Should you Play Magicka vs. Stamina in The Elder Scrolls Online

Welcome back to another episode of Battleground Bully.  In this episode, I weigh in on the differences between magicka or stamina based character in The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) Player vs. Player (PvP).  Similar to Class Strengths and Weaknesses, this is an opinion based guide.  This is what I’ve noticed over four years of playing PvP with over 15 characters to max level end game.  The purpose of this guide is to give you the understanding of why you should pick either magicka or stamina in ESO.  Let’s begin by breaking things down starting with attributes.

Attributes Matter!

When ESO launched, my number one most frequent question was “where should I put my attributes?”  While this seemed very simple to me, most folks came from different games (I’m talking about you Skyrim) and attributes were vital to character progress. In ESO, the attribute question is really this, are you planning on playing a magicka based character or a stamina one (tanks a mix of all including health)?  The reason being increase your main stat (magicka/stamina/health) typically increase your abilities effectiveness due to “scaling.”

In general, class abilities scale off your max values (max stamina/magicka and weapon/spell power) or whatever is listed on the skill.  When you level and morph a skill, you’ll often get a choice for the ability to cost and scale off stamina or magicka.  The more of the stat you have, the more damage, healing and shielding you’ll get.  Unless you’re a tank, spend all 64 attributes into magicka or stamina for this reason.  You can make up health or your secondary stat pool with food, passives, armor or something else.  If you want the hardest hitting magicka Sorcerer, you’ll need a ton of max magicka and spell damage.  You want the nasty stealth ganking Nightblade, you’ll need a ton of max stamina and weapon damage.  There are exceptions to the rule with proc sets, critical multiplier and CP modifications but it’s a good starting concept for most players to understand.

Range vs Melee

The first major distinction in if you should play magicka or stamina is weapon skill lines and their active/passive skills.  Magicka builds typically favor range because Destruction Staff has multiple spammable main attacks which supplements classes that don’t.  This isn’t the only way to play a magicka based build as Templar has Puncturing Sweeps an AoE melee ability, Nightblades have Concealed Weapons, etc.  In general, Destruction Staff gives you an awesome ranged main attack that can be deadly from afar leaning towards ranged.

Stamina has the Bow which has a super powerful Damage over Time (DoT) that acts as an execute (finishing move).  Bow does have a main spammable (Snipe) but it’s not nearly as effective due to its long cast time, ability to be interrupted, reflected or dodged.  But stamina does have two mega powerful melee skill lines both with huge advantages, two-handed and dual wield.  I’m not going to break down each skill, but you have mobility, healing, and damage from either of these two skill lines.

Can you play magicka as a melee and be effective?  Yes.  Can you play stamina ranged and be effective?  Yes.  But in each case, you need to examine the active and passive skills and see how they lend to YOUR play style.  I love using a two-handed axe on my stamina Dragonknight to supplement my lack of a execute.  I love using a Destruction Staff on my Magicka Sorcerer for a main spammable to proc Crystal Fragments.  Examine your class and see what it is you lack then use your weapon skill lines to determine HOW you are going to play (ranged or melee).


Moving around the battle field is paramount to success in PvP.  There are two things that are vital to your PvP build, speed and movement freedom.  For speed, most classes have access to some type of expedition buff (major or minor) which increases your speed.  Stamina builds can use the Bow Hasty Retreat passive and dodge roll gaining speed for a brief time.  While magicka builds can use the Vampire skill line and gain major expedition while in Mist form.  There are also multiple potion recipes that reward major expedition but those typically have a stamina benefit.

The medium armor passive rewards faster speeds the more medium armor you wear.  Now you can even change your jewelry trait to Swift giving you more speed (on top of Orc, Steed Mundus, etc.).  For those that want all out speed (besides magicka Sorcerer Bolt Escape), I’d suggest picking stamina due to the weapon/armor skill lines and potions potential to add major expedition easily to your build.

That leaves us with finding a way to get immunity to movement impairments effects such as snares (slows) and immobilization (complete stops).  Once again, stamina based builds have an advantage in two skills, one from two-handed Forward Momentum (morph of Momentum).  This removes all snares and immobilization instantly and gives you immunity for a brief period.  Also the medium armor skill Shuffle (morph of Evasion) gives you immunity and increased dodge change.

Outside of Templar, Magicka builds have a hard time looking outside their class skills or dodge rolling for movement freeing abilities.  You have the classic Vampire skill Mist Form which I’ve been using for four years.  While it does remove immobilization and snare, you also aren’t able to use active while the abilities is active nor heal effectively.  The Dragonknight recently got a massive boost to mobility with one of the Reflect Plate (morph of Reflective Scales) granting immunity to snares and immobilization.  However, the overall speed and removing of impairing effects still benefits stamina.

Survival (Shields vs Healing)

When we examine magicka vs stamina in terms of survival the armor skill lines becomes increasingly important.  Magicka has the Light Armor skill Annulment which creates a shield that absorbs damage.  The size of the shield increases based on the max magicka your character has.  While stamina has Bone Shield from the Undaunted skill which scales off of max health making it sub optimal for high stamina builds.  Another advantage to shields is you can use more than one at a time (AKA shield stacking) and they cannot be critically hit!  The main downside of shields is a short duration but can be a great form of survival.  Keep in mind not every magicka builds uses shields to survive but it’s an added tool for that play style.

While stamina builds don’t have effective shields, they do have a massive burst heal coming from the two-handed skill Rally (morph of Momentum).  But this is where the conundrum comes in, do you take Rally for a burst heal or Forward Momentum for mobility?  You can do both if you go with medium armor for immunity then Rally for the burst heal.  The problem is you’re really forced into playing with essentially two sets of skills and morphs for healing and mobility whereas magicka has a lot of options for survival.

Speaking of healing, you also have access to Vigor from the Alliance War skill line which is much more accessible to get then when it first launched.  Most highly mobile medium armor builds run Rally for a burst heal and Vigor for a heal over time (HoT), giving this play style a great boost to survivability.  Magicka builds can rely on the Restoration Staff skill line for HoTs and a self or ally shield Healing Ward (morph of Steadfast Ward).  The main benefit comes from the ultimate Lights Champion providing tons of survivability to you and/or your group.

Once again, it’s vital to examine your class skills and passives and determine your play style and grab non class specific skills that your class lacks.  A stamina Warden has a burst heal built into the class and may not run Vigor or Rally because of this.  A stamina Templar who has a cleanse might opt for Rally and Vigor on a heavy armor build because they can remove negative effects. In this case, I don’t feel there’s a strong advantage to either way, just different ways to play.


Another important factor is your Ultimate selections coming from various skill lines.  The standard in stamina builds has been Dawnbreaker (Smiting in current meta).  This skill is cheap, has tons of burst and provides a stun.  Pair this with something like a stamina Templar that lacks a reliable stun and it’s a match made in heaven.  The downside to stamina based ultimates are defensive based choices.  The Sword and Shield ultimate remains a favorite though forcing you into a specific weapon choice you may not like. I typically setup my builds to have one offensive ultimate and a defensive one.

Magicka builds have many options for damage dealing and healing based ultimates.  For damage dealing, you can go the AoE damage shredding machine from Destruction Staff Elemental Storm.  For single target nukage you can use Soul Assault (Soul Magic skill line).  Or you can opt for massive burst with Mages Guild Meteor.  Now you examine defensively and you get Alliance War Barrier, Restoration Staff ultimate Lights Champion and you have viable options without even touching your class skills.

In this instance, I tend to favor magicka builds ultimate choices selection because they have great defensive options and a variety of offensives ones too.  But I’m going to say it again, examine your class see what you lack and pair it with something from a weapon skill line.  A stamina Dragonknight has Corrosive Armor within their Earthen Heart skill line giving them crazy powerful damage mitigation ultimate and Take Flight one of the best bursting ultimate.  This is a class that can get both a powerful offensive and defensive ultimate from their class skill lines.

Armor and Gear

Magicka and stamina builds can both use heavy armor and be effective.  What separates the class is the benefits from the skill line passives not just the active skill.  An offensive advantage of magicka builds is the spell penetration from wearing five pieces of light.  The downside, spell pen doesn’t affect shields.  The upside to five pieces of medium is mobility and weapon power.  An offensive advantage for medium is that you receive more weapon critical based on how many pieces you wear not just five so running full medium 7/7 is popular.  While magicka builds can get a benefit for wearing 5 1/1 armor types if your Undaunted skill line is max to boost your main stats via Undaunted Mettle passive.  Remember, more max stats bigger shields and that’s why this setup is popular.

ESO has shifted their gear choices to benefit both magicka and stamina builds.  When Orsinium was released, Julinaos gave magicka based builds their version of “Hunding’s Rage.”  Now you look and most gear and they have similar 2, 3 and 4 pieces that add bonuses for both magicka and stamina while the five because can suit both (everyone’s favorite Sloads is an example).

When you factor in monster helms and five piece gear options, I really don’t see an advantage to either magicka or stamina.  Both have great survivability options, bursting damage, etc.  You can always run ultimate generating sets too for tanky builds.  I feel the game benefits both pretty equally whereas times it was super lopsided (Viper meta RIP).


So what does this all mean?  It means you should still pick magicka or stamina based on what looks fun and interested with your class choice.  Hopefully you can start understanding WHY people select certain play styles based on their selections.  But ultimately, I’m not always right and the player determines the ceiling not the style.

I’ll never forget seeing my friend Essa’s build for the first time.  I saw him wrecking countless people for hours on end and wondered what exactly he ran.  He showed me and I honestly didn’t believe him.  He was using weird skills, morphs and gear that no one else thought of and yet he was an absolute wrecking machine.  Pick something that is fun and master it, regardless if you pick magicka or stamina for The Elder Scrolls Online.

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