The Archmage

"The Champion of Kirkwall was an archmage without peer, a god among mortal men."note 
Varric, Dragon Age II

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. This comes 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 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 the Surgeon General is to a resident physician.

An Archmage character, in the grand scheme of most stories, is either given their title via their country, becoming the head of that region's magical study and schooling (in which case he may also be the Court Mage for the ruler), 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 practically set to become an Archmage without being threatened by the same church that said-god rules over. More than likely that church will become an avid supporter and bring its new leader to a highly 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. Neither is the Archmage restricted to being human, 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.

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 things.

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 considered an Archlich.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Rave Master, Sieg Hart has the title of being an archmage. He is also an elemental master because he is not aligned to any single element and can use them all, even time! But the funny thing is, Sieg ranks as third strongest mage in the series, right behind Haja the Infinite, a sorcerer with a never ending supply of mana. And even higher is Haja's master, Shakuma.
  • From the Nasuverse, we have Zelretch Schweinorg. 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. He's also one of only five practitioners of "True Magic", or magic that breaks all laws of magecraft because it's just that powerful. The Second Magic (aforementioned jumping between realities) is his domain.
  • 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.
    • In sequel series UQ Holder, Fate Averruncus is recognized as the single most powerful mage in the Solar System.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, a Majin (Magic God) is a magician who has reached a level where they can do practically anything with magic. The few known Majins are among the most powerful beings in the setting. However, 'pure' Majins have a problem - due to encompassing all possibilities, they have an equal chance of success and failure - something which Majin Othinus is trying to fix. 'Impure' Majins stopped their growth before this point and lack the 50/50 downside but are weaker as a result, though they are still powerful enough to easily take out Level 5 espers, as Ollerus has shown. The true GREMLIN is an entire organization of Majins from all of the world's religions.
  • Clow Reed. Though we get some hints of his power in Card Captor Sakura, it really gets hammered home in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle (it's the same character in both series), where we learn that he caused the entire, extremely convoluted plot to happen because he accidentally lost control of his powers for a moment. To his credit, he spent the rest of his life undoing that mistake and setting things up so that everything would be fixed. The guy has multiverse-spanning Reality Warper levels of power and his clairvoyance is so powerful he almost seems omniscient. Indeed, he also set up the entire plot of Card Captor Sakura to ensure that his reincarnation did not have the same insane level of power, as it had left him unable to ever live a normal life.
  • In the Lyrical Nanoha series, there are only two characters in the entire series to have attained an SS mage rank, and Hayate only has that kind of power because she had her head plugged into a sentient magical tome that downloaded its entire store of centuries worth of accumulated spell knowledge directly into her mind. Precia, on the other hand, earned her rank the hard way, and was a brilliant magical researcher in her prime. By the time of the series, she's lost most of her sanity and is practically on her deathbed, but she's still capable of spells powerful enough to disable a spaceship from another dimension, effortlessly incapacitate an entire squad of TSAB mages, and summon up an army of Mecha-Mooks. On the historical scale, the greatest combat mage of all times is believed to be Olivie Sägebrecht, the Last Sankt Kaiser of the Belkan Empire, who secured that title shortly before her death by defeating her lifelong rival Claus Ingvalt (himself a One-Man Army) in the final battle of the Belkan wars.
  • In Fairy Tail, most mages specialize in one or two types of magic at most. There are a few exceptions, and they are some of the strongest mages in the series:
    • Fairy Tail Guildmaster Makarov can turn himself into a giant and wields powerful white magic. His most powerful spell, Fairy Law, immediately destroys anyone he considers an enemy.
    • His predecessor, Precht Gaeblog, taught Makarov a lot of what he knows about magic. He later expanded his knowledge to include various "Lost Magics" and spells from the Book of Zeref. Demon summoning, shadow magic, light magic in the forms of chains and his own variant of Fairy Law, are all his to command.
    • Precht's predecessor, Mavis Verimillion, was Fairy Tail's first guildmaster. Fairy Tail Zero reveals that she originally only knew how to conjure illusions. Though she is long dead now (and a ghost), the incredibly powerful spells she left behind prove that she had become a true master mage.
    • Black Mage Zeref, the most powerful and feared mage who ever lived. The books he left behind contain spells that contain knowledge of, among other things, demon summoning and time travel. He was also a master of Living Magic and Death Magic.
    • Warrod Sequen could also count. In-universe, he's part of a group of four mages considered to be the true pinnacle of a mage. Even beyond the likes of Makarov. We haven't seen most of his magic yet, despite being impressive. But there is the fact that he, along with Mavis, Precht/Hades, and Yuri Dreyar was personally taught by The Archmage Zeref himself. Which explains why all the Fairy Tail founders are absurdly powerful mages

    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, the Sorcerer Supreme of the Marvel Universe, is more or less the designated Archmage of Earth (the title comes with a power boost but a lot of responsibility). The Ancient One, his tutor, was an Old Master at their first meeting (after six hundred years of being the former Archmage).
  • Dakhim the Enchanter in Man-Thing.
  • Illyana Rasputin is the Sorcerer Supreme of Limbo and once managed to defeat Doctor Strange there.
  • Astro City has had several so far.
    • Simon Magus was a European magician who came to Astro City in The Seventies because he foresaw a time of great strife centered on the city. He helped exorcise the spirit of vengeance known as the Blue Knight and warned about The Continuum's judgement of Earth. After a great spell, he was transformed into the Green Man.
    • Magus' assistant, Grimoire, became a sorceress in The Eighties after Magus disappeared. She appeared during the Rise of Kerresh the Devastator, and wrote a tell-all book about her relationship with Magus.
    • Currently, the Silver Adept is considered the most powerful magician of the forces of light in the Astro City cosmology. However, this means there are a lot of mystical matters that need her attention, keeping her busy enough to require a personal assistant.

  • The villain, Maax, from The Beastmaster
  • Yoda and Palpatine in Star Wars are the respective heads of the Jedi and Sith Orders, two opposed philosophies for harnessing the mystical power of The Force.

  • 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's 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 Trilogy. 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 adviser 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.
    • The Minister for Magic could be considered one as he's the political leader of the wizard race.
  • 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.
    • It should also be noted that Par-Salian, as the head of the council of wizards and master of the Tower of High Sorcery at Wayreth would probably also merit this title, although he was certainly not as powerful as Fistandantilus.
  • 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, the title for the leader of the council.
    • Arthur Langtry, the Merlin, specializes in defensive magic. He can craft a threshold-less barrier, which would normally significantly weaken any ward, capable of holding back an entire court of powerful vampires and later creates a ward to contain a malicious non-corporeal entity, formulates a battle-plan, adds 3D visual aids and telepathically communicates it to the 200 or so other wizards in the room. In three seconds. In pitch dark. Without losing his cool for an instant.
    • Ebenezer McCoy, who is one of the youngest members, can kill a vampire by squeezing his hand and force-choking the vampire. He can also drop a satellite onto his enemy's compound and kill two hundred people with just two spells. He does this because he is the lone assassin of the Council with the right to break the Laws of Magic Also, he is the true reason behind the destruction of the island Krakatoa in 1883 and The Tunguska Event, the meteor strike in Russia 1908. Both of them were hits.
    • Joseph Listens-to-Winds is the Council's medic. He is not a religious man, but was still able to send a Skinwalker running by beating it in a shape-shifting battle.
    • Rashid the Gatekeeper keeps near constant stance at the edge of reality watching and helping the combined forces of Summer and Winter Fae beat back monstrosities that would snuff out reality if they had their way. He also is said by the author to be the most dangerous of the Council members, with Arthur being the strongest. It was Rashid who killed Abdul Alhazred (the author of the Necronomicon).
    • While not on the Senior Council, Klaus Schneider is earmarked for one of the future openings. He is powerful mage who uses children's toys as his focii, like Harry would use his staff. He went to the Battle of the Bulge to help the Allied forces as the Nazis had received aide from a warlock. Word of God is his tiny wind-up duck was more than capable of destroying the demons the warlock summoned.
    • 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 White Council'' (as in the Merlin, the Senior Council, the Wardens, Simon Petrovich's brute squad and every non-evil magic user with any combat capabilities) to take down.
    • For a non-human candidate, we have the Eldest Gruff. He is a 5 foot tall anthro-billy goat. But he is the top assassin for the Summer Court, wears three purple shawls he took from the dead Senior Council members he beat, and killed the the host of a Fallen Angel with so little effort it was described to be like swatting away a pesky fly. And Titania, Queen of the Summer Court, sent him to kill Harry.
    • And even amongst the Fae kind, the six Queens are in general far stronger than any of their courts. Special mention, however, must go to Mother Winter, the eldest of the Winter Court. She possesses powers of ultimate destruction, including the Unraveling. The Unraveling is capable of breaking most every curse or magical spell, including turning a vampire back into a human being.
    • There's also the original Merlin, back when he was still around. The magic he used to set up the prison on Demonreach was so advanced that Bob uses the analogy of an internal combustion engine compared to Harry's wooden axles.
    • Harry himself is a candidate, as he's often described as the strongest wizard of his generation. He doesn't have the control, finesse or experience yet, though. A wizard of the White Council isn't considered a mature practitioner until they've been on the Council for a century and Harry isn't even 40 yet. By comparison, Senior Councillors have three or four centuries of experience and accumulated ability. Harry admits that in a couple hundred years, it's very possible he could become the second-or-third-most powerful wizard in the world.
  • 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; according to Vlad she's forgotten more about sorcery than anyone else will ever learn. She's also sort of an Archlich.
  • In Discworld, the Archchancellor 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 Archchancellor was mostly just the wizard best at murdering and not getting murdered. This stopped with the stubbornly unkillable Archchancellor 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.
    • Discworld also had a Sourceror, a source of raw magic. He was able to, with much effort, literally imprison all of the gods on the Disc in a pearl. Plus his mere presence dramatically boosted the powers of every other wizard.
  • 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.
  • The wise Archmage Ignacius Cooper in Nick Perumov's so far English translation-lacking Keeper of the Swords series. Subverted in the end when instead of a wise patron he is shown to be spiteful, manipulative and just evil.
    • The Prisoner who had spent centuries in a room under the temple of the Cold Flame is even more qualified. He turns out to be Merlin, head of the Council of True Magi generation, creator and ruler of the Avalon island. He has been imprisoned by Chaos.
  • 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 McKenna's Tales of Einarinn. Archmage is the title given to the leader of the Magocracy. However, the Archmage openly admits that actual wizardry is 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.
  • In the Schooled In Magic series, Void is called a Lone Power, a wizard of such great power that he has no allegiances to any house, council, guild, or kingdom. It is suggested that there are other Lone Powers, but it is also clear that even a Lone Power isn't as powerful as a necromancer (who are far less talented with their magic because they rely on their power alone).
  • In the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin, Archmaester Marwyn somehow can be considered to be the archmage of Westeros since he's the only person really knowledgeable about magic on the whole continent. Since real, working magic is seen as a thing of the past and has not been witnessed by anyone for centuries, he is viewed as an eccentric and almost crazy man.
    • As of A Dance With Dragons, the Three-Eyed Crow, aka Bloodraven, also qualifies.
  • Night Watch has a magical ranking system from 7 (lowest) to 1 (strongest). There is, however, an Up to Eleven level called Mage Beyond Classification/Categorization (i.e. stronger than level 1). These mages are usually centuries (if not millennia) old and spend their time playing Gambit Roulettes, as engaging in open combat is strictly forbidden by the Treaty. The most prominent examples are Geser, the head of the Moscow Night Watch, and Zabulon, the head of the Moscow Day Watch. In Last Watch, Merlin is revealed to have been a mage with unlimited potential, called an Absolute or Zero-level Other. There's also Olga, Geser's lover and faithful companion, who is a Great enchantress at least a few centuries old, and Arina, a Great witch who doesn't ally with either Watch. Several others are shown in different novels, such as Thomas/Foma Lermont, a good friend of Geser's from Scotland, and Taviscaron, a good friend of Zabulon's from Kiev. Svetlana and Anton are nominally Beyond Classification in terms of pure power and potential but are too young and inexperienced to be considered true to this trope. However, Svetlana is able to defeat Arina in a duel, although she was in her Mama Bear mode.
  • Dworkin clearly holds that position in The Chronicles of Amber. He created the Pattern and is clearly the ultimate authority about the nature of Shadows, the Jewel of Judgement, the Trumps, the Pattern, and all Pattern-related powers. He is also more than a bit mad.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko and Nick Perumov's Wrong Time For Dragons, the leaders of the four Elemental clans are the most experienced practitioners of their respective Elemental magic. While they're not the only mages of the first rank, they combine strength, power, experience, and intelligence to fit this trope. Ritor is the leader of the Air Clan and is widely considered to be the most powerful mage in the Middle World. He is also a former Dragonslayer, responsible for throwing off the tyrannical rule of the Winged Masters. His counterpart in the Water Clan is Torn, a ruthless, scheming mage, who, nevertheless, also wants to protect the Middle World. The leader of the Earth Clan, Anjey, is powerful and smart but also lazy (and a pedophile). The former leader of the Fire Clan, Navajo, also fits this trope, but he is slain by an ambush set up by Torn along with many other experienced Fire mages, leaving the Fire Clan in a severely weakened position.
    • A special mention goes to Loy Iver, the leader of the Cat Clan. While Totem clans are considerably weaker than Elemental clans, Loy Iver is still considered to be a first rank mage. She is a Femme Fatale Spy who uses her considerable political and seductive skills, augmented by magic, to keep her clan on an equal footing with the four Elemental clans. She is also a master of Stealth Hi/Bye and several powerful cat-like combat spells.
  • In Terry Brooks' Shannara series, the title of Ard Rhys, or High Druid, is given to the leader of the Druid Order. Typically the person who holds this position is one of the oldest, wisest, and most powerful members of the Order. Grianne Ohmsford, Khyber Elessedil, and Aphenglow Elessedil are all former protagonists who have held the post at one point or another, usually graduating to Big Good status in the process. One could make a case that, prior to High Druid of Shannara (when the order was reestablished) both Allanon and Walker Boh held this position, as they were the both the only Druids around, and the most powerful magic users on the planet at the time.

    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'.
    • As of the Grand Finale, Merlin has taken his traditional place as the undisputed greatest sorcerer of all time.
  • This is the role of The Supreme in American Horror Story: Coven.

  • 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 the original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game, "Archmage" was a remnant of a time when specific levels in a character class had a name associated with them. In this case an "Archmage" was a member of the Magic-User class who had reached 18th level and could potentially cast 9th level spells (the highest available at the time). Other classes had similar naming systems (e.g. "Patriarch", "Lord", "Hierophant", etc.). Although the level names did not carry over into 2nd Edition generally, the tradition of wizards of 18th level or higher being called "Archmages" stuck. 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 (imagine being able to cast the spell fireball without having to worry about friendly fire ever again), 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, it was used as a formal title: e.g. Gromphe Beanre is "the Archmage of Menzoberranzan", effectively the most powerful arcane caster and headmaster of the mage school in the largest city of drow. 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 Realms have a lot of guys like this, actually. The Simbul (aka Witch-Queen of Aglarond), also one of the Chosen of Mystra, is one of Elminster's allies and occasionally lover, and as far as game stats go, even more powerful than he is. Other powerful wizards of note in the Realms include Manshoon, the founder of the Zhentarim, Laeral Silverhand of Waterdeep, and the Seven Sisters (of which the Simbul is a member). (In short, powerful wizards seem to be everywhere in the Realms.)
    • Wizards like this aren't as common in the Dragonlance setting, but Raistlin Majere, one of the Heroes of the Lance (who later tried to slay Takhisis to obtain godhood) probably counts.
  • The New World of Darkness portrays being an 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. The 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. And by "most powerful wizards" they mean "the mummified corpse of one a Slann kicks as much ass as a regular Archmage".
  • 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 & 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).
    • Brigid holds the place of honour as the Mother of Sorcery, but later on Devon, Salina and Silur would found the three principal methods of learning, studying and practising sorcery - naturally, all of them were Solars. In the Age of Sorrows, the most well-known Sorcerers would be the missing Dragonblooded Empress and her daughter Mnemon, but the most powerful would most likely be the Lunar Raksi, Queen of Fangs, who rules over the ruin-city of Mahalanka - formerly known as Sperimin, the greatest seat of sorcerous learning in all of Creation.
  • In the ''Champions roleplaying setting, often described as "Silver Age Marvel with the serial numbers filed off (not that that's a bad thing)", the Archmage functions much like Marvel's sorcerer supreme. However, the position of Archmage has been vacant since The Tunguska Event, which killed the last one (yes, it was deliberate), and the subculture of wizardry is a little paranoid, keeping a sharp eye out for anyone who fulfills even one of the requirements for Archmagery. This has arguably not been to the planet's benefit, as the Archmage is intended to be the online line of defense against magical threat the planet needs.
  • Thirteenth Age has the Archmage as one of its Icons - a major player in the defence of the Dragon Empire, who has among other things set up protective wards around the Empire to detect powerful threats. His chief problem is that all the tasks he's assumed responsibility for have him badly overworked, forcing him to get adventurers to solve certain issues for him.

    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 from being nearby. The most well-known of these include Antonidas (a veteran of the Second War) and his apprentice Jaina.
    • There's also [Mal]furion Stormrage, the Archdruid of the Night Elves. Although arcane and nature magic are two very different things in the universe, this is functionally the same thing.
    • And don't forget about the MMO, where we have Archmage Arugal and his savage Worgen.
    • Medivh and the other Guardians of Tirisfal were the most powerful mages Azeroth had ever known. Each Guardian (except Medivh, who instead inherited the power of Tirisfal from his mother Aegwynn the previous Guardian) was chosen by a council of archmages who would imbue the chosen champion with a portion of their own power.
  • 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.
    • Note that only Daggerfall's and Morrowind's Archmages had any real certainty of being, well, amongst the pinnacle of magical power — thanks to the removal of skill and attribute requirements, it is quite possible for someone barely capable of wielding magic to become Arch-Mage in Oblivion and Skyrim (in the last case, Archmage of the College of Winterhold, the Mages' Guild having collapsed), especially in Oblivion.
    • Before the player can take the position of Archmage in Morrowind, the Guild is actually run by incompetent moron Trebonius. He was given this position by the mainland guild leaders as a combination of Kicked Upstairs and Reassigned to Antarctica.
  • In Warhammer Online: Age Of Reckoning, The Archmage is a healer/dps casting class. In the game only High Elves are seen as Archmages.
  • In Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword, Athos, one of the Eight Legends and the greatest magic user alive, possesses the unique Archsage class, which is capable of using all types of magic.
  • In GrimGrimoire, the Archmage Calvaros serves as the 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 Lion, or doesn't appear at all (presumably for balancing reasons).
  • Neverwinter Nights references Khelben "Blackstaff" 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.
  • The Dragon Age series has four groups of prime candidates:
    • The hierarchs of the Circle of Magi, i.e. the First Enchanters and the Grand Enchanter. The First Enchanters are experienced mages who have been elected by fellow mages and their Templar watchdogs to lead the Mage Tower of a particular region. The Grand Enchanter is nominally the leader of all Circle mages of Thedas, chosen from among the First Enchanters. Although these titles are more political roles than power levels, the two aspects tend to go hand-in-hand for mages. Two First Enchanters encountered in the games are Irving of Ferelden and Orsino of Kirkwall, though the latter gained his position mostly because nobody else could stand working under Meredith (plus, he experimented with dangerous Blood Magic and actively worked with a Serial Killer in his research). The incumbent Grand Enchanter by the time of Asunder is Fiona, who is also an example, having been a Grey Warden in her youth.
    • The second group are the Tevinter Magisters, the ruling class of The Magocracy in the north, which implements the whole Circle of Magi system slightly differently. The most powerful mage of Tevinter is usually also its sovereign, bearing the title of the Imperial Archon. While the series has featured a couple of the Magisters so far, none of them represented the pinnacle of the Imperial magical and political might.
    • The third group are the Dalish Keepers. The most powerful mages among the nomadic Dalish elves are carefully trained to lead their people and recover their lost history. Not only are they powerful, but they command magicks that are largely unknown to both the Chantry and Tevinter. The two Keepers seen thus far are Zathrian and Marathari, both of whom could give a First Enchanter pause.
    • And the fourth group are, of course, the Player Characters of the Mage Character Class. The Mage Warden from Dragon Age: Origins starts off as the star-pupil of First Enchanter Irving and is widely regarded as one of the most gifted individuals in the Circle Tower before they are recruited into the Grey Wardens. The achievement for reaching level 20 is actually titled "Archmage". The Mage Hawke from Dragon Age II, in the meantime, qualifies for the title as of the Legacy DLC, where they defeat Corypheus, an Ancient Tevinter Magister who entered the Black City and became one of the first Darkspawn, in a magical duel. In Dragon Age: Inquisition, a human mage was one of the most talented mages in the Ostwick Circle of Magi, an elven mage was the first to their clan's Keeper, and a Qunari mage trained outside of any magical tradition. Whichever one the player chooses, they end up taking on Corypheus at the height of his power.
    • And then there are some odd examples from among the recruitable party members. Wynne from DAO is a mere Senior Enchanter of the Circle in that game, but in the ten years between it and Asunder is granted the actual title "Archmage", which is never explicitly defined but approximates that of a First Enchanter minus being bound to a particular region—being one of the people who defeated the Archdemon and stopped the Fifth Blight definitely has its perks. Then, in Dragon Age: Inquisition, mage party member Vivienne was the First Enchanter of the Montsimmard Circle of Magi and was jockeying for the position of Grand Enchanter before the Circles rebelled across Thedas and another civil war started right in her home country, Dorian was expected to eventually take his father's place on the Magisterium, and both Velanna from Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening and Merril from Dragon Age II were both expected to be the Keepers of their respective Dalish clans. Despite a lack of political affiliations, some apostates can also be said to have this level of power, such as Morrigan, Anders, Solas, and Flemeth, though in the case of the latter two, it's more a matter of being Physical Gods.
    • The Elder One Corypheus, one of the Darkspawn Magisters uses a variety of magics in his schemes for godhood. Solas and Vivenne discuss this during one of their only civil conversations. Vivienne points out that he's been using demons, an elven artifact, his own knowledge as a former magister of Tevinter, Red Lyrium, and the Blight and compares him to someone drinking from multiple cups at once.
  • Nessiah in Yggdra Union.
  • Archibald Ironfist of Might and Magic and Heroes of Might and Magic ends up one by implication — Might and Magic VI reveals that he's knows some very rare magical knowledge, and VII's manual-found backstory reveals that he's better at necromancy than a fair number of the people who actually focus on necromancy as their field of study.
  • Dark Souls: Seath the Scaleless is a more draconic take on this trope, described as Grandfather of Sorcery. On the other hand there is also Witch of Izalith, mother of Pyromancy. Finally, there is Gravelord Nito, the First of the Dead and thus the first of the necromancers. If you so wish, your character can grow strong enough to defeat them, possibly on one-on-one fight.
  • Master of Magic has you play as this type of character, with one leading every faction.
  • The name of a particular challenge game in Ancient Domains of Mystery: learn and cast every spell which is fairly simple... except for Wish, which takes more power points than even level 50 wizards gain.
  • In Dota 2, there are two characters who could fit this trope. The first is Invoker, who practices an ancient, long forgotten form of magic that was so cumbersome that even the most learned practitioners could only know four spells at most. Invoker knows ten, as well as many more that he learned and subsequently forgot due to their uselessness - including an immortality spell that became useless as soon as he cast it on himself.
    • The second is Rubick, who practices whatever magic you're using (even things that are essentially bodily functions or hitting people really hard... don't ask). He set a challenge to kill one of the ten existing Maguses (themselves essentially this trope), thereby becoming one himself. All ten came after him. Due to a combination of them thinking that Rubick's copied spells were their ally's (causing them to turn against each other) and Rubick being a Badass, Rubick killed all of them and was given the title of Grand Magus.
  • Yakumo Yukari from Touhou Project is an onmyoudo version of this trope. She is powerful enough to have shikigami with shikigami of their own, can construct immensely powerful and intriquite barriers and has even managed to create a pocket dimension to serve as a Fantastic Nature Reserve. On top of all that she's also a millenia old Youkai with the innate ability to manipulate boundaries, a completely broken-tier ability which lends itself perfectly to her magic.

  • The Archmage from Looking for Group is one of these in both practice and name.
  • Sarda from 8-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.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Dorukan qualifies, as does Vaarsuvius' master. The former dedicated his life to creating the most powerful set of spells possible in order to guard his Gate, while the latter is implied to be much more powerful than Vaarsuvius, who's arguably the most powerful of the protagonists.
    • A less scholarly examples is Xykon, who, as a sorcerer, makes up for a relative lack of magical flexibility with a considerable helping of raw power. Upon becoming a lich he grew so powerful he defeated the aforementioned Dorukan in a magical duel.

    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. Although you wouldn't know it from his first appearance.note 
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In the universe, Star Swirl the Bearded is the archetype. He lived centuries ago, but his name is still widely known, due to making many ground-breaking discoveries and inventions in the field of magic. Twilight, a student of magic herself, idolizes him, of course.
    • In the Season 3 finale Magical Mystery Cure, Twilight Sparkle writes her own magic, fixes a spell Star Swirl himself had failed to get right, and becomes Alicorn Princess of Magic. It is pretty much safe to say that Twilight herself has become an Archmage.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983): Orko is the Inept Mage whose failure with magic makes him the Butt Monkey on Eternia. However, this is only because magic on Eternia works completely differently to magic on his native Trolla. His companions are therefore stunned to learn that Trolla views Orko as one of their greatest archmages and call him "Orko the Great". When given the chance to go home, Orko has no trouble protecting Prince Adam and saving his entire planet from an evil plot by one of Skeletor's most powerful servants. Single-handed.