Hey everyone! Before I get into the article, I’d like to give some background on who I am. I’m AlanLube, and I’ve been playing TFT since it launched on the PBE servers.
I had played Dota Auto Chess before that, and have even played a little bit of Dota Underlords. I have reached Grandmaster in both Set 1 and Set 2 of TFT, and have been watching the meta evolve over the course of the entire game.
TFT has been out for quite some time now, and the game has changed dramatically over time. As the game and the meta evolves, it’s up to the devs to ensure that the game provides a fun and competitive experience for players.
While no set of TFT is perfect, TFT has definitely been improving over time. In this article, I’m going to go over what I think the devs have done a great job of addressing, and give my opinions on a few things I believe can use further improvement.
How Riot balanced the economy
Set 2 had a lot of comps that relied on either hyper rolling or going Fast 8 to look for 5 cost units like Zed, Singed, or Nami. This created an interesting meta where the both the early and to an extent the mid game was less important than it is currently.
In Set 3, there were a few major changes that resulted in an improvement for the game flow. While the game will never reach a “perfect” state, I believe that the game has shown great improvement over time based on the changes Riot has made.
Early in set 3, player damage was definitely a problem. Early game damage was too low, and players could easily force S-tier comps while losing the entire early and mid game.
Since then, we’ve seen much better improvement as Riot tweaked the player damage formulas. This has resulted in a meta where players are more incentivized to play their strongest board throughout the game. Much more skill expression can be shown when every point of HP matters.
However, while these changes are a great improvement, I don’t believe that it is in a perfect state. Lose streaking should ideally be a solid option for when you low roll the early game, but should not be the ideal option every game.
Currently in 10.8, I do believe that a low roll early game can be extremely difficult to come back from. But for the time being, I would rather see a meta where lose streaking is not optimal, even if it can result in some low roll games.
Early Game Gold and Streak Gold
One of the biggest problems in set 2 was the fact that some players were able to get 20 gold before the first PvP round if they got lots of gold from the loot boxes. This led to players building up a strong economy way too fast as a result of pure luck.
With set 3, the variance of early game loot boxes is much lower. While you can still get a good amount of gold, it won’t be as extreme as before.
Combined with the changes to player damage, players are less incentivized to hold onto all of their gold until the late game.
Once again, this creates a better game experience a majority of the time as players need to make decisions throughout the game.
To make up for this loss of early game gold, Riot made up for it by making gold from win and loss streaks higher. This makes early game decision making more important as maintaining a streak can make the difference in every game you play.
This incentivizes more things like scouting which allow players to show their skill throughout the game rather than mainly in the late game.
Once again, while the meta has reached a better point, the lack of early game gold can be quite detrimental as it can lead to low roll games if you aren’t able to buy out the shop early.
Not finding any pairs and losing lots of HP in an aggressive lobby can be quite frustrating. Even so, low roll games are less frequent from my experience and is almost a necessary evil to avoid a stale early game.
Why I love the Champion Design of Set 3
Champion balance definitely has some rough patches, but I do believe there is one thing that the dev team have gotten right. Hyper rolling in set 3 has shown no promise.
Hyper rolling was a strategy that was very common in set 1 and set 2 which revolved around spending all your early gold to hit 3 star units early game. In Set 3, there haven’t been any combinations of 1 and 2 cost units that have shown enough promise to be able to carry a team.
It should also be noted that hyper rolling has also seen no innovation due to the reduction of early game gold from loot boxes. Even so, they’ve done a good job of designing the 1 cost units to avoid an oppressive early game carry.
In Set 1 and 2 of TFT, carries largely consisted of 1, 4, and 5 cost units (With the exception of a few like Kindred from set 2). With set 3, we’ve seen very good variety.
There are slow roll comps that rely on 2 or 3 cost units, like Xin Zhao or Syndra, and there are “regular” comps that use 4 and 5 cost carries like Jhin or Aurelion Sol.
While each patch favors certain carries over others, the amount of variety and potential for exploration was something that was very unique to set 3.
Furthermore, the variation of carries results in different power spikes for players throughout the game, making games feel more unique overall.
The variety of carries are a result of many things like the change in gold income and player damage, but the champion design that has allowed for the variety also plays a major part.
While some players would like to see hyper rolling come back, (so that any cost unit could potentially be a carry), I believe that hyper rolling shows the least amount of skill expression in the game and would prefer it stay out of the meta.
And many more
These are some of the major balance changes I’ve noticed and appreciated, but there are definitely more things that have made set 3 more enjoyable.
Shop odds (probability of finding specific cost units at any level) have been adjusted, galaxies have been added, and lots of items were buffed, nerfed, or reworked.
But even with all of these positive changes, there is definitely one part of TFT that I believe needs more change.
Let me preface this section by first saying that I believe items have been balanced very well over the course of the game’s lifespan. More items are viable and lots of items have niches they fulfill on certain champions.
Even still, I believe that items have the most potential for growth in terms of balancing TFT.
When I first played TFT coming from Dota Auto Chess, one of the very first things I noticed was how item dependent the game is. Most team comps require the right corresponding items to reach their full potential.
Item dependence is not necessarily a bad thing, but I do believe that some items are simply way too powerful compared to other items. As such, team comps and champions are often defined by their capability to use items to their fullest potential.
What do I mean by this? For example, ever since Phantom Dancer was removed, critical damage has been the go to damage item for attack damage carries.
Infinity Edge has become such a defining weapon that a unit like Jhin (who deals massive auto attack damage) has become a monster carry based on his ability to use Infinity Edge.
An even better example would be Guardian Angel, which in my opinion, has been the most powerful item in TFT. Guardian Angel is optimal on almost every comp, and has been this way for a long time.
Obviously with any game, the community will eventually figure out the best items and mainly use those. Some items become stronger from balance changes or from being well utilized by new champions. Considering this, one can argue that there isn’t much to be done other than the usual balance patches to address item problems. However, I think items have the potential to be a much more complex and intriguing system than it currently is.
Expanding the Item System
While I don’t believe the item system needs any immediate improvement, I do believe that it has the most potential for improvement. Items have mostly been optimized by the community, and optimal item combinations are usually quickly figured out when new champions are added.
So how would I improve the system? There are many ideas, but here are a few off the top of my head.
A Disassemble Item
This could be a random drop like Neeko’s Help that allows players to disassemble (and remove) the item components from a champion.
Lots of times, players begin a game with item components that don’t combine into a strong item early game. But with a disassemble item, players could make suboptimal items early and mid game and not be punished late game.
More Item Effects
There are a lot of items in TFT with very unique item effects. Items like Red Buff, Zephyr, and Shroud of Stillness all have very unique effects that create more variety and skill-based gameplay. But I hope to see even more unique effects.
Why not add an item that has a unique type of poison, which deals damage based on range or the amount of enemies the enemy has?
Or even an active item that has an additional effect that you can activate during battle?
I don’t expect meta breaking items to be added every patch, but I believe that new items can have a very big impact on the game and give it a much more fresh feel.
This is like my previous idea but on steroids. I think a very interesting concept would be items that have 4 components, or are created from two completed items.
For example, maybe there could be an item like Mjölnir which is created from two Statikk Shivs. It could have the effect of chaining lightning on every enemy every few auto attacks. Or you could even have it be built from 3 Statikk Shivs.
This would incentivize more players to build an early Statikk Shiv, while also making players not build other items on their Statikk Shiv holder if they want to build Mjölnir.
You could even add an item in League of Legends like Gargoyle Stoneplate which could be built from Bramble Vest and Dragon’s Claw. The potential is literally endless.
Of course all of these ideas would create a balance nightmare for the dev team, but I also think it would throw the player base into a meta of exploration and innovation.
Every new set gives us new champions and new synergies, so why not give us a whole new set of items or upgraded items? I would find it so intriguing if they did something like this.
But that is just a small opinion of one player like me. I doubt that Riot would actually do something as big as this… for now.
Overall, TFT has shown major balance improvements over the course of its lifespan, and I have high hopes for it to continue this trend. Riot have done a great job of creating a balance between high variance games and a competitive environment.
While there have been patches where there were definitely balance issues, these tend to happen less frequently now and they’re definitely getting the hang of it.
Going forward, I definitely hope to see innovations that will challenge the playerbase to innovate and experiment. But overall, I am confident that TFT will have a long and successful lifespan.