TG Heists & DB Sacraments: how to’s and tips
I hate timed sections of video games; my reaction time is crap and – full disclosure – if I’m playing a video game I’m probably drinking wine, so… y’know, there’s that. I loved the Tomb Raider games, but often had to use cheat codes to make it past certain timed areas. (I’M SORRY, LARA; I FAILED YOU.)
Said something last weekend about doing a Thieves Guild heist, and my guild chat immediately filled up with people saying they don’t do them because they can’t beat the timer. Honestly, folks, if I can do it anyone can, but there are specific techniques that make it possible. I didn’t invent any of this, but I also haven’t seen all pieces of it laid out together anywhere online, so here we go. Info is behind the cut, and it’s totally TL;DR. But it’s thorough!
You won’t need to use all these things; components will be listed in order of priority within their category.
Gear & Equipment
Gear is the easiest “cheat” – you can put it on for the heist and then put it back in the bank when done; no “permanent” changes.
Night’s Silence armor, 5 pieces – absolutely essential. If you read no further, know that wearing 5 pcs of Night’s Silence may be all the help you need. The set’s special ability allows full movement speed while sneaking (you still can’t run, tho’) and with that alone many/most can make the run in time. There are options for a secondary set (see below) but only Night’s Silence lets you ignore the speed penalty for sneaking, so it must be your base 5-item set.
Update: Since writing this I’ve taken a closer look at the Shadow Dancer set, and it does the same thing Night’s Silence does (eliminate the speed penalty for sneaking), but it also gives a bonus to Stamina Recovery. The downside is that it has to be farmed – it’s a Greenshade zone set – but if you’re running a mageblade and need the Stam recovery, it could be worth farming it.
Invisibility Potions – also absolutely essential. Get a big stack and use them liberally during the heist. I recommend getting them from a good crafting alchemist who can make 3-reagent pots (Laboratory Use skill) because the duration increases over a 2-item pot. It’s possible to make a pot that’s Invisibility + Movement Speed, but that extra speed comes at a cost of lower invisibility duration and doesn’t last the whole time you’re invisible, so I prefer using 3 Invisibility-trait reagents. Blue Entoloma, Namira’s Rot, Nirnroot, and Spider Egg all have invisibility trait, tho’ some combinations also have negative side effects, so play around with combinations.
(Potion Pro-Tip: Raise Alchemy & Buy Medicinal Use on all alts – this skill will increase the duration of all pots consumed by that character, including DOT healing, so it’s a good thing to have, not just for heists. The 3rd rank of Medicinal Use requires Alchemy 50, but it’s worth the effort.)
Secondary Gear set – Now we’re in optional territory. My thief also has 3 pcs of the Nightshade set. (It was replaced in One Tamriel by the Night Terror set, so I’m screencapping that one here. Same bonus.) Either set reduces detection range when sneaking while wearing only 3 pcs, and that makes a real difference on heists.
There may be other sets that reduce detection range or increase speed, but Night Terror (or Nightshade) has jewelry pieces so it’s easier to combine with a crafted set. Also, other sets (like Night Mother’s Embrace) don’t give the sneaking benefit until 5 pcs. You don’t want to sacrifice your Night’s Silence set for a pure movement speed increase or a sprint-speed increase, so Prisoner’s Rags or Fiord’s Legacy, e.g., aren’t useful for heists.
Update: When I originally wrote this it was not possible to craft jewelry, so it was necessary to farm either Night’s Terror jewelry or farm/wear Shadow Dancer instead of Night’s Silence. Now that jewelry crafting has come to ESO, you have a lot more flexibility.
And on that note – jewelry crafting also gave us the Swift trait, and we can transmute items now as well, so it’s possible to put the Swift trait on all the thieving jewelry you already have, thus increasing your base move speed quite a bit.
These suggestions require spending skill points or other build adjustments, but they’re all good skills for thief to have for general use.
Improved Sneak Passive, Medium Armor skill line – Rank 2 lowers your detection area 5% for every piece of Medium armor equipped, and also reduces the cost of sneaking by 7% per piece. If you’re playing a thief, shrinking the range at which you can be detected is hugely helpful whether doing heists or not.
Note: make sure the Night’s Silence armor you have crafted is all Medium to take full advantage of this bonus. Normally I run 5/1/1 armor, but I do all 7 in medium for heist gear.
Athletics Passive, Medium Armor skill line – Athletics rank II increases your sprint speed by 3% per piece of medium armor equipped. Buy it for escaping mobs, enjoy it when racing to the entrance while your timer counts down.
The Steed Mundus Stone – Optional but handy, though if you need another Mundus stone for general play then it will probably be too much of a pain in the butt to switch stones for every heist. My thief has been parked in the Thieves Guild den while I play other alts, but every time I log on I run a heist – so I switched her to The Steed and will keep it until I’m done with the heists. If you’re going to go this route, have the Divines trait put on all your Night’s Silence armor and you will increase your base move speed a great deal.
Rapid Maneuver, Alliance Assault skill line, Active skill – Also “optional but handy”. When activated, it increases your movement speed by 40% (on foot and mounted) and grants immunity to snares and immobilization. (If you’ve never been to Cyrodil, go. There’s a tutorial quest when you enter that pretty quickly earns you 2 skill points, and it opens two Alliance skill lines.) Rapid Maneuver requires Alliance rank 2, but by the time you finish the Cyro tutorial, you’ll be there.
Champion points: Windrunning, Thief constellation – Optional: If you don’t yet have champion points, you’re not going to level up just for this. And probably, if you have champion points but haven’t invested in The Lover constellation, then you’re also not going to just for this. However, for completeness I’ll mention that the 120 point passive in The Lover CP set gives a movement bonus that is good for a thief character and helps with heists.
Vampirism – Absolutely not essential, but being a vampire does come with a helpful speed boost. Probably the lamest reason to get bitten, but again: completeness. Nyx would stab you for even implying she’s a vamp, so obviously I’m running heists without this advantage.
Build Specs – Nightblade specifics
It isn’t necessary for your thief/assassin to be a Nightblade, but it does make things easier. If you are playing the NB class, here are a few extra advantages, all from the Shadow skill line.
Shadow Cloak – When activated, this ability makes your character invisible for 2.5 seconds. It’s extremely useful for thieving, but also works as a back-up to invisibility potions when the cool-down timer is running. I make sure it’s the first ability on my weapon bar when running a heist or sacrament.
Concealed Weapon – When slotted this ability increases your movement speed while stealthed or invisible by 22%, more if you buy the passive increases. So if you have this morph (Veiled Strike is the base ability), make sure your heist weapon bar includes it as well as Shadow Cloak when you set up for the run.
Shadow Skill: Path of Darkness – This one’s a little complicated, and may not be worth the effort to many. PoD creates a “corridor of shadows” (or a cone, in a morph) that does AoE damage to enemies, and increases the caster’s movement speed for 30% while in the AoE and for 2 seconds after leaving it. If you’re in a straight-away during a heist/sacrament, casting this ahead of you will increase your speed in that hallway, at the risk of aggro’ing any enemy that might get caught in the AoE. There are a couple of places I can think of where it might be helpful despite that limitation – most notably in the DB sacraments that have long, straight runs to get to the exit. Might help you beat that ticking clock.
Choose Your Battles (and your quests) – Not all heists/sacraments are equally tough; some are hellish, some are easy. If there’s one you can’t do, just don’t. For a long time the only heist I could complete was the Daedric Idol one (which is easiest by far, start with that). I’d log in, check the board, do that one if it was offered, and log off if it was any other. Once I got that one under my belt (and got my set of Night’s Silence gear), it gave me the confidence to try the others. I still don’t attempt the Underground Sepulcher heist; life’s too short for that much frustration. (Update: I did it! I followed my own advice and ran it a dozen times until I found the path. You can do it, too!)
Learn the Map – I can’t stress this enough. You almost certainly won’t successfully run a heist scenario the first time you try it. (It’s okay, I still think you’re a great player.) The first time you try a particular heist location just go in to learn. Take all the time you need, blow the heist, it’s fine. You have to learn the map itself, but also all possible locations of the quest objectives, and most importantly, you have to learn the patrol paths – there’s no fast way to do that. Go in, skulk around, watch the guards, learn the hiding spots, see exactly where the torch radius stops in that one hallway where you always get caught. There is a path – maybe a couple, but definitely one – that will allow you to run through the instance, pick up the objectives, and miss the guards.
Your first goal is not to succeed at the heist, it’s to find the path.
Try, Try Again – You can abandon the heist/sacrament quest at any point; you’ll be teleported immediately back to the sanctuary where you can pick up the quest again and re-try.* Take advantage of this and run the heist as many times as you need to learn the patrols or get the right random variables. Do it several times when first learning the map so you can be sure of all the places your objectives might spawn.
*Important Note: You must stay out of the instance long enough for it to reset. (A few minutes; longer for DB than for TG.) If you re-enter and the main door is open or there’s a boss near the entrance, it hasn’t reset.
Don’t sweat bad RNG (pick your battles, pt 2) – I said “learn the possible locations of the quest objectives” – the objectives shift between a small number of possible spawn locations, and some of those locations make the run more difficult. It’s okay to walk in, see that RNG hates you, and bail in favor of trying again for an easier set up. The heist itself won’t change (Daedric Idols vs. Rare Gems, etc.), but the placement of objectives can change with every reset.
Also note that in some heists you are offered more options than you need. Ex: in Glittering Grotto you need 7 bags of gems, but at least 10 bags spawn in the cave when you enter, and I can think of 13 unique spawn spots, some easier than others to get to. The same is true with the quests where you need the treasure + 3 “hidden caches” – there are more caches than you need; pick the ones you can get to fastest. Some chest locations are a sucker bet and can’t ever be grabbed w/o alerting the guards, so always skip those.
I sometimes abandon heists in the first room because I know if the objective isn’t in that first spot the replacement means a path detour, which means I can’t make the run in time. Abandon, reset, try again; I won’t judge.
Guard / Sneaking specifics – Several things:
* Line of sight matters. You can cross the edge of a torch-circle as long as you are behind the warden and not in front. (But if someone else is looking from the other direction, they will see you when the stealth suppression from the torch kicks in.)
* In every bottleneck situation (enclosed hallways, e.g.), there is always a place you can hide while the guard crosses to the opposite point in the patrol path. If you can’t get through a hallway without being seen, then you’ve missed the hiding spot.
* Use the hiding containers to break out of combat faster than fighting.
* Traps on the ground will quickly reset if you disable them; remember them if you cross back over the same spot later.
* In TG heists, when you grab the last objective a boss spawns near the entrance. Don’t try to fight or sneak by – have an invisibility potion ready and run like hell past them. (Watch for reset traps!)
* In DB sacraments, you can be seen up to four times without raising an alarm. The timer for sacraments only starts when you kill the target, but sometimes you will need to haul ass to get to the door if the target is in a back room. So try and not be seen at all until you kill the target, and then even if you end up flat-out sprinting for the entrance, you might still be able to make it with 4 or fewer sightings. Again: use an invisibility potion.
Preparation – Whether doing Thieves Guild or Dark Brotherhood runs, you’ll be teleported into a safe entry area to begin with; spend a moment there. Look at the map to make sure you know which area you’ve got. Set the heist as your current quest so the quest arrows are solid white and easier to see. Make sure your Invisibility potions are your active quickslot. If you’re playing a Nightblade, put Shadow Cloak, Concealed Weapon, and Path of Darkness (if you use that one) on your weapon bar. Make sure the right weapon bar is up. Crouch to activate sneak before you enter.
I also suggest putting away vanity pets and possibly clearing your lap of any real-life cats who may be snoozing there. Then take a deep breath and tell yourself that you’re pretty and people like you. Maybe take a drink of wine. Y’know, for nerves. You got this!