion, and I've got almost all the perks in the other schools.

With the alteration perks, resist magic, and atronach you can absorb 80% of incoming magic and the other 20% will be blocked by resist magic. You also gain the highborn ability plus the restoration perk (I forget what it's called) that lets you regenerate magika 50% faster cancels out the -50% from the atronach stone.

I leveled alchemy rather than enchanting for better healing and to refill magika when I run out. However, between highborn, the atronach stone, and equilibrium I rarely run out of magika. I've found that 2 dremora lords are all the backup you need.


My first run through skyrim was a Nord who only used magic. I used Destruction and Conjuration as my main offensive skills. As the game progressed I found myself using Conjuration the most, and destruction spells less and less. But in the beginning of the game, I don't think I would have survived as well, if I did not focus on flames, frost, and sparks.


I am a level 14 high elf mage and I am not successful at all, so I'm not sure it's possible. I just got the spell fire ball and none of my spells do anything to draugr, they are kicking my ass.


My cousin plays a full high elf mage and mostly uses ice spike, since it slows the enemy down and keeps them at range. He also takes a follower like Lydia (mostly for a pack mule) but she also keeps the enemies at bay. If they get past Lydia, you want your shout to be unrelenting force or ice form (preferably ice form), since these give you a little more time to regenerate your magicka and situate yourself. Hope this helps!

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