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I see the occasional guide about "How I farm for IPs", and I got to thinking: That's awfully short sighted. Giving into that "immediate gratification" stuff and all. So why not write a guide talking about how to buy/build champions and runes on efficient IP costs.
So some efficiency tips:
I nabbed all of the champions that cost less than 1350 IP and even dip into some of the 1350s (or am in the process of it). I don't play all of them. Why did I buy them? Because I got to try them all for very low cost. Some of them are pretty rockin too. I loves me my Sivir and Nunu is beastly too.
But aside from that, it helps out in ranked. When someone says "hey pick Yi for me" I can say "sure thing buddy" rather than "Sorry, I never picked him up."
I got to try various play-styles. All of that champs in that range give you a wide variety of play options. Annie is an AP carry who focuses on chain casting. Nunu is an exceptional jungler, Ashe is a ranged carry, Yi is a melee carry. Poppy and Nassus are bruisers. Alistair and Amumu are tanks. Kayle and Soraka are both support, Evelyn is a stealther...it's a sufficient variety to let you know what you like playing.
This was all bought pre summoner level 20.
Part way through you must have found a "main" or a couple of "mains". I main'ed Sivir but ended up buying Shen after I tried him out on a free week and now Shen is my main tank. Go ahead and pick up champs that cost more than 1350 as well if you tried them during free week and loved them.
Post summoner level 20, you'll want to start spending IP on runes. Of course. Figure out your mains and rune for them. Once you're done with that and are looking for new champions to play, look for champions that have similar rune sets. This will save you an extreme amount of money.
When I picked up Nunu for jungling I discovered that the same runes were great for Anivia as well when I wanted to learn an AP nuker. Last week, I wanted another tanky character and was messing with Cho-gath...almost identical runes again...awesome. That's thousands of IP I just saved by playing 3 characters with the same rune-set.
But yeah, those are my 2 tricks for saving IP.
1. Buy the inexpensive champions so you can familiarize yourself with the general playstyle. (Yi is very similar to Trynd and Xin...they're all melee carries that play similarly. I'm sure Ashe plays similarly to Cait and MF as well)
2. Buy champions that have the same or similar rune sets.