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Event Build: Zurin Arctus, Imperial Battlemage

Tags: #Character Build Elementalist  #Character Build Enchanter  #Character Build Battlemage  #Race:Imperial  #Rank:Event Legendary  #Hall of Fame Build  #Event:Resurrection  #Zurin Arctus 
  • Member
    March 30, 2014

    Zurin Arctus: the first Imperial Battlemage of a united Tamriel, purveyor of War Magic, and the eventual power source of Numidium. Many may know the story of Tiber Septim but few realize the important role that his trusted friend, Zurin, played in uniting Tamriel under one empire. In order to grasp a true perspective of the build, you'll have to learn a bit about the man himself...

    Arctus's role began when he proclaimed Tiber Septim Emperor of Cyrodiil after a nightblade assassinated the Colovian warlord, Cuhlecain. Septim continued Cuhlecain's conquest and would go on to unite all of Tamriel with great aid from Zurin Arctus.

    The apex of Septim's campaign was the peace treaty he signed with Vivec giving Morrowind freedom of religion and nearly complete sovereignty. In exchange, Vivec allowed Tiber Septim to use the Numidium to defeat the Aldmeri Dominion. The whole arrangement was supposedly brokered by Zurin Arctus, a man who greatly believed in winning wars outside of battle.

    Not only did Arctus help obtain the Numidium, he also used his own heart and soul to power the brass golem! Ready to have your minds blown? The Numidium could only be powered by the Heart of Lorkhan, his very soul. Zurin Arctus was able to provide the same soul because he was a Shezzarine, a reincarnation of Lorkhan himself! An aspect of Lorkhan and an aspect of Akatosh working together to unite Tamriel, epic!!!

    However, Zurin Arctus disagreed with Tiber Septim and how he wanted to use the Numidium. In anger, he attempted to reclaim his heart destroying Numidium and nearly himself. What was left of Arctus became the Underking, an undead sorcerer who's only desire was to be reunited with his heart and soul. Arctus's life ultimately reflected that of Lorkhan's whose heart was taken from him for the sake of mankind.*



    Zurin Arctus

    Race: Imperial

    Stone: Tower

    Stat Ratio: 5/4/1

    Major Skills: Smithing, Destruction, Conjuration

    Minor Skills: Enchanting, One-Handed, Heavy Armor, Alteration, Block, Speech

    Shouts: Fire Breath

    Quests: House of Horrors, Lost to the Ages, Unfathomable Depths, Alduin's Wall, Civil War (Imperial Legion), College of Winterhold

    Zurin Arctus's race was never revealed but my hypothesis is that he was an Imperial. This is purely based off of the one thing that could possibly identify his lineage, his name. Although no other Arctus is recorded in history, the last name contains the 'us' suffix that most Imperial names share. Not to mention Imperials have the basic skill set of a battlemage and are renowned diplomats which reflects Arctus's profession and characteristics.

    I chose the Tower Stone for many reasons. As my time with Skyrim goes on, I've found that Lockpicking is just too tedious for my liking. That's why I think the Tower Stone is so underrated. The big chests at the end of a dungeon are already unlocked and guarantee some great gear (sometimes). The Tower Stone allows the player access to an additional high level door or chest for free and no tedious mini-game to boot. The “Open” spell was also part of an attempt to bring Mysticism back to Skyrim. If we trace the spell all the way back to Daggerfall, we can see that “Open” and “Lock” spells were originally in Mysticism, a consistent support skill for battlemages. Another reason I chose the stone was for its symbolism. In Morrowind, those born under the sign of the Tower were gifted with a "key" to the tower and a blessing for being the warden of the tower. I see the Tower Stone as representing the Imperial Empire and Zurin Arctus is its protector, sworn to defend and uphold its ideologies.


    Level 40 Perk Spread

    Arctus's Skills

    This skillset is my take on a basic battlemage with the exception of the the crafting skills. Alchemy has been a typical support skill for battlemages since Morrowind and was difficult to cast aside. However, Zurin Arctus believed that the mundane and arcane must be in balance in battle in order to work effectively. To create a perfect balance I chose Enchanting and Smithing and it worked to great effect, one supporting the other effortlessly. Smithing provided an excellent means of physical offense and defense and allowed most of the perks to flow into the arcane skills. On the other hand, Enchanting provided an excellent boost to the unperked Block skill and served to keep the Magicka pool from running dry. Note that Smithing is made Legendary which is why there are 46 perks.

    Destruction is the primary skill of any battlemage, offering great damage at all ranges and suitable to any battlefield. Destruction is a tricky skill to implement and can't be thrown into any build because it is very costly to cast. Battlemages, balancing Health and Magicka near evenly, circumvent this by choosing to use the most efficient spells. I opted for the element of fire because of the casting efficiency and general effectiveness throughout Skyrim. Shock was a great supplement element for anything resistant to fire or for destroying a dragon or mage's Magicka pool.

    Heavy Armor and One Handed are the melee focal points. In typical Imperial Battlemage fashion, a mage hood replaces the helmet so none of the full-set Heavy Armor perks are taken. There are no specializations in One Handed but I highly recommend maces. They offer the highest damage of the three and have a higher stagger rate which is a great asset, allowing the player a better chance to defend by power attacking.

    Conjuration is another battlemage cornerstone, taking some of the heat off the player and providing great support at the same time. I chose to go the atronach route to get the full elemental synergy going between Destruction and Conjuration. My favorite feature of the atronachs is their inherent cloak spells that all three creatures boast to great effect. There is nothing better than trapping an opponent between the elemental cloaks of you and your atronach creating some very powerful DoT!

    In previous games, Alteration and Mysticism provided a battlemage defensive and utility spells. Luckily for us, the two schools have been rolled into one to some extent. Alteration's flesh spells are great pre-battle fortifications and Candlelight was a life saver in the pitch-black caves of Skyrim. However, the most useful spell was originally from Mysticism: Detect Life! As a battlemage, gaining the initiative can make a confrontation significantly easier. Arctus wrote that “[t]he skillful battlemage ensures that the enemy is already defeated before the battle begins.” Detect Life was crucial in order to tactically approach any situation, granting the ability to sense life from 100 ft. indoors and 200 ft. outdoors.

    Lastly, Speech and Block are unperked but were very useful through my playthrough. Block, boosted by enchantments, offered additional defense to a mismatched armor set. When low on Magicka, the player can unequip their offhand and absorb more attacks until spells can be cast. Speech was more for roleplay than anything else. Zurin Arctus, and Imperials in general, practiced excellent diplomacy. Although Skyrim doesn't have too many opportunities to display Speechcraft, I persuaded and intimidated whenever I got the chance.



    Arms & Armor

    I know most of you are wondering why in the hell I chose dragonbone armor. Let me explain. There was an artifact in Morrowind called the Dragonbone Cuirass that was enchanted by the first Imperial Battlemage, Zurin Arctus himself. Arctus enchanted the cuirass so that the user would be immune to flames and granted the ability to damage enemies with a blast of fire. Zurin enchanted the Dragonbone Cuirass to repay a debt to a traveling warrior and, like the wanderer, the cuirass never remained in one place for too long. It only seemed right that the artifact find its way back to the creator in Skyrim. Unfortunately, armor cannot be enchanted with Resist Fire so that ability was spread between an amulet, ring, and boots to garner the first effect. There is a full guide to re-forging the artifact at the end of this section.

    With the Dragonbone Cuirass as the endgame focal point, I wanted to tailor the aesthetics to make it more battlemage-esque and less dragon bone-ish. The armor piece itself offered close to 200 AR once smithed to Legendary so I took some freedoms and chose something sleek for the boots, gloves, and hood. The Apprentice Hood worked perfectly with the dark cloth beneath the dragon armor which lead me to find a pair of matching boots and bracers on a Penitus Oculatus agent in Dragon Bridge. The light apparel really helped tone down the overwhelming site of wearing dragon bones and the combo actually looks great. Early on, I went with Imperial Armor and continually upgraded my boots and gauntlets as Smithing was perked.

    The bracer, cuirass, and mace enchants came from practicality and experience with the build. Between a decent Magicka Regen enchant and a Magicka absorbing mace I was exponentially more efficient when it came to reserving Magicka. The Absorb Magicka effect itself was from the School of Mysticism and was the most helpful to the playstyle. The Fortify Block enchant also helped in the same aspect, allowing the player to take some heavy blows while Magicka replenished. I stuck with an Ebony Mace for aesthetics but it also offered plenty of damage output when smithed to Legendary. A great choice early on is the Mace of Molag Bal. The House of Horrors quest also offers free housing for the guide below.


    Re-Forging the Cuirass

    Let's face it guys, the Dragon Armor perk is way up at the top of the Smithing tree and it's gonna be a trip to reach. Fortunately, you lot have my experience to get you there. Early on I fashioned the typical Iron Dagger until I got to Level 30 in Smithing and obtained the Dwarven Smithing perk, the key to this mini guide:

    • First, complete the entirety of the Lost to the Ages questline, smelting everything you find into Dwarven Metal Ingots. Save all of them until the end of the questline. I ended up with about 250 of the suckers. The Abandoned House in Markarth makes a great storehouse if you do the quest for the Mace of Molag Bal. It's also very close to most of the quests for this guide and a Smithing trainer.
    • Next, forge the Aetherial Crown and pick up the Lover Stone, followed by the Warrior Stone. This allows the player to keep the Lover Stone in the Aetherial Crown, granting an additional 15% experience bonus alongside a 10% Well Rested bonus and the Warrior Stone's 20% bonus. Now you can proceed to forge Dwarven Bows by buying Iron Ingots and using the Dwarven Metal you've smelted. I smithed in Markarth and sold the bows to Ghorza for Smithing training.
    • Next, run through the entryway to Nchuand-Zel and the first two areas of the Dwemer Museum, and complete Unfathomable Depths for another 250 Dwarven Metal Ingots and a nice Smithing bonus. You'll have to incur a small bounty killing the guards in the museum but its pocket change when you have hundreds of bows to sell. Make sure all three experience bonuses are applied and smith away. Forging 250 Dwarven Bows will bring Smithing to the mid 90's. The last few levels could be attained from skill books, Oghma Infinium, or a bit more smithing. I hit 100 by Level 28 with a quickness!
    • Once a dragonplate armor piece is forged and all of your gear tempered, Smithing can be made Legendary to distribute its perks to other skills. Now it's time to unlock the power of the Dragonbone Cuirass! The Fire Resist enchantments can be made as early as a skill level of 40 in Enchanting because the elemental resistance cap is 85%, about 28% per item. This isn't hard to reach considering Augmented Flames and Fire Enchanter will boost the Fire Resist enchantments. The ability to blast enemies with fire is bestowed by none other than Paarthurnax. By following the main quest up to the meeting with Paarthurnax, the true power of the cuirass will come to fruition.
    • I'd like to give a shout out and thank you to Matt Feeney for his post in T&T for this trick. When Paarthurnax asks you to speak with him by breathing fire on his scaly face...just walk away. From now on your shout cooldown will happen automatically in 2-6 seconds after any shout but the main quest cannot be continued. The only shout we will use is Fire Breath because Zurin Arctus was never dragonborn. The Fire Breath shout merely creates the desired effect of the Dragonbone Cuirass, a truly powerful artifact and very appropriate for the first Imperial Battlemage. Another cool tip: two words of Fire Breath can be learned from Paarthurnax if the player has a Dragon Soul to spend right before he teaches you the first word.

    The Art of War Magic

    Some may imagine battlemages to be unstoppable tanks that dish out obliterating Destruction spells and lay enemies low with a swipe of a sword. This couldn't be further from the truth and Arctus says it best in The Art of War Magic:

    "Conserving your power is another key to victory. Putting forth your strength to win a battle is no demonstration of skill. This is what we call tactics, the least form of the art of war magic."

    Zurin Arctus emphasizes tactical efficiency when choosing which spells to use in combat. When it comes to offensive magic, three spells come to mind:

    • Elemental Cloak Spells
    • Atronach Spells
    • Elemental Wall Spells

    Cloak spells are a bit costly but can deal twelve times the damage of a Fireball for double the cost. Atronachs are a bit more unpredictable but typically are just as effective. A Flame Atronach costs about the same as a Fireball but if it casts just two measly Firebolts, it has already become more effective. Wall spells, if they work as described, are exponentially stronger than any other spell so long as you can keep your enemy off-balance and in the AoE. Fire Breath and bashes are a great tactic to keep opponents staggered on a wall spell. These three spell types compliment the battlemage's warrior skills so well and are incredibly efficient, ending battles very quickly.

    This comparison shouldn't discourage the use of Fireball by any means but just to limit its use. A dual casted Fireball with Augmented Flames 2/2 deals a hefty 132 damage and staggers with the Impact perk. This is great for hitting many combatants at once, making the spell much more efficient and often killing weak enemies easily. Early in the playthrough I mainly relied on the Flame Cloak and Fire Atronach in addition to my trusty mace. Once my mace and armor were enchanted I casted Fireball quite a bit as an opener and even mid-battle once I absorbed enough Magicka. Fire Breath and block bashes created plenty of openings to back off and get a few more Fireballs in before engaging in melee again. Don't forget to blend Destruction Walls into combat to create some serious DoT combinations. Emphasize the of element fire over shock unless you know an enemy has resistance to it.

    Managing Magicka is important early in the playthrough due to large casting costs and a low pool to draw from. However, once your weapon is enchanted with Absorb Magicka and armor with Magicka Regen, Destruction spells can be cast much more freely. One of the best choices I made was limiting the Magicka Absorbtion enchantment to 15 points. This magnitude offered plenty of absorption and tons of charges. I think I recharged my mace five times during the entire playthrough!

    Through this playstyle of meticulous conservation I was able to nearly eliminate a necessary healing factor. Store-bought potions were the only method I used to recover Health and it was mainly against a tough boss enemy or a Frost Dragon. By avoiding Restoration I was able to concentrate my Magicka on damage output through Destruction and Conjuration, the latter serving as a primary defense as well. If I managed to lose a good bit of health in a skirmish and knew another battle approached, I would wait an hour and recover the old fashioned way. It was fun roleplay to think that I had to rest and prepare before another battle.

    Fire Breath is undoubtedly the most handy tool in the build's arsenal. It's great backup when Magicka is low or as crowd control for an oncoming assault. One thing to note is the cooldown's unpredictability. At most, it takes 6 seconds but it varied quite a bit for me. There were times when I wanted to use it back to back but the cooldown just wasn't coming through. I looked at the ability as a way to turn the tide of a battle or a last resort as opposed to abusing the ability. That being said, Voice of the Emperor and Fire Breath were the only Powers I needed.


    Battle Tactics

    Elemental Attrition

    Enemies are caught between the cloak spells of the battlemage and his atronach with an elemental wall beneath them and melee from both sides, a perfect combination of arcane and mundane. Works best with the Frost Atronach.

    Spells: Atronach Spell, Cloak Spell, and Wall Spell



    Righteous Tenacity

    The caster fortifies himself with a shield of elemental energy. This tactic is used to prepare for melee combat, challenging enemies to step to the light and suffer their fate. A dual-cast cloak has amazing AoE and really boosts a battlemage's close range game. Candlelight was endlessly helpful in pitch-black caves and creates a brilliant aura alongside a Flame Cloak.

    Spells: Dual-Casted Cloak Spell, Flesh Spell, and Candlelight Spell


    Imperial Ideologies and Adventures

    The first thing that may stand out to some was the choice to side with the Imperials over the Talos-loving Stormcloaks. As I hinted in the intro, Arctus fought more for the Imperial Empire than he did Talos and ultimately disagreed with Tiber Septim's use of Numidium. According to one account, Septim used the Numidium to destroy neutral families of royal blood so that he could enthrone those that he trusted. This was the breaking point for everything Zurin Arctus fought for and ultimately the deciding factor that destroyed him, creating the Underking.

    Lost to the Ages may have sounded like a quest to grind Smithing but it really was based in a roleplay aspect. Zurin Arctus did extensive research on the Numidium and took a great interest in Dwemer technology. It makes sense that he would be drawn to the mysterious Aetherial Forge. His knowledge of Dwemer technology is also the perfect roleplay for the Ancient Knowledge blessing awarded at the end of Avanch-Zel. The College of Winterhold was another easy choice for this build, offering training in the many Schools of Magic and a place of scholarship for any sort of mage.

    I think the Civil War is actually one of the most dynamic questlines in all of Skyrim and I enjoy it everytime. Quests range from infiltration to blackmailing to team operations and full scale battles which I absolutely love! I wish the questline was longer but in lieu of that I suggest stretching the Civil War from the beginning of your playthrough to the end. Also, it was incredible to see what a battlemage could do in an actual battle. Imagine blasting down three Stormcloaks with a dual-casted Fireball and following up by charging in with a raging Flame Cloak and deadly mace. The synergy between arcane and mundane really shined in the Fort Battles.

    Lastly, I didn't list it but I think the Dawnguard questline would be a great choice to take the build through. It isn't necessarily pinnacle roleplay but I don't think anyone wants vampires to blot out the sun. I avoided Dragonborn and obviously the main quest because Zurin Arctus's soul was shared with Lorkhan. How could he possibly have a dragon's soul AND Lorkhan's?!

    This build was an absolute blast to research, develop, and play and hopefully this can put to rest any doubts of what a battlemage should be. I hope you guys enjoyed and maybe even learned a bit about Tamriel's history and a man who played a huge role but never got the credit he deserved.

    *There are many different stories surrounding the events of Tiber Septim's campaign and his use of Numidium. In one tale, Tiber Septim, Zurin Arctus, the Underking, Ysmir and Hjalti Early-Beard are all part of the same oversoul that formed Talos. After sifting through several pages of UESP lore, this is the story I pieced together to tell Zurin Arctus's tale. For further information, check out these respective links: Zurin ArctusNumidiumTiber WarsThe Art of War Magicthe Underking, and the contraversial Arcturian Heresy.



    Zurin Arctus as the Underking

  • Member
    March 30, 2014

    Knew I made a good decision dropping out, this Zurin trumped mine. Nice build here Alastor!

  • Member
    March 30, 2014

    I was afraid someone would pick him too! And I'm sure you would've made a bomb ass Arctus bro! Thanks for the compliments. 

  • March 30, 2014
    This brings me back. Long ago I wanted to make an Underking build but the lore was too vague for me at the time (I had only just started looking into TES lore). But you, Alastor (you sweet bastard), have just created an absolutely amazing build. This is a fantastic mix of solid gameplay, an awesome aesthetic, and a great roleplaying theme. I'll probably end up running out of compliments worthy of this build so I'll just end it here, you've probably gotten the point by now anyways...
  • Member
    March 30, 2014

    In all honesty, I had read bits about Zurin Arctus but never really knew much about him. Just toying with the idea, I looked into him for the contest and what I found blew me away! Once I started the build I knew I had to enter the contest.

    Thanks a ton for the compliments and I feel I let ya down by not integrating the Underking into it. The build was already very large and I had no idea how to incorporate the undead wizard so I simply touched on the character Zurin would become and why. I have never had so much fun researching a build man!

    Learning how to play a proper battlemage by the first Imperial Battlemage's writings just solidified the class for me. Of course, had it not been for the Dragonbone Cuirass I would swap Alchemy for Enchanting and Smithing in an instant! But hopefully people can look at this for one well-researched take on a battlemage.

    Thanks again Matt! Wish you would have participated... 

  • March 30, 2014
    Yeah, I love The Art of War Magic. And that armor combo is sexy as hell. Unfortunately I was hammered with a ton of projects (4 school projects, a 30 hour online driving quiz which I've yet to complete, driving lessons, track practice, and a dance. Barely touched my video games all month...). Hopefully my schedule will be more free for the next contest. But I may try to make a build about Wheedle (obviously not for the contest), his mastery over diseases and disregard should be easy to replicate.
  • Member
    March 30, 2014

    I actually had a kind of "disciple of Peryite" disease-based build going myself at one time. Maybe I could help you with a few ideas. I'll have to read up on Wheedle though. I think I've skipped through the book before but don't remember anything specific.

  • Member
    March 30, 2014

    Psh me and Hainesy's half finished build was better than this piece of crap 

  • Member
    March 30, 2014

    It goes without saying 

  • Member
    March 30, 2014

    *looks both way to make sure no one is around*