The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Destruction Magic Guide
Destruction Spells List, Perks, and Elemental Effects
Skyrim's Destruction Magic School, as the name implies, is purely offensive in nature. Destruction is made up of spells from the Fire, Frost, and Lightning elements. Each of these has its advantages, and of course some enemies are resistant or weak to a particular element. Since playing a caster can be tough, this guide will help you in training destruction, finding all the spells, and putting them to good use.
Benefits of Raising Destruction and Power Leveling
Raising the Destruction skill reduces the mana cost of spells, which will let you lean on the school more often (or entirely) in combat. Damage boosts are obtained from the skill's Perks, your gear, and potions. You'll gain more experience in the school based on the damage you do, and the rank of the spell you're casting. Generally a higher rank spell will be more mana efficient for the damage it does, and this translates to faster kills and experience for you. Attacking Shadowmere and Summoned Creatures are the only practical ways to power-level Destruction without spending gold on training at Faralda and other Mage Trainers (the BEST way to keep this skill in line with your level). Other methods require you to be at the right point in the game. Otherwise, take the Mage Stone and get a rested bonus from sleeping to get 25-30% bonus experience.
Learning Destruction Spells
New Destruction spells can be purchased from Faralda at the College of Winterhold (Mage Guild). The spells available are determined by your level in Destruction, so check back when you near a new rank. For example, the closer you get to Adept (50) the more likely there will be Adept spells in stock. As with other schools of magic, in order to get the Master level spells you must complete a quest, which Faralda will offer at level 100 Destruction. Simply ask her if there is any more to be learned.
The Master Spells
All Master Destruction Magic requires both hands to cast and has a 3 second charge-up time. Of the three spells you'll gain access to by completing the Destruction Ritual Quest at Destruction 100, only one is practical: Lightning Storm. Its strength lies in its focused damage and ability to stagger dragons for a length of time. In fact, it's now my favorite weapon against dragons. As they descend, you get time to charge up and prepare your beam. It might work well against enemy mages but archers will stagger you, while melee charges in to interrupt you with a big power attack. Try initiating this spell from stealth to give you that extra time to charge up.
The charge-up time is the downfall of the other two spells. You can be interrupted by power/stagger attacks during the charge period, which is about 3 or 4 seconds. When charged, Fire Storm will deal big damage in an explosion and leave some lingering flames. Its damage is pitiful against stronger foes, but can be used to level armies of small mobs like skeletons and skeevers.
Blizzard is another bag all its own. Its only merit might be draining stamina. The damage is pathetic. The only upside is that the Blizzard hangs in the area where it was cast for 10 seconds, so you can have it ready to assist you with approaching mobs.
Sure, there are strategies for using these spells effectively but overall Blizzard and Fire Storm are lacking. Why bother when you could simply destroy them with dual cast incinerate?
Spell List by Element
Here's a list of the Destruction spells in Skyrim that are not quest-specific, by element in order of difficulty. I've included screenshots of some of these spells in action. Please note that mana costs are base and for ocmparison only. Your mana cost will go down with destruction skill level and the half mana cost perks. Additionally, you can Enchant helmets, chest armor, necklaces and rings to reduce the mana cost of Destruction spells, even to 0.
Fire Spell List
Fire spells deal additional damage over time to enemies when they are hit by a spell. Early on, the Flames spell is the best choice for leveling Destruction. You can do massive amounts of damage to multiple enemies by spraying an area back and forth. To be mana-efficient and deal lots of damage to a single target, fire in quick bursts. Fire spells take the least mana of the three types and will serve you well, but the Intense Flames perk causes enemies to flee - which is annoying. Frost and Shock type spells get more useful bonuses. Frost Trolls, Frost Dragons and Ice Wraiths are examples of enemies weak to fire.
|Destruction Fire Spells|
|Spell Name||Skill Level||Magicka||Spell Description|
|Flames||Novice||14/sec||Deals 8 damage per second. Spray in short bursts to stack flames on the enemy. This can work on crowds, too. This spell can't stagger, as that would be overpowered.|
|Firebolt||Apprentice||41||Solid, direct damage doing 25 + 2.5 burning damage to a target. Dual casting this to stagger enemies will get you through to Fireball and Incinerate.|
|Fire Rune||Apprentice||234||Use this to set traps, or simply drop it at the enemy's feet. It's a very mana-hungry spell and should only be used when you need an extra trick up your sleeve. Cast this, then let your mana regen. That applies to all runes. I never bothered to use them with my pure mage.|
|Fireball||Adept||133||At almost half the cost of a Fire Rune spell, Fireball dishes 50 damage to enemies in an area. You don't even have to hit your target, and can fire strategically to hit multiple foes at once. When a pack is swarming you, fire at their feet. Not recommended if you have a melee follower. I let mine go during this training period, as it was simply too dangerous.|
|Flame Cloak||Adept||289||For the next 60 seconds, enemies near you will take 10 + 2 burning damage every second they are within range. It's a good spell when you're swarmed, as even when you're dodging enemy attacks you will be doing some damage. Heavy use of Cloak spells may work well with certain builds.|
|Incinerate||Expert||298||Deals 60 + 6 burning damage to a target. As soon as you can cast this more than two or three times without running out of mana it'll be your go-to for most fights. It's the cheapest of the 3 spells in its tier and still manages to pump out damage - more thanks to the burning effect. The cost is high enough that you'd better either invest lots of level-up points into mana or Enchant gear to reduce the Magicka cost.|
|Wall of Flames||Expert||118/sec||Spray it at the enemy's feet, or in their path to deal damage over time (50/sec). This can be a very fun spell to use with the Unrelenting Force shout. You'll probably spend so much time using Incinerate and Thunderbolt that you barely notice your Dovahkiin know this spell.|
|Fire Storm||Master||1426||Deals 100 fire damage + 40 burning damage over 4 seconds to enemies in a wide area. This is the reward from Faralda for the Destruction Ritual quest. The other two elements' equivalents must be bought at nearly 3k gold each. It's really not a great spell but can help you deal area damage to soften enemies before a fight - by preparing as they charge at you (at a distance for fear of interrupt) or sneaking nearby to 'deploy the bomb'. Playing on Skyrim's Master difficulty this damage is very very disappointing.|
Frost Spell List
Ice spells deal their power as stamina damage to the target and slow them. Stamina damage can stop enemies from landing power attacks, which helps your defense - a benefit outshined by the ease with which you can kite slowed melee attackers. The problem with this school, is that it is the one most likely to be resisted due to the number of Nords in the game. Compare that to Dark Elves who are resistant to Fire and the difference is staggering. So, your common bandit is likely to be a Nord. It's not a big deal though, the slowing effect is still very handy. After all, if something is nearly immune to your frost spells odds are they are weak to Fire and you'll have those spells too. The special perk for this school will paralyze an enemy when they hit 20% health. A lot of enemies will be resistant to this, but it can definitely help with groups of attackers and is particularly nasty with Area spells.
|Destruction Frost Spells|
|Spell Name||Skill Level||Magicka||Spell Description|
|Frostbite||Novice||16/sec||This is helpful for kiting melee attackers when your health is now, you'll usually pick flames over this for its lower mana cost and stacking damage.|
|Ice Spike||Apprentice||48||Direct damage, 25 points. You can slow a select target at range to impede their advance to the battle site.|
|Frost Rune||Apprentice||293||Same as with fire, except it wil slow enemies and deal stamina damage.|
|Ice Storm||Adept||144||Sends out a wide blast of cold, slowing enemies caught in its wake. This can go through walls so be very careful using it near civilization. That mechanic can be used to your favor if your enemies are hiding behind something. Dual cast this to stagger your foes and slow multiple attackers at once.|
|Frost Cloak||Adept||316||Does less damage (8/sec for 60 seconds) than Fire Cloak, but may be very useful when multiple melee attackers are nearby. Their stamina will drain pretty quickly, giving you a defensive advantage.|
|Icy Spear||Expert||320||Fires a big spike of ice at a single target, dealing 60 damage. If you focus in Frost damage, it'll be your bread and butter spell for mastering Destruction|
|Wall of Frost||Expert||137/sec||Makes icy spikes on the ground that deal damage and have a chance to slow opponents. Deals 50 damage per second. For once, a frost spell is not weaker than fire. It can do great area damage, but you've gotta get good at predicting enemy movements.|
|Blizzard||Master||1106||Creates a Blizzard centered on the caster. It is a very wide area, and enemies entering it will take 20 points per second as long a they are in the Blizzard, which lasts 10 seconds. Since it sticks around where it's cast, you can cast this then retreat behind it so melee attackers have to pass through. If you play on high difficulty you'll be sad to see this damage is too weak.|
Shock Spell List
Shock spells will do an additional 50% of their damage to an enemy's Magicka reserves. It's not all that useful as most casters go down fast, but its true impact is kind of hidden. A warrior who has a load of Health will probably be out of mana by the time he's low, preventing him from possibly casting a Restoration spell. Shock spells travel fastest of the three (they are lightning bolts) so they are much, much easier to aim. You won't need to lead a target with Lightning Bolt like you would with Fire Bolt. Lightning spells do use the most mana and aren't for long range attacks, but their mid-range damage can be devastating. This element gets the coolest special perk, Disintegrate. Targets under 15% health will be instantly reduced to dust, which usually has all the loot intact. Shock resistant enemies are very rare, while all Dwemer machines are weak to it.
|Destruction Shock Spells|
|Spell Name||Skill Level||Magicka||Spell Description|
|Sparks||Novice||19/sec||Unless you're fighting a dwemer, you probably shouldn't be using this spell. The mana cost is too high for its 8 points/sec in damage. You're better off sticking to flames when you can and waiting for Lightning Bolt|
|Lightning Bolt||Apprentice||51||Deals 25 damage. A nasty spell that is easy to aim at moving targets, although its range is not as long as you might think. The arc ends about 1/3 the distance a fire bolt would travel. Still, it's very fun with dual impact for use at staggering enemies.|
|Lightning Rune||Apprentice||323||Same as the other runes and situational, but can be used to great effect when preparing for a fight. Again, let your mana regenerate after casting this.|
|Chain Lightning||Adept||156||Deals 40 points of damage to one target, and leaps to other targets if they are in range. Don't let this spell's in-game description fool you, it can fry whole packs of monsters - not just a lone "second target". It really shocks everything around its target of impact, and is very beautiful to behold. Works great with Disintegration and you will fall back to this spell at times in lieu of Thunderbolt.|
|Lightning Cloak||Adept||370||Deals 8 points of shock damage for 60 secs to nearby enemies. Unless your perks are all in lightning, use fire cloak as it's much cheaper and does more damage. Seriously, Behthesda, the added effect of draining magicka is nearly useless so spending more mana on these spells is just pointless.|
|Thunderbolt||Expert||343||Lightning 60 damage single target spell. For some reason this can be hard to target, almost as though the bolt itself is the size of a needle or... off, somehow. Once you adapt to its quirky targeting this spell can rock with the Disintegrate perk, and becomes one of the most viable Lightning spells to use. Whip out chain lightning for the packs and use this for the big boys.|
|Wall of Storms||Expert||145/sec||The mana cost again makes this spell less useful than anything fire has to offer. Maybe it can be handy for packs of Dwemer spiders? Oh wait.. you could just use Chain Lightning and be done with it.|
|Lightning Storm||Master||138/sec||Look at that, less mana cost than Wall of Storms for 75 points/sec in damage to a single target. This spell has the most deceptive name. You'd expect clouds to form and lightning to strike enemies. Instead, you get a spell you charge up to unleash an intense stream of lightning at a target so powerful that it will disintegrate the enemy whether you have the perk or not. The light of this spell is so bright it can be hard to see your target. Thankfully, you can watch their health bar melt away. My main dragon killing tool with my mage. It doesn't seem to stagger humanoids very well but for some reason dragons can't get off a shot while being zapped by this spell. If you want to use it, either get a lot of mana or fortify your destruction with Enchants to reduce the casting cost|
Novice, Apprentice, Adept, Expert, and Master Destruction all reduce the mana cost of Destruction spells of the same rank by half. You'll need these if you want to level Destruction at all, as it's painfully slow using only flames or otherwise casting spells at twice their intended value.
Destruction Dual Casting
(level 20 Destruction Magic required)
is a requirement for any self-respecting Destruction Mage. This perk makes Destruction Mages the masters of burst damage in Skyrim. It costs more mana than both spells combined to dual cast, but it can let you dump mana into damage when you need something dead - fast. Invaluable when you grab Impact.
(level 40 Destruction Magic required)
allows you to stagger opponents when you dual-cast many Destruction spells. If you can dump the mana, you can keep them staggered. Tip: don't expend mana while the opponent is on his knees. You can only initiate stagger when they're on their feet! Impact can interrupt a dragon's breath attack, so hit him right when he says the first word of his Thu'um.
Augmented Flames, Frost and Shock
(level 30/60 Destruction Magic required)
all have 2 ranks each, giving up to +50% damage to your spells of that element. You may not want all of these, I skipped Frost. With augmented fire and lightning I can either exploit a weakness or avoid a resistance on any mob in the game.
(level 40 Destruction Magic required)
If you like runes, get this. You can set up marvelous traps without being detected by the enemy (with sneak skill). They'll come investigating and.. boom. Still, it's a perk point I regret at high level as I never use it. I can fry anything without stealth.
(level 50 Destruction Magic required)
Worst of the 3 buffs to elemental damage. While it's cool an enemy would run about in flames at 20% health, most spells won't dish enough additional fire damage to finish them off. Also, it can cause you to lose track of corpses. This brings very little to your arsenal, but can be helpful defensively - fleeing, flaming mobs don't tend to fight back.
(level 60 Destruction Magic required)
Our second enemy less than 20% health perk, this one will paralyze targets when they get too low. Doesn't work on everything. This can be a fun perk to see in action and is far better than Intense Flames.
(level 70 Destruction Magic required)
If your spell brings a target below 20% health, they are instantly disintegrated. Sometimes items are lost in the process due to a patch but I barely notice. It's cool turning that big dragon into a little ash pile. It's also kind of easy to see the ash piles so you'll miss less loot. A great perk for fans of Skyrim's lightning spells.