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The ghost of Sir Ralvas engages in swordplay

Combat is a way of life in Cyrodiil. If you want to survive the many challenges it offers you're going to need to know how to fight, whether it is with blades, blunt weapons, magic, bows, or fists. This guide is mainly focused on swordplay, or fighting with blades. You may want to check out the combat article as well; it provides more general information.

Practicing the various combination attacks and basic attacks is only half the battle; you must then learn which blade to choose and what enchantments to use on it. This guide will go in-depth and cover almost every aspect of fighting with a blade. This guide will cover techniques for fighting with a variety of swords whether it's a claymore, longsword, shortsword, or dagger.

Blade Types

Daggers

Basic Description: Daggers are a connoisseur's tool; short-ranged and quick, they provide the maximum speed for vicious fast attacks at the penalty of damage and reach. Because of their low base damage, daggers are most effective when coupled with a highly damaging enchantment and/or poison.

Their light weight makes them ideal tools for archers, assassins and mages, or any other character that would benefit from having a backup melee weapon for tight situations or someone who isn't bothered by short reach.

Best used by: Archers and stealth-based characters can always benefit from having an enchanted dagger in their inventory. Mages who want a lightweight weapon can use these to good effect as poison delivery systems, but would be better suited to have a shortsword as their primary weapon. Warriors may not find them as useful due to their lack of damage and short reach.

Suggested enchantments:

  1. Damage and Absorb/Drain Health effects. With their high speed, daggers are able to make excellent use of high-magnitude, short-duration effects. This especially goes up for anything that hurts a character's health, because enchanting a dagger with such effects essentially turns the dagger into a free and very fast castable touch spell- a Destruction mage's dream.
  2. Weakness effects, preferably combined with Damage on strike effects. By adding Elemental Weakness and Weakness to Magicka in addition to the regular elemental damage, each strike of your dagger will deal more damage than the last (the progression is quadratic). Just make sure the weakness effects last longer than the interval between each strike (though in practice, one second is enough with a dagger).
  3. Any useful effect a user might have need of- this ensures permanent access to beneficial spells, without much cost (you still have to recharge it). The only problem is the fact that you actually have to hit someone.

Shortswords

Basic Description: Shortswords are a very useful class of blades that fall between the daggers and longswords. Because of their good speed, range, and damage, they make very versatile and powerful weapons in the hands of a capable user.

Stealth-based characters can utilize their higher base damage and greater range than daggers for greater damage dealt with Sneak Attacks without requiring one to get as close as is required with daggers. They are also particularly useful against magic-based enemies, as they allow you to easily "pummel" foes that do not have the ability to block or parry.

Lastly, warrior-type characters can make use of shortswords as backup weapons; they're light enough to not weigh you down, while doing more damage than daggers. When put in perspective, the shortsword weighs less than a longsword, but it has very similar capabilites, making it a possible replacement for players who need to shed as much weight as possible for treasure hunting, or raiding.

Best Used By: Any player who needs a light, versatile weapon with more power than a dagger but is lighter than a longsword or claymore.

Suggested enchantments: Because of their flexibility, shortswords can be enchanted with basically anything that hurts enemies, benefits the player or both.

Longswords

Basic Description: Longswords are versatile and suit any playing style and any character build making them valuable additions to your inventory. They have a decent reach, speed and weight, benefit from Sneak Attacks and can be used with shields (the latter two abilities are not available to Claymores). Because of this, the Longsword is the most balanced melee weapon in the game.

Best used by: Warriors and assassins will always benefit from having a longsword by their side. Longswords may prove too heavy for mages when getting into the higher levels. For this reason some mages prefer to use the Umbra blade, because it can be obtained relatively easily and is weightless prior to completion of the Clavicus Vile quest. The Honorblade of Chorrol has similar benefits. Longswords are best used with a shield, and you may want to put a shield enchantment on your shield to balance out the offense and defense of your longsword.

Suggested enchantments: Because of the great versatility, a Longsword should be enchanted with whatever suits the personal playing style of the player.

Claymores

Basic Description: Claymores are some of the most powerful specialized weapons an Oblivion player can have in his or her arsenal- with an exceedingly long Reach (1.3) and a good Speed value (0.8), they allow a user to strike the enemy from a distance only otherwise attainable by Warhammers (the exceptions being Rugdumph's Sword and the Akaviri Warblade, which are faster but shorter than usual). However, due to the heavy weight and the fact that a Claymore consumes a lot of Fatigue, they are not suited for everyone.

Some people say that their range increase is negligible, and not enough of an advantage to put you ahead of the enemy, while others speculate that it allows for a huge step up in melee combat. That depends on the style of play you use, and the enemy you face; if you advance to a range where the enemy can strike you, the range advantage allowed by your weapon is nullified. That's why it's very important to be able to judge the range of a two-handed weapon correctly. A proper terrain is also an important factor when fighting two-handed; in caves, you should at least try to find a medium-sized room where it's possible to circle your enemy. The range increase is most helpful during levels 13-20. Around this time, the enemies will be getting a lot harder than you are used to, and having the extra range and force so you can "dance around the edges" of your opponents range while causing a lot of damage is very useful. The range bonus though, requires you to put some effort into building up your speed, or you won't be able to keep the range.

However, if you time your advances to correspond with your enemy's swings, you can dodge in to strike and back out to avoid their blows. This tactic allows you to fight an enemy unscathed where you would otherwise be harmed with a shorter weapon. Note that Claymores have a higher Health value than any other blade, dampening the negative effects suffered from blocking. This helps to offset the fact that using a shield with a two-handed weapon is impossible.

Best Used By: Warriors, knights, and battlemages who are not bothered by a heavy weapon, engage in melee combat frequently and have enough Fatigue to compensate for the heavy toll a Claymore exacts. Stealth characters will generally find little or no use in them, as they are heavy and two-handed, meaning that you forfeit the Sneak Attack bonus. Mages may or may not find them useful; they can benefit from the range claymores provide, but will generally be better suited by a longsword or shortsword for general use. It can also be used with people with high speed and light armor because of the range of the weapon.

Suggested enchantments: Because of their high Base Damage values, a player will benefit most from one of two enchanting methods:

1. Use effects such as Damage Fatigue, Drain Fatigue, Absorb Fatigue, Calm, or Burden to incapacitate an enemy while allowing the Claymore's great Base Damage to bring their Health down.

2. Boost the weapon's high base damage with a damaging spell effect to minimize the number of strikes needed to bring an enemy down. Note that all Elemental Damage effects (Frost, Fire, and Shock Damage) are much less costly effects than Damage Health and Absorb Health are.

The Damage Health effect allows a user to bypass all elemental resistances, at the price of weapon charges and effect magnitude. That said, be sure to choose wisely when using this effect, and ask yourself- would you be better off enchanting two blades with Elemental Damage effects to maximize charges, and carrying one for different situations, or enchanting a single blade and carrying it always? Absorb Health is an immensely costly effect and would be best utilized from appropriate Sigil Stones.

Final Thoughts

Weapon enchantments can be absorbed or reflected, so be sure to know your enemy's abilities. It may be helpful to bring along an unenchanted weapon if you know you are going to fight an enemy with Spell Absorption or Reflection. Alternatively, you could just buy a Bound Weapon spell to free up more of your encumbrance.

Longswords and Claymores are generally too slow to effectively use the Drain Health effect, so save it for daggers and shortswords.

Another thing worth noting is that, if you use the block and attack method (Block, get hit then strike back against a staggered enemy), trying to stack weakness effects may be pointless as you will only get two or three castings on an opponent before they are ready to fight again.

Summary

The main things to consider when choosing a sword are damage, speed, reach, and weight. It is also important to remember that while more powerful than their one handed counterparts, two-handed weapons cannot be used with a shield.

Again, a good thing to always keep in mind about claymores is the fact that they do not get a damage bonus when attacking an opponent while undetected. For that reason it is always a good idea to carry an extra sword with you.

One advantage that claymores have over daggers is their reach; a standard claymores reach is 1.3 whereas a dagger's reach is 0.6, slightly longer than a punch, which is 0.5. Longswords offer a reach of 1 and a speed of 1 making them the base for the rest of the swords. Shortswords pack a little bit more punch and reach than a dagger, they fall in at about 1.2 speed and 0.8 reach.

It will take time to develop your playing style, but a few general tips can be made based on your overarching class. Warrior characters will generally pick either a claymore or a longsword (the sword and board style). Thieves and assassins will usually use their bow but can put a dagger or shortsword to good use. Mages may want to carry a shortsword or a dagger as well as a supplement to their Magicka. If you are playing a combination-type class, like a Battlemage/Spellsword, you may want to carry heavier weapons.

Bad Habits

There are many bad habits that you can get into when sword fighting in Oblivion. This section will help you to identify them and rid yourself of them. There also might be some habits listed to watch out for if you haven't started them yet. Below are a few things to watch out for.

  • Not paying attention to your enemies' movements. This will allow them to maneuver behind you and get easy hits in.
  • Staying too close to the enemy. Doing so will allow them to circle around to your back or side. Using a claymore can be useful in that kind of situation, stay a reasonable distance away and use the claymores reach to hit the enemy. Exception: Daggers have a very fast attack speed. So fast in fact that a high damaging enchantment along with a forward moving attack (pressing the attack) and rapid strikes can put down most enemies faster than they have the ability to make an attack. If done correctly, your enemy may not even get an attack off against you and may be caught knocked down, knocked back or off balance (especially at higher skill levels). Battlemages are exceptionally good at this tactic.
  • Forgetting to sheathe your blade. When retreating from an enemy, always sheathe your sword. It will allow you to run much faster.
  • If you have enchanted blades, always make sure they are charged. You don't want to be caught needing a flame enchantment to use on a Frost Atronach only to find you forgot to charge your sword.
  • When not retreating or attacking, many players stay in block mode constantly, waiting for their enemy to strike. However, this is a very bad idea; when blocking too long, an enemy will soon land a power attack and cause a lot of unnecessary damage.
  • It is a bad idea to block, rather than back away from, power attacks, because after you reach higher levels, enemies get the master perks in their weapons; meaning they can potentially disarm, knockdown, or paralyze you with a blocked attack.
  • Swinging your sword at an enemy nonstop will quickly drain your fatigue, when your fatigue is completely drained you will do a lot less damage. Instead try to attack in short bursts then keep your distance and allow your fatigue to regenerate.

Good Habits

These are the things that you want to incorporate into your swordplay. Some of these may not suit your playing style but all are useful and may save your life.

  • Always make sure you have a backup sword just in case you have a disintegrate weapon spell cast on you. Since you can't repair items when enemies are nearby you'll have to fight with a bow or your fists.
  • Use block in short 'bursts' and only for normal attacks. That way, you will decrease the time when you are almost stationary and enable yourself to dodge power attacks and arrows easily. This takes a lot of getting used to, but eventually you will be able to predict when an enemy is going to use which kind of attack.
  • Use the power attack very, very sparingly. A power attack leaves you open to multiple strikes or another power attack, which is why a power attack should almost never be used (essentially only when an enemy is near-dead). When the enemy is paralyzed or recoiling from a successful block, it's better to just strike him multiple times with normal attacks.
  • If you disarm an opponent, be sure to immediately pick up the weapon. Without any weapon, your opponent will rely on a backup weapon (if they have one) or fight with their fists. If you don't want to risk being over-encumbered by picking up the weapon, at least fling it away (preferably out of reach) with a Telekinesis spell.
  • If possible, try to go into a narrow cave or opening that can only fit one creature or NPC at a time. It will make fighting multiple opponents at once easier, since it's easier to fight one opponent one at a time than to fight five at once. Don't back yourself into a corner, though, or you will have a hard time getting out if you need to run away from the fight.
  • After a block, your enemy will stagger. This is the time to attack them from behind. When you're behind them and attacking, you can keep moving in circles around them. The enemies can't turn too fast, so if you run around them in circles, while staying behind them, you can dish out plenty of damage. If they have a shield, it's also better to turn in the direction of the weapon (so move around them in a clockwise motion) because they will have less chance of a successful block should they turn faster than you.

Playing Perspectives

Which playing perspective you prefer highly depends on your personal playing style. If you work better in first person, so be it. The graphics look nicer up close, and some people may feel that using first person mode is more realistic, as normal people can't see behind themselves. Third person, however, can offer you a distinct gaming advantage. So use whichever one you prefer.

First Person

This viewpoint is ideal for fighting one enemy. It will give you a better idea of your weapons reach and allow you to keep track of the enemy. Assassins will benefit from this viewpoint to sneak up on a single opponent.

Third Person

Warrior characters will find the third person view ideal. It will allow them to keep an eye on their enemies as they are moving around. Assassins and thieves will also find this view helpful to see around corners and check for enemies. It may take a bit of practice to aim properly in order to perform ranged attacks (staves, bow and arrow, spells).

Although third person view can be nice, many consider the current chase camera in the game to be undesirable and mods exist with different ones.

Fighting Different Opponents

Enemies with Weak Melee Attacks

Can Include: NPCs (Bandits, Marauders, Vampires, Necromancers, Conjurers, Dremora), Undead, Goblins

These enemies, because of the low amount of damage they inflict per strike, can be fought with a number of tactics:

If you have a shorter blade, you want to make the most use of your higher speed value. Block or dodge their strikes, and follow up with a few fast attacks of your own. Rapid movement is the key here.

If you have a longer blade, you may want to use its range advantage to hit them while they can't return the favor. If you have a longsword equipped, using a shield to block their attacks, causing them to stagger, and running in for a few quick attacks is one of the best methods to quickly and safely bring down an opponent. Alternatively, if you have a Claymore equipped, you could either constantly backpedal and sidestep while swinging or step in for an attack or two and dodge back out when they attack. Make sure you watch them, because they can block your attacks if you can hit them.

Watch your Fatigue, and always bring along a few Restore Fatigue potions to complement your others.

Destruction magic truly shines here. Alternating between attacking with your blade when your enemy is vulnerable and using Touch-based damage spells when they block puts them under a constant stream of damage that is difficult to stand up to. In addition, switching off between the two allows your Magicka and Fatigue time to regenerate. Also, Target-based spells give you a ranged offense that you wouldn't have with a blade alone.

Enemies with Strong Melee Attacks

Can Include: NPCs, high level Dremora, Daedra, big predators, heavyweight monsters, Undead, Goblin Warlords

These enemies deal large amounts of damage through melee attacks. Even if you block their attacks enough damage may come through to make you stagger, leaving you open for punishment. The main idea with these enemies is to dodge their swings while following up with your own Fast Attacks. These entities generally have decent Health values, which means Power Attacks will have less effect. Destruction magic and claymores work well here.

When fighting NPCs with heavy Blunt or Bladed weapons, you're allowed a bit more flexibility as they have less Health and do less damage when compared to Ogres or Minotaurs. Their attacks are generally very easy to dodge, and you can capitalize on that by hitting them when they cannot defend themselves (which is right after a failed attack). If you time properly and can land a Side, Backward or Forward Power Attack, you can put them at a serious disadvantage.

If you're good at blocking, you can also try to get as close as possible, eliminating their advantage in range.

Archers

Can Include: NPCs, Dremora, Undead, Bandits

Archers make for interesting fights- if you don't use proper tactics, you can very easily be killed. However, they are easy enough to counter when you know how. Dodging arrows is simple; stop, wait for an archer to release, then sidestep and move closer to them. When they nock another arrow, stop moving and repeat. You can also run in a zigzag pattern to quickly get up to them and hit them. This takes less time, but leaves you more vulnerable since it isn't guaranteed that they'll always miss. Once you get close to an archer, they will usually unequip their bow and draw a melee weapon, if they have one. At this point, you treat them like any other melee enemy. Be careful about leaving them after combat has started as they may reequip their bow.

Casters

Can Include: Basically anything except animals

Casters are a very different breed of enemy than any other you will face. They are versatile adversaries that have all of the options magic presents them- many can damage you directly with Destruction magic, some can summon creatures, and some can heal themselves, as well as many other possibilities. This makes for a very potent combination, and one of which you should be wary.

However adaptable they may be, most casters are either relatively fragile or slow. For example, Necromancers can have some rather nasty spells, but corner one and engage in melee combat, and he's history. On the other hand, Atronachs, while powerful, are very slow. You can take advantage of this by employing hit-and-run tactics to whittle them down and give you time to gather yourself.

So, even as powerful as they sometimes are, they have three major flaws:

  1. Most are unarmored. This makes them easy kills once you get into melee range.
  2. Spells are very easy to dodge. Not only to do they give you a bright flashing warning, they also make a sound, which alerts you even if you're focusing on another enemy. Take advantage of this when closing with them.
  3. They need time to prepare for battle. Many spellcasters will use a Shield spell and summon before they direct their attention to you. If you can sneak up on them and start the fight before they are ready (preferably with a poisoned Sneak Attack), then it can be short. Be relentless in your pursuit of them, be cautious and keep track of any spells they cast, and don't be afraid to use a little magic of your own. Silencing casters instead of Sneak Attacking (or doing both simultaneously with a poison or enchantment) will put them at the mercy of you and your weapon.

The casters that will present the most challenge are the armored ones- Battlemages, Hedge Wizards, Vampire Spellswords, and Dremora. They can all cast and fight with some proficiency, so observe what magic they use (Vampires and Dremora may not use any at all) and counter them on that base.

Knowledge is power, and forewarned is forearmed. Do a bit of research on each enemy so you know what you're up against, and plan for what you'll face. Remember: at normal skill setting and with some care put into leveling, no enemy is a match for you in a one-on-one battle, especially if you're prepared. Apply that to how you fight, and you're unbeatable.

Assisting Melee with Magic

Restoration

Restoration is a must have for any character that gets involved in combat. There are many different healing spells that will give you the edge in health. Health regeneration is the best asset to have, since it enables you to continue fighting, but those spells can exact a heavy toll on your magicka reserves. Therefore, using dodge tactics or blocking the enemy's attacks while casting a few quick healing spells is not a bad alternative. Fortify attribute spells are always a good idea, and any Cure spell is great to have when you encounter unforeseen diseases/poisons. Finally, if you keep losing a particular fight by a tiny margin, then Fortify Skill and Fortify Attribute effects can help to swing the balance in your favor. Also Restore Fatigue spells can be exceptionally useful in battle to keep your damage from dropping. On top of it all, Restoration has Absorb spells: pull their Attributes, Skills, Fatigue, or Health to really tip the scales in your favor. Absorb Health is by far the best Restoration choice for enchantments: every time you hurt them, your Health is restored, making it very hard for them to kill you.

Conjuration

Conjuration is another useful skill to have when fighting with a sword. Summoning a creature offers an effective distraction to draw your enemy's attention to it instead of you. Be aware that your enemies will always attack the most powerful creature first (unless you are continually blocking; if you do so, some enemies will leave you to attack a conjured creature), so summoning Scamps will most likely not distract them at all. Summoning bound armor will give you more protection and freedom of movement due to its light weight. Bound swords do more damage than most other weapons, these can be useful to summon when you need more power in your attacks. The downside of these is that their duration is very limited (15 sec.) However, if you are a member of the Mages Guild or have the Frostcrag Spire official plug-in, you can create your own spells with significantly longer durations. And don't forget Turn Undead. A fleeing Gloom Wraith is a Gloom Wraith that you don't have to deal with at the moment, and a summoned creature which you set on the run will probably not bother you again before it disappears.

Illusion

Illusion cannot be used to directly damage the enemy. However, it more than makes that up with its indirect damage. The whole school of Illusion is all about crowd control. Without swinging a mace or throwing a fireball, you can manipulate even the largest of hostile forces down to one injured survivor with a few command or frenzy spells. At higher skill levels, paralyzing is extremely useful for pinning a hostile down and can be used at touch or at range. It is needless to say that you should also use silence on mages, forcing them into melee combat. Lastly, it can be used to provide a quick escape route (or front row seat!) if you ever find yourself in danger. Casting a 30-second invisibility spell is usually enough time for you to escape a nasty situation, or to watch a hero-inspired mutiny come to a close. Invisibility is also a good way to get behind an opponent for a sneak attack bonus. Calm spells can be used if you are attacked by multiple enemies to allow you to take on one at a time. Rally spells can stop those pesky mages and archers from running towards reinforcements. However, you'll find that constantly using Illusion in this way will drain your magicka fast. It is more suited to a hybrid type of character(like a thief), but a true melee fighter can still use it as a combat ice breaker.

Destruction

Direct damage spells are always a good choice (of course you should be aware of your enemies' resistances and weaknesses towards different kinds of elemental magic). The elemental weaknesses come in very handy for your weapon enchants, and aren't very expensive. For example, hit an enemy with a strong weakness to both magicka AND fire, then attack with your Goldbrand for a world of pain. Using a proper drain weapon skill spell (marksman, blunt, etc.) will help reduce the damage you take from attacks. Some other spell effects to take note of are Disintegrate Armor and Disintegrate Weapon; these can come in handy when you need to decrease an enemy's armor rating or destroy their weapon. Also, Weakness to Magic/Element will increase the effectiveness of your enchantments and Drain Health/Damage Fatigue are useful too, if applied to the proper situations. However, the problem with destruction as a whole is it's simply too expensive for a character who isn't focused on magicka. It can take hundreds of magicka to end a hostile, and don't even bother with destroying armor at endgame, when daedric armor can have thousands of health. This said, Destruction is best used either in emergencies or when opponents are almost defeated. Weakness to Magic/Element will increase the effectiveness of your enchantments.

Probably the most useful destruction spell that a warrior type should consider is the Weakness to Poison effect. This increases the effectiveness of your poisoned weapon attacks - amplifying all of the poison's effects in the case of multiple effect poisons. It works great in conjunction with the Alchemy skill so that you can create your own effects. Take note that enemies cannot block spells (unless they have Reflect Spell, Resist Magic, or Spell Absorption), so use destruction spells while your enemies are blocking, and attack physically when they are not blocking.

Mysticism

The school of Mysticism contains some very useful spells that can assist with melee combat. Dispel can, for example, be used to easily eliminate summoned creatures and to get rid of shield spells from various enemies. Soul Trap is very powerful for keeping your weapons charged, so that you can always deal top damage. Having "Detect life" on in a dungeon is almost a must, as it allows you to prepare yourself for a fight coming up. Spell absorption is the warrior's answer to both magicka regeneration and hostile magic, but it's recommended to keep it on your gear. For the benefits that it gives, Mysticism is a fairly cheap school of magic to use. Absorbing and reflecting spells are quite expensive unfortunately, but you should still be sure to have it on when fighting powerful magic-based creatures such as Liches. Telekinesis might not seem useful in combat at first, but combined with a Journeyman rank in Blade, Blunt, or Hand-to-Hand, you can disarm your foes and then hurl their weapon so far away that they cannot easily retrieve it.

Alteration

Alteration is a useful magic school for a warrior. Casting a Shield spell to give you more armor is ideal for warrior characters; it can also be combined with the Bound Armor spells that Conjuration offers for tons of protection. Feather allows you to carry more, though it is especially important to watch your timer with those spells. Feather's ability to lighten your load also increases your speed. This is especially useful for heavy armored warriors that like to carry around multiple heavy weapons. Also, Water Walking/Breathing gives you a chance to escape from an opponent to a place where they can't go. Works wonders with Undead, because they can't go underwater.

Alchemy

Though technically not Magic, Alchemy is considered by the game to be a magical skill. Warriors should not overlook this ability in the least. Every character can benefit from creating their own potions and poisons to be used in combat. This skill does require pre-planning as it is not directly usable itself in combat. However the results of the use of this skill will allow the character to create effects that can bolster your abilities, keep you alive, or weaken the enemy. Advanced use of this skill allows the creation of poisons with as many as three damaging effects. At Expert level or higher Alchemy you can create a five effect poison. Additionally, poisons can be made to paralyze, silence, or weaken your opponent. While not all creatures in the game are affected by poison, poisoning a weapon can help turn a 1 vs 5 combat situation into less of a problem. Be careful with the 4 potion limitation though. As a warrior, you will want no more than 3 potions active at a time so that you can quaff a healing potion as needed. Here again, creating potions with multiple effects (restore health + restore fatigue + shield for example) can be exceedingly helpful in combat. Combining restoration effects with Invisibility in a potion can even give you a quick breather in the middle of heavy combat.