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The Best Skyrim Stealth Archer Build (Skills, Perks, & Weapons)

With The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim getting an Anniversary Edition re-release this November 11th, there's plenty of reason to dive back into everyone's favorite never-ending game. This guide breaks down how to successfully build a stealth archer, a character class that can deal wicked damage while remaining relatively untouched. Skyrim's newest aspiring stealth archers can achieve this with a blend of well-chosen perks, armor, and weapons.

When building, it's essential to pay attention to which skills not to work on. Avoid using any skill-categories that aren't strictly necessary. This is important because Skyrim's enemies scale with the player's level; keeping them weaker means more reliable one-shot stealth kills. Focus on three skill trees: Archery, Sneak, and Light Armor.

Related: Skyrim Character Builds For Players Who Have Done Everything

First comes choosing character race. Either Wood Elf or Khajiit give useful early boosts to Archery or Sneak, but these actually become irrelevant later on. The sleeper pick is Skyrim's Orc race, because their Berserker Rage ability doubles damage and this stacks with later perks. Players should then acquire a bow during the opening sequence, and activate the Thief Standing Stone on the way to Riverwood for its bonuses to Archery, Sneak, and Light Armor.

Archery is of course the main skill-tree of the stealth archer. To quickly level it, players can optionally use an exploit by helping Faendal in the quest "A Lovely Letter", accessible in Riverwood. Players can then gain him as a follower and train in Archery with him, then access his inventory to reclaim their gold and continuing training, up to archery level 50. Then, aim to max out all Skyrim's Archery perks starting with Quick Draw, then prioritizing Steady Hand for the zooming and time-slowing effects, and Hunter's Discipline for better arrow recovery.

Sneak is the next key skill tree. Skyrim makes it easy to level Sneak: players can just crouch everywhere they go, until reaching sneak level 100. For perks, players should prioritize Stealth, then get Backstab in order to access Deadly Aim for its triple damage on sneak attacks. This is the stealth archer's bread and butter, and it stacks with Berserker Rage to give an incredible 600% damage. Light Armor can generally be ignored until Archery and Sneak are filled out with these essential perks.

Skyrim's most reliable stealth archer armor set is the Ancient Shrouded Armor, which muffles footsteps and gives a 35% damage bonus to bows. Players can obtain it by completing the Dark Brotherhood side-quest "Locate the Assassin of Old", which is accessible after completing "Breaching Security" in the main Dark Brotherhood questline.

Players have a few good weapon options. The obvious choice is the Enhanced Dwarven Crossbow, from Skyrim's Dawnguard expansion, for its 50% armor-piercing and high base damage. Another solid pick is the Nightingale bow for its additional frost and shock damage, obtained from the Thieves Guild quest "Blindsighted". Bows draw faster than crossbows, but this generally won't matter as players should be attacking slowly from stealth.

A last consideration is that female character can generally achieve more damage than male characters. The quest "The Heart of Dibella" awards a 10% damage bonus to the opposite sex, and most of Skyrim's enemies are male, so in the end women make the best stealth archers around.

Next: Skyrim's Best Speedrunning Builds

Skyrim is available on Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and will release on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S on November 11, 2021.

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