The Warlock cautiously raises her arm, wary of entering the next room after the last intense battle. Her skin shimmers as spikes of ice manifest, covering her entire body in the icy armor of Agathys. She signals her comrades to continue, confident in her abilities and cool armor to keep her safe from whatever waits down the next path.
Table of Contents
How the Spell Works
The spell text from the Player’s Handbook says: 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. 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.
That means when you cast the spell at higher levels, you get more temporary hit points and the first person to hit you with a melee attack takes a correspondingly larger amount of cold damage in retaliation.
Who Gets Armor of Agathys
Armor of Agathys is a Warlock-only spell, although Oath of Conquest Paladins automatically have it prepared. Bards can access this spell through their Magical Secrets feature, and other classes have access through the Magic Initiate feat.
What Are the Uses
Armor of Agathys is a pretty simple abjuration spell. It gives you temporary hit points and does a bit of damage to anyone who dares hit you. This isn’t to say that it isn’t an insanely useful spell, though. We highly recommend that anyone with access to this spell take it, especially Hexblade or Pact of the Blade Warlocks. All varieties of Warlocks could benefit from extra hit points, but Warlocks who spend time in melee will see the largest benefits from the spell.
The spell’s casting time is only an action, but the duration is a whole hour. It makes more sense for the caster to get the spell going before entering a dangerous area since it lasts for so long, but you can use it in the middle of combat. In terms of spell components, all you need is a cup of water to make armor of Agathys work. Compared to other spells in Dungeons & Dragons, that’s a very simple component to come by.
It’s also worth noting that the spell scales very well, so you can take it initially at 1st level and keep it throughout your entire adventuring career. Many spells don’t work well for Warlocks because, due to their Pact Magic spell slots, Warlocks have no control over their casting level. As Warlocks level up, they gain additional Pact Magic spell slots, and their Pact Magic level rises, but they don’t retain lower-level slots.
Warlocks have to think carefully about how spells scale to see if it’s worth spending one of their few Pact Magic slots on something when it’ll be cast at 5th level. With armor of Agathys, a 5th level casting means a whopping 25 temporary hit points and an automatic 25 points of cold damage to anyone who hits you with a melee attack. It’ll definitely make them think twice about attacking you, and it doesn’t cost your reaction to inflict the damage.
It’s worth noting that temporary hit points don’t stack, so if you have alternate sources of temporary hit points (like the false life spell, Inspiring Leader feat, or the Form of Dread feature for Undead Warlocks), this spell may not be a good choice. Some exceptions to this rule are aid or heroes’ feast which increase a creature’s hit point maximum without adding temporary hit points.
One of the easiest spells to compare armor of Agathys to is mage armor. Wizards and Sorcerers are the primary users of mage armor, but it differs from armor of Agathys in a few key ways. Mage armor lasts longer, a whopping 8 hours, but it doesn’t give you any temporary hit points. Instead, it raises your AC. It also doesn’t damage anyone who manages to hit you. At higher levels, even mage armor won’t stop your Wizard from getting hit and it doesn’t help you stay alive longer or fight back against your opponents.
Armor of Agathys is a very handy spell for Warlocks of nearly every variety. Except for Undead Warlocks, everyone could easily benefit from a solid chunk of temporary hit points and the security of knowing that the first person to hit them with a melee attack will automatically take a bunch of points of cold damage.