16 Best Alteration Spells in Skyrim

Each and every mage in Skyrim should be proficient in the School of Alteration.

It enables a wizard to change the laws of reality to their advantage, causing items to appear out of thin air or even producing gold from common minerals.

I’ve ranked the top 16 Alteration spells in this post for any serious Skyrim fan to try.

If you really want to benefit from this list, level up to at least an Expert in the School of Alteration. Some of these spells need you to be rather skilled in the nuances of this school.

Otherwise, begin gaining experience and qualify to cast some of Tamriel’s most powerful spells by doing so.

16. Candlelight

Alteration Spells

Some people might argue that the Candlelight spell, even though it’s only a level 0 ability, is far superior to the Magelight power.

Candlelight creates a hovering source of light that will follow you around for an entire minute.

Even though it isn’t as bright as the one you can summon with Magelight, it does serve the purpose of a moving torch much better and can even help you during lengthy explorations.

With just a casting cost of 21, it’s also the cheapest out of the spells that I’ve included in this list – and you can use it even if you haven’t casted a single Alteration spell in your life!

15. Stoneflesh

Stoneflesh is one of only two spells that you can learn in the School of Alteration as an apprentice.

It improves your armor by 60 points for just a minute, and it serves its worth quite well as it only costs a little over 100 points of magicka to cast.

14. Ironflesh

Ironflesh is a solid defensive move that improves your armor rating by 80 points for a full minute.

It’s not difficult to cast as it only requires you to be an Adept in the School of Alteration, but it provides one of the best defensive buffs that a warrior could wish for.

13. Ebonyflesh

Ebonyflesh can make your skin turn as strong as a piece of Ebony body armor, and it’s the strongest alteration defense spell with only the exception of Dragonhide (which takes a lot of magicka and Alteration proficiency to cast).

The mighty Ebonyflesh gives you 100 points of armor for a solid minute, with a magic cost of just 341.

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In the meantime you can keep recovering your magicka until you’re able to cast it again.

It’s a very powerful defensive spell and one that rivals any other defensive spell from any of the other Schools of Magic of Skyrim.

12. Detect Dead

This mighty spell lets you see every undead creature, machine, or even Daedra through any wall.

This is a good spell to carry when raiding dungeons or Dwarven ruins, as it will let you see any enemies that may be hiding and avoid you the surprise of facing them unprepared.

You cannot use this spell to see any living creature, though. It only works for undead enemies and anything that doesn’t have a heartbeat like a human would.

The only exception is the Daedra, but do their hearts really beat?

11. Detect Life

If you do need to see living creatures then this is the spell you want. You can activate this before entering a room to get a clear idea of what’s inside.

Detect life is a sort of wallhack that allows you to see any living creature through walls for as long as the spell is active.

It’s up to you to decide how much magicka you want to spend on the spell as well, as it gives you a solid view of the room for 100 points per second.

You can simply use it for a couple of seconds and then deactivate it as you would have a clear idea by then. It’s similar to Detect Dead but it only works for the living. Try learning both and you’ll never be blindsided again.

10. Magelight

Magelight is an ideal spell to cast if you’re about to engage in a fight with a ton of foes in a dark area.

It’s not practical at all to carry a torch and a sword when you could be using a shield instead, so you can use Magelight to place a source of light in a single location which will remain lit for an entire minute.

This spell should give you enough time to finish up all the foes that threaten you without having to wave a flaming stick around – just throw this spell and focus on the fight!

9. Water Breathing

Harness the powers of Alteration magic to earn the ability which only Argonians can use naturally.

You can use the Water Breathing spell to be able to breathe underwater for an entire minute, with a casting cost of just 222 points of magicka.

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This is an extremely useful spell if you need to explore the depths or simply move under a large body of water to prevent being detected or to infiltrate an enemy camp.

8. Telekinesis

Telekinesis is a magicka drainer on its own, but boy is it a powerful spell.

It lets you pick up items from a distance which means that you won’t have to get close to those scary enemies if you want to get the loot that they’re guarding.

The only problem with this Adept-level spell is that it drains 170 points of magicka per second, so you’re going to need quite a pool of it if you don’t want to run out of power.

You’ll be able to add any item to your inventory or simply use your alteration skills to throw an item as far away as possible.

7. Transmute

Transmute might be a difficult spell to cast, but it’s one of the best ways to become rich in Skyrim.

The spell allows you to turn the most basic of metals into much more valuable ones.

You will basically be able to do alchemy without having to use any equipment! It’s an Adept-level spell as well which means that you can cast it as soon as you reach level 50 in the School of Alteration.

6. Dragonhide

Dragonhide gives you the ability to turn your skin into that of a dragon, making you almost unable to receive physical damage.

You will resist 80% of any physical attack that you’re subjected to for 30 seconds after casting this powerful spell, and since it will drain a good part of your magicka you might need to be ready to draw your weapon after casting it.

5. Paralyze

Paralyze is a strong spell that makes one foe unable to move for an entire 10 seconds.

It costs half of what it would cost to cast Mass Paralysis but it only targets a single enemy.

Thankfully the size of your foe doesn’t matter as long as they’re unable to resist a powerful Alteration spell to the chest.

They’ll be unable to move entirely so be sure to deal as much damage as possible before they stand up again!

4. Ash Rune

Ash Rune is a powerful Expert-level Alteration spell that isn’t higher on this list because it can’t be found in the base game.

You’ll need the Dragonborn DLC if you want to get your hands on this ability, much like the Ash Shell spell.

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Ash Rune allows you to create a small source of power that, if an enemy touches it, explodes and leaves them covered in ash. And also paralyzed for half a minute.

Ash Rune can be bought from merchants once the Dragonborn DLC is installed.

3. Mass Paralysis

Mass Paralysis might be one of the very best spells in the game, not only in the School of Alteration but including every single School of Magic as a whole. However, casting this mighty spell is not cheap.

It costs almost 1000 points of magicka to summon the power needed to freeze everyone in an area.

This spell makes it so that every foe in range becomes unable to move for 15 seconds, giving you the chance to strike as much damage as possible in the meantime. Or run very far away instead, your choice.

It’s a Master level spell and one of the costliest spells in the base game, which means that you’ll need to work real hard to level up enough to use it. But I’ll say this: it’s worth the effort.

2. Tramsute

In Skyrim, you can’t change Lead into Gold, but you can change Iron into Gold. When this spell is cast, it changes Iron Ore into Silver Ore, and then Silver Ore into Gold Ore.

This is the best spell in Skyrim for making money. No one has the upper hand. Iron Ore is easy to find in Skyrim. It drops from enemies and can be found in almost every cave. There are caves that have a lot of Iron Ore, especially the one in Dawnstar. Turn it all into Gold Ore, and then either make jewellery out of it to make a lot of money, or just sell the Ore to any vendor you want. It does something no other spell can do.

1. Ash Shell

Ash Shell is a Dragonborn spell that lets you freeze an enemy for 30 seconds, as long as they can’t resist the powers of a skilled School of Alteration wizard.

Unlike the other abilities on this list, you can cast this spell directly at an enemy to get the effect you want right away. You don’t have to wait for someone else to use it.

Just pick an enemy and throw your Ash Shell energy at it. If they can’t fight magic very well, it will stop them from moving.