Necromancer casting a spell wearing hooded robe and a skull mask
Image via Jayysee

How to Make the Best Necromancer Build in Skyrim Special Edition

Check out this pure necromancer build for Skyrim Special Edition. We've got everything you need to satisfy that rotting zombie tooth.

One of the best ways to play Skyrim is as a necromancer. This game’s beauty (and curse) is that you can play any necromancer you want, but it’s easy to stray away from items and gear that empower you as this dark mage. So, here’s some help making the best necromancer build possible.

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Best Necromancer Build in Skyrim

If you wear heavy armor, use a two-handed weapon, and raise the dead, you’re more of a death knight than a necro. You’ll want to focus on all magical and conjuration items that will fully focus on a necromance-style play. This is, in my opinion, the best way to play a necromancer in Skyrim Special Edition without throwing in the crazy customization that mods bring. 

Race – Dunmer (Dark Elves) or Breton

When picking the best race for a necromancer, it can be anyone you like best. However, some races have skills that cater more to the magical side that necromancers require. If you want the most effective stats, the Dunmers and Bretons are some of the best options.

Dunmers

Something about Dark Elves make them seem like the natural fit. They’re skilled with magic, are somewhat sneaky, and don’t have the best reputation around Skyrim.

One male Dunmer and one female Dunmer side by side
Image by GameSkinny

The Dunmers already begin with an advantage in magical abilities, primarily in Destruction, making them one of the best choices for a necromancer build in terms of stats. They also have higher sneak and light armor skills if you want to go for a stealthier play style.

  • Magic Skills:
    • Conjuration – 15
    • Restoration – 15
    • Illusion – 20
    • Alteration – 20
    • Destruction – 25

Bretons

Bretons aren’t a bad choice, either. They’re naturally slanted toward Conjuration and all types of magic in general, the heart and soul of the necromancer. 

One male Breton and one female Breton side by side
Image by GameSkinny

While the Dunmers focus more on Illusion, Alteration, and Destruction, the Bretons mostly hone in on Conjuration, which is one of the most important skills for a necromancer. Even though they’re known to be a more peaceful race, there is always room for one to turn down the wrong path.

  • Magic Skills:
    • Conjuration – 25
    • Restoration – 20
    • Illusion – 20
    • Alteration – 15
    • Destruction – 15

Skills – Conjuration & Destruction

Every time you level up, you’ll get a skill point to put into one of the major skill trees. If you want to properly build your necromancers to be the most powerful they can be, there are a few skills you should focus on leveling up as much as possible.

Skill menu centered on Conjuration skill tree constellation of stars
Screenshot by GameSkinny

Conjuration – Necromancy

Necromancers bring dead things back to life. That’s just what they do. Even though Atronachs can be useful for getting the first few enemies down, they aren’t your focus. By focusing on the necromancy line of spells and perks, you get bigger, beefier, longer-lasting zombies. I don’t have to tell you how useful this is, especially when you max out Conjuration and get to the point of having two summons.

  • Best Skills to Get:
    • Novice Conjuration – Apprentice Conjuration – Adept Conjuration – Expert Conjuration – Master Conjuration
    • Necromancy – Dark Souls – Twin Souls
    • Conjuration Dual Casting
    • Summoner

Destruction – Ice

Summoning the dead isn’t the only trick up your sleeve, though. Most of your damage output will come from zombies, but you still need to be able to defend yourself. This is especially important when you don’t have corpses available for summoning. 

Ice spells are great because they slow your enemy down and sap their stamina. Even though fire does more damage, the utility of ice is what makes these spells rock. Just keep a close eye on your magicka. You don’t want to use up so much of it with Destruction spells that you don’t have any left to summon your zombie!

  • Best Skills to Get:
    • Novice Destruction – Apprentice Destruction – Adept Destruction – Expert Destruction – Master Destruction
    • Augmented Frost – Deep Freeze
    • Destruction Dual Casting – Impact

Alteration – Mage Armor

I won’t lie — I hate the mage armor spells. They don’t last nearly long enough, in my opinion. (Magic mods can help with that.) But they’re still necessary due to how fragile you are. Because you won’t be investing much in health or wearing much armor, you’ll need all the help you can get, especially when you go up against archers who are focusing more on you than your summons.

To help conserve your magicka for more offensive spells, cast your mage armor right before a fight and let your magicka recover for a few seconds. Once the battle starts, magicka regeneration slows to a crawl. 

  • Novice Alteration – Apprentice Alteration – Adept Alteration – Expert Alteration – Master Alteration
  • Mage Armor
  • Alteration Dual Casting
  • Stability

Spells – Raise Zombie

Your primary way of battling as a necromancer will be spell-casting, which goes hand-in-hand with the skills you are focusing on. You’ll want to use spells that complement those skills.

You can find spell books all around Skyrim, even in dungeons. However, the best way to build your collection is to head to any of the Hold Keeps, where the Jarls are, and find their Court Wizard. They will sell you a large selection of spells. Here are some of the ones you’ll want to look out for:

  • Oakflesh / Stoneflesh / Ironflesh / Ebonyflesh: An alteration spell that improves your armor rating. You’ll want to use this right after using your Mage Armor.
  • Dragonhide: Allows you to ignore 80% of incoming physical damage.
  • Paralyse / Mass Paralyse: An alteration spell that will leave your targets vulnerable to your following attacks. Always good to have.
  • Equilibrium: This is an especially good spell for any dark wizard to have. It allows you to convert some of your health into magicka. You’ll be able to cast more, but you’ll sacrifice some of your own wellbeing, so use it wisely.
  • Raise Zombie / Reanimate Corpse / Revenant / Dread Zombie: Will raise a dead body as a zombie that will fight for you for a short while.
  • Dead Thrall: Reanimates a dead body to fight beside you permanently until they are defeated.
  • Frostbite / Ice Spike / Icy Spear / Ice Storm: These are all great destruction ice spells that you’ll want at your disposal, especially if you’re building your destruction skills.

Weapons – Ice Staff or Raise Zombie Staff

If you don’t want to solely use spells as your main source of damage, there are some decent weapons fitting of a necromancer — staves. You can get them the same way you get spells, by purchasing them from Court Wizards or finding them as loot. Alternatively, you can also create your own at a Staff Enchanting station.

There are a few different types of staves you might want to consider using:

Staff of Ice Spikes/Staff of Icy Spear

The first is a staff focus on ice damage, doing basically the same thing as your Icey Spear spell, but you won’t have to use any magicka for them.

Staff of Zombies / Staff of Reanimation / Staff of Revenants / Staff of Dread Zombies

These staff will raise dead bodies to fight for you, whether for a few seconds or permanently. Again, the idea is it saves you from having to use precious magicka, which you can then use for mage armor or offensive ice spells. 

Dragon Shout – Soul Tear

This one takes a while to get and is only available with the Dawnguard DLC, but I think it fits the necromancer mindset and play style more than any other.

When you hit an enemy using all three words of the shout, three fun things happen:

  1. You do a lot of damage (about 300)
  2. If you kill it, you fill an empty soul gem
  3. AND the body is raised from the dead to fight for you.

Win – Win – Win. The only sad news is that when the zombie dies, the corpse disintegrates like most other zombies you summon. But the good news is that this shout can be used to reanimate enemies that are usually too powerful. Giants are the main ones that come to mind. If you’ve reached a point where your Raise Zombie spells can’t raise most enemies you’re facing, this is a decent option.

Apparel – Necromancer Robes

This might be self-explanatory, but Necromancer Robes are the best type of apparel for this build. They won’t usually be for sale. Instead, you’ll have to find them on enemy necromancers (or sometimes in chests).

Dunmer in a black necromancer robe with a green skull on the front of it
Image via Skyrim Official Wiki

No, they aren’t the most powerful in the game. But they are good enough, AND they look the most menacing for a necromancer like yourself. The best thing is you can combine these with a hood or mask because they don’t come hooded. That opens up the door for some customization. Here are some spots where you can collect them:

  • Fellglow Keep – East by northeast of Whiterun
  • Fort Snowhawk – West of Morthal
  • Hob’s Fall Cave – On the coast between Winterhold and Dawnstar
  • Ilinalta’s Deep – Northwest shore of Lake Ilinalta, north of Falkreath.
  • Necromancer’s Bluff – East of Sleeping Tree Camp, in Whiterun’s Hold
  • The Ritual Stone – East of Whiterun
  • Wolfskull Cave – West of Solitude, North of the Statue to Meridia

Hood – Vokun Dragon Priest Mask

You can easily use just any magical hood you can find from fallen wizards or purchasable from the Court Wizards. They can assist you in keeping your magicka high and spell-casting abilities more powerful. However, there are some eccentric options to weigh as well.

When I think of a necromancer, the main aspect I think of is raising the dead. Vokun gets my vote, as the mask helps reduce the cost of your conjuration spells.

Another decent option is Nahkriin. This reduces the cost of your Destruction spells, letting you sling more ice around more liberally.

Boots – Necromancer Boots or Boots of Conjuration

You don’t want anything too armory as a necromancer, which is why I suggest continuing to focus on apparel that will empower your magical skills further. The best options are to get a matching pair of Necromancer Boots or settle for Boots of Conjuration or Boots of Destruction. You’ll find the Necromancer Boots right in the same place as the robes and other boots from the Court Wizard or if you attend the College of Winterhold.

Ring – Ring of Conjuration or Ring of Destruction

I know, this is kind of boring. However, considering that Conjuration and Destruction are your two primary sources of damage, you need to lower the magicka cost as much as possible. The Ring of Conjuration and the Ring of Destruction can do that for you. Plus, they’re easier to find in the world. You can purchase them at some Apparel shops around the world or from Court Wizards.

Another unique option is Azhidal’s Ring of Necromancy. This ring is kinda weird. It causes your reanimated minions to explode for 50 frost damage and die when they take damage. So, you’re kinda turning your zombie into a walking ice bomb. You can find it in Kolbjorn Barrow in Solstheim during the “Unearthed” quest if you have the Dragonborn DLC.

Amulet – Necromancer Amulet

The Necromancer Amulet is not an amazing amulet, but I had to include it because it shares the same name as our build. It benefits you in the two most important areas — magicka and lowering Conjuration costs. The slower stamina regen may get irritating, but only during long sprints. Besides, it makes sense that necromancers wouldn’t recover stamina all that fast. You’re a mage who (in general) is in worse shape than both rogues and warriors. 

Standing Stone – Ritual Stone

It’s always a good idea to activate a Standing Stone, no matter what character you build. The Ritual Stone is the best option for the necromancer build. It’s awesome for two reasons:

  • It allows you to raise an unlimited number of zombies- it’s only limited by how far apart you are from the corpses.
  • The corpses don’t disintegrate when they die.

Another fun fact is you can reanimate just about anything except dragons and skeletons. So even though you can’t normally reanimate that giant or mammoth — the Ritual Stone makes it possible. 

Standing Stone with carvings in it, surrounded by lit candles
Image via Skyrim Official Wiki

The Ritual Stone is East of Whiterun, between Whiterun and the Valtheim Towers. If you’re already looking for some Necromancer Robes, you can kill two crows with one stone by heading there. There are usually two necromancers guarding the spot from which you can take gear and then activate it.

Vampirism — To Suck Blood or Not?

I’ve read mixed opinions on this. On the one hand, vampires in Skyrim Special Edition have particular abilities that make sense for necromancers. On the other hand, necromancers control the undead, and vampires are undead. You would think they wouldn’t get along all that well since the necromancers tend to control the vampire’s brethren. My thought? Vampires are much, much smarter and more powerful than zombies, draugr, and skeletons. They aren’t even in the same ballpark. So vampires see those weaker forms of the undead the same way a necromancer would — as slaves to do the bidding of the more powerful life form.

Two vampires in black robes casting spells toward player
Image via Skyrim Official Wiki

If you agree, go find a vampire nest and catch yourself some Sanguinare Vampiris. You can find some vampires in these locations:

  • Bloodlet Throne – Southwest of Helgen
  • Broken Fang Cave – West by northwest of Sleeping Tree Camp, South-southwest of Swindler’s Den
  • Haemar’s Shame – East of Helgen
  • Mara’s Eye Den – Southwest of Windhelm
  • Moldering Ruins – West of Rorikstead, Southeast of Bleakwind Bluff
  • Movarth’s Lair – North of Morthal

Once you contract the disease, let it evolve and turn you into a vampire. Then, have fun terrorizing the world as both a necromancer and a vampire!

Follower – Serana

This is something else up for debate. Following on the vampire discussion, we realize that vampires and necromancers can get along. But should a necromancer take along another mage, like Serana, as their follower?

While you could settle for just about any follower, Serana is one of the most popular and powerful followers you can get. She also understands the dark side of life and won’t worry about it. Sure, it’d be nice to have a follower who tanks for you during some battles. But since both yourself and Serana will be summoning undead creatures, you probably don’t have to worry about it too much.

You can get Serena as a follower by following the Dawnguard DLC main questline and siding with her.

Conclusion

This is just an idea of how to build a pure necromancer, which is one of the best ways (in my opinion) to scour Tamriel. However, mix up some gear or spells to find what works best for you. You could also add in some mods to make things more interesting, like some better zombie mods.

If you want more sweet builds, check out GameSkinny’s Skyrim hub and follow along with our other guides, like how to become a Werewolf or the best weapons to dual-wield!


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I've probably put more hours into video games than my kid has been alive. Call of Duty, MOBAs and Skyrim are to blame!
Author
Abby Smith
Abby Smith is a super nerd and video game fanatic who grew up playing games on a variety of platforms. Since graduating, she has worked in the online journalism field for over three years. She likes to spend her free time binge-watching Netflix, reading all genres of novels, and playing all the best new video games. She is currently a full-time Staff Writer for GameSkinny, and as an alumni from Full Sail University, also enjoys dabbling in creative writing such as short stories, scripts, and comics on the side.