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Be it a Wizard Classic, Eccentric Mentor, Evil Sorcerer, even a bratty Child Mage, the Archmage is the apex of Magical Learning and/or Power to the point of being practically a demigod (or more) in the world they are portrayed in, able to create miracles as if a minor but annoying chore, discover a world-shaking truth, or even brawl with The Devil himself.

The term "Archmage" (also called Archmagi or Archmagus) is a neologism strung together from the Greek word arch'e, meaning "first", and "magus", a reference specifically to the astronomer-astrologers of ancient Persia. As an analogy, the Archmage is to a normal wizard as a head of surgery is to a med student just starting up their residency.

An Archmage character, in the grand scheme of most fantasy stories, is either given his/her title via their country, becoming the head of that region's magical study and schooling, or even by the majority of magicians in the world, to the point of being the ruler of a Magocracy. Sometimes it's even a divinely given title. If the local god of magic says you're the best and/or the chosen one, you're pretty much the most likely to become an Archmage without being threatened of the same church that said god rules over; hell, it's more likely that the church will become supporters and/or followers in bringing their new leader to the sought-after position of power.

Granted, not all Archmages are centered within society, and certainly not all are good. An Archmage could very well become isolated from the world within a massive tower fortress in hope of quiet study in creating the flux capacitor they need for a time machine. Also, the Archmage is not restricted to humans or even the dominant race of the society in question; in fantasy, the Archmage could be a freakin' owl that can cast Meteor and Doom spells.

Generally speaking, most Archmages are depicted as old and wise wizards, but sometimes characters become Archmages without even being called one, simply by being the only magician (or one of the only magicians) in the world, maybe even because said world doesn't have such a title as Archmage. Nevertheless, the Archmage is intelligent and worldly in knowledge and wisdom, and is considered an epic power within the grand scheme of most stories.

A character need not actually bear the title "Archmage" to qualify for this trope, though many do. The defining trait is that they are recognized in-universe as representing the pinnacle of magical power.

Note: Arguably an Archmage can also be merely the leader in a specific form of magic, but this may or may not change the title to reflect the school of magic in question (e.g. Archevoker, Archabjurer, etc, etc). Also, in some cases an Archmage that becomes a sentient undead is usually considered an Archlich.

Examples of The Archmage include:

Anime and Manga

  • From the Nasuverse, we have Zelretch. He is a centuries old vampire mage with the ability to travel between realities, and he is far and away the most powerful mage in the series. At the height of his power, he punched out Brunestud of the Crimson Moon by transporting him onto an alternate, uninhabited Earth, and then dropped the moon on him.
  • The Lifemaker in Mahou Sensei Negima, who is not only immortal and at least 2,600 years old, but has created an entire world and nearly a billion living beings to inhabit it (hence his title). He has also been shown as capable of effortlessly Curb Stomping even the most powerful combat mages in the setting, with only the most powerful mage alive able to successfully stand against him in battle (indeed, Nagi probably would qualify as an archmage himself if the Lifemaker weren't around).

Comic Books

  • In the DC Universe, The Archmage was a being of magic imprisoned at the heart of Zerox, the Sorcerer's World.
  • These things vary in comic books with the tendency for characters to gain or lose power through plot or depending on the writer, but the wizard Shazam prior to his death at the hands of the Spectre was the most powerful magician in the DC universe. Feats include chaining the seven deadly sins and bestowing godlike powers on a succession of champions.
  • Doctor Strange is the "Sorcerer Supreme" of the Marvel Universe, and is very capable of being considered an Archmage. The Ancient One, his tutor, was the former Archmage. Also his house can be known for being in a separate dimension, sometimes one on its own.
  • Dakhim the Enchanter in Man-Thing.



  • Numair Salmalin in the Tortall Universe is often referred to as the "most-powerful mage in Tortall" and is likely the most powerful mage in the world. What more, he does not fit the old-guy archetype - he's in his late twenties/early thirties and is extremely handsome.
  • The evil sorcerer in Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene is named Archimago, though this is more directly related to the word imago ("image"), a reference to his ability to create illusions.
  • The first known use of the word in modern fantasy was in Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea. The Archmage there is the head of a college of wizards, a primus inter pares or "first among peers".
  • Saruman in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth novels is also an archmage, though he is never referred to by that title; however, as the White Wizard at the head of the order of wizards (as Gandalf describes him), he seems to occupy the place of an archmage in Middle-earth.
    • It should be noted that after becoming a White Wizard himself that Gandalf can be considered this trope, having become a key advisor and leader in the armies of Middle-earth against Mordor, after Saruman is defeated by an army of bearded trees (and two hobbits) and learn.
  • In Barbara Hambly's writings, the fantasy worlds of both The Darwath Trilogy and The Windrose Chronicles feature archmages, the leaders of the wizards of those worlds. In the Windrose Chronicles, the archmage's authority magically moves to another wizard on the death of the archmage.
  • Many characters in the world of Harry Potter may be considered archmagi, most notably Lord Voldemort and Albus Dumbledore, the latter bearing the title of, among others, Grand Sorcerer, Supreme Mugwump, and Chief Warlock.
    • Historically Gellert Grindelwald was one, at least prior to his defeat by Dumbledore, as were the Four Founders of Hogwarts, school of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
  • In the Korean fantasy novel Dragon Raja Handrake is described as an Archmage who successfully defeated Dragon Lord in the War of the Glorious Seven Weeks. Regarded by all who live in the world of Dragon Raja as the most powerful wizard of all time, he is reputed to be the only wizard who mastered Class Nine of magic.
  • There are several characters, good and evil, throughout the history of Dragonlance who could rightly bear this title, but far and away the most notable (and infamous) are Fistandantilus and his student/victim/killer/reincarnation (it's complicated) Raistlin.
  • Both the Disciples of Aldur and Torak from The Belgariad all count, notably Belgarath, Beldin, and Polgara (Aldur) and Ctuchik and Zedar (Torak. Torak's third Disciple, Urvon, was a somewhat powerful sorcerer, but seems to have been more of an arch-butt kisser).
  • From the Death Gate Cycle, Samah and Lord Xar are the archmage rulers of the Sartan and Patryn races (both examples of a Witch Species) respectively. Alfred probably counts too, since his magic rates him the title of "Serpent Mage", a high honorific among the Sartan, though he's very uncomfortable with his power and has no desire to lord it over lesser mages.
    • There are also the mysteriarchs, who are archmages compared to other human wizards, but are far less powerful than any of the above- the most powerful mysteriarch is said to be about even with a very weak Sartan, and Patryn Anti-Hero Haplo is completely confident in his ability to take the man in a duel if it comes to that (it doesn't).
  • This is essentially what the Senior Council in The Dresden Files are, particularly the Merlin.
    • Also in the Dresden files is the Archive, a little girl who knows absolutely everything that the human race has ever learned. She's been shown as powerful enough to hold off fallen angels, literally with one hand, using only the latent magic present in her 12 year-old body.
    • Also a candidate for the title is Cowl, a villain explicitly stated to be Senior Council-class in terms of power. He may or may not have at one time been the apprentice of Heinrich Kemmler, a (now mercifully deceased) Evil Sorcerer referred to as a "black magic messiah who took the whole Senior Council to take down.
  • In The Wheel of Time, this is what Rand becomes after merging with the memories of his 400-year-old past self.
  • The Dragaeran Sethra Lavode is considered the most powerful sorcerer in the Empire and is known for performing miracles that have shaped history. She's also sort of an Archlich.
  • In Discworld, the Archancellor of Unseen University is the head of all organized magic and in theory the most powerful wizard on the Disc. In practice, given wizards' penchant for killing their immediate superiors, the Archancellor was mostly just the wizard best at murdering and not getting murdered. This stopped with the stubbornly unkillable Archancellor Ridcully, and while he seems to be powerful whether or not he's the most powerful wizard is a moot point, since the point of organized magic is to not use it as much as possible.
  • Elminster in the Forgotten Realms novels is basically the definition of this. He's a wizard so absurdly powerful that he is frequently accused of being a Mary Sue.
    • Though the setting also contains several wizards with even more power than him. The Simbul is quoted as having more raw power (albeit not experience), Larloch and Ioulaum vastly outclass him (noted below under Tabletop Games), and Telamont Tanthul of Shade is also around (one of the last living Netherese Archwizards), among others. Elminster is more dangerous because of the networks of allies and helpers that he's managed to construct over the years rather than just his sheer power, including the Seven Sisters, the Harpers and various other organisations that he had a hand in creating and manipulating (while many evil archmages are busy manipulating right back at him in what frequently seems to result in a Gambit Pileup), potentially qualifying him as a Big Good.
  • Raistlin Majere from the world of Krynn is the most powerful Wizard to ever walk upon that world. His nephew Palin could also be considered an Archmage, as he helped to rediscover Primal Sorcery with very little to work from.
  • The wise Archmage Ignacius Cooper in Nick Perumov's so far English translation-lacking "Swords's Keeper" series. Subverted in the end when instead of a wise patron he is shown to be spiteful, manipulative and just evil.
  • Marcia Overstand in the Septimus Heap series, where the title is known as ExtraOrdinary Wizard. It's worth noting that while her political power is unparalleled, her actual magical power may be in question. She's also a Hot-Blooded Tsundere.
  • Possibly subverted in Juliet Mc Kenna's Tales of Einarinn. Archmage is the title given to the leader of the Magocracy. However, the Archmage openly admits that actual wizardry being the least important part of the job compared to politics or being a Manipulative Bastard in general, is rarely shown using magic, and is described as a remarkably ordinary magic user with several other characters being shown to be much more powerful than him; some of whom were passed up for the position.
  • Zeddicus Z'ull Zorrander and Darken Rahl of the Sword of Truth both count, though Darken Rahl had a significant leg up on Zedd because he sold his soul to the Keeper. Note, neither of them would have had much standing at all in the presence of the wizards 3000 years before. Much later in the series, Richard becomes this, in addition to the Seeker, a Mud Man, Lord Rahl, a wizard, and many other impossible jobs that he asks not to have in the first book.
    • Nathan, Nicci, and Ann from the Palace of the Prophets more than most. Which is saying something, since most of its inhabitants have been there for hundreds of years. Nicci's probably as powerful as Nathan (unusual, as sorceresses are almost invariably only a shadow of wizards). That said, she and the other Sister of the Dark have been stealing wizards' Han and making deals with the Keeper.
    • War Wizards were this 3000 years ago. Special mention to Alric Rahl, Joseph Anders, and several others.
  • In the Krondor series, Macros the Black is the archmage at the beginning of the books. His function eventually gets taken over by Pug / Milamber.
  • From the Heralds of Valdemar series, the most prominent example is Vanyel Ashkevron, the titular Last Herald Mage. In the ages-ago prequels, Urtho and Ma'ar also qualify.
  • Chrestomanci, in the Diana Wynne Jones series of that name, is a title equivalent to Archmage. It's technically a government job title, but is only given to one of the most powerful enchanters in the multiverse, chosen and trained by the previous Chrestomanci.

Live Action Television

  • Though not in an official leadership position, some members of the Q - one in particular - consider themselves rightful superiors to lesser (read "less than omnipotent") races and possess more than enough power to enforce their beliefs.
  • In the BBC Merlin, Nimueh was one, as the High Priestess of the Old Religion. At least until Merlin fried her. Apparently Morgause became the next High Priestess, and now apparently Morgana's filled the role, based on events in season 4. She and Merlin are neck and neck for 'most powerful magical person in the world'.


  • Merlin from Arthurian Legend can be considered an Archmage, depending on the version of the tale in question.
  • Abe no Semei is pretty much the Merlin of the East and could be considered an Archmage, not only was he regarded by all other Onmyodo as the pinnacle of magic, but also by his ruler.

Tabletop Games

  • In Dungeons and Dragons, "archmage" was used haphazardly here and there (like 'Robe of the Archmagi' item). Then, from Third Edition and onward it became the name of a prestige class (documented in the 3rd edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting). This prestige class was updated in 3.5 and included as a stock PrC in the Dungeon Master's Guide from the core rulebooks. Their powers allow them to perform feats of magic available to few others, but at the cost of some of their spells. The class was updated again in 4th Edition, as an epic destiny available to characters over 20th level. Now focused on reusing spells and using them more often, archmages can also exist as an arcane spirit. At 30th level, they are said to retreat into seclusion to study magic, eventually merging with the singular Demispell.
    • In Forgotten Realms "archmage" was an old honorific for people who obviously better at arcane arts than the majority of wizards. Elminster Aumar, Sage of Shadowdale, and Chosen of Mystra (the goddess of magic) definitely is an archmage. But then, Maskar Wands is one too.
      • Sometimes is used as a formal title: e.g. Gromph Beanre is "the Archmage of Menzoberranzan". In Halruaa it's synonymous with "Elder"--a high-ranked wizard who gets to own a skyship (not all "Elders" are old). Netherese arcanists earned the title of "archwizard" by creating a floating island, to found a city on top and rule it.
      • Szass Tam is the leader of the Red Wizards and in terms of his game stats is definitely more powerful than Elminster. Halaster Blackcloak is another example.
      • Then there's the almighty Larloch, which Word of God describes as a 46th level lich who has had over a thousand years to construct personal defense spells, cannot be touched by a spell unless he chooses to be, and personally commands a hive mind of sixty (at least) other liches, all of whom are bound with him as their directing agent.
      • And on top of that there is Ioulaum, who has perhaps slightly less magic than Larloch, but who makes up for it by having transformed himself into an undead Elder Brain commanding a city of undead Mind Flayer Liches.
  • The New World of Darkness portrays the archmage in Mage: The Awakening as a desire for any specialist of a specific arcanum, the title meaning one has reached the height of excellence within that field. To be an archmage within more than one arcanum is the stuff of legends.
    • Like in the Ascension example listed below, an archmage is one who's transcended the 5-dot limit in a particular Arcanum and become capable of godlike feats. However, each side has their own archmages (be they Oracles or Exarchs) who really aren't happy with a force of cosmic destruction on the other guy's side. Hence, both the Pentacle Mages and the Seers of the Throne are sworn to an ancient pact that prevents each side's archmages from exerting direct influence upon the world; that pact says nothing about indirect influence, however...
    • In the Old World of Darkness game Mage: The Ascension, Archmage refers to a mage who mastered a sphere of magic to the point of surpassing the 5 dot limit. Though in the same region of power there are also Exemplars who were archmages but became focused on one sphere to the point where they started becoming extensions of that sphere, Gods who put aside regular magery and instead became powerful spirits manifesting various concepts, and the rare Oracles who actually succeeded at following the path of personal ascension to its end, then at the last moment chose to turn back and help the rest of the universe ascend instead of just ascending themselves.
  • The term is used in Warhammer to refer to the most powerful High Elf mages; other races have a similar rank, such as Wizard Lord. The Slann, meanwhile, fit the description quite neatly- they spend most of their time in contemplation of the heavens and the nature of magic, and tweaking things to stay on the Old Ones' plan. Oh, and they're probably the most powerful wizards in the game.
    • By the way, when the Slann talk about 'tweaking' things, they mean things like permanent weather patterns or tectonic plate movements. One of their little 'tweaks' unknowingly destroyed the old Dwarven kingdoms, which happened to be located in the mountain range they were 'adjusting' from half a world away. You don't want to get Slann angry with you.
  • Geaticus the Chaldean from GURPS: Fantasy is an archmage with no magical abilities at all. Instead he has become so familiar with magic that he can track down places where anyone can cast spells and then wait until the astrological signs enhance the right sort of magic.
  • Adrian Eldrich is the latest "Master Mage" in the Freedom City setting of Mutants and Masterminds. He's also the Doctor Strange Expy of the setting.
  • Semyon Nikolaev from Age of Aquarius. In the first edition, he was described as simply a mysterious Voice with an Internet Connection; the second edition elaborates on him more, estabilishing him firmly as The Archmage and possibly the Big Good.
  • Exalted has the various tiers of Sorcery, but only Solars and Infernals can learn the upper limits of Solar Circle Sorcery. In history, the two most likely to be recognized as archmages are Brigid (who first discovered the secrets of Sorcery) and Salina (who created a secret working that effectively rewrote the source code of Creation so that anyone, not just a Solar, could initiate themselves into at least the first circle).

Video Games

  • In Warcraft III, the Archmage is the name of a hero type of the Human race. It is a title given to the most powerful members of the Kirin Tor, the ruling body of wizards (as compared to the elven sorceresses, a standard support casting unit) that run the nation of Dalaran's Magocracy. So magically powerful, they cause friendly units, not just themselves, to regenerate mana faster. The most well-known of these include Antonidas and his apprentice Jaina.
    • There's also [Mal]furion Stormrage, the Archdruid of the Night Elves.
    • And don't forget about the MMO, where we have Archmage Arugal and his savage Worgen.
  • In the computer game Dungeon Siege, The Archmage was a being of unparalleled magical power, using his abilities to survive for thousands of years. He's also The Dragon.
  • In the Elder Scrolls games, the Arch-Mage is (at least from Morrowind onward) a title given to the head of the Mages Guild for a given region; the Arch-Mage rules among the Mages Guild through councils and designating positions to his inferiors. In most of the games, with enough work you can make it to the rank of Arch-Mage.
    • Daggerfall's phrasing of the promotion merely indicated that the heads of the regional Guild had granted you the title, without any indication of you being in charge. Oblivion, meanwhile made you head of the entire Guild at the end of its story.
  • In the MMORPG Warhammer Online: Age Of Reckoning, The Archmage is a healer/dps casting class. In the game only High Elves are seen as Archmages.
  • In the Nintendo Gameboy advance game Fire Emblem, another Archmage appeared, named Lord Athos, who was the greatest magic user with access to all magic types (called Arch Sage in the European and American versions).
    • In all versions. "Sage" is the standard class that Mages promote into.
  • In Grim Grimoire, the Archmage serves as The Ghost and a Big Bad.
  • A dozen or so characters in the Avernum (and Exile) games are archmages, way more skilled and powerful than the regular crop of high-level wizards. Erika and Rentar-Ihrno are basically arch-archmages.
  • The Sorceresses in Final Fantasy VIII.
  • In Nox, Archmage Horvath is the most powerful wizard of the Castle of Galava (and thus, in the entire land of Nox). Unfortunately, depending on the story route, he either serves as The Obi-Wan or a Sacrificial Lamb, or doesn't appear at all (presumably for balancing reasons).
  • Neverwinter Nights references Khelben Arunsun, a canon Forgotten Realms character and Archmage of Waterdeep; Master Drogan in Shadows of Undrentide and Halaster Blackcloak in Hordes of the Underdark also qualify.
  • Dragon Age has First Enchanter Irving of Ferelden while the sequel has First Enchanter Orsino of Kirkwall. Both are seemingly decent people though Orsino experiments with dangerous Blood Magic and actively worked with a Serial Killer in his research.
  • Nessiah in Yggdra Union.


  • The Archmage from Looking for Group is one of these in both practice and name.
  • Sarda from Eight Bit Theater is the Wizard that did it.
  • Miranda Deegan from Dominic Deegan. "Archmage" in this series seems to be a title given to the most powerful mage in an entire plane of reality, and there is a council of such beings across the multiverse. Miranda's predecessor King David (who retired to pursue politics, hence the "King" title) was powerful enough to convince the rest of the council to accept him in their ranks, when in the past they had dismissed humans as not being magical enough. David is apparently still powerful enough to give even Miranda pause.
  • Brian and Angelo in Our Little Adventure. They are the leaders of the Souballo Empire and widely considered to be the most powerful spellcasters in Manjulias.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • In Gargoyles, the Archmage was a 10th century foe of the gargoyles who returned in modern times to lay siege to the island of Avalon. He was so mystically wise (or insane...) that he could actually speak to time-traveling incarnations of himself, hold a civil conversation, and work with them to complete their goals.