1st Level Abjuration
Casting Time: 1 action
Components: V, S, M* (*a piece of cured leather)
Duration: 8 hours
You touch a willing creature who isn’t wearing armor, and a protective magical force surrounds it until the spell ends. The target’s base AC becomes 13 + its Dexterity modifier. The spell ends if the target dons armor or if you dismiss the spell as an action.
Spell Lists: Wizard, Sorcerer
What is Mage Armor
Mage armor is a 1st level defensive spell that boosts a targets natural, or base, armor class. While this spell is on the spell list for sorcerers and wizards, it’s also available to warlocks through the eldritch invocation armor of shadows.
How Does Mage Armor Work?
In order to use mage armor, a character must not be wearing any armor. The creature must also be willing, so there’s no giving extra armor to your enemies, not that you ever would want to.
As long as the creature meets these conditions, you can cast the spell on them by using a 1st level spell slot. Normally, the base AC of a creature not wearing any armor is 10 + their dexterity score. So essentially, you’re giving them a 3 point increase.
It’s important to note that this boost to your AC does not count as wearing armor. There are certain abilities or spells that have no effect on creatures wearing armor, and certain deficits to wearing armor that this spell keeps you safe from.
How to Use Mage Armor
Mage armor is typically a spell you’re going to want to use on yourself. Sorcerers and wizards both start out with no armor proficiencies and also have the lowest hit die (a d6). This means that these casters are extremely squishy, and especially at earlier levels, you’ll want to avoid taking as many hits as possible.
Wearing armor without having proficiency in it pretty much disqualifies casters from combat since it eliminates your ability to cast spells. Mage armor is a nifty solution presented to these less fortified classes at 1st level.
It also lasts for 8 hours, which is the majority of an adventuring day. Since this spell doesn’t require concentration you should be casting this before heading into any sort of adventure where combat is a possibility.
In campaigns focused on combat, you should basically consider this a used spell slot from day one. When your adventurer wakes up in the morning they’ll bathe, eat a rounded breakfast, cast mage armor, and be ready for the day.
How Good is Mage Armor
Mage armor is a great spell, for what it is. Mechanically, it brings the target’s AC up to a less expensive medium armor choice. That means your starting AC can match that of a fighter, or be even better if your CON modifier is out of this world.
As you get higher up in levels, this will become much less effective though. Your 16 or so AC is going to be easily hit, and you’ll want to find some sort of magical armor or other way to keep creatures from landing hits on you.
For first tier (levels 1-4), it’s an essential spell that will in many cases be the deciding factor in whether or not you need to build a new character. After that, well it’s still a good spell, and you might want to cast it anyway just to give yourself a good base AC for any other magical bonuses.
Something to remember is that 1st level spell slots are precious when they’re all you have. As you get into higher spell levels though, 1st level slots take a back seat, and often get used for utility, or to increase the efficacy of other spells. This is going to be a lifelong friend of just about any wizard or sorcerer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Mage Armor better than Shield?
In most situations, I’d have to say yes. Shield is cast as a reaction and gives you a +5 boost to your AC. As they are both 1st level spells, shield clearly gives you more AC; five is a higher number than three for anyone keeping score.
However, the shield spell only lasts until the start of your next turn. Mage armor is going to last you so much longer and ultimately protect you from so many more attacks. You can use them together to get a very high AC though.
Is Mage Armor better than Light Armor?
Typically, yes. The most expensive basic light armor is studded armor, which gives you a base AC of 12 + your Dex modifier.
It’s even better than some medium armor in certain situations. Medium armor only uses up to 2 points of your dexterity modifier. If the target of mage armor has a dexterity score of 16 or higher they’re going to end up with a better AC then the lower end medium armors.
Does Mage Armor stack with armor?
No. Both mage armor and any worn armor are used to determine your base AC. Whenever two abilities provide the same effect (such as determining base AC) you simply choose the more powerful source.
Mage armor does however stack with anything that boosts AC, such as a shield or a ring of protection.
Can a warlock use Mage Armor?
Yes! At second level, warlocks get access to eldritch invocations. One such invocation, Armor of Shadows, lets warlocks cast Mage Armor at will. They do not need to use a spell slot or expend a material component to cast it in this way.