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(Brief new-players' Guide) Key things to understand for making a good build in ESO!

Attorneyatlawl
Attorneyatlawl
Community Ambassador
I am asked very often by players how to make a build, or even what I would make for how they want to play outright. While I'm usually perfectly happy to help with direct answers and a little explanation, I wanted to throw up a quick guide for everyone, particularly considering there will be an enormous number of new people coming into the game with the 1.6 patch and the subscription no longer being required starting in mid-March.

With Elder Scrolls Online's build system being so much more open than most other MMORPG titles allow for, it can be very easy for inexperienced players (or people who usually try to use a cookie-cutter type build) to hamstring themselves. This extends to their supporting gear choices, as well. Here are some essential concepts to keep in mind
  • You'll want enough defense to live through most reasonable situations , but not be overdoing it.
  • You'll want enough offense to kill things in most reasonable situations, but not be overdoing it.
  • It's a fine balance, as having too much of either of these will result in a weaker build
  • If you have too much defense, you won't kill things fast enough and just end up taking more damage than you would have when balanced better. You may also not do enough damage to take down enemies in many situations due to their own defenses.
  • If you have too much offense, you need to kill things before they can kill you. Going too heavily into offense runs into the issue of you often dying too quickly, before you can really make use of your high damage output.
  • Utility and healing are important, as well as how self-buffs interact with your gear and skills in various fighting situations. (For example, maybe it's fun to have an extra attack, but you may be better off with even a situational buff that makes your other attacks hit like a truck when you really need them to (low-health enemy boosts to finish them off, or after stunning them, etc., or a way to catch yourself from dying if you take too much damage suddenly such as an instant heal so you can keep fighting).
  • Overdoing the utility and healing of course will cause the same issues as having too little of another aspect since you will be making sacrifices to gain it. Utility/healing, defense, and offense have a relationship almost like a triangle. Tug too much at offense, and you lower your utility/healing and your defense. Tug too much at your defense, and you lower your healing/utility and offense. Tug too much at utility/healing, and you lower your offense and defense. For example you may boost your utility/healing to a high amount, but if you lose too much defense and could have mitigated a lot of the incoming damage anyway, you would oftentimes benefit from sacrificing some raw healing power to basically make it more effective by adding some defensive mitigation. (Less healing needed and the health you restore lasts better because of the higher defense in that scenario).
  • When planning a build, you should identify the key abilities/skills you feel are absolutely vital to it, and build around those. If you discover you don't actually need one that you thought would be essential, you can beef up another aspect of your build by dropping it out.
  • Imagine the what-ifs you'll face when using this build to fight! Think through "How would I..." for a few basic questions before thinking your build is going to be viable. "How would I live if I were stunned and took heavy damage before getting free?", "How would I use this build to fight a ranged enemy?", "How would I use this build against an enemy melee (or tank, even)?", etc. Another key one of course is "How would I use this build in a longer battle?" (i.e. is it going to starve on resources and fall over? will it typically never get to that point because it takes down the enemy or dies itself before then? etc.). This is often referred to as sustainability.
  • Ensure the gear available can support the build properly. Don't over-hybridize, but make sure if you are adding in something that isn't the main thrust of the build to its skills/etc., that the gear you can get will even exist to make it work with the rest your setup, without lowering the rest to where it doesn't work out!

This is by no means intended to be a comprehensive and all-encompassing encyclopedia of ideas for making your builds, but hopefully if you're someone who hasn't played an MMORPG as much, or you're finding it tough to find a build that works for you, some of these points will help you :)!

-First-Wave Closed Beta Tester of the Psijic Order, aka the 0.016 percent. =P
Exploits suck. Don't blame just the game, blame the players abusing them!

-Playing since July 2013, back when we had a killspam channel in Cyrodiil and the lands of Tamriel were roamed by dinosaurs.
-Order of Mundus, Nightfighters, LoM, and Mostly Harmless founding member, "DPS: We Deliver."
________________
-In-game mains abound with "Nerf" in their name. As I am asked occasionally, I do not play on anything but the PC NA Megaserver at this time.
  • Lithium Flower
    Lithium Flower
    ✭✭✭✭
    I don't think any one build will be effective at everything - it really depends on what you want to do with your character in a particular situation.

    A PvP 'build' is not going to be that effective in group dungeons. A tanking build or a Trial damage dealer build is certainly not going to work for PvP.

    Different situations call for different approaches. In grouped content, you are highly specialized for your role - a trial damage dealer or group dungeon damage dealer must maximize his dps above every other consideration, there's no need for defensive skills on your bar in that situation - most DDs in those roles don't even debuff the enemies themselves because that task is better performed by the healer where as if you're a tank your armour and skills should do everything to mitigate the damage you take and then if you're in PvP, everything is completely different and you need to maximize resources and defend yourself.

    I usually have three or four sets of gear on my DK (Tank, magicka DPS/stamina DPS and PvP) and two on my healer-Templar at all times (PvE, PvP) along with skill load outs for the most common situations I find myself facing such as 'Tank Loadout, Specific Boss X load out, Specific Dungeon Y load out', PvP, Trial DPS, questing' and those aren't set in stone either and I will find myself changing things around in the middle of things.

    And then I had a completely different build for leveling up/questing - then I wanted more sustain, some defense, some damage, some debuffs because I was largely soloing through non-challenging content. I was also leveling up different skills and weapons and had to allow room on my bar for experimentation.

    The most important skill in designing a build in my opinion is communication. Talk to other people and discuss ideas and test things out, don't be rigid in your mindset, understand the meta, recognize your role and try to meet it.

    Dragonknight Smith of the Lith | Rayna Dreloth
    Templar Josephine Belmont | Catherine Belmont | Irene Belmont
    Sorceror Blathanna | Eta Carina
    Nightblade Adda Vorenor

    Ebonheart Pact | Daggerfall Covenant | EU | Champion Points ~ 800 | Crafter of all things
  • Attorneyatlawl
    Attorneyatlawl
    Community Ambassador
    I don't think any one build will be effective at everything - it really depends on what you want to do with your character in a particular situation.

    A PvP 'build' is not going to be that effective in group dungeons. A tanking build or a Trial damage dealer build is certainly not going to work for PvP.
    (SNIP)
    The most important skill in designing a build in my opinion is communication. Talk to other people and discuss ideas and test things out, don't be rigid in your mindset, understand the meta, recognize your role and try to meet it.

    This is very much true, and while I implied it with the paragraph about how each of what I'd consider the 3 major factors of a build are basically a triangle, I hadn't really specifically mentioned making multiple builds for yourself directly or why. You'll want to have a couple of build options for various gameplay types that you go for, including things like group PVP, solo/duo PVP, Trials (raids), one-group dungeons, and solo'ing in PVE :).

    You can often share the bulk of the build ideas between some of these, but will need to make a specific one for some things or more specialized ones entirely. In Trials as a DPS, for example, you can and want to go very heavily towards the offense part of that triangle, maybe edged just a hair towards utility, while basically eschewing defense except what it takes to survive getting hit once from anything that isn't an instant-death mechanic. The same idea applies to any other more specialized gameplay... for a solo pve aoe farming build I would pretty much leave most of the defense on the table, and take heavy offense with just enough utility/healing to keep me alive and minimize downtime.

    I do want to especially call out your last point about communication! There are, even for the most hardcore theorycrafters, times that you'll overlook something that could be useful or just nail the build's effectiveness enough that you want to change it up. Stay open-minded within reason, ask a quick question if you don't know something in particular that others probably do, and if in doubt afterwards... test!
    Edited by Attorneyatlawl on February 24, 2015 7:36PM

    -First-Wave Closed Beta Tester of the Psijic Order, aka the 0.016 percent. =P
    Exploits suck. Don't blame just the game, blame the players abusing them!

    -Playing since July 2013, back when we had a killspam channel in Cyrodiil and the lands of Tamriel were roamed by dinosaurs.
    -Order of Mundus, Nightfighters, LoM, and Mostly Harmless founding member, "DPS: We Deliver."
    ________________
    -In-game mains abound with "Nerf" in their name. As I am asked occasionally, I do not play on anything but the PC NA Megaserver at this time.
  • Smiteye
    Smiteye
    ✭✭✭
    Very nice writeup.
  • SafiyerAmitora
    SafiyerAmitora
    ✭✭✭
    A PvP 'build' is not going to be that effective in group dungeons. A tanking build or a Trial damage dealer build is certainly not going to work for PvP.

    All I have to do for both my NB DPS and my DK tank is switch 3 skills and they'll be all set for PvE, or switch those 3 skills back and they're ready for PvP. Their builds pretty much work amazingly for both; I don't have to switch skills much or swap gear setups when switching from one to the other. ;D There are builds out there capable of doing really well in both with little to no change.
    Legend || Mizery Records || Black Market Wares
    Aeilith ~ AD L50 Khajiit magicka NB dps/max crafter (NA)
    Naraiya ~ AD L50 Altmer magicka Sorc dps (NA)
    Dont Die Like I Did ~ DC L50 Khajiit magicka Templar heals (NA)
    Bring The Pain ~ AD L50 Dunmer magicka DK tank (NA)
    An Achílles Heal ~ AD L50 Breton magicka Templar heals (NA)
    One Two Gank A Few ~ EP L50 Bosmer stam NB dps (NA)
    Your Lást Mistáke ~ DC L50 Altmer magicka NB dps (NA)
    Rekts All Noobs ~ DC L50 Redguard stam DK dps (NA)
    Reaper of Salt ~ EP L50 Khajiit stam Sorc dps
    The Réktoning ~ AD L8 Dunmer magicka DK dps
    Avaraiya ~ AD L25 Altmer magicka Warden tank
    Nafatiri ~ EP L24 Argonian magicka Warden heals
    Once Upon An OP Magden ~ EP L3 Altmer magicka Warden dps (NA)
    Updated: 08/01/2018
    ***
    759 Champion Points || ESO Member since Apr 2014
  • Wayoverpowered
    Wayoverpowered
    Soul Shriven
    Very useful!! Thx.
  • MarXmaN1776
    MarXmaN1776
    ✭✭
    This is how I build and this should be meta. Necroed for awesomeness.
  • Amdar_Godkiller
    Amdar_Godkiller
    ✭✭✭✭
    A PvP 'build' is not going to be that effective in group dungeons. A tanking build or a Trial damage dealer build is certainly not going to work for PvP.

    All I have to do for both my NB DPS and my DK tank is switch 3 skills and they'll be all set for PvE, or switch those 3 skills back and they're ready for PvP. Their builds pretty much work amazingly for both; I don't have to switch skills much or swap gear setups when switching from one to the other. ;D There are builds out there capable of doing really well in both with little to no change.

    Same with DK, though I use different food too. Basically I trade Dots and AOE for heals and CC, swap my mundus from thief to serpent, and switch out my divines for impen
  • MarXmaN1776
    MarXmaN1776
    ✭✭
    I try to work something out that might also work in PVP but PVE is my main focus as this is what I do mostly solo.
    Also I like to keep it simple yet have some options and also level up as many skilllines as possible at the same time.
    So many conflicting choices. I am trying to narrow it down by elimination and chosing skills that serve multiple purposes.
    And skip everything that I am not good with using because of mechanics or because it doesn't fit my playstyle.
    Edited by MarXmaN1776 on June 20, 2016 3:59PM
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