ESO PVE Necromancer Magicka DPS Build: Arcanist

In this Elder Scrolls Online Build Guide I am going to cover a Necromancer Magicka DPS Build that can do over 50k+ DPS on an Iron Atronach Trial dummy. This build is aimed for PvE group play while relying on allies to buff your surviveability so that you can dish out an enormous amount of damage. Necromancer has powerful DPS abilities that when combined with typical Magicka DPS sets produces amazing results.

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Necromancer Mag DPS Build Concept

Necromancer DPS is all about rotations and consuming corpses for maximum damage. Most of the damage comes from Grave Lord Skill Tree and those abilities are Ricochet Skull, Stalking Blastbones, Unnerving Boneyard and Mystic Syphon. Understanding these 4 abilities and properly rotating them is key to high DPS numbers.

Almost everything else (gear, champion skills, attributes…) is similar to any Magicka DPS build. This build is not meant for soloing World Bosses as some changes to skills are needed to do that in order to stay alive. This Build is heavily focused on Dungeons and Trials, but thanks to Necromancer Skill Trees that cover all 3 roles, there is lot to play with in terms of abilities for solo content that can work from start to finish.

Necromancer Mag DPS Attributes and Skills

To reach max DPS numbers all Attribute Points should go to Magicka, but that is not such a good idea for toughest content. Since we do not have defensive abilities on our own and rely on allies that can sometimes screw up, I would recommend 34 Magicka, 20 Health and 10 Stamina. Depending on other gear and race related choices this setup usually leads to about 30-37k Magicka, 19-25k Health and 10k Stamina with food buffs.

Skills are mostly from the Grave Lord Skill tree because this is where damage comes from for Necromancer, and we will use all of Grave Lord abilities one way or another. Passives play huge part in what skills we are using and how they are arranged. For example Skeletal Mage doesn’t seem like a good choice at first glance, however, we get additional 10% crit chance against enemies under 25% Health from the Death Knell passive by just having Skeletal Mage slotted. With this setup the bonus from Death Knell is 50% for our Front Bar and 20% for the Backbar, which is quite significant. The benefits of having Skeletal Mage do not stop with Death Knell either, as Undead Confederate grants 200 Magicka and Stamina Recovery when any summon is active.

Direct Damage abilities that we use are Ricochet Skull and Stalking Blastbones. Ricochet Skull does 20% increased damage every third time we cast it, so your rotation must include it 3 times to receive this benefit. Stalking Blastbones is an essential ability here because not only does it do around 12k starting AoE damage (damage depends on distance traveled), but it also leaves a corpse after exploding. This is our primary source of corpses for this build. Corpses are important because Mystic Siphon requires a corpse, and, Unnerving Boneyard does 20% increased damage when used if there is corpse on the ground.

Front Bar

Ricochet Skull – Direct Damage dealing ability that Deals around 7000 Flame Damage with this build and every 3rd use of the skill has 20% increased damage and jumps to 2 additional enemies. I have chosen this upgrade over Venom Skull because Venom Skull is Stamina based and we need Stamina for Dodging and Breaking Free. Stamina is already on the low side so we do not need any more Stamina abilities. Morphed from Flame Skull.

stalking-blastbones-grave-lord-skills-necromancer-esoStalking Blastbones – Summons skeleton that rushes and explodes upon reaching the first enemy. Deals around 12k damage with this build but it can go up even more because it depends on the distance that the skeleton travels. This is our primary corpse source and that is why we are going to use this ability every opportunity that we get. The Stalking Blastbones upgrade is better for this build because Blighted Blastbones is a Stamina ability and for reasons mentioned above it is not preferred.  Morphed from Blastbones.

skeletal-arcanist-grave-lord-skills-necromancer-esoSkeletal Arcanist – Summons a Skeletal Mage that fights for you for 16 secs and creates a corpse upon death. It attacks the closest enemy and all other nearby enemies every 2 secs and does about 2k damage. The Skeletal Archer upgrade is a Stamina ability so Arcanist is the better option for this build. Morphed from Skeletal Mage.

mystic-siphon-grave-lord-skills-necromancer-esoMystic Siphon – Uses a corpse to create an AoE that does about 22k damage over 12 secs with this build. The tether effect isn’t there just for show either, and anyone caught in between you and a corpse that is tethered is going to receive damage as well. So basically anything in front of you is affected unless the enemy is too far away from the corpse. Over 12 secs around 2800 Magicka gets restored as well. While slotted it increases damage done by 3%. Morphed from Shocking Siphon.

inner_lightInner Light – While slotted Max Magicka is increased by 5% and you get permanent Major Prophecy, that increases Spell Critical by around 2k. With the Magica Controller passive we get 2% more to Max Magicka and also 2% more Magicka Recovery. Morphed from Magelight.

Back Bar

Destructive_ClenchDestructive Clench – This ability does about 6k direct and additional 7k damage over time with this build so it is nice addition to overall dps with the effect type depending on the staff element. Fire Staves deal more damage over time and knock back enemies, and Shock stuns enemies and deals damage to nearby ones as well. Morphed from Destructive Touch.

Elemental_BlockadeElemental Blockade – Deals damage in target area every second. If a Fire Staff is equipped then Elemental Blockade does more damage in the target area to burning enemies and if a Shock Staff is equipped then it sets Concussed enemies Off Balance. Morphed from Wall of Elements.

unnerving-boneyard-grave-lord-skills-necromancer-esoUnnerving Boneyard – Creates an AoE that does over 20k damage over 10 secs with this build, and this upgrade applies Major Breach and Fracture in area affected. Very useful when fighting more enemies. Versus 1 enemy this upgrade is useless in Dungeons and Trials because the Tank should apply Major Breach and Fracture anyway by using Pierce Armor. If there is a corpse available while activating this ability then damage is increased by 20%. Allies standing in the graveyard can activate a synergy that does damage and heals you for the damage done, and that should increase your surviveability a lot. Morphed from Boneyard.

inner_lightInner LightSlotted on the back bar as well to keep up that Major Prophecy buff as well as give some Max Magicka and Magicka Recvoery.

mystic-siphon-grave-lord-skills-necromancer-esoMystic Siphon – Used on the backbar as well to increase damage done by 3%.

Destructive Clench and Mystic Siphon on the backbar are optional abilities and can be exchanged for something else. If you want more defensive options exchange them for something like Summoner Armor, Resistant Flesh, Harness Magicka and Channeled Acceleration or any of the other Necromancer abilities.

Ultimate Abilities

glacial-colossus-grave-lord-skills-necromancer-esoFrozen Colossus – A powerful ultimate that summons a colossus that strikes an area 3 times, damaging everyone inside. It does Frost or Disease Damage, depending on the upgrade. Each smash applies Major Vulnerability that lasts for 3 secs. Both upgrades are fine. Glacial Colossus stuns with final hit and Pestilent Colossus does more damage. Equip it on Front Bar to get 10% more Crit Chance versus enemies with less than 25% Health.

shooting_starShooting Star – A good alternative to the Colossus. It does significant damage, stuns and knocks back. Generates 9 Ultimate for each enemy hit so using it versus many enemies is preferable. Morphed from Meteor.

Necromancer Magicka DPS Rotation

The DPS rotation consists of using Back Bar abilities first that have longer cooldowns. So Unnerving Boneyard -> Elemental Blockade -> Destructive Clench is what we start with.  Switching to Front Bar rotation goes like this Stalking Blastbones -> Skeletal Arcanist -> Ricochet Skull -> Mystic Siphon -> Stalking Blastbones -> 2x Ricochet Skull. Now there should be one corpse available before switching to Back Bar again. That means Unnerving Boneyard will do 20% more damage.

Without proper rotation huge DPS numbers are impossible to get

Skeleton Arcanist is still up when you start your second rotation so a full second rotation goes like this: Unnerving Boneyard -> Elemental Blockade -> Destructive Clench -> Stalking Blastbones -> 2x Ricochet Skull -> Mystic Siphon -> Stalking Blastbones -> Ricochet Skull and then first rotation starts again with Skeletal Arcanist back in it. Do not forget to use a Light Attack before every ability and Heavy Attack with Potions to get Magicka back. Note that sometimes it is hard to stick with this exact rotation because it takes time for Stalking Blastbones to reach its destination. In that case go for Ricochet Skull instead or Heavy Attack to restore Magicka.

Necromancer Magicka DPS Race

The best Races for this build are Breton and Altmer. Breton grants 2000 Max Magicka, 200 Magicka Recovery and 7% Magicka cost reduction which is fantastic for this build due to it being Magicka hungry. Altmer has 2000 Max Magicka, 258 Spell Damage, restores 640 Magicka or Stamina (lowest of the two) every 6 secs when using class ability and reduces damage taken by 5% when using abilities with channel or cast time.

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Dunmer and Khajiit are other options. Dunmer has 1875 Max Magicka and 258 Spell Damage, plus a lot of Fire Resistances. Khajiit grants 825 increase to every resource, recovery bonuses for all resources and increased Critical Damage and Critical Healing by 10%.

Necromancer Magicka DPS Champion Skills

There are plenty useful Champion Skills you can have, but points are limited. Percentages behind the decimal point are not accounted for when adding points to Champion Skills. For example, Elemental Defender at Rank 60 reduces damage taken from elemental attacks by 12.57%, but your gain is actually 12%. Now that you know this you can save points and put them elsewhere where gains would be more beneficial. Try to round up numbers to get the most out of these Champion Skills.

Here is my recommended setup for the Necromancer Magicka DPS Build:

This is for 810 CP level. Earlier levels should distribute points equally across board to make your Necromancer stronger in every aspect. It might seem plausible to put everything into The Mage immediately but that would be a mistake because surviveability is low without damage reductions from The Fighter.

Necromancer Mag DPS Gear (Weapons, Armor & Jewelry)

Sets that should be used with this build are typical Magicka DPS sets with the addition of some new Elsweyr sets. Before getting end game gear you should aim for Magnus’ Gift combined with Law of Julianos or Mother’s Sorrow. Magnus’ Gift is recommended because it grants an 8% chance to negate the ability cost which helps a lot in managing Magicka. An alternate option is the newly added set Crafty Alfiq because it adds around 5700 Max Magicka.

Top sets for this build are Spell Strategist, Mantle of Siroria, newly added False God’s Devotion and Burning Spellweave. False God’s Devotion reduces the cost of Magicka abilities by 8% on top of adding many Magicka DPS relevant boosts, making it one of the best, if not the best set for Magicka DPS builds in general.

Fire and Shock Staff yield similar results with this build. On your backbar equip a Maelstrom Staff of the same element to add more damage to Light and Heavy attacks when Elemental Blockade is active. Fire is already present in the build due to Stalking Blastbones and Ricochet Skull doing Flame damage.

Monster Helm depends on element of the staff equipped. If Shock is your choice then Ilambris is best set because it procs from Flame and Shock damage and it adds 1096 Max Magicka. Other than Illambris Valkyn Skoria and Zaan are great choices for both Lightning and Fire setups. Just be careful with Zaan because you will need to stand close to enemies and most likely in Dungeons and Trials you won’t be staying that close to bosses anyway.

The following are some DPS numbers with Mother’s Sorrow and False God’s Devotion sets equipped against a 3m Khajiit Skeleton dummy. Note that my rotations are all over the place and that is why some results vary, however you can get an idea of how they stack up, even with my shitty rotation:

  • Fire Staves + Valkyn Skoria 31k
  • Lightning Staves + Valkyn Skoria 35k
  • Fire Staves + Ilambris 31k
  • Lightning Staves + Ilambris 30k
  • Lightning Staves + Zaan 30k
  • Fire Staves + Zaan 33k

Traits & Enchantments

WEAPON: Weapon Damage Glyph and Precise Trait

ARMOR: Magicka Glyph and Divines Trait

JEWELRY: Spell Damage Glyph and Bloodthirsty or Arcane Trait

Final Thoughts

Necromancer shows that no matter what role you put it into it delivers, and this build is all about those sweet DPS numbers. Remember that this is a heavily group focused build and that for soloing some changes are needed. Abilities like for example, Unnerving Boneyard, are great when an enemy is in one spot which does not happen often in solo play. So something like Summoner Armor would be better if you are running something like Maelstrom Arena.

Necromancer is amazing in any role

There are two Mundus Stones that fit well with this build. First is The Mage that increases Max Magicka by 3092 with 7 Legendary Divine Traits. Second is The Shadow because of the increased Critical Damage by around 13%, which works fantastic with this high crit chance build. Mage is the better choice until your rotation has been perfected, but afterwards switching to The Shadow is recommended.


Stay tuned for more ESO Builds and ESO Content through out June as we dive deeper into Elsweyr!

Pretty much born with gamepad in my hands and been gaming ever since. Love for RPGs started with Fallout 1 and 2. Free time is used for more gaming, training, watching MMA, soccer, movies and moaning about today's world and the stuff that kids do these days. What do they do besides phones and CoD anyway?

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