#52 | agt00 – The art of economy in competitive games

Hi, I’m creating a new category called “agt” for applied game theory. These articles will mostly be in my opinion a lot of thinking and figuring things out rather than learning something from a source. Today the subject will be economy in competitive games.


What do I mean by economy?

The economy could mean a lot of things, each time you use a resource it could be linked to an economy you have to manage. Knowing if the enemies have ult and how much time they need to get new ones. It could also be an unit you have to spare if you want to win the game, and so on. I won’t talk too much about stamina and patience even if I could’ve added them to the list of things related to economy, knowing your limits is another important subject I’ll maybe talk about later on. I think general economy is the most important aspect of any game.


Case #1:  Smash 4

In fighting games in general there are generally not a lot of economy involved, except for games with super moves (Dragon Ball FighterZ, Street Fighter, …). I will divide the game into two category, general economy of the game and character specific ones.

General economy

  • Landing lag: A landing lag is the recovery time necessary for a move to finish when you throw it from the air while touching the ground before the move finishes. The most straightforward way to manage landing lag as an attacker is to either don’t activate it (for example by using auto-cancel or launching moves in the air without touching the ground) or learn to space correctly your character while taking into consideration the hitstun involved in your move on shield, the landing lag as well as the movement speed and moveset starting frames of your opponent. As a defender, you should know your speed and at which distance you can punish and in how much time, with that in mind you’ll be able to punish a landing lag consistently.
  • Shield: Shield economy is something you’ll rarely have to manage since the shield recovery is so fast in Smash 4, but it is something you’ll have to keep in mind. Don’t forget that some characters have move that ticks a lot of shield (Marth’s neutral B, Jigglypuff side-b, Yoshi’s down-b and so on). If you play against a character with a shield breaker move, you should take your shield into consideration before doing a move, or be really confident in your perfect shield abilities.
  • Time: The general competitive rule while writing this post is 2 stock and 6 minutes. During this time don’t forget that a timeout could occur, if there is only one minute and you have a lengthy advantage you shouldn’t take too much risk as the opponent will have to engage onto you and potentially make mistakes. I don’t generally endorse campy play-styles, but if it allows you to win a tournament game, there’s no shame on playing the clock.
  • Center stage control and general position: This one is a subject I’m not too confident talking about since when I play I don’t really think about it too much but I really think I should. Having center stage control on a game relying on knocking out your opponent out of the stage is a big advantage. It allows you to punish recovery, pushing the opponent of the stage and so on. The economy aspect of this point rely on the fact that you should always keep in mind of it is worth it to waste your control of the stage for throwing a move.
  • Double jump: Double jump is another very important aspect of smash. Either it is while using it offstage, forcing a linear recovery, or doing it above someone else, meaning a character will either have to land, air dodge or throw an unsafe up-b to mixup his landing. One thing you should keep in mind is always to see when an opponent uses his double jump so you can punish that accordingly.


Character-specific economy:

  • Rosalina: This one is pretty obvious, when facing Rosalina you have to keep in mind the percentage to kill Luma, which is 52%, you’ll also have to keep in mind the time necessary for Rosalina to recover Luma, which is 13 seconds. Knowing that you could throw a more risky move knowing it will kill Luma and playing more aggressively while Luma is dead during the respawn time.
  • Wario: There are two economy aspect you’ll have to keep in mind for Wario, a variable time on Waft (variable because it can eat bikes and so on to lower the time for getting the waft) as well as the bike, which is more of a positional economy. If Wario uses his bike and it is on the stage, you know he won’t be able to recover that easy off-stage. Generally Wario mains won’t put the bike on the stage except to cover recovery options or extend waft hitstun/box with it. The bike will despawn itself after 22 seconds. To charge the half-waft Wario has to wait 1 minute, for the full waft it is 1 minute and 45 seconds.
  • Robin: Robin is another character with economy involved, mostly on all of his smash moves and his b moves. Levin sword is used when Robin is using a smash move and have a durability of 8 points, with a recovery time of 6 seconds minus 3 per KO. Thunder has a durability of 20 points (where Thunder uses 1pts, Elthunder uses 3 pts, Arcthunder 5 pts and finally Thoron uses 8pts) and has a recovery time of 10 seconds minus 1.5 per KO. Arcfire has a durability of 6 points, each jab move or side-b attack will use one point each and the recovery time is 10 seconds, minus 1 per KO. Elwind has a durability of 18 points and uses 2 durability points for his recovery while his neutral jab infinite uses 1 per second, it has a recovery time of 6 seconds minus 1 per KO. Nosferatu has 4 durability points and will respawn after 40 seconds, minus 1 seconds per KO. With that information, you’ll have, as hard as it may sound, to keep in mind these durability point as you could get hit by the tome thrown when a move gets depleted, you could also change your play-style depending on available moves (knowing you won’t get blocked in a elthunder or a side-b can be beneficial for example)
  • Little Mac: Little mac has a charge meter you have to keep in mind, it is fully charged after him dealing 333% or dealing 100% to him. This move is unblockable and kill very early so you have to be careful when Little mac have that move.
  • Diddy Kong: Another character with an important item is Diddy Kong, do not forget that in Smash 4, if it is on the terrain or in your hand, Diddy won’t be able to spawn another banana. Banana gives a lot of stage control to Diddy Kong and should never be underestimated. When Diddy Kong has a banana in hand, don’t forget he won’t be able to grab you as well, so shield should be a strong option against banana.
  • Cloud: Cloud is a pain and for a good reason, his limit break gets charged passively as well as with every move you throw at him, and as a bonus he also can charge it actively with his down-b. When he has his limit you should play more passive since he can kill you so early while staying safe. Generally when you see a cloud with his limit break, trying to throw him offstage to force a recovery with his up-b to waste his limit is a good option. It takes 100% to charge his limit without him using the charge, or him dealing 250% damage.
  • Shulk: Each neutral B buffs will last 16 seconds and have a recovery time of 10 seconds. This information can be useful when facing Shulk since he will heavily rely on his Monado Arts at some point of the match, when stalling with Shield or trying to kill with Smash. Knowing that you could time his shield to kill him exactly when it gets depleted.
  • Villager: A character with a lot of weird mechanics but some kind of economy. He can only throw one side-b at a time, so by jumping over the Lloyd rocket you shouldn’t be punished by attacking him and accidentally hitting a rocket. The most obvious move you have to keep track of is his down-b allowing to grow a tree. When the tree is on the terrain it allows him to have a strong recovery coverage and possibly frame-trap options, having the sapling and pouring a little bit of water versus having to grow it from the start makes a lot of difference as well as the first situation can be used from Villager to punish options faster.
  • Bowser and DK: These characters can grab to KO you at specific percents and you should absolutely know the percents at which you are vulnerable to adapt your gameplay around that variable. If you are in the killing range, you could even try to take some percentages to avoid being in “grab to KO percents”. Rage is also a mechanic to keep in mind, so the science won’t always be exact but knowing the percentage is a good start.


Case #2: League of Legends

In a MOBA, it is a lot more easier to assess what is the economy of the game you’ll have to keep track of to gain an advantage over your opponent. Here’s a quick list:

  • Cooldowns: This one is the obvious one but every move has a set cooldown, simple moves such as Q, W or E as well as ultimates and summoner’s spells. Keeping track of your and opponent’s cooldowns is a vital aspect to be competitive. Having your ultimate when an important fight (Drake or Baron) happens is crucial.
  • Objective Timers: Now it is done automatically but keeping track of the objective timers, such as the opponent’s jungle buffs, Drake or Baron is really important. It will allow you to prepare the objective, setting up wards, keeping ultimates, trying to force a fight before to pick a character and gain the number advantages and so on.
  • Ward Timers: This one is pretty straight forward but I have the impression that it is something that people are doing less and less. Keeping track of wards presence and timers is really important, mostly for a gank since it will allow your ganker to gank at the exact time when the ward despawn. A trinket ward has a timer of 60 to 120 seconds depending on the level. A normal ward from support items has a timer of 150 seconds. Control and Farsight wards don’t have timer anymore.
  • Gold: Who wouldn’t talk about gold when speaking about economy ? Gold economy is obviously important. Knowing how much item a character can buy, or backing at the correct time without hoarding too much money. If an opponent didn’t back to the base for a long time but got the advantage on kills, don’t forget you can still win if he gets greedy on his back.
  • Level: Another thing to keep track of, even if it is pretty obvious, is the level. Having a level advantage in League of Legends is huge and should not be underestimated.
  • Wave Control: Knowing how much creep you have and how the lane will push will make the difference between a Gold team and a Diamond team, it could also help you during the laning phase to avoid pushing too long a lane and getting ganked because you are too close from their tower.
  • Death timers: When killing an enemy, even if it is a simple concept, do not forget you have the advantage in number and it will unlock a lot of options which would be unsafe before (going for objectives, starting a teamfight and so on)


What did I learn today?

Thanks for reading !

  • Thinking about economy in the context of Smash and League of Legends
  • Getting to know ward timers in LoL
  • Learning Rosalina cooldowns on Luma and Luma HP
  • Knowing Wario’s waft charge timer
  • Robin charge system (even if I probably won’t remember it)

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