Skyrim is the game that just keeps giving and giving. You have total freedom to play the game as you see fit. There is much to do—quests, grinding, smithing, alchemy, courting, and home decorating—and it never gets old. The game is big enough to continue to surprise players for years to come, but, at the same time, is contained enough not overwhelm them. For most players, there is always something new waiting to be discovered, and when there is not, Bethesda makes it so.
One of the most addictive parts of Skyrim, besides creating the perfect home for the Dragonborn, is leveling up your character in order to take on the highest powered enemies that Skyrim has to offer. I’m not talking about that Giant that launched you into outer space or that random bear that caught you off guard. I mean, the real badasses, most of which won’t even bother with you until you are strong enough to be worth their time. Then, once you are, it is likely they will strike you down before you even see what attacked you.
The enemies on this list are the most dangerous in the game. They are for players who have logged major hours playing and replaying Skyrim. Players who have perfected their character build and overcome the learning pains. The ones who are wondering, “What should I do now?” or the ones who have already overcome these foes and have the scars and tales to prove it. Let’s get started.
15 Ebony Warrior
Once you hit level 80, you will, no doubt, encounter the Ebony Warrior, as long as you have the Dragonborn DLC installed. He will hunt you down, appearing the next time you enter any of the major cities and challenge you to a fight to the death. Why you? He’s beaten everyone else he’s encountered and wants you to send his soul to Sovngarde in this, his final battle.
Obviously, he wears full ebony armor and is one of the strongest characters in the game at level 80. If you manage to land a melee attack, his Reflect Blows perk will reflect 10 percent of the damage back to you. His sword steals your health and replenishes his. He has 50 percent resistance to fire, frost, and shock spells; can summon creatures, and knows how to shout.
This battle a living nightmare.
If you want to fight Karstaag, the ghost frost giant, you must first summon him during the quest Summoning Karstaag. After locating his skull in Glacial Cave, place it upon his throne in the Castle Kaarstag Ruins, and get ready for battle.
Kaarstag may fight like a normal frost giant, but his attacks do far more damage—some of them are strong enough to send the Dragonborn flying. Not only that, he has 4000 points of health, which is much higher than the Ebony Warrior’s at 2071, and recovers 12 points per second. With a high (or complete) resistance to most spells besides fire and immunities to Mehrune’s Razor, Unrelenting Force, paralysis, and the Wabbajack, Kaarstag is not a force to be reckoned with.
Once Kaarstag is defeated, the Dragonborn receives the ability to summon him in battle a total of three times. Use this power wisely.
Miraak is a former dragon priest who claims to be the very first Dragonborn and the main protagonist of the Dragonborn DLC. He is the perfect example of absolute power corrupting absolutely, as is past is full of betrayal and arrogant behavior.
Miraak’s level scales with the Dragonborn’s up to level 150, arguably making him the most powerful character in the game. He uses a one-handed sword that drains stamina and a staff that causes poison damage by summoning tentacles (of all things).
Being one of the Dragonborn, Miraak also has access to a number of shouts, including one that allows him to bend the will of several dragons. Just when you think you’ve got him on the rope, he will use another one of his shouts to devour the soul a dragon under his control to replenish his health mid-battle. Darn!
12 Legendary Dragons
Dawnguard introduced us to Legendary Dragons, the most powerful in the game. In order for them to appear, the Dragonborn must be at least level 78. You can tell if a dragon is legendary or not by the color of its scales, which are black and purple. They also have large curved horns and, creepily enough, multiple eyes in a single socket.
Legendaries have 4,163 points (the frost versions have about 200 more points) of health, exceeding that of Karstaag’s, and at level 75, they make Revered Dragons look like a cake walk. A Legendary will either attack with Frost or Fire Breath and use the Drain Vitality shout to damage the Dragonborn’s stamina, magicka, and health.
You might want to consider traveling with a follower just in case.
11 Forsworn Briarhearts
You know you are in trouble when you find yourself fighting a man willing to undergo a ritual in which their heart is cut out and replaced with a briar heart. These guys insanely loyal and also quite strong. Forsworn Briarhearts max out at level 51 with a maximum health of 620.
If you find yourself in a Forsworn encampment, you will encounter one of two types: the melee user and the shaman. The former dual wields swords and axes. Get too close to the melee type, and you may find yourself dead after only a few blows due to perks like Bladesman, Dual Savagery, and Hack and Slash, all of which significantly increase the amount of damage dealt by them. Run away, and the shamans (and their atronachs) will pummel you with destruction spells.
Talk about double trouble.
10 Draugr Death Overlord
If you have seen one Draugr, you have seen them all. At least, that is what we used to think. Once the Dragonborn reaches level 37, the Draugr Death Overlord will grace you with his presence (though some unfortunate souls have encountered them earlier) in one of those dungeons you used to clear so easily.
The Draugr Death Overlord is a level 45 enemy with 1400 point of health. Oh, and he can shout, too. Remember when shouts used to be special? They will blow you away with Unrelenting Force, charge at you, and attack with an Ebony or Ancient Nord weapon. If that doesn’t work, and you find yourself gaining the upper hand, they will use Disarm to strip you of your weapon.
If you happen to stumble upon one at a lower level, be sure to bring a Flame Atronach and your running shoes.
9 The Forgemaster
The Forgemaster is another unique enemy that was introduced in Dawnguard. It is a stronger and larger type of Dwarven Centurion found in the Ruins of Bthalft. The Dragonborn must defeat it if they wish to use the Aetherium Forge to make special magical items.
If you thought battling Dwarven Centurion Masters was hard, then you aren’t prepared for this fight. It has a minimum level of 24 and a maximum of 50 with 1289 hp. Unlike other Centurions, it is resistant to fire—along with poison and illusion spells. You may find yourself caught off guard by its fire and fireball breath attacks, which replace the steam attacks used by normal Centurions. Don’t relax if you manage to evade this attack successfully. The fire lingers on the ground, waiting to cause more damage to unsuspecting fighters.
This is one foe that you shouldn’t seek out until you are ready.
8 Volkihar Master Vampire
The Volkihar Master Vampire is the strongest vampire boss type you can encounter in Skyrim if you are playing with any DLC. At level 53 with 968 hp, they definitely are not pushovers. Volkihar Master Vampires can be found in several locations throughout Skyrim, often with a couple of their clan members in tow.
If you come across one in your adventures, be prepared to deal with Destruction spells such as Ice Storm, Chain Lightning, and Vampiric Drain—which can drain magicka, stamina, and health. Oh, and make sure to avoid contracting Sanguinare Vampiris. Unless, you want to be a vampire, in which case, carry on. To take these guys on you will need a lot of patience, a fire spell or, ideally, nearly maxed Sneak and Archery skills.
7 Dremora Valkynaz
The Dremora Valkynaz is the baddest of the bad when it comes to Dremora, a type of Daedra. However, because they are summoned creatures, they are very rare. Still, it is possible to encounter them in battle. After completing the quest “Pieces of the Past,” Silas Vesuius will summon two Dremora to attack the Dragonborn at the Shrine of Mehrune—even if you don’t kill him—because he is a jerk.
It is possible that these Dremora will be the Valkynaz type if the Dragonborn’s level is high enough. If you are fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to engage one in battle, make sure you are wearing your best armor. These guys attack with powerful, enchanted two-handed weapons and specialize in Destruction spells, such as the Adept-level Fireball and expert-level Incinerate. The Augmented Flames perk increases the damage of their fire spells by 50 percent.
These well-rounded creatures should not be taken lightly.
6 Dragon Priest
If you need proof that Dragon Priests are badass just take a look at Miraak, the strongest enemy in the game, who started out as one of them. In the original game, there are eight priests you can encounter during your adventures. They are all level 50 with 1,490 hp and 545 magicka.
Dragon Priests lie in wait in their tombs awaiting the Alduin’s return. Approaching their resting place will trigger a battle no matter your level, so be sure to watch your back when exploring ruins. Each priest typically has an elemental attack that they prefer, casting related destruction spells and summoning atronachs of the same element. They cannot use melee attacks, so they will cast spells, like Ebonyflesh, to protect themselves from such attacks.
They are master spellcasters, with Conjuration, Destruction, Alteration, and Restoration maxed out—and the ability to summon Dremora. Expect to die a few deaths.
5 Falmer Warmonger
The Falmer were already annoying enough before Dawnguard went ahead and added Warmongers to the bunch, creating the most powerful Falmer in the game. These blind creatures with their heightened sense of hearing, smell, and touch are the Daredevils of the Skyrim. They top out at level 35 with 930 hp, the toughest ones being the spellsword and melee boss types. They wear heavy armor, preferring Falmer Hardened Armor or Falmer Heavy Armor—which provides the same level of protection as Ebony Armor.
They are proficient with melee weapons and are able to cast Destruction and Restoration spells. The spellswords, in particular, are not afraid to cast Chain Lightning or Ice Spike on their opponents. Both types possess the Extra Damage perk, which, as the name implies, increases the amount of physical damage dealt by these dastardly creatures.
4 Arch Mages
Not to be confused with the Arch-Mage of the College of Winterhold, these enemies are comprised of all the most powerful types of spellcasters across Skyrim, from Cryomancers to Necromancers and Pyromancers to Electromancers. No matter the type, they are all level 46 and with 575 hp.
They cast spells that are adept and higher, dealing significant damage to the Dragonborn. In particular, their Destruction spells are augmented with perks that increase their damage by 50 percent. They also have the Regeneration perk which increases the effectiveness of healing spells by 50 percent. Pair this with their ability to increase protection spells to reduce damage, and you will find that, though they are only wearing robes, they are difficult to take down—especially since they tend to travel with others.
3 Nightmaster Vampire
If you have Dawnguard installed, you will eventually run into the Nightmaster Vampire, the strongest boss type in the game. They are commonly encountered in vampire lairs or while they are attacking cities. They pack a whopping 1,226 hp, and at level 65, they are skilled mages and necromancers, specializing in Destruction and Necromancy.
Watch out for Vampiric Drain which saps 15 points of health, magicka, stamina per second from the Dragonborn, which totally sucks (ha!). They can also cast adept and higher Destruction spells, but the real game changer is their ability to use Revenant to reanimate a powerful corpse to fight for them. Isn’t just fighting the Nightmaster bad enough? They can turn invisible for crying out loud. You’re on the verge of winning and then poof! They’re gone, only returning once their health is recovered.
2 Werewolf Vargr
The Werewolf Vagrs is yet another enemy that was introduced in Dawnguard. The boss-level Vargrs are level 48 with 548 hp (one of the lowest on our list). However, these werewolves are the strongest in the game. They are likely the “lost” werewolves that Aela refers to during the quest “The Silver Hand.”
There is no need to seek them out. Once the Dragonborn reaches level 38, they will randomly attack you on site as you explore Silver Hand bases. What they lack in defense, they make up for in damage and speed. They use the spell Werewolf Claws to receive a Fortify Unarmed Damage effect, which gives them a substantial power boost.
This isn’t Twilight. These vampires are out for blood.
1 Lurker Vindicator
Lurkers are found in the realm of Apocrypha and can also be encountered in Solstheim. They are amphibious Daedric creatures who use melee attacks during battle. The strongest Lurker by far is the Vindicator, with a max level of 54 and 1,768 points of health.
Don’t let their lack of armor fool you; these guys pack a powerful punch and their stomps are strong enough to stagger you—and cause poisonous tentacles to appear beneath their feet. Its Lurker Spray attack causes 8 points of damage per a second, whereas their ranged Acid Spit attack causes 20 points of damage over 5 seconds. Add the Extra Damage perk to the mix, and you have a recipe for disaster, no matter the distance. Even without Acid Spit, hanging back and spamming spells won’t work, as they have 25 percent resistance to Frost and Magic.
If you see more than one, run!