Hey guys, Jag here again for the 4.8 Patch Forecast. We're trying to rotate the Live Gameplay designers that deliver this each patch so you get to know more of the Balance team, but RiotChun was hard at work on some Kha'Zix changes (more details on that below), so hopefully you'll hear from him or SmashGizmo for 4.9.
As it stands, this may be a light patch because we're working on a few mid/long-term changes that you may not see until 4.9 or later, but we'll do our best to keep you on top of everything we have in flight. When we first started doing these forecasts (not too long ago), we thought we'd just talk about all the challenges we faced in the past and present, but didn't fully consider how long each would take in terms of getting 'right.' This might give a better idea of how we approach design and conception.
**1) Because we saw how light 4.8 was in terms of our shorter-term projects, we also took some time to 'modernize' a few champions** in the game. There are a lot of challenges to doing this constantly (we can talk about that later), but the ones we changed were selected for their low impact, high value for players without skewing or being 'halfway' fixes that don't address core issues. You'll see these in the patch notes soon.
The ones below we're in the process of concepting and ideation, and some are closer than others but they're all at least close enough to talk about:
Solo lane Soraka is definitely a problem with her easy lane clear and almost infinite harass potential. As with Lulu, we have to ask the question of whether or not we think this is a character that has a play pattern that can provide healthy gameplay as both a support and a mid/top laner. We looked into solutions to just hit Soraka's wave clear, like reducing the Starcall damage done to minions, but overall it's hard to see her having such significant sustained damage through the base values of Starcall, even when she has tankier builds. To that end we may refocus some of the power value of Starcall into utility instead of damage.
**3) Feral Flare**
We've had a lot of pivots on this item in terms of its purpose and long-term direction. I think the live version more accurately reflects the concept we want it to facilitate - a mid/late game item that has strong scaling for carry/autoattacking champions. We still need to make sure that it fits in, in terms of jungler map interactivity, so we're looking to tweak the item's power level while refining the kill/assist mechanics to further incentivize Feral Flare junglers to at least occasionally leave their camps and pressure lanes.
We're still working on some changes to help Skarner's stickiness and reduce the snowballiness of his current passive. He probably won't have changes for 4.8, but he's still a high priority we're actively working on. Promise!
The team has been hard at work on finding ways to make Kha'zix's popular evolutions balanced. As a side goal we're trying to make all 4 feel like viable evolutions (at least situationally), but our greater concern is keeping him an interesting Assassin with options for counterplay without giving him too much Fighter-level utility (and the capability to brute force fights like Fighters while finishing the fight quickly like an Assassin). The damage reduction on his evolved Ultimate is one of the big culprits here, as there are no avenues of counterplay against him when he stealths (detect and kill him? run away? He has tools to avoid both!).
Our team is continuing analysis on LeBlanc. Her problems remain the same: she's a high burst, high mobility assassin with low counterplay. However, we're reluctant to totally break down her high points without making sure has ways to meaningfully contribute to her team's success, whether that be through her Mage patterns (i.e. her CC) or her Assassin patterns. The problem right now is her 'core identity' is so tied in with her unbalanced play that extracting one from the other is a bigger challenge.
Nidalee has been problematic for some time now. We like seeing comps oriented around poking the enemy, but the onslaught of life-or-death projectiles that Nidalee can throw at enemy teams in the mid/late game, particularly when she's built some cooldown reduction, is not interesting gameplay. We have larger set of promising changes in progress for her that fixes her long range spear problems while trying to emphasize more of her "hunting" ideas (you'll hear about it when we get more confidence in the overall direction), but we may need to make a power adjustment on the interim if Nidalee remains so optimal for poke comps.
**8) AD Carries**
Twitch has made a big splash recently in the competitive scene. Some of our design team has wondered why it did not happen earlier, given his strong laning and fantastic end-game scaling. We're guessing his prettier (or uglier, depending on the thematic we're going for) model helps. We're not going to rush any changes on him yet since we'd like some time to see how a high pick rate on him will play out, but he's definitely on our radar. His end-game hypercarry role is something we like and are unlikely to remove from the game; if anything, his early Contaminate (formerly Expunge) damage may be a little too powerful.
Lucian has been a steady pick in competitive for some time now. His combination of very reliable and effective damage in lane (his Piercing Light ability has relatively low counterplay and Lightslinger is a strong scaling damage passive), as well as his very high levels of safety make him a carry with virtually no weaknesses. We are a little more confident that we're going to need to make adjustments to him soon to help give him more defined strengths and weaknesses instead of being such a generalist blind pick.
We have been spending a lot of time examining what function the jungle plays in League of Legends and how to evaluate jungler interactions we like seeing in the game. We need more time to deliver a cohesive story here but I want to note that it is at the front and center of our team's focus right now.
Braum has just released and we are keeping a close eye on his power level!