The 3 Best Skyrim Assassin Builds

Eliminate your target with a combination of stealth and sorcery.

Shadows, daggers and poison. Here are 3 of the most lethal assassin builds

In its award-winning RPG, Bethesda tosses us into Skyrim— a war-torn land populated by elves, nords, giant cat men, and dragons. As the protagonist, our primary objective after escaping an unlawful beheading is diving into the mystery surrounding the return of dragons, who had been extinct for eons. Unfortunately for the populace of Skyrim, many players (myself included) find themselves too distracted by the game’s content-rich side quests to save them from dragons. My favorite side story takes us through the return to glory of Tamriel’s most feared guild of assassins: The Dark Brotherhood.  As a member of the Dark Brotherhood, you receive targets to kill by any means necessary. With upwards of 700 hours logged across various save files, I’ve experimented with multiple different builds to find the most entertaining means of sending your victims to Oblivion. Using my results, I’ve composed 3 different builds for different tastes.

3) Stealth Archer

This is not a good time to yawn, Bear.

Chances are, if you’ve read any Skyrim-related content, you’ve heard of the Atealth Archer— and for good reason. Few things in life are as satisfying as seeing a bandit’s lifeless body topple from its ledge after being struck through with an arrow. Playing as a stealth archer means picking off your enemies one by one as they scramble in a fruitless search for their aggressor. Particularly effective for assassins, this build sneaks through enemies unseen, free to eliminate your target from a distance. Assassins must remain silent and unseen. Stealth Archers in particular need to be especially stealthy and accurate. As you level up, allocate most of your skill points in the Sneak, Archery, Illusion, and Enchanting skill trees.

  • Sneak: Deadly Aim makes your arrows three times as deadly. Muffled Movement, and later Silence, lower the amount of noise your character makes—useful for those who prefer to avoid detection.
  • Archery: Eagle Eye allows you to zoom in while aiming. Power Shot, and later Bullseye, impair your enemies movement, giving you more time to feather them with arrows as they struggle to cover the distance.
  • Illusion: Spells like Muffle and Invisibility are invaluable to a stealth archer, allowing you to move completely undetected. Quiet Casting is particularly useful as it deafens NPCs to the sound of your spells.
  • Enchanting/(Conjuration): Stealth archers can utilize either of these complimentary skills. Bound Bow summons a bow that, with the Mystic Binding perk, does more damage than Daedric Bows. Soul Stealer captures the souls of all enemies slain with conjured weapons in any available soul gems, which can then be used to enchant powerful weaponry and armor that can be sold for a higher price.

2) Pacifist

Different races have different advantages and disadvantages

In one of my favorite play-throughs, I decided I didn’t want any blood on my character’s hands. Fortunately, in no way did this impede me from becoming Skyrim’s most infamous assassin. Playing as a Pacifist means standing invisible while all the fighting happens around you, leaving you free to ponder the fragility of life as you watch NPCs tear each other apart. This Pacifist build focuses on Illusion, Conjuration, Enchanting, and Sneak.

  • Illusion: Your bread and butter. Muffle and Invisibility prevent detection while spells like Pacify, Frenzy, and Rout allow you to manipulate your foes; keeping them tranquil, turning them against each other, or causing them to flee in terror. Quiet Casting is particularly useful since this is a magic-heavy build, but most perks should be attained in this tree as they all increase the potency of your spells.
  • Conjuration: Unfortunately, some enemies are too powerful to manipulate. This is where Conjuration comes in, allowing you to summon legions of Reanimated Corpses, Frost Atronachs, and Dremora Lords—who tear your enemies apart while you remain crouched in the shadows, enjoying the fruits of their labor.
  • Sneak: Less essential than in other builds, due to Illusion. However, higher levels ensure that enemies attack each other and your summoned underlings, not you.
  • Enchanting: Essential to peak Pacifism. Allocating points into the Enchanter, Insightful Enchanter, Corpus Enchanter, and Extra Effect perks, allows the player to completely negate the magicka cost of any two schools of magic.

1) Shadowblade

Unlike the Stealth Archer, who prefers to keep his distance, the Shadowblade likes it up close and personal. This build is for players who like a faster, more action-oriented play style. Cloaking themselves in shadows to hide from his enemies, this build creeps from target to target, appearing only in brief glimpses as his victims drop without a sound. This build emphasizes Sneak, Illusion, and One-Handed.

  • Sneak: Perks including Backstab and Assassin’s Blade increase your lethality while Light Foot and Silence keep your enemies unaware until it’s too late. Shadow Warrior shrouds the Shadowblade in its namesake, granting instant invisibility in combat—and more importantly, when mastered, allows the player to decimate small armies of foes, one by one.
  • Illusion: As always, Muffle and Invisibility reign supreme, almost rendering the Shadow Warrior perk unnecessary. With Pacify, your victim’s allies will passively look on as you eliminate their comrade.
  • One-Handed: Daggers are the Shadowblade’s weapon of choice. With the aforementioned perk Assassin’s Blade and the Shrouded Gloves, sneak attacks are multiplied thirty-fold.

These 3 builds offer distinctly different gameplay experiences, each rewarding in its own way. For beginners, I recommend either Stealth Archers or Shadowblades. Pacifists are more for experienced players who are looking to keep things interesting, like most builds with self-imposed limitations.

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In my journeys through life I've acquired several titles, including but not limited to: Arch Mage of the College of Winterhold, Witcher, Conduit, and Keyblade Master.
Gamer Since: 2000
Favorite Genre: RPG
Top 3 Favorite Games:The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Dragonborn, Devil May Cry DMC, Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Blood and Wine
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