Skyrim Character Building » Discussions

Character Build: The Nord Warmage

  • Member
    June 1, 2014

    "A strong sword-arm wins battle, but a keen mind wins wars."

    -Wuunferth the Unliving

     [Simply click the video if you don't want to hear the music]

    Overview: This concept brings up the proud tradition of Skyrim’s spellcasters that defies the contemporary stereotype of the Nords being fearful of magic. While it’s true that Nords generally shy away from the arcane arts in favor of a more direct and physical approach, there are some Nords who are thoughtful, intelligent and curious about the nature of reality. Nordic sensibilities can mingle with magic in a much more natural way than one might expect. Nords value hard work, martial prowess and fine craftsmanship, all of which can be pursued through magical means.

    The ability to forge bound weapons from the mind with Conjuration and unlock the secrets of the physical world through Alchemy and Enchanting are in line with the ideals that Nords aspire to, yielding many excellently crafted products and military applications. To round out the skillset, the Nordic warmage learns the magic schools that most directly impact killing before you’re killed, Destruction and Restoration while also gaining basic training with Heavy Armor, Two-handed weapons and Block. Smithing is the most prized Nordic art, and the clever warmage is drawn in by the fascinating science of metallurgy, culminating in unlocking the secrets of the enchanted ice known as stalhrim left behind by Solstheim’s wizards of old. Alteration adds some extra protection and also allows for the transmutation of metals.

    Mechanically speaking, this build uses many skills but perks them very efficiently. Most skills top out between 40 and 50, with a few exceptions reaching 60, 70 or 80. As a result, you get to use a wide array of skills but there is not a whole lot of grinding that is needed. Swapping between a berserker style and a shieldmage style makes up the core mechanics of the build.

     Note: Some key items and mechanics come from the Dragonborn DLC. While it is entirely possible to play without that DLC, it is highly recommended.


    Alignment: The Nord warmage toes the line between the Divines and the Daedra, cautiously bartering with both in order to expand his power. They tend to strive toward the Nord ideal of valor in combat but also hold to a different ideal - to use knowledge and wisdom to gain every advantage possible. If these ideologies stay balanced, the warmage will be truly neutral. If you wish, you can choose to be wholly good or evil, but pragmatic neutrality suits them the best.


    “Remember, your mind is the best weapon you have.”

    -Farengar Secret-Fire

    Standing Stone: The Steed for the first tier, the Lord for the second tier

    Race: Nord, the race is what ties the RP together obviously

    Stats: 1|1|0 - Stamina is not really needed as you will have an apprentice to help you carry things and the Respite perk, potions and magic items can help you boost it when needed. Place your magicka and health as needed, at higher levels focusing more on health is good, but on average they should stay on par with each other.

    Shouts: Frost Breath, Ice Form, Elemental Fury, Become Ethereal, Dragon Aspect


    Perk Spread (50)

    Non-crafting Variant (40) (not guaranteed to work, but use this if you are strongly against crafting)


    Heavy Armor: In the early game, full armor is worn but a mage hood swapped in for the helmet, which made survival much easier than a robed alteration mage. At higher level gameplay, there is a transition to combining the Arch-Mage Robes, priest masks and heavy boots and gauntlets. Flesh spells from Alteration can help add some durability.

    Block: This benefits survivability throughout, near the beginning it stacks up nicely with the heavy armor to help you feel relatively safe. When spellcasting I just kept the shield in my hand almost constantly, using only right hand spells. There are occasions where having two spells is handy but mostly the shield won’t leave your side. Elemental Protection is a great counter to any mage and caps your frost resistance making battle with frost dragons much easier. When wielding axes blocking is still useful and the powerful bashes are great for dealing some solid damage while also staggering foes. With a starting rating of 20 this can be immediately double perked.

    Two-Handed: This is perhaps one of the skills used least by mages, but in this case is a big part of the build. Something often overlooked is that the Bound Battleaxe can be extremely powerful at low levels. This skill goes higher than most for this build, topping out at 70 to gain sweep which can be quite useful. If at any point magicka gets drained, you can fall back on having a battleaxe. This skill injects a strong barbarian gameplay feel, moving back and forth between two of my favorite playstyles, two-handed berserkers and shieldmages. While I mainly used a battleaxe, greatswords are also a lot of fun and the speed boost helps with DPS when using an enchanted blade. With a starting rating of 25, two-handed can be immediately double perked.

    Smithing: The ancient Nords considered smiths to be the wielder of elemental secrets, by using air from the bellows to fortify the flames and then placing metals of the earth into it and then quenching with water. The four primal elements combine to create an item that holds power over life and death. It is one of the proudest Nordic traditions and a well-respected craft. This has benefits to both gameplay and roleplay, as you end up with some great armor and weapons. The Nordic warmage considers stalhrim items the pinnacle of their craft, using a highly magical material to form highly martial items. This skill tops out at 80, the highest you will have to reach out of every skill.

    Conjuration: Bound Battleaxe was a no-brainer for a mage trained in two-handed. If you take Mystic Binding as early as possible, it can produce some devastating results. The Soul Trap spell really helps for levelling the skill pretty quickly in addition to the rapid levelling granted by bound weapons. As for summoning, it doesn’t get much more Nordic than creating a massive ice monster to assist you in battle. The Frost Atronach can make tough enemies much more manageable and their frost immunity allows you to shoot ice spells at enemies safely while the atronach tanks.

    Destruction: The most combat-effective magic skill is an obvious choice for a warmage. Ice spells receive the most attention because Nords have the strongest bond with this element. This also boosts your weapon enchants, which is a nice bonus. If you want to be a bit more well rounded, throwing a perk into augmented flames can be helpful.

    Restoration: The only thing more useful than ending your opponent’s life quickly is being the last man standing on the field. This is lightly perked, giving you just enough skill to heal yourself reliably when in a tight spot. If your health drops too low while in battleaxe mode, you can quickly drop into what I call “turtle mode.” Block and bash with your shield while using a healing spell in the right hand and you will quickly recover your lost health. This becomes especially potent when you get the Respite perk, allowing you to stunlock foes while rapidly healing.

    Alteration: Only 3 perks dropped into here, this is simply for the benefit of flesh spells and the ability to use the Transmute spell. A Nord wants the best defense, and this becomes particularly important when you start wearing Arch-Mage Robes. Ironflesh picks up some of the slack that a cuirass would’ve granted.

    Enchanting: The ability to imbue magical abilities into weapons and armor is highly appealing to the combat focused war wizard. I feel like most people, myself included, have generally gotten into an all-or-nothing attitude, waiting for the Extra Effect perk before really jumping into Enchanting. I am hoping to counteract this tendency by showing that you can do fine with an easily achievable 60 levels and a bit of Alchemy. Around the time your character reaches level 20 is a good time to start perking this skill, as you will have had plenty of time to disenchant things. For those with the Dragonborn DLC, Ahzidal’s Armor and Secret of Sorcery can bump it up to the equivalent of 5/5 Enchanter perks.

    Alchemy: While it is only lightly perked, potion making melds really well with the similarly light perking in the Enchanting skill, which combine to become more than the sum of their parts. The usefulness is obvious, as alchemy boosts virtually every skill and stat. And of course, poisons can cripple dragon breath, paralyze tough enemies and generally wreak havoc on foes when you’re in a tough spot. Alchemy is the purest demonstration of knowledge being power.

    **Note: Yes, I perked all 3 crafting skills. I designed it so that only 5 perks are used in each skill. While none of them gets overpowered, they are all able to work in concert with a relatively low amount of grinding. The Ebony smithing perk is a lofty goal but consider it a rite of passage for the warmage, gaining the ultimate magical crafting ability, the forging of the enchanted ice known as stalhrim.


    Gameplay: In terms of actual combat strategy, the idea here is to have your shield out when not using a battleaxe. Use destruction in the right hand to hit enemies as they approach. While they close the gap it is good to activate a defensive alteration spell and/or summon a frost atronach to aid you. Deploying a cloak spell is a great choice just prior to pulling out a weapon. As they close the gap either summon your axe or use a physical one you have hotkeyed. If there is a lag time just dance around a bit before they can hit you. Fall back on restoration if your health drops too much. Various potions and poisons can be used as needed. I particularly enjoy using destruction potions to boost the damage of a chaos enchanted battleaxe.

    Early Gameplay: For this build I had a very specific early progression, both in abilities and gear. At the very beginning, this character will mostly seem like a tough warrior. I immediately boosted my two-handed, block and heavy armor as much as possible. Steel smithing is helpful for getting some solid armor at the beginning, raising it just 2 levels to 22 leads to Superior smithing quality.

    The next step was to get the Bound Battleaxe tome from Farengar as soon as possible. If you wear the Novice Hood found in Helgen and drop 2 levels of stat boosts into magicka, you will already be able to cast it. Once you begin using the bound axe, Conjuration will move up quickly, allowing you to take Novice Conjuration and Mystic Binding. What results is a strong arcane warrior before reaching level 10. A potion of two-handed can charge up your potency and a potion of marksman can take it up even higher if you don’t mind exploiting that glitch.

    From here, start introducing magic and alchemy. While wearing heavy armor and a mage hood, the Steed Stone is crucial. Once you transition to Archmage Robes, a dragon priest mask and heavy boots and gauntlets, the Lord Stone becomes much more important.


    "Strength and steel are well and good, but magic is the true power in this world."

    -Wuunferth the Unliving


    College of Winterhold: This one is obvious, a Nordic warmage should learn from Skyrim’s oldest school of magic. The Arch-Mage Robes become a key item for the upper tier of items that I recommend. Also, the Atronach Forge can be used to make some spell tomes and summoning staves, which are invaluable during the early part of the playthrough.

    The Companions: While magic is the main focus of the warmage, they still strongly desire valor in combat. Just be careful that you do not allow this questline to distract from the College of Winterhold, which is the primary questline of this build. Only go as far as it takes to acquire the Skyforged axe, then come back to finish the questline after you complete the College.

    Forbidden Legend: The curious warmage will pursue this ancient quest and assemble the powerful Gauldur Amulet, proving that he is a mighty wizard. The quest will trigger organically when you clear Saarthal, so do it at your leisure after defeating Jyrik Gauldurson.

    Daedric Quests: Be wary of the daedra, and try to focus on the ones that are not as openly malevolent such as Meridia, Azura, Sheogorath, Peryite, etc. The warmage understands that to gain power sometimes you have to get your hands dirty, so judge which quests you want to do based on your character’s moral values. Of course, if you are evil, feel free to pact with whichever Daedra you wish.

    White Ridge Barrow: This dungeon contains many interesting items, but Dukaan’s mask is the most useful to the Nord warmage. This greatly improves your frost magic in addition to the extensive destruction training and also grants a bonus to your chaos damage or frost damage enchants.

    Black Book: The Sallow Regent: While acquiring the Dukaan mask, this Black Book also offers an excellent opportunity for the warmage. Seeker of Sorcery is a highly useful bonus, especially because of the enchanting bonus. The bonus stacks with the Archmage Robes giving an amazing 25% cost reduction to all magic schools!


    Tier 1: Steel Armor, Novice Hood, Steel Shield, Bound Battleaxe and/or a Skyforge Steel Battleaxe


    Tier 2: Arch-Mage Robes, Stalhrim heavy boots and gauntlets, Dukaan, Stalhrim Battleaxe with Chaos Damage Enchant, Spellbreaker/Targe of the Blooded


    Enchanting Effects: Use items that boost magicka, magicka regen, magic schools, alchemy and two-handed.

    For weapon damage, the focus of the build is chaos damage, but frost damage is also a good choice given the focus. No weapon enchant and elemental fury works well. Soul Trap and Fiery Soul Trap are useful, but remember that using a soul trap spell will greatly increase your levelling speed for Conjuration, so make that call as you see fit.

    Potions and Poisons:

    Firedrake Slayer’s Brew: Dragon’s Tongue + Fly Amanita + Mora Tapinella

    Potion of Fortify Two-Handed, Fire Resistance, Regenerate Stamina and Fortify Illusion (illusion is unused but it ends up as part of the potion)

    Destroyer’s Tincture: Briar Heart + Ectoplasm + Glowing Mushroom

    Potion of Restore Magicka, Fortify Magicka and Fortify Destruction

    Healer’s Draught:  Blue Mountain Flower + Wheat

    Potion of Fortify Health and Restore Health

    Battle Brew: Elves Ear + Spider Egg OR Juniper Berries

    Potion of Fortify Marksman (affects all physical damage including bashes)

    Vile Ichor: Human Flesh + Imp Stool + Slaughterfish Egg

    Poison of Paralysis, Damage Health and Lingering Damage Health

    Debilitating Concoction: Bleeding Crown + Deathbell + River Betty

    Poison of Weakness to Poison, Damage Health and Slow

    Dragon’s Bane: Falmer Ear + Hanging Moss + Human Heart

    Poison of Damage Health, Damage Magicka, Damage Magicka Regen, Frenzy

    (works just as well if not better on enemy casters, but it also prevents dragon breath.)

    Followers: The traditions of Nordic warmages are passed on from the master to the apprentice. While I started out with Sven, I jumped to one of the Nordic spellcasters as soon as I could. Here are a few of my suggestions:

    Onmund: He is the obvious choice when thinking of Nordic apprentices and can be easily found in the College of Winterhold. His quest gives you the run around compared to J’Zargo and Brelyna, but a Nord doesn’t shy away from a quest!

    Belrand: This spellsword is available for hire in Solitude’s tavern, the Winking Skeever. He is a great choice and uses many spells in battle. Note that he is better with light armor despite him wearing Iron Armor.

    Valdimar: If you have Hearthfire, the housecarl granted in Hjaalmarch is a strong Nordic spellsword and works great as a magical follower.

    Frea: The Skaal follower that you gain on Solstheim is a powerful spellcaster who is in touch with some ancient Nordic traditions of magic but is also skilled in warfare, making her a perfect companion for the warmage.

    While my suggestions work well, another way is to simply hand your followers staves and maybe some robes or a hood as a way to simulate magical apprenticeship. Another note, you don’t have to use a Nord for your apprentice, but the RP is strongly linked to Nord culture, making a Nord the best choice.

    "I fight with both blade and spell. You might say I'm equipped to handle nearly any threat.”


    Miscellaneous Tips and Tricks:

    Elsweyr Fondue: Randomly grab lots of ale and eidar cheese wheels and when you run into a Khajiit caravan buy up all their moon sugar. These three items make Elsweyr Fondue, an excellent boost to magicka and magicka regeneration, allowing you to cast more spells.

    Wortcraft: This often overlooked craft of eating an ingredient to activate its first effect can actually be quite useful, especially when it comes to stamina. I find the vegetable soup/power attack trick to be a bit cheap, so I use this instead. Since it requires you to collect the correct ingredients to maintain the skill and you have to manually activate it, I find it a bit more balanced. Bees are a great choice, as they tend to swarm in Falkreath if you know where to look. Purple mountain flowers are all over the place and work well for this.

    Talvas Fathryon: Neloth’s apprentice can be gained as a follower and will offer Master level Conjuration training. For whatever reason, his training is only offered when you are near Tel Mithryn. If you feel like sprinting to 90 Conjuration in order to utilize the weapon creation abilities of the Atronach Forge, this can be a good way to do it. I had fun levelling it up the long way with lots of soul trapping and bound weapon usage, but this is still a nice trick.

    Ebony Blade: There is a way to maintain a level of honor whilst wielding this evil blade. If you acquire the blade, it is possible to power up the health absorption to 60% of its potential power if you use it during the quest Destroy the Dark Brotherhood! because all of the Brotherhood members still count as friends. Full credit for this goes to Ponty who pointed out the trick to me. If you simply wish to be an evil warmage then go ahead and kill your friends as you normally would.

    Spellbreaker + Ahzidal’s Gauntlets of Warding: Using this combination of artifacts will grant you 50% spell absorption whenever you block with Spellbreaker.

    Dawnguard Rune Hammer + Ahzidal’s Helm of Vision: When you use this combination of items, you are able to cast free runes at great distance without unequipping your weapon, which helps to seamlessly blend the destruction and two-handed components of the build. Without the helm and the perk, the hammer is still an excellent choice, especially for this build’s skillset.

    Shrine of Julianos: This is one of the rarest shrines in the game, but it gives you a 25 point boost to magicka which is much stronger than most of the shrine effects. Throughout the game, and especially at low levels, this bonus greatly aids spellcasting. Down a potion that fortifies restoration just prior to praying at the shrine for an even greater effect. The two locations that I frequent for this are the Temple of the Divines in Solitude and Fellglow Keep from the College of Winterhold questline. I also recently discovered one just north of Shearpoint next to a skeleton.

    Drainblood Axe: A very practical choice in terms of weight and comparable to the bound axe in power. It can be recharged with a petty soul gem to gain +15 Absorb Health, which seems like a pain but I put it on the same level as applying a poison. It only weighs 5 pounds and since power attack cost is based on weapon weight, you can power attack more often. I pretended my character had found a way to permanently bind an axe to the physical realm.

    Battle Cry: It's easy to forget your racial power, but being able to scare your enemies away is actually really useful if you're about to die. It also has a staggering component that covers a large area, so you can use it as an opportunity for an extra strike or two. Use the first word of Unrelenting Force just prior to Battle Cry for a chance to double up on staggering your foes.


    Thanks for reading my build everyone, and remember to click like if you liked it =p


    If you like this, have a look at my other builds!

    The Daedra Seducer

    The Knight

    The Battlelord of Ebonarm


    Special thanks to Vazgen, Ponty, Henson, Snacks and the rest of my friends here on the blog for helping me brainstorm, letting me bounce ideas off them, supporting my efforts and miscellaneous fagnetry! You guys are awesome =]

  • Member
    June 1, 2014
    Another amazing build Tim, love the pic, presentation, etc. +1
  • Member
    June 1, 2014

    I'll not let a build as good as this be buried under a layer of builds that don't sum up to it.

    Always nice to see a new Tim Faroe build. Well done with this one, it's a nice in-depth build that covers everything you need to know, which I like.

  • June 1, 2014

    I really shouldn't be looking at builds while having several tabs open. The music scared me half to death. It's a fabulous song, though, and I'm already downloading it to add to my Skyrim folder.

    Shield Mages are excellent builds, and I appreciate the Bound Battleaxe. The pictures and formatting are good, and I like the whole "ancient Nordic clever man" roleplay you have going on. It's like this is the way the developers felt you should play a mage, like playing a Telvanni in Morrowind. +1

  • Member
    June 2, 2014

    Great job on this, Tim! I love the organic switch from battleaxe to shieldmage and vice versa, it works so flawlessy together that you might never need to open the favorites menu and pause combat! Also that Tips and Tricks section which has quite a few unused and awesome tricks! I'm even willing to look over it being a Nord 

  • Member
    June 2, 2014

    Rather, there are no colons 

  • June 2, 2014

    It's a small thing, but your builds have some of the best artwork/visual presentation. Where do you find it all, because I love me some good artwork!

  • Member
    June 3, 2014

    Thanks Chris! Good to know my work is appreciated

  • Member
    June 4, 2014

    Thanks Miraak, I try to be thorough about everything because the devil is in the details, glad you enjoyed it!

  • Member
    June 4, 2014
    Hmm I could see a light armored version of this as death brand armor is a great addition but with morokei I and arch mage's robes you would have a lot of magician regeneration