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Damage In ESO

It’s important to understand the mechanics of damage in Elder Scrolls Online. It is what reduces Health and forms the basis of all combat activities. It is also quite a complex topic which is not helped by the range of contradictory information available. This page will go through the mechanics of dealing and taking damage in ESO.

It is important to understand just how damage works before going into the sources of damage itself.

Damage Source –> Target Damage Shield –> Target Mitigation (Armor/Resistance) –> Target Health

This order explains that damage has to go through any damage shields and mitigation before it actually takes Health away from a target. This is best illustrated by the fact that almost all of your ability tooltips will say “does X damage” and yet you will generally deal less actual damage to a target. This is because the initial damage would first hit a damage shield (if one existed) and then would be reduced by the target mitigation (Armor or Spell Resistance) and then would deal damage to the target.

 

Light Attacks

Light Attacks deal a small amount of damage to a single target with the weapon that you have equipped at the time of the attack. The amount of damage that you deal with Light Attacks is determined by your Max Magicka or Max Stamina and also by your Spell Damage or Weapon Damage. Weapons that use Magicka (Destruction Staff Staff, Restoration Staff) use Max Magicka and Spell Damage.Weapons which use Stamina (One Hand and Shield, Bow, Dual Wield, Two Handed) use Max Stamina and Weapon Damage.

Light Attacks are important in ESO, as each time you perform a Light Attack (or a Heavy Attack) you will gain an 8 second buff which grants Ultimate which is used for Ultimate abilities. A Light Attack will always refresh this buff and allow you to continuously gain Ultimate for the duration of a fight.

Light Attacks are the most basic form of damage that you can do, and while the damage from these attacks is small, it plays an important role!

Light Attack Weaving / Animation Cancelling

It is possible to “weave” Light Attacks in with your other abilities and seamlessly deal a bit more damage and keep the Ultimate buff up at the same time. When you are about to use an ability simply perform a Light Attack right before activating that ability. This performs a Light Attack which is immediately followed by the ability which you activated with little to no delay. This concept can add some damage to each of your abilities and does not cost anything and at the same time the Ultimate buff is refreshed!

ZOS have stated that “weaving” is simply an unintended consequence of the combat systems design and they have embraced the concept.

If you practice you can perform Light Attack seamlessly between your use of other abilities. This might not seem like much but it can add a lot to your damage over the duration of a fight.

 

Heavy Attacks

Heavy Attacks deal more damage than Light Attacks but take longer to perform and can be interrupted with bash attacks and interrupt abilities. It varies by weapon type, but Heavy Attacks need to “wind up” before they deal any damage. Restoration Staffs and Lightning Staffs are the exception though – these Heavy Attacks are channelled over a few seconds.

A fully charged Heavy Attack restores some resources (Magicka or Stamina) when completed. Weapons which use Stamina restore some of your Stamina. Weapons which use Magicka restore some Magicka. You must fully charge your Heavy Attack in order to restore any resources. The amount of resources which is restored on a Heavy Attack depends on your Level.

This resource generation can be useful, especially in PVE where you can knock down off balance enemies with a Heavy Attack and restore a bit of your resources at the same time. It’s also great for healers when they run out of Magicka and tanks when they run out of Stamina.

Heavy Attacks are harder to perform in PVP where the action is constantly moving and enemies might interrupt your Heavy Attack causing you to be stunned.

The Restoration Staff has a passive called Circle of Life which increases the Magicka restored from a full Restoration Staff Heavy Attack, this is great for Magicka management especially for healers!

 

Abilities

Abilities are the best and most common source of damage in Elder Scrolls Online. Abilities can also perform a range of other functions for offense and defense such as healing, damage shields, damage over time effects, crowd control (stuns, knockbacks, immobilizes, snares) and buffs to your damage and sustainability.

You can perform abilities my placing them on your Action Bar. You can place up to 5 abilities, and 1 Ulitmate, on your Action Bar. At Level 15 you’ll unlock weapon-swapping, which allows your character to equip another weapon and make use of a secondary Action Bar with different abilities. This effectivley gives you access to 10 different abilities and 2 Ultimates.

Some abilities require a target to cast and others can be performed with no targets in range at an area. Some abilties are cast at the ground, and effect targets in that area, while others are cast on yourself. You will learn a lot about abilities by using them and practising with them.

The tooltips of abilities describe the ability itself and generally include how much damage is expected to be dealt to a target. The actual damage dealt will vary, however, because different targets have different mitigation like Armor and Spell Resistance.

The damage of any ability comes from five different things described below.

Spell / Weapon Damage

If an ability uses Magicka it will scale with Spell Damage.

If an ability uses Stamina it will scale with Weapon Damage.

These stats impact the damage of abilities quite a lot and increasing these stats will increase your damage or healing.

How to Increase

  • Weapons (Quality, Level)
    All weapon types grant both Spell and Weapon Damage.
  • Jewelry Enchants
  • Item Sets
  • Potions
  • Sorcery / Brutality Buff Abilities

Max Magicka / Max Stamina

If an ability uses Magicka it will scale with Max Magicka.

If an ability uses Stamina it will scale with Max Stamina.

These stats also impact the damage of your abilities quite a bit and increasing these can lead to more damage and a larger pool of resources.

How to Increase

  • Attribute Points
  • Armor Enchants
  • Jewelry Traits
  • Item Sets
  • Food

Ability Rank

The rank of an ability (I, II, III, IV) will also increase the damage or duration of that ability by a small amount. Your ability will progress through the ranks automatically with XP gained while that ability is slotted on your Action Bar.

Ability CoEfficient

This is simply a hidden number which determines how the ability will scale and can’t be seen or changed. This simply differentiates the damage of different abilities so that everything doesn’t do the same damage or healing. You don’t really have to worry about this and you can’t change it.

Critical Strikes

When a Light Attack, Heavy Attack or ability does a critical strike it deals 50% additional damage. This is a great boost and can lead to much better damage!

You have a base Spell Critical Rating and Weapon Critical Rating of 10%. This means that every time you deal damage, there is a 10% chance to deal critical (+50%) damage to the target.

How To Increase

The higher critical you have the more critical strikes you will deal and the more damage you will do. You should not forget about Spell Damage, Weapon Damage, Max Magicka and Max Stamina as these do not rely on chance and can yield better damage results. It’s best to have a good mix of high stats.

In PVP a lot of players use the Impenetrable Trait on gear. This will reduce the amount of extra damage that your critical strikes will deal. If the player has enough Impenetrable your critical strikes will deal the same amount of damage as a normal hit. It is wise to wear gear with the Impenetrable Trait in PVP as some players have a very high critical strike chance which will deals lots of extra damage.

If you are wondering why ESO references Critical Rating in the game with numbers instead of percentages head over here and read about the ESO critical system.

 

How Can I Increase My Damage?

You can increase your damage by increasing any or all of the above factors. It is generally a good idea to start with Max Magicka / Max Stamina and Spell Damage / Weapon Damage as these have quite a big impact and work well in both PVE and PVP. You could then go for more Spell Critical / Weapon Critical. It is up to you how exactly this is achieved and how much you need. Just by doing things in game and experimenting with different ideas is a great way to learn and you can easily do this in the lower Levels and while questing and exploring!

You should take into account many things when considering how to increase your damage such as potential loss of survivability and resource sustainability. There is no point in doing a pile of damage if you’re already dead.

Increase Your Damage Stats

  • Weapon (Level, Quality, Enchants, Traits)
  • Attribute Points (Max Health, Magicka, Stamina)
  • Armor Passives (Light, Medium, Heavy)
  • Armor Enchants (Health, Magicka, Stamina)
  • Armor Traits
  • Jewellery Enchants and Traits
  • Item Sets
  • Passives (Class, Weapon, Race)
  • Buffs
  • Champion Points

There are a lot of ways to go about this, and there are no right or wrong ways. Some players like to get their item sets worked out, and then move on to their gear enchants, jewelry and weapons and finally fill in Attribute Points to cover any weak areas left over. You can go the other way too and use your Attribute Points first and then fill in any areas you want with your gear.

 

Measure Your Damage

You can enable scrolling combat text in Settings. This will then display damage numbers indicating the exact amount of damage that you deal, healing that you do and healing that you receive. This is handy when evaluating your effectiveness in combat and examining how your abilities are performing.

For PC/Mac AddOns can also serve this very purpose and are plentiful. I would recommend something like Foundry Tactical Combat or Combat Cloud to allow you to view live damage and heal numbers. These AddOns also show when your deal critical damage. There are a lot more AddOns to help with your damage measurement like Combat Log Statistics which let you go back and have a look at the damage that specific abilities did.

It is always good to evaluate your effectiveness and look for ways to improve. Maybe your first plan didn’t go so well due to an unforseen problem or maybe you need to invest in more Spell Damage or maybe the increase of 1000 Stamina isn’t worth the extra damage when you could use Health instead? AddOns can help a lot with this process!

Damage per Second (DPS) is not always the best or most accurate to measure your damage in ESO. DPS is calculated (mostly with AddOns) by timing a fight (from entering combat to the end of the fight) and also measuring how much damage was dealt in that time and dividing it by the number of seconds. So if you did 10,000 damage in 10 seconds that would be 1000 damage per second. Now imagine that there were 3 enemies and you charge in and deal AoE (are of effect) damage to all them, therefore dealing 30,000 damage in 10 seconds making your DPS jump to 3000. AoE DPS is very different to single target DPS.

A situation where DPS might be a useful measurement tool is a sustained boss fight.

DPS gets muddled in PVP as well, because the “in combat” and “out of combat” times are messed up due to the volatile nature of Cyrodiil fighting so any DPS measurements in Cyrodiil are likely to be inaccurate. DPS can be a handy measurement tool but it really has to be understood and taken in context rather than just used to boast.

37 Comments

  • Fishra
    Apr 25, 2015

    Just stumbled across your site, it’s great. Thanks very much for putting this all together!

    Reply
    • ESO Academy
      Jul 15, 2015

      Thanks! 🙂

      Reply
  • Nitram
    Jul 15, 2015

    I am really trying to maximize my Melee Magicka Templar’s DPS. I am wondering, do the passives from 2H affect spells such as Puncturing Sweep? Specifically, Heavy Weapons, which increases damage with a 2H by 5%, and Follow Through, which increases damage by 10% after a full charged attack.

    Reply
    • ESO Academy
      Jul 15, 2015

      Follow Through does increase your damage with anything after a Heavy Attack – so it will also work with Class Skills. Heavy Weapons will only effect the 2H Skills though, as well as Light and Heavy Attacks.

      Reply
  • Nick
    Aug 17, 2015

    This is great info and well written. Thank you for that.

    I’m currently playing on the ps4 and as of late have been trying to figure out the current state of caps? Are there any? I heard a patch or two ago they did away with them so as high as you can get your crit rating it all counts. If you get it to 75 percent is it really 75 or is it capped at 48 or 50 or something like that. Probably a useful section to add here.

    Reply
    • ESO Academy
      Jan 26, 2016

      Sorry for the late reply. There are no caps any more with regards to damage or critical. The only cap at this time is Armor / Spell Resist which is capped at 50% mitigation.

      Reply
  • Robbie
    Sep 7, 2015

    I use Bows on both my main hand and main backup. My first rotation is for single target damage and my second is for aoe on mobs. Now my question is will Armor Piercing work better than Critical Strikes? I want to use my Champion Points wisely.

    Reply
  • KD
    Dec 28, 2015

    What about unarmed damage? Does it scale with Stamina as well?

    Reply
  • Ak
    Jan 20, 2016

    I’ve been having a lot of difficulty in PVP currently I’m Vet8 and have troubles taking out less experienced players… My gear is Superior and Elite and I’m High Elf Sorcerer… Any tips?

    Reply
  • Purplehayez456
    Jan 30, 2016

    You say your gear is blue and purple but r you wearing a set? As a sorc you should be able to win a lot of fights with your shields and heavy dps. Maybe look into crafting kagernacs hope or Julianos is sometimes easier to get but not as good imo bc it doesn’t offer any sustain and if you are a caster try dual wield swords to boost your spell damage even higher. With kagernacs hope, engine guardian set, and dual wield torugs swords my spell damage is 3412. You could get another 100 spell damage from Julianos but no recovery or max health or fast res times if your friends die in pvp.

    Reply
  • GotAQuestion101
    Feb 27, 2016

    So this means that both Spell Damage and Max Magicka BOTH effect your overall DPS correct? Someone please respond.

    Reply
    • ESO Academy
      Feb 27, 2016

      Yes they both effect the damage with Magicka abilities.

      Reply
  • Goodmini
    Mar 5, 2016

    +ESO Academy
    Is there any good way to make a hybrid build? I was wondering if Poison Damage from bows scaled Stamina, Magicka or highest pool of resources? Or is it based off a flat rate? Just wondering.

    Reply
    • ESO Academy
      Mar 5, 2016

      Poison Damage scales with Stamina and Weapon Damage.

      Reply
    • Darth Grokk
      Apr 2, 2016

      Not only does Poison Damage scale with Stam/Weapon Damage, but they changed the Champion Points so that Mighty now increases Physical, Poison and Disease Damage. This is double-plus good for archers as the Bow Skill Line is where most of the Poison Damage is found.

      Reply
  • Lonebyte
    Apr 8, 2016

    Lonebyte
    When I initially stumbled on this site, I chuckled at the name, but I since have eaten those words.
    This site is appropriately named! It was clearly crafted to teach and aid in an endeavor.

    At its heart is how information is arranged, and the depth of presentation. It gets it right, like no other for
    ESO that I have found in two years of playing. ESO being my first MMO experience, it has felt like sucking
    on a water hose in dealing with all the info required for serious game play. That is until I found the Academy.
    It has been the glue to bind all those pieces and a superb reference source. GREAT JOB!

    Reply
  • phl0w
    Apr 11, 2016

    Great site!
    Been playing since release but never really got a grasp on ESO’s mechanics, thus it took me like forever to get to VR1 as my builds were “lacking” to say the least. Since I really like the game’s overall flair, and game play I decided to put more time, and energy into it. Your side is a great help for that!
    I didn’t know that Max Mag/Stam/Health contribute dmg modifiers to their respective abilities – good to know!
    I always wondered why so many Magicka builds go all out on Magicka despite never running oom – now I know!

    Thanks for your work!

    Reply
  • Canerer
    Apr 24, 2016

    This is an excellent compendium of information, great job!!!

    *** I have some questions of my own down below this long post, but I wanted to share my thanks! ***

    So many of the stats here have changed with the patches, but ESO has found a pretty good setup since the first year or so, in regards to “stats -> abilities” etc. Since it’s all mostly settled, I can’t tell you how glad I am to see so much RECENT and verified/verifiable stuff all in one place.

    I hope I’m not the only one who gets frustrated when trying to do a Google search for a specific ESO related query, and only find verified responses dating from 2014… You put together a much-needed little package of information, and even as a former ESO beta-tester I found some very useful answers here!

    *** Anyway, some QUESTIONS that I still haven’t had answered, embarrassingly enough. :/ I hope someone here can enlighten me!
    1) Are Destro/Resto Staff Light/Heavy attacks compared against the target’s Physical Resistance, or Spell Resistance?
    2) I intend to test this with a damage meter, but just for clarity, does Stamina/Magicka increase the Light and Heavy Attacks for their respective (Physical Weapons vs. Staves) attacks? Or do those stats only affect the damage for abilities?
    3) And as for increases to the actual ‘Weapon Damage’ and ‘Spell Damage’ stats (and those stats themselves of course), my understanding is that those bonuses (given by affects like Major Brutality/Sorcery) apply to both abilities as well as Light/Heavy Attacks. E.g. 20% increased Spell Damage will buff the damage of Magicka abilities AND Light/Heavy Attacks made with staves. Is this correct?

    Sorry, that’s a lot. 2016 and I’m still an ESO newby, it seems! If anyone can give me answers to these questions, I thoroughly appreciate it.

    Thanks again, definitely saving this page for later. 🙂

    Reply
    • ESO Academy
      Apr 26, 2016

      Thanks for the feedback!
      1) I believe that it is the target Spell Resistance because Staff Light and Heavy Attacks user Magicka, Spell Damage and Spell Crit.
      2) Yes, Spell and Weapon Damage also effects the Light and Heavy Attacks of weapons.
      3) Yes, Spell and Weapon Damage effect both the damage with abilities and Light and Heavy Attacks so those buffs will increase the damage done.
      🙂

      Reply
  • Gavin
    Jul 18, 2016

    I am a Breton Sorc and have been very frustrated at the changes that ZOS has made to the Sorc’s (i.e. nerfing shields from 20 seconds to 6 and nerfing powersurge). I have 400 champion points right now and have put all my points into recommendations from Sypher on Youtube. Right now I am having trouble staying alive because we have no way to self heal. Do you have an suggestions?

    Also, I am running 5 piece Julionus and 3 piece Magnus. I have 1 heavy, 1 medium and the rest are light armor. I had 3100 spell damage, but I was running out of magica too fast to I had to sacrifice getting more magic recovery over spell damage so I enchanted my willpower jewelry set with magic recovery instead of spell damage. Should I go back to spell damage? I created a new character today because it is just sad that I put so much time into my sorc just to have it almost completly useless without having a healer. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks

    Reply
    • John
      Aug 13, 2016

      Dark deal to heal or pets or resto or power surge…. magicka sorc r just fine in the self heals department

      Reply
  • Baal Orun
    Sep 8, 2016

    ok im tweeking last bits of damage to get maximum in your face pve damage out of my bow bow sorc….and I come across a very strange issue.
    I bought – VERY cheap Sithis touch neck and rings (blue all 3 have 160 weapon damage and just lot of health for the set bonus) just to help me
    farm a bit quicker. So i been farming agility jewlery and at this stage i got 2 rings (puple both with stamina) and used golden weapon damage enchants
    making both of them 174 weapon damage. So strange thing is: if i take of the 3 pieces of sithis jewlery….im down about 1200 weapons damage.
    So already I am WTF since i my books thats 3×160 sure i have some skills that give me bonus % etc etc….BUT if i replace those 2 sithis rings with
    the 2 agility im ALSO DOWN almost 400damage….and I dont see how that is possible. I am not changing any skills. If i wear the agility stuff my stamina
    goes up 3kish and hp down about 3k…..according to tool tip the extra stam should FURTHER increase my damage rather than result in me loseing damage.
    Anyone got an idea whats happening here? Sort of wondering if I should really bother trying to farm for the agility neckpiece….

    Any clues would be appreciated.

    Reply
  • Eli
    Sep 17, 2016

    Why is a dk the only class without a mag execution skill because they are fun to run just no good self heals at all and no execution skills make it harder to run then most other builds

    Reply
  • Brackett
    Nov 25, 2016

    Hello Eso Academy

    First i would like to just take a moment to let you know that this website is the coolest site to gain info on eso that i have come across in my research on the game. The time you have put into this website is certainly a vast amount and i would like to thank you for that time you have put in. Really thank you.
    I am currently using a duel wield skill line and am trying to get the most effect out of “bloodlust”. I am thinking about using blade dancer or toothrow to max its damage and heal but here is the question.

    *Can abilities such as “bloodlust” crit or are criticals secluded strictly to light/heavy attacks. I assume bloodlust would crit but have found no physical evidence on the matter. I was hoping you could enlighten me on the subject.

    *Additionally could the sorc ability “surge” proc when using bloodlust if it can infact crit.

    Thanks for reading this.

    Reply
  • Newbe
    Jan 20, 2017

    So by my understanding if you use magicka base abilities and staffs it is affected by spell damage if you use stamina base abilities and daggers and swords it affected by weapon damage is this correct

    Reply
    • Ahz
      Feb 11, 2017

      Yes

      Reply
  • Mitchell Holder
    Apr 21, 2017

    HI I have a character who has the same stats as my main the difference is I made this character last night and had my main for 3 years so what going on and when I looked at the characters weapons there the same even though my new character is lvl 4 is it a glitch or something I don’t know

    Reply
  • Serious_black101
    Apr 21, 2017

    Okay what would make my stam nb hit harder hundging viper all divines or drugh hulk and bone pirate. Question im asking is the extra 9k stam from drugh and bone worth the weapon dmg from hundging and burst from viper?

    Reply
    • Serious_black101
      Apr 21, 2017

      Is there a scale like 1000k stam adds this much dmg to a skill . 100 weapon dmg adds this much to a skill. Make a base line skill like surprise attack. Wondering if 50k stam is better then 4k weapon dmg. For surprise attack

      Reply
  • Kinsler
    Apr 21, 2017

    My weapon damage has been reduced, but i hadn’t changed my inventory.

    Reply
  • Broken Arrow
    Jul 2, 2017

    As a relatively new player, I really appreciate the info you have provided. Only wish I’d have found this
    months ago. So, here’s the question I have.

    In all the talk about light and heavy attacks, and weaving, I’ve yet to find a description anywhere on
    how the perform a heavy/light attack, and how to weave.
    For example, I think a heavy bow attack is when I hold the (release?) button down till it fires by itself,
    where as a light bow attack is when I just click the button as fast as I can. is this an accurate
    statement?
    How does this translate to a magsorc? I normally use lightning staffs and fight at max range, and
    kite a lot. Once I lock on to a target, I push the mouse button and hold it till the attack stops. Is this a
    heavy attack? Then, would a light attack be when I push the mouse button to fire of short bursts?
    If all this is correct, would weaving be when you change back and forth between the two attacks? And
    more specifically, how would you weave (i.e., change from one to the other) during an attack? Is there
    a specific number of light and/or heavy attacks you do to max the results?
    As I said earlier, you have really provided me with some great info. I never knew that more magicka
    or stamina increases the damage of weapons and abilities
    Thanks for any help you can provide.

    Reply
    • Zhorix
      Jul 18, 2017

      A light attack is indeed just clicking, a heavy attack is holding the mouse button untill the attack goes off “on it’s own” (for lightning staffs this is the bolt at the end of the channel) and a “medium” attack is a partially charged heavy attack.

      The term weaving is when you do a sequence like: light attack -> skill -> light attack -> skill… Etc.
      Thus you “weave” light attacks in between the skills. You can also weave medium attacks on anything except a lightning staff, but I might require more practice than light attacks. The reason why this is so effective is because you can cancel the animation of a light, heavy or medium attack by using a skilled right after it if you time it correctly. You can also cancel skill animations by blocking or bar swapping. This is only doable if you cancel the animation early enough, since at some point in the animation, you are locked it of other actions untill the animation finishes. If this animation cancelling is done correctly you can increase your performance by a huge amount, because you don’t have to wait for an animation to finish before you can do the next action.

      To master this, I recommend checking a video on the matter (animation cancelling) and practicing first with buff skills etc, then in lightweight combat untill you can start using it all the time.
      I hope this wall of text helped you somehow 🙂

      Reply
  • Kyle
    Jul 6, 2017

    So if I play a Templar Healer, heavy armour, rest staff and Sword a shield, I should get rid of the sword and shield because i have no points into stamina so that will be doing very low damage because i have low stamina? or is that only the case if you have stamina abilities. all my melee damage abilities or magicka, I chose sword and shield for the extra resistence. But is it the case tha tlight and heavy attacks do more damage if you have more stamina? I’m not too su reon how light and heavy attacks work with stamina?

    Reply
  • Mark
    Jul 7, 2017

    I have been trying to finish City of Ash 2 (Veteran). I’m a DK Imperial CP 226 Tank w/ very little trouble staying alive independent of a healer. My groups from dungeon finder seem to leave at random or don’t communicate at all. It seems I could finish even with a medium leveI group if we’d work together. Is there a place to find reliable players who communicate and are willing to help people out. I have a starter guild just opened w/ 3 but not alot of PvP/Trial. Exp. Due to not knowing many people. Any help/advice would be appreciated. Gamertag – Canis Daemonium – NA server.

    Reply
  • Keith
    Aug 14, 2017

    I just got my dps up got all my sets then they do an update and nerf everything.they favor pvp to much I think they need to separate pvp from pve cause I like to go in and kill stuff and do trials I hate pvp it’s boring also they crap on the players that have been playing since launch they like to waste are time so they can make it fare for the players that don’t want to put the work in

    Reply
  • Afro
    Nov 18, 2017

    If u put ur champ points into mighty under the ritual which increase physical disease and poison dose it boost the damage ur light and heavy attacks do also….it might sound dumb but I’m just a lil lost on how they split the hairs

    Reply

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