Playing a perfect game of TFT is nearly impossible. With only 30 seconds per turn, we simply cannot optimally decide what to buy, whether to level up, roll, and how to position–especially on pivotal turns right before large power spikes. With this in mind, it’s also challenging to give general advice because everything is situational. While many games are alike, there are so many unique situations that you simply cannot prepare for. Luckily, in order to climb, you do not need to play perfect TFT, you just have to play better than your opponents.
In this article, I will give you 5 heuristics to simplify your decision making to give you more time to analyze the game and position. What is a heuristic? A heuristic is a problem solving method that uses mental shortcuts to make practical solutions and judgments quickly and efficiently. While heuristics are not guaranteed to be optimal, perfect, or rational, they offer a good enough solution to save time and effort for reaching a goal or approximation. As a human playing TFT and not a computer, heuristics are perfect. While doing a large roll down, we aren’t actually evaluating every single champion in each shop. Instead, we already know which champions are strong in the meta that complements our current board, and we simply focus on those champions. Heuristics allow us to fully utilize our 30 seconds every turn to play a stronger game than all of our opponents.
Heuristic 1 – Clear your bench, clear your mind
The person who coined this phrase is a very high level player named Souless. Essentially what this means is you should only keep units you intend on playing on your bench. A very common mistake people make is buying everything in their shop to ‘optimize’ their rolls. While it is true that buying a unit you do not want will increase the chances of seeing a unit you do want, the actual increase is staggeringly small. Instead, the few seconds you waste buying and selling units you don’t actually need will cost you in the long run because you will either not have enough time to finish all of your rolls and be left with 30 gold when you truly wanted to roll to 0 OR you will find yourself accidentally selling the wrong units on your bench due to time pressure. Clear your bench, clear your mind.
Heuristic 2 – Buy your first Chosen
This one is a bit controversial, but it’s a pattern I’ve noticed all the top challenger players do. In around 80% of cases, they buy the first Chosen unit they see. The reason why this is so strong is because it is a guaranteed 2 star unit for Stage 2, which saves a lot of health over the course of the game. This plays a crucial role in the meta of playing the strongest board. While you may be able to get away with not picking your first Chosen in lower levels, this is essential if you want to play against the best players. Luckily, the game designers are also trying to make every Chosen viable, and have made aggressive changes to support this, so I expect this trend to continue throughout all of Set 4
Heuristic 3 – If you have more than 4 item components, build an item
So normally I recommend always building an item if you have 4 components, but often times I find myself sometimes playing greedily and not doing this. However, if you ever have MORE than 4 item components, you DEFINITELY need to be building an item. In my How to Get to Diamond video, I played games in Bronze, Silver, and Gold, and in all of those games, we saw my opponents having 5 or more unbuilt items in every game. You will rarely see this in Challenger games. If you are having trouble figuring out which item to build, you can always check out my Item Quadrant on my website at bunnymuffins.lol/meta/#items. On the right hand side, I list out which items are the most flexible and versatile, and those are generally the items you build if you don’t know what to build.
Heuristic 4 – Randomize your positioning
Again, our playing strength in TFT is limited by time. If you are doing a big roll down or took too long thinking about what to play, you sometimes do not have time to scout your opponents and create the perfect position your team. If this is the case, randomize your positioning by swapping sides for your carry and tanks. You can also do what’s called fake swap. Both swaps and fake swaps make your positioning unpredictable, which prevents your opponent from outclassing your positioning. Just to clear up any confusion, it is always better to scout and position every turn, but since we don’t always have time to do that, this trick is great to employ for a large percentage of your turns.
Heuristic 5 – Force compositions
Last but not least, forcing compositions is great for simplifying this game. Yes, if we had unlimited time each turn, we would play flexibly because that is the optimal way to play. However, we do not have that luxury, so forcing a composition to avoid any sort of confusion is a great way to climb and get a higher rank. You will never miss a unit you need, you will have more gold due to having more interest gained because you aren’t holding other compositions, and you will almost always have perfect items because you are only going for one or two builds.
Heuristic 6 – Spend all your gold when you are less than 20 life
Nothing is worse than dying with 50 gold on your board. If you are below 20 life, you should be either using all your gold to level up or roll down to 0 in 95% of situations. Unspent gold is useless if you die. Getting interest is useless if you die. It doesn’t matter if you are only looking for 1 unit with 50 gold or if you don’t have anything that great to put in after you level up. When you are on your last life, you need to play like it and protect yourself. I see this mistake being made by a lot of lower players, and in my how to get to diamond video, you will see me point out very often that my opponents died with 50 gold. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, but again, in about 95% of scenarios, you should be spending all of your gold.
Heuristic 7 – Never roll to 0 gold
Whenever you need to do a big roll down, you should almost never go to 0 gold if you are not low life. If you roll to 0 gold, it will be impossible to rebuild your economy. Instead, what you should do is roll down to 10 gold. If you roll down to 0, you will have to take an extra 2 turns to reach 50 gold compared to rolling to 10 gold. Unless you have a ton of pairs, the last 10 gold you roll will most likely be inconsequential.
Heuristic 8 – Roll when you have 4 or more pairs
Lastly, if you have 4 or more pairs, you should probably roll 10 gold. This 10 gold will not hurt your economy, but has a very high chance of strengthening your board. In fact, not rolling ends up costing you more gold in the long term because you have champions that cost money sitting on your bench and not fighting. If you spend a small amount to look for an upgrade, you could allow yourself to get more interest later in the game because you have more health to play with.
Whenever I analyze top players, these are some of the tips and tricks that they employ. Again, these are only heuristics and not absolute truths. Being an expert player is knowing when to deviate from these rules of thumb. Following what I laid out here will easily get you to Masters without any deviations if you have the rest of the fundamental skills for TFT. You can go beyond that too, but you will need to recognize when to deviate from some of these guidelines. Hopefully this article improved your play–I hope to release more of these in the near future.