Opportunity Costs

Welcome back to A Different View; I'm Gentleman Gustaf and today I'll be talking about Opportunity Costs! Too often, I see somebody say 'why wouldn't I want to do X? It's awesome'. One important thing to realize about League of Legends is that any choice isn't just a choice to do that thing, but a choice to NOT do many other things. The way people make decisions in League of Legends often does not account for that, and it can lose you a game.

What is an Opportunity Cost?

An Opportunity Cost is, essentially a sacrifice of anything you COULD have done instead of doing something. This is on top of the actual cost of doing that thing. For example, let's say you're in lane and realize you have 1200 gold. You immediately blue pill, buy Sheen, and walk back to lane. How much did Sheen cost you?

Gentleman Gustaf, Sheen costs 1200 gold. What kind of stupid question is that?

In addition to the 1200 gold Sheen costs you, there are hidden costs to buying Sheen. For example, you COULD have bought any other item costing 1200 gold or less. This is what I (and other people) mean by saying that there is no such thing as a champion being 'viable, but not the best option'. Let's say there are two champions, and one is just better than the other. Sure, you COULD have picked Sejuani as your jungler in Season 2. But you'd be incurring an opportunity cost by doing so, because with your pick, you COULD have gotten Nautilus.  You'll notice that I keep capitalizing 'could'. This is because, in a sense, this is what opportunity costs are about. Yes, what you're doing may make you better off than you are currently. But something else WOULD be better.

But back to the Sheen example, the gold is not the ONLY thing you sacrifice. Time is another common sacrifice. You're not in lane for 30 seconds, so you miss out on a wave or so of experience. Your lane opponent could roam or he could put damage on your tower. He could free-farm, he could get a level advantage on you. On top of that, you miss out on the chance to do all of those things. Don't forget that you now have an item slot filled that can't be filled with other items!

Champion Selection

This is why the meta is (sort of) the way it is: inflexible, about diversity of roles, and hesitant to include new champions. Sure, you might want a second AD Carry. After all, AD Carries are good. But what do you give up? A tank? A bruiser? An AP Carry? You might find that both of your AD Carries are a lot worse without your tank to protect them, or your AP Carry to burst choice targets up (single-target) or soften the team up (AoE). You might love playing Ziggs, and well, a team WITH a Ziggs on it is going to be better than a team without a Ziggs on it. It's just that that same team might benefit MORE from an Anivia. There's nothing wrong with Kennen, for example; he was very strong top in the double AP meta. But when you're only running one AP Carry, well, you're probably going to want Morgana (who comes with a snare and spell-shield). Sure, Fiora's ult is good, but wouldn't you prefer a champion who can do more -- well, anything -- without their ult up? Sure, a melee AD Carry could fill some of the functions of a ranged AD Carry, but how are you going to push down towers against strong wave-clearing?

Item purchases

This is why a lot of items that might SEEM good don't get picked up all that much. Who didn't think about Nashor's Tooth in Season 2? It just gives you so many stats! CDR, AP, AS. The number of amateur guides for Skarner or Cho or Nautilus that got Nashor's Tooth was huge. But the problem is what you give up to get them. They want CDR early, which means you have to rush Nashor's tooth, sacrificing tankiness! On top of that, the CDR it had (25%) was so high that you couldn't really squeeze more CDR into your build easily; Frozen Heart, long a tank staple, will just simply almost always be a better option. In Season 2, most tanks wanted Shurelia's and Frozen Heart, and with CDR from masteries, you were full up on CDR! So if you get Nashor's Tooth, you're giving up a team-wide movement speed buff, or the Frozen Heart passive!

In fact, this is why getting multiple damage items on a melee champion is so risky. Sure, you could do a little more damage, and that's obviously better than nothing. Nobody is saying that getting BotRK on, say, Skarner is BAD, but when you could get a Frozen Heart or a Wit's End or an Aegis instead, well, it starts to seem a little bit silly.

This is also why hybrid items have to be so strong. Because they give stats not everybody can use. Hextech Gunblade or Trinity Force give so many stats that hey might SEEM like good items for anybody, but they cost more than almost any other items, with a thousand gold to spare!

Avoiding Opportunity Costs

  • Even if it's a gold item, don't go back right when you can afford an item; be aware of the map.
  • Push whenever you can (safely): it leaves you free to take advantage of other things (ganking, roaming, buying, while forcing a heavy opportunity cost on your opponent, should he choose to do so.
  • Know enough champions to be able to play what's good while still playing what you know

People get stuck in thinking about what they CAN do. They look at a champion or an item and they say 'WOW, IT DOES X'. But what they should be doing is looking at all the other options, and asking"what beats X?"

If the answer is nothing, by all means, do it. But if not, you have to ask yourself why you're making that choice at all

 For more of my work:

-- Find old posts @ the RoG forums and new posts every Wednesday (3 PM) and Sunday (9 AM).

-- Feel free to find me in the "A DIFFerent View" chatroom on the NA server.
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Gentleman of the Day




  • #60 Cerbereth

    This is so true. I don't know how many times I want to bang my head against the keyboard when someone picks Tryndamere or Fiora. There are so many better toplaners in the game to the point that you should probably never play either of those champions if your goal is to win.

  • #59 jalzter

    Dear Gentleman Gustav,

    I am watching LCS right now, and was wondering how well KDA correlates with wins. Is it as simple as to say that the teams with the highest KDAs are automatically better? Are supports with high KDAs "better" than low KDAs?


  • #53 smokemef4skinandprofit

    Do you get paid to write this?

    Last edited by smokemef4skinandprofit: 4/8/2013 7:54:15 PM
  • #52 PhilNye

    Oh boy, here comes a really long post.

    I want to comment more specifically on the champion selection portion on this article, although my points could possibly be applied to the other parts in the article.

    I like this article from a conceptual glance, but this really steers dangerously close to a stagnant mentality that breeds this putrid cesspool of a mentality: "play champs that are subjectively better or I report u".  From what I've taken from this piece, that's not exclusively what article really is about, to me, I felt it focused on a crucial facet in the though process involving the decision in a given choice (in items, scenarios, and champions), because frankly there are nuances, especially among champions, in a "archetype" or role that make them different/relevant in a certain circumstance/condition (ex. champ A might have a better synergy with the given initiator on his team, even if the other is way better according to current trends).  As long as you have such "incomparables", you can't truly say "identical, but better" for several.champs.  Maybe I am taking this the wrong way, and you are indeed implying that many champions should theoretically never be played as long as generally "superior" options exist because of them being a liability, in which case I strongly disagree.

    Let's take that Kennen v. Morgana example.  Morgana from looking purely at kit, and assessing their traditional matchups, Morgana should look like the more valuable option, according to what you said.  However, if anything, Kennen has been seeing a slight resurgence (albeit in top lane), meanwhile Morgana is still in the mire.  Why?  One arguable reason is because now that AD casters are actually a viable pick, Morgana tends to belly up a bit against most AD casters, whereas Kennen is actually pretty good at dealing with them (in general) because of his emphasis on more constant harass and trade control.  Specific little things like this can make even seemingly inferior picks shine if "the planets align" or the reward is assessed as worth the risk.  However, this means even more careful and deeper assessment in the decision.  Unfortunately, because of the general direction of the article, and how easily it gravitates towards this, it degenerates to this god-awful dogma that we see here:

    Quote from BrotherLaz»

    This is what gets me about people picking ZiggsViktor, Nami etc. No, they are not useless. There is however no reason to pick them, so picking them is intentionally helping the enemy team just to have fun. This is reportable.

    At least if you pick Urgot you may have a plan. Maybe you want to hold the lane while your support roams. Maybe you want to initiate. But why would you pick Ziggs...?

    It's one thing to consider a pick to be inferior, but it's entirely another to justify it as a reportable offense.  It's funny too, because in Asia Ziggs had a FotM period about a month or two ago, and one of LCS' underdog teams worked a Ziggs pick in to a decent amount of success this week.

    People said the same thing for Xerath (I myself had to deal with the "lol Xerath is garbz" backlash quite a bit), but the truth was, he actually had a unique perk that more popular champs of a similar function (like Lux) didn't have, that made him a preferred pick in some circumstances: higher, harder to mitigate, raw burst and strong cohesion with hard AoE engages.  I can name at least a couple of things that Ziggs has that some of the other champs similar to him do not (like how strong a lane bully he is).  Not to mention the article itself is a little wrong to compare Ziggs to Anivia, as both are actually quite different in "archetype", even if they have a lot of similarities (AoE control and sustained sieging utility).  Ziggs is a specific "square" to the Long-ranged AoE family of "rectangles" among the AoE "quadrilateral" mages, but not any old rectangle can exactly take on the attributes of this "square".

    I think a healthier discussion can be made as to when a champion is merely not desired for certain reasons and critically/objectively looking at one for strengths, and when it is truly a fault from champion design.

    Besides, at the end of the day, there's no way you're going to have success with forcing a "cylinder" player through a triangular prism, even if it is the seemingly better option.


    On an whole other note, there are cases where this is actually the case, and this is partially the reason we have the champion reworks we see today, when a champion truly suffers from flawed design, and sometimes it's the case where the champion truly has an inherently weak kit and does not satisfy a function that is needed.  However, there are several champions where they are actually fine, but just undesired.  Otherwise we'd be having plenty more proposed champion reworks from Riot.

    tl;dr It's a decent article, but I definitely don't like the direction it can be taken.

    Last edited by PhilNye: 4/9/2013 9:50:27 PM
  • #49 IntangibleF85

    My favorite mistakes that people make when buying items, You go back and buy straight damage, no regen, no wards because you have just enough money for it. A mid sitting in lane with a fairie charm and a NLR. You didn't finish your cup, cause you wanted damage and be able to destroy.  Maybe you got a kill and have an advantage and want to keep it steam rolling. You go get your blue, which you desperately need cause you have no regent, yet you come back to lane with no wards. You had no wards when you left. The jungler knows this, comes up and destroys you cause you, the other mid takes your blue, negates your advantage and you lose lane.

    Where as if you had finished your cup/tear, bought a blasting wand and bought a ward. You might have lived the gank, then had enough mana to recover and then continue to push your advantage.

    I always see tops do it with a brutalizer/giants belt. And as a jungler I make them pay for it every time. Especially when they come back with a ward, and you are waiting for them to place it and change a 1-0 lane to a 1-2 lane for them. They fall two levels behind and bitch about being camped.

  • #42 RSNdewolff

    Cant RoG hire you twice, and boot hash?

  • #39 CrazedMcCrazy

    Lovely article Gentelman Gustaf, well done.

    By the way, how much of a coincidence is it that just some few weeks after you write an article on tanks needing a cheap Health + CDR item, SotAG loses its armor and gains CDR instead ; )?

    I'd really like to hear your opinion on Skarner and how to build him in S3, if possible. I've just recently become a fan of the scorpion, but unfortunately it seems that it was in the worse possible time. He's weak and I'm far from certain on how to build him. Every game it seems that I always end up being behind and far from tanky enough, while doing negligible damage...

  • #50 GentlemanGustaf

    How much of a coincidence is it that after I wrote about Corki's Passive Critting, Black Cleaver, and BoRK (the other items I've labelled OP), or even Bloodthirster's overly low cost, they were nerfed pretty immediately? Corki's Passive wasn't even discussed in the patch preview (before the article came out) but was nerfed in the notes (after the article came out)

    I like to think that this is a case of correlation, not causation: I realize these things because they're mathematically true, Riot realizes them as well and changes them. But perhaps Riot reads this blog, or perhaps I'm actually Morello!

  • #51 Gameguy301
    Quote from GentlemanGustaf

    I'm actually Morello!

    Last edited by Gameguy301: 4/8/2013 2:52:18 PM
  • #55 CrazedMcCrazy

    Yes, in the case of Black Cleaver, BotRK and even Warmogs it's undeniably correlation. It's so clear it's not worth discussing, as you may agree, and your opinions on those topics were not new to Riot, having been discussed and pointed out by countless players.

    Regarding SotAG, though it is, again, a conclusion that's unavoidably reached for its mathematical truth, there would be nothing wrong or impossible, for that matter, for it to be a consequence of suggestion.

    The point being, yes, by focusing on the issue Riot would eventually reach a solution, but sometimes, as admitted by themselves, they're directed to the solution's path by external suggestions, be it an outcry in the official forums, a popular post on reddit or an article in a blog.

    At least I'd like to think they are indeed open to outer opinions...

  • #56 GentlemanGustaf

    Hmm. You may have a point here. I'm going to try something new with my next few posts :p

    I think another thing worth noting is that when something is overly strong, it's easy to see immediately. When something is just missing entirely, however, it's less notable, and may rely more on somebody pointing out. That is, you can see a billion black cleavers and think 'OP', but if you don't see many tanks, it's a bit harder to see why and propose solutions. So Riot doesn't need help to find the former, but they may to find the latter.

  • #57 Dub_Rio

    Out of curiosity have you ever considered trolling? As in, writing a post that somehow distorts facts and uses fancy graphs (to make it look legit) to support some ridiculous conclusion just to see if people catch the mistake and/or to generate controversy to get attention? (Can you tell Hashinshin is on my mind :p?) 

  • #58 GentlemanGustaf

    For me, it's never going to be about attention; I'm the only RoG author who doesn't advertise on Reddit (I think?), I don't use Twitter, and I only do what I do because I think it's hope for the community. I've considered moving to SMITE, though, as topics for mathcrafting are largely running out in the LoL world.

  • #61 PeregrineBF

    I strongly disagree about the topics running out. The easy topics, sure, but some of the more complex aspects are barely touched on. No one runs genetic algorithms to find better builds, no one does Monte-Carlo simulations to better understand the various random effects, etc.


  • #24 buuuurp

    Bad article.  Makes the assumption that relevant factors of time and space do not exist.  Sure you can make the argument that Nautilus is innately better than Sejuani, but you're ignoring too many conditions making such a blanket statement:

    A. Some champions are better in certain team comps

    B. Some champions are better at different points in the game (time)

    C. Some champions are stronger when positioning correctly (space)

    D. A player's proficiency with a certain champion

     That's why there is such a thing as "viable" but "not the best pick".  You'd have to assume there is a "best pick" for every situation.  Hint: there isn't.


    Also, quit saying your name in every piece you write.  It says your name at the top.  I know you must think it's very clever, but it's really just annoying.  And stop referring to yourself in the third person.  You're not that important.

    Last edited by buuuurp: 4/7/2013 6:27:02 PM
  • #25 blotherman

    You only break down one part of the argument that was a basic example to get a point across in describing opportunity cost and deem the entire article bad.

    I guess you don't like a bit of flavor in your reading either.


  • #26 Dub_Rio

    You completely missed the point... Here this might help: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opportunity_cost

  • #36 DuskSC2

    Then stop reading the articles, especially since you obviously don't understand what he trying to say with his examples. Hint:your a tool

  • #37 GentlemanGustaf

    Let's start with your style point. First, you do realize that that's one of three standard styles of journalistic intros, right?

    "Hi I'm John Smith, and welcome to the Nightly news"

    Sort of like Diff does: http://www.reignofgaming.net/blogs/a-different-view/diff-the-ender/23231-liandrys-torment-is-incredibly-strong

    Also, I don't refer to myself in the third person. If you'll notice, the hypothetical speaker is addressing me directly. This is what we call the second-person, and it's a narrative technique that dates back to Plato in his use of interlocuters with Socrates, typically to supplement an argument by pointing out potential flaws in the argument, only to rebh thaougut them.

    I'm not saying you have to like my style. But if you're going to criticize it, make sure you know something about journalism or narrative first, so you don't look like an idiot.

    As for your point, yes, there are things that can make a champion. But if one champion has strength 9, and another champion has strength 7, but strength 9 when played perfectly, the first champion is just better than the latter champion. People like to bring up player skill as though that were a relevant argument. If you need 50 hours to be as good with Champion y when you only need 5 hours to be as good with Champion X, WHY PLAY CHAMPION Y? Your Opportunity Cost is 45 hours. You could get even better at champion X, or learn another champion.

    Yes, A and B are also true. But I never said they weren't.

  • #38 nicorandomly

    The article is good enough to make a point. The "blanket statement" is quite obvious. And talking about player's proficiency on certain champion, you should always assume 100%

    hahahah, I love the presentation, so, you're not going to say to him what to do.

    ps. He is more important than you.


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