Red Post Collection: Quick Gameplay Thoughts: 1/26, Swain Champion Insights, & More

Posted on at 5:32 PM by Aznbeat
Today's red post collection includes Meddler's quick gameplay thoughts for January 26th, including thoughts on splitting Precision's stats, bot lane in mid-season, and more, as well as Swain's champion insights, a Riot Game Merch update, and more!
Continue reading for more information!



Table of Contents


Champion Insights: Swain, the Noxian Grand General 

With Swain's large scope champion update now testing on the PBE, here's BananaBand1t with a champion insights article featuring the designer, artists, writers, playtesters and more:
"Swain was always a thematically complex champion, but the various aspects of his character didn’t really make sense together. He was a renowned military strategist in Noxus, but on the Rift, his “strategy” generally involved walking towards enemies until they died (or he ran out of mana). And then there were the ravens. Beatrice and Swain were always together, and Swain could transform into a bird, but how did any of that connect with his role as a military tactician? 
There was a lot to sort through before Swain could step up as the ruthless leader of Noxus, and Swain’s lead developers are here to share what that process was like. 
VICTORY THROUGH SACRIFICE
With Narrative Writer David “Interlocutioner” Slagle 
What elements of Swain’s original character did you want to maintain during the update? 
Here’s a potentially controversial (but revealing) statement: This is one of the first champion updates I’ve worked on where I don’t think the original character was actually the biggest touchstone for us. It felt more important to make the Swain in players’ imaginations real.

Perhaps more than with any other character, the idea of who Swain was shifted with developments in League’s lore. He went from a creepy battle prodigy who somehow never lost (but only talked to his bird), to a brilliant man ruling the most ruthless, deadly nation in Runeterra. 
With Noxus becoming more defined, I’d look at Swain and wonder, “I thought he was a general, why’s he wearing green bathrobes? Why’s he transforming into a birdman? How does that help him win battles?” There were definitely answers to those questions in the old lore, but the weirdness would’ve only grown over time if we hadn’t tried to find a new center and start from what people thought Swain was, rather than what he actually was.
The pitch that started it all.
How’d you approach updating Swain’s backstory and character? 
I think the most resonant characters in League are the ones that draw on familiar archetypes but change them in ways that give players something new to discover. For Swain, we decided that the core archetype would be “ruthless dictator,” so developing his backstory was a quest to find the ways we’d twist that into something unexpected. 
Swain is a dictator who’s able to enforce his will because he’s made a Faustian bargain… but it’s inverted. The demon he made a deal with was outsmarted (as far as we know). And Swain is such a ruthless ruler because he’s able to channel the demon’s power and see farther than anyone else—Swain plays the long game and is the “visionary” of Noxus. 
This focus also enabled us to bring back shades of the old “master strategist” archetype, but in a much more specific way. Having conquered a demon of secrets, Swain can send extensions of his will in the form of ravens across Runeterra, gathering memories from the dead. Some of these whispers haunt him, giving him glimpses of a dark future. This makes Swain a great strategist, but it’s not just because his wisdom stat is higher. 
Swain’s at his most brilliant when he’s at his most brutal. 
The other important part about updating Swain was parsing out his psychology. A lot of Noxians are driven by what they believe about strength, and that belief should be different for each character. (Otherwise, they’d all have the exact same thing to say, and there would never be conflict.) Swain believes in a vision of strength through unity, even if he must play the villain. 
What was the most challenging part about updating Swain? 
Usually when we do VGUs, the characters get a bit more streamlined in terms of their themes. For Swain, we initially sacrificed the demonic bargain and raven aspects of the character, since we identified “ruthless dictator who wields magic” as his key component. But the first iteration didn’t really feel like Swain and we couldn’t figure out why. Some people would tell us it wasn’t Swain because he wasn’t “Noxian leader” enough. And others would say it could never be Swain without the limp. Or ravens. Or not just ravens, but Beatrice. 
So it became kind of a constant balancing act. Keeping all of the themes in play, but identifying which ones to emphasize where. Conversations within the team were super difficult because everyone had their own balance in their head, and then the balances would get reshuffled as team members changed and as we talked to other teams. But the more we built, the more Swain started to come into his own, and you could judge new elements against the existing ones. It wasn’t until the final few weeks that a lot of the work in progress proved out. 
Early Animation Exploration
A NEW VISION
With Art Lead Larry “The Bravo” Ray, Primary Concept Artist Justin “Riot Earp” Albers, and Illustrator Victor “3rd Colossus” Maury 
How did Swain’s new role as the Grand General of Noxus impact his visual design? 
We wanted to keep Swain’s design simple, especially his clothing. Noxus values strength above all, so functionality is more important than appearance. Swain may be the Grand General of Noxus, but he couldn’t care less about what others think of him. He’s wearing practical armor, similar to what he would’ve worn when he was a soldier, and his captain’s coat is the only thing denoting his status. 
We talked about adding more ornate details to his coat, but Swain just doesn’t have the desire for dramatic flair like some other Runeterran leaders (lookin’ at you, Azir). We envisioned Swain as more of a Darth Vader character, in the sense that he has a bold, simple design and color scheme. 
Swain becoming the Grand General of Noxus also gave rise to some tough questions, including “How old should Swain be?” Some people thought one of Swain’s defining characteristics was that he was League’s old dude, but Swain’s old age no longer fit his character very well. 
Swain is the person on the frontlines leading Noxian troops into battle, inspiring and preparing the soldiers for war. It didn’t make much sense for the one leading the charge to be an elderly guy—it needed to be someone lively and strong. But Swain also couldn’t be some young whippersnapper because people wouldn’t respect him. This is why Swain’s a seasoned military man. He’s experienced, both in life and in battle, and this earns him the respect of his people. And even though he’s a bit past his prime, he’s still ridiculously powerful because of the demon he’s captured. 
We did a lot of portrait studies to try and hit the sweet spot where Swain looks mature and wise yet also strong and capable. He needed to command respect and have presence
Portrait Study
We also decided to remove Swain’s limp and cane for similar reasons (it’s hard to fight on the frontlines while also relying on a cane). However, some people believed the most aspirational part of Swain’s character was that he’s crippled and yet more powerful than he appears, so we tried to find a middle ground. In Swain’s updated backstory, he lost an arm and had an injured leg, but when he made a deal with a demon, his body was restored. What others perceived as a weakness was transformed into strength, but now his hand serves as a constant reminder of the choice he made. This is a classic example of Swain turning a handicap into an advantage. Swain doesn’t accept setbacks. 
Also, Swain wears a leg brace—which is a nod to his old design—and word on the battlefield is that he rather enjoys dancing with a cane. 
What was it like illustrating Swain’s splash art? 
Throughout production, Swain’s visual design was about this stark statement of black and white plus red, so I tried to see if I could incorporate that into the thumbnails for his splash. It felt like a propaganda poster, which some people thought might be more appropriate for a promotional piece than a splash. I wasn’t able to fully convince the team to try it, so we compromised. 
Thumbnail by Victor “3rd Colossus” Maury
The palette was challenging to work with since reds have to remain fully saturated (otherwise they start to look pink) and blacks can look dull or generally overwhelm the composition. It was a difficult piece to balance, and I’m not sure if I pulled it off. 
We put a lot of thought into the gesture for Swain's demon hand—we wanted him to feel relaxed but in control, with an air of brooding effortlessness.
AN ENEMY HAS BEEN SWAIN
With Game Designer Alex “Wav3break” Huang 
What about Swain’s original kit did you want to maintain? 
From the beginning, there were three main things we knew we wanted to preserve: 
  1. Swain’s ability to wade into teamfights as a frontline mage.
  2. Swain’s snare. It’s so core to his character.
  3. The lifestealing and healing mechanic. 
Nothing else was guaranteed, including his transformation. This was mostly because during early design work, we struggled to find a version that felt like a huge transformation moment—something that was exciting and satisfying to use—while also feeling fair to play against. We kept landing on iterations that either felt lackluster, meaning they didn’t really stand out from game to game (like Swain’s old ulti), or else Swain would gain crazy amounts of power with little counterplay. 
What was the development process like for adding in the transformation? 
Despite the early struggles, we still wanted to include some form of transformation in Swain’s kit. Up until about two months before his PBE debut, Swain’s transformation ability was on his “E” and worked similarly to his old ultimate, where he’d drain HP from nearby enemies. In this version, Swain couldn’t cast any spells but he’d gain extra movement speed. Swain collected souls from champions who died around him, and he could spend five souls to cast an empowered version of the transformation, which was basically the same ability but stronger. 
We moved away from this design for multiple reasons. For one, requiring a maximum number of souls to cast the more powerful transformation created feast-or-famine situations that didn’t feel good for Swain or his opponents. There were also thematic concerns: Swain is supposed to be in control of the demon, yet he’d completely silence himself in demon form. It didn’t seem like Swain was empowered by the transformation, and it was selling the fantasy short. 
To try and resolve these problems, we moved the transformation ability to Swain’s ultimate and gated it behind a longer cooldown. Increasing the cooldown meant we could add a lot more power into the ability. Now, Swain no longer needs a certain number of souls to transform. Instead he has access to a more powerful ability while in his ultimate form, and the damage it deals increases based on how many souls Swain has to “spend.” He’s also able to cast his other abilities while in demon form. Together, these changes helped create a more memorable ult for players that also better fit Swain’s thematic. 
Exploring ideas for the demon whose power Swain captures and unleashes; this influenced the appearance of his demon form in-game.
WHAT ABOUT THE BIRDS?!
With Interlocutioner, The Bravo Ray, RiotEarp, 3rd Collosus, and Wav3Break 
It’s true—there was a time during development where Swain didn’t have any ravens. Beatrice and her feathered friends disappeared completely when we were trying to simplify Swain’s many themes. (Plus we wanted to clarify that Swain himself was the source of his power, and not the birds.) But homing in on only the “ruthless dictator” and “dark mage” elements of his character didn’t seem right. It just didn’t feel like Swain. 
We eventually realized we were gonna need the birds.
When Swain was focused around being a death mage, he didn’t have any bird-like elements in his ultimate form. That’s when we asked ourselves, “What if we at least gave him wings, like an Angel of Death?” Once we put the “bird form” in-game (aka the wings), it felt so much more like Swain. And then when we added the ominous hover, everything finally started coming together. 
We added the iron feathers on his coat, which connected him to the raven theme in a less literal way while also hinting at the wings that appear in demon form. And at this point, Swain’s gameplay was already solid without ravens doing the brunt of his dirty work, but we saw an opportunity to do something immersive and new to League. Let’s just say we didn’t murder Beatrice… we made Beatrice a murder."

Quick Gameplay Thoughts: January 26 

Here's Meddler's quick gameplay thoughts for January 26th, covering Precision stats, Bot late in mid-season, & more:
"Hey all, 
Usual Disclaimers 
These posts will often contain talk about future work we're doing, or planning to do, that isn't yet guaranteed to ship. The nature of the work could change or, depending on what we discover, projects mentioned may get put delayed or even stopped. If you'd like to see a Tweet whenever a new one of these posts goes up: https://twitter.com/RiotMeddler 
Splitting Precision's Stats 
At this point it's looking very likely that in 8.4 we make it so Precision splits its stats with your other tree selected. That means Precision primary/Sorcery secondary would give AS and AD, as would Domination primary/Sorcery secondary etc. Same change that was made with Resolve recently, which overall seems to have been a net positive in terms of opening up Rune choice more. It's also got the benefit that now regardless of which combination of paths you're choosing you'll get some of the primary path and some of the secondary (though with Sorc+Domination both are Adaptive AD/AP of course). Not expecting this change to address all the issues with stats in the Runes system, we do think it'll help noticeably though and is something we can change quite quickly. 
While we think it will open up Precision primary to a wider range of champs it does have some downside for champions who want to take Precision secondary but don't want attack speed much. Something we'll be testing as a result is skewing the stats split towards one tree in some cases. Sorcery primary/Precision secondary in particular might end up looking something like 70% AP/30% AS, rather than the straight 50%/50% splits Resolve uses with all the non Inspiration pairings. 
Mid-Season: Opening up Bot Lane 
About a week back we put out a video dev diary covering some of our goals for gameplay in 2018. Worth a look if you haven't seen it: 
https://nexus.leagueoflegends.com/en-us/2018/01/dev-diary-gameplay-in-2018/ 
One thing mentioned there I figured it would be good to talk about a bit more is our plan to open up bot lane to a wider range champions in the farming position. It's something we've been interested in, and talked about, for a long time, but haven't dedicated the needed effort to to properly support non marksmen there. That's meant a game state where marksmen have been effectively a required pick as a result. A lot of players have called us on that, in particular that we've talked of wanting to support more diversity, but haven't opened up the most consistent part of team comps. 
Our biggest goal with mid-season is to change that, make it so it's a really effective choice to sometimes run a comp that doesn't have a marksmen in bot lane, or potentially doesn't have a marksmen at all. It's kind of workable at present, but we agree should be a lot more so. That's likely to involve work on items for non marksmen bot lanes, adjusting some supports so that they've got stronger synergies with non marksmen, maybe changes to things like how towers take damage even. We generally want to stay away changing individual champs so that they go bot though, this is about opening up the position to other classes, not putting mechanics on champs that are bot lane specific. 
Details overall still being worked on - we're just kicking off planning and investigation right now. 
It's likely that, at least initially, we're supporting a range of non marksmen in bot, but that a number of other classes still don't have a way to succeed there (e.g. a lot of mages might be effective choices there, but skirmishers not). Assuming the initial opening up worked well we'd then want to continue to gradually open the position up over time. 
Spell Agro Fallout 
Very early days on this (writing when we've only seen about 12 hours of play or so). So far though it doesn't look like any champ's got hammered too hard by this change. Pantheon looks to be one of the most affected, but, at least off early data and observation seems to be a fairly mild power loss still. More thoughts to follow once the change has been out for a decent amount of time, no compensation changes planned yet at least though."

When asked about GangplankMeddler commented:
"Nothing yet. We'll talk about him when we do 8.4 planning next week, see if he needs anything or if Klepto did knock him down appropriately."

He went on:
"Quote:
Alright, thanks for the response! 
If/When you guys split the stats on Precision, I would not be surprised to see Fleet Footwork GP become a thing.
I doubt it'd be too strong but perhaps worth keeping an eye on.
Yeah, hoping we'll see quite a few champs try out some precision keystones post split that have been too inaccessible to them. We'll keep an eye on that in general, imagine some will find new good fits and others will conclude it's still not the tree for them though."

As for JhinMeddler replied:
"Quote:
Hey Meddler, what is the current status of Jhin?
Suspect we'll get the ult buffs we were testing a few weeks ago back in for 8.4. That's a prediction, not a certainty though. As with GP we'll be doing some 8.4 planning next week."

On Zed, Meddler commented:
"Quote:
Hi Meddler, what do you think of Zed acutelly? 
The champion is Top BanRate since many patches, but has had no change since all the time, and the new Runes on nothing change to are gameplay see not much, maybe think about doing something ?
I think Zed, like almost all assassins, is going to have a high ban rate if he's not clearly weak. He's got a theme a lot of players like too, which gives him a high play rate, so if you don't ban him it's fairly likely you'll see him in some Elos. Combination of those two factors means I'd expect he'll be one of the most banned champions even when balanced. Nothing currently planned for him as a result, though would be nice someday to make it so his counterplay didn't change as much by Elo (not well understood at Bronze/Silver, clearly understood leaving him struggling somewhat in high MMR/competitive, which is a trend with a number of assassins)."

Meddler talked more about the bot lane changes the team was discussing:
"Quote:
Hi Meddler, my concern about bringing non-marksman champions into the bot lane is that it will result in waveclear mages taking over the lane entirely. I can't imagine liking a meta where people take Azir bot because he can safely push any adc marksman in and then poke them underneath their turret forcing them to back constantly? How are you guys looking to handle these kinds of situations?
Yeah, that's on our minds a lot right now, both in terms of wanting to ensure bot still has an interesting laning phase that isn't just AOE clear the wave then back off and waveclear from mid lane in general. Part of the solution might be making sure that whatever we change to help mages play bot synergizes better with non waveclear mages instead. Still working on planning and details though."

Meddler continued:
"Quote:
Would you guys be looking at new champions or reworks to help out with the goal of non marksman bot lanes being viable? My friends love doing kill lanes bot and I love Kindred and Ivern, both of whom plug holes in the team comp when they do off meta stuff in lane. I would love to have more niche champions designed for lanes their class usually doesn't go to.
Maybe a bit. We want to open bot lane up to other classes in general though, not just to a few champs who've had their kits tailored to being able to replace an ADC in the current system. 
That's not to say that we think making champs who can go in unusual positions versus usual expectations is bad, just that it doesn't hit our big goal here."

He went on:
"Quote:
Are we going to see more changes to open up build paths and roles for champions (not just bot lane) like you did by promoting Ekko jungle and giving Rengo AP scalings on PBE? There are a lot of champions that could work in different ways or positions as well as those that have previously worked on certain positions but now no longer do. For example adc crit Kennen became one of the, if not the absolute worst adc choice as a result of his off-tank on-hit build getting nerfed even though his glass cannon crit build had a healthy niche. Can we expect more changes that can help promote those types of different playstyles?
Yes, we'll be trying to do more stuff like that, both at the individual kit level and items/runes that support alternative playstyles like that."

When asked how champions like Taric and Malphite would fare with the possibility of no Marksmen in games, Meddler commented:
"Quote:
I'm curious about champs like Taric and Malph if marksmen are out of the game; I've always thought it would be nice to have MR scaling on Taric W for dealing with AP poke champs; a meta where it's possible to have no marksman makes those picks weaker first picks, in particular.
Do you think making champs like Taric and Malph, who scale with armor, more niche is okay (ala Galio with MR)? Are there any thoughts about how to do that, or is that kind of a "wait and see" type of concern?
Would still expect marksmen to be very common picks in bot lane. Between that and high physical damage champs in other positions not too concerned about champs whole scale with armor/counter AD. Would keep an eye on it of course, but think it should be fine."

As for how eSports would fare with these proposed changes, Meddler replied:
"Quote:
Hey Meddler are you guys going to coordinate with the esports teams at Riot regarding the bot lane open up beyond marksman since ADC is a designated role
Assuming we get bot lane more open I'd imagine Esports would shift to consistently using 'bot' as a term, or something similar. We touch base with Esports fairly regularly to let them know what we're working on, get any feedback that's on their mind. Some of the casters/analysts are also just on a number of the gameplay/design email lists too." 

Maple Nectar provided some context on the Ryze R/Stasis interaction change now testing on the PBE:
"Quote:
Context behind the change to Ryze's ult getting cancelled by stasis? I feel like this is 100% stopwatch's fault and it kinda sucks. 
Any Ahri or Syndra buffs on the horizon?
When the only way Ryze could do this was via Zhonya's it meant he had to make substantial trade-offs (far less mana), or else it was a 3rd or 4th item purchase at which point him using it when caught in a tight spot was a more interesting interaction. 
You're not wrong that stopwatch has tipped our hand in that this interaction makes it so Ryze has one get-out-of-fail free card which has a chilling effect on mid lane for anyone hoping to be able to get an early advantage. 
No word on whether Syndra or Ahri atm."

When asked about Zyra, Maple Nectar commented:
"She currently has almost equal performance between mid and support (first time in awhile), though her playrate is heavily skewed towards support. As such she doesn't really have the room for any more buffs, but will benefit if the meta shifts from strong early game junglers."

Maple Nectar also noted that Volibear wouldn't be seeing any tentative changes until the 8.4 PBE cycle:
"Quote:
Hi Meddler, I remember reading that Volibear was getting changes in 8.3 but I don't think any specifics were said. 
What can we expect in 8.3? E knock-back? 
I'm convinced that even a small change like removing the cast-time on his ultimate would go a long way.
Any of your thoughts on Volibear would be sweet!
Won't be making 8.3. We scoped up the changes a bit and right now 8.4 seems more likely, but will depend on confidence in testing. This is one we're taking a bit of a slow burn on"

When asked about Lissandra, Meddler replied:
"Quote:
Hey Meddler! Any news on where lissandra falls? She seems like she could use some help
Power wise, potentially a bit on the weak side, especially given when she's picked it's often as a counterpick, so might expect better than average performance (she looks pretty average stats wise). 
In mid lane in particular she suffers from the same problem a lot of champs do, which is that a small number of champs who are consistent, reliable and fairly generalist crowd others out (Malz, Taliyah, Orianna, Azir etc), both in high MMR solo queue and pro play. Our priority's going to be on addressing them as a result, given that helps a lot of other champs who are overshadowed. We'll take a look at her as well, see if we should be doing power work to her specifically, both considering mid and other positions, likely we get to hitting those overperformers first though."

Quick Hits

  • The Riot Games Merch FB noted that new Ahri merch will be coming soon, including the limited edition Ahri: A New Dawn figure that was announced two years back, will be coming to the merch store soon:
"We promised an announcement this week, and after two years we are so very happy to announce that on March 13th at 11am PST - Ahri is back! The long awaited global release of the Ahri nendoroid, the legendary Limited Edition statue Ahri: A New Dawn, even unisex and women's cuts of a new Ahri tee. More information in coming weeks. http://riot.com/122vvhO #theloveofahri"

"LB work/thoughts have been shelved for a while following the potential rework not working out. I can't say exactly when work on her will resume, but we've not forgotten about her and have been spending that time on things that will also help her out (Eg. AP itemization). I also think she's reasonably balanced atm. Will let you know when I have more information."
"I was just thinking over dinner that I'd like come make a thread and get ahead of the changes to let you guys know what was up before PBE hit, and then I saw that they had me beat by an hour. Unfortunate. 
Linking my previous post for those who aren't familiar with the original changelist and reasoning. 
Anyway, hello, I'm here to talk about what this changelist is going to look like moving forward on the PBE. You probably noticed I pulled back on the Q shield and moved some stuff around on the R line. I promise we're not getting cold feet, just doing the usual tuning stuff. Seeing changes become less powerful feels like shit, and unfortunately that's a cost we incur by showing you guys things as we do them. I frequently wish I could just nail the tuning first try so nobody has to deal with that experience, but that's not a skill I've mastered yet. 
R change is a directional thing - rather bring his level 18 ult cooldown more in line with other similar AoE mage teamfight ults than reinforce the "oneshot a squishy" playstyle. The buffed initial cast damage meant folks were swapping to Sorc Shoes to just one-combo people up-front, which isn't really the point of Viktor ult as a sustained damage tool where the skill-check is keeping people in it. 
The shield...the shield at 200% was just comically overtuned. I started with "doubled" because it's sexy (hello you may know me from other changelists such as "Malphite's Passive Triples His W"), but in this case we could immediately tell it was insane in our first playtest. Then some of the playtest bros came over right after that and also told me it was insane. A 40% CDR build meant he was pretty well unassailable unless CC'd and bursted by multiple people. Took it down to 60% bonus and we'll be going from there. Good news though: Q shield is testing well and I'm committed to shipping some form of it. I'm looking forward to seeing what you guys can do with it. 
Anyway, that's all. Thanks for your patience as always."
You summed it up pretty well, but I'll throw in my two cents from the perspective as one of the team leads. 
From a process perspective: 
When we're working on a patch, we have about two work weeks to choose our targets, dig into a shit ton of data, come up with a few paperkits, implement said paperkits, test them, get feedback, iterate, test again, finalize iterations, and get in for actual bug testing and localization lock (for things that are changing tooltips and need to be translated). What this usually amounts to is that we have from ~Wednesday afternoon to the following Friday to get our changes through the various development stages and into the next patch. After we lock on the Friday, we have the following Monday/Tuesday for any final power tuning and bug fixing before the entire patch gets "locked" and no more changes can be submitted. From there it goes into extensive bug testing internally, at vendors, and in partner regions to ensure all big bugs have been caught and fixed before we go Live the following Tuesday-Wednesday. This means that from the time we start working on a task, it takes 3 weeks before that change will actually get shipped live (which is one of the factors in it feeling like it takes a long time for things to get changed). 
Now, not all of our work is targeted on a 2 week cadence, there are times where we have some larger work on our plates for a few sprints/months before it ships, but the bulk of our work gets run through the rapid two week cadence. When we're already working on a fast schedule, one of the things that can drag down any team in any organisation is having too much work in progress. It's something you need to be hyper aware of, as having too many things on the go at once is likely to lead to a lot of stuff falling through the cracks, or burnout because of people trying to deal with the overhead of each individual piece of work they have on their plate. What this means at Riot is that the specific designer may have 4-5 tasks of varying sizes on their plates for a given patch, and each of those tasks requires investigation, ideation, implementation, playtesting and gathering feedback, iterating based on said feedback, fixing bugs, writing patch notes etc. Anything that bleeds over to the next sprint adds to the overhead they need to manage the following sprint (including adding another testpoint to playtests that are already crowded with changes from all the teams in core gameplay). While breaking things up as you suggest would lead to smoother releases, it also just doesn't scale well in a real world development scenario (that's not intended to sound condescending). 
What this means from a product perspective: 
One of the things that we try to aim for with our larger changes is offering interesting and compelling gameplay that alters the way players may think about when to pick a specific champion, how to build them, or where they could play them. Things like; what if you could take Nunu bot lane with an Azir or Kayle instead of just in the jungle when you have a hyper scaling adc? Or what if you could take Morgana or Zyra in the jungle if you got autofilled jungle as a support main but your team was entirely physical damage? These types of changes tend to err on the riskier side of the equation because we're trying to balance for a lot of factors. Things like what will this look like in pro play? What about Diamond? Will this be pubstompy in Bronze? Would this be something players find exciting or interesting? The list goes on and on, but at the end of the day, sometimes we have to take our best guess which is informed by the few playtests we get, trust our gut, and go with it. Can this result in us having some releases where we sit back, see the results of a change and think "damnit we did it again". Yep. But does that make me question whether we should have held onto a change for an additional 2 sprints to try and eke out even a tiny bit more value from playtests to give us the confidence in a direction or present tuning? Very very rarely. When all is said and done, the data that we get from our changes being out in the wild for even an hour gives us far more information than we can get from our playtests. This means that we can adjust a champion to be right around where we're happy with a day or two after release as opposed to holding onto them and carrying the overhead cost of managing the task through the various dev stages for another month to get us to the same result (maybe). While people tend to look at them as massive misses on our part (which they are), I'm fine accepting that cost as long as we're willing to own up to it when we do and hotfix them when necessary. At the end of the day as a lead I'm accountable for the results of my team, and if needing to do hotfixes was causing players to churn from the game or completely lose all faith in Riot then I'd definitely revisit this as a philosophy, but as that hasn't materialised so far my tendency is to lean towards iterating quickly as opposed to drawing changes out over a long period of time. 
@OP: 
To be entirely clear, your thoughts aren't wrong. If we wanted to go for the smoothest releases possible, we could easily adjust to releasing changes the way you suggest (1/4 or 1/2 at a time). The primary benefit there would be we'd have less egregious cases like Nunu crop up, and the primary cost would be that we'd be able to do net fewer changes as we adjust our workload to account for carry over tasks. It could be that the trade-off is worth it, though for now I'm not convinced. In my mind the worst case right now is that we end up having champs like Nunu be strong for a day or two, people get to see them pop off with some fun synergies, and then we get him to a spot we're roughly happy with - which is ideally far better than he was before. 
That being said... 
One of our hopes with changing our patching cadence to be a large patch followed by a small patch is that we get additional breathing room to work on larger projects rather than trying to bundle everything into a standard patch. By changing our small patches to have significantly fewer changes than what players are currently used to, it grants us significantly more bandwidth to work on the larger term stuff that hopefully has a larger impact on the overall state of League. 
Hopefully the above reasoning makes some amount of sense. I have this awful tendency of writing fucking bibles on the boards :P. Let me know if anything needs additional clarity. 

Reminders

To round out this red post collection, here are a few reminders on current promotions or limited time events!
  • As noted by Riot Aeon, there will be no Rotating Game Mode for the next few patches while they work on getting One For All working in the client!

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