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This guide helps you plan armor loadouts for play in the Clockworks. It is intended for beginner and intermediate players, although all players may find it useful as a reference.

What Does Armor Do?

Armor does four things: It gives you health, protects you from damage, resists status effects, and grants you abilities. In each of these four aspects, the contributions from your helmet and suit add to produce a total. (Your shield does not contribute; it protects only itself. For more detail, see the Shieldbearer Guide.)


Armor gives you health, which greatly improves your survivability. However, health is rarely a consideration in choosing armor. Almost all armors grant the same amount of health, and the few exceptions are not worth considering strongly. At heat level 5 all armor gains one health point.


There are four kinds of damage: normal, piercing, elemental, and shadow. Each kind of monster attack contains a specific mixture of these types. Roughly speaking, beasts and slimes inflict piercing, gremlins and constructs inflict elemental, and fiends and undead inflict shadow. However, normal damage is often mixed in. For example, in Firestorm Citadel normal damage is inflicted by Lord Vanaduke, slag guards, and trojans.

Almost all armor protects against normal damage and one other damage type. When an attack hits you, your armor's protections are subtracted from the attack's gross damage to yield the net damage that you incur. For more detail, see Defense.

The overall importance of damage protection is not as big as you might expect. Highly protective armor might let you survive one more hit than weakly protective armor. Also, heat and unique variants improve your armor's damage protection only slightly.


Shock, freeze, and fire are dangerous and ubiquitous. These three statuses should be your top defensive priorities — even above damage protection. Stun, poison, curse, and sleep are less threatening or less common.

Status comes in differing strengths. You become immune to minor status around +7 resistance. You become immune to moderate status around +9. It seems that you cannot become immune to strong status, even at +18.


Armor can grant four kinds of abilities: movement speed increase (MSI), attack speed increase (ASI), charge time reduction (CTR), and damage bonus. All are generally useful, but their precise value depends on the weapons in use. For example, if you never charge your Dread Venom Striker, then CTR is not very useful to you.

There are four kinds of damage bonus granted by armor. Ordered from worst to best, they are:

  • One weapon type against one monster family. An example is Sacred Falcon Keeper's gun construct+2. This kind of bonus is easily replicated using unique variants on weapons.
  • All weapon types, one monster family. An example is Deadly Virulisk's slime+2. This kind of bonus can be valuable to hybrid knights on specific levels. However, it can be replicated using unique variants.
  • One weapon type, all monster families. An example is Bombastic Demo's bomb+2. This kind of bonus applies to all six monster families, a few special cases (notably Vanaduke), and opponents in PvP. It cannot be replicated by unique variants.
  • All weapon types, all monster families. An example is Chaos' damage+2.


Balancing Offense and Defense

In choosing armor, your top priorities should be abilities and status resistance. Which one you favor depends on your experience, lagginess, etc. Damage protection and health are low priorities.

Try to obtain at least one piece of "glass cannon" armor: Black Kat or Chaos. These armors offer awesome offense and terrible defense. They are viable because experienced players don't need much defense and can afford status unique variants. Black Kat is hard to get, except for the 3-star helmet, which can be obtained during any Kataclysmic Confrontation event.

If glass cannon armor seems too dangerous, then consider one or two pieces of offensive armor, selected from the Sword, Handgun, and Bomb categories below. If you're hybrid, then mix and match these offensive armors as you see fit.

If you find yourself dying a lot with the offensive armors just described, then frankly armor is not your problem. You need more skill (or a better computer, or less latency to the servers). Be patient when fighting; don't charge into battle recklessly and get surrounded. Consider switching weapons; for example, Brandish-line swords are much easier to use than Cutter-line swords.

If you really want more defensive armor, then consider some of the Other armors below. But the extra defense is noticeable only in specific situations. For example, Dread Skelly is good in Heart of Ice and Dragon Scale is good in Compound 42.

"Just Tell Me What To Get"

The following plan should work quite well for a wide range of players. It offers a mix of offense and defense.

  • Start working toward Chaos Cloak.
  • Start working toward an offensive helmet based on your preferred weapon. For swords choose Vog Cub Cap. For handguns choose Perfect Mask of Seerus, Shadowsun Stetson, or Sacred Firefly Shade Helm. For bombs choose Volcanic Demo Helm.
  • When a Kataclysmic Confrontation comes around, seek out as many black kats as you can. If you are lucky enough to find a Book of Dark Rituals, then you get the 5-star Black Kat helmet and the 3-star Black Kat suit. If you are unlucky, then you can still collect 70 Ancient Pages and obtain the 3-star helmet.


Recall that heat has only a small effect on armor: one health at heat level 5, slight increase in damage protection, no increase in status resistance, and no effect on abilities. In contrast, heat has a dramatic effect on weapon damage and CTR. Therefore you should heat your armor after your weapons. It's reasonable to keep your 5-star armor at heat level 1 or heat level 5, if Radiant Fire Crystals are scarce.

Unique Variants

Status unique variants can hugely improve your survivability, while damage unique variants have only a small effect. So prioritize statuses — especially fire, shock, and freeze.

Armor by Class

Because offensive bonuses are a crucial consideration in choosing armor, I group armors into four categories: Swords, Handguns, Bombs, and Other. Two armor sets — Black Kat and Chaos — are listed in every category, because they should be considered by every player all the time.

In almost all cases the suit and helmet are obtained identically and enjoy identical statistics. The seven exceptions, marked with * below, are: Radiant Silvermail has no matching helmet, Perfect Mask of Seerus has no matching suit, Divine Veil has a fiend bonus while Divine Mantle does not, and the four Kat armor lines have unusual and asymmetric alchemy paths.


Name Damage Bonuses Fi Fr Sh Po St Cu Sl
Vog Cub norm+elem sword ASI+2 fi+4
Skolver norm+pier sword dam+2 fr+4
Snarbolax norm+shad sword dam+2 fr+3 po+3
Starlit Hunting norm+pier sword dam+2 st-4 sl+4
Kat Claw* norm+shad sword ASI+1, sword dam+1 fr+4 sh-2 cu-1
Heavenly Iron norm+shad sword dam+1, fiend dam+1 sh-4 cu+4
Chaos norm+elem all dam+2, all CTR+2 fi-2 fr-2 sh-2 po-2 cu-2
Black Kat* norm+shad MSI+1, all dam+3 fi-2 fr+4 sh-2 po-2 cu-4

For sworders, here are the main options, other than Black Kat and Chaos.

  • Vog Cub: This is the most defensive Wolver armor. Its elemental and fire defense are frequently useful, especially in Firestorm Citadel. Its ASI helps you interrupt monsters and shield quickly.
  • Skolver: The defense is less useful than Vog Cub's. The offense is more useful than Vog Cub's, because blanket damage bonus cannot be achieved through unique variants.
  • Snarbolax: This armor is like Skolver with more useful defense. It is the best of the Wolver armors. But you can craft it only in the Shadow Lairs, so it is not easily accessible.


Name Damage Bonuses Fi Fr Sh Po St Cu Sl
Deadshot norm+shad gun ASI+1, undead dam+2 cu+4
Justifier norm+pier gun ASI+2 st+4
Nameless norm+elem gun ASI+2 fr+4
Seerus* norm+elem gun CTR+2, gun ASI+1 fi+4 fr-2 sh+4 po-2
Shadowsun norm+shad gun dam+2 po+4
Kat Eye* norm+shad gun ASI+1, gun dam+1 fr+4 sh-2 cu-1
Chaos norm+elem all dam+2, all CTR+2 fi-2 fr-2 sh-2 po-2 cu-2
Black Kat* norm+shad MSI+1, all dam+3 fi-2 fr+4 sh-2 po-2 cu-4
Name Damage Bonuses Fi Fr Sh Po St Cu Sl
FaFiGrSn Pathfinder norm+pier gun ASI+1, gun CTR+1, gun dam+1 fi? fr? sh? po?
FaFiGrSn Guerrilla norm+pier gun ASI+1, gun CTR+1, gun bst dam+2 fi? fr? sh? po?
FaFiGrSn Hazard norm+pier gun ASI+1, gun CTR+1, gun slm dam+2 fi? fr? sh? po?
FaFiGrSn Sentinel norm+elem gun ASI+1, gun CTR+1, gun dam+1 fi? fr? sh? po?
FaFiGrSn Keeper norm+elem gun ASI+1, gun CTR+1, gun cnst dam+2 fi? fr? sh? po?
FaFiGrSn Wraith norm+elem gun ASI+1, gun CTR+1, gun grm dam+2 fi? fr? sh? po?
FaFiGrSn Shade norm+shad gun ASI+1, gun CTR+1, gun dam+1 fi? fr? sh? po?
FaFiGrSn Ghost norm+shad gun ASI+1, gun CTR+1, gun und dam+2 fi? fr? sh? po?
FaFiGrSn Hex norm+shad gun ASI+1, gun CTR+1, gun fnd dam+2 fi? fr? sh? po?

(In the table above, armors marked ? come in four flavors: Falcon (sh+4, fr-3), Firefly (fi+4, sh-3), Grizzly (fr+4, po-3), and Snakebite (po+4, fi-3). Also, these armors' official names begin with "Sacred", which simply means "5-star".)

For gunners, these are the main options other than Black Kat and Chaos.

  • Perfect Mask of Seerus: This valuable gunner helmet offers excellent defense and offense. There is no matching suit, to plan accordingly. You obtain it only through Operation Crimson Hammer, but it's worth the cost, especially because of the accompanying sword, bomb, and recreation.
  • Pathfinder, Shade, and Sentinel: These are the best Padded-line armors, because of their blanket damage bonuses. Their defense is generally worse than Seerus'.
  • Shadowsun: All of the Gunslinger variants are fine, but Shadowsun's blanket damage bonus is disproportionately valuable. Its defense is neither terrible nor great.


Name Damage Bonuses Fi Fr Sh Po St Cu Sl
Bombastic Demo norm+elem bomb dam+2 fr+4
Mad Bomber norm+elem bomb dam+2, bomb CTR+2 fi-2 fr-2 sh-2 po-2
Mercurial Demo norm+elem bomb dam+1, MSI+1 sh+4
Volcanic Demo norm+elem bomb CTR+2 fi+4
Starlit Demo norm+pier bomb CTR+2, slime dam+1 st-4 sl+4
Kat Hiss* norm+shad bomb CTR+1, bomb dam+1 fr+4 sh-2 cu-1
Chaos norm+elem all dam+2, all CTR+2 fi-2 fr-2 sh-2 po-2 cu-2
Black Kat* norm+shad MSI+1, all dam+3 fi-2 fr+4 sh-2 po-2 cu-4

Bombers deserve some special remarks. MSI is highly valuable for bombers, because they so often rely on dodging, because they cannot shield while charging. ASI affects the speed of animations, and therefore has a small effect on bombers. CTR helps all aspects of bombing tremendously — inflicting damage, spreading status, spending less time vulnerable — while damage bonus is valuable only for damage-oriented bombs. With that in mind, these are the best armors for bombers, other than Black Kat and Chaos.

  • Mercurial Demo: In the long term, this is the best Demo variant, because its MSI and blanket damage bonus are not easily obtained from other sources. However, this armor can be crafted only in the Shadow Lairs, so it is hard to obtain.
  • Bombastic Demo: After Mercurial, this is the best Demo variant in the long term, because of its blanket damage bonus.
  • Volcanic Demo: This is the best Demo variant in the short term, because CTR is so helpful to every kind of bomb. If you're just trying out bombing for fun, then use Volcanic Demo (or Chaos).

For more detail check out the excellent Bombing Guide.


Name Damage Bonuses Fi Fr Sh Po St Cu Sl
Almirian Crusader norm+shad fi-2 cu+2
Azure Guardian norm+pier
Dread Skelly norm+shad fr+4 po+4
Grey Feather norm+elem fi+4 sh+4
Ice Queen norm+pier fr+4 st+4
Royal Jelly norm+pier st+4 sl+4
Arcane Salamander norm+elem slime dam+1, beast dam+1 fi+4
Deadly Virulisk norm+pier slime dam+2 po+4
Dragon Scale pier+elem beast dam+2 fi+4 po+4
Radiant Silvermail* pier+shad undead dam+2 po+4 cu+4
Divine* elem+shad fiend dam+2 (Veil only) fi+4 sh+4 cu+4
Valkyrie norm+shad fiend dam+2 fi-4 po+4 cu+4
Volcanic Salamander norm+elem slime dam+2 fi+4
Volcanic Plate norm+elem all ASI-1 fi+4 st+4 sl-4
Ironmight Plate norm+pier all ASI-1 st+4 sl-4
Ancient Plate normal health+3, MSI-1, all ASI-1 st+4 sl-4
Mercurial norm+pier MSI+1 sh+4
Fallen norm+shad all ASI+1, fiend dam-2 fi+4 po+4 cu-4
Chaos norm+elem all dam+2, all CTR+2 fi-2 fr-2 sh-2 po-2 cu-2
Black Kat* norm+shad MSI+1, all dam+3 fi-2 fr+4 sh-2 po-2 cu-4

These miscellaneous armors vary widely in quality. For example, Volcanic Salamander makes no sense, because it's offensive against slimes, which inflict piercing, but it doesn't defend against piercing. Azure Guardian is completely outclassed by Skolver and Mercurial. (These imbalances have gotten worse over time, as the developers have tweaked the rules and the other items.) But some armors here are worth considering, other than Black Kat and Chaos.

  • Divine, Grey Feather, and Dread Skelly: These armors protect well against common combinations of damage and status. Some players also like the other non-normal armors: Radiant Silvermail and Dragon Scale.
  • Mercurial: MSI and shock protection are both valuable. But Mercurial Demo is better, if you can get it.

Specific Situations


The Gloaming Wildwoods are three levels of beasts, with some constructs and undead. There is no status, other than lumber stun. Hazards include spikes, exploding blocks, and briars. You want normal and piercing armor. There may not actually be much piercing damage in there, as it's only Stratum 2.

The Royal Jelly Palace is three levels of slimes, some constructs, and some silkwings. There is no status, other than lumber stun. The only hazards are spikes and exploding blocks. You want normal and piercing armor. Elemental and stun armor are slightly useful.

Ironclaw Munitions Factory is three levels of constructs and gremlins, with a shock theme. Hazards are plentiful, including missiles, shock grates, exploding rockets, exploding blocks, and lasers. You want normal, elemental, and shock armor.

Firestorm Citadel is five levels of zombies and trojans, with some constructs and silkwings, and very few beasts and slimes. The theme is fire, but keep in mind that trojans can stun and shock. Hazards include wheel throwers, spikes, fire grates, shadow fire, exploding blocks, and revolving balls. You want normal, elemental, shadow, and fire armor. Of these, shadow is arguably the least important, because zombies are easy to dodge. Vanaduke, slag guards, and trojans all inflict lots of normal damage.

Shadow Lairs

The Shadow Gloaming Wildwoods are similar to the regular Gloaming Wildwoods, but with many additional undead. The gun puppies have been replaced with howlitzers. There is a strong poison theme. You want normal, piercing, shadow, and poison armor.

The Shadow Royal Jelly Palace is much like the ordinary Royal jelly Palace, but with a freeze theme. Also, the gun puppies have been replaced with polyps. You want normal, piercing, and freeze armor.

The Shadow Ironclaw Munitions Factory is much like the usual Ironclaw Munitions Factory, but with a fire theme in addition to the regular shock theme. You want normal, elemental, shock, and fire armor.

The Shadow Firestorm Citadel resembles the Firestorm Citadel, but with a curse theme in addition to the usual fire theme. Also, the gun puppies have been replaced with howlitzers. You want normal, elemental, shadow, fire, and curse armor.

The Unknown Passage is an extra level that comes after every Shadow Lair boss. It is the same for all Shadow Lairs; it has nothing to do with any of their themes. Normal damage is most prevalent, but piercing, elemental, and shadow damage are all present. Status is not a major consideration, but poison and stun can occur.

Danger Missions

Legion of Almire is two undead-stuffed levels, like an amped-up graveyard where the phantoms have been replaced by worse monsters. There is no status, except for lumber stun and occasional shadow fire on the floor. Hazards include exploding blocks, briars, and spikes. You want normal and shadow armor. The lack of status gives you great freedom in optimizing your offense.

Compound 42 is two levels filled with slimes, gremlins, poison, and fire. Hazards include poison grates, fire grates, flamethrowers, and shadow fire. You want normal, piercing, elemental, fire, and poison armor. Dragon Scale is perfect for this mission.

Heart of Ice consists of two freeze-themed levels filled with fiends and beasts, and scattered howlitzers. Hazards include freeze grates, spikes, exploding blocks, and revolving balls. You want normal, piercing, shadow, and freeze armor. Of these, piercing is probably least important, because beasts are easy to dodge. The ideal armor is Black Kat or Dread Skelly.

Ghosts in the Machine consists of two shock-filled levels filled with constructs and undead. Hazards include shock grates, revolving shock balls, and lots of drones. You want normal, elemental, shadow, and shock armor. Of these, shadow is arguably least important, because zombies are slow. Seerus is excellent armor here, for example.

Other Missions

Operation Crimson Hammer is five levels filled with gremlins and constructs. Hazards include briars, exploding rockets, missiles, and shadow fire. You want normal, elemental, and fire armor, although there is not much fire.

Dreams and Nightmares is three levels filled with void-themed slimes, beasts, gremlins, constructs, undead, and lost souls (but no fiends). The damage is mostly normal, with some piercing and elemental. There is a small amount of poison and stun.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, armor is boring in Spiral Knights. It doesn't give you any special powers. At best it enhances your weapons slightly or improves your survivability slightly. When collecting gear, you should diversify much more in weapons than in armor, because trying different styles of weapon is fun. This guide exists, just to help you avoid a lot of costly exploration in armor.

Thanks to the Arsenal forum regulars for enlightening discussion. Happy travels.

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