The Ultimate Guide to Selecting the Best Skyrim Race for a Mage

In the fascinating world of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the freedom to shape your character is a key element of the game. The selection of your character’s race is a crucial decision, especially if you’re crafting a powerful mage. This guide aims to help you navigate through the ten playable races in Skyrim, highlighting the best choices for a mage build.

Understanding the Importance of Race in Skyrim

In Skyrim, your chosen race impacts your character’s initial abilities, bonuses, and even their appearance. Each race has its unique strengths and weaknesses, which can significantly affect your gameplay. Some races have a natural inclination towards certain skills, which can be leveled up more efficiently. Others possess unique racial abilities, like the Khajiit’s Night Eye or the Argonian’s Histskin, offering distinctive advantages during gameplay.

The race you choose could also influence the way Non-Player Characters (NPCs) interact with your character. Racial prejudices based on the game’s lore could lead to varying reactions from the NPCs.

Characteristics of a Mage Build

A mage in Skyrim is a character that primarily uses Magicka and spells to engage in combat. Mages can specialize in one or many of the schools of magic, including Destruction, Conjuration, Illusion, Restoration, and Alteration. They often employ staffs and enchanted items to enhance their magical abilities, although some mages might also utilize one-handed weapons.

A mage’s race plays a pivotal role in determining their initial abilities and how quickly they can master spells. The best races for mages possess high Magicka, rapid Magicka regeneration, and strong starting bonuses in several magic skills.

Top 5 Races for a Mage Build in Skyrim

1. High Elf (Altmer)

Known for their proficiency in magic, High Elves, or Altmer, are arguably the best choice for a pure mage build, thanks to their significant bonuses to magic skills and a large Magicka pool.

Attributes and Abilities

High Elves start with a +50 Magicka bonus, which is a considerable advantage for a mage. They also possess the Highborn power, allowing them to regenerate Magicka faster for 60 seconds once a day. This ability can be a lifesaver during long battles where your Magicka pool depletes quickly.

Skill Bonuses

High Elves receive a significant +10 boost to Illusion magic and +5 boosts to all other magical schools. They also start with the Fury spell, which can cause enemies to attack each other, providing valuable crowd control.

2. Breton

Bretons are another excellent choice for a mage build, especially for players looking at a mage/warrior hybrid. Bretons have a natural resistance to magic, making them formidable opponents against other mages.

Attributes and Abilities

Bretons are naturally 25% resistant to magic, a useful trait for any build. Their unique ability, Dragonskin, allows them to absorb 50% of Magicka from hostile spells for 60 seconds once a day, significantly boosting their defense and Magicka pool during combat.

Skill Bonuses

Bretons begin with a +10 boost to Conjuration, allowing them to summon creatures or weapons to aid them in battle right from the beginning. They also receive +5 bonuses in Alteration, Restoration, Illusion, Alchemy, and Speech.

3. Dark Elf (Dunmer)

Dark Elves, or Dunmer, are versatile characters that can be excellent Destruction Mages or stealthy assassins, thanks to their starting abilities and resistance to fire.

Attributes and Abilities

Dark Elves have a 50% resistance to fire, which is particularly useful against dragons and fire-wielding enemies. Their unique ability, Ancestor’s Wrath, creates a flame aura that damages nearby enemies for 60 seconds once a day.

Skill Bonuses

Dark Elves get a +10 bonus to the Destruction skill, making them excellent candidates for a Destruction Mage build. They also receive +5 bonuses in Alchemy, Illusion, Alteration, Light Armor, and Sneak.

4. Imperial

Imperials are a well-rounded race, capable of excelling as Defensive Mages or Spellsword hybrids, thanks to their starting stats and abilities.

Attributes and Abilities

Imperials possess the Voice of the Emperor ability that can pacify people for 60 seconds once a day. This ability can be a strategic advantage, allowing Imperials to avoid or plan for combat.

Skill Bonuses

Imperials have a +10 bonus to Restoration, making them effective healers early in the game. They also receive +5 bonuses in Destruction, Enchanting, Heavy Armor, Block, and One-Handed.

5. Redguard

While Redguards traditionally excel in melee combat, they can also be effective as Spellsword hybrids, combining magic and melee for a diverse combat style.

Attributes and Abilities

Redguards have the Adrenaline Rush ability, which allows them to regenerate Stamina ten times faster for 60 seconds once a day. This ability can be helpful in maintaining a balanced use of melee attacks and spells.

Skill Bonuses

Redguards receive a +10 bonus to One-Handed skill, making them effective in melee combat. They also get +5 bonuses in Alteration, Destruction, Smithing, Block, and Archery.

Key Considerations in Choosing a Race for a Mage Build

When selecting a race for your mage build in Skyrim, consider the following factors:

  • Racial Abilities: Each race has unique abilities that can be valuable in specific situations. For instance, the High Elf’s Highborn power allows for faster Magicka regeneration, which can be crucial during intense battles.
  • Skill Bonuses: Some races have inherent bonuses to certain skills. High Elves, for instance, start with a +10 bonus to Illusion and +5 to all other magic skills, giving them a significant advantage in magic use.
  • Resistance: Certain races have natural resistances, such as the Dark Elf’s 50% resistance to fire, which can offer an advantage against specific enemies.
  • Playstyle: Your chosen race should align with your preferred playstyle. If you prefer a mage that can hold their own in melee combat, a Redguard or Imperial might be a good fit. If you prefer a pure magic user, a High Elf or Breton would be a better choice.


Choosing the right race for a mage in Skyrim depends largely on your playstyle and the type of mage you aim to build. Whether you opt for a High Elf’s proficiency in magic, a Breton’s natural resistance to magic, or the versatility of a Dark Elf, the choice ultimately lies with you. Remember, the best skyrim race for a mage is the one that aligns best with your personal preferences and gameplay style. Happy gaming!


Nick Sinclair

Nick Sinclair, a gaming aficionado since the Commodore 64 era, studied Creative Computer Games Design in university before founding his own gaming company. Discovering a passion for content creation, Nick now helps gamers squeeze every drop of fun out of their favorite gaming hardware

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