Racial Comparison

There are 10 races in The Elder Scrolls Online; 9 of which are divided into groups of 3 for each alliance while the 10th race, Imperials, are available to players who have purchased the ESO Imperial Edition. By default, you can only choose one of your alliances own three races or Imperial if you have access to that bonus race. Players who pre-ordered and have the Explorer’s Pack are granted the privilege of playing any race in any alliance without restriction. The races belonging to each of the game’s three alliances are:

  • Aldmeri Dominion: Altmer, Bosmer and Khajiit.
  • Daggerfall Covenant: Breton, Orismer and Redguard.
  • Ebonheart Pact: Argonian, Dunmer and Nord.

Every race has 4 passive abilities which give them unique flavor and abilities. Some of these passives are shared between races, for example both Khajiit and Orcs have access to the Robust passive. The first passive bonus for each race is automatically available at level one without requiring a skill point to be spent. It grants a a 15% experience bonus when training a specific weapon or armor skill line. The specific skill line each race earns a bonus towards is in-line with the lore, background, and cultural preferences of each race. Since this first passive is only of temporary benefit while leveling your character it should not be a large factor in determining the best choice for your intended class. Everyone will end up with their used skill lines leveled to the maximum, so while this is a useful benefit to have while leveling these first-tier passives offer no long-run utility.

The subsequent three passives in each racial tree each have three ranks, which increase in power as you invest additional skill points into them. Not all racial passives can be unlocked right away. In fact, only the first rank of the second passive will be available to you starting at level 5. The rest will become available as your character progresses further in levels. All of the passives will become available to be unlocked prior to reaching level 50, however.

 

Altmer (High Elf)

The Altmer are one of the very best options for a mage-type characters both within the Aldmeri Dominion and in ESO in general. The Altmer enjoy an increase in the size of their base Magicka pool, its recovery speed, and a damage boost for all elemental effects greatly benefits your damage output. Altmer are a highly recommended race for Sorcerers and Dragonknights, but are also an excellent choice for Templar players. Altmer are slightly less useful for Nightblades since they do not utilize as many sources of elemental damage.

Icon Passive Name Effect
Destruction Talent Increases experience gain with the Destruction Staff Skill Line by 15%.
Spellcharge Increases Magicka Recovery while in combat by 3/6/9%.
Gift of Magnus Increases Maximum Magicka by 4/7/10%.
Elemental Talent Increases damage with Cold, Fire or Shock effects by 2/3/4%.

 

Bosmer (Wood Elf)

altmer avatar

Bosmer, or “Wood Elves” are a useful race for stealthy builds revolving around stamina/melee. Choosing a Bosmer may also be a good option for players who want to heavily use the Werewolf skill line. Werewolves take +50% extra poison damage, so the Bosmer racial resistance fo poison can help to offset one of the largest negatives of Lycanthropy. Bosmer are a recommended race for Nightblades or melee Sorcerers, and are additionally the best tanking race within the Aldmeri Dominion because of their increased Stamina and Stamina Recovery.

Icon Passive Name Effect
Archery Expertise Increases experience gain with Bow Skill Line by 15%.
Vigor Increases Stamina Recovery while in combat by 3/6/9%.
Resist Affliction Increases Poison and Disease Resistance by 375/750/1125. Increases Maximum Stamina by 1/2/3%.*
Stealthy Decrease Stealth radius by 1/2/3 meters. Increases damage done while Stealthed by 3/6/10%.
* Poison and Disease Resistance values scale up with the character. The displayed values are taken from a vr14 character.

 

Khajiit

khajiit avatar

Khajiit are statistically similar to the Bosmer, but with the extra Weapon Critical chance Khajiit is more offensive option. The increased Critical chance gives Khajiit players the highest potential crit percentage in the game using melee weapons. Khajiit share the Stealthy passive with Bosmer and are an excellent choice for players wanting to take advantage of a stealth playstyle as well as builds designed to use melee weapons or bows.

Icon Passive Name Effect
Medium Armor Expertise Increases experience gain with the Medium Armor Skill Line by 15%.
Robust Increases Health Recovery while in combat by 10/20/30%.
Stealthy Decrease Stealth radius by 1/2/3 meters. Increases damage done while Stealthed by 3/6/10%.
Carnage Increases Weapon Critical by 2/4/6%.

 

Breton

breton avatar

Bretons are an incredibly versatile race. Their Magicka management is the best of all races with both increased base Magicka pool as well as percentage reduction in cost of casting spells. Given the importance of class skills and the prevalence of Magicka based spells in ESO, Breton can be an excellent race for almost any playstyle. Breton characters can also be strong tanks, since it is often easier to boost your character’s Armor value than it is to increase Spell Resistance, which is a valuable defensive attribute.

Icon Passive Name Effect
Light Armor Affinity Increases experience gain with the Light Armor Skill Line by 15%
Gift of Magnus Increases Maximum Magicka by 4/7/10%.
Spell Resistance Increases Spell Resistance by 100/200/300.*
Magicka Mastery Reduces the Magicka Cost of Spells by 1/2/3%.
* Spell Resistance values scale up with the character. The displayed values are taken from a vr14 character.

 

Orismer (Orc)

orismer avatar

Orsimer make great tanks and defensive characters because of their increased Health and Stamina pools. This doesn’t mean they can’t be a damage dealing race. The Swift passive opens the door for interesting gameplay options which take advantage of stacking run speed bonuses or charge attacks. Orc Templar builds leveraging Focused Charge or archer builds taking advantage of high movement speed are excellent ways to get the most out of the Orsimer racial bonus.

Icon Passive Name Effect
Heavy Armor Expertise Increases experience gain with the Heavy Armor Skill Line by 15%.
Brawny Increases Maximum Health and Maximum Stamina by 2/4/6%.
Robust Increases Health Recovery while in combat by 10/20/30%.
Swift Reduces Sprint Cost by 4/8/12% and increases Sprint speed by 3/6/10%. Increase damage on Charge attacks by 2/4/6%.

 

Redguard

redguard avatar

Redguard characters are arguably the best starting point for any melee build in ESO, whether offensive or defensive. The Adrenaline passive gives them the highest Stamina sustain in the game which is extremely important for damage and defensiveness during long fights. Redguard are the best option for Nightblades within the Daggerfall Covenant as well as any class planning to use physical melee attacks.

Icon Passive Name Effect
Shield Affinity Increases experience gain with the One-Handed and Shield Skill Line by 15%.
Vigor Increases Stamina Recovery while in combat by 3/6/9%.
Conditioning Increases Maximum Stamina by 4/7/10%.
Adrenaline Rush Restores 24/48/72 Stamina to player when damaging an enemy with a Melee attack. This can happen no more than once every 5/3/3 seconds.*
* The Adrenaline Rush values scale up with Stamina. The displayed values are taken with the Stamina resource softcapped.

 

Argonian

argonian avatar

Argonians are a fantastic race selection for Ebonheart Pact players who are planning to rely heavily on Alchemy and potions or players intent on utilizing the Werewolf skill line. Argonians, thematically, are intended to be excellent healers, but Dunmer are superior in this role. Like Orsimer and Redguard within the Daggerfall Covenent, Argonians are a capable defensive race benefitting from increased Healing receieved, benefitting any class or build designed to have strong self-healing. Argonians are also particularly good Nightblades, taking advantage of an excellent synergy with the Catalyst ability.

Icon Passive Name Effect
Restoration Expertise Increases experience gain with the Restoration Skill Line by 15%.
Amphibious Increases swimming speed by 50% and the effectiveness of potions by 5/10/15%.
Argonian Resistance Increases Maximum Health by 1/2/3% and Poison and Disease Resistance by 375/750/1125.*
Quick to Mend Increases Healing received by 2/4/6%.
* Poison and Disease Resistance values scale up with the character. The displayed values are taken from a vr14 character.

 

Dunmer (Dark Elf)

dunmer avatar

Dunmer, or Dark Elves, are easily the best Dragonknight option in the game as well as in the Ebonheart Pact. Almost all Dragonknight class abilities are fire-based, allowing Dunmer to take advantage of their Flame Talent bonus. Dunmer are also the best choice for players determined to be Vampires, since their increased Flame Resistance helps offset the Vampire succeptibility to fire which is the biggest weakness of Vampirism. Furthermore, Dunmer are the best spellcasters in the Ebonheart Pact with an increased Magicka pool, particularly for Fire-based Destruction Staff builds.

Icon Passive Name Effect
Ambidexterity Increases experience gain with the Dual Wield Skill Line by 15%.
Dynamic Increases Maximum Magicka and Stamina by 2/4/6%.
Resist Flame Increases Flame Resistance by 525/1050/1575. Increases Maximum Magicka by 1/2/3%.*
Flame Talent Increases Spell Damage with Fire effects by 3/5/7%.
* Flame Resistance values scale up with character level. The displayed values are taken from a vr14 character.

 

Nord

nord avatar

Nord passives are extremely valuable for aspiring tanks. The Rugged passive which reduces incoming damage is incredibly valuable for endgame damage mitigation, and while their increased Frost Resistance is not particularly useful in current endgame encounters, it will certainly provide a large bonus in future content. For damage-dealing or healing characters, Dunmer and Argonian make better choices within the Ebonheart Pact, but Nords are arguably the best race for tanking within the entire game.

Icon Passive Name Effect
Two-Handed Weapon Expertise Increases experience gain with Two-Handed Weapon Skill Line by 15%.
Robust Increases Health Recovery while in combat by 10/20/30%.
Resist Frost Increases Frost Resistance by 525/1050/1575. Increases Maximum Health by 1/2/3%.*
Rugged Reduce incoming damage by 2/4/6%.
* Frost Resistance values scale up with the character. The displayed values are taken from a vr14 character.

 

Imperial

imperial avatar

Imperials are the special race unlocked through the ESO Imperial Edition and they come with a special passive which makes them unique. The Health return offered by Red Diamond is great for builds which already have high melee sustain like Dragonknights, Nightblades, or melee Sorcerers. Increased base Health and Stamina pools are incredibly useful for creating a well-rounded character with high overall stat pools, making Imperial a versatile race that make them a good choice for Stamina-based offense or tanking.

Icon Passive Name Effect
Shield Affinity Increases experience gain with the One-Handed and Shield Line by 15%
Tough Increases Maximum Health by 4/8/12%.
Conditioning Increases Maximum Stamina by 4/7/10%.
Red Diamond Melee attacks have a 10% chance to restore 64/128/192 Health.*
* The Red Diamond values scale up with Stamina. The displayed values are taken with the Health resource softcapped.

A big thanks to Tamriel Foundry member @Vixx for his hard work updating and modernizing this page!