everything you need to know about ultimates
To first understand why there is still confusion regarding ultimate generation specifically, a brief history and review of ultimates in the Elder Scrolls Online is in order:
Ultimates are skills you can slot onto your ultimate slot. In ESO you have access to a total of two ultimates, one per weapon bar and you can use whichever one provided that you are on the bar it's assigned to and that you have enough of the ultimate points it requires to activate it.
There is a total of 32 ultimates available in the game, each player character realistically having access to only 16 of those 32 ultimates as the other 16 are restricted due to class and morph choices.
Up until the year 2015, specifically until Patch v.1.6.5, the way a player would generate ultimate points
in order to use an ultimate ability drastically changed.
Previously referred to as Dynamic Ultimate, a player could gain ultimate based off of a number of variables including critical healing, critical damage, percentage based healing and damage. This basically meant that certain classes or builds had absurdly high ultimate generation. You can still find very old ESO PvP videos that show people using an ultimate then popping the same ultimate mere moments after, a popular
example is of the Dragonknight class in PvP that constantly generated Bat Swarms or even standards.
After patch 1.6.5, dynamic ultimate was done away with by the developers. In order to basically make it fair and standardize ultimate gain across the board, the developers did three things:
1) When you light or heavy attack a target, you get an ultimate buff that grants you three ultimate per second for a total of nine seconds. Light attacking or heavy attacking again within the 9 second timeframe due to your weaving and rotation means you're going to simply refresh that ultimate buff. This is how players including myself knew there would be a minimum of four necromancers required to keep up Major Vulnerability uptime based off of the new 12-20 second cooldown and standard ultimate generation without further variables before the Dragonhold patch hit.
This also factors into why it's so important to keep up your light attack weaving especially if you're a PvE DPS or a PvP'er in open world Cyrodiil so that you can continuously build up towards your devastating or incredibly defensive ultimate skill.
2) If you heal a friendly target or ally that has this ultimate buff, you will also receive that same ultimate gain buff for eight seconds so long as the people you're healing are damaged. This is why you may have noticed healing certain boss fights that you don't gain ultimate if you don't light attack at all as a healer but you're still healing people when they're already topped off.
3) Besides light attacking, heavy attacking and healing hurt allies who have the ultimate buff, you can also gain ultimate from blocking attacks, dodging attacks or hitting targets that have a damage shield. For blocking and dodging attacks, the same value still stands: 3 ultimate per second for 8 seconds for a total of 24 ultimate.
And more recently, you used to be able to store up to 1000 ultimate points as long as you didn't use an ultimate and this played
primarily into the now reworked Overload skill for Sorcs which consumes ultimate upon usage. As of 2019, the storage of ultimate
has been capped at 500 which plays into Overload but also the monster set Balorgh's which grants weapon and spell damage doubleof how many ultimate points you're letting go when you use an ultimate.
Things are pretty simple at this point until you realize that there are quite a few more variables to take into consideration:
The most common question regarding ultimates usually at this point is if it's better to stack ultimate reduction over ultimate generation and this answer will depend, at least for PvE, on both the class and the nature of the fight.
Some people may be wondering as well how ultimate cost reduction is affected by wearing more than one ultimate cost reduction set
and with the example of using Potentates plus Dragonguard which totals up to 30%, you would think that the ultimate cost of say, Warhorn
for example would be 175 but with either Dragonguard or Potentate equipped, it's 212 ultimate and with both of them it turned out to be 182
38 ultimate cost reduction for the former and another 30 ult cost reduction for the latter which basically means the set bonuses are multiplicative rather than additive so again depending on class passives and so forth, it may not be worth it investing too much into ult cost reduction over either one ult cost reduction set and emphasizing the rest of your stats on ultimate generation.
The bottom line is that everything you see here on this list is that it all works WITH and STACKS on the innate ultimate buff you get from dodging, blocking, light attacking, healing and heavy attacking while the innate ultimate buff you get from doing the aforementioned actions does not stack with itself. For example, Bloodspawn, one of the most popular monster helms does not override the ultimate buff you get, it simply adds to it.
Moreover if you combine Bloodspawn with, let's say a Warden tank that gets Major Heroism from its Shimmering Shield in addition to the
Minor Heroism from using Heroic Slash and take into consideration your CP perks and skills such as Enchanted Forest, you've already
got quite the ultimate generation on your hands.
All of this means you have quite the array of options to experiment with if you want to go for an ultimate generation-focused PvP or PvE build.