Introduction to PvP

by NirnStorm
11th March 2021

Guide Contents

Forward Camps

Have you ever thought about jumping into Cyrodiil, but were unsure of how, or what you must know before you try it out? Ever tried to play some Battlegrounds but felt like your setup didn’t stand a chance in PvP and weren’t comfortable to try again? Ever felt confused about how PvP is different from PvE and didn’t know who to ask?

In this guide I’ll be going over the different PvP activities that exist in The Elder Scrolls Online, explain what you can expect to see and experience in each one of them, and discuss at length what you should be looking into if you’re interested in starting to participate in any of them, and what are the first steps towards success and victory in PvP.

PvP Activities

The Elder Scrolls Online presents four different formats of PvP, or Player versus Player activities:

  • Dueling
  • Battlegrounds
  • Imperial City
  • Cyrodiil

All these activities share a lot in common, as your PvP build, your understanding of enemy-class queues and your control of your own class and setup will be massive factors towards your success in all of those. However, there’s a lot of differences between each of these activities – from the objectives of each to the ways you can play it out, and the main contributors towards winning at it.

Let’s take a deeper dive at each one of these activities and discuss what’s it all about, and what you can expect to see while playing it.


A one on one fight to death between two individual players.

Dueling is a great way to start practicing and learning the basics of PvP, as you can easily do so with any friend, guild member or even random player you run into while playing the game; and is also a great way to test out your skills and control of PvP mechanics once you’ve become very experienced, by joining dueling tournaments organized by the community.

Getting Into It

Starting out Dueling is really as simple as it gets. All you have to do is find a partner -whether a friend or a random person you run into- and start sparring. There’s no penalty for losing, and no negative consequences or effects if you lose a bunch of times or leave the duel in the middle of the fight, so it’s all about taking advantage of this free and easily accessible method of PvP to learn about PvP, and about your own character.

Stepping It Up

To try and improve your dueling expertise, there are several things you should be focusing on while dueling:

  1. Learning your own class by figuring out what’s it good at and what are its weak spots. How to heal properly and reset the fight, and how to surprise your opponent and take them down when they are not prepared for it
  2. Noticing enemy class queues and trying to figure out based on specific skills they use, when are they about to go offensive, or defensive. When are their Ultimate abilities about to be ready, and what you should do to prepare for that.
  3. Figuring out patterns and taking advantage of breaking them. Dueling is usually about cycles between enemy burst rotations and heals, where the key spots are when one side locks the other one using a Crowd Control ability or bursts them down using an ultimate ability. Being able to recognize when each of these key moments are happening and predicting when they are about to occur again is the key to improving your strategy in duels.

Owning It

When you feel like you’ve improved a lot at dueling and want to try and reach the endgame part of it, you’ll want to join some dueling communities, and potentially try participating in some dueling tournaments. While there aren’t too many top-end dueling communities in ESO, they tend to be easy to find if you’re confident at your skills and are willing to duel anyone you run into. There are also some popular dueling spots where you can look for the top duelists and try fighting them at. On PC NA for example, such a spot is right next to the Undaunted area in Stormhaven, and on PC EU such a spot exists near the Bergama wayshrine in Alik’r desert.

Dueling in the Elder Scrolls Online


A Match Making based arena where three teams of up to four players in size compete against one another by completing objectives such as capturing flags, relics, and Team-Deathmatch.

Battlegrounds is a great PvP activity you can join whether you’re new or experienced, to enjoy some fast-paced PvP action that doesn’t require much effort to find a fight at, and doesn’t force you to commit to a long play-session, as it only lasts up to 15 minutes per match.

Getting Into It

Your level of expertise in PvP is not a limiting factor in Battlegrounds as there is a unique MMR system that makes you always fight versus players of similar experience to yours!
In addition, your own performance in the match isn’t quite as critical to the overall success of the team, as teams have up to four players and are mostly balanced in terms of MMR as well, meaning if you are the lesser performing player, there are likely more experienced players in your team that could make up for potential mistakes you make.

Stepping It Up

When trying to improve at Battlegrounds, there are quite a few things that you must keep in mind constantly and try and work on throughout your matches.

Keeping positioning in mind, for example, is super important. BGs in ESO consist of three teams rather than two like in most games, and if you are too focused and too invested in a fight versus one team, the other enemy team could hit you from the flank and take your team down. That’s why it is very important to position yourself away from enemy teams, so you can always disengage if the situation gets problematic, or make the third team more likely to focus the team you’re currently fighting, than your own team.

Another important, although quite an obvious thing to keep in mind, is the importance and relevance of playing together as a team. Make sure to help the weaker players in your team to prevent your enemies from taking them down and forcing you into an outnumbered fight, and follow the stronger members of your team to try and combine your damage with theirs to take down tanky enemy players. Cross healing is also very important, as it makes everyone in your team harder to take down and gives you a lot of breathing room in combat.

Owning It

When you reach the Top MMR Bracket in BGs, you’ll start seeing the same people over and over again in matches, both on your own teams and fighting against you. At this stage, you should consider joining a Battlegrounds guild, where you can learn to work together with other players that are as experienced as you and have fun matches with them in both solo and group queues for BGs.

Elder Scrolls Online combat

Imperial City

A small zone where players can fight one another as well as partake in some PvE quests involving the fight against the Daedra who have conquered the city.

Imperial City is a great way to transition from PvE into PvP. It lets you do the same things you’re experienced with, whether it is completing quests, exploring or killing enemy monsters, while occasionally running into enemy players, which you can try to defeat in combat or flee from if you think you won’t be able to take on them!

Getting Into It

Getting into PvP in Imperial city will come naturally, as you try and participate at any activity in the zone. You can complete some quests, explore, find skyshards or capture districts. At one point or another, you’re bound to run into an enemy player. When you do, it’s important not to panic but try and treat it like any other fight you’re experienced with. While some players are more experienced at PvP and will prove much more difficult to fight against, you might be able to take on others, and in the worst case scenario in which you die, you can always respawn at a nearby district or at your faction’s base in the sewers, and head right back out there!
If you really need some help, you can always use zone-chat and try to find a group of friendly players or an ally you can team up with!

Stepping It Up

To try and improve at PvP in Imperial City, you’ll have to utilize similar concepts to one we’ve previously discussed in the previous subjects of this guide, such as class analysis and positioning. However, there are some of strategies that are IC specific and can help you out as you fight in the city!

  • If you’re looking for a fight, try capturing flags of districts, as those attract the attention of other players looking for PvP.
  • In a scenario where you are being chased by enemy players, try to use your terrain for your advantage. You can go in and out of buildings through many open doors and cracks in the walls, and can even move in between districts – an action that grants your character temporary immunity that you can use to run away or find cover.
  • Once you’re carrying a lot of Tel-Var stones, the currency that enemy mobs and players in Imperial City drop, you can use an Imperial Sigil to teleport back to your base safely and stash your Tel-Vars in the bank, or spend them. You can buy Sigils from merchants at your faction’s base, so make sure to stock up before you head out!

Owning It

While Imperial City isn’t too popular amongst endgame PvPers most days of the year, every few months there would be a Double AP Event, or a Double Tel-Var Event, during both of which IC becomes incredibly populated and has many never-ending fights all across it, and in the sewers underneath it. As an experienced PvPer – this is your time to shine, take on groups of enemy players, win exciting battles and collect the spoils – whether AP or Tel Var, for your own use.

Combat in Elder Scrolls Online
Imperial City


A massive zone, the biggest zone in the entire game, where the three factions fight one another endlessly while attempting to take over keeps, castles and towns to gain control over the land.

Cyrodiil is the biggest form of PvP in the Elder Scrolls Online, where you can choose to team up with other members of your faction and partake in massive sieges and battles, take over small towns or towers with your guilds or friends, or just run off on your own looking for a fight to pick behind enemy lines.

Out of all the forms of PvP in ESO, Cyrodiil is the most complete PvP experience, at least in my opinion. It lets you explore, team up with friends and random faction members, defend and conquer areas, take on fair and even fights and, if you’re capable enough and are up to the challenge, fight multiple opponents on your own.

Getting Into It

When trying to get into Cyrodiil, it’s important not to get overwhelmed. Cyrodiil is a huge zone, with a lot of systems that come off as quite complex for new players – sieging mechanics, huge battles all across the map, transitus traveling methods and respawn camps, which are quite different to normal traversing methods via wayshrines, emperorship leaderboards, alliance scoring systems and so on and so forth. It’s important to keep in mind that while all these systems seem quite big and complex, most of them take very little time to learn and get used to, and once you dive into the Cyrodiil experience for even a short while, most of these systems will become very simple, and almost like a second nature to you.

To get into it very quickly and effectively, I recommend you try and join a PvP group or guild to play with. There are usually quite a few guilds that are willing to group up with random players through zone-chat, which you can join by typing /z into your chat box. If you go into the zone chat and type “LFG”, which stands for “looking for group”, normally there would be at least one group that would be willing to take you in, and while most of these groups tend to not have the highest-quality, most experienced of players in the entire game, they tend to be very welcoming and accepting, and can relay a lot of information to you, and help introduce you to the many forms of PvP in Cyrodiil.

Stepping It Up

Once you reach a point where you feel like you’ve learned the basics, and would like to advance beyond playing in larger yet very casual groups, and instead wish to hone your gameplay and skills and achieve more in Cyrodiil than exclusively storming objectives with amazingly large numbers – this is your time to stop relying on numbers and group members, and starting to improve your own individual skills.

A lot of players tend to get confused and not know where to start when looking to improve their individual skills in PvP, and don’t know how to stop relying on their large groups. To that, there’s one advice that I like giving quite often, which you might have seen before, perhaps in some memes. “Just do it”.

In all seriousness, the key to learning to survive and kill other players completely on your own, is to simply try it out many times and see what works better and worse. Try to tackle smaller groups on your own or grab a few friends and try to fight other groups of players, even if you don’t have far more members than them. Once you learn how to stay alive, and improve your kill potential against enemy players, you can start looking towards fighting solo completely, or fighting groups far larger than your own.

Owning It

Once you feel like your individual skills and control of the combat mechanics are starting to improve, it might be the time to start getting into Smallscaling and outnumbered PvP.

Outnumbered PvP in ESO has many different forms, where the common concept is playing with as little members as required per playstyle, while fighting off as many enemies as you can. Outnumbered PvP can go anywhere from 1vXing, which means fighting on your own versus groups of players, through Smallscaling, which means fighting with a small group of friends versus groups far larger, and even Organized Raiding which means becoming a part of a highly organized mid-sized group, usually from 8 to 12 members in size, and fighting against waves and waves of enemies over keeps, scrolls an similar objectives, with the goal of surviving and defeating as many enemies as possible with a very limited group size.

Getting into such groups and communities might not be easy straight away as you’re new to the competitive PvP scene, but as you improve your gameplay, you’ll start encountering more and more smallscalers as well as 1vXers and organized groups – and start noticing them more. At that point, it’s only a matter of time before you become a part of such communities.

Marching to war in Cyrodiil

Preparing For PvP

When looking to start PvPing, a lot of players tend to get stuck. Not knowing exactly how to prepare themselves, or what to expect to encounter once they finally start.

Hopefully, after reading this far, you’re a bit more aware of what you should be expecting once you start getting into PvP activities, but there are still many of tips to share with you in regards to how you can prepare to your PvP adventures. Here are some more tips that could hopefully help you get started:

  • Always keep your gear and setups up to date. A lot of players in endgame PvP tend to optimize their setups every patch, and for you to be able to compete with them without extra struggles, your setup should meet some basic requirements, at the very least. You can try and compare your setups for each class with the many builds available here on the site, as well as on YouTube channels and Twitch streams of ESO, to make sure your setups are strong and competitive – even if they’re different to the common “meta” ones. *
  • Make sure to stock up on food, potions, and poisons. Many players tend to dismiss the usage of potions and poisons, and sometimes even don’t apply food buffs. However, the usage of such consumables is incredibly important in PvP, as they effect your stats drastically and apply additional buffs to your character regularly and can sometimes make the difference between winning or losing a fight.
  • Don’t be afraid to group up. While playing on your own, especially outnumbered, is an impressive achievement, as a new player you shouldn’t be afraid to group up with other people, as surviving – and winning – will be a lot easier to do in a group, and you could learn a lot from more experienced players you group up with.
  • Use terrain to your advantage. It’s important to use terrain and smart positioning in fights, as it can make a huge difference. While breaking line of sight using objects is frowned upon in duels, it’s very common to use such techniques in both Battlegrounds and Open World PvP to prevent damage from being dealt to you when you need to heal up, or recover your resources.
  • Learn to weave and animationcancel effectively. Similarly to how weaving attacks and animation cancelling skills is used in PvE to maximize your damage, it can help you increase your burst potential in PvP, or get your additional resources or faster healing, hence it’s super important to master in order to optimize your performance in PvP.
  • Don’t be afraid to learn and ask questions. Recognizing you don’t know something, or you might have something to learn regarding a subject, is the key to learning and improving at it. While this applies to many things in life, it most certainly applies to the PvP and advanced game mechanics in ESO. Make sure to ask important questions and reach out to players you look up to, whether friends or foes, to try and learn from them, and improve.
Volendrung hammer in Cyrodiil


The Elder Scrolls Online has many different formats of PvP, which are all very appealing and unique in their own ways. If you haven’t tried PvP out yet, I definitely recommend you take a leap and give it a go, if you give it a good shot, you won’t regret it.

I personally started playing ESO as a casual PvE player in other MMOs, who only messed around with PvP in WoW and Rift online very briefly. But the combat system and incredible experience of PvP in ESO completely changed my view on MMOs and made me the dedicated PvP player that I am today, and I believe it could do the same to you, if only you give it a good shot!

If you have any questions, suggestions, or feedback, please feel free to reach out to me either via my discord server, or by tagging me on Twitter.

Thank you for reading this guide, I hope you find it enjoyable and helpful – and best of luck to you in your PvP adventures in Tamriel!

About NirnStorm
NirnStorm is a content creator on Twitch and on YouTube. He currently plays and streams mainly The Elder Scrolls Online, with a focus on end-game PvP, and occasionally some different games such as Witcher, Among Us, Apex Legends and many others!