In a previous post I wrote a piece about my latest character-build, Valkyrie. To recap, Valkyrie is a Wood Elf Archer. My progression as an archer has been really interesting and he has slowly transformed into, what I call, an Arcane Archer. In this post I would like to share the details of my build and my progression so that you too might try out this extremely effective and fun character type for yourself.
Who is the Arcane Archer?
The Arcane Archer, to my mind, is an archer who utilizes certain spell abilities in the areas of Illusion and Conjuration to be a lightly equipped, fast traveling and extremely deadly ranged assassin.
Phase one – Getting started
To start with I created a Wood Elf (Bosmer) character for their advantages with the bow. At the beginning of the game I selected the “Thief” standing stone and started right in on both the Thieves’ Guild and the Dark Brotherhood quest lines. I did these two quest lines at the same time and would often try to coordinate my missions so that I was performing missions for both quest lines when they happen to be in or near the same city.
I hate to be obvious but Sneak and Archery are probably the most important skills for the Arcane Archer early on. I opted for the Thieves Standing Stone as Sneak was more likely to keep me alive at low levels and took archery training whenever I could afford it. The key is to focus on being the best archer you can be! I did not put ANY points into Magika (yet) but divided all of my points evenly between Health and Stamina at low levels. As an Archer you are going to use Stamina for many of your most critical Perks such as Aim and Eagle Eye.
Note: I am currently at level 39 and have a Stamina score of 330. I have seen many people balk at this approach but I would submit that as an assassin, if you are taking huge amounts of health damage in hand to hand combat you should rethink your chosen profession! The point is that they should NEVER see you coming. If you have lost your advantage you should be getting the hell out of there.
Phase two – Mid levels
Completing the Thieves’ Guild and Dark Brotherhood quest lines are going to take you well into the mid 20′s in terms of level and give you access to some great equipment, experience and even a horse. Having a reliable horse is a God send as you work to complete all the Thieves Guild jobs as it allows you to get to the various cities while still traveling overland.
At mid-levels I switched to the warrior standing stone to focus advancement bonuses on warrior skills such as One-handed and Archery. By this time I was using gear the included a mix of Nightingale and Dark Brotherhood gear.
1. Nightingale armor
2. Nightingale boots
3. Dark Brotherhood gloves
4. Dark Brotherhood cowl
Note: There is an alternate Dark Brotherhood cowl on a shelf in the sanctuary that will give you a 20% bonus on archery and the gloves give you that backstab bonus that is a must for any assassin. At mid-levels I was still investing in Sneak and Archery perks. By the late 20′s I had managed to complete the entire Sneak perk constellation and was pecking away at the Archery constellation.
It’s worth mentioning that at mid-level I invested a significant amount of time working on levels in Smithing and Alchemy but did not buy any perks. I used these levels to improve the damage on my daggers and to create invisibility potions and slow, damage health and paralyzation poisons (handy stuff for any assassin). At mid-level I also changed my investment in health and stamina from a 50/50 points split to 25% heath and 75% stamina.
Phase 3 – Level 30 and above
Now is where things really started to get interesting. As an archer you are going to go through a TON of arrows. I acquired the Nightingale bow and through adventuring also found an Elven bow for Soul Capture and an Ebony bow of Thunderbolts. At one point I was carrying around three bows and would switch between them as required by the situation. For a guy who is supposed to be traveling light this is not very practical so I had to simplify.
The Arcane Archer is born
At about level 35 I switched to the Mage Standing Stone and began using a Bound Sword to increase my levels in conjuration. This is also where I started to put points into Magika. Upon reaching level 20 in Conjuration I invested in the Mystic Binding perk and acquired the Bound Bow spell. I do NOT intend to invest any more perks in Conjuration.
One of the best kept secrets in Skyrim is the Bound Bow! The Bound Bow is a magical bow that you conjure from thin air in the same way you might conjure a Bound Sword or Axe. The bow does base damage of 24 points but by taking the Mystic Binding perk you can double that to 48 points making it similar to a base level Deadric Bow. While you cannot improve this bow with smithing as you could a real Deadric bow the insane fire rate makes up for it.
The Bound Bow is weightless, has an extremely fast fire rate and NEVER runs out of ammo! For the thief/assassin who is using the 3x surprise damage multiplier this is a very deadly weapon. While the bow is magical it still benefits from your Fortify Archery equipment and True Shot potions and can also be poisoned like a standard bow. Now at level 39 I am dropping Drauger Deathlords in seconds and one-shoting Trolls with ease. In the time it takes a typical warrior to put one arrow on target with a Daedric bow I can pepper the target with at least 3 or 4 arrows.
Where do I find the Bound Bow spell?
I am pretty sure you can buy it in Whiterun but if you want a free spell tome for Bound Bow you need to raid Fort Amol in the Rift. The place is crawling with mages who appear to be into some pretty dark stuff to be prepared! You will find the spell book in the Amol Prison hidden inside a bucket coved by a lantern.
The Bound Bow is not for everyone. Warriors who might be less prone to use a bow in Sneak mode may benefit more from a bow that maximizes damage. It’s also very important to be aware of your casting time as this bow is not permanent and will have to be re-cast periodically.
What I am enjoying most about this bow is that I have been able to shed all of my other bows, all of my arrows and simplify my adventuring rig. Not only do I have more carry capacity now but I also do not have to waste time farming arrows. I have not committed to the bound melee weapons as they are too low in damage and take too slow to draw. If the enemy is on top of me I cannot afford the time it takes to cast the Bound Sword and have instead opted for an improved Ebony sword and dagger combo.
So what’s next?
My objective now is to progress just far enough in Illusion magic to acquire the Silent Casting perk as this will allow me to cast not only my spells but perform my Shouts without breaking the silence that is so critical to my surprise bonuses.