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).

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Gentleman of the Day

 

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