A pocket guide to Valorant economy

Joseph Edwards
9 min readApr 23, 2020

Update 2021: https://joejedwards.medium.com/a-pocket-guide-to-valorant-economy-updated-for-2021-e5e9a739c0a2

Update 08/05: A couple of people have asked me for basically a tl;dr version of this; would still advise reading the whole piece in order to understand some of the finer points, but I made a few Tweets to serve as a cliffsnotes version.

This piece is following up on a number of notes I wrote last week discussing economy in Valorant. That piece was more of an exploration than anything else; this is intended to be tighter, and help people understand the concepts I was talking about before on a more functional level.

STARTING CONCEPTS

Reiterating mostly what I said in the original piece here, though there’s a couple of extra bits. Anyway, main thing here is this is all framed in terms of guaranteed income, because while this is aimed to be useful personally, a) it will also tell you what your teammates can do at a glance, b) my principal concern is always organised play and team-wide buys. Win income is $3000/$3000/$3000, loss income is $1900/$2400/$2900. (Kill bonus is $200 and plant bonus is $300 if you weren’t aware, but we never count on either of those going through)

From there, framing things in terms of the following buys:

* $3900: Rifle (Phantom/Vandal) & Heavy Shields
* $2000: SMG (Spectre) & Light Shields
* $0: Eco
* $4900: Sniper (Operator) & Light Shields
* $1500: Scout (Marshal) & Light Shields

Low-tier buys are sub-$1500 guns, usually without shields; ‘low-tier’ of course doesn’t imply ‘completely unusable’, but clearly all the guns in that range have significant limitations (and there’s very little wiggle room for incorporating buys of them as anything other than a full-blooded commitment in early rounds).

Previous piece outlines why LS over HS on SMG buys in particular — in brief, you want HS if you can get it, but assuming they hit their shots, on paper 150 health will rarely save you if 125 health didn’t, Valorant doesn’t have the helmet considerations that CS:GO has which drive you to always get the equivalent of HS there, and the extra $600 makes a huge difference in early round builds. You absolutely want HS where possible, but it’s not a necessary part of light buys like it often is in CS:GO in my view.

I’m laying this out in terms of what amount you can spend down to in order to get certain buys in future rounds. So, for instance, in round 1, I enter the round with $800. I spend down to $100 — in other words, I actually spend $700, and leave $100 in the bank going into the round. This gives you a lot more flexibility than you might otherwise have. I have also tried to give an indication of what your guaranteed buy is going to look like on most rounds.

ROUND 1

For small builds, easy to conceptualise — if you lose R1 and want rifles R3, you have $1200 (plus any plant or kill gold) to play with across the first two rounds. Some discussion on this in the other article, but this is pretty intuitive.

Apart from that, main thing: if you leave $100 unspent, you’ll have enough for a SMG buy on R2. Remember: this is a true force-buy and there is pretty much no way that it doesn’t force you to full eco R3 if it fails (dropping you, in all likelihood, to 0–3), and the enemy will 100% know it’s an option from glancing at your econ pre-round, so…I’m looking forward to seeing it in competitive over and over.

ROUND 2

Win R1 -> Lose R2 is usually locked into ecoing anyway, so you’re normally just saving enough here to switch out SMGs if feels necessary on R3.

Losing side from R1 is limited basically to a naked Stinger/naked Marshal buy or similar unless you want to force, but you will get a full reset with snipers on R4 if you do force.

ROUND 3

WW: Starts getting a bit complicated by this point. The big question here is: do I switch out my SMG for a rifle, and if so, is there any trick I can do economically to blunt the impact of that? Remember that you also want to be upgrading to Heavy Shields at this point (so we are talking a full $3900 buy there even if you lived). I think you mostly have to rebuy if the enemy team’s been disciplined and are all in rifle range themselves, but this ends up being a personal/IGL call; there is no way to blunt the effects of a loss economically though, you’re consigned to close to a full eco if you lose this, so…don’t be cheap.

WL: if you did the generic best buy on R2 here (down to $900), you only have $2800 plus change here and not enough coming in the next round to do much and still have rifles R4; while you will admittedly completely screw their econ if you win, I would probably just take the L and eco most of the time.

LW: full eco on R2 lands you $4900 coming into here, enemy team has to force or eco. Mostly inclined to say: get SMGs and load up on abilities here; it can be tempting to go for rifles, but this is the single most delicate place for you to be in economically in my view, and you are staring deep into the abyss if you end up losing this with rifles.

LL: You should have a rifle buy open to you here and that’s that, there’s no way you’re going to have to do anything but eco on R4 if you lose this anyway. If you did eco properly, you will also be able to fit in a SMG buy and still get rifles R4 if you are confident that a) enemy team won’t be buying rifles b) you can win those matchups.

LATER ROUNDS

Your options after a lost round with a near-empty bank are always the same:

a) Eco that round (keep $1900, receive $2400), rifles R+1.
b) SMGs that round (spend the $1900 + change), eco R+1 (keep $2400, receive $2900), rifles and snipers R+2.

You’ll notice that this is the same basic logic as applied with the opening rounds; either you’re ecoing to get to R3 with rifles, or you’re forcing on R2 and then have to wait until R4.

Note that you likely only have rifles (and the Marshal obviously) in scenario a) ($4300+), while in scenario b), you have access to snipers ($5300+). Suspect this will become a very common bone of contention about ‘how to play the game the right way’.

It’s quicker to check what the game says your ‘next round’ minimum is for this, so: you are guaranteed a rifle buy for the next…rounds if your ‘next round’ minimum is the following:

1 round: $3900 (self-explanatory)
2 rounds: $5400 ($4900 if you lost the last two rounds)
3 rounds: $6400* (note: there is one scenario where this isn’t enough — LWL — and the true guaranteed figure is $6800, but I would realistically still plan around $6400 anyway)

If you run an Operator, it’s $4900/$7400/$9400 (or, in other words, please don’t lose your Operator on consecutive rounds).

For things like bank-building ecos, personal preferred buys (Scout buy is going to be the most common of these obviously), etc., there’s no easy substitute here I think, you have to get used to juggling the numbers as you go. Closest is to understand how far you’re essentially taking out of your account when you buy compared to a round win/loss bonus:

You should generally be able to rifle for the majority of rounds from R4 onwards; if you’re not getting that, that’s where you question what you’re doing on cheaper buys and ecos.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q: Who are you again?

A: I’m Strong.

Q: What does Scout (SMGs+100) mean?

A: In those scenarios, and spending down to that limit, you are guaranteed to have $1900 to spend. The Scout buy is $1500, but the SMG buy is $2000, so you’ll need a top-up from a kill or plant. In general, the way I’ve worked in kill/plant gold here is to have you looking at the number you can spend down to (so it gets factored in automatically once you actually have it and you don’t go assuming you’re going to get it), and $100 is not the highest of bars, but felt it was worth mentioning that there will be times where you and/or multiple teammates might not be able to do it.

Q: Guns and shields do not go away every single round.

A: They do not, and if you hold onto them, great, build that personal econ. But what we’re talking about here is essentially setting out a minimal viable product of sorts — baselines where, no matter what, I will be able to get this buy on this round, and I know that my teammates can get the same buy.

Q: The R3 WW scenario would seem to imply that you actually want to go for Heavy Shields after a R1 win, because you might not have to replace them on a win and you have to eco after a loss anyway, so if you keep them, that’s essentially a $400 saving, and that might possibly make a difference on the R3 buy.

A: Even allowing for it being an anti-eco vs an eco, I don’t think you can count on keeping shields on R2 with enough certainty that this would end up being genuinely an +EV move, since if you lose the shields, you’re essentially out an extra $600, and there’s plenty of cheap chip damage out there.

Q: I don’t agree with this assumption you’re making about builds.

A: a) read the longer article for my reasoning on basically everything, b) this is a framework that is possibly going to shift a little as we figure out how the game is played and it’s unlikely to be completely meta-proof, but I would be very surprised if we end up too far away from rifles and rifle buys being central to things in high-level organised play, so.

Q: I don’t like the Spectre/Phantom/Vandal, I prefer X gun [in Y scenario].

A: The other SMGs and Shotguns are cheaper than the Spectre, the other rifles are cheaper than the Phantom/Vandal, so you’re only going to find yourself with a slight excess of money by following these rules rather than falling short. The exception is the Ares, which is $100 more than the Spectre, so you will have to adjust for that if it a) turns out to be good (I think it’s interesting with the wall penetration but I don’t know yet) and b) you, personally, decide to use it regularly (because it clearly is not designed to both be viable and be a gun 5 people on the same team can use at the same time and if that ends up happening it’s going to get dumpstered). (there is also the Odin technically but for now, no)

Q: The sniper numbers are all wrong and actually I want to buy like this and-

A: Yes, I’m aware, everyone’s going to have different thoughts on this. Tend to think best practice is far more variable from person to person than with rifle buys, but thought I’d throw in a couple of baseline figures anyway. Realistically: if you’re a sniper, you need to get better at managing your personal economy than referring to a pseudo-cheat sheet is going to get you anyway. But Operator/Marshal plus Light Shields seems like a decent enough starting point because, again, nothing that I could find is going to kill you in one or two shots from 150 that was not going to kill you from 125, and your team is in theory there to stop you having to get into repeated shotgun and/or pistol duels.

Q: What about abilities?

A: I did have some questions after the first piece re: why I didn’t budget in abilities. Two reasons. 1) The way this is set up means you can incorporate them as you want or need. 2) Even full ability buys aren’t consistent between agents anyway.

Q: Why are the builds in the order that they are?

A: Roughly in the order of what I’d figure best generic practice to be, with sniper builds below.

Q: Why did you only list money for the next round and not the next two rounds?

A: Concession to readability, if you’re making a proper infographic/full ‘cheat sheet’ version of this post then yes, you would probably want that on there, but you’d want a bunch of other things too.

Q: What about X build?

A: There are builds that I think you could probably do in one or both of individual play and organised play that aren’t on that list; I’m just trying to list the most likely scenarios in this case.

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Joseph Edwards

i wear a lot of hats. crypto: Head of Research for Enigma Securities (Bloomberg: NH ENI). esports: coach, LoL 2x LCS champ (TSM 17 TL 18), now Valorant w/ HONK