How to Play Your First TFT Match
TFT is a brand new game that’s part of a genre that isn’t even a year old. With all the hype going on it can seem like you have fallen behind the crowd but in the big scheme of things, if you start to learn now, you’re actually among the first people to start playing in its life span…
Learning a new game, let alone a new genre can be overwhelming at times since there is a lot to learn and soak in, but that’s part of the fun! In this absolute beginner’s guide, we’ll teach you the basics so you have a good idea of what’s going on in your very first game.
We’ll assume you have a basic idea of what TFT is and you’re looking to play your first match. If you’ve already played a few and want to learn more we’ll guarantee you’ll learn something new as well.
How do you win in Teamfight Tactics?
The ultimate goal of TFT is to be the last player standing in an 8-player free for all match. You spend the game accumulating resources like gold and items and making decisions to build a team of units with different strengths, weaknesses, and abilities.
If you compose your team with units that synergize, they will be empowered with buffed properties. Your team of units will fight against the teams of the other players at random during the rounds. The player whose team loses will take damage. When a player runs out of life, they are out. This may seem hard but getting top 3 counts as a win, so aim for that.
These are the very surface level basics of TFT. Let’s get started with walking through how to play a match.
Every game begins with all 8 players at the carousel (also known as the “shared draft”).
The carousel continuously spins and has random 1-cost units paired with a basic item (more on items later).
After a brief delay, all eight players will simultaneously be able to grab a unit. All you have to do is walk up and touch the one you want with your Little Legend and it’ll latch on to you.
With experience, you’ll have a better idea of which champions or items are better than others and will be able to strategize but don’t worry too much about that for now.
Carousel rounds will happen periodically throughout a match. After the very first round, players will be able to choose in an ordered arranged from last place to first place.
If you found this beginner guide while trying to specifically learn more about the carousel, check out our TFT carousel guide.
Building your First Units: The Three Minion Rounds
Round 1: Placing your unit
Now that we have your first piece and item from the carousel, we’re ready for your first battle! Don’t worry too much, the first three rounds are against bot-controlled minions that are very easy to slay.
To learn more about your unit you can right-click on them during a battle or while they’re on your bench (you can also right-click on the units of your enemies.)
Here you can see your unit’s synergies, health/mana, cost, rank, ability information (by hovering), and items (which you can also hover). Keep these in mind, for now, we’ll discuss them later.
Right-click on any champion unit for more information about them.
To understand what is happening in each round, take a look at the top of your screen. You can see the first carousel round icon (which includes the first minion round) as well as two other minion fight icons. These events will occur from left to right.
Before you fight, you have a set amount of time to prepare (as represented by the countdown). Right now you’ll only be able to change the position of your unit but you’ll have more options in a bit – for now, just drag your first unit from your bench and onto the board.
In this game, we grabbed a Brand with a Giant’s Belt
Once the countdown finishes, combat will begin and your unit will come alive to fight the minion bots. Since the minions are weak, your single unit should be able to kill them easily.
Mana and abilities
While your unit fights, you may notice that their blue mana bar begins to fill up. Your champion will gain mana when they are dealing damage and taking damage.
Once their mana bar is full, they will cast their ability. Brand’s Ability is Dragonfire Pillar, which deals AoE damage to an enemy, stunning them.
Note that not every champion has a casted ability. If you chose a unit like Tahm Kench, this will not happen because they have passive abilities that are passive abilities.
When you fight bot-controlled minions and monsters, you have a chance to get an item drop for one killed. Outside of the carousel rounds, this is the only other time you can get items.
In the image above, killing one of the three minions caused a Needlessly Large Rod to drop. Your items will collect to the left of your bench here. Right now, we could choose to drag the Giant’s Belt and combine it with the Needlessly Large Rod.
However, since minion rounds are easy, we don’t need to rush to combine and can instead, keep it on the bench to keep our options open. For example, we may want to save the Needlessly Large Rod to try to combine with another item or to use with a different champion.
Rounds 2 and 3: The Shop
After your first minion round, the game starts to really open up in terms of making decisions and constructing your team composition. Let’s take a look at the image below and break it down.
At the beginning of round 2 and every round after until the game ends, you’ll be given five choices of champion units from the shop. All eight players in the match draw from a shared pool of finite pieces.
For each unit, you can see their cost, synergies, and a description of their ability if you hover them.
Above the five units you can see the amount of gold you have. Outside of buying units at the shop, you can also use gold to refresh, or “reroll” to another set of five champions for 2g or buy 4 experience points for 4g. You can also sell the units on your board or bench (you won’t always get back equal value for what you bought them for).
You can also choose to lock your shop (top right corner of the shop) so it doesn’t refresh at the beginning of the next round.
Some quick notes on these options:
- Refresh: If you choose to reroll, it’s possible to see the same champions you had in a previous reroll. We’ll discuss rolling odds in a bit.
- Buy XP: Your player level determines how many pieces you have on the board (if you’re level 3, you can have 3 unit pieces).
- You will passively gain experience each round, but you can spend gold if you’re looking to increase your level and max number of units (up to 9 using experience).
- You can see how many points to hit your next level and your current level at the left of the shop.
- Lock: If you like the options given by a roll but don’t have enough gold to buy everything you need, consider locking your shop so you can buy when you get more gold for your next round.
- Sell: You can sell your units by dragging them onto the shop or by clicking them and pressing E.
With so many options, it can be hard to understand when and why to buy champions. When you first start playing, you should be focused on trying to build toward your unit synergies.
Building Unit Synergies
Building a team around synergies is a core gameplay aspect of auto chess games like Teamfight Tactics. There are two types of synergies, class and origin, and every champion has at least one of each (some have more).
Remember when we right-clicked Brand earlier for more information? We saw that he was a Dragonsoul and a Mage. Since then, we’ve bought different champions and now the synergies highlighted above show 2 Vanguard, 1/3 Warlord, 1/2 Brawler, and 1/3 Elderwood.
These represent the synergies that are currently on your board, and the number of units for a synergy’s ability to turn on.
You will see what synergies a unit will have in the shop as well. If you remove them from the board, the synergies will disappear from the left side of the screen.
If you were consistently finding Warlord units, you would potentially try to build toward (6) Warlords so you could get the buff on all six of your Warlord units.
Garen also has the Vanguard class. This offers you a different path with its own possibilities, advantages, and disadvantages. Since gunslinger activates at (2) and (4) units, it may be easier to find the units and activate its synergy ability.
The way you learn about team comps depends on who you are as a player. If you’re someone who likes to learn on your own, feel free to experiment and learn through trial and error about which classes and origins work together well.
If you’re someone who wants to win now or immediately learn what’s good, check out our team comp recommendation guides to see team comp builds refined and tested by high-level players.
Ranking Up Units
Another core mechanic to keep in mind is that in TFT, you can combine identical units in order to make stronger ones – this is called ranking up (also called leveling up).
You can rank up your units by combining three copies for each tier:
- Three 1 star units = One 2 star unit
- Three 2 star units = One 3 star unit
- This means that you need a total of nine 1 star units to get a 3 star unit.
- Units you buy from the shop are 1 star unless they are Chosen (Set 4 mechanic).
In the image below, we have two 1 star Maokais (indicated by the bronze color to the left of her health bar) on the bench, as well as one Maokai available in the shop.
By buying the Maokai from the shop, all three will automatically combine into a 2 star Maokai. When this transformation occurs, Maokai grows in size and in power. The rank up will also alert everyone in the game in the chat log, so know that it’ll draw attention and keep an eye on the activity of other players.
In the image above, we can see that she now has a silver icon to the left of her health bar instead of bronze. By right-clicking to examine her, we can now see two stars instead of one.
If you hover an ability, you can see how it scales (which means gets stronger) with increasing rank. Now that Maokai is 2 star, he will deal 350 damage with hhis ability instead of 225.
So on top of assembling team synergy, you’ll also want to continually upgrade your units as the game goes on. By the end of the game (if you survive until then), most of your team should be 2 star and even have a few 3 stars if you play your cards right.
As you level up, the pool of champions available to you and their probability of appearing changes (details shown in the table below). To keep it simple, if you’re hoping to get a 3 star unit, it’s wiser to hold off on leveling up because doing so may decrease the chances of it appearing.
Likewise, if you’re looking to find a higher cost unit to complete the last part of your synergy, you may want to buy experience to increase your chances of it appearing. Just like a game of poker or a card game like Magic the Gathering, it’s all about playing the odds and doing what you can to understand and influence them.
Now that we know the basics of team building and which units to target, let’s get back to the game walkthrough.
Round 4 and Onwards: PvP Until Last Player Standing
After the three minion rounds end, Round 4 (Stage 2-1) will begin and you’ll start to have player vs player fights. In the image below, we can see that we have three pvp fights before a carousel round, followed by two more pvp fights, and then lastly, a creep round.
This pattern will repeat until the end of the match when one player is standing (top 4 counts as a win). In the following sections, we’ll be discussing the overall concepts of a match instead of walking you through round by round.
During the pvp rounds, you’ll face a random opponent and pit your team of champions against theirs.
Depending on how badly the winning side wins, the losing side will take damage. There’s a specific formula for this but since this is a beginner’s guide, to simplify it, just think about it in terms of units that survive on the winning side.
If you have a really close battle that ends in a 1v1 between two final units, the losing side will take a small amount of damage. If the winning side wins by a landslide and has many surviving units, the loser will take a large amount of damage.
In the image above, in yellow, you can see the standings based on how much health players have. By clicking on their icon, you can also take a look at their board and bench.
You can also do this by clicking on the minimap at the bottom right, or by using the 1, 2, and 3 keys to rotate between player boards or return to your own (1 and 3 cycle, 2 returns you back home).
As we mentioned earlier during the carousel section, player standings can be important because it determines the order in which players choose their pieces at the next carousel phase.
All players begin the carousel phase locked and are released in reverse order starting with last place and ending with first place. This lets players who have fallen behind an opportunity to catch up since they are more likely to get the item and unit that they need most.
At this point, you may be asking, if players that are doing worse get better choices at carousel rounds, what’s the point of being ahead? Well, I’m glad you asked.
The Basics of Econ: Win Streaks, Lose Streaks, and Interest
In Teamfight Tactics, you’ll get passive income for free each round. 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 and every round after.
You also get additional gold based on win/loss streaks and interest. If you are winning or losing consecutively, you will gain extra gold – here’s how it works:
- 2-3 round streak = 1 extra gold per round
- 4 round streak = 2 extra gold per round
- 5+ round streak = 3 extra gold per round
This rewards players who have been doing well and throws some love to players who are having a rough time (there’s actually an advanced playstyle where you lose on purpose to get lose streak income and a good place in line for carousels, but that’s not for this article). You also get +1 gold for rounds that you win.
Depending on how much gold you have at the end of a round, you also get an interest bonus at the beginning of your next round. The amount of interest you get is related to every 10 gold you have up until 50:
- 10g = +1g interest
- 20g = +2g interest
- 30g = +3g interest
- 40g = +4g interest
- 50g = +5g interest (the max)
- Example: If you end the round with 34g, you will have an additional +3g from interest next round.
You can check how much gold you’re earning per round at any time by hovering your gold in shop (shown in red below). You can also get an idea of how much gold another player has by looking at the counters on the sides of the board (shown in yellow below).
Each counter represents how much interest a player is receiving. The counters on the left represent your interest – since we have 50g in the bank, that means we’d get 5g in interest, hence the 5 counters. In a similar fashion, the opposing player has at least 40g, as shown by the four counters on the right. Unfortunately, you can’t tell the exact amount of gold your opponents have but at least this gives you a good idea.
To learn more, we strongly recommend checking out our TFT economy guide. We’ll cover these topics in more depth and give fundamental strategies regarding gold and econ management.
Managing your economy, buying units, and assembling your team are incredibly important but can all go to waste if you don’t position your units properly.
Making sure that your units are in the most optimal places possible will help you get the most value out of them and increase the consistency of their success in battle.
Here are general guidelines:
- Since mana is generated from fighting and taking damage, you want your pieces in a position where they are actively dealing damage and taking damage to gain their ultimates (without dying of course).
- Try to have your units cast their ultimate at least once. If they’re dying before that, something is likely wrong.
- Most team compositions are similar to League, you’ll have a beefy frontline that protects your squishy backline of damage dealers and utility units.
- As the game goes on and you have a better idea of who you’ll be facing (since there are less players in the game), you’ll want to adjust your positioning accordingly.
- To save time, you can swap units by dragging one unit onto another. They will automatically switch places whether they’re on the board or the bench.
To help these make more sense, we’ll cover the main fundamental of positioning.
Frontline and Backline
At the very basic level, you should position your units with a simple idea of frontline and backline.
Frontline Units: Frontline units usually have a defensive trait like Vanguard or Brawler that lets them absorb damage from enemy teams. These units will usually be melee units as well, so placing them in the front ensures that they won’t need to spend time walking up to hit enemies.
Backline Units: Backline units are simply the opposite. Backline units usually either provide damage, like Tristana, or utility abilities like healing and shields. These units usually have range that allows them to hit enemy frontline units without needing to move as much.
Without getting too specific, almost all comps follow this general idea. You can do other things like place more toward the right or left side, or even in the middle of the board. Some synergies also make it so you want to place your units close together or further apart.
To learn more about how to place your units and the fundamental concepts for doing so, check out our TFT positioning guide.
How to Combine Items and Who to Give Them To
Throughout the article, we’ve mentioned that you could get items from the carousel or monster rounds but we haven’t really covered what they’re for and how to use them. In this section, we’ll finally discuss how to best use them and why you should prioritize certain items over others – here are the main things you need to know:
- Every unit can hold a maximum of three items.
- Granting a unit an item is permanent. In order to move an item to another unit, you’ll have to sell the unit currently holding the item.
- There are two types of items, basic and combined. Giving a unit two basic items will create a combined item.
- In general, you’ll want to use items to augment the strengths of your team comp.
Items do everything from granting basic stats like health and attack speed to breaking the game by letting you exceed the max number of units. Having the right items on the right units will strongly increase your chances of winning, especially against teams that don’t use their items as well.
Similar to the positioning section, we’ll cover three different examples of items and who they’re best on:
Example #1: Guinsoo’s Rageblade on Tristana (empowering auto-attackers)
Guinsoo’s Rageblade grants its wearer 5% additional attack speed every time they attack, and it stacks infinitely. This means that they’ll attack faster and faster the longer a battle goes.
This is especially powerful on Tristana because her ability increases her attack speed. This allows her to attack more and more as the fight goes on, making her attack extremely fast.
Example#2: Spear of Shojin on Sejuani (cast abilities more often)
If it wasn’t apparent by now, abilities are game-changers in TFT. As we mentioned in the positioning section, getting one ultimate off is usually seen as a success. Spear of Shojin allows its wielder to cast their ability more often because they gain 8 mana per attack.
This is insane on champions that have really powerful ultimates, such as Sejuani, whose ability stuns and damages all enemies within a huge area. With Shojin, Sejuani can potentially cast many times in a fight, assuming she stays alive long enough to do so.
Example #3: Frozen Heart on Pyke (utility aura)
Frozen Heart slows the attack speed of all enemies that are surrounding them in adjacent spaces. This makes an impact because slower attack speed means that champions will get their abilities at a slower rate.
Pyke is an Assassin that is able to jump to the enemy backline. This means that with Frozen Heart, Pyke can jump toward the enemy backline and slow their attack speed. This is will be powerful against enemies who attack a lot like Sharpshooters.
Item Tier List and Recommendations for Every Champion
Items are one of the trickiest aspects of TFT to get the hang of. Since you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to try them all out to see how they feel and work. To make the process easier, however, we strongly recommend checking out our TFT items tool.
We not only give you all the recipes for combined items, but we also tell you which champions each item is best for and rank them according to their tier. By following our recommendations there, we guarantee you’ll learn at a faster rate and see your success increase in your matches.
Common Beginner Questions
Lastly, we want to try to answer some questions we see often from beginners. As a disclaimer, know that Teamfight Tactics is a very situational game so we will do our best to give the most accurate answers possible, but things may be different for you based on the context and skill level of players in your matches.
Should I spend gold early and try to see which units I can get the most of or should I save?
Definitely check out the guide we linked in the economy section above. We cover three main strategies that will help you with the decisionmaking process related to spending to find upgrades or saving up.
In general, if you’re looking to maintain a win streak, it may be more worth it to look for upgrades to continue to snowball. Keep in mind, however, how realistic your odds are.
If you aren’t winning early on, it’s probably more beneficial to save up, as long as you aren’t getting completely destroyed and losing tons of HP. If you’re able to get a lose streak while staying healthy, you’ll be in a position to not only max interest but also be in a good spot at carousel rounds.
Which champions are strong when?
This is leaning towards a more advanced concept called “power spikes”, which if you’re a League player, you may be familiar with.
In a nutshell, it means that most pieces have a point in time where they are designed to be strongest, and times where they’re expected to not be good or fall off.
In general, attack speed is better early game, and raw burst is better later game. Single target abilities are better early game, AoE abilities are better late game.
I’ll give an example. In the early game, Nidalee can be very strong – since there are less pieces on the board, she can execute an important enemy with her Spear. In the late game, her spear is less likely to hit an enemy carry, making her ability less powerful.
Should I give my tanks items or my back line?
In general, offensive statted ones are better on your carries and damage dealers while survivability items are better for tanks. Utility items like Zeke’s Herald tend to crossover between both types of units.
Where do I position my units? Why do some people have all their units on the left side, others on the right, and others in the middle?
Positioning your own units depends on your team comp and the units you have, be sure to follow the guidelines we gave in the positioning section above.
In regards to other players, they are in different places because they are trying to find the ideal placements for their team against the rest of the competition.
Sometimes little tweaks here and there make a difference, and as the games wind down and the number of players decreases, positioning becomes even more important.
Does what I pick matter in the first carousel?
You can definitely still win with basically any unit as your first (especially since they’re low cost and not punishing to just sell and replace), but you can get a strong start if you manage to grab a contested item that is strong in the current meta.
Should I hold onto my items or use them ASAP?
In a nutshell, you want to try to get the ideal items on your ideal champions. If it’s the early to mid game and you still have time to find these, it may be better to hold on and wait instead of combining for weaker items.
If it’s the late game, however, and you’re close to dying but still have basic items sitting on your bench, it may be your best bet to fight for survival using the combined items they can create.
Remember that item combinations are permanent and there’s no way to get an item back without selling the unit holding it. Another good tip is to use a 1 cost unit to create a combined item on and then sell it, that way you don’t have to worry about accidentally combining with a basic item that your carry was holding onto.
Thanks for reading! Let us know how you liked the article and if we didn’t answer one of your beginner questions, please ask in the comments below and we’ll add it to the Q&A section.