Increases armor rating by <mag> points and negates up to <mag> points of spell damage or effect.
Wards are defensive spells belonging to the school of Restoration that help protect you against melee and magical attacks.
All Wards have a certain amount of "Hit Points" (HP). If the HP reaches 0, the Ward is destroyed and you experience stagger. Casting a Ward does not give you its full HP immediately; there is a period of time of about one second during which the Ward "charges up," unless you dual cast it, in which case it is at full HP immediately. Whenever HP of the Ward drops below maximum value, it will immediately start regenerating it at a constant rate even if it's still taking more damage. Wards block only attacks from the front, however the angle of protection is pretty generous (around 90 degrees).
The usefulness of the armor bonus provided by Wards varies widely based on the player's pre-existing Armor Rating. By default even the most powerful ward spell, Greater Ward, gives only around 9.6% extra durability. However, this effect scales markedly; a player with 300 Armor Rating(Ebonyflesh active with 3 perk points in Mage Armor) will instead gain closer to 23% durability. In theory, the maximum benefit would be afforded to a player with 80 armor less than the Armor Cap; they would get close to a 50% increase in durability. The higher the base armor rating, the more useful Wards become.
Wards don't provide any additional protection against arrows. Non-magic damage does not deplete the HP of the ward and you get the full Armor Rating bonus the moment you cast the Ward regardless of its total HP, so you can use the Ward just like a shield without a problem. Additionally, while trying to attack while raising your shield will result in a shield bash, you can still attack normally with a Ward active.
Wards block incoming spells completely. The spells deplete the HP of the Ward, rather than yours. However, stronger enemies use stronger spells, and can dual-cast them too, so using higher-level Wards becomes necessary as you gain levels. Also, stronger spells like Fireball will break wards that are not fully charged; you will not take damage from a spell that breaks the ward, but you will be staggered.
Wards require a large amount of magicka to sustain, and cost-reducing perks or gear are particularly helpful for ward users. The Ward Absorb perk is particularly effective for maintaining Wards for an extended period of time.
Interestingly, Wards seem to be extremely effective against dragon breath attacks. Because the game treats a breath attack as a series of quick low-damage attacks rather than a single strong one—essentially like a bigger version of the Flames/Frostbite spell—the regenerative nature of the Ward means you can completely block even an Ancient Dragon's breath with a Lesser Ward.
The following spells use the Ward group of effects. Following each spell is the specific variant of the effect that it uses: