I have the distinct privilege of being able to share with you my impressions of the Sorcerer class for the Elder Scrolls Online. For my time as a Sorcerer, I have been playing primarily as a light armor wearing, destruction staff-wielding caster Sorcerer. While this is my preferred style of play, the class has tools that lend itself to being utilized by any sort of build that you want. Want to tank? There’s tools to do that. Want to melee DPS? Yep, tools exist to do that too. Want to heal? No problem! In my personal opinion, I feel that the Sorcerer class is the most adaptable of the four classes that exist in ESO. This adaptability is a unique strength for the class and Sorcerers make for a strong starting point for practically any role.
Races, Racials, and Attributes
While the primary purpose of this article is to provide you with my impressions of the Sorcerer class itself, I think that a basic summary of my choices in other areas may help provide a more complete picture of what I am doing with the class and to perhaps offer some ideas for others as to what they may wish to accomplish with their Sorcs.
To start with my character is an Altmer. The combination of a 10% more Magicka, 10% more Magicka regen, and 6% more lighting/fire/frost damage are very strong. The experience boost to Destruction Staff is nice, but completely unnecessary in the long-run. When it comes to launch though? Sadly, I may give up my Altmer in favor of Breton or Imperial. I have no idea what the racials are for the Imperial race (at this point no one but ZOS employees do), but Bretons exchange Magicka regeneration and more damage for reduced spell costs and increased spell resistance.
Unfortunately in the Altmer vs. Breton debate, the increased Magicka regen cannot be something that I can put on the table. Because of overcharging, a mechanic where things ‘soft cap’ and you gain less and less contribution from increased stats, a light-armor sorcerer is going to hit the Magicka regen soft cap without the Altmer racial bonus. At that point the reduced costs offered by Bretons are a far more attractive option to me. The final bonus comes down to offense versus defense, and when it comes to Cyrodiil, I think that increased defensiveness will be far more key to large group versus group fights.
When it comes to attribute points, each character starts off the same no matter what race you choose (150 Health, 100 Magicka, and 100 Stamina). Each level, you gain 20 points in all three attributes for simply leveling up, and also are awarded 1 attribute point. This attribute point can be spent to gain +10 Magicka or Stamina, or +20 Health. While leveling up, my recommendation is that you skip Health in order to maximize your resource pools. This may sound odd, but while leveling you want to ensure that you minimize your downtime and waiting for your resources to regenerate constantly will slow down your rate of killing. Later on, you can respecialize your attribute points and spend them however you please, although survivability becomes much more important later on.
Weapons & Armor
For armor, I have chosen Light Armor & Heavy Armor (with a ratio of 5 light / 2 heavy). The passives offered by light armor provide me with everything I could want for the my chosen style of play (reduced costs, more Magicka regen, spell critical, spell penetration). Heavy armor is mixed in to provide a bit more survivability with increased armor and spell resistance. Other play-styles may want to mix and match other styles in different ratios, but something to remember is that the more pieces of a type of armor you have equipped, the faster your armor skills will level up. If there are certain passives you want to push for, you may even wish to put all 7 pieces of one armor type on at once to achieve your goal earlier.
When it comes to a choice of a weapon, I have embraced the Destruction Staff. Yes, the first few abilities for this weapon are slightly weak, but once you get to the point where you can unlock Force Shock, it does pick up quite a bit. Destructive Touch (and its morphs, Destructive Clench & Destructive Reach) are pretty mediocre, and do not belong on my bars at all. Wall of Elements is a solid frontal AOE ability that deals damage over time and has shifting effects based on the style of the Destruction Staff. The frost staff version tends to be the best as it adds a movement snare to anyone caught in the path of your wall. The two morphs for this ability, Unstable Wall of Elements and Blockade of Elements provide an interesting choice for players. Blockade provides you with a larger frontal AOE while Unstable Wall adds an exploding damage element to the end of the damage over time. Also, the passives are generally solid, and it is at the point right now where I have a fire staff for one weapon slot and a frost staff equipped in my secondary slot and I constantly toggle between the two, especially in PvP.
Daedric Summoning is a tree that combines two summoning abilities (Unstable Familiar and Summon Winged Twilight) with two self-buffs (Bound Armor and Conjured Ward) with a single damaging ability (Daedric Curse). While this mix of abilities make it a tree that can be dipped into for a wide variety of builds, I think the true strength of this tree are in its passives and the Ultimate (Summon Storm Atronach). I will get into more detail on the ultimate later on, but let’s take a moment to discuss the passives in this tree.
First up we have Rebate, which allows players to receive 15% of their max Magicka back when one of their summoned creatures are killed. Sadly, as I will talk more about later when I discuss Unstable Familiar, I just cannot recommend putting points into this passive as summons in ESO have some serious issues right now. Power Stone reduces the cost of Ultimate abilities by 15%, which is absolutely phenomenal and is worth spending skill points into whenever you can. Reduced costs on all my beautiful, beautiful Sorc ulti’s? Yes please!
Daedric Protection provides 20% increased Health regeneration whenever you have a Summoning ability slotted. This is okay, but unless you are stacking Health regeneration the benefits from it are not going to be all that high. Finally we have Expert Summoner, which provides a bonus depending on the summoned creature (Winged Twilight has 10% increased damage, Familiar & Clannfear have 20% more movement speed, and the Atronach has a 30% increased range). I invest points because of the buff to the Atronach more than anything else.
Unstable Familiar (Active)
I have to be up front and honest here. Until Zenimax does some significant changes to how summons work, this ability is absolutely useless in my view. Summoners have zero control over how their summoned creature behaves in and out of combat, so it’s not uncommon to see them break monsters that are crowd controlled (something that is, to be blunt, unacceptable). The sole purpose of this ability is to put it on your bar, never use it, and then gain Daedric Summoning experience until you can unlock Daedric Curse. The morphs for this ability turn it into Unstable Clannfear, a slightly more buff summon that is still generally useless and Volatile Familiar, which causes your summon to explode and do some decent damage and stun enemies. I haven’t tested this ability to see what it is capable of, but I don’t have high hopes given that there are far more useful abilities that can be slotted.
Daedric Curse (Active)
Thankfully this ability can be unlocked when Daedric Summoning reaches level 4, but sadly it’s initial usefulness is not all that high. It does a large amount of damage (which also causes splash damage on other nearby enemies) after 6 seconds, but to be honest, most mobs die in under 6 seconds to start off the game. The Velocious Curse morph shaves the time down to 3.5 seconds, which sets up a very nice combination effect with something like Mages Fury and Crystal Shard to unload a lot of damage within a short period of time, something that is effective in both PvE and PvP. The Explosive Curse morph retains the 6 second timer, but it increases the radius for the splash damage upon the explosion. No matter which morph you select, the ability can only be used on one thing at a time, so it has more use against boss encounters or single targets in PvP than in large AOE type fights.
Summon Storm Atronach (Ultimate)
This is the ultimate you want to unlock first. Hands down, this is the best ultimate Sorcerer’s have for leveling up in PvE. It tanks, it does damage, it stuns, and it lasts a really long time. There is honestly nothing more you could ask for in an ultimate ability. Basically, with this ultimate, I’ve been able to solo a lot of things that I could not have without it. It’s just that good. Dark anchors? Yep, I’ve soloed them. Boss encounters that may require a second person due to the type of mob I’m fighting? Soloed those too. In PvP, you can drop this badboy on top of keep walls to help drive away the opposing faction. I do not think I can stress the following point enough: this is the first ultimate you want to invest in.
The Dark Magic tree can be viewed as the Sorcerer’s “crowd control” tree, though it offers tools to do much more than that. Early on, Dark Magic is home to a bread & butter nuke spell (Crystal Shard) for the Sorcerer as well as a very solid AOE CC spell (Encase). The other three actives within the tree are Rune Prison (a single-target CC), Dark Exchange (sacrifice Stamina to regen Health and Magicka), and Daedric Mines (a damage-dealing ability, which can also immobilize an enemy).
The tree also contains a number of key passives: Unholy Knowledge (reduces Magicka and Stamina costs for abilities by 5%), Blood Magic (hitting an enemy with a Dark Magic spell heals the player for 5% Health), Persistance (increases duration of Dark Magic spells by 20%), and Exploitation (increases Critical Strike chance by 15% when attacking targets affected by Dark Magic).
Crystal Shard (Active)
Crystal Shard is the first ability in Dark Magic, and it is fulfills the role of the classic ‘nuke’ ability. It has a short cast time (1.3 seconds), and a reasonably high Magicka cost, but it does a significant amount of damage and knocks down the target by 2 seconds. When I acquired my first skill point in Coldharbour, this was the first ability that I purchased. It’s that good. It also remains a staple of Sorcerer damage throughout the leveling process thanks to its morphs. As an early-level ability, Crystal Shard can be morphed quite early (usually before you reach level 5), and I recommend morphing it at your first opportunity. What are the morphs?
The first morph is Crystal Blast, which adds an area-of-effect (AOE) splash effect to the ability. Basically, when you cast Crystal Blast at a target, that target takes the brunt of the damage, and then targets near them take a small amount of damage just for standing in the vicinity. The second morph, Crystal Fragment, is my preferred morph. What this morph does is that it can trigger (at a rate of 35%) an instant-cast, half-cost use of the ability after using any ability that costs Magicka.
Encase is the second ability in Dark Magic, and it is an AOE crowd control ability. It is instant-cast and immobilizes enemies in front of you for several seconds. For PvE the ability has some limited usefulness when you are leveling up, though it is worth slotting it at some point to get it to the point where you can morph it.
Encase can morph into either Shattering Prison, which adds damage to the spell once the immobilizing effect has worn off, and Restraining Prison, which adds a movement debuff (or snare) to targets once the immobilizing effect has ended. Both abilities can be quite useful, but in my view, I think Restraining Prison takes the cake. The root + snare combo can be key in a number of different PvP situations, whereas the damage provided by Shattering Prison as well as the Magicka cost of this ability does not make it an effective ability to use for the damage aspect.
Negate Magic (Ultimate)
A class ultimate can be unlocked before level 15, but I cannot recommend new players pick up Negate Magic as their first ultimate. It’s not because this ability is bad, not at all, actually this ability is amazing, but more so for PvP than PvE. Negate Magic can have devastating effects against groups of players in PvP as it dispels any effects the enemy has placed and it silences them (prevents them from using abilities) for a nice period of time. Purchase this ability before 50 and morph it before hitting Cyrodiil, but while you are leveling up look to one of the other two trees for your ultimate needs.
The third, and final, tree for the Sorcerer class is Storm Calling, which is a lightning-themed tree full of nukes (Mages’ Fury and Lightning Splash), self-buffs (Lightning Form and Surge), and probably the best utility skill in the game (Bolt Escape). Ability for ability, it is perhaps my favorite tree out of the three trees, especially when you throw in the ultimate (Overload) and the various passives the tree has to offer.
Storm Calling’s first passive is sets this tree down a path of awesome. Capacitor increases Magicka regeneration by 10%. Energized, the second passive, increases the damage of every ability in this tree by 5%. Disintegrate gives all Lightning spells a 10% chance to instantly disintegrate low Health targets, and the last passive, Expert Mage, reduces the cost of Storm Calling spells by 10%. For those of you keeping score at home that means that every passive in this tree is both useful and awesome, something that none of the other two trees can really quite claim unless you have specific builds in mind to utilize them (well, I refer mostly Dark Magic, as I still cannot recommend that anyone uses summons until ZOS does something about them).
Mages’ Fury is a small damage ability that has a huge damaging rider on it if a target is below 20% Health (or falls to below 20% within 4 seconds of casting it). It is instant cast and can be spammed (a useful tactic on bosses in group dungeons) for as long as you have the Magicka to keep it up. The execute effect also deals a small amount of shock damage to enemies within 4 meters of the target. Once you can morph the abilty, you have two options: Mages’ Wrath causes the damage dealt to enemies within 4 meters to be increased while Endless Fury returns Magicka to you if kill the target with the ability. I personally favor Endless Fury as the explosion damage can be nice, but 4 meters is a very short distance, and I would rather have that Magicka back so I can cast something else that can potentially deal far more damage, or perform some function that will be more useful to my group.
Lightning Form (Active)
Lightning Form is a short-duration (6 seconds) self-buff that adds a lot of Armor and Spell Resistance and deals Shock damage to nearby enemies every second. Even if you decide to go 7 pieces in Light Armor, this ability will let you tank anything just based on the amount of armor and spell resist it provides, especially when combined with another other Sorc armor self-buffs (I’m looking at you Bound Armor). For morphs, Lightning Form can be morphed into Thundering Presence, which adds to the duration of the ability, or to Boundless Storm, which adds a significant (and by this I mean that you will be faster than most people on horses until they have spent a good amount of time and money to upgrade their horse) movement speed buff for the duration of the ability.
Overload is the unique child out of the three Sorc ultimates. Whereas the Storm Atronach and Negate Magic are one-time ground-target effects, Overload is a toggle. Basically, when you reach enough Ultimate, you can toggle this on and off to become Emperor Palpatine and zap tons of dudes with lots and lots of lightning. It looks awesome, it does awesome damage, and everyone wants to be a Sith lord. There are two attack types, a light single-target attack you can trigger by left-clicking, but hold that left click down? That’s when the party starts. Overload doesn’t quite match up to the Storm Atronach though when it comes to making rough PvE encounters far easier, but it can destroy large groups with lots of AOE damage, and can make AOE grinding somewhat easier if this is something you want to do. My opinion though is to get Storm Atronach and hold off on Overload until later on. It synergizes well with abilities you can obtain later in the game, and that’s when it really comes into its own.
Other Skill Lines
Once you reach your faction’s first main zone (Glenumbra for Daggerfall Covenant, Stonefalls for Ebonheart Pact, and Auridon for Aldmeri Dominion), you have the option of joining the Fighters Guild and Mages Guild. While both guilds provide a number of very good abilities to round out your character builds, the focus of this article is early-game content and thus I can only really talk about the first ability in each guild.
Silver Bolts is available upon achieving rank 2 in the Fighters Guild (which you can obtain by killing undead and daedra), and it is a Stamina-based nuke that can knock down undead and daedra and has a small chance to ‘banish’ these enemies for a huge amount of bonus damage. The ability can be morphed to either Silver Shard, which hits two nearby targets for reduced damage, and Silver Leash, which allows you to pull the target to you after activating the ability twice against the same target. Also, the animation for this ability is cool as it shows you firing a crossbow. What more could you want?
Upon reaching the 2nd rank in the Mages Guild (requires you to go out and find specific lore books, there are enough in the first zones to reach rank 3, if you find them all), you will unlock the Magelight ability. Magelight requires 5% of your Magicka to remain active as it is a toggle ability. A rotating light will appear next to your character that will help reveal hidden and invisible enemies near you (useful for PvP), but it also increases your Spell Crit chance by 10%! The Inner Light morph adds yet another 10% chance to crit for a whopping 20% Spell Crit chance when the ability is active! Radiating Magelight makes it so that anyone who wants to get a sneak attack off on a nearby ally will have their damage dramatically decreased (unfortunately this damage debuff doesn’t work against you, so while it can be useful, I personally find the 10% more crit to be far better).
The Undaunted are a third guild currently in the game, and they are something unique to ESO. A group of hearty warriors, they seek to challenge players to go out and achieve great feats to earn reputation with them, or to put it more simply, go and do 4-man dungeons, earn achievements, get Undaunted XP. There are 5 abilities, but the only one you can earn before level 15 (because you start with it unlocked) is Blood Altar. This ability increases Health recovery of nearby allies and allows allies to activate a synergy to heal themselves. I find this ability to be very situation, and it is not something I am going to invest one of my first few skill points into.
The last thing we can talk about here is the World skill line, Soul Magic. Soul Magic progresses as you progress through the main story quests (they happen every 5 levels, basically), but to start off with you have access to the lone active ability, Soul Trap, which puts a small DOT on an enemy and fills an empty soul gem if the enemy dies while affected. You can morph this ability to either fill up a second soul gem, or to restore Health, Magicka and Stamina when the target dies. Personally, I put it on my bar when I desperately need more filled soul gems, but for the most part I don’t use it.
Have Questions, Ask! Now that I have provided my impressions, I am going to open up the comment section of this article to answer any questions you may have regarding the Sorcerer. Keep in mind that I can only answer questions that pertain to the early levels of ESO (levels 1 to 15).