Does Mage Armor have any advantages over Studded Leather +1 or even Studded Leather +2?

  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast why did you add [armor-class]? is this tag really relevant here? \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Dec 10, 2018 at 0:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor: I figured it was relevant, since mage armor isn't actually armor and the question's fundamentally about things that set your AC... \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Dec 10, 2018 at 0:57

5 Answers 5


From the description of the Mage Armor spell:

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.

Compared to Studded Leather +1.

Regarding Mage Armor, ...

  1. You don't need proficiency with any armor (instead of light armor proficiency)

If you wear armor that you lack proficiency with, you have disadvantage on any ability check, saving throw, or attack roll that involves Strength or Dexterity, and you can't cast spells.

  1. Your AC becomes "13 + Dex modifier" (equivalent)

  2. You are not considered wearing armor (better)

    • This means you can benefit from traits for which you need to be "unarmored" like a Monks unarmored movement or the Magic Item Bracers of Defense.
    • special attacks from some creatures can destroy/weaken your armor
  3. You need to spend a spell slot, maybe two depending on the length of your adventuring day (worse)
  4. You only need 1 action to cast Mage Armor vs. 1 minute to don Studded Leather Armor
  5. You would lose all benefits while in an Anti-Magic-Field while magic Studded Leather armor would still count as a mundane version of it. (Thanks, Yuuki)
  6. Your defenses could be dispelled with Dispel Magic. This would have no effect on a magic item. (Thanks, Erik)
  7. You do not have to carry the weight of an Armor (Thanks, Xavon_Wrentaile)
  • \$\begingroup\$ Mage armor can be granted to multiple creatures at once (albiet using a spell slot each time) and can be applied to creatures that can't wear armor. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 9, 2018 at 22:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ A corollary to point 5, since Mage Armor is not concentration, you could cast it on yourself before going to sleep. If you get ambushed during the night, you can use your first Action for something else. \$\endgroup\$
    – Alaric
    Feb 10, 2018 at 13:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Alaric according to the sleeping in armor rules from XGtE you have no benefit, because as light armor Studded Leather can be worn during a long rest without penalty. \$\endgroup\$
    – Thyzer
    Feb 10, 2018 at 15:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Addressing the 3-rd point: you can't use Defense Fighting Style, since you're not considered wearing armor. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 10, 2018 at 7:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ For a Warlock with the Armor of Shadows invocation, the spell slot issue isn't an issue -- mage armor can be cast at will without use of a slot Don't have my book here, and can't recall if this is "self only," however. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jan 22, 2020 at 14:21

There are a number of benefits to Mage Armor:

  • Wizards do not have armor proficiency: Because wizards have no armor proficiency, they suffer major penalties and cannot cast spells while wearing armor (PHB 144). You'll have to expend resources to get a light armor proficiency, which is nontrivial (multiclassing or feats):

If you wear armor that you lack proficiency with, you have disadvantage on any ability check, saving throw, or attack roll that involves Strength or Dexterity, and you can’t cast spells.

  • +1 armor is a rare magic item: Because of 5e's bounded accuracy system, +1 armor is actually pretty significant as a magic item. Given that most characters will only ever have a few magic items, a +1 armor will either be very hard to get at lower levels, or represent a significant fraction of a character's magic item wealth. In fact, according to the table on DMG 38, in a standard campaign, characters starting at levels 17-20 only have one rare magic item period. On the other hand, Mage Armor is a level 1 spell, which is far easier to get.
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Magic items had by a character starting at level X are extremely misleading; it's less than half by far what you should have at any given level, given the standard treasure distributions. For example, you can expect to have at least two permanent rare magic items by level 16, so the idea that you would only have one such item, permanent or otherwise, at level 17 is silly. Rest of answer is fine, though. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 9, 2018 at 21:02

No, Mage Armor is not worse than armor of equal AC

Mage Armor is intended to help classes that can't wear armor without suffering huge penalty (such as Wizards themselves) or classes that would prefer to go unarmored (such as Barbarians).

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Mage Armor doesn't interact with Unarmored Defense. Barbarians are also proficient in medium armour \$\endgroup\$
    – Caleth
    Jan 22, 2020 at 10:31

Mage Armor and +1 Studded Leather are largely equivalent.

The only main difference between Mage Armor and +1 Studded Leather is how long it takes to actually equip the armor in question. With light armor, it takes 1 minute to suit up, whereas it takes only 1 action to cast Mage Armor.

The actual AC that the character in question has is similar in both cases; 13+Dex for the Mage Armor, (12+1)+Dex for the +1 Studded Leather. If we add the +2 Studded Leather to the mix, it comes out slightly ahead on AC, at (12+2)+Dex, but still has the drawback of longer equipping time.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Also Studded Leather+2 is a rare magic item, whereas Mage Armor is a level 1 spell. \$\endgroup\$
    – GreySage
    Feb 9, 2018 at 17:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ good point, it would make definite sense to use Mage Armor atleast untill you find a +1 Armor, and then you can still swap it out. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 9, 2018 at 17:45

Per the RAW your Base AC = 13+(Dex mod), which means you add your Dex Mod to that to get your AC(plus any bonus From Armor of Defense or MOnk stuff or what not). SO it beats all studded leather armors(assuming you have a positive Dex Modifier).

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Can you elaborate on this a bit more? You also get to add your dex mod to studded leather armour and +1 or +2 studded leather armour would mean a 13+dex mod AC or 14+dex mod AC so I fail to see the logic behind this answer without further explanation. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 9, 2018 at 23:54
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Also, mage armor sets your AC (as does any physical armor), and does not stack with other features that provide a different AC calculation method (such as a monk or barbarian's Unarmored Defense, a lizardfolk's natural armor, a draconic bloodline sorcerer's Draconic Resilience, etc.). Only things that provide bonuses to AC rather than a new calculation method will stack, and even then, mage armor prevents something like a (physical) shield from applying, since shields are armor. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Dec 9, 2018 at 23:57

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