One of the most popular spells in Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), Armor of Agathys (AoA) has some great upsides and a few downsides, although advanced D&D players might not like it as much. Join me as we consider what the spell is, how it works, how best to use it, where to obtain it, and some pros and cons of the spell. So let’s jump right into the D&D world to learn all about this fantastic defensive spell that can deal some useful damage to boot!
What Is Armor of Agathys?
Being a spell for the Warlock class, this takes one action to cast and will last for one hour. It can only be cast on your own character and doesn’t spread to other players or characters.
The flavor text from the D&D fifth edition Player’s Handbook states that ‘[a] protective magical force surrounds you, manifesting as a spectral frost that covers you and your gear. You gain 5 temporary hit points for the duration. If a creature hits you with a melee attack while you have these hit points, the creature takes 5 cold damage.
A further description states that ‘[a]t higher levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, both the temporary hit points and the cold damage increase by 5 for each slot level above 1st’.
This spell not only absorbs damage, thus making it an excellent defensive spell but also deals damage, making it one of the best Warlock spells, especially in the early game.
How Good Is Armor of Agathys?
Unlike other well-known spells, such as Shield and Mage Armor, AoA has the advantage in that it provides temporary hit points as part of the spell. This means it is a way of increasing health to make you more durable.
However, what AoA also offers is a point of difference from the above-mentioned spells: it also does damage to a melee attacker who attacks you. Keep in mind that this spell is not always active and has to be triggered or proc’d by a melee attack.
This means that it works better for a Warlock who wants to be in the battle, rather than one who is sitting at the back of a pack and being more of a spellcaster. Specifically, most Warlocks who follow the Pact of the Blade Warlock build synergize well with this.
This build is going to bring you into melee range than almost any other Warlock build, of which the majority put you back behind the tanks and other damage sponges.
AoA also has several other advantages, firstly that it is available at the very beginning. This means it’s perfect for a newer player to provide that extra protection right away, as well as not requiring a massive grind or long game to access it.
AoA also has the benefit of opening up the entire spell tree, allowing all AoA to be cast at max level to make the spell well worth it.
Finally, you can have two castings of the same spell (AoA) active on you but you can only benefit from one at a time, but the spell with the higher grant of hit points takes priority.
When you have already lost the temporary armor from the first casting yet you are still under the effect of the spell, the second cast takes effect and grants you the new temporary hit points.
How to Get Armor of Agathys?
The only required materials are a cup of water. As it is exclusive to Warlocks, you can obtain it also via being a levistus tiefling as at level three you get to cast it as a level two spell once a day.
You can also obtain it as a feat via Magic Initiate, but as this is only once a day at level one, it does not have much use.
You could also try doing a multiclass through a conquest Paladin or Warlock.
Depending on your dungeon master or other homebrew factors, you may have more access to it but the above listed are the standard ways.
Can You Stack Mage Armor and Armor of Agathys?
The interesting thing with this spell is that it specifically mentions that this spell works in addition to any other spells cast to increase armor and protections that you already have.
This means it can be stacked with other spells, such as Mage Armor to give lots of additional protection. It doesn’t gain more hit points from other spells, so you can’t increase it in that way.
AoA also doesn’t require concentration, meaning you can put on other spells such as Hex even while AoA is currently active.
Unlike other spells, the hour-long active state means you can cast it ahead of danger, meaning you can keep the spell up almost constantly.
Does Armor of Agathys Always Do Max Damage?
Casting it at the third level, AoA grants 15 temporary hit points and does an automatic 15 damage to the attacker, regardless of the actual remaining AoA-generated hit points. The damage is cold damage.
After this cast, if an enemy hits for five damage, the enemy takes 15 damage as the five damage is not calculated as minusing off the damage done by AoA.
At this rate, the enemy will hit three times in total before the temporary hit points are exhausted and AoA no longer does any more damage (or offers protection). The enemy would have taken a total of 75 damage.
There is no attack roll or saving, just direct damage. This takes a lot of randomness out of the actual damage you will do to an enemy.
Can You Transmute Armor of Agathys?
AoA is not available as a transmutation spell.
Is Agathys Armor Visible?
Going back to the handbook, the flavor text only really mentions visual cues very briefly, mainly through the words, ‘a spectral frost’.
As the description doesn’t provide any color or specific details for a visual, this means players have large leeway with customization as it cannot change the spell mechanically.