ESO – Beginner’s Guide to Running Dungeons

Beginner’s Guide to Running Dungeons

Like many MMO’s, the end game of Elder Scrolls Online in PvE centers around dungeons and trials. While all dungeons and trials are different, typically the team format and strategy is similar for all of them – the biggest difference is in trials where you have a team of twelve instead of four, and the mechanics swirl around the size of the team differently.

Group Makeup

The trinity of most traditional MMO’s is tank, healer and DPS (x2) and ESO is no different. Though it is very possible to complete a dungeon without all of these components, this introduction will follow this makeup.


A tank’s primary job is to taunt and control enemies.  Outside of boss fights, ensuring all, or as many as possible, of the enemies are in the same location and controlled with some sort of crowd control, will be the tanks primary objective. Within boss fights, taunt and control the boss – and at times pull adds away from the boss. This all depends on the actual mechanics of the fight. Either way, taunt and control are the primary functions of the tank. Secondary, but very much related to the first, is buffing and debuffing. For buffing, the tank should have skills that help with both damage mitigation and dealing. As an example: My tank is a Dragon Knight, my typical rotation is:

Walking up to boss: Igneous shield (armor buff for self and allies), Hardened Armor (armor buff for self), Shuffle (resistance buff for self), Igneous Weapons (weapon and spell damage for self and allies) – At boss: Pierce Armor (taunt and physical and spell resistance debuff on enemy), Heroic Slash (damage debuff on enemy and ultimate buff on self).

From there its rinse and repeat – keeping buffs, debuffs and taunts up as needed – each buff and debuff runs on a timer. I keep in mind not to “over” taunt the enemy, or the enemy will turn to one of my allies instead – the rotation helps with this a lot. While I’m doing this I am mixing in light attacks (for ultimate) and heavy attacks (to get back stamina)

Within this rotation, I am not only raising my own armor, but I am increasing the armor of my allies, as well as their DPS –both by buffing their damage, and by debuffing the enemy.

Keep in mind, not every boss encounter will be the same, in fact, some bosses cannot be taunted at all. However, buffing and debuffing always remains a necessary job for the tank.


The healer’s primary job is to heal – both in bursts and over time. On top of this, the healer should also have his own buffs and debuffs to cast to help the fights go faster and easier. A healer should not set itself up just to throw burst heals – such as Breath of Life, but rather he or she should attempt to mitigate the need to ever have to throw burst heals. That does not mean that the healer won’t have to, but the less the healer has to throw out burst heals and use all of their magika, the better.

Before the fight, skills such as Purifying Light and Mutagen are good examples of heals over time. Combat Prayer and Blessings of Life are good examples of burst heals. A healer has to know when to throw down both of these.

For an example: A fight begins, throw down heals over time, buffs and any debuffs you may have – this is class dependent. When a group member falls to around 50%, then throw out a burst heal. Some, if not all, group members may have their own selfheal – in time, if you run with the same group over and over, you will have a pretty good indication of when you need to heal, through burst, certain members of your group. If playing with PUGS or a group you are not that comfortable with, the 50% rule is pretty solid.

A lot of healers are Templars – and as such, they have another great skill called Repentance. Once a group of mobs are dead, a Templar can activate Repentance to gain health and stamina, not just for themselves, but the whole group! As a person who mains a tank, I cannot even begin to describe how important this skill can be.


What many people would see as the bread and butter of MMO’s, and what everyone seems to play, is the role of damage dealer. Ironically, their rotation is much the same as the tank, with the difference being that their primary skills deal damage. Again, buff, debuff and attack. Simple and straight forward. All classes and weapon roles are different, but certain attributes are true throughout. A DPS must ensure they are properly buffed – either by themselves, or preferably through the tank or healer. This means that the DPS is dependent on others to maximize his or her damage output. The difference between a DPS attacking with and without Igneous Weapons being up, for example, are staggering. A damage dealer can go from dealing 25k+ DPS buffed, to dealing less then 20k DPS unbuffed on a single target. It doesn’t sound like much, but when facing a boss with 1.5 million health, that’s an addition 15 seconds that the boss is up if there is only that on DPS is up – and 15 seconds is a long time in a boss fight.

The key in group play is to know who is throwing what buffs and debuffs, making sure you do not throw any that overlap (freeing up your bar for another damage skill or a selfheal). Once you know, make sure those buffs are up – both offensive and defensive. Hit the boss after the taunt and debuff have been applied and the heals over time have been thrown. This means that above all else, a DPS needs to be both informed and patient. This becomes even more important playing on console where there are no addons telling you what is up and what is not. Next, a DPS needs to be concerned with both direct damage as well as damage over time (DoT). As an example, a bow user can use both Scorched Earth (a 14 sec DoT skill) and Poisoned Injection (a 10 sec DoT), then go back to their primary DPS skill – whatever that may be – i.e. Biting Jabs for a Stamina Templar, Flame Lash for a Magika Dragon Knight, etc. Once the DoTs are almost done, reapply them and go back to regular damage dealing. Complex yes, but necessary as the dungeons get more and more difficult. Meaning, you can get by with not doing this on Banished Cells, but Veteran City of Ash or White Gold Tower, not so much.

Bringing up vWGT, the other two items the DPS needs are a) single target attacks and area of effect (AoE) attacks and b) both ranged and melee attacks. Some bosses you need to be in their face as well as slaughter a ton of adds, others you need to sit back and hit from afar – such as the Engine Guardian or the Ash Titan.

All in all, playing DPS is what everyone seems to want to play, but in the end it can be the most complicated and ruthless of all three role.



It goes without saying – if you are going to run a group dungeons, have plenty of soul gems, food and potions that you will need. On top of this, the single most important thing to know and do is find out what your group is running – buffs, armor, debuffs, heals, etc. Based on that information, you can set yourself up accordingly. As an example, if you have two Dragonknights, only one of you needs and should be running Igneous Weapons and Igneous Shields. If they are both running it, they should each just run one and swap out the other for another skill. Both of running the same skills and having them up are redundant. Besides skills, armor and weapon sets can also provide group bonuses, only one person needs to run these sets usually, meaning someone can switch out for a different set if they have them to help maximize the group potential.

Group Leadership

Tanks and healers lead the groups – tanks by placing enemies and setting up the battlefield, healers by positioning. Listen to your tanks and healers, especially if they are experienced. Tanks turn bosses away from the groups – so DPS stay on the back side of the boss. Healers tell you if you need to move, or how to move, to ensure they can heal you. That being said if you, as a DPS need the tank to move the boss in a certain way, let them know. You will only succeed by working together.


In the end, we all run dungeons to have fun – so have fun! Be willing to listen to other players if they tell you that you did something wrong – or that something isn’t working. A tank knows if the DPS isn’t up to par, the healer knows if someone is too squishy, and the DPS knows if the tank is not holding aggro or if they are not getting the heals they need. Criticism needs to be constructive, not demeaning. In the end it is just a game. Remember, you can always get better.

If you have any comments, suggestions or anything to add, please let me know in the comments below.


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