Crunching the Numbers: Season 4 Defensive Masteries Part 2

The defensive mastery tree in Season 4 is arguably the most powerful sets of masteries. Cloth5 is here to finish the breakdown on this tree and analyze the gold value of each of the choices to help understand their relative strength. I’m Eph289 and for this installment, I’ll examine the higher-tier defensive masteries and their 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.

Some masteries will have variable or conditional activation that affects the gold value. Some masteries are much better late game when you’re stacking them onto a lot of resists or health. Some masteries only come into play when you’re near enemy champions or get hit by a critical strike. 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.

Also note that when I give a gold value for some of those masteries, it represents an approximate average value, as sometimes there is no exact value.

The analysis for the lower half of the defensive masteries tree can be found here. A relatively basic breakdown can be found at the end the article for the lazy.



Every 5 seconds restores health equal to 0.35% / 0.675% / 1% of your missing health.

Perseverance is a conditional mastery whose gold value varies depending on how much missing health you have. If you’re missing a lot of health, the mastery is worth more. The specific gold conversion is based on the price of the Rejuvenation Bead (180 gold for 5 hp/5), yielding a value of 36 gold per point of 1 hp/5.

At 1000 missing HP, this mastery is worth 120 gold per point, which is very nice. If you’re missing more than that, the value increases dramatically, worth upwards of 300 gold per point in the most extreme cases. As a point of reference, the amount of health you regenerate at 1000 missing HP is equivalent to the HP/5 aura from Locket of the Iron Solari or the HP/5 from Talisman of Ascension. That this regeneration stacks with ultimates like Insanity Potion and Sadism is even more impressive.  The gold value on this mastery is acceptable because hp/5 isn’t the greatest combat stat ever.


Verdict: Absolutely essential for sustain tanks like Singed, Dr. Mundo, or Zac. Still good on any other high-defense build.



Reduces the effect of slows by 10%

The only other form of purchasing a slow reduction comes from Boots of Swiftness, which have a slow resist of 25% that must be worth at least 220 gold for the item to be gold-efficient. Doing some quick ratio multiplications, the bare minimum (the boots are only cost-efficient), the slow-reduction effect is worth at least 88 gold. However, gold-value analysis is not the best method to analyze this mastery—the stat obtained is only purchasable as a secondary stat. If your champion struggles with being kited, this mastery is highly useful. Note that if you have a lot of Tenacity, you’ll get less gold value from Swiftness since the slows don’t last as long.

Verdict: Hard to assign gold value due to nature of the stat. Strong on champions who should be going heavy into defense.

Reinforced Armor


Damage taken from critical strikes reduced by 10%

This mastery is situationally very good. On the one hand, its gold value is obscene in terms of how much armor you would need to buy to reduce a critical strike by 10%. Against a team with a high-crit building AD carry like Ashe or Caitlyn or that has Yasuo or Gangplank, this mastery is extremely powerful. Against a team that has AD Ezreal or Corki, who tend to build relatively low amounts of crit, it’s significantly less useful.


As you can see, the gold value is dependent solely on your armor because it’s a percentage reduction. It also has one of the highest gold values for any single mastery. The downside is you need all three points in hardiness, which may not be desirable.

Verdict: Very strong against heavy-crit AD carries or team compositions, but has awkward prerequisites, particularly if you’re going 21 in defense and not higher. If you’re into customizing your mastery setup every game, this would be a situational one.



Damage from AOE magic damage reduced by 4%

This mastery is also situationally very good. Every support in the conventional meta relies heavily on AOE magic damage and most of the popular AP mids do as well. Certain top laners (Vladimir, Kennen, Rumble, Swain, Singed, and even Nasus and Renekton to a certain extent) also dish out a lot of AOE magic damage as well . This mastery isn’t quite as phenomenally gold efficient as Reinforced Armor, but given the widespread prevalence of magic damage, it probably shouldn’t be.


Verdict: Very strong against double/triple AP compositions, but has awkward prerequisites, particularly if you’re going 21 in defense  and not higher. If you’re into customizing your mastery setup every game, this would be a situational one.

Second Wind


Increases all sources of healing by 10% when below 25% life

It’s very hard to quantify this mastery due to the variability of its value depending on your champion and items and also because it works on lifesteal, spellvamp, and even self-heals. Since most heavy-defense setups won’t have a lot of lifesteal or spellvamp, and self-heals aren’t really quantifiable via gold value, I only mathed out one case: health regeneration boosting, as an example case to demonstrate the potential value of the mastery.  If we’re just talking about health regeneration, this is the gold value (note that 100 hp/5 is realistically quite possible with Singed or Dr. Mundo using their ultimates):


I also included a column for if you buy Spirit Visage, which boosts healing by 20% and is gold-efficient without this passive.The passive stacks multiplicatively and boosts total healing to a 32% increase (confirmed with in-game testing). As you can see, this mastery is absurdly gold-efficient when you add Spirit Visage even with a fairly standard level 18 bruiser (~20 base hp/5) with just a Doran’s Shield (10 hp/5) for a total of 30 hp/5. Of course, it is conditional on being below 25% life. The gold value on this mastery is acceptable because hp/5 isn’t the greatest combat stat ever.

I did not examine other self-healing tanky champions like Zac or Trundle due to length reasons, but it’s safe to conjecture that this mastery would heavily benefit them as well. A Zac at 500/3000 HP who picks up a bloblet will lose 20 HP to cast the spell and gain 132 HP, an increase of 12 HP just for taking the mastery. With Spirit Visage, that number goes up to 154.

Verdict: Another amazingly efficient mastery that is essential on any self-healer going heavy defense tree (Maokai, possibly Trundle, Zac, Dr. Mundo, Singed, Volibear, etc.) If you buy Spirit Visage, this mastery is a must-have, and it’s still strong even if you don’t.

Legendary Guardian


Adds 1/2/3/4 bonus armor and 0.5/1/1.5/2 bonus MR for every nearby enemy champion

The last mastery in the defense tree that isn’t just a one-point wonder. Legendary Guardian is heavily conditional in terms of its gold value, as the number of enemies is extremely significant in its efficiencyLegendary Guardian.

For 5v5 teamfights, though, you can get a solid 150 gold value per point of this mastery, which is very nice, and not as ludicrous as some of the other high-tier one-point wonders in the defensive tree. In particular, the stats are important in combat.

Verdict: Nice to put points into, but largely outclassed in 21-point setups. 150 gold value per point in a perfect scenario is useful, but how often are you going to be within 700 units of all five enemy champions?

Runic Shield


Start the game with a 50 HP shield. This shield regenerates every time you respawn.

This is another conditional mastery. HP is worth 2.67 gold per point, so the mastery is worth 134 gold, but that’s only every time you respawn. It’d be one thing if this mastery refreshed every time you went back to the fountain, but on every death? That’s very circumstantial. The gold value is nothing fancy, and the fact that the shield probably shouldn’t be refreshing that often means that this mastery has decent gold value, but with use cases that are hardly impactful.

Verdict: This is the one high-tier defensive mastery with very few impactful use cases despite a reasonable gold value. You could use it on junglers to save a smidgen of health, or if you were really concerned about a fast level-2 all-in from an Elixir of Fortitude Kha’Zix or Riven, but I would generally steer clear of this one.



Reduces duration of crowd control effects by 15%

Like with Swiftness, it’s very hard to put a gold value on this. Using Mercury Treads as a measure for the gold value for Tenacity would heavily undervalue this statistic (you’d get some ludicrously low value like 50 gold). Since it’s only a secondary statistic, gold value analysis is relatively meaningless for Tenacious. That said, this will stack with the Tenacity passive for a total of 45% CC reduction. That Annie stun now lasts for under a second instead of 1.75 seconds. Given that most heavy-defense champions are going to be focused with a lot of crowd-control, there’s a lot of value in that.

Verdict: There’s no way to properly put a gold value on the statistic, but in terms of practical use cases, there’s a reason this is the crown jewel of the Defense tree.


For detailed analysis for the other half of the defensive tree, follow this link.

  • 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 and 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, especially against AP-heavy teams. Avoid if only 9 deep.
  • Perseverance: Strong on everyone, but especially regen tanks
  • Swiftness: Good on everyone
  • Reinforced Armor: Situational very high gold value against high-crit teams/champions
  • Evasive: Situational very high gold value against heavy AP compositions
  • Second Wind: Good on everyone, especially regen/drain tanks
  • Legendary Guardian: Decent gold value in 4 or 5-man teamfights, not amazing otherwise
  • Runic Shield: Skip
  • Tenacious: Strong on everyone

Utility Masteries


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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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