Mediocrity Attacks! Teamfight Tactics Set Eight

Teamfight Tactics Set Eight YouTube Videos Playlist

It's time for another one of these TFT retrospectives, this time looking back at Set Eight. This set was titled "Monsters Attack!" and used a theming mechanism of superheroes versus monsters to distinguish itself from previous sets. The big new feature for this set came in the form of hero augments, a new version of the hextech augments which were specifically associated with individual champions somewhat like the old Chosen units from Set Four. The champion augments were fun to play around with at first but soured over time as a gameplay mechanic and ultimately have to be regarded as a pretty serious failure; they will be scrapped for the next set and I doubt they'll be coming back again any time soon. The whole set more broadly followed this pattern, something which was initially entertaining only to wear out its welcome as the flaws in the champion augments became more apparent over time. The midset update for Set 8.5 was even worse, an utter disaster that added basically nothing new to the game and sent the playerbase numbers plummeting over the final three months. After a series of sets starting with Set 6.5 that have ranged from mediocre to poor, Teamfight Tactics is losing players fast and in dire need of a course correction if it wants to avoid slipping into irrelevancy.

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A Promising Start

The serious problems that eventually swallowed up Set Eight are all the more frustrating because the set began from a promising foundation. Scrapping the Dragon units from Set Seven immediately led to a breath of fresh air which was welcomed by the TFT community with open arms. No more getting stuck with a handful of viable team compositions because the Dragon units strictly limited what players could do! (Or so we thought at the time, anyway.) Set Eight also benefited from a healthy amount of well-designed units and traits that brought new wrinkles to the gameplay. There were relatively few reprinted units from past sets and lots of creative new abilities that we hadn't seen before. This was most apparent for units at the upper cost tiers with new stuff like Soraka's scaling Starfalls casts, Leona's single-target orbital beam, Mordekaiser's building drop, and Nunu pushing a robo-ball that grew to gigantic size over time. Aphelios was perhaps the most interesting design of the bunch, with three different guns that the player could pick between depending on the circumstances. Aphelios proved to be poorly balanced (one gun was almost always the correct answer in all cases) but the concept itself was a good one.

The trait design was arguably even better for Set Eight and probably the best collective group since Set Six. There were several vertical traits like LaserCorps and Anima Squad which functioned in unique, creative fashions unlike what we'd seen in past sets. Anima Squad rewarded investing in the trait early to start stacking up bonus health while LaserCorp specifically incentivized building tanky teams which could soak up punishment while the laser drones fired away in the background. Recon units dashed around the battlefield in ostentatious fashion while Gadgeteen units printed special items for the team to equip each round. There were four different frontline options (Brawler, Defender, Aegis, and Mascot) which was a neat way to set up the traits even if these four weren't balanced very well across the course of the set. Underground was perhaps the best-designed economic trait of all time, with clear risk/reward incentives and not reliant on gimmicky win/loss streaks like the old Fortune trait. There were some dud traits in the set, like Mecha Prime which was basically just Dragonmancer back again, and uninteresting repeats like Star Guardian and Duelists from past sets. Still, on the whole this was a very solid group of traits and a considerable step up from Set Seven.

Two traits in particular need to be singled out for additional praise. The first of these was the ADMIN trait which varied in function from game to game. ADMIN was tough to balance because of its randomness and usually wound up on the weaker side which meant that it tended to be underplayed by the community. It was one of my favorite traits from the set though and a ton of fun when the player could line up multiple crazy abilities like gaining permanent HP on each spellcast or having gold drop from every enemy unit killed. The other innovative trait was the Threat trait, which was really not a trait at all and applied to select "monster" units. Threats each had some kind of intended role to full (Rammus as the armor tank, Aurelion Sol as the healing debuff ranged caster, etc.) which allowed them to be flexed into basically any team composition due to their lack of traits. If there was something that your board lacked, a Threat unit could potentially fill it. This was a fantastic idea and only ruined somewhat by the developers foolishly overbuffing the 5 cost Threats (Fiddlesticks and Urgot) so that they were always played on every lategame board. Aside from that mistake, this was a great concept and the developers plan to bring it back in a modified form in future sets.

Another great idea was the implementation of item anvils which took the place of the Treasure Dragon from Set Seven. Item anvils were a middle ground between the older versions of TFT which simply dropped lategame items that the player might or might not be able to use and the Treasure Dragons which allowed for exceedingly cheap rerolls of loot payouts. The anvils worked like the armories from Set Five, presenting the player with a limited choice of four or five options when opened but not letting them reroll infinitely as the Treasure Dragons had done. In other words, you would likely get something useful but it wasn't guaranteed that the player could force the exact item component needed. This was a smart compromise and an improved way to handle lategame item drops from the final minion rounds. I suspect the anvils will be sticking around as a quiet quality-of-life improvement for future sets.

Finally, while others may disagree, I thought that the gameplay balance was relatively good during the first few months of the set. Set Eight was released shortly before the winter holidays at the end of 2022 and the TFT developers pretty much launched the product only to disappear for the next five weeks. The long winter patch was far from perfectly balanced, with Yuumi and Jax much too strong and dominating the competitive landscape. And yet... even with several champions being overpowered, it was such a pleasure to have a stable game for once! I had time to get a true feel for the state of the gameplay instead of everything being crazily shuffled every seven days. It also turned out that the playerbase began adapting to the "OP" champions and coming up with counterstrategies: Duelist team compositions in particular grew to become much more popular because they were a good counter to the Mascot frontlines being run by Yuumi boards. After the holidays were over, the TFT developers proved unusually restrained in terms of their patching schedule. They issued few hotfixes and seemed content to ride things out rather than race to tweak every little issue that popped up with emergency patches. Maybe I was burned by the sheer horribleness of Set Seven's insane degree of patching but I found this to be much, much better by way of comparison.

And if the developers had been willing to leave more things alone, perhaps the set would have been more of a success.

The Flaw in the Plan: Hero Augments

The core gameplay mechanic for Set Eight was the hero augments, special versions of the hextech augments that pertained to individual champions and required that unit to be on the board to gain its benefits. Each champion in the game would have two hero augments, one designated as the "carry" augment which would make the unit itself stronger, and the other designated as the "support" augment which would provide a team-wide bonus. The idea was that even if the player wasn't able to hit a carry augment on a champion that worked for their team, they could choose one of the support augments and still do OK for themselves. The developers hoped that hero augments would encourage creative and flexible team compositions; maybe the player wouldn't normally keep Kayle around until the end of the game for a Duelists team, but if they rolled her carry augment then suddenly she could become viable to itemize for the endgame, that sort of thing.

For the first couple of weeks after the set's release, the hero augments seemed to be working pretty well and fulfilling the intention of the developers. I had a lot of fun testing out all of the new options and seeing how the new champions could be played in unconventional ways. The best of these were the initial augments associated with 1 and 2 cost champions, things like Stacks on Stacks for Nasus which suddenly turned a frontline tank into a gamelong carry champion, or Poppy gaining 400 additional armor so that her shield toss hit like a truck, or Blitzcrank getting his Rocket Grab back again to catch other players off guard. There were definitely times where I found myself bending my normal team composition in odd ways to include a champion who had rolled a hero augment so as to avoid losing out on the benefit. All of this was entertaining and it worked to keep the playerbase happy... for a little while.

However, the cracks soon started to show in the hero augments as players spent more time with Set Eight and began to understand how the system worked. I ran into the first big problem in my second or third game ever, back on the Public Beta Environment (PBE) before the set even released. It was the beginning of the game and I had a promising team composition all ready to go coming out of the minion rounds, only to get the initial Stage 2-1 hero augment... and find absolutely no options that my team could use. I used my one augment reroll and nope, still no hero augments that were even remotely useful for what I was planning to play. This was a TERRIBLE feeling because the player was essentially forced to do one of two things: pivot into a completely different and unwanted team composition or else spend the whole game missing an augment. It was a serious problem right from the outset that the TFT developers were never truly able to solve despite their best efforts.

Hero augments could pop up at three different points in time: on Stage 2-1, Stage 3-2, or Stage 4-2 (they also had about 10% odds not to appear at all). Hero augments on Stage 2-1 were always completely random but the developers "tailored" the augments when they appeared on Stage 3-2 and 4-2 to match the team that the player was running. In other words, if the player was running all Star Guardian units, they would see mostly hero augments for units who had the Star Guardian trait, that sort of thing. The developers basically had no choice here as otherwise the hero augments offered on the later stages would have been comically unsuited to midgame and lategame teams when it's difficult to move into a different setup. However, within a couple of weeks players realized what was going on with the tailoring and cracked the code on how it worked. They began deliberately weakening their boards right before Stage 3-2 and Stage 4-2, swapping into convoluted trait setups to manipulate the tailoring into giving them the champion augments that they wanted (despite not knowing if there would be a hero augment offered on the next stage at all!) This was horribly unfun for everyone and not at all what the developers wanted even though it was a logical outcome based on how the gameplay system had been designed.

Thus the TFT design team came up with an awkward fix halfway through the set: players would be given FOUR rerolls exclusively for the hero augments whenever they popped up. Players would get to see as many as 15 different hero augments to ensure that everyone found something that they wanted to play. The logic was that this would help to remove some of the RNG factor from the gameplay and hopefully reduce the deliberate tailoring of boards to manipulate the Stage 3-2 and 4-2 hero augments. Unfortunately this solution introduced as many problems as it purported to fix; for starters, it didn't do much to stop players from tailoring their boards since the underlying logic of how the hero augments were selected remained the same. Adding more rerolls still didn't guarantee anything so you'd better line up your traits properly when playing seriously. And while giving players more options was theoretically a good thing, it tended to cause everyone to play the same overpowered hero augments over and over again. This had the effect of increasing the overall power level of each lobby (since everyone could hard-force the best hero augments) and therefore removed the option to play anything unconventional or novel. It's always a bad sign when TFT's gameplay moves in the direction of allowing players to force things too heavily and the second half of Set Eight was very much a step in that wrong direction.

The core problem was that the hero augments just added way too much complexity to be balanced properly. With every champion having two different hero augments, they added 110 more augments in total to the gameplay which was far beyond what the overstretched developers could handle. The power difference between the best and worst hero augments was a gaping chasm due to their poor balance; the average placement of the best options frequently sat around 3.70 while the worst were down around 5.30 or 5.40. That was an absolutely staggering difference when measured across hundreds of thousands of games, with some of the hero augments all but guaranteeing a Top 4 finish while others left the player with no chance to compete. Was it any wonder that players would use their four rerolls to hard-force the overpowered hero augments whenever they had the opportunity? Then there was the problem of the hero augments always awarding a copy of their associated champion when taken. This was a huge problem for the Stage 3-2 and 4-2 hero augments, especially when they rolled 4 cost or 5 cost units as options. Handing out 5 cost units for free led to massive spikes for certain team compositions while completely missing other team compositions, with the overall effect of greatly devaluing the economic side of the game. You could have a player who was only Level 7 and had 1% odds for the 5 cost units to appear in the shop, only to land one of them from their hero augment, or even be Level 6 and have 0% odds to see the 5 cost units then suck out and get lucky. Not to mention, the economics of hitting two star 4 costs were completely thrown out of whack when one of the three needed copies could be easily found via hero augments. This was bad, bad stuff that undermined the rest of the gameplay and wasted otherwise excellent champion and unit designs.

So the hero augments worked well enough initially when everyone was figuring out how they functioned, only to become oppressive and stultifying over time once the system had been cracked apart. There was little choice in the matter for players: either run the overpowered hero options or get run over by those who did. Remember as well that the hero unit in question had to remain on the board to gain their augment benefit and could never come out of the team composition afterwards. This restriction soon became another version of the Dragon problem from Set Seven, once again limiting flexibility and forcing players into rote team setups. It's kind of amazing how the hero augment concept completely flipped from the original developer intention over the course of the set's progress and wound up doing the exact opposite of what they had planned. My own belief is that adding the four rerolls was a massive mistake that accelerated all of the negative trends associated with the hero augments to their ultimate conclusion. Better to have more RNG in the game than wind up in a situation where everyone is hard-forcing the same overpowered stuff in game after game after game.

Cosmetics Uber Alles

The other crushing disappointment from Set Eight was final, absolute confirmation from the TFT development team that their patching process was not intended to balance the gameplay. I've spent years writing about this on my website, trying to understand how the patching process could function in such a ridiculous fashion for TFT. We've seen hundreds of times over the years how strong traits and units will get hit with four different nerfs simultaneously while underpowered units suddenly get five buffs at the same time. Don't the developers understand that this will simply shuffle the metagame and result in the latter units now becoming comically overpowered themselves? It's happened so many times over the years that the developers have to be doing this intentionally - there's no way that they're THAT stupid, right?

Set Eight dispelled any illusions that the developers don't know what they're doing. The absurd balance thrashing is completely intended and something that the developers deliberately engineer because they believe it keeps the game "fresh" and drives player engagement. Riot Mort admitted as much during one of his Livestreams over the long winter break, talking about how they were going to intentionally over-nerf Yuumi just because she had been overpowered during the course of the extended winter patch. The intention was very clear: they were not going to "balance" Yuumi, they were deliberately going to "break" Yuumi because they wanted to rotate a different unit to the top of the heap for the next patch. Balance was not the goal - it was shuffling the metagame into something new, purely for the sake of newness. Now we had long suspected this to be the case but it was still a bit shocking to have the development team simply admit outright that they were not trying to balance the gameplay. Or at least gameplay balance was a secondary goal seen as less important than changing things up on a biweekly or even weekly basis.

Why would the developers not care about balancing the gameplay in their own competitive PvP Multiplayer game? As I mentioned above, their stated reason is that they believe this keeps the gameplay fresh and drives player interest in the product. But this explanation also falls flat; I've mentioned in previous articles how there are tons and tons of other online Multiplayer games that don't feel the need to rush out patches every seven days and do just fine in terms of player retention. It's not like Counterstrike pushes out a new patch every week - that would be ridiculous! - and it's been chugging along for a decade now with a huge fanbase. (At the extreme end of the spectrum, Super Smash Brothers Melee has never released a single patch ever by virtue of being an offline console game and it's maintained a healthy competitive scene for 20+ years - if people enjoy the game, it can maintain its audience.) Even in the TFT world, the player engagement numbers have held perfectly steady over the winter breaks from patching. What has driven the numbers down historically has been poor sets with bad content, not breaks from patching. If this developer theory were true, the playerbase would crater every year in December when there's a monthlong break from patching and that just is not what the data shows.

What is instead taking place is that the developers are catering to the most hardcore members of the TFT playerbase, the people who spend obsessive amounts of time playing the game and churn through content at an incredible pace. These are the individuals who Livestream the game for a living or play 8, 10, 12, or even 20 games per day. This can cross over into addictive territory in extreme cases; we had one person on our TFT Discord who was averaging 15 games per day, every day, and I was pushing for him to step away from TFT because he clearly had a serious problem. These are the individuals that the TFT developers are catering towards even though they make up a miniscule proportion of the playerbase. They burn through so many games in such a short span of time that they need frequent patches to update the gameplay and rotate a fresh group of champions to the top of the power curve. The dizzying rate of changes might be leaving behind the vast majority of TFT players but it's perfect for these diehard individuals.

Again it begs the question though: why cater the gameplay to such a small group of players instead of everyone else? And there's a ready answer here as well: because this where the "whales" can be found, the Internet term for people who consistently spend enormous amounts of money via online transactions. Whales are a minority of a customer base but make up an outsized proportion of all revenue. According to one source that I found, whales comprise only 2% of an average app's userbase but contribute around half of all total revenue. It’s gotten to the point where many games' entire business models are reliant on spending from whales. Many studios structure their microtransactions deliberately to push people into spending increasing amounts of money via sketchy methods like fake Internet currencies, loot boxes, and time-limited prizes. All of these should sound familiar to TFT players as the game has been relentlessly monetized by the developers.

I'm certain that TFT is no different in this regard since the entire monetization setup for the game has steadily moved over time towards specific catering to whales. Originally players could simply purchase the fancy additional stages that came out with each new set in the shop, like the beautiful (if expensive) ones that were designed for Set Four. Similarly, the Little Legends could simply be bought in the store when a new group was released alongside a new set. That all changed over time though; the fancy stages were moved into loot boxes with ridiculously low drop odds along with special "prestige" versions of Little Legends that can't be bought directly. The chibi versions of League characters in those loot boxes all come with their own unskippable cut scenes on eliminating other players too, because what could be better than paying to taunt other players? This is absolutely deliberate on their part; there must be special, exclusive content available at extremely low odds to keep the whales satisfied and flaunt their spending to the rest of the playerbase. If someone who dropped a thousand dollars on loot boxes can't show off in some fashion, well, they probably won't line up to spend the next thousand dollars, will they? All of that is on top of the Battle Pass that has been around since the outset of TFT and which seems to contain less and less content with each new set. That's the whole reason why the midset update exists in the first place, for anyone who hasn't figured it out before: to sell another Battle Pass. The TFT developers need more than 90 days to create enough content for new sets but they definitely don't get that time because selling additional Battle Passes is more important than delivering balanced gameplay.

The focus on cosmetics has also been getting worse over time to a noticeable degree. That's an opinion, of course, but I can also point to objective evidence in the form of the official patch notes that the developers release for TFT. Take a look at the patch notes for 10.16 from shortly before the release of Set Four; there's a brief mention of three new Little Legends releasing and then the rest of the post is focused on the gameplay changes. Or if we go further back, here's the patch notes from 10.1 which was effectively the midset update for Set Two. The addition of two new champions gets top billing over the quick note that three new Little Legends were releasing. It's a drastic contrast from those older patch notes to the ones associated with 13.8 towards the end of Set Eight where fully 70% of the page is taken up with discussion of cosmetic junk. There's a mention here about the "Mecha chests" containing the Malphite Little Legend along with 2% drop odds for the mecha version (guaranteed on the 61st egg!), plus 15 additional Little Legends at various Epic and Legendary cost tiers, and then a final mention of another mythic arena releasing in the next patch in its own loot box. Oh yeah, and then some patch notes squeezed in at the bottom, I guess, below the huge illustrations of all the crap on sale. Seriously, click through those links and compare how the organization of the patch notes have changed over time. The listing order tells the reader everything they need to know about what's being prioritized and it sure ain't the TFT gameplay.

Now gaming is a business and of course TFT has to bring in money in order to remain viable as a game. No one except the most deluded fans would ignore this reality, and defenders of the development team can always break out the standard disclaimers about how the cosmetics team and the gameplay team aren't the same people, that's it's perfectly possible to sell cosmetic items without it affecting the gameplay, and so on. All of those things are certainly true. However, gamers are pretty good at detecting when there's real talent and passion behind a project as opposed to when a development team is just going through the motions. And ever since the end of the truly excellent Set Six, the TFT playerbase has had to put up with sloppy, unfinished, buggy gameplay that has failed to meet the standard of past sets. Whether it was the garbled mess of Set 6.5, Dragon units in Set Seven, or hero augments in Set Eight, none of these mechanics has worked particularly well and the other aspects of the gameplay are starting to get rather stale. At the same time, the cosmetic stuff has exploded into overdrive while taking up more and more space on the TFT client's interface and in the official news postings for the game. It's getting difficult to ignore the conclusion that the development team has been doing the equivalent of resting on their laurels while the monetization side has been cranked up to higher and higher degrees.

What happens when a rushed, unfinished effort from the developers combines together with three consecutive sets of underwhelming gameplay design? We ended up with the disaster that was Set 8.5.

Chickens Coming Home To Roost

Set 8.5 was named Glitched Out and had as its set mechanic the introduction of, uh, glitched carousels. This would cause certain carousels to have unusual items in place of the normal item components, sometimes holding double components and at other times holding champion duplicators or eggs which would hatch over time. Glitched carousels were not particularly interesting as a gameplay mechanic and the champion duplicators / eggs were almost certainly worse than the normal carousels from a gameplay standpoint since they removed the catch-up mechanic of trailing players getting to pick first. When everyone gets an egg that holds the identical stuff inside, it's just not that interesting or fun. This was a pretty half-baked (heh) idea and really should not have been the central mechanic of an entire set. (The aesthetics for this set were also downright ugly as far as I'm concerned, crazy neon colors which were not pleasant to look at. Your mileage may vary on this.)

The midset update made few changes in terms of traits and units. The only new traits were Infiniteam, Riftwalker, and Quickshot, with Quickshot barely qualifying as a new trait since it was essentially a slightly reworked version of Recon. Many of the previous team compositions from the first half of the set were barely altered, such as Anima Squad boards seeing essentially no changes at all. In terms of the units, there were 14 new additions which were heavily concentrated at the 3 and 4 cost tiers. In fact, there were only two new 1 cost units (Lucian and Pantheon) and one new 2 cost unit (Pyke) in the whole set, along with a single new 5 cost unit (Ultimate Ezreal). This had the strange effect of making early game boards and late game boards look mostly unchanged from the first half of the set, with only the midgame having variation. It didn't help either that a number of the new units were virtual 1:1 replacements for removed units, such as Aatrox directly replacing Zak, Garen replacing Sett, Neeko replacing Taliyah, and Ultimate Ezreal replacing Aphelios. Some of the new units were well designed in their own right, like Gnar and Twisted Fate, but they were overshadowed by the lack of new content elsewhere.

Unlike the relatively stable first half of the set, Set 8.5 was also plagued by horrendous balancing for the first few months of its release. First Vex and the Mascots trait were overtuned, followed by a long run where Warwick was unkillably dominant, then Le Blanc spent weeks terrorizing players. The Hacker trait which had never caused issues in the first half of the set suddenly became a massive problem (thanks to changes in how its targeting worked and the introduction of Shen), leading to unending frustration from players who saw their carry units get deleted in the first three seconds of fights. At least the old Assassin trait could be defended against by clumping up units or using Zephyr items, neither of which worked against Hacker. There were also massive bugs that lasted for virtually the entire set, from Samira's ability failing to crit properly to the Prankster trait turning off when combined with Gadgeteen trait (a real problem since Gnar had both traits!) to Aatrox's ability never working as intended at any point in time. The new hero augments were no better balanced than their predecessors and one in particular (Shen's Time Knife) actually broke the game until it could be fixed in the next patch. Although the balancing sorted itself out by the final weeks of the set, for most of its duration the situation was unacceptably poor and brought back some of the worst memories from Set Seven.

Faced with a set that offered very little in terms of new content while suffering from a host of problems, TFT players voted with their feet by leaving in droves. TFT doesn't release its internal numbers on the player count but we can get a good sense of the popularity of the game by looking at the number of people watching and streaming the game on Twitch. I pulled some data from the excellent Twitch stats listed on the SullyGnome website (no relation to me!) and found the most useful graph to be the one looking at total hours of TFT watched per month. It's easy to track the fortunes of the game over time here across the various different sets released, starting with the huge popularity of the initial set (never matched since) and the drop-off during Set Two that nearly killed the game before it bounced back in Sets Three and Four. Set Five was another lull before an explosion of popularity in Set Six, likely due to the tie-in with the Arcane Netflix series, and the numbers have been slowly declining ever since. That's what I want to key in on here: Set Seven couldn't match the popularity of Set Six, then Set Eight dropped further in a worrying trendline. And while the second half of every set has always been less popular than the first half, Set 8.5 dropped even further and currently sits just barely above the disastrous numbers from Set Five. These numbers are going in the wrong direction and clearly getting worse with each set.

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The story being told by the aggregate data matches my own personal experience with the set. Set 8.5 was the first set since Set 5.5 that I skipped completely; I had already been losing interest in Set Eight during the finals weeks of its first half, then took a look at what was upcoming in the midset update and immediately thought "no thanks" before walking away. Nothing that took place during the following three months made me regret my decision as the mess that was Set 8.5 played itself out. My local TFT group had the same reaction as virtually everyone else took a break for Set 8.5 or quickly abandoned it after failing to find much of interest. I think antisocialmunky was the only one who spent any time with the set after he discovered a Lucian reroll team composition that he enjoyed. I noticed as well that the daily threads on TFT Reddit were getting significantly fewer posts as compared with past sets and a number of the TFT Livestreamers that I watch were switching to other games long before the conclusion of the set. Again, all of those are anecdotal pieces of evidence that don't prove anything, but they matched what the Twitch data was saying in terms of falling interest. This was an unpopular set and a sizable chunk of the playerbase was opting out from the experience.

It made it all the more bizarre that the restrospective penned by the TFT developers for Set Eight was weirdly upbeat and self-congratulatory. The developers have done a good job with these articles in the past, acknowledging where they fell short and what things they needed to work on for future sets. However, the retrospective for Set Eight basically just said that they thought they did a great job and they'll continue doing the same thing in the future. Sure, there's vague language in there about "we will continue to prioritize mechanics and trait webs that promote comp variety across all stages of the game" and "we’re going to make sure that backline carry removal is much harder to pull off" but very little about the serious problems associated with hero augments and how they undermined the player experience in this set. The impression from this retrospective is that adding four rerolls solved the problems with hero augments which is absolutely not how the wider TFT community felt about the subject. With falling playebase numbers and widespread discontent in the community, this retrospective should have read a lot more like the one that followed Set Five, a clarion call that changes are needed to prevent the same mistakes from happening again. Instead, the developers seem to be whistling past the graveyard thinking that everything is A-OK and they can keep proceeding down the same path.

I hope for their sake that they have some killer new gameplay mechanic to unveil for Set Nine or Set Ten. If not... things could start to get pretty ugly over the next year and really call into question the longterm viability of this product.


Despite the fact that this has been a pretty negative article, I did enjoy the time that I spent with Set Eight, especially the initial six weeks of the set that coincided with the winter holiday period. The hero augments were the most fun to experience before the playerbase figured out how to exploit the tailoring associated with them and before the addition of four rerolls made hard-forcing into the default strategy. I spent most of my time running Double Up games in this set since they continue to be much more entertaining than the default solo game mode. I will always remember being on Christmas vacation visiting my wife's family in Mississippi, waiting until everyone else had gone to sleep for the night and then heading down into the basement to run some Double Up games with El Grillo and antisocialmunky and headwinder (even though my pairing with headwinder was cursed throughout this set!) The core gameplay for TFT remains excellent and the game tends to be at its best when the developers simply get out of the way and let the gameplay speak for itself.

Unfortunately the problems with hero augments caused the set to grow less and less fun over time as the community learned how to exploit them, souring like milk left out too long in the sun. They were not interesting enough of a mechanic to be the focus of the game for a full six months and Set 8.5 really suffered in this regard. (The upcoming move to ditch midset updates starting with Set Ten is a great idea which will help alleviate this problem in the future.) The TFT developers clearly do not have enough time to release a quality set every 90 days and the gameplay has been suffering badly over the last few sets. Dragons and hero augments just weren't good enough and the game has been slowly bleeding players as a result. The bigwigs at Riot have responded by shoving more and more cosmetic stuff into the game to make up the difference in revenue but that's only going to work for so long. This game is on the wrong track right now and desperately needs something akin to Set Six to breath fresh life back into it. Continuing to do the same thing over and over again, with the same people in charge at the top, will only lead to further stagnation. I have to say, I'm not terribly optimistic here.

On that note, see you in Set Nine - perhaps! I have enough other games on my plate at the moment that I can continue passing on TFT if the quality doesn't improve. We shall see.