In this guide, I give my opinions on class strengths and weaknesses in PvP. Some things to keep in mind, there’s no one “right” way to play a class and ESO’s flexibility makes it so all classes can do similar things. Some classes possess innate abilities and passives that make them excel at particular areas of the game; Dragonknight survival, Nightblade stealth, Sorcerer killing blows and Templar healing. These are general opinions for those folks looking for basic information before starting PvP, Battlegrounds (BGs) and Cyrodiil. At the end of the day, ESO is a video game, do what’s fun.
Before continuing, I made a high speed graphic to illustrate what makes a class “good” or excel at areas of the game.
Class only skills/passives vs outside (weapon, armor, guild, etc.) skills/passives – Every class has three unique skill lines, and a series of passives. Unlike other games, your class skills and passive are not all that you have access to. There are a plethora of other skill lines and it’s the combination of these with class based ones that makes something truly powerful. Take a stamina based Dragonknight, they have no class based execute (finishing move) but can pick up the two-handed weapon skill line and gain one.
When you’re picking a class for a specific role like tanking, or a ranged damage dealer, you want unique passives and active skills that only your class can obtain in order to shine. As I write this, magicka based Sorcerers have the best killing blow potential because of their class execute (Mages Fury) and passive (Implosion) which acts as a secondary execution at lower health. This gives the Sorcerer (subject to change of course) a massive advantage in deathmatch mode as they are “built” for it. Can any class dominate in deathmatch or any other mode? Absolutely! Player’s skill will always trump passives, but when a highly skilled player picks a class, gear, Champion Points (CP) and race that best fits their goals, magic happens.Race, Gear and CP
When playing PvP, you have a choice between CP campaigns and non–CP campaigns. BGs currently have CP disabled. Picking the right class and a race that “stacks” advantages gives you a huge advantage if you plan ahead. Imagine picking a Redguard race for a stamina based melee build ideally in non-CP PvP. Your race provides you with a max stamina boost, stamina return on melee attacks and stamina regeneration. Now pair this race with the Nightblade class active skill Leeching Strikes which gives back stamina on attacks and a two-handed execute boosting more stamina regeneration on killing blows. These are the choices that allow you to drop a sustained five piece of gear and opt for more damage. And yes, any race in the right hands can dominate on any class or build, but for players thinking ahead, picking the right class and race can reward you with a more meaningful PvP experience.
DISCLAIMER: This list is just my perspective and opinion and is in no way fact. There are plenty of highly skilled players that can break the “mold” of meta game play and builds. However, for folks looking for general advice, I’m someone who’s spent a lot of time in Cyrodiil/Battlegrounds and here’s what I’ve noticed.Dragonknight (DK)
+ Magicka Based Builds – Exceptional as a melee control based tank and damage dealer. DKs with the right setup and race can create tons of AoE (area) damage and self-heal very well if up close and personal. I don’t feel they are nearly as strong as a range caster though it’s worked for me at some levels.
+ Stamina Based Builds – The Butcher remains one of my favorite builds and probably the most fun way to play the DK. Fast, hard hitting and tanky. I have thrown myself into unwinnable situations and sometimes pulled off a miracle. The downside to playing this way is being limited in weapons you choose for optimal effectiveness. I also love the group utility the DK has whether stamina or magicka I always feel useful to my team.
+ Best Suited as Tank – I still feel DK is the best tank in ESO PvP (or PvE for that matter). DKs have exceptional Crowd Control (CC), survivability and are just enjoyable to play. Feels like my old Sith Lord Juggernaut in Star Wars the Old Republic. With enough tweaking you can make them even do some damage or off healing making a super star for Capture the Relic or Capture the Flag type games.
- The main problem I have with the class is sustained. Put the DK in non-cp environments and sustain issues because very noticeable. Your main calling card is Battleroar passive or using ultimates to give back resources. Therefore I use most of my gear options for ultimate generation which is useful for resource sustain and burst damage. I work a lot harder managing resources on a DK than other classes.
- My second point of contention with the class is lack of mobility. ZOS is making a change for a brief root immunity which is great, but the past three years I’ve had to either equip a two-hander, shuffle or mist form to remain half way mobile. Take a Sorcerer; they have one skill (Hurricane) which provides major expedition, spell/armor resistance buff, AoE damage and acts as a pseudo execute. And oh yeah, DKs don’t have a class based execute as magicka or stamina!
Overall - What I’d tell players thinking about PvPing and interested in a DK is this, you’ll love it but struggle to play “outside” of the box meta gear and skills. If you’re okay with cookie cutter builds in order to be effective, DKs rock. I’ll never forget the time I saw Sypher’s DK tanking 10 dudes dropping Banners and Deep Breath nuking everyone in the area. Those days are gone, but DKs are still my second favorite class.
+ Magicka Based Builds – Absolutely dominate as a ranged caster with cool tools to escape and evade. You have ranged spammable attack, execute, AoE damage and healing all within your class skill line! Plus your passives allow you to pump out massive ultimate generation. Magblade remains the AoE juggernaut "bombers" of Cyrodiil though not at all easy to play.
+ Stamina Based Builds – The best pure ganker in ESO. You can totally stealth nuke someone with zero counter play. I absolutely love stamblade and four years later the class still has the most natural flow in combat. The class skills are pretty much all useful and you really can tailor a specific build based on your play style. You'll see stamblades running Dual Wield and Two-Handed or Two-Handed and Bow. You're not limited to one play style to make this thing rock and that's why I love stamblade.
+ Best Suited as Damage Dealer – It’s probably obvious by now that NBs killing potential is huge. Having the only innate stealth ability also gives folks looking for the “assassin” feel a class. Whether you’re magicka or stamina this class is lethal once you figure it out.
- Like I said previously, Nightblades look cool and fun but are hard to pull off without a lot of practice. After seeing some of the top NB videos, you'll get instantly excited and want to roll one. You envision nuking everything in sight but quickly realize it's going to take some practice. Escaping, rather than massive self-heals is an art rather than a skill though worth it if you invest the time.
- I feel that you lack the healing amplifications that other classes get like minor/major mending passively. Thus making you rely more on mobility and stealth rather than "face tanking." Nightblade tanks do very well though you'll limit your damage. Take a Stam Warden who can take tons of damage, heal like crazy and dish out damage. I feel without completely specing for it, Nightblades have to play a very specific way to defend themselves and that can get frustrating.
Overall - If you like stealthy damage dealers, this is a no brainier. Most of the top PvPers main Nightblades or Sorcerers because they have awesome active skills and passives. Just know it could take a while to start to dominate as you have to learn combos, evasiveness, etc. If it looks freaky cool, pick a Nightblade.Sorcerer (Sorc)
+ Magicka Based Builds – I've been playing ESO off and on for four years and basically one thing hasn't changed, Mag Sorcs are PvP kings. Sure, Dragonknights had their day at launch, but permabats, negate monkeys and killing blow kings have always been a thing. Nothing matches the killing potential of a Sorcerer due to their active and passive skills. They are also freaky mobile, tough to kill and fun to play. If you love casters and want one that has always been in flavor, Mag sorcky porky is for you.
+ Stamina Based Builds – While not at the top of the heap in my opinion, stam sorcerer are still good. The mobility, resource sustain and healing make them very fun to play. The downside is your weapon choices and lack a main spammable stamina attack similar to a Dragonknight. While there are options, most go with two-handed. If you're looking for something super-fast and hard to kill, stam sorc still rocks.
+ Best Suited as Damage Dealer - If you want super optimal ranged DPS, pick a magic sorcerer and you won't be disappointed. Whether it's deathmatch, open field, 1v1 or group PvP there's a place for a Sorcerer.
- Like I said earlier, the lack of weapon choices to make both stam/mag sorcerer optimal are a downside. Most magicka builds run destruction staff for a main spammable. Most stam builds run two-handed for a main spammable. This is a minor thing when you consider the problems other classes have.
- The only other PvP related thing I've noticed is being magic dependent even as a stamina build. So many of your buffs and other active abilities require a large magicka pool or sustain in order to be effective which can limit some of your gear choices.
Overall - Oddly enough, Sorcerer is my least favorite to play class. It has a high skill cap, freaky kill potential but just doesn't feel that fun (to me) most of the time. With that being said, who gives a crap what I enjoy? It's about you! Both of these options are seriously good for competitive PvP range magicka or stamina melee.Templar (Temp)
+ Magicka Based Builds – Magplar has been my main for a few years now. What initially attracted me to this class was its main spammable attack (Puncturing Sweeps), was also a powerful heal. The Templar is also very simple to play making it my go-to recommendation class for beginners. What keeps me playing is the ability to heal, do damage and be very hard to kill. Magplar remains a very simple yet effective class for the average player who wants to feel impactful right away.
+ Stamina Based Builds – Stamplar remains one of my favorite stamina based damage dealer. The unique thing that separates this class from other stamina classes is the Templars class based self-cleanse or removal of harmful effects. This alone makes the Stamplar a worthy choice, add to it Biting Jabs as a powerful single target and AoE and its so much fun. Lastly, Repentance is a uniquely Templar ability that allows you to gain stamina back on corpses making a build that focus on super high damage with no sustain possible.
+ Best Suited as Healer - The downside of playing a Magplar is you’re almost forced to play a healer based on its effectiveness. A massive burst heal, great passives and the ability to heal without a Restoration staff makes it the best in my opinion.
- The major downside to Magplar is the ability to take pressure and then suddenly attack. On a magicka Sorcerer, I can easily shield, stun and finish off an opponent while taking damage. On a Magplar, I have to be very careful, time everything perfectly and rely on a channel (interruptible) vs. an instant nuke like Mag Sorc or Mag Nightblade. After four years playing the class, I find it very hard to flip the fight instantly like other classes.
- Another downside is the lack of class specific mobility tool. You must rely on potions, vampire skill line, gear, bow dodge roll, etc. for major expedition. Take a Stam Sorc, I have my defensive buff give me spell resistance, magic resistance, major expedition, AoE damage and a possible execute that last 20 seconds. The Templar has nothing within their class specific skills that remotely competes with Hurricane.
Overall – Templar remains my favorite class because it feels like home. I’ve spent countless hours playing with roughly the same skills and gear. I can be effective solo and really shine in a group. However, I feel “high skilled” players can benefit from something that’s more tricky but more rewarding like Mag Sorc or Stam Nightblade. If you’re new to the game and want something easy but effective, mag/stam Templar is a great place to start.
The Warden is a class I have very limited experience on and don’t feel I have a valid opinion. I was upset when ZOS released a class behind a pay wall though I’m not going to go on a rant about it at this point. It is what it is. So I’m going to give a general opinion on the class from very limited time playing and playing against Wardens.
Stamden > Magden – Stamina based Warden are incredibly tanky with a lot of damage potential. The thing about the class is it’s entirely dependent on weapon skill lines to be effective and its class based passives and active skills are insanely strong as buffs. Magden are not often played because Mag Sorc or Mag Nightblades are just better options. And lastly, I don’t think they look “cool.” Their skills and animations are hippie, animal based in my opinion which turns me off. But who cares what I think? If you like it, play it!
Thanks for reading our ESO PvP Class Strengths and Weaknesses guide. Feel free to leave your own strengths and weakness regarding classes in ESO!