Tough Design Decisions made for Azir in 7.19

Hi everyone! We’ll be doing a larger context piece for Azir’s 7.19 changes in the near future but I just wanted to touch on some of our major design decisions ahead of that post. **Recap of our goals with this Azir project:** * Increase Azir’s live performance (buff his win rate) * Preserve his core play pattern of summoning Sand Soldiers and using them as his auto-attacks * Increase opponents’ options playing against Azir **Highlighted buffs:** *Base Stats* * Base Movement Speed :: Increased from 325 >>> 335 *Arise! (W)* * When Azir has 3 soldiers out, he doubles his passive attack speed from Arise for 5 seconds. * Command Soldier Attack Cast Time :: Reduced from 0.5s >>> 0.35s *Emperor’s Divide (R)* * Cooldown :: Reduced from 140/120/100 >>> 120/105/90 per rank * Wall Size :: Increased from 4/5/6 >>> 5/6/7 Soldiers per rank **Highlighted nerfs:** *Arise! (W)* * Soldier command range :: Reduced from 800 >>> 660 *Emperor’s Divide (R)* * No longer continues to knock back dashes over it after the initial movement of the Shield Soldiers. Overall, we expect Azir to be buffed from the full suite of changes in 7.19 and still fulfill the same fantasy and epic gameplay. These highlighted nerfs are likely to be more contentious and so I wanted to dive in a little bit more on our reasoning for them: **Why did we choose to nerf Azir’s range?** It goes without saying, but this decision was very tough to make. Many aspects of a champion make up their identity and ranges are definitely very influential in that equation. We used some survey tools to get a better image of what aspects of Azir his current players loved. It turns out that when a champion has so many powerful and unique aspects, players will attach to all of them pretty equally. It was apparent that removing any one of his unique interactions would come at a huge cost for Azir players. Ultimately, the results helped us realize that the core parts we needed to preserve were his signature Shurima Shuffle and his fine control over Sand Soldiers to do his bidding. Given these requirements, reducing his ranges felt like the most reasonable way to deliver a middle ground that kept the core skill tests of Azir intact. Azir’s theme and mechanics definitely don’t support a short-range champion, but the notion to challenge here was: Is artillery-tier range the crux of the Shuriman emperor’s gameplay fantasy? The answers to this question range with personal taste, but throughout internal testing with a shorter ranged Azir, it didn’t feel like we were losing too much of what made him special. Furthermore, challenging the perception that Azir had to out-range 90% of the cast of League of Legends was getting us a lot of immediate benefits in terms of counter-play and agency for the opponent. Updated Azir is by no means a short-range champion. His functional max auto-attack range is still around 900+ units (that’s a lot of Teemos) and though he can’t out-range his nemesis Xerath as easily, his range is still worthy of an emperor commanding a battlefield. The benefits we gained from this direction also meant that we could keep room for the Shurima Shuffle. The key goal that range nerfs benefitted was increasing opponent options against Azir. By nerfing ranges, we found that a significantly larger set of champions in League could actually reasonably interact with him both in and out of lane. If there are more potential answers to Azir in the wider game, the likelihood of him becoming a meta-warping presence diminishes and the pressure to keep him generically under-tuned lessens a lot. **Why did we remove Emperor’s Divide’s unique bounce house interaction?** This was also done to help us succeed at increasing opponent options against Azir. We nerfed Azir’s ranges, but we felt it wasn’t enough to ensure he would not conquer the meta-game. I think this distinction sums it up nicely: the range nerfs tackle the oppressive nature of old Azir’s general gameplay, while the removal of bounce house creates an exploitable weakness in Azir’s gameplay when the meta-game calls for it. We can now rely on champions like Kha’Zix, Kayn, or Ahri to be clearer counter-picks into Azir that make it hard for him to dominate all levels of play. Of course, removing this mechanic also gave us much more room to buff other things about Azir that help his general performance in the hands of an average player. Things like higher base health, higher base movement speed and a lower cooldown ultimate were all afforded in part by the removal of this mechanic. **Wrap up** Hopefully our design reasoning resonates a bit with you and Azir can now find a healthier home on the Rift. We’re committed to making him feel like a champion you can feel good about mastering, so you can expect us to keep an eye on him and respond accordingly in the patches following 7.19.
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