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Character Build: The Sternguard

Tags: #Character Build Archer  #Character Build Mage  #Character Build Enchanter  #Rank:Legendary 
  • Member
    March 10, 2013

    This build is all about archery. On my Arcane Axeman people missed the type of indepth lore that my Songbird had. This build is a strong fusion of roleplay and powerplay. There have been numerous archers that tank well, but this build actually thrives from being close to the enemy, no hiding or trying to keep a distance. With that in mind, I am proud to present


    This build is all about tanking and surviving in close quarters fighting with bows (and crossbows). By using the absorb health enchantment on a fast firing bow you are very tough to take down. When that is combined with a very high health regeneration, you will be nearly invincible. With a high physical and magical defense what little damage you will be taking is quickly negated by your absorption and regeneration.

    The real reason that the Sternguard thrives in close quarters is that it can fight a lot of people at once through external damage. Through lightning runes, cloaks and walls you can easily focus on one enemy while all the others take damage. This tactic becomes ridiculously effective once you get the disintegrate perk. The deflect blows perk in heavy armor increases the external damage even more.


    The Sternguard are an order of Knights that exist for war and war alone. They are the epitome of physical and mental prowess. The aspire to be the perfect warriors, and their only goal is to be the ultimate killers. This sheer power and bloodlust is tempered by an extremely rigorous lifestyle. Every waking moment that is not spent waging war is spent honing their minds and bodies.

    Originally the Sternguard were part of the Imperial Legion, they were formed in the early years of the 3rd era. As time moved on they began to splinter away from the bulk of the Legion as they became more and more extreme. Eventually they split off into a entirely separate order. However there are still strong ties between the Sternguard and the Legion. The only major war that the Sternguard did not assist the Legion in was the Great War due to internal conflicts. If they had fought with the Legion, the events of the War would of gone very differently...

    The Sternguard fight in the bloodiest sections of battle, whether it is holding the line against impossible odds or breaching an enemy fortification. The disciplined volleys of arrows from a company of Sternguard Knights has spelled the doom of many armies. They are what every soldier, ally and enemy, aspire to be.

    To the public the Sternguard look like noble and honorable knights, and they work hard to maintain that image. However...

    Every organization has secrets, and those of the Sternguard are darker than most. The Sternguard have always sought to ignore all types of emotional and physical pain through training and meditation. The pursuit of perfect warfare eventually led the Sternguard to Clavicus Vile. The prince of forbidden deals and pacts offered the Sternguard great power, at an even greater price. They accepted.

    From that point onwards Sternguard Knights have been able to shrug off wounds with nonchalant ease where a lesser warrior would of been killed outright. They seem to be almost immortal, fatal wounds act only as annoying scratches. In return for their “gift” every Sternguard has to tear out their own heart and devour it, then replace it with the heart slain daedra. The term of the eldritch deal is tha when a Sternguard dies their soul is consumed and extinguished by Clavicus.

    The Build


    Breton: I consider Breton to be the best fit race because of their 25% magic resistance. For archers that is particularly important because you need to be abler to trade fire with mages and dragons.

    Argonian: The Histskin racial power multiplies the health regeneration by 10, making it absolutely massive. For one minute you will basically be un-killable to the extreme.

    Stat Distribution: 1 : 2 : 0 (Magicka : Health : Stamina)

    Tanking is the name of the game, so a lot of health is necessary.  I did not list it, but a few points will be put into stamina here and there for more carry weight and eagle eye shots.

    Standing Stone: Thief/Warrior/Mage -> Atronach

    With the atronach you can continuously attack without worrying about spells/breath attacks. Also you get a nice +50 magicka.

    Shouts: Unrelenting Force, Become Ethereal, Slow TimeMarked For Death

    The links go to the UESP pages detailing locations, quests, effects, etc.

    Major Skills

    Archery: Archery is one of the core focuses of the build, especially close range archery. Ranged weaponry allow the Sternguard to deal grisly death to enemies at any range.

    Destruction: Destruction is used for runes, cloaks, and wall spells. The shock variant of spells work amazingly because of the disintegrate perk.

    Enchanting: Enchanting provides health absorption and regeneration, and spell cost reduction.

    Minor Skills

    Smithing: Smithing is essential because this guy absolutely burns through arrows since rate of fire is more important than straight up damage. Also improving weapons and armor is nice. 

    Heavy Armor: Heavy armor is preferable to light armor because of the reflect blows perk as well as tower of strength. Tower of strength ensures that stagger will not effect your incredible rate of fire.

    Alteration: Alterations provides extra armor rating, magic resistance, paralyze, and spell absorption. 

    Restoration: I never actually used restoration, I just used trainers. The 2 perks in recovery balance out the -50% magic regeneration of the atronach stone.


    Level 25

    Stat Distribution: 190 (240) : 230 : 120 (Magicka : Health : Stamina)

    The numbers in parenthesis/brackets are the stats after modifications by enchantments/atronach stone.

    Level 50

    Stat Distribution: 250 (362) : 370 (432) : 160 (Magicka : Health : Stamina)

    The numbers in parenthesis/brackets are the stats after modifications by enchantments/atronach stone.

    Getting the disintegrate perk is absolutely key. Runes are the best way for leveling destruction. So until you get to level 70 destruction, cast runes whenever you can, even if you do not need to.


    When regarding equipment and weapons “low level” means before enchanting is maxed out. “Endgame” means after enchanting is maxed out and the extra effect perk is obtained.


    The actual armor that you use does not matter a ton. I went with steel plate armor because it seems very “knight-y” to me. Also it benefits from the advanced armors perk. At low levels make sure to buy your health regeneration jewelry at Radiant Raiment in Solitude, it is better than what you will be able to make yourself.


    Nordic bows are fantastic. They have a great rate of fire. A fast rate of fire works best with absorb health because it allows you to absorb health at a faster rate. Some enemies are immune to absorb health (namely automatons and ash spawn), so it is good to have a back up crossbow for when you do not need a fast rate of fire. . For ammo, I used elven arrows and dwarven bolts. They are cheap to make and powerful enough.


    Combat consists of casting your cloak and flesh spells, casting runes/wall spells, and firing away with your bow. Try to be as close as you can to the enemy to maximize your damage through cloak and wall spells.

    Battle Tactics

    These are some nice strategies to use to add flavor, as well as being very effective.

    Mind War

    When confronted with enemy spellcasters the Sternguard engages in a grueling mental battle of attrition that only he can withstand.

    Atronach Stone + Lightning Rune

    This tactics is amazing against mages. 

    Vile's Curse

    While they are Knights, that does not make the Sternguard honorable. They are happy to call upon their patron to unleash a curse upon their enemies if it gives them the upper hand.

    Paralyze + Marked For Death + Lightning Cloak + Lightning Wall

    This move puts out some crazy damage over time. 

    Vile's Boon

    While the Daedric Lord Clavicus Vile hungers for the souls of the Sternguard, he also rewards them from time to time.

    Ethereal Spirit + Become Ethereal + Lightning Cloak + Lightning Wall

    This move is essentially a lower level version of Vile's Curse. However, it has the added benefit of an extra 25% health regeneration from Ethereal Spirit.

    Rapid Fire

    The Sternguard are some of the finest marksmen in Tamriel. They can fire volleys of arrows at lightning speed with incredible accuracy.

    Slow Time + Stability + (Fast Shot)

    The stability perk in alteration effects slow time, boosting it's duration by 50%. This tactic works best at long range, especially against single tough enemies like bosses. You can sink a massive amount of arrows into a target in a short time.

    Additional Roleplay Notes

    These are a couple of things to consider if you are interesting in roleplaying as a Sternguard.

    • Always try to improve the public image of the Sternguard, so act like an honorable knight. Keeping their secret hidden from the public is the highest priority.
    • Accept any challenge no matter the odds. The Sternguard live to fight, and win. No matter what it is, if it even so much as glares at you... kill it.
    • You are a knight, but that does not mean you have to help anybody. Doing errands, helping people, mercenary work, all of those are tasks that commomfolk perform. You do honorable "death or glory" missions such as killing vampires, dragons, winning wars, etc.
    • No followers (except for pack mule-ing in dwemer ruins). Having someone fight your battles is weak and cowardly (And you really do not need them, you are powerful enough already).

    Suggested Quests

    Unfathomable Depths: This quest is crucial, having smithing increase 15% faster is amazing. With the warrior stone, ancient knowledge, and well rested smithing will increase 45% faster!

    Any Dwemer Ruin: Going through dwemer ruins with a pack mule (follower) is great for leveling smithing by melting down dwemer junk and crafting dwarven bows with it.

    The Black Star: The Black Star is an amazing object. It allows you to recharge your weapons for free and make enchanting easier. Do it as early as possible.

    Destroy The Dark Brotherhood: I did this quest to get a free (and easy) absorb health enchantment at a low level. Also destroying some of the most infamous assassins on Tamriel will definitely improve the (fake) public image of the Sternguard.

    Dawnguard: This is to get your enhanced dwarven crossbows. Anyways “honorable and good” knights are supposed to slay monsters, such as vampires.

    Main Questline: I did this for shouts as well as the “Ethereal Spirit” power. Slaying dragons is definitely a good thing to do to keep people thinking that the Sternguard are “good”.

    Civil War (Imperials): The bonds of brethren in arms are tight between the Sternguard and the Legion, helping them put down a petty rebellion is the least you can do. Also it is a great chance to prove your personal prowess.



    Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed The Sternguard. Don't forget to like and comment.

  • Member
    March 10, 2013

    +1,  CQC archery is so much fun 

  • Member
    March 10, 2013

    That it is! It is much more exciting than stealth archery or even just camping archery, it is more fast paced.

  • Member
    March 10, 2013

    I never got into archery because it was only fun for a short time combined with stealth. Really cool idea for a combat archer might give this a try +1.

  • Member
    March 10, 2013

    Thanks man, I hope you do try it. After you get yourself going with health absorption and regeneration it really takes off (and it can be at a very early level). 

  • Member
    March 10, 2013

    Hey guys I was wondering about how you feel about my perk spreads. Are they too hard to read right now? Now that I look at it the text is a bit small on them... Thanks

  • March 10, 2013

    Perk spreads are fine Zach, really cool build too +1

  • Member
    March 10, 2013

    Okay thanks man 

  • Member
    March 10, 2013

    The funny thing is before this build, I had never taken archery past level 30, never even gotten overdraw 3/5. It really clicked this time. I am glad you think it turned out well. 

  • Member
    March 10, 2013
    Did you purposely stay away from chaos+absorb?