Skills and Rotation


What exactly is a ‘rotation’?

There’s a bit of mystery surrounding DPS rotations and animation cancelling but I promise you, it’s not some sort of black magic. A DPS rotation is built from the following elements; buffs, DoTs (damage over time abilities) and what I call a ‘spammable’, something relatively cheap that deals damage right away. And the rotation itself is the most efficient way of keeping as many of those damage abilities going at the same time as you can. Sustain is also important but I’ll get to that.

Let’s use Magsorc as an example because the rotation doesn’t have too many surprises.


  • Power Surge (grants us a spell damage buff)


  • Liquid Lightning (does lightning damage at the targeted area for 10 seconds)
  • Elemental Blockade (does elemental damage, based on the staff used, on the ground in front of us for 8 seconds)
  • Haunting Curse (does damage after 3.5 seconds and more damage after another 8.5 seconds)


  • Force Pulse (does flame, lightning and frost damage instantly)

I think the best way to describe this is with a timeline so show what we’re actually trying to achieve here. The diagram below shows the sequence and duration of each ability, where ‘X’ is when you cast.

Essentially what you’re doing is just casting each of your abilities, one after the other, and then using your spammable until you need to start over. Mag sorc is such a straightforward rotation because your abilities are mostly within a 8-10 second range so it’s pretty easy to maximise uptime without overlap.

You can see in the diagram how each ability is cast in turn. The darker areas are where there’s overlap and obviously the white space is where that ability is not active. The only unusual part of this rotation is haunting curse which is on a 12 second timer. We can’t recast it the second time around because we’ll miss out on the second round of damage at 12 seconds, so we cast it every other time through the rotation – everything else is done in sequence. Note that the second time through we cast an extra Force Pulse, because we’re not casting Haunting Curse this time.

Also note I’ve specifically allowed for heavy attacks. The time taken depends on the weapon but for a lightning staff it’s 2 seconds. If you’ve run out of magicka to cast your DoTs it’s too late to do a heavy attack so plan for them in your rotation.

Don’t forget that you should be doing a light attack before each of these abilities (more on that below) but this should illustrate the idea of a rotation. Keep your dots going all the time, and use instant damage abilities or heavy attacks in the gaps.

Some builds will have an execute which deals more damage when the enemy is below a certain health percentage. If you have one of these you want to use this instead of your spammable ability after the enemy has reached that health percentage. Don’t use it earlier as it’s not dealing enough damage to be worth casting. So in this example, you’d start casting Mage’s Wrath instead of Force Pulse once the enemy is below 20% health, but the rest of the rotation remains the same.

Every DPS rotation works this way, though the abilities and timing is different. But you’re trying to get as close to 100% uptime on your DoTs are you can, filling any leftover time with your spammable.

tl;dr Keep your DoTs running all the time and only spam if everything else is active. If you cast abilities willy-nilly, or just spam one ability while your DoTs run out, your dps will suffer.


I thought that was a bug…

People seem to get upset or confused about animation cancelling, but it’s not really wizardry and, regardless of how you feel about it, it’s been embraced as a part of the mechanics for dps. This is evident in things like the Maelstrom staffs, which boost the damage of your light and heavy attacks and the Hawkeye passive under the Bow skill line, which boosts the damage of your Bow abilities when you use light and heavy attacks. There’s also numerous set bonuses that proc on light and/or heavy attacks.

The two most important aspects of animation cancelling for DPS are light-weaving and swap cancelling.

Light weaving is simply using a light attack before every ability. It sounds trivial, but it actually adds a significant amount to your dps. This is because the game will prioritise the ability over the light attack. When you do this quickly, you do the damage for the light attack AND the ability in the same moment. It’s more damage in the same time. And it’s free. And it generates ultimate. And if you’re using a bow or a maelstrom staff or a proc set it’s an even bigger benefit. And if you’re a nightblade it returns resources. Have I convinced you to light weave yet?

It takes a bit of getting used to, but eventually it becomes automatic. The timing for it does depend on your ping – I suggest just practising with one ability and seeing how fast you can get it before the light attack stops registering. Experiment for just 5 minutes and you’ll see what I mean.

Swap cancelling is the same idea, except it cancels the animation for your ability, instead of your light attack. If you cast an ability and swap bars immediately, the ability will still fire but the animation won’t play. This can save you a LOT of time, especially in rotations where there’s a lot of bar swapping, or abilities with long animations (despite their instant cast time).

So putting the two together, when you do your rotation you want to light attack before each ability and then as soon as you use the last ability on your bar you swap immediately. In the case of the above rotation this is poison injection.

The only abilities you do not want to swap cancel are abilities with a cast time as this will fail either the ability or the swap. Try to arrange your rotation so you’re swapping an appropriate ability.

tl;dr use a light attack before every ability and bar swap as soon as you cast the last ability on that bar.



Why am I constantly running out of stamina?

When you start doing what I’ve described above, you’ll find yourself running out of your primary resource because you’re using abilities constantly. So you need to learn how to sustain. As a general rule, if you’re starting to run low, use a heavy attack instead of your spammable. Avoid heavy attacking between your DoTs as it will get your timing out of sync and you’ll start to get downtime, and whatever you do make sure you have enough magicka or stamina to cast your dots. So you need to start heavy attacking before you run out. You might wish to do one heavy and one spammable in every cycle, or all spammable one cycle and all heavy attack in the other. More spammables means more damage, but it ends up being a loss if you can’t keep your DoTs going. Ultimately it’s up to you to find the balance point. And don’t forget your potions. Not only does a potion restore your resources immediately, it also boosts your regen.



I really don’t want to talk to specific skills here, but it’s important to note that every dps build needs a source of their respective damage and critical buffs. For stamina this is Major Brutality and Major Savagery, for magicka it’s Major Sorcery and Major Prophecy. These will give you an additional 20% damage and 10% critical chance which make a noticeable difference to your dps. The most typical source is from potions but I don’t recommend burning through expensive potions while you’re still learning. There are some abilities that gives those buffs so you may be able to use those to start with, otherwise just get your dps into the 20-25k range and then do a test with pots. You can craft potions that restore your primary resource, boost your regen, and give damage and critical. With 3 skill points in the ‘Medicinal Use’ passive (under the Alchemy skill line) your potions will last 47 seconds and you can drink one every 45 seconds meaning you’ll get 100% uptime on those buffs.



This is the part where I just have ‘git gud’, isn’t it?

You’ve probably picked up on it by now, but chances are what you really need to do is simply practise. This is for two main reasons.

First of all, you just need to get better. If your numbers are low, you need to make the most of your abilities by practising keeping them up all the time, as well as maintaining your buffs and getting those light and heavy attacks in.

The second is because a boss fight is way harder than a target skeleton. You need your rotation to be muscle memory so that when the proverbial hits the fan you can maintain your rotation without having to actively concentrate on it, and instead dedicate your concentration to whatever mechanics are happening at that point in time. Many boss fights, particularly in vet trials, require both high DPS and precision timing in terms of group movement. You don’t want to be doing low DPS because you can’t keep your DoTs on the boss whilst running to a safe location or doing zero DPS because you’re dead on the ground because you were spamming your execute and didn’t run to a safe location. It’s a balancing act, but endgame content will require you to do both, and do them well.

The best place to start if you’re new to rotations is to find a build and literally just go through every skill on your bar, with a light attack before each. (light attack) One, (light attack) two, (light attack) three, (light attack) four, (light attack) five, swap. Repeat. Of course, skip toggles like Bound Armour or passive abilities like Inner Light. That is really the core of your rotation and you’ll be surprised at how much damage that alone will do. Once you’ve got the hang of that try to be a bit smarter about it and match those timers better. Have a look at how long each skill lasts and figure out which ones you should be casting together etc. As I said before, don’t bother using expensive potions until you’re around to 20-25k dps mark as you’re just wasting money. Stick with trash pots. Also don’t forget to use your ultimate as soon as it’s ready.

Once you’ve got a feel for it, you need to start finding ways to improve. Practise with purpose. Don’t just do the same thing over and over expecting your numbers to go up. Try to get 100% uptime on your buffs, or make sure you don’t run out of resources, or ensure you land a light attack before every ability. Always be working on something.

And when I say practise, I mean get yourself a target skeleton (the standard ones, with 3 mill health) or find a friend who has one in their house. It’s the best simulation of a boss fight you’ll find, without finding an actual boss that might try to kill you. Hitting two things with your AOE will double your dps and trash mobs often die far too quick and have much lower resistances. Proc sets with a % chance, Ultimates and execute damage will all be more consistent the longer the fight lasts which is why you need something with a decent amount of health to learn on. When people quote dps numbers like 15k, 30k etc. they’re talking about single target in a sustained fight.



I won’t go into too much detail here, but there are some really useful addons that will help you understand your dps and rotation. If you’re on console, my sympathies. You’re a bit more limited in terms of tracking the details of your rotation.

Combat Metrics will give you a dps bar so you can see how much damage you’re doing during a fight, as well as the % of the group dps. It also has a fight summary that you can keybind which will show you a lot more detail about your dps. Uptime on buffs, percentage and dps from particular skills, how often skills are critically hitting etc. This is where you want to go once you’re familiar with the basic rotation and are looking for ways to improve. It’s also where you want to compare particular skills if you’re changing your build.
PS. Bizz has a great Addon Spotlight video for Combat Metrics that you should check out if you’re unfamiliar with it!

Buff Timers or Srendarr will give you timers on screen for your buffs and ground abilities etc. which is really useful for making sure you cast those abilities right as they’re about to run out. Eventually the timing becomes muscle-memory, but when you’re learning it’s really useful.

Constellations will interpret your Combat Metrics data and suggest the best allocation for your Champion Points based on the amount of damage each of your skills are doing. It’s not super intuitive; you need to remember to click that ‘Import’ button and make sure you set the right physical/spell penetration but it’s a really solid start if you’re unsure what to do with your CP.


And if you skipped straight to the rotation, make sure you review your Character Stats and your Gear to ensure you’re ticking the right boxes there too.

Gear Sets, Traits and Enchants


Your armour sets are critical for maximising your damage output in ESO. You need to wear gear that’s going to synergise with your passives and your skills. In the current state of the game, there’s typically a “best in slot” option, with a handful of other options that are not far behind. And the best part is every build can wear a crafted set and achieve top tier dps which reduces the grind significantly.

Right, now what gear should I wear?
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard somebody say “I just need to get item/set X and then…”, well, I’d have a lot of dollars. I hear this ALL the time and I’ve been guilty of it myself. But gear is not going to magically fix your crappy dps. It’s only going to be as good as your rotation.
To illustrate this point, I did some dps tests wearing purple CP150 gear with purple enchants and no set bonuses. Not one. On my stam sorc I got 17.5k and on my mag sorc I got 14.5k (he’s an Argonian, don’t judge!) Granted, this is with max CP, but I’m missing not only the 5pc set bonuses that people get so hung up on, I’m also missing a large chunk of my other stats (crit, max resources etc.) from the 2-4pc bonuses and the additional damage from my weapon quality (the damage difference between purple and gold is significant, not to mention CP160).

I think the honest truth here is that lack of gear is just an easy thing to blame. Nobody will take you on trials, or you’ve farmed Dungeon X 50 times and haven’t had the helm drop in the right trait… It’s out of your control so it’s okay if you suck. And gear definitely matters, but not as much as people think. So yes, you should be trying to get the best gear that you can, but it’s far more important that you nail your rotation because, in the words of Iron Man…

No, seriously, what should I wear?
Since the Horns of the Reach update the gaps between best-in-slot and all the runner ups is a lot smaller. With CP, mundus stones and weapon traits you can balance whatever sets you’re able to obtain and there’s a crafted set for both magicka and stamina that’s totally viable for endgame.

Alcast covered this really well in his article on endgame gear but let me simply his article into a few lines; pick the best two endgame sets you can get your hands on and then balance your build accordingly. There are dungeon/trial sets (account bound), overworld sets (can be bought) and crafted sets that are all capable of doing vet trial worthy dps now. If you’re wearing any one of the sets in Alcast’s article and aren’t doing at least 20k dps there’s a serious issue with your rotation and upgrading to best-in-slot isn’t going to fix it.

If you really have no idea where to start, get yourself a set of Hunding’s Rage if you’re stamina, or Law of Julianos if you’re magicka. Both are crafted so they should be super easy to get. Put these with any other 5pc (stamina or magicka as appropriate) and you’ll be set. Another gear set might be better, but we’re talking probably 5-10% increase. The rest is on you!

Don’t stress too much about quality. Get CP160, but just stick with purple as golding out your gear is an extremely expensive exercise and it’s not going to cause a massive jump in your dps (hmm… that line is starting to sound familiar). I would however recommend golding your weapons. It’s only 2-3 items and this actually will have a noticeable impact on your damage. It’s by far the best return on investment in terms of improving your gear. Depending on the set, obtaining purple or gold jewellery can be very difficult, but the difference is not tremendous so wear what you can and work towards updating it.

Traits are still very important. For your armour, you want all Divines if you can get it. Infused is a good second best, particularly on head, chest and leg pieces. For weapons, Infused, Precise and Nirnhoned are all good traits and Sharpened is still decent.

Your gear enchants should all be your primary resource, or perhaps health if you want to boost that a little without having to respec your attribute points. See my article on Character Stats for more on that point. Jewellery should really all be weapon or spell damage (whichever is appropriate for your build), though you can use magicka recovery at the cost of damage if you need more sustain. For stamina builds, your weapons should be enchants such as poison or disease and for magicka use shock or flame enchants. There’s also a weapon enchantment that will boost both your weapon and spell damage. Remember that the same enchant will not stack, so you can’t enchant ALL your weapons with poison, or flame. Many endgame builds use Maelstrom weapons which have a unique enchantment so that’s one less you need to worry about, but in the Clockwork City Update this will change to a set bonus so you’ll be able to enchant these too.

tl;dr stop complaining about not having the gear you ‘need’ and start by using whatever you’ve got available. Get a crafted 5pc and whatever else you’ve got as long as it’s stamina or magicka damage focused.


Your gear and enchantments are an important aspect of getting your overall character stats as high as you can. But the real ‘secret’ to pulling high numbers is mastering your rotation.

Damage and Character Stats


Where does my damage actually come from?

Damage in ESO comes from your abilities (duh). But what actually determines the damage of your abilities? I’m not going to go into the formulas etc. but at a very high level it works like this.

Abilities have a base damage; this generally increases based on the rank of the ability. Skill morphs a) will increase the damage of the original skill as you continue to rank it and b) may add additional damage effects to the skill.

Your character attributes further affect this damage, which is why builds should specialise in either magicka or stamina to maximise their damage.

For magicka builds this means your max magicka and your spell power. For stamina this means your max stamina and your weapon power. If a skill costs magicka to cast, the more max magicka and spell power you have, the more damage it will do. Same goes for stamina.

The combination of the ability base damage and your character attributes determine the ‘tooltip value’ which is what’s displayed when you preview the skill.

When you actually hit with this ability, the actual damage dealt is further affected by the enemy resistance, your penetration (yes, let’s all have a giggle), your set bonuses, your champion points and whether or not it’s a critical hit.

tl;dr Stack max magicka and spell power to hit harder with magicka abilities. Stack max stamina and weapon power to hit harder with stamina abilities.



Is all damage the same?

Different abilities in ESO deal different kinds of damage. This is important for understanding how to get the most out of your abilities. Each ability tooltip and set bonuses will tell you what kind of damage that ability is dealing.


  • Physical
  • Poison
  • Disease


  • Magic
  • Flame
  • Shock
  • Frost

Why is this important? Physical Damage will be mitigated by Physical Resistance which can in turn be ignored by Physical Penetration. Spell Damage will be mitigated by Spell Resistance and in turn be ignored by Spell Penetration. The sub-types are important for passives, set bonuses and champion points.

  • The Dark Elf racial passive Destructive Ancestry will boost your flame damage
  • The Netch’s Touch armour set will boost your lightning damage
  • The Mighty champion point star will boost your physical, poison and disease damage

Learning what type of damage you’re dealing and how you can increase it is important for maximising damage.



I have 30k stamina and 2k weapon damage. Am I doing it right?

People ask this kind of question a lot, and there’s no hard and fast rule. Here’s some guidelines to help you assess your character sheet.

First of all, you want to have 18k health with your food/drink buff active. This is to keep you alive through most mechanics in dungeons – nobody is good enough to heal you through a one-shot. At lower levels and lower champion points this probably means you’ll have less stamina or magicka, but as you approach 300CP, improve your gear and enchants and unlock the Undaunted Mettle passives you’ll be able to hit that 18k health with more of your primary resource for dps.

Your jewellery enchants should be either damage or recovery. Eventually you’ll be able to enchant them all with damage but start with just one or two until you get used to sustaining. More on this in the Gear Sets, Traits and Enchants section.

There’s also two main options for your food/drink buff. There’s lots of blue food options that will give you max health and max stamina/magicka so I won’t list all those. There’s also one purple drink for each type of build that will still give you max health and max stamina/magicka, but not as much, and instead gives you more recovery. For stamina, this is Dubious Camoran Throne and for magicka, this is Witchmother’s Potent Brew. These are both purple recipes and can be hard to obtain as they have only dropped as holiday event rewards but if you can’t get the recipe you’ll certainly be able to buy the drink itself.

In terms of choosing between food or drink, you need to find the right balance for your character. More recovery means you can use more abilities and heavy attack less often, but you’ll have less of your primary resource (which reduces your raw damage because it scales off your stats remember!), and don’t forget you still need 18k health so if you swap buffs you’ll probably need to adjust your attributes or enchants.

Your mundus should almost always be Warrior for stamina and Apprentice or magicka. In some scenarios the Lover may be better but only choose this mundus stone if you understand how to calculate your penetration and can see it’s significantly short.



Do I need to fork out 3k crowns to change it?

Some players are very attached to their races – it’s one of the most defining aspects of your character and the thought of race changing or making a new character in a different race might sound like a really awful idea. The good news is you don’t need to. The bad news is you simply won’t do as well with a bad race/build combination.

Races in ESO are loosely sorted into magicka or stamina based passives. If you’ve at least chosen these to match your build, you’ll likely do fine.

My stam sorc is an Imperial. I chose this at launch because I wanted to craft (I know right!?) but I’ve tested a race change on the PTS and you know what? I only got 1-2k more dps so it wasn’t a deal breaker. However if I tried to go magicka that would be a different story. My passives just don’t support it at all. Speaking of magicka, my Argonian mag sorc is a poor choice to be completely honest (and I’ll probably end up changing it). I get a little bit of max magicka and a whole lot of health, but compared to the passives of High Elf, Dunmer or Breton it just makes no sense. However, I can still get 27k on a test so again, it’s about how you use it.

If your racial choice just seems completely at odds, I would suggest either changing race or changing your build (eg. turn that khajiit mag sorc into a stam sorc). But don’t expect your dps to suddenly skyrocket. In fact I wouldn’t bother with a race change (mostly because I prefer to spend crowns on pretty things and the thought of my Imperial sprouting a tail freaks me out) until you’ve pushed everything else as far as it can go and decide you need a little bit more.

tl;dr Race matters, but it’s still no excuse.


Your attributes and racial passives can make a big difference, but your stats are also determined by your gear and of course the damage you do comes from using the right skills

mApplinator’s guide to ‘gitting gud’ at DPS


I’ve spent a lot of time helping people improve their dps in ESO. Whether they want to qualify for vet trials, or want to finish veteran Maelstrom Arena, or just want to pull their weight in a dungeon, many people want to improve but are not sure how. So I’ve put together all the advice I’ve given out, in a format that builds from the ground up, exactly how to get the most out of your character.

My intention for this guide is not to push anybody into meta, or tell anybody that they suck and should gtfo. My intention is to inform, and attempt to dispel some myths or attitudes that keep people from reaching their full potential when it comes to damage in Elder Scrolls Online. I’ve also tried to stay away from specific builds and rotations. A lot of people just want to be told what to do, but I believe if people understand why they’re doing something, they do it better.

How much of this you take on is entirely up to you, and how much you should take on depends on what content you’re aiming to do. Many players don’t even know how to improve, and if nobody tells them what they don’t know, they’re trapped at their current level and won’t be able to move forward. My hope is that everybody will skim over the stuff they do know until they come across something they don’t, and that’s where the journey really begins.

I have a bad habit of over-explaining, so I’ve broken this down into parts (because it was ENORMOUS all together). I’ve included tl;drs where I can but I’d rather give too much information than not enough and then let people decide what’s relevant to them.

Damage and Character Stats

Gear Sets, Traits and Enchants

Skills and Rotation

There’s a huge amount of information in here – pretty much everything I’ve ever said to anybody who wanted to improve their dps. Consider as little or as much as you wish and try not to get overwhelmed. My recommendation would be to just pick one thing that you didn’t know before, and work on that. No one thing is going to suddenly boost your dps, but every piece is important. I pretty much just made chart this up, but this is about how much you should be worrying about each aspect of your build if you want to start pulling big numbers.

Remember that ultimately you decide how far you want to go. 5k dps is probably enough for normal dungeons. 10-15k will get you through most vet dungeons and be perfectly fine for normal trials. 20-25k for the DLC dungeons, particularly on hard mode and 20-30k for vet trials as they range in difficulty. You don’t need to minmax if you’re not doing hardcore content but you shouldn’t expect to be carried through content that’s above your level either.

If you’re looking for specific builds, Alcast has an up-to-date build for just about every class in both stamina and magicka. And if you have any specific questions about dps or ESO in general hit please me send me a message on reddit or Twitter.

PS. A big thanks to MissBizz for letting me upload this on her website! I’m not fancy enough to have my own…

Levelling your way to… Guides

As you likely know, Im not great at creating good builds. I do make my own, but it’s just for fun and they’re definitely not the best. Other people however, are fantastic at creating end game builds.

Oooh yeah…. End game.

So here is my idea. Would it be helpful to create a guide of when to take certain skills in preparation for these end game builds? Essentially I’d make a guide e planning what skills to take and when, so you have the necessary things unlocked and levelled by the time you can actually create the end game build. Though I would ensure it is new player friendly. This means I would make sure the skills on your bar are actually decent together (and fun!). More experienced players can put anything on their bars and be fine, but newer plyers don’t have that luxury.

Bizz Builds

I am also considering sharing the builds I make myself with you. As noted these wouldn’t be ‘meta’ or BiS, but fun builds I play with through the game. Would those be fun? Or pointless, since most people want the best builds?