In the D&D world, spellcasters usually aren’t the bulkiest ones in town. To be effective with their magic, they would have to concentrate on their spellcasting ability more than their Constitution or Dexterity score. Plus, they are not known to be proficient with a lot of armor types. For example, the Bard and Warlock classes are only proficient with light armor. The Sorcerer and Wizard classes do not even have proficiency in any armor at all! What’s worse is that they are not proficient with shields either.
Because of this setback, they are usually extremely fragile during combat. This is why spellcasters should usually keep their distance from their enemies if they do not want to get hit due to their low armor class or AC. Classes intended for tank builds such as the Barbarian and Paladin classes can protect them from being damaged, but they are not always readily available to act as shields.
Thankfully, sorcerers and wizards have a way to mitigate this problem through the use of a certain first-level spell: Mage Armor. If you have either of these classes and you are constantly being targeted by your foes, then be sure to pick up this handy spell in your arsenal. It will help you in deflecting blows so that you would not be the punching bag in your party.
What is Mage Armor?
Mage Armor is a first-level abjuration spell that can be found in the Player’s Handbook, specifically on page 256. Abjuration spells are D&D spells that focus on protection; some protect through the use of physical and magical barriers, some negate harmful abilities, etc. Listed below are the properties of the spell such as their casting time, range, and more.
- Mage Armor
- 1st-level abjuration
- Casting Time: 1 action
- Range: Touch
- Components: V, S, M (a piece of cured leather)
- Duration: 8 hours
The details on how to use it and how it works are described in the next sections.
How to use Mage Armor
Mage Armor (or Improved Mage Armor) is a very simple spell. It offers protection through magical forces for eight hours to those who do not have it. When used during combat, you cast it as your action. You only have to do one thing to use this spell, and that is:
- You must touch an unarmored creature who is willing to be put under this spell. Being unarmored means that the creature must not wear any kind of armor. Remember that shields are also classified as armor, so having a shield and being cast with this spell will not work. Furthermore, a willing creature is a creature that consents to be cast under this spell. It will fail if the creature does not want to get it.
Again, you need to physically touch your target for this to work. From there, the spell will take care of the rest. A magical force will cover the creature, granting him protection.
How does Mage Armor work?
After you touch a willing unarmored creature, the Mage Armor spell will work. What happens is that:
- For eight hours, a protective magical force covers the creature.
- The protection changes the target’s base AC to 13 + their Dexterity modifier.
- If the target wears armor, or if the caster dismisses the spell as an action, the spell ends.
Eight hours is a pretty long duration for a spell, and it becomes very handy for adventures that would take long such as exploring unpredictable dungeons, wild forests, and the like.
Thankfully, the spell is not a concentration spell, so the caster does not need to concentrate for eight hours for the spell to work. Mage Armor also changes the target’s AC; normally, if your character is not wearing armor, they would have an AC of 10 + their Dexterity modifier. When Mage Armor is applied, the 10 becomes a 13.
That is a great improvement on one’s AC; essentially, you have added in three more points. For example, a sorcerer with a Dexterity modifier of +2 would normally have an AC of 12, since they are not proficient in any armor, even shields. With Mage Armor, that AC becomes a 15 since the spell changes your base AC to 13, then add in your Dexterity modifier of +2. A 30% increase of your base AC comes a long way!
One way for this magical armor to disappear is if you don armor, so be very cautious if you are under the effects of this spell. Although assuming the one who benefits from this are characters whose classes are not proficient with armor, it is nothing to worry about. Another way for it to disappear is if the caster dismisses the spell. When in combat, this would cost an action.
Who can use Mage Armor?
Although it has been mentioned that there are only two classes that can use this spell, there are other ways that others can use Mage Armor. But first, listed down are the only two classes:
- Sorcerer (Player’s Handbook, page 99)
- Wizard (Player’s Handbook, page 112)
These are also the two out of three classes that have no proficiency in any type of armor at all, with the third being the Monk class. While the Monk class can compensate for the lack of armor proficiency with their Unarmored Defense feature, the Sorcerer and Wizard classes can cast Mage Armor. Yes, it expends a spell slot, but what choice do you have?
Aside from these two main classes, three subclasses can gain the benefits of the Mage Armor, namely:
- Arcane Trickster Rogue (Player’s Handbook, page 97)
- Clockwork Soul Sorcerer (Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, page 68)
- Eldritch Knight Fighter (Player’s Handbook, page 74)
If you are confused on why a subclass of a sorcerer is in here, it is because of the subclass’s Clockwork Magic feature. It states there that you can gain access to additional spells as shown in the Clockwork spells table, and that you can change one spell you gained from this feature with another one in the sorcerer’s spell list every time you level up. Therefore, if you have gained a spell using this feature, then upon leveling up, you can change the said spell to Mage Armor.
Furthermore, there is also a subrace that can cast this spell, and that is the Mark of Warding Dwarf, found in Eberron: Rising from the Last War, page 51. They can cast Mage Armor using their Wards and Seals race feature, and they can only do it once per long rest. They also do not need the material components of the spell, something sorcerers and wizards do not suffer from thanks to their arcane focus.
Eldritch Invocations are forbidden knowledge that warlocks have access to, and one of them allows the warlock to cast Mage Armor on themselves. That Eldritch Invocation is called the Armor of Shadows, found in the Player’s Handbook, page 110. When cast through this method, you do not expend a spell slot nor the material components of the spell. This can be useful for warlocks since they are only proficient in light armor.
How good is Mage Armor?
It is particularly useful for those who are not proficient with armor or for those who are not wearing armor at the moment. Since you activate this spell on people by touching them, you can cast this spell on others and not just on yourself. Even though an additional three on your AC might not seem much, it is a 30% increase on the unarmored AC for eight hours.
For characters who already have armor with them and are proficient in wearing them such as the Eldritch Knight Fighter, this spell might not be that much useful. After all, fighters are known for being proficient with all types of armor, including shields. Mage Armor is slightly better than regular light armor since the highest possible AC with light armor would be the Studded Leather, at 12 + your Dexterity modifier.
Here is a table for comparison between the AC each armor gives you versus the Mage Armor. Note that the “If +3” column refers to the Total AC if the Dexterity modifier of a given character is a +3. Meanwhile, if the “Stealth” column has a “Disadvantage”, that means that the armor stated grants the user with a disadvantage on stealth checks.
Light Armor vs Mage Armor
|Mage Armor AC
|11 + Dex mod
|13 + Dex mod
|11 + Dex mod
|12 + Dex mod
As you can see, the Mage Armor is at a slight advantage against all of the light armor types. However, keep in mind that casting Mage Armor would expend a level-one spell slot at the very least. Plus, it only lasts for eight hours.
Meanwhile, regular armor can be worn without any consequence indefinitely, unless the wearer is not proficient with them. So only choose Mage Armor if (1) you have a spare spell slot left, (2) you need extra AC at the moment, or (3) you are not proficient with light armor.
Medium Armor vs Mage Armor
|Mage Armor AC
|12 + Dex mod (2 max)
|13 + Dex mod
|13 + Dex mod (2 max)
|14 + Dex mod (2 max)
|14 + Dex mod (2 max)
|15 + Dex mod (2 max)
More than half of the medium armor’s AC equals to or is greater than that of the Mage Armor’s AC, given that the Dexterity modifier is a +3. All medium armor has a maximum of 2 when adding in the Dexterity modifier, so even if you have a +3 on it, you can only benefit from a +2.
If the Dexterity modifier was a +2 in the given scenario instead of a +3, then Mage Armor’s AC would be lowered to 15 without affecting the medium armor’s AC. In that sense, four out of five of the medium armor stands toe to toe with Mage Armor.
Heavy Armor vs Mage Armor
|Mage Armor AC
|13 + Dex mod
Heavy armor is a unique set of armor; all of them grant the user disadvantage on Stealth checks, and when compared to other armor types, your Dexterity modifier does not matter.
Instead, the AC is a given number that cannot be modified. You might be wondering what the Strength column is about. The user’s Strength score must be equal to or higher than the given number in that column. Otherwise, the user suffers from their speed is reduced by 10 ft.
As such, heavy armor is focused more on having a high Strength score rather than a high Dexterity score. Spellcasters who typically use this (i.e. the Sorcerer and Wizard classes) do not meet the demands of the heavy armor in terms of strength. They are not even proficient with the heavy armor, to begin with. Thus, the Mage Armor would be a better choice to be on the ranks of the Heavy Armor.
Mage Armor 5e Guide: FAQs
Question: What is the Mage Armor’s AC?
Answer: 13 + Dexterity modifier. The Mage Armor spell changes the base AC to 13 instead of 10 if you are not wearing armor.
Question: What do you need to cast Mage Armor?
Answer: First, you need at least a level-one spell slot to use. Next, you must have its material component unless you have an arcane focus, which sorcerers and wizards have. Then, you must touch your target for the spell to start working. They must not wear armor or shields. Otherwise, the spell will fail.
Question: Can Mage Armor be cast as a ritual?
Answer: No, it cannot be cast as a ritual.
Question: Does Mage Armor need concentration?
Answer: No, it doesn’t. It would be a major pain for casters if they would have to concentrate for eight hours!
Question: Is Mage Armor good for monks?
Answer: Monks have the Unarmored Defense feature, which makes their AC 10 + their Dexterity modifier + their Wisdom modifier. They are the same as Mage Armor, wherein it only works if they are not wearing any armor or shields. So, unless their Wisdom modifier is less than three, no, Mage Armor is usually not that good for monks. In this case, it would be better to stick with Unarmored Defense.
Question: Is Mage Armor good for barbarians?
Answer: Barbarians also have the Unarmored Defense feature, but instead make their AC 10 + their Dexterity modifier + their Constitution modifier. It only works if they are not wearing any armor, but a shield is fine. By the same logic, unless their Constitution modifier is less than three, no, Mage Armor is usually not that good for barbarians.
Question: Can you have Mage Armor + shield?
Answer: Shields are considered armor, and Mage Armor does not work if you are donning armor, so no, you cannot. When you are casting Mage Armor while the target has a shield, it would automatically fail. If you have Mage Armor already on and you don on a shield, the Mage Armor will disappear.
Question: Is Mage Armor visible?
Answer: Though it is not in the spell’s description, typically magical forces are visible unless stated otherwise. So yes, it might be visible. It is up to the DM how to interpret this; it could be a shimmer, or a glowing light wrapped around the target’s body. Or, the DM could rule out that it is invisible. It is entirely up to your DM.
Question: Is Mage Armor worth it?
Answer: Yes, if you are (1) not proficient with armor, (2) have a spell slot available for it, and (3) if you are always targeted by enemies. It would be a good addition to your arsenal to buff you up.