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League Economy: Understanding the Difference Between Utility, Value, and Worth

Hamcelot

Hamcelot

Wed 23rd Oct 2019 - 8:44pm

Far be it from me to criticize the competency of the average League of Legends player, but I must admit in recent games I’ve been noticing that most players lack a thorough understanding of a very important and pivotal concept to competitive play. Most players suffer from not knowing the difference between utility, worth, or value. To be fair, it’s not like someone is writing articles to explain these concepts to the average player, until today. I have found through the course of several years this to be one of the single greatest improvements that has elevated my gameplay to a whole new level. Whether you’re working to climb into Challenger or duking it out in the catacombs of Iron there are certain laws that govern the world of Runeterra and you’d be wise to heed them.

Law of Diminishing Utility 

In microeconomics, the law of diminishing utility states that, when all else is equal, as consumption of a unit increases the marginal benefit or happiness gained from each additional unit decreases and League is no exception to this rule. Although we do not concern ourselves with happiness the marginal benefit is something to consider, ever heard the term “glass cannon?” For those of us who have, we know all too well the feeling of building purely attack damage stats only to be blown up by a single crowd control ability. For those of you who have had the pleasure of never knowing such despair, check out this play by Ruler in the 2017 Worlds Championship Finals match that left Faker, a.k.a. the Unkillable Demon King, worse for wear.

I’m not criticizing Faker for his build but, if you consider that the entire ensuing teamfight hinged off of Ruler landing his Chains of Corruption onto the Quicksilver Sash-less Faker, the gold necessary to purchase the item seems infinitesimally smaller than what it cost him. To be a more well-rounded and impactful player, you have to understand your utility, value, and worth to the team.

It a Farmer’s Market

When I speak about worth, in short what I am asking is how much are you worth? Not YOU specifically, I’m talking about your build. Are you farming well? Are you buying gold efficient items? These are the questions you should be asking yourself constantly throughout each match and I’m going to tell you how.

Information leaked from a completely unreliable (non-existent) source, Riot Games originally considered calling League of Legends Farm Simulator 2009. Joking aside, farming is one of the most important ways to increase your value to your team. Your ability to farm directly impacts your level, gold, and even minions. This is the reason why the most elite players have such low death counts, partially due to their skills but equally as much due to their understanding of the importance of farming.

Consider this, killing a champion grants experience to the tune of 90 + (50 x slain champion’s current level). While last hitting minions grant roughly 29, 59, and 92 experience points each for caster, melee, and cannon minions respectively. A single wave contains anywhere from 264 to 356 experience points. You’d have to kill a level 4 to 5 champion in order to gain that much experience. Furthermore, the gold rewarded from taking down an enemy champion is 300 gold while the average minion wave gives anywhere from 125 to 195 gold depending on how far into the game you’ve played. Don’t fret about early game difficulties or mistakes because the longer the game goes the more important those tugboat looking creeps become.

In short, killing a champion in the early levels at the expense of a wave or two of minions is financially a loss. Additionally, the loss of experience means that you are truncating your lead over your opponent. Generally, I follow the rule that every champion kill is worth about 12 minions, so if you are sacrificing two waves of minions in order to get a kill it isn’t worth the trade. Your goal should be to maintain your lane presence and farming rather than succumbing to ‘Lee Syndrome.’

Buyer’s Remorse

Possibly the single greatest thing Riot Games has given us is the ‘Undo’ button in the item shop, but let’s try to avoid using that crutch too much. It is there to assist in accidental buys but it won’t help with buyer’s remorse once you step that pretty little foot of yours off the fountain. And with all of your hard-earned gold that you amassed from farming minions (and champions when necessary), you want to make sure you are making the soundest investment into your items. It’s easy to fall pray to the, ‘I’ll just stick around for one more wave, what’s the worst that could happen?’ logic but let me be the first to tell you it usually isn’t worth it.

The topic of the day is gold efficiency. A concept that much to my chagrin, I only truly understood more recently in my League of Legends history.  To give an example of gold efficacy, let’s consider the pricing of a Long Sword, Pickaxe, and B.F. Sword. Backing to buy a Long Sword versus staying in lane to amass enough gold for a Pickaxe yields no better use of your gold because you are still spending 35 gold per 1 point of attack damage gained. However, if you can remain in lane long enough to save 1300 gold for a B.F. Sword you are spending 32.5 gold per attack damage gained, giving you more bang for your buck. Conversely being forced to back early isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you optimize your purchases by buying the most gold efficient item rather than the highest costing item. I am not an ADC main but rarely will I ever back to buy a Pickaxe unless my first item is going to be an Infinity Edge, more often than not I will grab a Long Sword and pots for better sustain in lane in order to farm until 1300 for a B.F. Sword. 

Image courtesy of: https://leagueoflegends.fandom.com/wiki/Gold_efficiency#AD

Here’s a financial break down of how I purchase items:
350 – 450 gold: Long Sword, and two Potions Health Potions
450 – 925 gold: Long Sword, Control Ward, and two or three Health Potions
925 – 1300 gold: Pickaxe, Control Ward, and two Health Potions
1300 and above: B.F. Sword, Control Ward, and two Health Potions (if possible)

It would be my advice that before you hop into your next game, familiarize yourself with the relative cost of stats for each base stat (i.e. attack damage, magic damage, magic resist, armor, and health) and remember to constantly evaluate your purchase when backing. There’s no shame in creating a spreadsheet and printing it out to keep the values handy! That’s what I did.

Was It Really Worth It?

Picture this, there’s a 10/0/0 Master Yi running at you with his Conqueror passive activated and his Guinsoo's Rageblade fully stacked. He’s going to hit you harder than Bowser with a Homerun Bat and faster than the speed of light. Scary thought, isn’t it? But what is his value to his team? Sure, he probably has a lot of gold and is worth a lot. His value though is something completely different and this is the reason we rarely, if ever, see Master Yi in competitive play at the highest levels. Master Yi’s value is that of a Death Sentence from Thresh or a Headbutt/Pulverize combo from Alistar.

Something lower tier players don’t completely grasp about the game of League of Legends is the value of each champion. A champion that has a higher damage potential than another doesn’t automatically make them a better or stronger pick that another. Consider Draven who is one of, if not the, highest per auto damaging ADCs in the game and yet he isn’t a must pick-or-ban champion in the professional League of Legends scene. It’s because he offers so little to the team outside of damage and requires so many resources to keep alive. Your value to your team extends beyond how fast you can kill the enemy, it also includes what can you prevent the enemy team from accomplishing. If you can prevent them from sieging under threat for an engage or you can clear waves safely behind your tank line or even something as simple as preventing their carries from getting free damage across your team. Your value to your team is not tied to your worth or utility and you should always consider what you can offer your team, even if it’s just being a meat shield for damage.

Conclusion (TL;DR)

For those of you that have made it this far or simply skipped to the end, I’ll try to summarize this post as simply as possible. In a game as complex as League of Legends you must always remember that your utility, value and worth to your team are as important as the damage or amount of kills you have in a game. Your champion’s innate abilities, even at their base values can still offer an immense amount of opportunity to your team and you should never let your KDA ration dictate how you play. Strive to be the most economic player and you will become the most valuable player, because at the end of the day a Rocket Grab from an 0/10/0 Blitzcrank is just as deadly as one from a 10/0/0 one as long as it hits the right target. Never associate your worth to your value, and your utility is how you express your value and worth within a match.

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