TFT Early Game Essentials [Part 1/3] – TFT Guide

I’m so happy to release the first part of my TFT Early Game Guide. The most intriguing part about the early game in Teamfight Tactics is that you can play extremely similarly to the top ranked players. Everyone starts the same at carousel, and the first few neutral rounds are very straightforward. It is only once the PvP rounds start where things start to get tricky. Furthermore, early game principles are not patch dependent, so this should improve your play for the rest of your TFT career!

The early game is critical for dictating how you will play the rest of the game. A good start means that you can decide to fight for Top 4. A great start means you need to figure out the best way to win the game. In the case of a bad start, you will need to decide if you can lose streak and salvage the game or just try to not get 8th.

Luckily, the early game is also easy to learn and straightforward once you know the basics. After that, you will just need to make sure that you apply all the principles to every game.

I will begin by detailing how to play the first Carousel and Stage 1. Stage 1 is played very similarly regardless of whether you are trying to win streak, lose streak, or just waiting to see what you draw.

After reading this guide, you will be able to optimize your early game play. Part 2 and 3 will be an early game TFT guide on how to play with strong and weak starts!

Video Guide if you prefer watching:

Carousel – Always have a plan for the Early Game

So it begins… the game loads after a long loading screen. Perhaps someone forgot to feed the hamster that powers their entire neighborhood… whatever the case, you see someone AFK once the golden ring appears with champions slowly circling around.

If you haven’t already, you will need to have an item priority for first carousel. This is based either on what is objectively the best for today’s patch or personal preference. For example, if you only play certain compositions, you might not need the most contested item and can guarantee solid starts for yourself by getting a different item off the first carousel. If you do not have an item priority, I cannot stress enough that you need to head on over to the Meta Snapshot and check out my item priority for the current patch.

Once you have your item priority in order, it’s time to talk about the Neutral Rounds.

Stage 1 – Neutral Rounds

This is where we have to start making some decisions. You will need to identify strong early game units–this changes every patch, so you will need to learn and keep up with these champions. However, here are some guidelines and characteristics on what makes a champion strong early game.

  • Ability to transition into the strong meta compositions. For example, if Infernos are strong, Diana and Zyra would be fantastic units to try to 2* early in the game.
  • Abuse of strong early game synergy. For example, Druid synergy is very strong early game because it heals the units by a high flat amount, which is strong early, but weak late game.
  • Strong item holder. This means that the champion is the perfect fit for strong early game items OR it can effectively hold late game items. For example, if Morellonomicon is a strong item, a good item holder is a champion with an Area of Effect ability.
  • Champions that are part of strong compositions. Sometimes you can just pick up champions that are in the meta compositions and see if you can commit to the composition early by keeping and playing them. For example, is Kindred is strong, you can just play her right away!

Keep these characteristics in mind when buying and selling champions during Stage 1.

1-1

In 1-1, you do not need to do anything. Play your Carousel unit and be done with it. If there is a Mountain tile, put the unit on that square.

1-2

The first shop comes with 5 units–all costing 1 gold. You will want to buy most if not all of these units. If you got gold during 1-1, you can buy all of these units without selling your carousel unit. However, in 95% of cases, you will sell your unit that you got from Carousel. It is really rare that you both get the item that you want AND it has a unit that can use the item. You generally want to sell the unit to get 2 gold and buy more 1 cost units. This increases the chance for getting a 2 star unit, which vastly overpowers your opponents.

If you did not get gold during 1-1, sell your Carousel unit and buy the entire shop. You should have 3 gold from passive income, which allows you to buy 5 units after selling.

Place the units that you want to keep the most on the battlefield. If you happen to get a lot of gold drops during the round, you will want to sell low priority units to get interest gold. Interest gold occurs when you have multiples of 10 gold. You will gain 1 gold per multiple of 10 with a limit of 5 gold per round. For example, if you have 20 gold, you will get 2 extra gold.

As an alternative to all of the previous paragraphs, you can play champions that can SOLO the round and increase your chances of reaching 10 gold. I generally only do this when there is nothing strong to buy in my shop. A few champions that can solo this round are Nasus and Renekton. Diana needs to be placed on the bottom right corner to solo. Vladimir can sometimes solo this round due to fight RNG (I do not think it is worth the risk to play him).

1-3

At this point you will want to be at 10 gold OR have a bunch of 2* units or some 3 costs that are critical to the meta compositions. This stage is the same as 1-2, you will want to play the units that you would like to keep the most and leave the rest on your bench. If a lot of gold drops, sell off low tier units to make interest gold.

TFT Early Game Planning for Stage 2

There are 3 resources in Teamfight Tactics. Your Health, Gold, and Items. You protect your health with your board (units that you play). Items directly enhance your board, while gold can give you a higher chance of strengthening your board. The players who balance these 3 resources the best are Challenger. Be cognizant of your usage of these 3 resources during Stage 2 to optimize your play.

Stage 2 – Let the Games Begin

PvP starts. Hopefully you have some 2* units already with great items that you can complete. Maybe you do not, but you have strong early game synergies instead. Sometimes you will have 20 gold but a weak team. Regardless of what you have, you will have to start making some decisions.

To get a better grasp of these decisions, we will want to align them with a goal. My goal is to get the highest rank that I can, and to do that, I will need to get the best placements possible every game based on my draws or luck. In order to get the best possible placement, I will need to see what the most likely outcome is for my ‘starting hand’. Hopefully, you will have at least one of the following:

  • A few 2* units that have some synergy
  • Great items (this is highly meta dependent, refer to Meta Snapshot Item Quadrant and look at Versatile items)
  • A lot of gold (~20)
  • Fantastic 2 or 3 cost units that you can start building an S tier composition with

If you have one of the above, you can go ahead and plan to either Win Streak or Lose Streak. Streaking is important because it gives extra gold. You ideally never want to alternate wins and losses.

2-1 First PvP Round

Whenever you get a strong start, it’s best to start winning right away. If you have 20 gold, an uninteresting shop, and items that are unappealing, you may want to start exploring a lose streak. If you are unsure or your start cannot guarantee a win or a loss, you try to protect your health as much as possible without committing many resources.

How to Use Gold

Check your shop. See what champions you would like to play this round or want to hold onto for the future.

If you have a lot of 1 cost units at 2*, you will likely want to level up. At this stage, you are Level 3 at 2/6 experience. Spending 4 gold puts you at Level 4 which gives you access to stronger units in the shop and an extra unit slot. Be careful though! Leveling up makes it more difficult to access 1 cost units. Since we already have upgraded 1 cost units, you do not need to worry about having a lower amount of 1 cost units in the shop.

If you do not have many units at 2*, do not have the strong transition units at 2*, or do not have upgraded units with relevant synergies, do not level up. You do not want to commit resources to protecting your health quite yet since you are unsure of how the game will unfold.

What to do with Your Board

Next, you will need to deploy your team. You have 3 or 4 slots available depending on your level. You will need to pick the best synergies for your composition. These generally include traits with FLAT stats–whether they are defensive or offensive. For example, Electric (80/250/500 damage) is an example of a flat stat increase, whereas Desert (40%/100% armor reduction) is not. In other words, Desert scales while Electric is static (sorry). Therefore, theoretically Electric is stronger early game and weaker later while Desert is weaker early and is stronger late game.

With these unit slots, you will want to combine as many of these flat trait bonuses as possible while also fielding as many 2* units as you can. Also be sure to have some form of tank and damage diversity from either champions or items. For example, if you have no tank, but have a Locket or Guardian Angel, that is still an acceptable composition. If you have all tanks but a Morellonomicon on an area of effect champion such as 2* Nasus, that is acceptable as well since you have front line from units and damage from items.

Use Your Items

In general, you only want to build items if you want to win OR if you already have a Versatile AND Strong item available to build (refer to Item Quadrant). This is heavily patch dependent, so again, refer to the Item Quadrant.

However, if you have 4 or more item components, you generally want to build at least 1 item. This is because your resources will go to waste if you hold on to them for too long. It is highly unlikely that you will be able to build 4 perfect items from Carousel and future minion loot if you delay completing your 4 idle items. I suggest building a versatile item even if it is suboptimal on certain compositions.

You will also need to identify an Item Holder. Generally this is a 2* unit that has a mid or late game ‘upgrade’ by transitioning into a different unit. For example, if you plan on playing something that includes 2 Wardens, Nasus can turn into a Malphite later, so Nasus can hold all of the early game tank Items.

2-2 Adaptation Needed

If you won your first round, you will need to make a decision by answering this question. “Am I strong enough to win more rounds during this stage?” If you answered no, you will need to defer to transition into building a large economy to stabilize in stage 3. If you answered yes, you may consider starting a streak (More on this in Part 2).

Gold – Let’s Start Getting Ready for Midgame

At this point you generally want to

  • Start saving up gold for interest if possible.
  • Hold onto 3 cost units that are easy to transition into from your composition.
  • Consider playing the 3 cost unit if they synergize particularly well with your board or if they can use an item very effectively.
  • Keep buying strong 1 cost units in your shop to develop a stronger team and get some direction in terms of team compositions.

One other possibility is leveling up to level 4 if you haven’t already. Perhaps it was not quite clear what you were doing in 2-1, but at 2-2, you realize you can start a win streak. If this is the case, you will want to tune in for Part 2 to learn about Win Streaking.

This is also useful if you have no use for gold and value the higher champion drop percentages more (the higher your level, the more access you have to stronger champions). For example, if your 6 or 7 man composition revolves around 3 costs, it is possible to level up at this stage if you already have upgraded 1 cost units that you are looking for.

What to do with Your Board

Follow the same board instructions as Stage 2-1. You will want to just field the strongest team possible by maximizing usage of 2* units and early game synergies.

You will also want to start building a Team Foundation. This involves a main carry and a tank that can transition into stronger units. A great example of this is Vayne as your carry and Nasus as your tank. Vayne can hold your Attack Damage oriented items while Nasus can hold all of your tank and utility based items. Both can transition into stronger units such as Ashe and Taric.

What to do with Your Items

At this point, you may have more direction in what composition you are going. You may put a basic item on a random unit that you know you will 100% sell to get a partial stat boost.

Stage 2-3 and 2-4 Planning for Mid Game

This stage is very similar to 2-2. However, you will definitely want to have at least 10 gold here because you will want to save up to level up to 6 with enough gold to roll in a few rounds. A few tips for this round:

  • Think about what item you would want to complete for Carousel.
    • If you are way ahead of everyone else, you do not need to complete an additional early game item. You can instead build an ‘optimal’ late game item for a composition you are trying to run.
    • If you are low on health, you must try to figure out what item and champion combinations work out best for a mid game recovery. Refer to Meta Snapshot to know which items work with which compositions, or to find what the Versatile items are.
  • This is a decent time to scout since there isn’t too much to do on this stage. Make a list of a few compositions you can transition into based on your starting units and items, and then figure out which will be the least contested after you scouted your lobby. The easiest way to do this is with hotkeys, which you can learn to setup from my hotkey guide.
  • Keep track of how much gold you have BEFORE you get into Carousel. This is useful because you can potentially make interest by selling units during the Carousel round by selling the unit you get from Carousel.

Stage 2-5 and 2-6 Time to Get Rich

At 2-5, you will need to figure out if you can streak. I will go more in depth for win and lose streaking in Parts 2 and 3, but in short, if you have lost the first 3 rounds, you will want to consider not building items and maximizing your economy if possible. Conversely, if you are extremely weak, you may want to still field your strongest team because you will want to lose ‘gracefully.’ If you have won your past few rounds, you will want to level up to 5 and complete items if necessary in order to maintain your streak.

If you are not streaking at all, play passively and wait to see what happens while fielding your strongest team or reaching an interest threshold.

Using your gold

Start picking up units in your shop that are part of Meta Compositions. This would include 3 or 4 cost units. If the composition is S tier, I would hold those units on your bench or play them on your board no matter what. If the 3 or 4 cost unit is in an A tier comp or below, I would generally only hold them if I have a lot of those units and am already committed to the comp, or if it does not cause me to lose interest. However, if I have 27 gold and I have a 3 cost unit in an A tier comp but no other units belonging to that composition, I would sell the unit to reach 30 gold.

What to do with Your Board

3 Options

  • Continue fielding the strongest team possible. Do this if you cannot make an interest threshold.
  • Consider fielding suboptimal units to try to make an interest threshold. An example of this is if you have 28 gold and a 2* one cost unit that does not belong in your future composition, but provides some decent synergy in this next match. Your bench cannot be sold, but you have a 3 cost unit that is part of the composition you are going. Sometimes, it is correct to sell the 2* unit and field your 3 cost unit to reach the 30 gold interest threshold.
  • Continue Loss Streak and lose gracefully.
Items

If you were lucky enough to get a good item from Carousel to complete a leftover item on your bench, go ahead and make it. Save your items if you cannot build anything Strong and Versatile or if you are NOT win streaking.

2-7 Neutral Round

Finally we are back to the neutral round. This round is called Krugs, which are 3 golems that heal to full health after one of them dies. This means that you want high single target damage or a healing reduction item to kill the camps.

The only trick here is to maximize your chances of getting interest gold from the variable gold drops from the neutral camps. One way to do this is to take out units that are not needed for your mid-game composition and put them on your bench–even if they are 2 stars. This allows you to sell them if large amounts of gold drop to reach interest thresholds.

However, please be sure that you are still able to defeat the neutral camp with your slightly weaker composition. Generally, this entails having around 2 upgraded units in a 4 man composition and around 1 upgrade in a 5 man composition. There are a few tricks such as putting an area of effect healer or crowd control in positions to hit multiple golems. You will also want to put your units on one side of the map, generally the right side because the right side has 1 golem. Be careful if you have Assassins, as they jump to the opposite enemy on the map. For example, an Assassin starting in the bottom left corner will jump to the top right. One way to avoid calculating jumps is to have your Assassin in attack range of the golem. This way, they won’t jump at all!

Early Game Recap

Navigating the early game is the easiest part of the game, so you better do it correctly! A well played start means you have more gold for the middle game, which is where most of the action is decided. Having more gold means having more options. More health means that you can try to fight for 1st.

The key takeaways are as follows:

  • Stage 1 is pretty universal for all strategies. You will mainly be looking to complete 2 star units while maximizing interest.
  • Don’t be afraid to build good but not perfect items to win streak. These items are often flat stat or effect items. Also refer to Versatile items in the Item Quadrant as these are likely to fit in meta comps.
  • Prepare for the mid-game by thinking of transitions and scouting. Consider going for an uncontested composition.
  • Try to form any type of streak since this will yield the most gold.
  • Build a Team Foundation with strong, cheap transition units as either your front line or your damage dealers to hold items with.

That is it for now! I will cover Win and Loss streaking next! These two strategies are great for maximizing good starts and recovering from bad ones!

If you would want to watch exactly how I play the early game, catch my stream at https://twitch.tv/bunnymuffinslol.

Part 2 and 3 will cover how to play strong and weak early games, so lookout for those in the coming weeks!

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