Why Potions are Extremely Powerful in ESO

alchemy potions in esoI think a lot of people underestimate just how useful potions and Alchemy can be in Elder Scrolls Online. Many Elder Scrolls players do know the potential of Alchemy from the previous TES games.

I’m one of the players who pretty much ignored alchemy altogether. I always looted potions and picked them up, but in the end found that I was only using them when shit hit the fan, if at all.

My short experience in ESO has totally changed my take on potions and alchemy. Alchemy might just be one of the most useful and possibly most profitable professions in Elder Scrolls Online. Here’s why.

Potion Cooldown & how to Reduce it

What’s different from previous Elder Scrolls games? In ESO, every potion has a 30-second shared cooldown. This may be a new concept to long-term Elder Scrolls fans, who are used to being able to drink a potion pretty much whenever they want.

From a MMO player’s point of view, an important thing to know is that you can use as many potions in combat as you like. If you are stuck in combat for a long time, you are not limited to just one potion – you can use as many potions as the cooldown permits.

The 30-second cooldown can be brought down with Glyph of Potion Speed, which is a Jewelry Glyph. There’s two rings and an amulet, which leaves you room to use three Glyphs of Potion Speed. A top quality version of this Glyph reduces the cooldown of potions below the jewelry’s level by 5 seconds. This means you can bring the cooldown of potions down to 15 seconds if you enchant all your jewelry with Glyph of Potion Speed.

Reportedly there are also gear sets which can reduce the cooldown of potions.

This is not all there is to potions, because you can also increase the effectiveness and the duration of a potion.

Potion Effectiveness & how to Increase it

There’s a limited number of ways to increase potion effectiveness, and some of them are locked behind race or class choice.

Argonians  can boost the effectiveness of potions by 15% with the Amphibious passive skill.

Nightblades  have a passive skill called Catalyst in Siphoning skill line which boosts potion effectiveness even further by 20%.

Another jewelry glyph, Glyph of Potion Boost can increase the effectiveness of potions. I’m not sure how much of a boost these will provide, but I have a feeling that Glyph of Potion Speed will be a better choice if you want to experiment with potion builds, but it all depends. If you have a high crit chance naturally, increasing the effectiveness of a 60% crit potion may be overkill and take you momentarily above 100%. In this case it’s better to just reduce the cooldown of the potion rather than increase its effectiveness.

There are also unique gear sets which can increase the effectiveness of potions.

Potion Duration & how to Increase it

Most potion effects in ESO last for 10 seconds by default. The exceptions to these are Invisibility, Unstoppable and Stun effects, which last for 3 seconds by default.

There’s two ways to increase the duration of a potion’s effect: First is the Alchemy passive skill Medicinal Use, which increases the duration of potion effects by 30% when you invest three skill points on it.

The other way to increase potion duration is using three alchemy reagents with the same alchemy trait. If you combine three alchemy ingredients and each of them have the alchemy trait ‘Spell Crit’ for example, the duration of Spell Crit effect on the potion will increase to 14 seconds from the default 10 seconds. Note that if an anti trait, in this case ‘Lower Spell Crit’, is mixed in with those, one of the Spell Crit traits will be nullified and the duration will be the default 10 seconds.

Not all alchemy trait durations can be increased to 14 seconds. For example ‘Detection’ only exists in two reagents: Cornflower and Wormwood, and as such it’s impossible to reach the 14 seconds duration. You can also test yourself which traits can get the maximum 14-second duration with our Alchemy Simulator.

100% Potion Uptime is Possible

The table below shows the duration of potion effects when you measure in the Medicinal Use passive skill and the situation where three of the same alchemy traits exist on the same potion. You can also see how Glyphs of Potion Speed on your jewelry affect the potential uptime you could achieve with these potions.

Min duration = two instances of the same alchemy trait. An example would be Detection.
Max duration = three instances of the same alchemy trait. An example would be Spell Crit, crafted with Lady’s Smock, Namira’s Rot and Water Hyacinth. Most traits can reach the max duration, but it does require you to use three ingredients.

Min Duration Min Duration with Medicinal Use Max Duration Max Duration with Medicinal Use
<insert potion effect> 10 seconds 13 seconds 14 seconds 18.2 seconds
Potential Uptime 33% 43% 47% 61%
Potential Uptime with 1 Glyph 40% 52% 56% 73%
Potential Uptime with 2 Glyphs 50% 65% 70% 91%
Potential Uptime with 3 Glyphs 67% 87% 93% 100% (121%)

As you can see, if you use three Glyphs of Potion Speed, you can have a 100% uptime with your potions, which is insane. Even in the worst case scenario you can potentially have a 33% uptime on potions, which is very decent.

A high-level Spell Crit potion, for example, gives you a flat 60% Spell Crit buff. Currently Crit does not have diminishing returns, so how much Crit you have without the potion is irrelevant. Even if the buff was half of the 60%, it would still be huge for a consumable which can have a 100% uptime.


Even if some of the data here is prone to be changed, or is not 100% accurate, you should see the bigger picture. Alchemy and potions can provide an incredible boost to your combat performance in ESO. I used Spell Crit as an example, but this applies to all types of potions. Whether it’s Magicka/Health/Stamina Regen you’re after or just pure Weapon / Spell Damage, you can get it with potions. There’s helpful potions which suit every role in the game: every player can benefit from potions.

Bottom line is that players who choose to use potions will have a significant advantage over those who do not.

This is the case in other MMOs as well, but in ESO it’s so much more visible. Low potion cooldowns (30 seconds default), combined with very powerful buffs (60% crit, hello!) and high uptime (worst case scenario 33%, up to 100%) means you’re really hurting yourself if you don’t use potions. Alchemy will most definitely be an useful and a very profitable profession in ESO.

The downside here, of course, is that if you use potions on cooldown, especially with the reduced cooldown enchants, you’ll burn through them like crazy, and it will cost a lot. You’ll probably want to burn through them in adventure zones and certain veteran dungeon challenges anyway.

You could go wild and build your character around Alchemy: An Argonian Nightblade with triple Potion Speed enchants and Medicinal Use passive from Alchemy. The downside of potion-focused builds is that it will limit your choices of jewelry enchants. You would miss out on important enchants such as Reduce Spell Cost and Magicka Regen, for example. Whether the increased potion uptime outweighs the other jewelry enchants highly depends on the situation, and in the end choosing other enchants will always be the easier choice for your economy.

I would not be surprised to see some funky alchemy builds in ESO, and I’ll definitely experiment with such a build myself.

  • Marquis

    Being able to have 60%+ extra crit permanently is just sick. I’m bad at maths and will leave the theorycrafting to someone else but if you can guarantee crits all the time with potions, shouldnt they be the number one priority for every serious player? just build you character around those and let everything else follow after.

    Almost forgot about regen. so u can have a restore magicka over-time buff rolling permanently from potions?

    I would not be surprised to see changes to these glyphs or potions after launch. unless they REALLY want to make alchemy a meaningful profession. based on these news you saying it is a meaningful profession is an understatement, even if you’re not able to have these potions buffs rolling 100% of the time, it’s looking pretty good for alchemists, haha 🙂

  • On paper it does look veeery good indeed. Alchemy will have an impact on combat for sure.

    And yup, combining Bugloss+Columbine+Mountain Flower would cause you to have a 100% uptime on Health regen, 87% uptime on Magicka and Stamina regen. You could also do Bugloss+Columbine+Cornflower for the max duration Magicka regen buff.

  • Incognita

    I was also ignoring potions early on in the beta – just gathered whatever I found to put together when I was bored. Turns out I flew through several levels once I had taken the time to set up my quick slots with potions. Playing as a sorcerer popping restore magicka potions almost constantly left my once squishy character to be pretty intense with little to no ability downtime.

    I used only one uptime glyph and it felt pretty overpowered (in the best way possible). I hope they leave it as it is, but I can see it being a big balance problem for pvp.

  • So, if I got it right, with the right build, you will need to press Q every 15-18 seconds to have permanent buff? Is not that a bit of a hassle?

  • ビズ-ジン

    I am pretty sure the glyph of potion speed is a % reduction and not a flat amount.

  • This could be the case. I tested the glyph out in game and whilst the tooltip said “5 seconds”, it didn’t reduce the cooldown by 5 seconds. The Glyphs I used were low level Glyphs, though. The tooltip is definitely wrong for the low level glyphs, but it’s also possible that the low level glyphs are using high level glyph tooltips.

    Can I ask how did you come to the conclusion that it’s a percentage based reduction rather than flat amount? I’m thinking it’s a tooltip error.

  • If the tooltip for the glyphs is right, depending on how many glyphs of potion speed you are using, you will be able to “press Q” every 15, 20 or 25 seconds.

    Dumping 3 skill points into an Alchemy passive and crafting potions with the right ingredients enables you to get up to 18 seconds duration on pots.

    Maybe it is a bit of a hassle, but the benefits are SO good!

  • Anastasia Lynn Storer

    The biggest issue I see with this is the Quickslot wheel. Pressing a single button (Q, or whatever you keybind it to) is simple enough. But trying to make use of multiple potions is pretty much a no-go in combat right now, due to the Wheel.

  • I agree. It’s really awkward to use and screams of consoles. I’m eager to wait and see how the quickslot system develops. Perhaps addons could do something here? I’m not exactly familiar with the limitations.

  • Phantorang

    Actually, there is an addon that makes this very easy, its called EasyQuickSlots and can be downloaded here: http://www.esoui.com/downloads/info71-EasyQuickSlots.html

    Havent tried it yet, but after reading this guide im certainly going to do when servers gets back up.