The Demonhunter: my solution to the conundrum of recognizing the sheer awesomeness that is the Archery skill tree and yet vastly preferring close quarters combat to cowardly long-range sniping.
Whereas other archers cower behind the cover of darkness and the safety of distance, even stooping so low as to flee to precious high ground at the first sign of distress, the Demonhunter stands his ground and fights to the death (of his enemies). Essentially a cross between the Witchhunter and Paladin archetypes, this build is for those who recognize that the true potential of all the great endgame Archery perks (which increase your dexterity and speed with a bow or provide opportunity to stagger and even incapacitate your foes) lies not in their ability to improve a boring ranged game, but to thrillingly dish out death with arrows even as enemies close in.
Fan of Lord of the Rings or not, everyone remembers what a badass Legolas was dispatching foes at all ranges with his bow and arrows in the films; it's time to achieve that in Skyrim. And really, what better time to become a Demonhunter than now, in anticipation of after the crossbow-wielding, Vampire-hunting Dawnguard's rapid approach awesome arrival?
This build replaces some of the overpowering (read: snoozeworthy) offense of other archer builds who focus on maximizing the damage of their stealth shots to dispatch of foes before they're even seen (how exciting!) with some serious defensive capabilities instead, to ensure enemies do get to see just who's kicking their collective asses. Think a Paladin who's swapped out his sword and shield for a bow and some magic traps. Control the battlefield with paralyzing perks and poisons for your arrows, absorb enemy spells and turn them into fuel for your own healing circles and fiery deathtraps, and utilize your dexterity, durability and lightning-fast draw speed to survive even at melee range.
Race: Any (seriously, I went Khajiit for looks alone - can't beat an armor-clad, hooded tiger)
Major Skills: Archery, Restoration, Alchemy
Minor Skills: Heavy Armor, Destruction, Alteration, Smithing
Gear: Armor set of choice + Hood of choice (as long as those choices are Nordic Carved + Adept!)
Weapons: Zephyr + Enhanced Dwarven Crossbow (Sorry folks, Dawnguard or bust with this one)
Shouts: Slow Time, Whirlwind Sprint, Ice Form, Unrelenting Force
Spells: Dual-cast Flames, Fire Runes, Ash Runes, Whirlwind Cloak, Guardian Circle, Healing/Flesh spells
This build is all about making a stand: lay down a Fire Rune and Guardian Circle and start picking off your enemies. There's something infinitely more satisfying about watching a lone survivor battle through the devastating effects of poison-tipped arrows only to have whatever little bit of life he has left in him blasted to smithereens by the fiery trap set at your feet when he finally reaches you, rather than simply outright killing him from some dark corner with a single, easy-mode stealth killshot.
Your offense comes from battlefield control, achieved mainly through your perks, poisons, shouts and spells: paralyzing (often), staggering (very often), hell - even sending enemies into a rage with your frenzy-inducing arrows to soften up their own compatriots for you. You've also got the stacking damage of dps/weakness to fire poisons plus dual-cast purging flames to ensure enemies who do reach you don't have long to make it worth their effort.
Your defense comes from many places. First and foremost, practice the riposte (a swift punch to the face with your bow in hand prevents your enemy's attack and allows for just enough time to nock and fire the finishing blow). Enemy spells are also a joke when you absorb them four out of five times thanks to the Atronach perk and stone, and use that energy to fuel your own expertise in the healing arts. And lastly, your heavily-smithed armor is the perfect fit for both tanking the blows you do take and/or remaining nimble enough to dodge most of them to begin with, depending on whether you prefer Heavy or Light Armor.
Since hoods are a must for the look and don't come in the heavy armor variety, there's no sense in taking the perks that only apply when a full set is worn, and so it is recommended that only every rank of the Juggernaut perk is taken and none others in the Heavy Armor tree if opting for that look (and there is simply no better aesthetic choice than Nordic Carved Armor w/ an Adept Hood). On the other hand, Light Armor can actually be paired with a Light Armor hood if any of those sets are preferred, thus enabling every perk in the Light Armor tree aside from Matching Set to be taken and applied. One only needs to weigh which set they think would look best personally (see above - hint, it's Nordic Carved), and whether it would be preferred to only invest five perks in the Heavy Armor tree to free up more elsewhere or to spend more perks in the Light Armor tree but also get to reap the benefits of abilities like faster stamina regen and a chance to dodge enemy attacks. The choice is yours, folks! (Choose Nordic Carved!)
Sample Level 55 Perk Spread:
Some interesting perk choices for an archer, but there's really no need to sneak around here. Between the healing, absorption, and tanking you're capable of, you can deal with close-range combat, especially when your arrows stagger and paralyze your enemies so often even before your awesome array of poisons are applied. As far as shouts go, Slow Time maximizes both your offensive and defensive capabilities and is therefore your primary. Put the tip of your arrow right up to an enemy's face before sending it hurtling through their skull after sidestepping their sword swipe with time to spare. Plus what better way to optimize damage than removing the "time" factor of your "damage over time" poisons by slowing it to a crawl?
Your other bread & butter Shouts, utilized to buy time and reposition yourself and/or enemies if you ever do happen to get overwhelmed, are Ice Form, Whirlwind Sprint, and Unrelenting Force. The first of those, Ice Form, acts as the ice trap alternative to my Flame Runes' fire trap, because what could frustrate enemies more than wading through a hail of arrows only to be frozen solid when they reach you, giving you enough time to reposition and begin the storm again? Well, Unrelenting Force could certainly frustrate them just as much, if not more, as that Shout repositions your enemies for you, sending them hurtling back to square one where they can enjoy yet more arrow rain! And lastly, Whirlwind Sprint is the ultimate in get-the-hell-out-of-Dodge Shouts, perfect for leaving the chaos a frenzy poison-laced arrow incites far enough behind to warrant grabbing some popcorn and watching the action unfold.
Circle of Protection:
What better way to stand your ground against incoming foes than to shoot at them from within a healing circle while a fiery deathtrap awaits their approach? Dual Cast Fire Rune/Wall + Guardian Circle.
Combine bow & magic to incredible effect: nothing hurts like stacking the damage over time effects of a health draining poison arrow and the slow burn of fire magic. DPS/Weakness to Fire Poison Arrow + Dual Cast Flames, recast in bursts.
Utilize lightning-fast reflexes and supreme accuracy to slow combat to a crawl, dropping all of your enemies in the blink of an eye and ensuring that those who do manage to get back to their feet look like pin-cushions & wish they stayed down. Slow Time + Paralysis Poison-Laced Arrows/Bullseye Perk.
Dawnguard & Dragonborn: Potential Realized
Just as expected, Dawnguard has arrived with a bang particularly tailored for this build, and now so has Dragonborn with yet more tools for the ol' DH arsenal as well. Spoilers to ensue: the Dwarven Enhanced Crossbow is essentially the ultimate weapon for this build, bypassing 50% of armor, dealing massive damage, looking entirely badass, and even sporting exploding elemental bolts for ammunition (which in turn only further serves to eliminate the need for Enchanting). As far as actual bows go, the Zephyr is king, as it sports the highest DPS of any standard bow thanks to its ridiculous firing speed (though it goes through arrows like a fat kid through cupcakes) and also, conveniently, improves off the same Dwarven Smithing perk required for your crossbow of choice. And of course, above all else, there's the Dawnguard questline which sees to it that the vampire blight plaguing Skyrim meets its eradication at your bow-drawing, trigger-squeezing hands: the absolute perfect story line for this character to take on.
As far as the Dragonborn DLC goes, two spells in particular take the absolute crowd control cake and round out your defensive capabilities to a degree we couldn't have ever hoped for after the first DLC already provided so many wonderful toys for our offense. Nothing could make a Demonhunter happier than a brand new Rune to add to his or her arsenal, and Ash Rune is the ultimate oh-shit button at that, enabling you to take the fastest and/or most resilient enemies out of the equation entirely while you deal with their pals. And for the Demonhunter who doesn't want to be bothered with the arduous task of pushing a button every time he wishes to hurl close-by enemies back to the outskirts of Eatmorearrowsville, there's always Whirlwind Cloak: a passive ability to activate and watch save your ass repeatedly as its chance to fling enemies who close in back to the range they're unlikely to survive the journey from again takes effect. Oh, and Dragonborn also provides us with Nordic Carved Armor, which I do believe I've forgotten to mention is simply a beautiful sight to behold when paired with an Adept Hood. Just sayin'!
Truth be told, this build without both Dawnguard & Dragonborn is, while still awesome by my own standards, only a shell of what it can achieve via that add-on, so spend that money, folks!
And now, to conclude this update to my now (3x-over!) Legendary Build here, I'd like to give credit to Diablo III for the look/design inspiration, though my build has a far more close-ranged-capable, tanking focus than what I've heard of that game's similarly named version (and though mine was born of my desire to combine the well-known Paladin and Witchhunter archetypes moreso than actually attempting to bring that game's class to this game's realm). And lastly, I'd like to thank the ridiculous amount of people who have surprised me in the best of ways, embracing this idea I've put forth and turning it into one of this site's most beloved builds. I'm still awed, incredibly grateful, and inspired to keep them coming!
I've just started playing this with the release of dawnguard, and am going to use crossbows. I have one questin though. Since with dawnguard you can now craft your own bolts and arrows, is smithing more of a priority for me? And which path should I go?
Also, I know that bolts can be infused with fire or ice. Will alchemy still be worth it?
You should really give a couple of tips when going up the Dawnguard/crossbow path :)
i would put destruction up at least too adept so as to use cloak spells which i think would fit this build well
i also like to have a point in steady hand so you can pick off an close enemy with a quick shot in slow mo, though i know some people don't really like it
I agree that Cloaks might not see a lot of use with this build. I guess you could always switch out of your bow as the enemy closes and cast one, but if you have time for that you have time for another shot, which would be preferable in almost every case.
I love Steady Hand, but then I've not played around with Slow Time and archery. The one advantage of the perk is that it's always working - no recharge time. I'll have to give this a shot, though.
There is a certain weapon in Dawnguard that really really makes me want to do this build now. Talk about ultimate demon hunter.
Very cool build. I just might try it for my second play through. I also love the artwork, did you do it yourself? If not where did you find it? It's a great representation of the build. Great job!
Hey man, first of all: congratulations with this build! It has an epic feel to it, very fresh and creative to skyrim.
I do have an idea though, why not run one extra point in necromage? Why? Because as a Demon Hunter, your purpose is to fight vampires (who are flagged as undead by the game) and other demonic creatures. This will definitely increase your effectiveness against them. (just a minor hint which contributes both to the RP and powerplay side)
Also the correct spelling of Demon Hunter is with a space in between I think. If you want to perfect your presentation and layout.. :D (No spelling nazi here!)
Would heavy armor also work or would it be to slow?