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Zero Day Thief - A Thieving Build for Beginners & New Characters (Updated for Elswyr!)

Hi there! Just wanted to share my design I went with for a dedicated thief build (well, with some modifications in retrospect).

This build was designed to create a playable thief with minimal build investment required, starting at level 1.
As a side note, one observation I made while leveling my thief was that keeping your level low also reduces your bounties, so playing a lower level thief can be an advantage over a higher level one. If you don't care about bounties, then level your thief as casually as you wish. Personally, I found that bounties were not a deciding factor once I was more fully built/equiped.
**Basic updates for Elswyr have been implemented, however skill updates will be coming later once I have reviewed more changes.

The Basic Set Up


Khajit is the best choice long term for strategic mechanics; stealth radius is the best passive for not being exposed while thieving in stealth, and other passives are also complimentary, specifically including magicka regeneration.

Why would I choose an Imperial instead?
Using an imperial provides some benefits to specific tactics for acquiring gold.




-Healing Springs
-Rapid Regen OR Mutagen OR Refreshing Path (Play style choice, reflective of your desired skill combinations)
-Shadowy Disguise
-Concealed Weapon
-Retreating Maneuver
-Soul Siphon

-Deep Slash OR Mass Hysteria (Play style choice, reflective of effort of investment)
-Defensive Stance
-Shadowy Disguise
-Concealed Weapon
-Shuffle (OR Suggested* OR As Desired)
-Bolstering Darkness

Why not use better ability X instead of the suggested Y?
-You may want to supplement other skills that suit your purposes as they become available, however my suggested abilities can all be unlocked with minimal time investment.
-*You may want to consider replacing evasion (if you do not have 5 piece medium) with another ability (purge, vigor, blessing of protection, shadow image, blur, refreshing path)
-Without shuffle, you will have to rely on another source of slow/immobilization/stun break (breakfree, dodgeroll, purge, mutagen)

Why use cloak spam? It is poop without the passive!
-Well you see, I exposed how GG ridiculous overpowered cloak spam is, so ZOS decided they had to nerf me, but also make sure they don't hurt their nightblade pet fanbois. As a result, cloakspam at early stage builds is now far less effective. Cloak spam will still work with sufficient magicka regen, but you may need to use mag attributes points or the mage mundus, at least until you can get a point into the dark veil passive at Shadow rank 39, as you must now continuously spam cloak to remain invisible.

-Medium Armor
-Light Armor
-Thieves Guild
-Legerdemain Passives
-Vampire Passives
-Shadow Skill Line Passives
-Siphoning Skill Line Passives
-Soul Summons (Soul Magic)
-Blade of Woe (Dark Brotherhood)
General Thieving (2x Stealth Bonus)
-1 Piece Seducer (Resto Staff)
-3 Pieces Night Terror (Jewelry)
-5 Pieces Vesture of Darloc Brae (Ideally Hat/Chest/Legs + 1 Hand/Shield)
-4 Pieces Light* (or Medium) Syvarra's Scales (Ideally Gloves/Boots/Belt/Shoulders)
*Light Syvarra's is better for mag regen, but is only available from heist rewards.
*SUBTITUTION 4 Piece (5 piece bonus) Light Whitestrake (Ideally Head/Chest/Shoulders + Resto Staff)

Max Stealth (3x Stealth Bonus)
-3 Pieces Night Terror (Jewelry)
-5 Pieces Vesture of Darloc Brae (4 Armor + 1 Resto Staff)
-5 Pieces Night Mother's Embrace (3 Armor + Sword/Board)

Heisting (2x Stealth Bonus)
-1 Piece Seducer (Resto Staff)
-3 Pieces Night Terror (Jewelry)
-5 Pieces Vesture of Darloc Brae (Ideally Hat/Chest/Legs + 1 Hand/Shield)
-4 Pieces Light* (or Medium) Bahraha's (Ideally Gloves/Boots/Belt/Shoulders)
*Light Bahraha's is better for mag regen, but is only available from heist rewards.

Armor - Health*
Jewelry - Mag Regen*
Weapons - Enemy Damage Reduction or Damage Shield (Your Decision)*
*Would not go higher than purple quality, as it is economically frivolous

TRAITS (Ideally)
One Hand Weapon - Defending
Resto Staff - Powered
Head/Chest/Legs/Shield - Divines (for Mag Regen) OR Infused (for Health)
Shoulder/Gloves/Belt/Boots - Divines (for Mag Regen)
Jewelry - Arcane, Healthy, Infused, or Swift (depending upon your preference)*
*Night Terror jewelry comes in Robust, so to change it requires transmutation


You will want to focus your cp on (in this order of priority):
-Mag Regen
-Damage reduction
-CC/Dodge Roll cost redux

You may also want to make sure you get the cp bonuses for investing points that include (but are not limited to):
-Chest quality improvement (The only one you should definitely get)
-Movement speed
-Defense for having a shield equipped
-Unlimited Mount Sprint

How does this build generally work?
-This build is focused on high survivability, stealth augmentation and cloak spam. It prioritizes stealth radius, health/high damage reduction bonuses (where these bonuses exceed mag regen by a significant margin), and mag regen in that order.
-It is designed to move invisible at high speeds for prolonged duration. Concealed weapon and retreating maneuver alone, when invisible, provide a 52% speed boost (before you include jewellery enhancements)
-It is also designed so that if you get in a fight with a guard, you can survive by applying block, multi-target maim/slow (deep slashing), evasion/immobilization immunity (shuffle), and major protection (bolstering darkness) while having high health and syvarra's 4 piece (20% damage reduction from guards).
-This build can bring in 15k-25k in game gold per cycle of stolen & fenced goods, and some thieving tactics provide potential for indefinite farming after fencing has been maxed. But you will have to discover how.
-This build also can use healing springs to illuminate areas that are particularly dark to find lootable objects or avoid obstructions and traps on heists.

Why so many sets?
-Certain sets are more ideal for certain activities, or play-style choices
-The sets I outlined provide certain benefits that are reflective of those activities (Heists = Bahraha's for Traps, Thieving = Syvarra's for Guards)

Where do I get these sets?
-Seducer's is a crafted set
-Whitestrake is a crafted set
-Night Terror Jewellery can be acquired from Stormhaven Dark Anchors
-Night Mother's Embrace can be acquired from overland Deshaan chests (easiest place to look) and assorted pieces from overland bosses and delve bosses/public dungeons
-Medium Syvarra's & Bahraha's pieces can be acquired from overland Hew's Bane chests/quests/bosses and dungeon/delve bosses.
-Light Syvarra's & Bahraha's pieces, in the past, were only acquired from Thieve's guild daily heists; I can confirm that Bahraha's light pieces now do come from overland drops (found one in a psijic portal) however no confirmation on Syvarra's (I recommend keeping these sets regardless of level, since they will always provide a fixed damage reduction)

Why Resto/Sword&Board?
-Restoration Staff: provides you with magicka based healing (which, you will have more than sufficient mag regen)
-Sword & Board: provides you with maim and increased block damage mitigation

What about storage?
-You may want to invest in 2-3 bag space upgrades off the hop (shouldn't be more than 10k~)
-Personally, I chose to invest in bag space for this character's mount, since you do not spend a lot of time riding around, but it is up to you.

Won't it take me a lot of effort to get some of these passives?
-I advise investing in these passive lines as they become available.
-The passive lines suggested are bare minimums. If you want to invest more time in other lines, go for it.

How do I get the Blade of Woe and why would I get it?
-The Blade of Woe requires the Dark Brotherhood expansion.
-It is an optional passive. You can unlock the blade of woe simply by completing the Dark Brotherhood intro quest, which requires killing an NPC and going to the lighthouse. This takes maybe a minute.
-The blade of woe is useful in certain circumstances where heist npcs, or other npcs are impeding your ability to gain access to a chest. In these instances, the blade of woe allows you to dispose of the npc quickly, rather than having a prolonged fight. Since you are a defensive/heal orientation, your damage is going to be low; the blade of woe counterbalances this.

How do I get Rapid Maneuvers?
-Rapid Maneuvers can be unlocked once you can travel to Cyrodiil at level 10. Simply travel to Cyrodiil and complete the siege training.

How do I get Vampirism and why would I use it?
-Ask people for a bite, lots of people will help you. The quest chain is simple and does not take much time to complete.
-All the vampire passives are good for thieves.

What about poisons and potions?
-At this time I have not integrated any potion or poisons into the design. I will be reviewing the possible benefits of poisons/potions when I have some time.

There are lots of thief variants out there, so take your time to review a few different builds. I found that building a thief from level 1 was actually one of the more fun elements of the game, and it gave me a greater appreciation for the simple joys of the thieves guild expansion. I felt that by level 23 this build was maxed with thieves guild, equipped, and more than capable of operating daily thief runs (despite missing some of the above suggestions). I hope you try it for yourself, and have fun!
Edited by Cathexis on July 8, 2019 9:15PM
Praise Malacath.
  • Cathexis
    Elswyr updates!
    Praise Malacath.
  • deebert2071
    Soul Shriven
    I was wondering what the benefit of having all attribute points into health vs. magicka is?
    Thank you
  • Cathexis
    I was wondering what the benefit of having all attribute points into health vs. magicka is?
    Thank you

    The reason my particular focus is on health is because you do not actually need a large mag pool and because guards can hit you with a 35k range attack. I've noticed this often happens above 2k-3k bounty. If you die, you will lose your entire inventory of stolen items and a sizeable chunk of gold depending on the gold you are carrying and your bounty.

    Investing in health protects your assets from forfeiture due to a random insane damage bolt from behind. It also insulates against traps and npcs.
    Edited by Cathexis on July 8, 2019 9:16PM
    Praise Malacath.
  • CelticSun73
    Soul Shriven
    How is your damage/solo ability for overland pve stuff (ie. public dungeons, world bosses,delves, soloing dolmens, etc). I play solo and really want a thief/assassin character that can still do solo pve.
  • Cathexis
    How is your damage/solo ability for overland pve stuff (ie. public dungeons, world bosses,delves, soloing dolmens, etc). I play solo and really want a thief/assassin character that can still do solo pve.

    This is not a damage orrientation, so you will be doing very minimal damage, but you can do sustained concealed weapon spam, and tank well. You may want to use an alternative gear/skill set for PvE content that is more efficient. With a few minor adjustments though, you would be primed for tanking harder bosses, and it can handle dolmen/delves/public dungeons no problem as far as my experience has been.
    Praise Malacath.
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