Skyrim: All Pros & Cons Of Joining The College Of Winterhold

Every guild in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim offers some advantage to joining: The Companions turn the Dragonborn into a werewolf, the Thieves Guild can fence stolen goods, and the Dark Brotherhood keeps a steady cash flow via assassination missions. Skyrim’s mages guild questline has players join the College of Winterhold, but many are hesitant to do so.

From its vast exploration to its random side quests and its pick-and-choose RPG elements, Skyrim is a self-crafted experience. While this freedom is one of the best things about the game, it does make some questlines awkward. In that regard, the College of Winterhold is one of the biggest offenders. Any character build can embark upon and complete the College of Winterhold questline and become the Arch-Mage, as barely any magic is required.

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That’s not to say The Elder Scrolls 6 should return to Oblivion’s more restrictive class system. Being the head of the Companions, the Dark Brotherhood, the Thieves Guild, and the College all at once might seem overpowered and silly, but that’s not the biggest issue; it’s more that, other than a set of fluffy robes and new quarters, being Arch-Mage doesn’t grant any new spells or arcane proficiency. The gear picked up along the journey to the title is negligible, too. There are some advantages to joining, but they don’t require completing the guild’s quest.

Central Questline

All of the magic-learning necessary in the College of Winterhold questline is completed within its first 10 minutes. Being admitted into the College requires the player to cast only a single spell (Firebolt, Helping Hand, Summon Flame Atronach, or Fear), but a Dragon Shout also works. The player then gets a tour of the facilities, some free beginner robes, and a lesson in how to use Wards. From that point forward (excluding one scripted use of a Destruction spell), the whole questline can be completed with an axe or a bow.

Spell Vendors

After his Wards lesson, Tolfdir becomes the prime vendor for Skyrim’s Alteration spells, and most of the other College wizards simply specialize in selling spells of a different category. It’s not impossible to find spell tomes in other parts of Skyrim. Mage vendors like Farengar Secret-Fire in Whiterun or Calcelmo in Markarth offer a selection of magic to anyone, even if the Dragonborn is not enlisted at the College of Winterhold. That said, the College’s exclusive specialist mages like Tolfdir and Faralda do sell any and all spells from their respective skill trees.

Ritual Spells

Once the player has a high enough level in the relevant skill, these specialists also offer a unique Ritual quest that rewards one of Skyrim’s most powerful spells to their selection. These Ritual quests can only be initiated through the College’s mages and are therefore the primary reason to join. However, all they require is for the player to have 90 levels in the related skill tree (and a lot of gold). Progress in the College of Winterhold questline has no bearing on their offers.

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College Facilities

The College itself houses the standard magical crafting stations for Enchanting and Alchemy, but neither is exclusive to this location. These stations can be found all across Skyrim, even in player homes. One exception is the Atronach Forge in the Midden beneath the College. This exists only here and is a highly underrated crafting tool. Master Conjurers can use the forge to craft Daedric gear without any Smithing skills. Access to the Midden is not impacted by progress in the Winterhold questline, either, though.

The College of Winterhold is a strange Skyrim guild. Its upgraded spells cost money rather than requiring skill, and its questline can be completed just as easily with martial weapons as with arcane fire or lightning. All in all, it’s a useful pitstop on the Dragonborn’s journey, but there’s little incentive to stick around for its lackluster story.

Next: Which Elder Scrolls Game’s Mages Guild Questline Is Best

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