A Beginner’s Guide to Econ in TFT
When you first start playing TFT, you will be thinking of two things most likely: How can I upgrade my units and what are the best items? These are actually not the most important questions. As Zed says, “The hidden question is the deadliest.”…that’s what he says, right?
The single most important aspect of achieving consistent performance in this game is managing your economy and the strategic decisions around it. This article is going to cover the fundamentals and then break down three different approaches for economy management.
If you want to learn other fundamentals that are critical for learning TFT, be sure to check out our Absolute Beginner guide as well.
The Fundamentals of TFT Economy
Let’s start with the basics. If you’re a new player, focus on learning these fundamentals:
- The first few rounds, you’ll gain increasing gold every round starting from 2 gold up until a base of 5 gold per round.
- You get 2g round 2, 3g round 3, 4g round 4, and 5g round 5.
- You collect interest for every 10 gold you have up until 50. Interest is calculated at the very end of the round and ranges from 1-5 gold.
- So if you have 20 gold when the round ends you’ll get an extra 2 gold.
- If you have 18 gold and sell the Lucian (worth 2g) on your bench before the start of the next round, you will have 20 gold and gain 2 interest.
- There are win streaks and lose streaks in the game. If you are on either you will gain extra gold:
- 3 game streak: 1 extra gold
- 5 game streak: 2 extra gold
- 7 game streak: 3 extra gold
- If you have Pirates, you can get an additional bonus of 0-4 gold in the chest at the end of the round.
Knowing the above information, there are three basic ways to play each game of TFT. Knowing what style to take and how to adjust it is the beauty of the game, and what sets apart the master from the good player.
For this article, we won’t go into too much detail but will instead focus more on conceptually giving you the tools you need to be successful. The three main approaches mirror playstyles you would find in other games of strategy (if you are an RTS veteran, now is your time to shine):
- Aggressive Economy: This focuses on power spiking early and win-streaking, punishing greedy opponents, and hopefully solidifying an advantage into late game.
- Greedy Economy: This sacrifices the early game to get you more overall gold, access to higher tier units earlier, and more chances to reroll.
- Balanced Economy: Weaker than both extremes, but with this type of economy, you can win any game with if you make good decisions and are favored by fortune.
1. Aggressive Economy
The goal of this strategy is to spend as much gold as possible early on to gain an advantage. That means rerolling to find key units to upgrade to rank 3 as fast as possible, especially when the roll odds favor you.
TFT has aspects that can make an aggressive start very potent:
- 1-cost units can be very effective at higher ranks, and you can upgrade them quite easily at lower levels (check the chart below).
- Items are a big factor for carries. 1-cost units with good items can be better than 4-cost units with shitty items.
- You will punish greedy economy opponents with your strong team early on.
Reroll aggressively in the early levels to get the units that you want to rank up. This is usually an S-tier unit (check out our TFT champion tier list) you can build a composition around and have already received a few of.
Once you have gotten the units upgraded, you want to level up to put in other units you have ranked up so that you can keep your advantage. An example of this is placing two silver ranked units that you want to later combine onto the board.
The next thing you have to master is making sure that you know when your unit lead is strong enough to carry you for a while, and then to stop spending and start saving. This is something you can pick up with experience.
It’s round 4, you have a 2-star Vayne and a 1-star Vayne on the bench. You have a 2-star Garen and two 1-star Fioras (one on the bench and one in play). The correct move here in an aggressive economy is to spend all your money and roll for upgrades that you want. You should ignore other units that don’t fit into your Vayne/noble/ranger game plan.
When should I be aggressive?
Think of this as an all-in play. It’s high risk but can be high reward. If you don’t level up the units you were targeting, it can be disastrous.
- If you get a great roll on an early S- tier unit and want to build around it.
- If you get great item components (refer to our TFT item tier list) and have a carry like Vayne that you are close to upgrading.
- If you see a lot of people playing slow (this can be hard if you are inexperienced).
- If you feel comfortable knowing when to switch to saving.
- If you are a hot blooded person and want to crush your enemies swiftly.
2. Greedy Economy
This strategy relies on getting to the 50 gold threshold as fast as possible so you can start raking in that maximum interest. From one perspective, being greedy is actually quite reliable, since you can’t always control whether you win or not, but you can ALWAYS control how much you lose.
There are several advantages that work in your favor when you are being greedy.
- GOLD! You have more overall gold to work with by the end of the game
- It’s fairly easy to maintain a lose-streak into the mid game since your units will likely be weaker than teams that opted to look for early upgrades.
- Adjusting how much you lose by is the key here since you don’t want to lose too much HP.
- You reach high tier units quicker than your opponents.
- You have priority on the carousel and can pick units/items that fit your plans.
- You have the ability to see what your opponents are building before you commit to a composition.
You want to make sure that you are hitting your interest thresholds as soon as possible. That means you aren’t buying much at all outside of really strong core units that you think you will need. You don’t want to level up before you reach 50 gold either and have accrued your first interest. This means that when the game prompts you with a message to level up the round with the golems, DON’T DO IT. Every gold you spend early will cost you time and interest before you hit the threshold.
Be careful though. You want to field a strong enough team to not lose too much HP and to not lose to creeps. Losing to creeps will make you miss out on valuable items. Feel free to equip strong finished items on units you know you are going to sell so that you have greater combat power as level.
Also, remember that you can buy units when you can’t reach an interest threshold and then sell them to reach the interest threshold next round. You should be doing this in case you can make a pair into a rank 2 unit.
You have three units on the board at round 4, 8 gold in the bank, and 2 units on the bench. You quickly assess the upcoming fight and realize that you won’t win by a long shot. You decide to sell everything on the bench go to 10 gold and lose streak to 50. One at 50, you level to 6, pick up Draven and put your items on him. You start winning, level to 7, and keep rerolling to build around your Draven all while staying above 50 gold.
When should I be greedy?
You can almost always rely on this strategy to get you to a certain point. The difficulty is understanding how to balance your HP loss with your gold gain and when you should spend to go under the 50 gold threshold.
- You have a bad hand to start and can’t really make any rank 2 units to contest your opponents.
- You are a bit more experienced and prefer having a lot of gold to make decisions from a late game position with intelligence on your opponents.
- You understand breakpoints with income and levels really well. You never want to level with 2 exp carry over, and you don’t want to miss your income threshold.
- You know how to dump gold fast and can see that moment before it’s too late by assessing your rounds.
3. Balanced Economy
This is what most other games would consider a standard opening. You don’t want to limit your options early by committing to an econ strategy, and you want to be able to pick up important units while being able to hit interest thresholds and level at a steady rate.
Unfortunately, this is also the hardest strategy to play, since you have to know what to pick up, what to keep, when to sell, when to level, and when to cross interest thresholds. That’s why mastering one of the other economic strategies can lead to quicker results for you since you are playing a specific strategy really well.
Flexibility and ability to win most games.
- Being able to lean more towards a greedy or aggressive economy at any point based on your rolls and your opponents can be very powerful.
- Keeps your options open for different unit opportunities during the early to mid game.
- Can lose streak or win streak depending on the game state.
- You have the tools you need to stand up to aggressive opponents while still somewhat keeping up with passive opponents.
You want to make smart moves to steadily progress in level and economy. Buy strong units, keep pairs, and only level or reroll if you have a specific purpose in mind. Don’t spend gold early besides maybe one or two rerolls at level 3 to find some good 2-star units. Then save straight to 50 gold, and leveling up only to put in key units on your bench that you have built and can have an impact with a synergy on the board.
You also want to recognize your win streaks and lose streaks and play accordingly. Leveling during a losing streak when you are below 50 gold makes no sense, since you want to keep losing and are in no rush to make your board stronger.
It’s round 5 and you have a 2-star Khazix, 2-star Fiora, a 1-star Kassadin, and a 1-star Darius. You have a bench with one Kassadin, one Darius, two Nidalee, and two Warwicks. You also have 7 gold and are not on a win or lose streak.
You get two Zeds on the flop. You have 3 choices: sell units and get to 10 gold and start getting interested, buy two Zeds and keep your options open so you can transition to assassins when you get Rengar for Wild buff, OR reroll to complete your pairs. Rerolling doesn’t really fit this strategy since reroll gold is worth so much in the early game and is never recovered.
If you feel like you want to start building a lose-streak and go for late game, you can choose option 1. If you want to buy the pair and keep building your options, then it doesn’t hurt you too much, but you need to understand the outcomes of both and play accordingly.
When should I be balanced?
This strategy is like a swiss army knife. If you know how to weave between different options, you can easily be successful with this strategy in any situation.
- If you are experienced and understand the different conditions that you can take advantage of at different critical rounds.
- If you have a reasonable start, but not stellar and don’t want to commit to anything just yet.
- If you have a strong grasp of all the different compositions in the game and can switch between them based on the rolls you are getting.
- If you are good at scouting opponents and building appropriately.
These are the major ways to think about economy. I provided you with the basics but the beauty of a game like this is all the different opportunities that present themselves. Autopiloting the same strategies and relying on memorization will get you nowhere, but mastering the fundamentals and understanding how to build on them with a style that works is a sure path to victory. Good luck out there!