As you play ESO more and more, you’ll come across a huge variety of items. You’ll also see a lot of people discussing what the meta is or what is considered BIS at the time. But how good is “best in slot” gear really? Will changing weapon traits significantly affect how much damage you deal? How much does optimization really do for you in terms of damage, survivability, or healing? In this guide we’ll cover the main categories of gear and other items players consider along with how effective making those changes is.
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In my opinion this is not a “little thing,” so it doesn’t really fit into this article as one of the major topics. I believe this to be one of the most essential reasons for why a player can jump from dealing 10K DPS to upwards of 100K.
Even with all of the small details ironed out, it will only push you up from around 10K DPS to 20-30K without the proper use of skills at the right time to keep up all damaging ground AOEs, buffs, and light attack weaves. These other small details will act as the building blocks that allow you to boost your DPS even further.
It’s kind of like giving a master chef better ingredients to make the same meal. The chef’s skills need to be in place first (or in our case skill rotation and class knowledge), but they could probably still make a great meal out of the bad ingredients (bad sets and not optimized traits, mundus, etc.). These better ingredients below will help you cook up a stronger build and become a more effective player overall!
Getting all of your essential buffs from your own skill rotation can be difficult to manage as some classes do not have access to each buffing skill. It can be easy to miss a very important one that you should be supplying yourself when you have relied on your group giving you that same buff before but you are now in a different group without it.
Major Sorcery / Brutality Buff
For instance, if you usually get your Major Sorcery / Brutality buff from a Dragonknight Tank with their skill Molten Weapons but you join a dungeon group without one, what should you do? I mention this buff because this is an essential buff that will affect your damage significantly. Major Sorcery increases spell damage by 20%, and Major Brutality increases weapon damage by 20%. Because your damaging skills will likely scale off of one or the other in combination with your primary stat, this is a huge overall boost.
The easiest way to ensure that you get this necessary buff is with potions. Craft yourself up some Brutality or Sorcery potions depending on your damage type, or buy them off a guild trader and test to see how much more damage you do with them active. You’ll want them to also increase your critical chance with Major Prophecy / Savagery as well. If you have a skill that will give you these buffs already, consider using tripots instead to restore all of your resources.
Speaking of consumables, food buffs are something that newer players often forgo not wanting to spend money on getting good buff food. This is something you should definitely avoid as it’s relatively cheap to get decent blue stat food that gives you both health as well as your major resource.
Having a buff food active at all times will significantly boost your damage but also make you harder to kill in general. Max stat blue food at CP160 will give you 5395 health and 4946 of your primary stat. Having this active could prevent you from getting one shot and will also increase your DPS by a couple thousand along with making your resource management much easier.
Keep Things Practical
You can’t go wrong with more buffs, but as a DPS be sure to only slot the necessary ones so you can stock up your skill slots with damage over time skills as well as your main spammable. Tanks and Healers can customize the skill bar space with more buffs so their DPS don’t have to, decreasing the time it takes to get through content, helping your team breeze through content and avoid dangerous mechs.
Most advanced groups and even pugs will have players that give buffs to their groups in AOE skills they use. You’ll last longer and deal more damage overall with more buffs active, so be mindful of keeping those skills up on cooldown.
Armor Set Bonuses
Armor set bonuses will really affect your performance as different sets get nerfed or buffed. Having the right armor sets will change the way you deal damage and alter the strategies you use with skill rotations.
Arena weapons come to mind in particular, as they can make weapon skills that are usually considered bad transform into some of the strongest in the game. Getting your different set bonuses won’t make you the strongest in the game just by wearing them, but they’ll allow your damage ceiling to skyrocket.
What truly expands your DPS once you get your sets lined up is skill rotation, making sure to light attack weave, and keeping up your buffs. But having those strong sets in place that increase your weapon/spell damage, primary attribute, and give other damaging bonuses on top of your skill rotation will allow you to deal a lot more damage.
If you look at the guild trader often, you’ll find that many of the same items will vary in cost largely due to the trait on them.
As an example, you may see that the Robe of a Mother’s Sorrow costs around 2,000 gold if it has traits like Training, Invigorating, or Reinforced. While the same item with the Divines trait can cost upwards of 100,000.
So what’s the big deal? Are you really that much stronger with “better” traits? The answer is yes, and no.
Yes: you will deal more damage with optimized traits, and the Divines trait is the best for dealing more damage at the moment. Divines increases the potency of your mundus, strengthening how much crit chance you get if you have the Thief mundus active.
As a magicka DPS wearing Mother’s Sorrow gear, having the Divines trait over Training will increase your damage anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000, depending on how high your damage usually is. This is also highly dependent on your mundus choice. Your DPS will not increase if your mundus is not combat oriented like critical chance, critical damage, or your primary stat.
So, yes, you will notice a difference in damage if you get your armor traits just right. However, you have to line it up with the rest of your build. Divines will also be the best choice for healing, as you can critically heal and the Thief is still the current best mundus. If you are tanking, your best bet on traits would be Sturdy to make blocking easier, and Reinforced if you aren’t close enough to the 33,000 resistance cap.
With each increase in the “rarity” of your armor, your stats will also increase. The armor will protect you for more, giving you higher levels of physical and spell resistance. The traits will also increase in potency. So upgrading your green armor up to blue, purple, or even gold will increase your damage/healing/tanking ability overall.
To point back to the Divines trait example, green armor will give a 6.1% increase to your mundus stone, while blue gives 7.1%, purple gives 8.1%, and gold gives 9.1%. My tip would be to focus on getting the right armor traits on your armor, then upgrading them to purple as you can.
Golding out armor gives diminishing rewards for the extreme expense. If you are rolling in gold though, be my guest! Golding out weapons is generally more important, which we will discuss below.
Armor Type: Light, Medium, or Heavy
Armor type is also an important consideration. Remember that the armor type on weapons and jewelry have no effects on your passives. Only armor you wear as body pieces affect your armor passives, and thus damage/tankiness.
As a general rule, light armor works best on Magicka DPS and healers, medium on stamina DPS, and heavy on tanks. For each piece of light, medium, or heavy armor you wear, you’ll increase the bonuses/weaknesses that armor type has in its passives.
For example, with the light armor passive Evocation, each piece of light armor you wear increases your magicka recovery by 4%, and reduces the cost of your magicka abilities by 2%. A stamina DPS may not benefit from this. However, they would benefit from the light armor passive Prodigy that increases weapon and spell critical by 726 for each piece of light armor worn.
It’s not a bad idea to put some heavy and medium armor and a magicka DPS or healer, as they’ll become a bit tankier and benefit from new passives from it. You can even get an additional 6% in all of your resources by wearing one piece or armor type through the Undaunted Mettle passive.
Know When to Swap Weights
You may want to change what armor you have equipped depending on the fight you are in. If you find yourself dying too often, switching over from a fully light or fully medium damage focused build to include some heavy pieces will increase your survivability with higher resistances and defensive passives.
It’s easiest to do this with monster helms as you can get them in each armor type (light, medium, and heavy) while still getting the same set bonus. If you are wearing the monster set of Stormfist both as medium and are dying too often in fights, you can switch out to the same monster set but in heavy (along with some defensive traits like reinforced). This will keep you safer with the trade off of slightly less damage.
The only issue with this is getting the additional pieces and having them take up bag space, but it’s worth not having to drop out of a fight because the going gets too rough to handle with your current build/items.
Weapons Quality / Weapon Traits
Weapon traits have a larger effect on your damage, along with their quality. Increasing your armor quality will increase your DPS and survivability, of course, but increasing weapon quality will significantly upgrade your DPS.
When upgrading weapon quality, you’ll increase your weapon or spell power, having a chain reaction for increasing your damaging, healing, and shielding spells that scale off your weapon/spell power.
What type of weapon will also vary what type of damage you deal. For example, a lightning staff will offer more AOE damage than an inferno staff, but you’ll lose out on the increased single target damage inferno staves will deal. Greatswords will increase your weapon/spell damage by 284, while mauls will increase physical/spell penetration by 3300. Greatswords will win out in optimized groups that can lower enemies resistances more, while mauls will win out in situations where an enemy’s resistances are not lowered as much such as in solo play.
With these two Maelstrom’s Perfected Greatsword, one is gold quality and Nirnhoned, while the other is purple quality and Defending. The DPS increase from purple to gold (with nirnhoned) increases my weapon damage from 4142 to 4683. This is a gap of 541 weapon damage.
On my Nightblade’s Surprise Attack skill, this translates to an increase from 9223 damage with each spammable to 9927. 704 damage with each spammable will definitely stack up throughout a whole encounter. When you consider the difference with the Major Brutality buff, you get even starker differences. 4869 and 5504 weapon damage respectively, with Surprise Attacks dealing 10195 and 11022. 827 extra damage per spammable is almost an additional 1K each swing, giving yourself a huge DPS boost on top of the increased damage your other skills will have as well.
Race is something that should definitely be considered when creating characters, but certainly won’t make or break a build if you don’t pick the “best” one for the character you are building.
For example, it will be easier to tank with an Imperial or Nord than say a High Elf, but you can most certainly still tank very effectively with a High Elf. It all comes down to the racial passives each has to offer.
Race will only affect your overall DPS in a range of about 1 to 5%. If you can deal 100K on a High Elf magicka necromancer, you may only be dealing 95K with an Imperial on the same build without the increased spell damage/magicka you gain on a High Elf. You’ll be tankier and harder to take down as a result, and this might make getting through difficult trials without dying easier, increasing your DPS as a whole throughout the encounter.
Race optimization for builds should not be overlooked, but also won’t be the reason why you can’t deal great damage or act as a solid tank for your group. So don’t reroll your character on the premise that it will totally change how effectively you can play a certain class/role. Tweak your rotation, sets, and other factors first, and reroll race more for how you want your character to look and feel.
This is a tricky one, and is more important than you might initially assume. Because the Divines trait is the preferred trait on DPS and healer builds alike which directly affect the potency of your mundus, your mundus will be more important because of it.
Tanks have less of this effect as their traits are usually mainly Sturdy and Reinforced. While their mundus is still important to consider, it won’t as greatly affect your gameplay.
For DPS and Healers, the Thief mundus that increases your critical strike rating is still BIS. Critical strike chance is not as stackable as it once was due to some nerfs that limit its potency with max critical strike damage multipliers, but it’s still essential for strong damage/heals. This can affect your damage by up to 10% in some cases, especially if you drop the Thief for a sustain option like stamina recovery with the Serpent.
If you are running out or your primary stat without a recovery mundus, this won’t be as significant as you truly need the recovery to continue your skill rotations.
Join the High Ground
I hope this guide helps iron out what is truly important to consider, as well as ease some of your concerns for thinking you might need to reroll your character. If you have any other small details you think we should include in this guide, be sure to comment them below! For more information on all of your favorite games and the latest in all things ESO, follow us on social media and subscribe to our newsletter.