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.
Casting Time: 1 action
Components: V, S, M (a piece of cured leather)
Duration: 8 hours
School: 1st-level abjuration
Who can cast Mage Armor? Sorcerers and Wizards have Mage Armor on their class spell lists.
Player’s Handbook, pg. 256
Mage Armor 5e
Mage Armor is a straightforward buff spell that essentially changes the way the target calculates their AC so long as they aren’t wearing armor. It’s a lifesaver for casters who can’t put on armor without suffering serious consequences. Let’s go over some common points of confusion surrounding Mage Armor and discuss its utility throughout a campaign.
How Does Mage Armor Work in 5e?
Mage Armor changes the target’s AC calculation to (13 + Dexterity modifier) from (10 + Dexterity modifier) as long as they aren’t wearing armor. Note that the target can wear a shield and still gain Mage Armor’s effect.
Mage Armor lasts for 8 hours, doesn’t require concentration, and significantly reduces an unarmored player’s chance of getting hit.
How to Use Mage Armor in 5e
To use Mage Armor to its best potential in 5e:
Use it on classes that don’t wear armor. The fact that Mage Armor is on the spell lists’ of two classes without base armor proficiencies (Sorcerers and Wizards) is no accident. This spell is meant to be used on targets that don’t want to wear armor for one reason or another.
While Mage Armor doesn’t stack with Unarmored Defense, it does offer an alternative AC calculation if the Barbarian/Monk doesn’t have good Consitution/Wisdom modifiers, respectively.
Protecting vulnerable targets. Folks you escort, mounts you ride, familiars you summon — they’re important, but boy, can they be squishy. Luckily, most of these things are also unarmored. Using Mage Armor on them can make your goal of defending these targets much easier.
Intrigue situations. The spell text doesn’t indicate whether Mage Armor produces visible effects. That means it’s up to you, your DM, and consistency. In any case, one potential benefit of Mage Armor is that you can wear it to a situation where a fight is likely to break out, but you don’t want anyone else to know that ahead of time.
If only Roose Bolton had Mage Armor, he probably could have avoided that slap from Catelyn.
Pair with Abjuration Savant. Wizards of the School of Abjuration can create a ward around themselves whenever they cast a 1st-level or higher abjuration spell.
Using Mage Armor at the start of the day ensures that you’ll be doubly protected (if you cast Mage Armor on yourself) or that you’ve protected twice as many party members.
Cheating in unarmored combat situations. This one’s pretty niche, but if you or an ally is ever challenged to gladiatorial-style combat or just a brawl at a pub, Mage Armor can help you get an unfair advantage.
Rest cast it. “Rset casting” is a term for casting a spell at the end of a long rest, right before you get your spell slots back. Rules as written, this is totally allowed, as casting a spell for <1 hour does not interrupt a long rest. So, as long as you have a 1st-level spell slot left at the end of an adventuring day, you can spend it on Mage Armor for the following day, then start with all your spell slots.
This seriously enhances the efficiency of Mage Armor, making it a no-brainer to have up at all times, especially at higher levels when it’s fairly easy to save a 1st-level spell slot all day. That being said, some DMs might find this cheesy and disallow it.
What Are the Rules for Mage Armor in 5e?
The rules for Mage Armor in DnD 5e are as follows:
Mage Armor works with shield. Yes, you can wear a shield and still gain/maintain the effects of Mage Armor.
The difference in Unarmored Defense descriptions between Barbarians and Monks shows us that the rules clearly differentiate between “shields” and “armor.” Mage Amor only fails to work when armor is equipped, not shields.
This has also been confirmed by the Sage Advice compendium (page 14).
Mage Armor doesn’t stack with other AC buffs. Things like Draconic Resilience and Unarmored Defense (both the Barbarian and Monk versions) will never stack with Mage Armor. All of these effects simply change the way you calculate AC; they do not buff your AC.
Mage Armor can be Twinned. Mage Armor meets all of the qualifications for a Sorcerer to use metamagic to Twin the spell and affect two creatures (PHB 102).
Being affected by Mage Armor does not count as wearing armor. This has been confirmed by Jeremy Crawford.
Is Mage Armor 5e a Good Spell?
Yes, Mage Armor is an insanely good spell for casters looking to increase their survivability in combat. It’s a straightforward +3 AC buff for most people you’d target with it. It also lasts 8 hours, which covers a typical day spent adventuring, with no upkeep whatsoever.
That +3 AC essentially works out to a 15 percentage point reduction (likely a 20-25% reduction overall) in your chances of getting hit by a typical low-level enemy.
For example, a Goblin has +4 attack. An unarmored Wizard with 10 AC will be hit by a 7 or higher (70% of the time). A Wizard with 13 AC will be hit by a 10 or higher (55% of the time). That represents a 21.5% reduction in your chance to be hit — for a full 8 hours.
Mage Armor 5e Compared to Light Armor 5e
Many Wizards and Sorcerers are happy to have Mage Armor at lower levels, but wonder if they’ll be better off investing in light armor proficiency long-term. Unless you continue down this line into medium armor, the best non-magic light armor you can wear (Studded Leather) will provide (12 + Dexterity modifier) AC.
If you happen to find +1 light armor and your party gives it to you, then you’d be in a situation where wearing light armor is equivalent to Mage Armor. This certainly isn’t likely to happen in the early or even mid-game, as +1 armor is typically rare in most DnD universes.
So is it worth picking up a feat to save yourself from needing to expend a first-level spell slot before every adventure? That’s up to you and depends partly on your ability score spread and the composition of your party.
My two cents? You’re better off with using that feat for an Ability Score Improvement to max out your spellcasting stat first, then grab a more powerful/fun feat once that’s done; just use Mage Armor at all times.
One last thing: if you’re a Sorcerer of the Draconic Bloodline subclass, you’ll have a base unarmored AC of (13 + Dexterity modifier), meaning you gain no benefit from Mage Armor (or from picking up the light armor feat).
Who Can I Target With Mage Armor 5e?
You can target any willing creature who isn’t wearing armor with Mage Armor.
Mage Armor 5e DM Tips
There’s really only one possible point of contention with Mage Armor: can enemies see it or not? This might come up in role-playing scenarios where the party wants to ambush someone in civilized society and doesn’t want to tip their hand by showing up clad in full armor.
Alternatively, a player might wish for their player to radiate a cool aura, warning enemies that they shouldn’t bother attacking.
The spell as written says nothing about the visibility of Mage Armor, so it’s up to you as the DM. The main thing to remember is that consistency is key.
A player can’t have their stealthy Mage Armor one minute and then argue that the thug shouldn’t be attacking what is obviously a magically protected Wizard the next session.
“But,” that pain-in-the-ass player chimes in, “couldn’t a Wizard who made her Mage Armor colorful one day choose to make that color clear the next day?” Ugh. Sure, why not.
DnD 5e Mage Armor FAQ
Mage armor DnD 5e FAQ:
Does mage armor stack with armor? No, mage armor does not stack with armor; it only works if the creature is not wearing any armor. However, non-armor magic items that provide bonus AC, like bracers of defense or cloak of protection, do stack with mage armor, since they are not considered armor. Additionally, they do not change the AC calculation (like monk/barbarian unarmored defense); they are just a flat AC bonus.
Does wearing a shield negate mage armor? No, wearing a shield does not negate mage armor. Shields are not considered armor in DnD 5e, so you can benefit from the +2 AC bonus from a shield while mage armor is active, and equipping a shield while mage armor is active doesn’t end the spell early.
Can you sleep in mage armor? Yes, you can sleep in mage armor without suffering any penalties.
Simple Mage Armor 5e Spell Text
Mage Armor: (1st-level, touch, 8 hours, V/S/M (cured leather)) Target’s base AC = (13 + Dexterity modifier). Only castable on targets not wearing armor; effect ends if target dons armor.