TFT Guide to Winning from a Bad Start
In TFT, sometimes you’ll have those games where you find an early Jinx 2, Yasuo 2, Kayle 2, etc. Sometimes you’ll start with 6 items and dominate the early game all the way to 1st place. But what should you do if you’re straight out of luck? Maybe you start with 2 items and 3 extra gold, or 9 extra gold. Whatever the case may be, I’m here to tell you about the strategies as well as mindset and patience required to pull through bad luck and finish top 4 or even 1st place.
I also want to note that while this guide can be applicable for players of all ranks, it will be exponentially more useful for players who understand what units and teams are strong as that will allow you to make the correct decisions throughout the game. If you are unsure what units are good or what teams are strong, check out the Mobalytics Teamcomps page for some guidance first.
Before we go on, I want to introduce myself. My name is AlanLube and I am currently Challenger in NA server. I reached Challenger about a month into the ranked season and have consistently been climbing upward. I recently wrote a Reddit guide about playing from behind previously which helped many and gained good traction.
However, as time went on, new strategies developed as well as new metas have emerged. With this article, I hope to delve deeper into the topic as well as show details that will allow you to adapt to future patches and metas.
1 – Starting Situations Based on Starting Gold and Items
The beauty of losing early is once you are able to figure out what health you are comfortable losing, you will find yourself with a strong economy to boost yourself upwards in the rest of the game.
However, if at any point you find a little luck and think you can stabilize I advise you take that route instead. Lose streaking early is a high risk high reward strategy that relies on your mastery of the meta and making the correct decisions at any point in the game. Lose streaking will be difficult the first few tries, but with enough practice, any player can pull it off.
Usually the decision as well as the strategy to lose streak will largely depend on what situation you’re playing from. Below, I’ll outline the 4 common situations you’ll find yourself where lose streaking might become your best choice.
Situation 1 – 3 Gold and 1 Item
The most common bad start situation is when you start 1 item and 3 additional gold. A lot of times, the item you get from the initial carousel as well as the 1 item from creeps won’t combine into a great early game item or a good item at all.
If this is the case and you don’t find upgraded units, it might be a good idea to start lose streaking or even open fort.
Situation 2 – 9 Gold
Starting the game off with 9 additional gold with no items can feel very bad. However, this is currently one of the best starts with regards to lose streaking.
With the early economy, you have more flexibility to buy units while maintaining a lose streak to further compound your gold.
Situation 3 – 3+ Items, but bad items/bad units
Maybe you had average luck and were able to get 3 items off the first 3 neutral rounds. However, sometimes, even with 3 items you might not be able to make a good item off those drops.
Or, maybe you can, but no good units or combined units came to you. While it is usually easier in this situation to bounce back after the first carousel and transition to win streaking, lose streaking will still be a viable option.
Situation 4 – Aggressive, but Unsuccessful
These are the situations where you level to 4 early, you feel like you can go on a win streak, but no upgrades come and you start losing.
Lose streaking might not always be the best choice in this scenario, but can come in handy as a backup strategy for when your aggressive plays flop.
Reminder: Stay flexible!
Maybe you tried to win early but failed and are on a losing streak. You can simply continue that losing streak to build up your economy to catch up later. Maybe you started out open fort, but the first carousel gave you a perfect item and champion.
You can decide to switch gears and try to win streak after that. Or if you are feeling a bit risky, you can even continue the losing streak for a stronger comeback later. Whatever the case may be, there is never a step-by-step blueprint for any game. Be ready to adapt to any situation to take full advantage of what the game offers you.
In most scenarios, trying your best to be strong will usually take precedence over purposefully losing rounds. Even if you are not confident in your first pvp round, just see how it goes.
Maybe you somehow win the first round and find 3 nobles + a knight in the next round. In this case, you can level to 4 and try to get on an early win streak. Or if you feel like you can be greedier, you don’t need to level early at all and start racking up interest.
In any game, playing from ahead and more aggressively will almost always net better results. Protecting your health by being aggressive will leave more room for unlucky phantom rounds and more time to transition into the mid game.
So what should you do if you lose and don’t find a good early game team? In any of the above situations, you should purposefully lose the early rounds and start saving up money until Krugs (we’ll talk about what to do at this point throughout the rest of this article).
2 – How to Lose Streak in the Early Game
When you have a bad start leading into any game, lose streaking is a very potent and viable option to take. In the early rounds you will not lose as much health as losing later in the game, you will likely get a top pick at the first carousel, and you start compounding a huge economy.
All of this comes at the cost of losing more health, of course. Let’s delve into the multiple options you can take depending on what situation you land yourself in.
Situation 1 – Open Forting
“Open Forting” originated as a concept in Dota Auto Chess describing the process in which the player clears their board to force a loss and maintain their losing streak in order to gain extra gold to catch up later.
Originally this concept did not translate well into TFT as player damage early was too high and would result in a quick loss. However, with recent systemic changes to early player damage, it has become a more viable strategy.
Largely popularized (but not invented) by Scarra, if you start with 3 gold and 1 extra item from minions (Situation 1), you can sell most of your units on round 2-1 to get 10 gold to gain 1 extra interest.
On round 2-2 you will be able to sell everything in order to have 20 gold. You purposefully lose the first and second round to gain gold. At round 2-3, you will buy any 4 units to try and kill as many enemies as possible while still losing the round. At this point, try to ensure you always hit interest intervals even if it makes your team weaker.
Once you hit Krugs, you should have at least 50 gold if you executed correctly. You will level up to 5 and use whatever units you can to defeat the Krugs. Continuing your loss streak after these rounds, at round 3-3 you will level up to 6 and roll down to find a strong 6 team composition. This can be rangers, knights, assassins, void, etc. Whatever meta compositions are currently available, start building toward.
You don’t always have to Open Fort
Even if you start with 3 gold and 1 item you don’t have to necessarily go for the open fort strategy. You can simply follow the same structure, but exchange the first two rounds of additional interest to buy units.
Doing this can possibly allow you to find level 2 units, in which case you can play aggressively after the first carousel, or simply lose less health and have around 40 gold at Krugs. Either choice is okay, but simply up to you and your preferred playstyle.
Situation 2 – Lose Streaking but Harder
If you started with maybe 3 items and 1 gold (Situation 2) but none of your items translate to strong items, you can still lose streak. However, you won’t be able to hit 20 gold on round 2-2 and likely by Krugs you will only have 40 gold.
In this case, follow a similar strategy to Open Fort. However, you won’t have to sell all your units at round 2-2 and instead can hopefully save yourself some life. Hitting the interest intervals with this start will be harder, but will allow you to buy more units and hopefully save yourself more life.
This strategy will still be viable, but will be a slightly different experience. With the Open Fort strategy, you purposefully lose one round with a completely empty board and the extra 3 gold from the first few neutral rounds help you hit higher interest intervals at the cost of your health.
While you may not gain as much gold as with the open fort, you will be more flexible since you buy more units early and save yourself a small amount of health.
Situation 3 – Lose Streaking but Easier
If you started with 9 gold you can follow a similar strategy while still being able to buy more units to hopefully save more health and build into your mid game team. However, if you buy units and are a little lucky you might win a round or two. Don’t panic.
In this situation I value some extra health over losing streak gold since you are able to stay above your interest points a lot easier from a 9 gold start. Whether or not you hit 50 gold at Krugs largely depends on whether you lose streak or win the early rounds. Whatever the case may be, it is still advised to not overspend and level up to 6 at round 3-3.
Situation 4 – The Hail Mary
This situation likely puts you in the worst position out of the four. If you were aggressive and leveled to 4 or even 5 early, you won’t have the economy to hit 50 or even 40 gold by Krugs. However, you can still commit to a losing streak at this point in the game, it will just become much more dangerous as the game progresses in stage 3.
You can put of leveling to 6 until round 3-3 like the above strategies, but won’t have as much gold to build a team after that. In this case, try to commit to any build you plan on going toward and sell off any units you don’t need. You need to start building up an economy now to hopefully catch up by Wolves.
3 – Building your Level 6 Team
By this stage of the game, all 4 situations have the same game plan – leveling up at stage 3-3 (Unless you played aggressively and already leveled). At this point, roll down a portion of your gold to find a strong level 6 team.
Don’t roll too much
You have sacrificed life to build up a strong team. With the amount of gold you have, you should be able to find a strong level 6 team without rolling past 30 gold. While rolling down try your best to stay flexible between your comps before deciding on a team based on the units you find.
Being able to buy many units while still keeping track of your true gold amount (gold + units you can sell) will require some practice but should not be too difficult to get the hang of.
Try to catch up but not too much
After you roll down, you should have a decently strong level 6 team. You don’t have to roll so that you are the top player in the lobby. Just try to ensure that your team can either win or lose by a close margin.
If you were able to maintain your losing streak until this point, a loss by 1 or 2 champions can be very good as you lose a small amount of life in exchange for +3 interest gold. This will come with more experience, but building a strong team without spending too much gold will come more naturally with more games played.
If you happened to be in the Situation 4 camp at this point of the game, you will have much less gold at this point compared to the other situations. If you find yourself with a semi-weak team here, I’d advise you continue lose streaking if you feel like you can at least survive until Wolves.
Since you played somewhat aggressively early, it’s more likely you will have a stronger team built up compared to situations 1-3. This should allow you to complete your team without spending as much money. By the Wolves round, you will catch up in gold with the other situations and hopefully be able to catch up and survive into the top 4.
4 – Leveling up to 7
When to level up
After this, it is your call about when you should level up to 7. If you find a unit that will greatly increase the strength of your comp, you can level to 7 early (around stage 3-4 or 3-5) to start winning and rebuilding your economy.
Maybe you find a strong level 6 comp that win streaks you all the way to Wolves. Whatever the case may be, try to find a strong team without spending too much of the hard earned economy you built up.
Follow a similar strategy as when you were level 6
Once you finish the Wolves round, if you have not leveled up at this point, I would advise that you should. It’s very likely that you are somewhere in the 30s in health and you can’t afford to lose more rounds from bad matchmaking.
Once again, after you hit level 7, roll with purpose. If your team is still very weak and you have 15 health this would be a good time to all in. If you are close to many upgrades then you should roll down to hit a strong level 7 team.
If you’re still missing 2 Cho’Gaths or two Sejuanis and only have 20-30 gold, don’t roll. Take this time to figure out the strength of your current team. If your team is strong enough to keep up with the rest of the lobby you’ve done a good job.
Try your best to reach a point where you can eco all the way back up ti Raptors. If you keep losing even after, rolling you might find yourself in a position where you need to keep rolling to stay alive. But if you really believe that you can stay alive until Raptors without that 1 upgraded unit, try not to roll.
If you can survive to Raptors while maintaining a healthy economy, you will be able to climb past the players who did not control themselves and hopefully land a top 4 or even a top 3 spot.
4 – Raptors and into the Late Game
Be glad you made it this far
Hopefully at this point you were able to find a strong team and rebuild a healthy economy to level up to 8 right after Raptors. Maybe your team was not quite as strong as you would have liked but you were able to rebuild your economy while staying alive. This part of the game is where it becomes the most important that you rebuilt your economy during stage 4.
Many players will opt to level to 8 after Raptors regardless of if they were winning or losing previously. If you rolled down too much you dug your own grave at this point and likely won’t be able to keep up even with the player with 5 health but had enough money to build a level 8 team. Level up to 8 and roll down to try and build your endgame level 8 team.
A little luck required as always
After this point the game continues as any other. Anything beyond this point will require a little bit of luck. Hopefully you find Karthus 2 or Yasuo 2 or complete your nobles. Maybe you get lucky and complete a full upgraded level 8 team with gold to spare.
You can think about saving gold up to level 9 in this case, but it is quite unlikely. In most cases, you will be rolling every round to find every last upgrade for your team.
Whatever the case may be, if you are able to land a top 4 or top 3 placement, consider that a win. Being able to turn the worst luck into a consistent finish will be the key to climbing higher and higher up the ladder.
Had I been able to make Runaan’s Hurricane or find Sejuani 2 I might’ve been able to crack top 2 or even first place. Even still, I was able to turn an early losing streak with average luck into a top 3 finish.
Sometimes you’ll be able to hit first, other times you might miss your units and land 5th. In any case, being able to consistently finish with a strong team regardless of your start is key to climbing higher up the ranked ladder.
5 – Additional Tips
In the early game, while you try to maintain a losing streak you’ll often be using cheap effective units such as brawlers or knights. When you roll down after you level to 6, try your best to include these units as they are both cost efficient and can translate well into mid and late game teams.
If you are lucky enough to completely transition into a different composition without spending too much gold, that is fine too. Whatever the situation, the earlier you are able to commit to a team, the better. This will allow you to save more gold by selling off the units you won’t need and assist in rebuilding your economy at many stages of the game.
However, while somewhat paradoxical, it is also important to maintain flexibility. Since you spend most of the early rounds saving gold instead of buying units, it is also important to stay flexible and be able to build teams based on the items and units you find.
Balancing flexibility with commitment
Maybe while you are lose streaking you are using void brawlers. One turn you find both an Ahri and a Rengar but will miss 1 interest gold if you buy both. What should you do? If it’s early in the game and you only have around 20 gold you should probably only pick one. Maybe it’s the round after Krugs and you decide you can let go of 1 gold to be flexible.
Finding the balance between staying flexible while being able to commit as early as possible will be the tough decisions you will have to make early in the game. Try to always make a decision and commit. Even if your decision was wrong, you will be able to learn from it and improve your decision making in future games.
Overall Item Strategy
Many times you will find yourself in these losing positions because you weren’t able to build strong items in the early game. If this is the case, you can afford to be more greedy with your items since you will lose anyways.
After Krugs and 2 carousels worth of items you should hopefully be able to make 1 or 2 items that will either help you stabilize early or position yourself for a stronger late game. After Wolves, however, I advise that you simply make the best items you can at that point.
Staying alive until Raptors, even if you are forced to make subpar items, will help ensure you land top 4 and you can consider that a victory in your own way. If you feel like your team is strong and you can hold onto 1 or two items, or if your items don’t build anything great, you can hold on a bit longer, but this makes your situation even riskier.
Playing with bad luck and from behind creates tough and risky decisions that you will have to make. You might find some luck and find a random Kayle or a random Swain while you are level 6. If your team can’t build into it rather quickly, you shouldn’t try to transition too hard. Playing from behind means you will have less flexibility in the midgame to adapt to what you find and will often reward the players who commit to what they have.
Using the Open Fort strategy can be very risky and requires a good amount of practice before trying it out in ranked. One misstep and you can easily get a quick top 8. Sometimes you won’t have to open fort. You can stay in the middle of the pack and try to make top 4 that way. Being comfortable and adapting to any situation with a multitude of strategies will help you improve your strategy in TFT regardless of what teams are currently meta.
In any situation, always try to remember what decision you made. Maybe you rolled too much and weren’t able to keep up once a neutral round hit. Or maybe you decided to transition your team but weren’t able to do it quickly enough and died. In any game, always take every decision as a learning experience. TFT is a game with built in variance and a lot of it. As a player, it is your job to understand that and put yourself in the best position to win at any point, with whatever the game throws at you. Over time you will become more comfortable with playing from behind which will ultimately increase your consistency.
These are some of the key strategies that many of the top Challenger players are able to master. Interestingly enough, many of the top players also have drastically different playstyles. Some like to semi Open Fort every game while others may always want to level early. Some stick to one team they force every game while others play different things every game. Climbing to higher ranks is all about finding what works for you and what you are able to figure out over the many games you will play climbing to the top.