Crunching the Numbers: Season 4 Defensive Masteries Part 1

Defensive masteries

The defensive mastery tree in Season 4 has probably received the most notice out of the reworked mastery trees. Cloth5 is continuing its series on the new masteries with a two-part piece on this powerful set of masteries. Which ones deliver on that sweet mitigation value and which ones fall flat? I’m Eph289 and I’ll be examining the lower-tier defensive masteries and evaluating them based on gold value.

Analysis Methods

Every statistic in League of Legends has a gold value based on how much it would cost you to buy that stat in an item. Usually, the lowest-denomination of that item is used to determine the value of the stat. For armor, a Cloth Armor costs 300 gold and yields +15 Armor, so we derive a value of 20 gold per point of armor. We can derive a value of 20 gold per point of MR using the cost-to-MR ratio of the Null-Magic Mantle. Some of the masteries are less gold efficient per point than others, and we’ll consider this when we make our comparison.

It’s worth noting that some masteries will have variable gold efficiency. Some masteries are much better lategame when you’re stacking them onto a lot of resists or health. It’s also worth noting that gold efficiency is NOT the only metric to evaluate masteries. Butcher in the offense tree only gives 72 gold worth of AD against minions BUT any last-hits that would’ve been missed without it should also be added to the consideration.

Note that compared to the offensive tree, defensive stats are somewhat cheaper, so they won’t have as much gold value. Also note that when I give a gold value for some of those masteries, it represents an approximate average. For example, the value I give for Tough Skin is based on early game armor values against early game monster attack values.



Blocks 1/2 damage from champion auto-attacks

Block is one of those masteries whose gold value will fluctuate based on two stats: the amount of incoming damage and the amount of armor you already have. (Note: I am not including armor penetration or other defensive statistics such as % reductions in here).

Flat damage reduction occurs after armor, so with a higher armor value, this mastery will be worth more. I solved two simultaneous equations, for those of you in high school math, that look like this:


I solved for “x,” the equivalent armor I would need to buy to yield the same amount of damage mitigation. The results are shown in the following two tables. A bonus table includes the amount of armor you get from also having a Doran’s Shield (champion auto-attacks reduced by 8) and Unyielding (2 points reduced damage from champions for a melee champion).




Verdict: This mastery ends up being worth about 50 gold per point early game. Lategame, for a champion who builds armor, this mastery has a value of about 75-100 gold per point. However, stacking it with Unyielding and Doran’s Shield gives an incredible value of about 600 gold early game for 3 mastery points and the Doran’s Shield passive on an early-game champion. Definitely a wonder.



Grants 1/2 hp5

From the value of the Rejuvenation Bead, we know that hp5 is valued at 36 gold per point. Thus, this mastery is valued at 36 gold per point or 72 gold for both masteries.

Enchanted Armor


Increases bonus armor/MR by 2.5/5%

This mastery scales far, far better into lategame due to being a percentage increase. Early game, it’s only worth about 20 gold per point, which is pretty underwhelming. In the midgame, if you have 60 bonus of each resist type, the mastery is worth around 60 gold per point, which is better. Lategame, if you’re looking at say, 200 bonus resists, you get 100 gold value per point out of this mastery.

Enchanted Armor

Verdict:  If you’re not going to be buying early resists and just have 9 in defense (e.g. most mages, assassins, AD carries), you won’t get superior value out of Enchanted Armor compared to Recovery until you complete something like a Guardian Angel, Zhonya’s Hourglass, or possibly an Athene’s Unholy Grail. If you’re going heavier into defense and plan on buying lots of resists (e.g. tanks, survivability-oriented supports and bruisers), then this has excellent returns lategame.

This choice comes down to playstyle and item build since Recovery is good from level 1, while Enchanted Armor doesn’t get going until lategame, assuming you want to take Block and Unyielding (you should) and not more than 4 points in the first row of the offensive tree. Personally, I use Enchanted Armor on resist-heavy tanks, bruisers, and tanky supports such as Leona, and go for Recovery on squishier champions. Good lategame on tanks and heavy-resist build supports and bruisers, inferior to Recovery early game.  Not a good choice on squishy champions.

Tough Skin


Reduces Damage taken from neutral monsters by 1/2

This mastery’s value is going to look very similar to Block’s, because they have same equation to solve. Note that I’ve used different values here to align with the approximate strength of jungle monsters. I did some rounding and estimation, so these are very-much ballpark numbers—in particularly because most jungle monsters have increasing attack damage values as the game progresses. The values listed on the table are the approximate early game numbers.


The mastery’s value is worth anywhere from 300 gold worth of armor per point against the weakest jungle monsters to a still-respectable 60ish gold per point against the larger monsters.

Verdict: Very good starting choice for junglers. Obviously not great for anyone else.



Melee: Reduces all incoming champion damage by 2

Ranged: Reduces all incoming champion damage by 1

This mastery requires Block and works on basically the same principles. However, it also reduces damage from physical damage spells and all magic damage. Note that damage reduction masteries do NOT work on true damage. Unyielding is worth the same amount for a melee champion as Block is and stacking it together with Block makes it even more efficient. Since it also works against magic damage, if you are against an opponent who does both physical and magic damage, then you get additional value—the table shows the gold value for one stat, but if you were hit with an 80 damage auto-attack and an 80 damage spell, you would get double the gold value out of Unyielding due to it effectively granting both armor and magic resist. Ranged champions get much less benefit out of this mastery, but make no mistake, it’s amazing.



Verdict: Essential on everyone who takes points in defense. Worth 50 gold on a ranged champion early game for a single damage type and double that for melees. Given that this value can be doubled for both damage types, this makes it one of the best masteries in the defensive tree. Lategame, this mastery gives something like 175 gold value on a melee champion.

Veteran’s Scars


Grants 12/24/36 HP

Based on the Ruby Crystal (475 gold for 180 health), we know that health is worth 2.64 gold per point. Thus, these masteries are worth 31.7 gold per point or 95 gold for all three points. The added survivability is a nice bonus early game when 36 HP might win you a trade at level 2.

Verdict: Good on everyone who takes points in defense. While its gold efficiency isn’t super-high, it’s hard to undervalue raw HP at early levels. Especially for people who will buy lots of health, the fact that it leads into Juggernaut is nice.

Bladed Armor


Monsters that attack you lose 1% of their current health per second.

This mastery is a nightmare to value mathematically. The resulting table is confusing and varies wildly since it depends on the target’s HP, the number of targets, the target’s armor, and your armor penetration. Against the Lesser Wraiths at 150 HP (near-full), you’re hitting them for about 0.7 damage per second. It’s also heavily dependent on whether or not your jungler has AOE wave-clear.  Against a 2000-HP point monster with 20 armor (later game Ancient Golem or elder Lizard), you chunk it for 8.3 damage per second. That number of course decreases as you lower its health.

Verdict: It’s very difficult to define a useful mathematical gold value on this mastery due to the variability of monster types, monster current health, and the kit of your jungler. But anything that saves you time clearing the jungle seems like a good choice on junglers.



Reduces damage taken by 3% from enemies who are slowed/stunned/taunted/snared

I again solved the same equation as I did for Block and Unyielding with some minor modifications. Since we’re dealing with a percentage here, I’m looking for 0.97*Net Damage instead of Net Damage – 2.

The resulting mastery is conditional, but very, very gold-efficient. At early levels, you get 75+ gold value of a single mitigation stat, so if they’re doing mixed damage, you get additional value. Lategame, even on a squishier champion, you’re getting 100+ gold value of reduced damage, while a tanky champion could enjoy closer to 200 gold value of mitigation on a single stat.


The catch of course is that your target needs to be slowed, stunned, taunted, or snared, which means that not every champion can proc this mastery. A support Soraka would not be able to proc this damage reduction without something like a Rylai’s Crystal Scepter, Randuin’s Omen, Iceborn Gauntlet, Frozen Mallet, or Ancient Lizard buff—none of which are exactly common or easy-to-acquire Soraka items. Alternately, she could use Exhaust, which reduce damage further. Someone like Nautilus, Galio, Leona, or Zac, though, would have very little difficulty proccing this mastery. If you buy  Randuin’s Omen or Rylai’s Crystal Scepter, this could also be very useful.

Verdict: Absolutely phenomenal on CC-heavy tanks, mages, supports, and bruisers. Anyone light on CC  would be a toss-up. It can still proc based on your allies’ spells, but if you don’t have a CC-heavy composition or the items to make it work, then it is of limited value. Playstyle, champion, and team-comp dependent.



Increases max HP by 3%

We already know that HP is worth 2.64 gold per point, so let’s see how good Juggernaut is.


As it turns out, this mastery is worth nearly 150 lategame gold even if you don’t buy any HP at all, which is pretty good. If you are buying HP, you can get upwards of 250 gold value out of this mastery. Even early game, you’re getting more value out of this mastery than out of each point of Veteran’s Scars. This mastery is slightly less efficient in terms of gold than someone who uses Oppression, but Oppression is conditional, whereas Juggernaut is constant. I would opt for Juggernaut over Oppression for 9-point defensive setups just for reliability, but could understand the reverse.

Verdict: Great on everyone.



Grants 2/3.5/5 armor

We know the gold value of armor is 20 per point, so this mastery is worth 40/70/100 gold. At 40 gold per point, it’s pretty good, though if you have to choose between Oppression or Juggernaut and Hardiness, the other two are better (assuming you make use of Oppression). Junglers in particular like Hardiness for added jungling survivability. Note that since everyone auto-attacks a lot early game, Hardiness is in my opinion a better choice over Resistance if choosing between the two.

Verdict: Efficient, but not as much as the other options in the third tier. Better for 9+ point defensive setups.



Grants 2/3.5/5 magic resistance

Since MR is also 20 gold per point and the values are the same as Hardiness, Resistance is thus largely the same and also worth 40/70/100 gold per point. I would not invest in this mastery if I was only going 9 deep in defense—Juggernaut is just better.

Verdict: Efficient, but not as much as the other options in the third tier. Better for 9+ point defensive setups.


  • Block: Good on everyone
  • Recovery: Solid early game choice; eclipsed in gold value by Enchanted Armor lategame for tanky champions
  • Enchanted Armor: Good lategame choice for tanky champions; eclipsed in gold value by Recovery early even on tanks
  • Tough Skin: Good for junglers; skip otherwise
  • Unyielding: One of the best masteries in the entire tree by gold value for both ranged melee
  • Veteran’s Scars: Good on everyone
  • Bladed Armor: Good for junglers; skip otherwise
  • Oppression: Great choice for anyone with lots of CC or who will buy Randuin’s Omen, Rylai’s Crystal Scepter, etc.
  • Juggernaut: The best third-tier mastery for 9 in defense setups.
  • Hardiness: Good on junglers and heavy-defense setups. Avoid if only 9 deep.
  • Resistance: Good for heavy-defense setups. Avoid if only 9 deep.

Part 2

Defensive Masteries Pt 2

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Eph289 is a Platinum-ranked mid and support on NA and has been playing and writing about League of Legends since 2010. Formerly a Reign of Gaming guest contributor, he went by 'Sudunem' for his first few Cloth5 pieces until he fully transitioned over to Cloth5. He uses his mastery of the wizard arts of math, statistics, and theorycrafting to illuminate and explain the mysteries of League of Legends.

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