Mage Armor 5e – A Top Defense Buff

The Book of Spells and Magical Effects

Bottom Line Up Front

In 5e, the Mage Armor Spell is a good spell at lower levels and remains a very useful option on the Spell List up to max level. As a defensive buff, it’s one of the best in the game by the Dungeons and Dragons community.

Common Questions about Mage Armor in 5e

What does Mage Armor do DnD 5e?

With a single first level spell slot, a mage gets 8 hours of a protective magical force, increasing their base Armor Class by three, without using concentration.

Is Mage Armor good in 5e?

Costing only one arcane spell slot and a piece of cured leather, it’s one of the cheapest ways to get an AC bonus in the game of Dungeons and Dragons. However, at low levels, it does use up one of your few spell slots so selecting Mage Armor over other options can be a tough decision.

Is Mage Armour a concentration spell?

Mage Armor does not require concentration.

Is Mage Armor better than light armor 5e?

In some circumstances, Mage Armor can be better than light armor (such as studded leather) but mostly because Wizards and Sorcerers don’t come with Light Armor Proficiency. The answer depends on your play style, party composition and your character’s individual characteristics.

Can you use Mage Armor on yourself?

Mage Armor can be cast on yourself or any willing creature not wearing armor including pets, allies or innocent bystanders.

Who can cast Mage Armor?

Mage Armor can be cast by Wizards, Sorcerers and a few subclasses. Warlocks have an Invocation, called Armor of Shadows, that has the same effect but only for the caster. Warlocks can wear light armor so there are other Warlock Invocations with greater value to them.

In Point Form

Level/School: 1st-level abjuration

Casting Time: 1 action

Range: Touch

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.

Classes: Sorcerer, Wizard

Subclasses: Arcane Trickster Rogue, Clockwork Soul Sorcerer, Eldritch Knight Fighter

Races: Dwarf (Mark of Warding)

Eldritch Invocations: 

Source: PHB, page 256.

Magic Protection in 5e D&D
Magic beats metal in 5e. Image called force field by lorraine schleter

Mage Armor 5e- The Breakdown

For a Wizard or Sorcerer character, with no starting armor proficiencies, this spell features the most significant AC increase spell available in the 5e system. Shield is +5 but only for one round. This is +3 for 8 hours. Basically, you can use one First Level Spell Slot and have it effect most of your adventuring day potentially keeping you alive longer against enemy attacks. This way you do more damage to more enemies with your cantrips and require less healing from your party.

I answered this question above but I wanted to give you my personal practice as an example. Is it better to wear Light Armor or cast Mage Armor? It depends but, in general, if I have Light Armor proficiency, I wear light armor and use my Spell Slot for something else. If I can’t wear Light Armor without being penalized, I use the spell instead.

Wizards have a bit of a leg up on Sorcerers and other classes. If you’re an Abjuration Wizard, this spell will activate your Arcane Ward giving you a few extra Hit Points that could keep you alive in a tight fight. Using Arcane Recovery, you can cast it before a Short Rest, recover the slot and still have hours of protection ahead of you.

There’s no benefit for casting it at higher levels.

Touch a Willing Creature

This is interesting because ‘creature’ is pretty broad and encompasses a lot of options in the game. Even when you add it to ‘not wearing armor’, the list is pretty long. This is one of those conversations with the DM issues but you could potentially cast it on your familiar, your Ranger’s pet or your Moon Druid ally in Bear form. You have to check to see if it makes sense to use Mage Armor instead of the creature’s natural armor. It makes sense for many but not something like the Artificer’s Steel Defender where the Natural Armor Class is higher than it would be using the spell. This opens up a whole new range of uses

Protective Magical Force Surrounds the Target

This doesn’t count as armor and that impacts how you build your character.

Target’s Base AC becomes 13 plus Dexterity Bonus

You can still add more things to punch up your Armor Class and, since this part is important and sometimes misunderstood, I gave it its own little section below.

Roleplay your 5e Mage Armor to look any way you like.
How does your Mage Armor look? Image from Reddit. Artist unknown.

Stacking Mage Armor with AC and Defense Bonuses

Unarmored Defense – Mage Armor does not stack with the Unarmored Defense ability of Barbarian and Monk characters because they are calculated as 10 plus your ability bonuses not your Armor Class plus ability bonuses. You can have both but only use one or the other and, in most cases, your ability bonuses will be higher than three.

Unarmored Movement – applies as long as you’re not wearing armor and, despite the name, this spell does not give you armor.

Defense Fighting Style – You are not wearing armor so the Defense style does not apply.

Using a Shield – While not strictly a bonus, you can use both Mage Armor and a shield.