The Maelstrom Arena and the Wrothgar zone were added to ESO in 2015 with the Orsinium DLC. It’s been around a while, but the weapons you earn as a reward are still relevant. To this day, most meta PVE builds use the Maelstrom inferno staff or bow on their backbar!

There are already plenty of guides that break down how to face each enemy in the Maelstrom Arena, so we’ll do something a little different. Instead, we’ll cover the basics to make your arena runs easier even at Veteran difficulty, and touch on some of the major mechanics you’ll need to know.

These should help your runs go more smoothly, so let’s get right to it!

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Maelstrom Arena Basics: What Should You Expect?

The Maelstrom Arena is located at the northeast side of the map, above the main city of Orsinium. Note that if you don’t have the Orsinium expansion or ESO+, you won’t be able to play the arena.

You can start the arena quest by speaking to the Daedra Fa-Nuit-Hen. This quest effectively saves your progress at the start of each stage. This will be important, as the arena already doesn’t remember what phase you’re in if you leave between stages. If you leave at Stage 5, Phase 3, you’ll come back at Stage 5, Phase 1. You definitely don’t want to lose more progress than you have to!

Maelstrom Arena Loading Page in ESO
Image: ZeniMax Online Studios via HGG / Angus Green

The arena has nine stages, all with different enemy types of damage. (Note: If you’re a vampire, you’ll especially want to watch out for the fire damage from Stages 8 and 9.) You may need to change up your armor sets and strategy based on how a stage feels. Between each stage, you can speak to Tutor Riparius to repair your gear, buy potions, or sell items you don’t want.

This is a solo arena (and a difficult one at that), meaning you can’t even bring a companion along for the ride. You can start the arena on Normal difficulty at any level, but will need to be at least Level 50 before trying Veteran mode. Make sure you have the right difficulty toggled — you don’t want to run the whole thing on easy when you were hoping for Veteran-level upgraded weapons!

You’ll probably want to be at least CP160 with fully-leveled gear before starting Vet — even then, it’ll be easier at CP300+. As you get more slottable CPs equipped, you’ll see some noticeable increases to your survivability. Extra health, recoveries, and armor are especially important.

Maelstrom Arena Rewards

Every time you complete a round of the arena, you’ll receive a set piece from either Elemental Succession, Glorious Defender, Hunt Leader, Para Bellum, Permafrost, or Winterborn. None of these sets are particularly groundbreaking — the real reward is the Maelstrom item you get from the final stage. With Update 32, you’ll get each of the Maelstrom items in about fifteen runs.

Normal difficulty earns you standard weapons, and Veteran difficulty will give you perfected weapons with added bonuses. These bonuses include (but aren’t limited to) extra critical chance, penetration, and damage.

Chest of Champions Maelstrom Arena Rewards
Image: ZeniMax Online Studios via HGG / Angus Green

The best Maelstrom Arena items are Crushing Wall (inferno staff) and Thunderous Volley (bow). Crushing Wall increases the damage of light attacks within your Wall of Elements, increasing your magicka DPS considerably. Thunderous Volley increases the damage of each tick of Endless Hail, making it deal a lot more damage to enemies in its AOE and making stamina builds much stronger.

Merciless Charge (2h) is another great item from here, as it causes enemies hit by Stampede to take bleed damage over time. Stampede lays down its own ground AOE, so it constantly refreshes the bleed from Merciless Charge. The restoration staff, duel wield, and sword/shield are all lackluster in comparison to the items mentioned before. 

Maelstrom Arena WeaponsNormalVeteran “Perfected”
Bow — Thunderous VolleyIncreases the damage Volley deals by 430 each tick. This bonus increases by 143 every time it ticks, stacking to a max of 8 times. 526 critical chance
Destruction Staff — Crushing WallYour light and heavy attacks deal an additional 1353 damage to enemies in your Wall of Elements.1190 offensive penetration
Dual Wield — Cruel FlurryWhen you deal damage with Flurry, any damage over time skills you cast within 4 seconds gain 1690 spell and weapon damage.103 spell and weapon damage
One Hand and Shield – Rampaging SlashWhen you deal damage with Low Slash, your next fully charged heavy attack within 5 seconds restores 1904 more magicka and stamina.77 magicka and stamina recovery
Restoration Staff — Precise RegenerationWhen you critically heal with Regeneration, you restore 558 magicka. Cannot occur from simultaneous critical heals.526 critical chance
Two Handed — Merciless ChargeWhen you deal damage with critical charge, it causes them to take 1784 bleed damage over 7 seconds, scaling with the higher of your spell or weapon damage.1190 offensive penetration

Preparing for a Maelstrom Arena Run

Here are some tips to make your Maelstrom Arena run much easier to overcome.

Magicka > Stamina?

First off, magicka characters generally have an easier time getting through the Maelstrom Arena. They can stay at range more easily through tough fights, and will always have a mostly full stamina pool for dodging and blocking attacks. Light armor has less protection than medium armor, but magicka characters have access to some very strong shields that set them up for success (e.g. Harness Magicka).

Stamina characters can do great as well, but won’t have as much stamina to spare for dodging and blocking. They can, however, compensate with strong shield abilities (e.g. 2H skill Brawler). A bow/bow build can also be used to keep your distance. 

Consumables: Food and Potions

This is a hurdle for a lot of players, but makes a world of difference. Some games don’t have such a hard requirement on using food and potions, and you can get by just fine without them while questing in ESO.

Arenas are different. They really put your playstyle and build to the test — without an extra health buffer and additional damage, you may just miss out on advancing to the next stage. Set a food and potion option on your hot bar so you can access them easily! There’s nothing worse than having your food buff fall off while the last boss is nuking your health bar.

Here are some food and potion options to help you optimize your character:

  • Survivability: Bewitched Sugar Skulls (4620 health, 4250 magicka/stamina, and 462 health recovery). You can find this expensive recipe in guild stores during the Witches Festival. You can also simply buy the crafted food until you find the recipe yourself.
    • Tri-Pot: Restores all resource pools and gives you 30% bonuses to stat recoveries.
  • Magicka: Solitude Salmon Millet Soup or equivalent (5395 health, 4936 magicka). This is an easy recipe to find. If you don’t need extra health, Ghastly Eye Bowl (4592 magicka, 459 magicka recovery) is better for sustain. This is also found similarly during the Witches Festival or on guild traders.
    • Essence of Spell Power: 20% increased spell damage, spell critical, magicka
  • Stamina: Garlic Cod with Potato Crust or equivalent (5395 health, 4936 stamina), which is also an easy recipe to find. If you don’t need extra health, Lava Foot Soup-and-Saltrice (4936 stamina, 493 stamina recovery) is great for sustain. This is found during the New Life Festival or on guild traders.
    • Essence of Weapon Power: 20% increased weapon damage, weapon critical, stamina

Lifesteal

Lifesteal is a handy feature to have on your side during the Maelstrom Arena. There are plenty of ways to get it, so be sure you have some on hand, especially on Veteran difficulty.

Ring of the Pale Order or the CP Reaving Blows can help you manage the damage you’re taking. Ring of the Pale Order heals you for 20% of the damage you deal, while Reaving Blows heals you for 7% of the direct damage you deal (DOT skills don’t count).

Using skills like the Nightblade’s Swallow Soul or Templar’s Puncturing Sweep is also a great way of managing your health here. The Briarheart set found in Wrothgar also works, as it heals you from dealing critical damage and gives you a nice bonus to your spell/weapon damage.

Armor

Your arena sets will likely look a bit different than your normal questing sets. You’ll be running the Maelstrom Arena solo, so you’ll need to focus more on defense to prepare for the heavy damage you’ll take. Dealing damage is also important, however, and different stages will prioritize either burst damage or steady DPS.

We recommend one set that improves your defense and one that focuses on damage. From there, you can opt for more defense, damage, or recovery depending on how you feel about your setup.

Image: ZeniMax Online Studios via HGG / Angus Green

As we mentioned above, Briarheart (from Wrothgar) and Ring of the Pale Order (from scrying) are both awesome for their lifesteal abilities. The Monster Set Iceheart and Engine Guardian are tried and true sets that can help you sustain your health.

If you’re running Thief for the extra damage via crit chance, consider switching to Lover for the extra penetration. Without a tank’s Taunt debuff, you won’t get it otherwise! The extra health from Lord can help if you find yourself getting wiped out by enemy attacks. 

Finally, the best sustain/mobility sets are False God’s Devotion (magicka) and Vicious Serpent (stamina). Wretched Vitality is decent, but doesn’t give you the 30% movement speed boost from Major Expedition. You’ll also want more than one way to manage your recovery, so keep a set for this purpose so you don’t run out of steam halfway through a fight.

Make sure all of your gear is at least blue superior quality for Normal difficulty, or purple epic for Veteran. Having the right traits is important too, whether it be divines (for extra damage or stats with your mundus) or reinforced (for more armor). If you can, you should absolutely gold out your weapons. You won’t get a lot of benefit from doing it to your armor/jewelry, but raising your weapons to gold rarity will give you a significant damage boost.

Mobility & Kiting

Standing in one spot for too long will usually spell death for you, so it’s important to practice kiting enemies. Moving around slowly will not only help you to avoid lots of AOE damage, but will also allow you to see more of what is happening around you. Sets that give Major Expedition, like False God’s or Vicious Serpent, are great ways to make avoiding enemies easier, and will make you less dependent on the haste sigil we’ll discuss later on.

Enchantments & Poisons

Increasing your weapon/spell damage regularly will make the arena much easier to manage, allowing you to burst down dangerous enemies quicker. Definitely put a glyph of weapon damage on your back bar weapon, and have a weapon ability you can cast to proc it. Unstable Wall of Elements and Endless Hail are the most common ones, and are abilities that are buffed by Maelstrom weapons.

Ultimate Use

Make sure to use your ultimate as frequently as you can, but also save it for when it is needed most. You don’t want to be sitting on 500 ultimate charge for the majority of the fight, but you also want to have it available when you need to burst down high priority enemies. Having low cost ultimates can be useful for this, as you’ll be able to rotate them into fights more easily without worrying about wasting them at the wrong time. 

AOE Damage vs. Single Target

AOE damage is superior in the Maelstrom Arena — sorry, Nightblades. You’ll rarely be focusing on a single enemy, so it’s good to load up your ability bars with AOE skills. Even when you need to go all-out on just one enemy, you’ll thank yourself for the AOE damage dwindling down the nearby ads.

Oddly enough, I do enjoy playing my Nightblade the most on Maelstrom Arena for their great lifesteal skills, but the lack of AOE focus can be frustrating sometimes. 

Inside the Maelstrom Arena

Sigils

Sigils give you momentary buffs that can really save you in a pinch. There are four available — Power (weapon/spell damage bonus), Defense (reduced damage and reflects ranged attacks), Healing (heal over time), and Haste (extra movement speed). Each of them lasts for thirty seconds apiece, can stack with other sigil bonuses, and resets at the start of each phase.

Using the Sigil of Defense
Image: ZeniMax Online Studios via HGG / Angus Green

Note that you’ll get fewer “points” toward your overall arena score if you use sigils, and only the top-scoring players earn extra arena items. If you manage to run Veteran mode without them, you’ll also get an achievement! We definitely recommend using them on your first run, though.

When using them, you’ll want to time your usage properly. Try to line up your ultimate timer with Power to burst down a boss. Defense can keep you from getting overwhelmed by hard-hitting ranged attacks. Healing is helpful if your build doesn’t have enough built in, and Haste can help you better kite enemies or reach the other sigils more quickly.

Target Prioritization

Take down ranged enemies quickly. They often deal the most damage, and can overwhelm you quickly if you don’t cut them down quickly enough. Prioritize archers and mages, but be careful that no melee enemies are closing in to CC you in the meantime!

Main Tips for Each Stage

Stage 1 — Vale of the Surreal: Try to stack enemies close to each other to burn them down faster with AOE. This stage mainly introduces you to the basics of the arena, letting you try out the sigils and get a feel for the waves of different phases. 

Active Effects Menu - Sigil of Haste
Image: ZeniMax Online Studios via HGG / Angus Green

Stage 2 — Seht’s Balcony: You’ll notice an increase in difficulty here, mainly from the spinning blades and the electrified center area. Stay out of the electric area — there aren’t spinning blades there, but you’ll start taking a lot of damage if you get stunned. Pull one of the two levers to stop the blades from moving around, and you’ll then be able to heal in the once-electrified area. The last boss is three centurions. Try to stack them together, and keep your AOE ground abilities laid down. 

3000 Points Reward
Image: ZeniMax Online Studios via HGG / Angus Green

Stage 3 — Drome of Toxic Shock: Stay out of the poison water, and quickly dart between the three islands as you kite enemies. Kill the stranglers so they don’t yank you across the map and pull you through the poison water at inopportune times. The last boss has a gnarly AOE, but you can easily kite around it. Other than that, this stage is pretty straightforward. 

Lamia Queen in ESO
Image: ZeniMax Online Studios via HGG / Angus Green

Stage 4 — Seht’s Flywheel: Focus down the clockwork sentries that come out like…well, clockwork. They move slowly to the center, but they can be easy to miss, as the center blocks your view of the other side. Rotate around the map regularly to ensure they don’t set up shop, become invulnerable, and damage you while you can’t do much about it.

The last boss requires you to stand underneath it while it’s walking to avoid damage. When it stops walking, you’ll need to move out from underneath to avoid its AOE. Try to burn it down as quickly as you can while walking underneath it, but don’t forget to take out those pesky sentries. 

Clockwork Sentry Enemy
Image: ZeniMax Online Studios via HGG / Angus Green

Stage 5 ‚ Rink of Frozen Blood: This is where you’ll notice a sizable increase in difficulty. Your biggest priority is the frost troll that tries to smash the ice platforms. You’ll need the ice platforms, as the water will put a heavy slow on you and kill you if you stand in it for too long.

Troll Berserker Enemy
Troll Priority (Image: ZeniMax Online Studios via HGG / Angus Green)

You’ll also need to take down the archers and mages quickly, as they deal very high damage. The final boss releases waves of archers and mages as his health goes down, so it’s important to take him down slowly.

Keep in mind that the Matriarch Runa destroys the ice platform they’re on at 75% and 45% health, with the final island being a DPS check. If you’re standing on the island when Runa destroys it, you’ll die. Runa will destroy the last platform if you don’t kill them quickly enough, so saving the platform with the Power sigil on it for last is a solid idea. 

Death Recap Screen - Death by Water Damage
Water Damage (Image: ZeniMax Online Studios via HGG / Angus Green)

Stage 6 — Spiral Shadows: This fight can be confusing, as you need to split your attention across the map. There will be four outer pillars and one central pillar. Each of them will be webbed — you can clear the webs off by killing the Hoarvor or synergizing with it and throwing it at a pillar. When a hoard of spiders is called, go to a glowing pillar to avoid being eaten alive.

Dire Wasp and Spider Enemies
Image: ZeniMax Online Studios via HGG / Angus Green

After each pillar is freed, all enemies will be stunned for a period of time. Watch for the Webspinner spiders that come out to re-web the pillars and kill them before they can complete the job. The last boss will deal progressively more damage as her health gets lower, so timing the pillar clear stun and Power sigil is a great way to burst her down before she can retaliate. 

Stage 7 — Vault of Umbrage: This is my least favorite stage. It’s a fiesta. Plants will spawn randomly throughout the area, and you walk over them, they’ll explode and place a debuff on you that’ll kill you in seconds. You can dodge roll and sprint through them to avoid the debuff, but this can sometimes backfire and poison you anyway.

Argonian Venomcaller Enemy
Venomcaller Priority (Image: ZeniMax Online Studios via HGG / Angus Green)

You can cleanse this poison at either side of the arena in special pools that disappear after being used. These reset like sigils do after each wave/phase of the fight. Venomcallers (mages who spawn on one of four specific stone locations), will summon these plants and cause them to explode, so you should focus them down as much as possible.

The Argonian Behemoth final boss also takes some finesse. It’s mainly difficult due to the plants, but can be a headache if you don’t take him down in a particular sequence. The boss will summon two Argonian Minders that will place a shield on themselves and the boss, zip to you, and potentially kill you if they both hit you.

Death Recap Screen - Death by Poison
Poison Plant Damage (Image: ZeniMax Online Studios via HGG / Angus Green)

If you kill them, the boss will begin shouting, which will also kill you unless you hide within one of the Minders’ shields. If you interrupt him, he becomes enraged, and all his attacks become more devastating. To avoid this, kill one Minder and hide in the other’s shield while the boss shouts, then quickly kill the second when the shouting stops. Make sure you don’t have any summons out that might target the Minder instead, causing the shield to go down.

Stage 8 — Igneous Cistern: This area is all about flame damage, and is honestly much easier to handle than the previous stage. The main trick is interrupting any mage casting an overtime ability.

The mini boss and main boss will become invulnerable as long as there’s a stone obelisk up. The mini bosses only requires you to take down one obelisks to start damaging them, while the main boss requires you to take down all three. Enemies protected by the stones get a stun placed on them after taking down these obelisks.

Warding Stones in Maelstrom Arena
Image: ZeniMax Online Studios via HGG / Angus Green

The main boss will require you to destroy the stones again after they come out of stun. They all hit pretty hard, especially the main boss, so keep your distance as you take down the stones and enemies alike.

Stage 9 — Theater of Despair: This is the final round, and takes some practice to get right at the final boss fight. Things are pretty straightforward at the start, as you take down ads and make sure to prevent summoners from reaching the middle, where they begin to summon other stronger enemies.

There will be blue ghosts floating about that will damage and slow you, and the occasional golden, glowing ghost that will empower enemies it touches. You’ll want to make sure you reach it first — when you’ve gathered three, you can channel its abilities to stun the entire arena for several seconds. Be careful when you do this, as I’ve died before channeling the stun on low health. 

With the final boss, Voriak Solkyn, there are some very important things to remember. While you want to take him down quickly, it’s definitely not a race. Make sure to always interrupt him when he begins channeling. Otherwise, you’ll take some very heavy damage that’s hard to manage.

The Final Maelstrom Arena Boss Voriak Solkyn
Image: ZeniMax Online Studios via HGG / Angus Green

Managing ads is always more important than burning him down. Interrupt casters and kill summoners to avoid getting overwhelmed with more ads. At 70% health, he’ll teleport up top. An electrified clannfear will come out, and you’ll need to kill it atop the glowing portal that appears in the arena that will port you up. This is the tricky part, as you need to take down three crystals while avoiding the boss’s attacks. He has a very obvious animation where he throws a skull at you. Dodge roll this or risk being thrown off the top ring and into the lava below, where you’ll have to take down ads before coming back up again. The longer you stay up top, the more damage you’ll take.

Burn down the crystals, then follow the rock shield that floats around the ring. The boss has an AOE blast that will knock you off the arena unless you’re behind the rock shield. This will force you to DPS down the crystals quickly while moving and avoiding the mechanics that shove you off. It gets complicated. Once you do this, he’ll come back down and you can go to town on them (while still taking out ads and interrupting the mages’ channeled abilities). 

Make sure that Voriak Solkyn doesn’t receive the golden glowing ghosts, as he also gets a nasty attack when he collects three. Collect them yourself and use them to freeze the summoner and other ads. Continue to interrupt him and burn him down, and eventually you’ll have your hands on some great Maelstrom arena weapons! 

Join the High Ground

That’s it for our ESO Maelstrom Arena guide — thanks for reading! We hope you can get your arena weapon of choice on your first run; if not, we hope our guide helps make your subsequent runs a little easier. For the latest in all things ESO, follow us on social media and subscribe to our newsletter.

Happy gaming!