10 Ways to Improve your Mentality in Ranked TFT

10 Ways to Improve your Mentality in Ranked TFT

How to Deal with RNG and Other Factors in Teamfight Tactics

The TFT ranked season is upon us and everyone is tryharding. The most amazing thing is how our entire mentality changes when a ladder to climb is attached to a game. I’m here to tell you how to preserve the correct mentality and strategic outlook so that you can climb efficiently and effectively.

A little background about me: I hit diamond within the first week after ~ 50 games in TFT. I have played many games at a competitive level, including WOW for Fnatic many years ago. I dialed back to spend my PhD researching human performance with elite athletes and achievers to understand what makes people better. I can recommend you a ton of great reads if you are interested, but for this article let’s stick to 10 things that you can easily see improvement from.

Before that, I want you to watch this video and read the article. It’s important to know that strategic games such as TFT help you master many skills that will make your life richer, such as decision making, valuation, and thinking ahead.

Knowing that take your time, and enjoy the climb while focusing on learning. The most important thing to remember is that unlike chess, TFT is a lot more like poker and Hearthstone: there is a lot of RNG in the game that you must think about appropriately.

Don’t focus on your RNG in a single game or even a set of 3 games; focus on your decision making and if it was the best with the information at the time. If you make good decisions, then in 100 games you will see good results.

1. Don’t Tilt

This is the single most important thing you can do. Tilting is the art of being so upset with recent events in your game that you force errors. Meanwhile, TFT is a game of decision making. Nobody makes good decisions when they are tilted and you aren’t any different.

The best way to think about a game like TFT is like poker. Both games have a high level of decision making that is dependent upon the random occurrences that present themselves. Given enough events, good decision making will always prevail.

What you can do:

I am not talking about anything new here. In fact, a quick Google of how to deal with tilt in poker will lead many good results (I like this series), and you can learn a lot there.

Next time you can’t get your Draven 2 even though nobody has Draven, instead of getting really upset and playing your next game, develop self-awareness and exert self-control. Take a deep breath (4 seconds in, 4 seconds held, 4 seconds out), and slow down.

Outside of playing TFT, do other activities to build your mental fortitude. Meditate, do yoga, and practice mindfulness. In games of decision making, or any games, clear heads go a long way.

2. Understand Value Efficiency

Learn to think of the game in terms of long term value, not single events of positive or negative repercussions. For example, you probably don’t have time to play ten hours a day everyday. Otherwise you probably wouldn’t be here looking for advice; you would be playing.

Streamers have a ton of time to grind and can afford to queue up over and over and climb. Even if they didn’t have 10 hours, a lot of them would climb faster than you anyways because they are better.

What you can do:

Focus on quality of your games and not quantity. Play in sessions: 3 or 5 games in a row. Take a break, and come back refreshed. At the timestamps in this video by our Challenger coach below, he describes the benefits of playing in deliberate blocks:

The more tired your brain is, the worse decisions it makes and the more likely you are to tilt. Don’t play on days when you had a rough day at work, and so on.

Also, think about value within each game. Play for 4th place and up, and understand when you have a game that you can be first place and when you have a game that 5th would be a blessing. Identify these targets and plan accordingly.

3. Think Ahead

Often times, you will see Twitch hastily chat yell at streamers to make a specific move, and they don’t. Why? Because they understand that making that decision NOW would cost them the future game.

Twitch conflicting

The beginner only sees the possibility in front of them, and usually the obvious one, but the expert sees the entire range of possibilities and outcomes.

What you can do:

Don’t be Twitch chat. Think through all the possibilities and make sure to commit to the decision you make. Always ask yourself what if you go down path number 2. What if you don’t combine items? What are you trading? HP now for a better late game? Is that a good trade? If so take it.

4. Learn To Ask “Why?”

Most people climbing the ranked ladder are meta slaves. What is the most OP thing? Okay cool, let me start doing it. Top player X said I should roll down after Krugs, then that’s what I will do!

Remember that when someone creates something, they understand why those decisions were made and when the exceptions exist.

Thinking pengu

What you can do:

Learn to ask why. If you aren’t used to root cause analysis and thinking, then a great place to start is the rule of 5 Whys. Don’t get me wrong, you SHOULD be finding out what the best players are playing, but you should never follow it blindly.

You should deconstruct it yourself, and own it. It might be worse in the short term than following blindly, but in the long term, you will improve as a player.

5. Don’t Always Play To Win

This might seem counterintuitive, but just bear with me. If you are always playing to win and playing your best strategy then you leave no room for you to learn.

You may be perfect at the level 5 rerolling gunslinger no econ strategy, but that’s it. You may even climb with it (one of the top players in NA did). BUT if you really want to improve as a player and climb regardless of meta swings, then you have to learn.

Pirate Swashbucklers

What you can do:

Dedicate time to trying new strategies. Don’t focus on winning, but focus on experimenting. Test strengths and weaknesses. Learn how to optimize different situations.

Next time instead of building the same items you usually do, try a different combo that you think might work and record the DPS meters. Often times, the extra knowledge you gain will mean the difference between a first and third place finish.

6. Learn To Scout

Scouting is just as key in this genre as it is in RTSs for high level play or even as key as vision in LoL. If you know what your opponent is doing, you can respond appropriately. That means constantly scanning the benches and the team.

The more you do it, the more information you will be able to absorb quickly. The more comps you are intimately familiar with, the more you quickly you will be able to see the patterns.

Teemo utilizing vision

What you can do:

Make it a habit to scout after you make your decisions. PVE rounds provide great time points to check in with the opponents. At first it will seem like too much, but your brain operates by chunking patterns.

There has been tons of research that shows how quickly and effectively experts in a field can process information, and you can read here how it works in a similar game like chess. The more you experiment and learn the game, the better you get at this so learning to not always play to win is critical here.

7. Understand the Nuances of Counterplay

People always ask about counters. What comp counters this comp? This is understandable since counter lingo is very popular in gaming, including LoL and fighting games. While this is a question that has merit, you need to be thinking about what your opponent is building towards.

You need to be intimately familiar with the entire landscape of viable comps and potential variations. Countering is more often about small changes, not large sweeping changes to build a counter comp.

charmander bulbasaur squirtle

What you can do:

Make sure you are doing #5 and #6, because if you aren’t, then you are in no position to be countering anything. Understand the small things that can change your comp to counter what someone else is doing.

  • Does someone have a Phantom Dancer on their main carry?
    • Get Rapid Firecannon.
  • Lots of sorcs in the game?
    • Get dragon claw on your carry.
  • Going a gunslinger build, but the two strongest players in the lobby are assassins
    • Swap to yordles and place Tristana in the middle of your formation.
  • Can’t get to your enemy Draven with the DPS you have?
    • Tech in a Blitz and play the positioning wars to snipe him.

More often than not, it’s these micro-decisions that will make for effective counterplay. On a macro scale, playing the comps that most people aren’t playing and combining the small decisions will make you effective at countering people.

8. Learn Different Playstyles

There is no one best play style in TFT, and many different high level players will have different ways of seeing things. In fact, if you spend time watching streamers you will see that they don’t agree on 50% of things.

You need to be comfortable understanding the ins and outs of the different play styles, so that you can find the one that suits you best but also so that you can learn how to deal with each when the time comes.

Odyssey Kayn splash

What you can do:

Watch more streamers, not just the one you like best. Here’s a list of 10 TFT streamers to start with. Be critical when you are watching them and ask the right questions. People are really good at asking bad questions to streamers. “What are the ideal items on Lucian?” is a bad question.

There are no ideal items. You have to be able to adapt to what your opponents are doing and the items you get. The amount of value you get out of such a question is minimal. The question you should be thinking of is “What are Lucian’s strengths and weaknesses and how can I take advantage of that?”

Listening to a high level player articulate the WHY’s of what they do is really important. Inevitably they will tell you why they chose X items. In engineering we call this principal component analysis or even root cause analyses. As mentioned before. Dig deep and ask why, understand the principles and you can understand how to build the right comp in any situation including when the meta shifts.

9. Focus on One Playstyle at a Time

Yes you should learn all the play styles but you should focus specifically on one or two and understand them completely before adding others to your arsenal. There are a lot of fine details in each comp that you might think you know, but you won’t until you play it. That includes:

  • What are my backup options if I don’t hit my units?
  • What items do I save for and what do I make to survive early?
  • When are my power spikes?
  • How do I transition to this comp and other comps with the same core?
  • What is the optimal positioning of this comp? Vs other comps how does it change?

Godfist Lee Sin splash

What you can do:

Pick a couple of comps and force them every game. Learn the ins and outs. Think about the above questions and once you feel you understand them, move onto the next comp you want to learn. Playing assassins feels very different than playing rangers for example.

10. Learn to Transition

This is probably one of the hardest ones that EVERYONE wants to learn to do. Learn everything else here and you will be versatile enough to learn transitioning much more easily. It’s impossible to transition to things you don’t understand. It’s impossible to transition from an early game comp to your final comp if you don’t even know the power spikes.

Divine Sword Irelia splash

What you can do:

Learn the ins and out described in #8 and #9 so you understand the nuances of the comp you are running. From there practice your transitions, and always understand the tradeoffs. Ask yourself questions that help you learn.

  • For example, if I transition in 2 turns, I trade 25 health for an extra 5 gold and a better leveling curve. However, I need to transition now or I risk dying. You will find yourself in this scenario many times.
  • Do I go elementals now or later? Is it better for me to find Brand before buying Lissandra? (Usually yes since it’s the hardest one to find and you can always go back and get the rest while keeping eco).

Thanks for reading! We hope these 10 techniques help you keep your mental state in check and allow you to make the best decisions.


  • Dru Harmes

    The link for the 10 steamers to watch says steamers btw, otherwise great key advice.

    • Dru Harmes

      Damn it I did too.