Red Post Collection: Preseason Q&A #2, New LeaverBuster Discussion, and more!

Posted on at 11:24 AM by Moobeat
This afternoon's red post collection features Lyte discussing the new LeaverBuster system, a summary of the recent Preseason Q&A now that the changes are on live, and more!
Continue reading for more information!


Table of Contents


New LeaverBuster Discussion

Following last week's announcement that the new LeaverBuster system is out on live, Lyte returned to the boards to clear up a few misconceptions on the new system and how it interacts with server issues, emergency disconnects, and more.
"I do deserve flack for missing a few of the key nuances of the feature. However, I think players have legitimate concerns about the system that will diminish with time and when players realize that the system isn't tuned to punish the rare emergency or hardware crash.

For example, a lot of players are getting the "I Agree" message and thinking that it will lead to a punishment. It won't. In fact, it takes chronic leaving / afking after the "I Agree" message to net your first lower priority queue penalty.

You'll notice that most players are worried because they got the "I Agree" message once, but typing in "I Agree" is a one-time act. Very few players are reporting that they got it multiple times, or that they got penalties when they had a leave due to a rare crash or DC.

Give the system some time, and keep giving us feedback if the system does mess up. But right now, players are getting the initial "I Agree" to not leave message which is very different than being put in low priority queue. Looking at the system, very few "innocent" players are entering low priority queues and most of the players know they left multiple games in a row."
He continued:
"This is very true. The system is tuned to only aggressively go after chronic leavers / afks. Occasional DCs due to hardware/connections/RL emergencies won't affect players--this was true for both the old and new system.

If we see the new system start to punish too frequently we'll immediately tune the numbers to make sure that the average player won't be punished due to an emergency or rare hardware crash."

Lyte later reiterated that the system is aimed at punishing players who frequently leave or afk in games:
"The system only penalizes chronic leavers/afks.

So, if you lost your electricity or your ISP shorts out rarely, you will never see a penalty. If you leave multiple games in a short period of time, you will see a small penalty. If you chronically leave games frequently, you'll see bigger penalties.

Players that DC because of rare emergencies or hardware/ISP issues won't be affected at all. The system's purpose is not to punish for those rare incidences.

A lot of players are getting the pop-up about leaving, and type "I Agree." Very few players are getting multiple pop-ups or actual penalties because they are not leaving many games. This is not the same as low priority queue. You have to leave more games after the pop-up to ever get a penalty."
He continued:
"Unless you continuously play multiple games in a row knowing that your internet is dropping, you won't face a penalty. 
One-time rare emergencies or hardware/ISP issues will rarely result in a penalty. The system only aggressively attacks chronic leavers/AFKers."

In summary, Lyte noted:
"As you know, I'm happy to answer questions about the system, but I think there's a considerable misunderstanding from the initial post and I'm trying to figure out how to clarify the post to address the concerns.

When the system goes live, players will get a pop-up and have to type "I Agree" on the first leave/DC. This pop-up does trigger once for most players and does not take into account rare incidences/hardware crashes/ISP issues/server instability. It's a one-time trigger to ensure everyone in the game understands that chronicleaving can lead to penalties.

Very, very few players have been punished with a low priority queue penalty. In fact, if you were never banned by the old LeaverBuster, you are probably not going to end up in low priority queue. The new system is just tuned to more aggressively attack chronic leavers and AFKs.

No players have to type "I Agree" multiple times, and to date, very few players have left enough games to end up in low priority queue. I'm unclear how the system promotes the belief that the victory screen is more important than the people you're playing with, please clarify that part.

People believe the system will punish people with rare RL issues/emergencies or rare hardware crashes or ISP issues--that's not the case. Players are not entering low priority queue because of rare incidences that resulted in a leave."

Flash vs Smite as a Dominant Summoner Spell

When asked why the balance team is alright with Flash being a dominant spell for the majority of players on a team while they seem hesitant to allow Smite  be the same, Meddler explained:
"We believe that Flash, even when on every champion, leads to some really cool plays, both offensively and defensively, with interesting variations in how its used based off the kit of the champion in question. Smite by contrast doesn't allow for such a wide variety of plays, being a comparatively narrow spell. It does generate some cool moments certainly, but those also become less interesting when you put multiple smites on a team (tracking the enemy's smite CD to do objectives becomes less realistic, killing/zoning the jungler away from dragon/baron isn't as useful etc)."

Preseason Q&A #2

With the preseason changes hitting live in patch 4.20, several Rioters have again taken to the forums to host an AMA on everything preseason!

Here's Ypherion with a brief introduction: 
"Hello! Now that preseason has been live for a few days, we're back to answer questions! We'll start answering around 2pm PST, and wrap up around 4pm. Thanks!"

As usual, I've attempted to organize the discussion into topics.


General

When asked about upcoming tweaks or reevaluations with the data they already have, Fearless noted:
"There's a lot possible as we start to get data on the live game. Smite rewards were all built so that they'd be very easy to tune, and we're very likely to make changes for balance here. Camp stats, both in terms of health and damage as well as xp and gold rewards are all possible targets if junglers as a role are too strong or starved for example. 
We put extra effort into the jungle rework this season to make sure we had as many ways to react and adjust as possible, so there's a lot of options for tuning as we start to get the big picture."
As for Dragon Slayer buff specifically, Fearless noted:
"We're pretty early for data on this one, as there's likely a lot of adjusting that hasn't happened yet. That being said, the value on this buff can be pretty dramatic, though often not right when dragon is first taken. Very possible this needs to be evened out, given how first dragon has a lot of benefits outside of just the buff (gateway to more dragon stacks being the main one)."

FeralPony also shared a few champions that are currently on the team's radar:
"Warwick is obviously on the radar with the itemization changes which we have some changes to next patch. He's a bit bonkers at the moment and obscuring the power level of the other junglers but it's something we're still gathering data on. 
Other junglers I've heard are pretty scary strong are Shaco, Nunu, Yi, and Xin, but that's mostly anecdotal and the landscape is fluctuating rapidly. Fearless and Axes have been keeping a closer eye on the jungle stuff than I have."

When asked why the entire jungle was changed rather than hitting specific high power junglers such as Lee Sin and Elise, Axes explained:
"Because that wouldn't work. The Lee Sin test wasn't the problem; the problem was that only one kind of power mattered, so only the champions who best expressed that power would be considered good. If we whacked Lee Sin and Elise, it'd be Rengar and Kha'Zix every game. Whack them and you'd see Jarvan IV and Evelynn every game. If we ever got far enough down that list for Nautilus to come up, it'd just mean we had crushingly nerfed 20 champs or something, or had buffed Nautilus to have strengths he was never intended to have, making him just another J4 or just another Lee Sin."

As for Pantheon and Fiora's ability solo dragon early by block dragon's attacks with Aegis/Riposte, Ypherion commented:
"These interactions are interesting. If they emerge as relatively uncommon strengths of champions, it might be ok, especially if there is strategic counterplay to it (e.g. know that Pantheon is probably rushing drag, and collapse on him, or rush a Rift Scuttler kill). 
Fiora's case is more compelling to me since it required quite a bit of skill (compared to Pantheon) and was much more risky. For now we'll monitor it and see what happens with it."

When asked if the team is against laners taking smite to benefit from the new variations, Fearless noted:
"We're not against laners taking smite if it proves to have strengths and weaknesses. If it becomes dominant, we'd be looking into why it was so strong. The power could be coming from the importance of objectives, the power of the buffs, or smite being too flexible. We knew some of this was likely to happen. We're much more likely to react if Smite starts to crowd out other summoner spells."
He continued:
"Your last point is something that we're watching very closely. Poaching is bound to happen each game, but the times when it happens, and the impact it has on the jungler are very important for the health of the game. If junglers feel like they have a very small amount of resources available to them, we see support tank junglers become the only good option. We're actively experimenting on some extra mechanics to make sure we have better tuning levers on jungler gold income"

Fearless also commented on the prevalence of high sustain junglers such as WW and Udyr, noting:
"If high sustain junglers aren't paying costs in other areas, than there are changes we need to make. High uptime junglers still need to have weaknesses, and currently other junglers aren't able to capitalize on them very well for a variety of reasons. There may be some small changes in the future looking to even out the playing field, but we're likely to be gentle in these adjustments. There are still a lot of optimizations left for junglers to make, especially for junglers that don't have tons of sustain on their kit, and if we bump these junglers too hard, we're likely to see them get crazy in the near future."


Itemization

When asked about Raptor Cloak's movement speed bonus and thoughts on solo laners running new smite/smite items, Reinboom noted:
"Raptor Cloak is intended as a diving / anti-diving tool with that glittered on mechanic of "get back to lane faster". It's a top lane item through-and-through to make some matchups slightly more energetic. 
It does need more build paths though, just getting Ohmwrecker out of it is kind of limiting. Another item that we had lined up for preseason (but was delayed due to needing some more assets made, sorry!) will likely be building out of it. 
We thought players would use and try to use smites in very creative ways (including in lane). Whether or not that's "good" or not we're still out on. Most likely, if this is the optimal everygame strategy then we'll respond (probably). If it's not but sometimes it adds something interesting to the game that's not too frustrating, then we might leave it."

Reinboom also commented on previously mentioned minion spawning "Zz'Rot's Portal", explaining:
"It's still planned, just not necessarily for preseason. Raptor Cloak needs to build into something else, yo! 
It needs a little bit more development still. It's a complicated item with quite a bit of art. :)"

When asked about the itemization changes to early armor and MR components, Reinboom commented:
"Quote
In the preseason changes, the design team decided to make defensive items a little easier to build by making Chain Vest build out of two Cloth Armors. For magic resistance items, Null-Magic Mantle's cost and MR were changed, and Negatron Cloak was removed entirely. Can we have a bit of insight about why the changes were different for armor and magic resistance items? (Or: Why was Negatron Cloak removed instead of making it build out of Null-Magic Mantle + X gold?)
"The difference mostly speaks to the strange state for some casters early game, especially those that are flat penetration reliant. 
Subtle changes to early game MR can push these casters out of playable range, so we set it up so that early game MR was a harder investment. This is also why NMM has always been expensive. 
When we were initially developing it, this put NMM in a weird spot in that it didn't quite make sense early and pushed in on Negatron late. 
That said, I think we overcompensated here especially for some late game build paths (Guardian Angel especially). It'll just take a bit of time to figure out where all the other changes put us before we can move on that."

FeralPony also added in that Negatron cloak will likely be returning, shared by Executioner's Calling was removed, and commented on a few things that didn't quite make it into preseason
"Negatron cloak will probably be making a return. In general I don't think it's needed for the majority of items but there are a few that have some pretty gross build paths post-change, cough Guardian Angel. 
The overall focus of the preseason was on strategic diversity which is why we intentionally focused on retooling items that had specific niches along those lines like Banner of Command and Elixirs, instead of more raw "combat items". We'll be making adjustments to the item system as the season goes on as there are a number of places we can improve it. If you have thoughts on Hurricane specifically toss them up! Would love to read them. 
Grievous wounds as a mechanic is something I think we need to revisit. As for Exec's in particular it generally wasn't very effective at countering sustain beyond sometimes shutting down Mundo or Swain ultimates, which isn't the greatest niche for an item. 
Some of the stuff we experimented with but ultimately cut was spawning different minions in different lanes, Baron used to spawn a giant monster when killed to help pushed (prototyped as a giant purple dragon!), and a few new active items (I won't spoil those because they could come back)"

As for the current power level of the individual jungle items, Axes commented they plan to support each item and that Ranger's Trailblazer is overshadowing other picks at the moment:
"Keeping an eye on it. 
First up will be addressing Ranger's Trailblazer, which is clearly overshadowing Poacher's Knife (and the other two, Warwick  aside). If Poacher's is still weak after that, we'd probably look to buff it directly (e.g. even less cooldown and/or more gold). 
Might take some time, but we're committed to supporting all four of these items."

Axes also commented on the removal of the "Conversation"  passive from jungle items and his thoughts on Poacher's Knife:
"1) Yes, it was the right call. Conservation creates some really strong incentives to play a certain way, and weird outcomes e.g. if a big fight breaks out at the wrong moment. The larger question is whether the gold available on the jungle is correct - and it quite possibly isn't. We'd solve this with increased gold on the jungle monsters, or just bonus gold from killing jungle monsters if you have smite or if you have machete (and its upgrades). 
2) I agree - Poacher's Knife is strongly overshadowed by Ranger's Trailblazer right now, and arguably by the other two items as well. We're certainly going to be adjusting these items as needed. The first thing will be getting items into a position where they're all roughly doing their jobs and we can adjust them on the balance side without changing them fundamentally, but we'll be balancing as well, wherever we can make things better. 
For Poacher's specifically, we'll see what happens with Ranger's less dominant in the near future, and then if it needs more love, I think it does have the levers in place to give it that love. We can bump the gold, bump the speed boost, we can reduce the cooldown of Smite after Smiting in the enemy jungle more (what if it had a 15 second cooldown?), etc., so we do have options."

When asked about the "Devourer" item enchantment and the playstyles it encourages, Axes commented:
"Somewhat, yes. The jungle is a place for champions who want to drive action, not for champions to passively farm for as long as possible and then emerge as the strongest champ on the map. 
We did it because the loss of the scaling fantasy entirely was unexpectedly costly - it turns out to be something that a small group of players is highly, highly attached to. We decided at that time to see if we could do a version that preserved the fantasy while doing away with some of the most problematic aspects, and I think we've succeeded. 
First, the item doesn't have a threshold before it turns on as Feral Flare did, and indeed rewards champion kills more than jungle camps, so that simply having it in your inventory doesn't necessarily mean you avoid action. Second, the lack of a ward and lack of sustain on the item means that you're more vulnerable to invasion if you're really playing a weak-but-high-scaling champion than you would've been with Wriggle's or Feral Flare. 
The bad news seems to be that the item is flatly overtuned right now, but the good news is we are in fact seeing players want to use the item in the action instead of just passive farming. We'll see where it lands with some better numbers in place."

When asked about the regen changes to Athene's vs Morellonomicon, Reinboom commented:
"The math for mana regen is a little odd late game, and the changes depends on the champion and build you're using. I think we missed this slightly since we tuned everything to trying to clear up the behavior within early and mid game. The late game got some strange impacts (like the Morello's got 3x as much regen thing). 
Once things settle in a bit, we'll be looking at mana regen itemization once more. Probably went too hard on chalice. 
We didn't look at Deathfire.'

Objectives

When asked why the Dragon Slayer buff only grants offensive buffs, Reinboom shared a few examples of defensive bonuses they tried and eventually scrapped during development:
"Depowering TT towers was a mistake that we'll be correcting. 
We initially played around quite a bit with many different defensive buffs for Dragon. Flat health. Regen. Flat damage reduction (which was subtly incredibly OP). 
A consistent problem with each of them was that the buff was just not very enticing or interesting to the people taking it. It didn't feel impactful. Yet, the actual results on the game in each case was incredibly warping. (Except perhaps for flat health, which just didn't feel impactful.)"
Reinboom continued:
"The word "subtle" was less important than the weird "incredibly OP"! :) (Though it's a joined problem) 
One of the case studies for this was regen. 
When we tried it, every other lane it worked well on. It did it's job. It was alright and neat enough. Teams wanted to take it (this is a huge concern when trying to think of these buffs). 
But all the games had really strange comeback and impact top lane. Like, the lane would be down 3 kills and hard focused and suddenly it was instantly back into the game sometime after the first dragon. Without ever influencing the dragon.

You would see the results of a "snowball" sure ending from certain dragon buffs that were incredibly difficult to pin on being caused by the dragon itself, thanks to the subtlety of it."


When asked about including the shrine duration - either in the tool tip or in an hp bar like wards - for Rift Scuttler, FeralPony commented:
"The amount of uptime the ward lasts is pretty subject to change (we cut it's duration down drastically) I think as we gain confidence in the timing moving forward we can make improvements to clarity here. Its very likely though that a solution we implement for this current timing wouldn't work at all if we were to increase the timing by any significant margin. Also since the ward itself is untargetable some of the traditional solutions like using their mana bar are off the table."


Other


As for plans to change runes to match the new +% regen stats, Reinboom noted:
"Quote
With the changes to Health and Mana regen items (going from "+X per 5" to "% base per 5"), are there plans to change Runes to match? If the runes aren't changed, will the Runes count as an addition to your base stats?
Currently, no - to both questions.For question 2: We wanted to be able to control champion identity (such as Health Regen being a strength or weakness), which means runes pushing that is not ideal. Basically, that will lead to really awkward series of nerfs to Riven and similar champions that are classically difficult to control on that note.

For question 1: Evaluating the strength of runes is difficult to do and we wanted to avoid causing a flood of people needing to spend more IP."
FeralPony also briefly spoke to runes and masteries changes, saying:
"No changes to runes and masteries for the preseason. There is definitely room for improvement here and something we'll be tackling later on. This is something I'm personal pretty invested in (I've worked on all the previous Mastery updates) and would love to work on moving forward. 
Small scope changes to either system don't have a lot of value, which is part of the reason we opted to not do a Mastery tree update since we've had pretty diminished improvement each time. There are a few small scope Rune changes we may be making shorter term but I imagine that system will need a more comprehensive update to get into a good place."


When asked if there will be a larger focus on fixing bugs during preseason, Sotere commented:
"It's always a goal to remove bugs. We now have more resources than ever before to tackle some of the tougher ones. 
So yes, there will be a bigger focus."

FeralPony also replied to a question concerning the "Fighter Project" - a long mentioned and large scale project to diversify melee fighters.
"While not directly related to preseason there is some work we still want to do with Fighters but the project has undergone a number of iterations and a lot of the lessons we've learned from investigations there led us to view it as a bigger issue beyond a "fighter" specific problem. Changes we want to make in regard to homogenization (champions feeling the same), lack of strategic identity (what does this champion do that is unique?), and unique play experiences (how do I play or interact with this champion differently) are not unique to fighters. These are problems that are often most prevalent on fighters but they impact all roles. When or how these changes will manifest is still under discussion. Changes here will most likely be done on a champion by champion basis rather than a massive "fighter patch" though that's still a possibility."
He continued:
"You are correct there are pros and cons to doing a large scale patch versus smaller incremental ones. 
I don't think it's impossible to do in a smaller scale scenario and it could take longer. I think it is possible to design the champions in such a way that they can exist simultaneously. Alternatively you can incrementally shift champions, items, etc into a better spot and continually address the most problematic elements until the landscape gets better. This allows us to learn adjust and make continual progress as we go. I don't claim to have all the answers here but it's possible this technique would actually save time as each of the smaller projects becomes more manageable and we can learn from our hypotheses and adjust course mid-flight which is difficult when the task becomes too large. 
PS - I've read some of your item recommendation posts in the past but didn't think I replied (was pretty later to the party - saw them a few months late) and just wanted to pass along thanks for the well thought out and in depth feedback. Some of the item changes we've come to similar conclusions on, and they've been really interesting reads overall."

Group Responses

Last up we have several sets of multi part or group questions, which are too specific to part out!

Axes Group Responses #1:
"
Last year the spirit line was implemented which gave more junglers the sustain that they needed and some extra gold income so that they didn't get put far behind for ganking. Why were neither of these retained on a wide scale?
Regarding sustain, the spirit line is a bit of a red herring - we've got strong sustain mechanics on the jungle items you're buying, but the tuning is a lot lower. That was a conscious decision, and if we did bring back the mechanics of Spirit Stone, it'd be tuned to a similarly lower point. More on this under #2. 
Regarding gold income: We're discussing the gold economy of the jungle, with a couple of possibilities on the table. We're probably not bringing back Conservation, but gold on the items is on the table. The key here is that one way or another, the gold has to add up to something decent for junglers, whatever the specifics.

With the new jungle being a lot harder for most champions to clear, and with the lack of extra sustain given from the spirit items, why did you also choose to lengthen the respawn times of the small camps?
If you take those two things together, the result is that now champion sustain matters. Sustain is how you clear and then take advantage with a gank; if you have poor sustain but great ganking, say, then you have to take fewer camps (but your ganks are scarier). It's possible we've swung too far in the other direction, but I'm interested to see how much one particular champion is skewing this data.

If the jungle continues to be problematic for many champions, or if the fighters that were dominant last season are simply replaced by tank junglers being the most viable, would you guys consider re-implementing some devices for sustain and/or extra gold?
Potentially, yes. We have levers that impact tank junglers versus fighter junglers unequally (the enchantments, Krug buff versus Gromp buff) and we're looking at how much gold you should actually get out of the jungle. So, yes, we want role diversity here and think we have the tools to accomplish that."

Axes Group Responses #2:
For example, Warwick's interaction with the new jungle items, and the dominance of sustain junglers in general.
Yes, we're watching and already starting to make changes where appropriate.

Irelia being able to reach 81% tenacity with the new elixir
We're watching it, but no plan to change it right this second. That could easily change if necessary.

The extreme advantage that first dragon gives a team, and the ability of certain champions to take it at very early levels (Fiora and Pantheon come to mind).
Yes on both sides - yes, the advantage is really high, possibly inappropriately high, and yes to certain champs claiming it possibly too easily. We do think that some champs should have a strength in claiming Dragon potentially much earlier than others, but that doesn't mean all of the cases happening right now are appropriate.

Is this an intended effect? It is a rather significant nerf to DoT champions like Malzahar, Fizz, Karthus, Mordekaiser, etc.
It is intended to be on at that point, and does mean it's a little safer for a super low health laner to back (harder to kill them while they back). However, you should not be gaining a shield within a second of taking damage, which means that a Malzahar DoT or a Mordekaiser ult should be mostly unaffected."

Axes Group Responses #3:
"Gonna pick out some of the jungle questions:
What is the thought process behind the contradiction of your stated goal of making it more worthwhile to counter jungle (and recommending Poacher's Knife on so many champions), and the increased respawn timers making counter jungling nearly impossible because the camps are never actually up?
It's actually the other way - counterjungling can't be meaningful if respawn timers are short, even though it's 'easier'. If they respawn so soon after your opponent clears them that they're up when you go in, they'll very often have respawned after you clear them by the time your opponent is in position to try and steal them, and you haven't actually set them behind at all. 
Counterjungling requires a pretty comprehensive awareness of what your opponent is doing - opportunistically taking a camp here and there is one thing, but if you really want to try to shut someone's gold stream off, that's going to take a lot of doing. You're going to need to ward, you're going to need to pay attention to respawns, etc.
Long story short: the shorter the respawn, the easier it is to counterjungle but the less it matters.
How exactly does making the jungle stronger "diversify" possible jungle picks, when even several of the previously viable junglers can no longer (or just barely) survive in the jungle long enough to actually jungle? (Evelyn, Kha'Zix, Amumu, Yasuo, Mordekaiser)
Let's be clear about what kind of jungle diversity we're talking about here. We want champions in the jungle who are actually junglers - who have the kinds of power that can matter when played from that position. We're not trying to say every champ can clear. That's the Season 4 jungle and the result is that power against the jungle doesn't matter, only power against champions does matter and we see Lee Sin - Rengar - Kha'Zix - Evelynn - Elise - Jarvan IV over and over.

What we are aiming for is a jungle where diverse kinds of actions are relevant - where being a ganker, a duelist, controlling objectives, stealing camps, counterganking can coexist as meaningful types of power, as well as one where tanks, fighters, assassins, even a few mages can be strong provided they have the right kind of strengths to matter as a jungler.

FWIW: Amumu is still very, very powerful; Evelynn might need some love; not sure where Kha has landed; Amumu is still very strong (he's a bit weaker but I'd attribute that to direct changes in 4.20); Yasuo and Mordekaiser both can clear somewhat, I think the rune pages required have changed a bit though.
What happened to staggering the initial spawn times? 

Couple things. It wasn't actually increasing route diversity (actually, this version is more diverse, if only incrementally). It was killing off level 1 invades which had a lot of unintended consequences (laners hiding in lane brush to try for first blood, plus invades are just plain exciting when they happen sometimes). And it was making the jungle really hard to get started on learning - players could do the optimization that the jungle calls for once they had the confidence that they could more or less succeed, but players weren't really even getting started on that process when the spawn times were staggered. 
You specifically called out Lee Sin as a champion that doesn't do so well in the new jungle. I disagree completely. His built in lifesteal/spell vamp lets him manage the jungle nearly as well as he could with the old one (possibly even better, with the Krug/Gromp buffs), without any hit to his ganking abilities.
He's one we're keeping a close eye on. Certainly if Lee Sin is just good at everything all at once the way he has been, that'd be a major problem for this jungle.
Are there any plans to look at edge cases of lane-Smite like Skirmisher's Devourer Warwick top?
Yes. That particular example will be taking a couple of hits in the near future.

We would be ok with lane smite in some cases - if it gets picked up because you want to help control the enemy jungle, and that's a valid but not totally dominant strat, we'd be pretty happy I think. But picking it because it's just the best way to dominate your lane opponent is something that we'll have to take action on."

Sotere Group Responses #1:
"That is a good share of questions!
Do you think the jungle changes might eventually put Maokai back into being a jungler?
Maybe. He does have some specific requirements to be successful and as we have seen, if he is strong, he may just show up in top lane. Righteous Glory is a nice addition for him and we know he loves that effect (a la Reverie) to make his initiate even stronger.

There's supposed to be a thing where Fiora and Pantheon can solo dragon at VERY early levels (Even at level 1, if memory serves) because of their ability to block an autoattack; do you feel this is something that should be looked into?
Yes, and we are looking into it! My personal impression is that their ability to block is a cool interaction with the world that shouldn't necessarily be changed. I think Dragon just needs to adapt. ;)

Apparently, there's a bug with Tryndamere's ult, where 'enemy champion targeted' smites will kill him during it.
That's true, we're aware, and have a fix ready.

Kalista Suggestions
If I happen by CertainlyT when he's free I'll bring these up. :) The Targon interaction is one I've been a touch frustrated by, as well.

EDIT: Also, I believe there's a bug with Chalice of Harmony/ Unholy Grail where they actually restore 1.5% of missing mana every SECOND instead of every five seconds. I should hope this is being looked into, since one of the goals with changing the item was to change it from being the 'trivialize mana as a resource' item it was before.
There is a bug. It's not quite as egregious as stated, thank goodness. We are tracking it and have plans to resolve. Thanks for bringing it up. :)"

Ypherion group responses #1:
"Going to chime in on some of the item and map questions:
So... what strategic role is Unholy Grail supposed to fill now? How exactly is it not flat out worse than Ardent Censor or Mikael's as a mana regen item with the changes?
Athene's is still the only option that provides that regen in combination with AP and MR -- in other words it's probably still the best of those three in a mid lane match up.
Does upgrading to Mikael's intentionally decrease MP/5, or is that an oversight? (Chalice 50% + Idol 60% = Mikael's 100%)
Pretty much an oversight. Will be fixed.
Are there any plans to look at MR itemization? As it stands now, it's rather hard to fit MR into most builds outside of Abyssal, Maw or GA. Most of the rest of MR itemization seem to be awkward balls of stats, and much more expensive than equivalent amounts of armor. 
What was the thought process behind removing Negatron Cloak and increasing the price of Null-Magic Mantle, instead of just letting Null-Magic Mantle build into Negatron Cloak like you did with Cloth Armor and Chain Vest?
I don't think that Spectre's Cowl is in a bad spot in terms of build path...the components are effective and the combine cost is still low. This opens up Banshee's and Spirit Visage in addition to the items you mentioned.
The more specific motivations, Riot Reinboom has talked to MR effectiveness elsewhere in the Q&A, so I'll just reference that post and continue on your other questions!

Do you think that the new Banner of Command might be a bit too strong? Not necessarily the stats (LOVE being able to get it for tanky AP builds!), but the permanent Black Shield on the promoted minion? Kinda completely blocks out a lot of mages from being able to kill it at all.
This is the intent. Wave-clear/stall is a strategy that players have shown us over and over again, and like many other strategies we looked for places where we could put levers that let us tune that strategy. We don't want Banner to just remove wave-clear comps entirely (and can tune it if we have to), but it is there so that we have a place to put anti-stall power that teams can opt into when needed. Also, I think it's too early to comment on the relative strength of a lot of things right now (though some are pretty clear coughWarwickcough).
Raptor Cloak/Ohmwrecker. Is it intended to work near dead turrets or not?
This is intended. We'll keep evaluating whether this is the right direction, but it's not a bug in the standard sense.
Are there any plans to look at edge cases of lane-Smite like Skirmisher's Devourer Warwick top?
I suspect this is more about WW than lane-Smite or the items in top lane. We don't mind Smite on laners so long as it's not a must-have, dominant pick. We'll be watching this, and see how things change once we've brought WW into line.

Towers feel really weak now. In general they seem to fall a lot faster than they used to (my last game I had a Cassi and Yi manage to take one down from full with a single minion wave at level 5), and the lasers on the base turrets seem... underwhelming. They start so low and take so long to heat up that it's usually pretty easy to dive under them and get out with taking even less damage than you would have before the change.
We've seen reports of towers feeling a bit flimsy and we're looking into exactly why this is the case. We may make some changes here depending on what we find. No concrete answers at the moment though. Laser towers are in a similar place. We might tune them up, but we need to be sure that they don't go crazy. We've had pretty high variance internally depending on the tuning, so we'll have to find the right spot. Watching play on live is helping out a lot there."
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