Unchecked Hubris: Teamfight Tactics Set 6.5

Il semble que la perfection soit atteinte non quand il n'y a plus rien à ajouter, mais quand il n'y a plus rien à retrancher.
"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."
- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Teamfight Tactics Set Six YouTube Videos Playlist

Set Six was a huge success for Teamfight Tactics after the poorly received mess that had been Set Five. With the developers having abandoned work on Set Five at an early date to concentrate on strengthening Set Six's release, they were able to deliver a fresh and exciting gameplay mechanic in the form of hextech augments. These augments successfully created variation in the gameplay from match to match and rewarded players who could come up with creative ways to build their teams. Trait design and unit design were fantastic for Set Six with many memorable new inclusions like Mutants, Colossus, and Socialite traits to pair with creative unit abilities like the ones held by Yone, Sion, Yuumi, and Jinx. The balancing throughout the set was mostly good as well, with relatively few "B" patches needed and a blissful span over the 2021 winter holidays where TFT experienced only one patch in a span of 35 days. Set Six was very popular amongst TFT players and many of them experienced the conclusion of the set with reluctance after just over 90 days of run time. The designers seemed hellbent on pushing onwards to Set 6.5 as quickly as possible based on Riot's rigid patching schedule that dictated when the midset update would be released.

This rushed process looked ominous for the incoming set even before the release of Set 6.5. At the end of my retrospective article for Set Six, I wrote that Neon Nights was "most likely going to be another version of Set 4.5 where the midseason update turns out slightly worse than the original incarnation while still being pretty darn good. I'll be satisfied if that's the outcome we end up getting." Unfortunately I would not be satisfied with the outcome produced by Set 6.5 as it proved to be not slightly worse than Set Six but rather significantly worse than its predecessor. The TFT design team had very limited time to put together the midset update and rashly decided that they could forge ahead with massive changes despite lacking the development time to implement them properly. They advertised that Set 6.5 would be "the biggest midset update ever" by switching in more than 20 new champions and dozens of new augments along with three new traits. However, the designers were so busy making as many changes as possible that they didn't stop to think whether those changes were a good idea for the health of the gameplay. Set 6.5 would prove to be disastrously unbalanced on release, a total mess that saw patch after patch after patch released in dizzying succession as the designers struggled to flesh out a product that had obviously been released before it was finished. It would take more than two months, over half the duration of the whole set, before there was any stability to be found in the gameplay.

The story of Set 6.5 is therefore a story of unchecked hubris on the part of the developers. Given a short turnaround time to produce the midset update, they should have recognized their limits and focused on a smaller set of changes that could be realistically implemented in the minimal time available. Instead, they arrogantly assumed that they could do fifteen different things at once and wound up with a garbled traffic jam that never quite worked properly before it too could be abandoned for the greener pastures of Set Seven. In this retrospective, we'll look specifically at some of the ways that Set 6.5 failed to live up to the promise of Set Six and what it says about the future of Teamfight Tactics. It's clear that there are talented people working on the design side of the game but equally clear that at least some of them have massive egos that constantly undermine their own efforts.

Traits and Units: Nothing Makes Sense

I was full of praise for the traits and units in Set Six when I wrote my previous retrospective. The set had some incredibly creative new traits like Yordles which provided an unorthodox way of generating additional income or Colossus units that counted as two units on the battlefield. The main team compositions generally made logical sense in how they were put together and had their own distinct identities. Challenger teams were made up of fast-attacking melee units that tried to get resets and dashed forward in reckless fashion, Arcanist teams stacked ability power and tried to burst down their opponents with flashy spellcasts, Sniper teams huddled behind impenetrable Bodyguard/Colossus frontlines and blasted the other team with Jhin or Jayce's gunshots, etc. Set Six certainly wasn't perfect and had its share of unbalanced patches (early Katarina and later Socialite 3 Kaisa, I'm looking at you) but it was pretty good overall and the teams/units generally functioned the way that an outside observer would expect them to do.

By way of contrast, Set 6.5 was full of counterintuitive unit abilities and stuff that simply didn't make sense. The desire to switch out as many units as possible for the midset update repeatedly left the previously existing traits in weird places, missing units that had been core to their identities and replacing them with new units that very commonly were a worse fit. For example, the Challenger trait had a clear focus in Set Six: fragile but deadly melee units that needed to get resets so that they could dash forward onto the backline carries of their opponents. Led by Yone and Fiora, Challenger boards were highly distinct and had a clear risk/reward structure based around the need to land kills for resets. But in Set 6.5, the Challenger trait lost both of these units and replaced them with Tryndamere and Draven. Tryndamere's spinning slash was an inconsistent ability that prevented him from being used as a main carry while Draven's VIP bonus gave him infinite range to prevent him from ever needing to move at all. The Challenger trait thus lost its whole identity from the first half of the set and this was a true loss as the mad forward dashing of the old Challenger boards was a major part of what gave the trait its charm. It turned instead into a reroll trait based around 3 starring Warwick and posed a balance nightmare for much of the set. There was nothing fun or interesting about Warwick with perfect items solo killing a bunch of 4 and 5 cost units because the overall gameplay balance was in such poor shape.

Or consider the Arcanist trait. Teams running this trait were previously based around Lux and Viktor, more frequently Lux as the featured 4 cost unit since hitting her was naturally much more consistent. Lux was itemized as a burst caster with the goal of deleting the enemy carries quickly before the naturally-squishy Arcanist teams could be eliminated themselves. Again, this was a team setup that made logical sense (mages are not tanky and have to kill their opponents quickly) and had its own clear identity and gameplay style. However, Set 6.5 removed Lux and effectively replaced her with Ahri, a caster that scaled up over time by gaining an additional orb with each spellcast. Ahri won fights via slowly ramping up and drain-tanking her opponents with Gunblade and Syndicate spellvamp. Now that's an interesting idea for a unit, to be sure, but it's certainly not how spellcasters are typically played and left many people deeply confused about how to itemize and build a team around Ahri. It also left the Arcanist trait in a weird place because there was already a damage over time caster at the 3 cost tier in the form of Malzahar, leaving the difficult to reach 5 cost Viktor as the only true burst caster remaining. It didn't make much sense to have the main 3 cost AND 4 cost mages in the set both having slow-acting ramping abilities - that's just not how you would expect spellcasters to be played! There was a real hole left here by the removal of Lux that was never filled in Set 6.5.

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There were many, many more examples like this from Set 6.5. The Scholar trait provided mana generation each second to all units on the team, an ability that innately scaled better into the lategame when there were more units on the board. This is why most of the Scholars in Set Six were higher cost units, between Zyra (2) and Lissandra/Heimerdinger (3) and Janna (4) and Yuumi (5) at their respective cost tiers. Set 6.5 inexplicably removed all of these units aside from Zyra, replacing them with Kassadin (1) and Syndra (2) and Renata (4) and Silco (5). But now most of the Scholar units were sitting at the 1 and 2 cost tiers, making them useless for the lategame in most circumstances, despite the fact that the Scholar trait was innately supposed to be lategame focused. Plus Renata was a carry unit, not a support unit, making it almost impossible to splash her into teams! Only Silco could be dropped into random teams which is why he was the only Scholar unit to see much use in the lategame. This also made running anything beyond Scholar 2 almost unplayable since there weren't enough viable high cost units to run Scholar 4 or 6 in the lategame. This trait was a complete mess in Set 6.5. Similarly, Enchanters were also mostly lategame focused in Set Six thanks to having Lulu (2), Taric (3), Janna (4), and Orianna (4). Taric and Janna were replaced with Morgana (3) and Senna (3) which was another odd fit because Morgana only shielded herself and Senna's healing scaled in a bizarre fashion - by stacking AD on her. What?! Yes, Senna healed for more HP by putting Infinity Edge and Deathblade on her which made no sense at all. The lack of Taric's normally-functioning heal and Janna's team-wide healing left this trait in its own illogical place, largely used to buff up Morgana's shielding in Syndicate teams and rarely employed elsewhere. It was another trait that was left in vastly worse shape by taking out the units that made it function properly.

These weird interactions extended down to the individual units as well. Many of their abilities worked in counterintuitive ways that easily confused newcomer players or even longtime players who didn't read through the full ability descriptions. We've already mentioned how Senna illogically healed for more HP by stacking AD items on her which was immensely confusing for players. In addition, Corki and Lucian both had the Twinshot trait which provided its units additional AD along with a chance to attack twice. However, despite the fact that they both fired guns, Corki and Lucian dealt magic damage with their abilities and wanted to stack items with tears and rods, the exact opposite of how Gunslingers had always been handled in the past and how their fellow Twinshot units (Gangplank and Jinx) functioned. Even worse, Lucian had been in a bunch of past sets of TFT and had frequently been itemized for on-hit effects yet his ability in Set 6.5 specifically did NOT apply on-hit effects. It was confusing to say the least. Elsewhere, Jinx and Vi had possessed the Sister trait in Set Six which forced them to be played together, only to be changed to the Rival trait in Set 6.5 which did the exact opposite and forced them not to be played together. Obviously this was a lore tie-in with the Arcane Neflix show but it was still easy to get confused about this.

Other existing traits were left unbalanced by the addition or removal of trait tags. The biggest culprit was adding the Innovator tag to Ekko to go along with his Scrap and Assassin traits; this created a double Scrap internal synergy for Innovators which resulted in both the Scrap trait and the Innovator trait being overpowered for most of Set 6.5. It also caused Ekko to be playable in far too many team compositions and led to an unhealthy degree of dominance for the Frozen Heart + Morellonomicon items when slapped on Ekko. All of this could have been avoided by simply keeping Heimerdinger in the game who was a well-designed unit with his own interesting gameplay. The designers also foolishly put the Enforcer + Bruiser traits on Sejuani to create a double internal synergy with Vi having both of the same traits. This ensured that anyone playing Bruisers would always run Enforcer as well and eventually led to an even worse solution of changing Enforcer from a trait with 2/4 levels to the 3 level only, effectively deleting Enforcer from the game outside of rare endgame situations with Jayce. They should have placed the Enforcer tag on Alistar, not Sejuani, which would have given him triple traits in the same fashion as the other Colossus units (and Sion from Set Six) and made Alistar more viable in non-Hextech boards. Sion was commonly played without other Colossus units in Set Six but Alistar almost never was in Set 6.5 and this would have helped substantially in that regard.

As for the new traits in Set 6.5, none of them were particularly well designed and all of them clearly would have benefited from additional development time. The worst of these was the Striker trait which simply added AD to its units and nothing else. This felt like a trait from Set One or Set Two and the designers readily admitted in interviews that they didn't have enough time to come up with a real trait and therefore slapped Striker together as a quick Band-aid. This should have been a sign to scale back their ambitions and not release something that was so obviously unfinished. The Hextech trait was another version of a shielding trait that provided a renewable shield every six seconds and bonus magic damage on auto attacks to its units while the shield was present. This was inherently problematic from a design perspective because the shields tended to be either oppressively strong or laughably weak, with finding the proper sweet spot between the two nearly impossible. The gameplay balance constantly see-sawed between the two extremes during the first few months of the set, with Hextech either unbeatably strong with the shielding set too high or the worst trait in the game when it was set too low. It took more than two months for the Hextech trait to receive the same scaling benefit over time possessed by the Clockwork trait - which it obviously should have had on release! - and could finally settle into a more balanced state. It was another clear indicator that the midset update had been released before it was ready.

The last major new trait was Debonair which was an attempt to recreate a limited version of the Chosen mechanic from Set Four. Debonair units had the ability to roll in the store along with a VIP bonus ability, with the restriction that there could only be one VIP on the team at a time and no further VIP units would show up in the shop while one was active. Unfortunately this did not bring back the magic of Set Four's Chosen units and turned out to be another confusing quagmire in practice. The biggest problem was that the Debonair units became almost impossible to balance, with the VIP units being too strong but the non-VIP units being unplayable weak. Units like Talon and Draven were basically useless without their VIP bonus abilities, which they had to be or else the boosted VIP incarnation of the units would be unstoppable, and therefore all of the Debonair units became useless in non-Debonair team compositions where their VIP bonuses couldn't be activated. This greatly cut down on flexibility across the wider set as there was little reason to play Leona or Draven on other non-Debonair boards. The VIP mechanic also proved to be highly clunky in practice as players had to hit the VIP unit, plus get their items onto the VIP unit, plus two star the unit for it to be effective. It was very common to a player to hit a single non-VIP Draven in the store and then find a second VIP version later after already sticking their items onto the first unit. This felt really, really bad: do you sell the non-VIP version to transfer items or pray that a third unit will show up to combine them together? This was never an issue for the Chosen units in Set Four because they always started out as two star units which the designers seem to have forgotten for Set 6.5. Then there was also the issue of no VIP units appearing if the player already had a VIP unit on the board which made transitioning from early game units like Brand or Talon into lategame units like Draven or Zeri another massive headache. This was largely addressed due to a shop trick (the player could sell a VIP unit that they didn't want to lock it out from appearing in the shop) which was never explained anywhere in-game and which the vast majority of players likely didn't know about. The whole trait was awkward to play and left underpowered for most of the set because it was so difficult to balance. Debonair clearly did not work out the way that the developers intended and mostly seemed to exist in the game to push the Debonair line of champion skins.

Finally, in order to cram as many units as possible into the midset update, the designers had to fall back on many repeats of units from past sets. Most of those 20+ units rotated into Set 6.5 did not have new abilities but instead simply reprinted the same abilities that they had already showcased in previous sets of TFT. I don't think that there were too many players who were clamoring to see the exact same abilities, at the exact same cost tiers, from units like Jarvan and Ashe and Sejuani and Syndra and Morgana and Irelia and Draven. Thus even though Set 6.5 thoretically swapped out more champions than ever before, there were only a handful of units that actually brought new abilities instead of something that longtime TFT players had seen before. The handful of units with actual new abilities, like Gnar and Renata and Silco, were rare exceptions that proved to be the most interesting part of the midset update. They were few and far between though, drowned out by a sea of reprints. I have no idea why the designers were so eager to remove new units with new abilities from Set Six in favor of these rehashes that didn't bring anything fresh to the gameplay. It suggests that they were trying to come up with a flashier launch annoucement for the set over designing gameplay that was balanced and logically consistent.

Too Many Augments

Hextech augments were the featured new gameplay mechanic for Set Six and they proved to be overwhelmingly popular with the players. The augments were a fantastic way to introduce variation from game to game while encouraging players to test out new and creative ways of fitting their teams together. Augments naturally carried over to the second half of the set where the developers advertised that they were introducing dozens of new augments for the midset update. There were more than 80 of these new augments in all and the total number of augments roughly doubled in Set 6.5 as compared to the initial group. Unfortunately this was another situation where the developers were so busy stuffing the midset update with as many new augments as possible that they didn't stop to consider whether these additions were improvements to the gameplay. Most of the new augments failed to change up the gameplay in meaningful ways and instead bloated the augment list with poorly implemented fluff that players didn't enjoy picking. In fact, by padding out the augments with so many uninteresting choices, Set 6.5 degraded the core mechanic of the set and made augments noticeably less fun than they had been in their original incarnation. This was a classic case of why adding "more stuff" can actually make things worse as opposed to curating the list with fewer but more balanced and meaningful choices.

The biggest problem with the new augments was the way that so few of them brought anything new or interesting to the gameplay. The initial augments from Set Six had all kinds of cool ideas that shook up the gameplay: Ascension to ramp up damage for stall comps, Featherweights for reroll comps, Knife's Edge for melee attackers, Binary Airdrop and Junkyard to do crazy item stuff with the Scrap trait, Rich Get Richer to increase the interest maximum from 50 gold to 70 gold, Clear Mind providing free XP at the cost of emptying the bench, Level Up and March of Progress to shake up how leveling worked, Built Different to reward *NOT* playing traits, and a whole bunch of Hearts and Emblems for all of the various traits that effectively brought back a version of Set Four's Chosen mechanic. While this system wasn't perfect, there were tons of creative ideas at work here and players could almost always find something useful to pick amongst the three options available. The number of augments was just about right to provide lots of variation from game to game while still limiting the total number of augments to something manageable.

As mentioned above, Set 6.5 bloated the augment list with dozens and dozens of new additions of questionable value. There were a handful of new augments that brought something fresh to the table like Double Trouble and Tri Force (poorly balanced but definitely unique) or the global spell crit on Jeweled Lotus or the Golden Egg's injection of drama into the end of a match as players tried to hold on long enough for it to hatch. But these exceptions were few and far between as most of the new augments were pretty dull. Disintegrator added percentage of max HP damage on autoattacks, Electrocharge dealt damage when the player's units were hit by crits, Luden's Echo caused splash damage on spell casts, Backfoot and Phalanx provided attack speed / defensive stats for standing in the back rows while Battlemage provided AP for standing in the front rows, and so on. All of these were boring augments that were left on the cutting room floor in Set Six and would have been better off remaining there. Making matters worse, the developers padded out the augment list by creating three tiers of all of these augments, with Silver and Gold and Prismatic versions of each one. Teamfight Tactics absolutely did not need all of these augments cluttering up the list and crowding out the augments from the first half of the set that were actually fun and interesting to play.

These were still better than the worst additions to Set 6.5's augments though: the "loot box" augments that didn't affect gameplay at all but instead simply handed out gold or items or champions. These options were virtually nonexistent in Set Six with the Item Grab Bag augment essentially the only such choice. The loot box augments were everywhere in Set 6.5 though: Treasure Trove and Golden Gifts dropping loot orbs, Four Score and True Twos and Three's Company and High Five all dropping different champions, and Component Grab Bag virtually duplicating the previously existing Item Grab Bag. All of these were bad additions to the gameplay, injecting additional unneeded randomness in a way that wasn't fun for players. It felt terrible to open the loot orbs and get nothing useful out of them, and in the opposite case where the player high rolled to hit a two star 3 cost unit on Stage 1-4, it was oppressive for the rest of the lobby since the lucky player had done nothing to deserve their situation. Teamfight Tactics already has the randomness of the shop and the randomness of what item components pop out of the minion rounds so there was no point in duplicating that randomness with loot box augments. Worse, by clogging up the augment list with all of these options, it diluted the possibility of the better designed options from the first half of the set appearing. Think about it this way: what makes for a more interesting game, players picking emblems and stuff like Pandora's Items / Stand United, or players opening up a bunch of loot orbs and hoping to get lucky? Come on. These augments degraded the gameplay and Set 6.5 would have been stronger for not including them as augments.

The presence of all these bland augments actively damaged the gameplay because they greatly increased the gap between players who had to choose between mediocre options and players who actually found something useful for their team comp. It was much more common to speak of getting "augment gapped" in Set 6.5 or being forced to pick between three options that were all unappealing. Speaking from my own experience, I found myself disliking my augment options much more often in Set 6.5 as compared to before the midset update and I don't believe that was simply the rosy glasses of nostalgia at work. When putting together this article, I decided to make a list of the tailored augment options that a player could find themselves picking between on Stage 3-3 or Stage 4-6 in the first half of the set as compared to the second half of the set. I tried to think of what major team composition would have been most similar between the two sets and decided that Innovators was probably the best choice, including the Scholar augments for Set Six thanks to the presence of Heimerdinger and the Assassin augments for Set 6.5 due to Ekko's addition. Here's a list of the augments that someone playing that common board would have found themselves encountering across the two sets:

Even knowing how Set 6.5 had clogged up the list of potential augment choices, it was still surprising for me to see just how many junk augments there were crowding out the other options. The Gold and Prismatic options in particular more than doubled the choices available, from roughly 25 options up to about 50 options apiece. Looking over the different lists, I was struck at how most of the original Set Six options were augments that I would be interested in taking... and by how few of the Set 6.5 additions I would want to have. I probably wouldn't want stuff like Exiles or Featherweights or Titanic Force if I was playing Innovators but the vast majority of the augments were at least playable and had interesting or memorable effects. By contrast, the Set 6.5 list was absolutely full of either garbage that I wouldn't want to pick or else loot box gambling nonsense. Electrocharge, Second Wind, Woodland Trinket, Arcane Nullifier, the list went on and on. And did we really need three different versions of Cybernetics (Implants, Shell, and Uplink) with each of them having three different Silver/Gold Prismatic tiers? This bloated list meant that the odds of someone rolling something actually good like a Clockwork Crest or an Innovator Heart were much lower in Set 6.5, thus creating the aforementioned augment gap between those who were lucky enough to hit and those who weren't. It was much more common to lose games in Set 6.5 solely due to poor augment RNG.

If I have one final example of how the augments were more poorly designed in Set 6.5, it would be the comparison between the original set's Metabolic Boost and the midset update's Tiny Titans. Both of these augments provided additional HP to the player's Little Legend and therefore allowed them to survive longer into the match. However, Metabolic Boost did this in a much more interesting way by causing the player to regenerate 2 HP at the end of each round. This made taking Metabolic Boost into a tactical decision: it would do nothing for a player win streaking at 100 HP and similarly wouldn't provide much benefit to someone on death's door in the ending stages of the game. When it was worthwhile to pick Metabolic Boost could be a tough decision. But Tiny Titans simply gave the player 35 additional HP immediately which was vastly less interesting. Obviously people would take this when they were losing which often granted them an undeserved higher finish placement. The designers put a Band-aid on this by removing Tiny Titans as an option for the last augment so that it would only show up during the first two choices but this didn't solve the real problem of Tiny Titans being a dull and lifeless augment. It was either way too strong as a pick or useless as a pick with nothing in between, while doing nothing to make the gameplay more varied or interesting. The Metabolic Boost / Tiny Titans dichotomy is a perfect example of how augments run amok were a net negative for the set. One of them deserved to be included in the game and made the cut for Set Six, the other never should have been included and bloated the augment list needlessly. Most of the new augments were correctly excluded from the first half of the set for good reason.

Patching Gone Wild

One of my most frequent criticisms of Teamfight Tactics across all sets has been the dizzying rate of patches released by the design team. The designers patch and patch and patch again in a neverending stream of changes that are almost impossible for players to follow unless they happen to be the obsessives that run ten games per day. It would be one thing if their patches made minor tweaks around the edges but nope, each new patch inevitably has scores of different changes to champions and traits and items and now augments as well. I continue to maintain that these endless patches are actively hurting the TFT playerbase because the more casual players are turned off by having to relearn the entire game on a weekly basis. Set Six was a pleasing break from this trend because much of the set coincided with the 2021-2022 winter holidays where Riot staff was on vacation and quite literally could not patch the game by virtue of the offices being empty. There was a patch released on December 14th and then after that on January 4th followed by another two weeks until the next patch released on January 19th. That was 35 days with only two total versions of TFT available to play, a period in which there was actually time for the playerbase to learn the ins and outs of the gameplay and develop both metagame strategies and then counter-meta responses. I know that I was having a ton of fun because I recorded lots and lots of TFT videos for YouTube in this period, about 15 videos in this span or roughly a new one every 2.5 days. I was never planning on creating that much content for TFT and it just happened organically because the set was such a blast. It's a telling sign that the game was at its most fun when the designers WEREN'T obsessively making changes on a weekly basis to everything under the sun.

Set Six was also notable for being relatively well balanced on release, definitely not perfect (Chemtech was overtuned on release) but in good enough shape that there was no need for an emergency "B" patch over the first two weeks of the set. To put it lightly, this was not the case for Set 6.5. The release of the midset update on February 15th was a complete disaster from a balance perspective, with the Hextech trait comically overpowered to the point that some of the players in our group were taking augments like True Justice solely because it awarded a Sejuani unit to stuff Hextech trait onto the board. This prompted an emergency "B" patch on February 22nd with brutal nerfs to the Hextech trait and Renata who had avoided dominating the patch only because of the overpowered state of the Hextech trait. This immediately made the Hextech trait completely useless for the next few patches as Irelia took over as the dominant unit in the set. With her endless dashing and ability reset on kills, Irelia was another unit which proved to be nearly impossible to balance as she was either too weak to get resets and did nothing or strong enough to get resets and then charged all over the board killing everything.

The following Patch 12.5 released a week later on March 1st was supposed to stick around for a whole month as the Riot corporate suite dictated that they wanted their developers to pause for a little while to think about big picture ideas rather than concentrate on the usual biweekly patches. We were very confident that the TFT design team would never be able to last a whole month without patching and this was proven true immediately as they released another "B" patch a week later on March 9th. Now with a company-wide mandate to refrain from patching for a month across Riot's portfolio of games, surely the TFT developers limited themselves to the bare minimum of changes, right? Heh. No, they decided that they needed to make 40 additional lines of patch note changes, including nerfing the Syndicate trait into the ground one week after buffing four different Syndicate units. Ashe was a terrible unit, then for one week she was extremely overpowered, then she was back to being one of the worst units in the game afterwards. It was the worst kind of balance thrashing from Set Five back once again to create another frustrating experience for players.

OK, but after THAT "B" patch then the developers left the game alone for the rest of the month, right? I mean, Riot specifically told them that they were not allowed to release any further patches for the remaining three weeks. Surely that stopped the TFT developers. Ah, ye of little faith - they found a way! There was a "C" patch released on March 23rd which was limited to a handful of bug fixes but did in fact change the metagame since gameplay was revolving around the Socialite trait which was unintentionally providing double the intended damage benefit. This was followed by another mainline patch six days later on March 29th where the developers, err, decided that they needed to nerf the base AD of every champion across the whole game. You know, just minor changes, nerfing the AD of literally every unit halfway through the set! This was intended to slow down fights that were resolving too quickly but of course had the highly predictable effect of making AP-based comps completely dominant and lowering overall damage enough that Warwick reroll became oppressively strong. Nothing was more irritating than watching a 2 cost unit effortlessly beating boards full of 4 and 5 cost two starred units. So of course that nightmarish patch had to have its own emergency "B" patch on April 5th with its own raft of changes, followed by the normal biweekly patch that released on April 12th...

I hope that the pattern has become obvious by now. All of the early patches for Set 6.5 had "B" patches and in fact one of them had the aforementioned "C" patch since just one emergency patch wasn't sufficient. Over the first two months of the set, there was exactly one week where there WASN'T a new patch for TFT. There were 8 different versions of TFT in a mere 56 days of real world time, again just barely over an average length of 7 days per patch version. And aside from the bug fix patch, all of these patches had massive changelists that practically required reading glasses to sort through. There was no way to keep up with all of these changes and following the patch notes became an active chore. What was strong and what was weak changed so often that I couldn't keep it straight. There are many people in the TFT community who praise the Riot developers for being so responsive and posting constantly on places like Reddit and Twitter. I often hear about how it's great that they engage so much with the community and make changes. This is a double-edged sword, however: while you don't want developers that never make changes or respond to criticism, it's very possible to err too far in the other direction as well. The endless patching obsession seriously hurt the gameplay of Set 6.5 because the developers never let anything settle long enough to provide stability. I would argue that it's better to leave things alone for a bit, even if the balance is subpar, as opposed to changing everything constantly and leaving everyone in confusion. (Speaking of confused, the TFT developers inexplicably thought that they used a "light touch" on patching when they wrote their own retrospective - what?!? Even accounting for the fact that they were including the more reasonable first half of Set Six in their article, this was a truly baffling statement that calls their judgment into serious question. The phrase "high on their own supply" definitely comes to mind.)

The reality is that this ridiculous set of patches came about because Set 6.5 was released in an unfinished state long before it was ready. The developers have basically admitted this by talking about the limited time that they had available to work on it and the compromises that they were forced to make with elements like the Striker trait providing flat AD and nothing else. There were other signs of things that were obviously left unfinished, like the Hextech trait shielding benefit not scaling over time like the Clockwork trait, which were only belatedly added over the course of patching. The balance of the set was downright terrible for the first two months because the developers were still running through the beta testing stage that should have been done before release. (The actual pre-release PBE server had even worse balancing than what went live, if you can believe it.) This was an unfinished product that badly needed much more development time than what it received.

There are many folks on TFT Reddit who have responded to this by saying some version of "it's not the fault of the designers, they only had 3-4 weeks to put together the midset update so of course things were going to be rough and require lots of patches." This is where I completely disagree: it is absolutely the fault of the designers because they insisted on making "the biggest midset update ever" instead of scaling things back to a more realistic number of changes. No one forced them to swap out 20 champions and create 80 new augments, they could have gone with a more limited set of new additions instead of trying to come up with bigger numbers for the press release blurbs. If I'm given two days to write a report at my work, I don't start a project that's going to take three weeks to complete since I know ahead of time that there's no way it can be completed in time. There's a reason why I named this article Unchecked Hubris: the TFT developers were incredibly arrogant when it came to Set 6.5. They arrogantly assumed that they could rip out the guts of Set Six and throw in a bunch of new units (based on skin lines being sold in the League of Legends store) with extremely limited time available for development and everything would work out just fine.

Well, it didn't work out just fine and Set 6.5 was a massive disappointment as a result. This was by far the worst midset update released in TFT's history, significantly lower quality than any of the previous ones that I can recall. When I enjoyed Set 6.5 it was almost entirely due to the good stuff left over from the first half of the set. Pretty much everything changed out or added in the midset update either decreased the overall balance or made absolutely no logical sense. This was absolutely on display at the Season Six World Championships where Sivir and Jinx teams dominated the competition and there was widespread agreement that it had been a poorly balanced experience from a competitive standpoint. I enjoyed Set Six enough to play Ranked games up to Diamond rating but couldn't be bothered to run more than the bare minimum of five required to have an official rating in Set 6.5. Our local TFT group clearly had a lot less interest in the midset update after the initial newness factor wore off and it was pretty depressing how much worse things became in the second half of the set. Set 6.5 was still decent in objective terms but only because Set Six had been such a big hit, coasting off the reputation of its forebearer like a trust fund child.

It all raises a good question: why were the TFT developers so intent on making all these changes for the midset update? Set Six was extremely popular and virtually everyone seemed to like the gameplay that it created. Given this incredibly popular and beloved set, the developer response was to... kill it off as quickly as possible by cramming in a bunch of reprint units and hastily-designed new traits? Very strange to say the least. I guess that selling new event passes and new skins was more important than maintaining a set that everyone liked. I know that I'm not the only one who would have enjoyed getting more time to spend with Set Six which I was still enjoying in its final week. I'm more convinced than ever that the obsessive patching and rigid release schedule is hurting TFT more than helping it. They would do better to ditch the concept of the midset update entirely and run sets of 4-5 months each since the first half of each set feels too short but the combined first and second halves feels too long. It would also behoove them to wait and release new sets depending on how things are going; if people like the current set and the next one needs more development time, then pushing things back benefits everyone. It's foolish to have this list that states when each set and each patch will be released 11 months ahead of time with absolutely no room for change depending on circumstances. And developers who think that they can do everything simultaneously no matter how little design time they have available are only shooting themselves in the foot.


Set 6.5 will not be remembered fondly by the TFT community. It was a mess for most of the set's lifespan and reflected the hubris of the developers who prioritized the quantity of changes over the quality of changes. I included the well-known Saint-Exupéry quote at the top of this article for a reason: good gameplay results from something like FTL where there's nothing that can be stripped away without hurting the product. Set 6.5 had a massive number of things that could have been stripped away and in fact the set would have benefitted from stripping away lots of them. Throw in the fact that the developers pretty clearly abandoned this set early on so that they could concentrate on Set Seven and yeesh, what a misfire. Let's hope that their inattention to Set 6.5 will result in a better next set in the same way that Set Five was jettisoned to improve Set Six. It's getting to the point where players might as well ignore the midset updates because all of the developer time and effort is going into the release of the full sets. If there's a lesson to be learned here, it's the importance of setting realistic goals and understanding that "more stuff" does not make for a better experience. The TFT developers, for all of their talent, have not learned this and show no signs of ever learning it.