Champion Roadmap July 2017

Posted on at 3:52 PM by Aznbeat
Reav3 has posted a new Champion Roadmap for July 2017, detailing upcoming Xin Zhao and Azir work, the Evelynn and Swain Champion updates, details on our next new champion, and more!
Continue reading for more info!

After mentioning the next article would be coming soon, Reav3 is here with his Champion Roadmap for July 2017 - covering Evelynn, Swain, Xin Zhao work, as well as a small teaser for an upcoming champion:
Welcome to another edition of Champion Roadmap. If it seems like it hasn’t been long since the last one, it’s because it hasn’t! We have a lot in the works right now. 
One of the big benefits of class updates was they helped us better define and understand our classes. For example, using lessons from the Assassin class update, we were able to apply what worked or didn’t work to Kayn’s assassin form, like giving him a slightly longer burst window but also more tools to weave in and out of the fight during his assassination pattern. The same can be said for the Tank update; as we honed in on what we felt worked for the Vanguard class, we saw a great opportunity to build a new Vanguard from scratch. 
One of the key traits of a Vanguard is that they can choose when and where to start a fight. With that in mind, we wanted to make a new playmaking Vanguard that charged headfirst into tough situations and made the enemy team fight on their terms. We also really wanted to make a very self-reliant champion; expect to see a unique new passive that helps them build more than just character. 
Look out for the newest Vanguard, who’ll be heating up one of the coldest regions in Runeterra. Next, let’s look at the updates we have in flight. 
With Evelynn slowly stalking her way to release, we can start to talk a bit more about how she’s shaping up. We want to play up Evelynn’s “PermaStealth” identity by giving her some new tools to use from stealth. This should further emphasize her unique gameplay and also reward Evelynn players for mastering her shadow form. Evelynn’s stealth is essential to her identity, so we will also be adding unique visuals for her stealth form to make it look as special as it is meant to be. 
We’re also going through and updating her narrative and place in Runeterra. In fact, one of our current champions already had a run-in with Evelynn after her parents embraced the lashes of agony. I’ll let you guys comb through the lore to figure out who’s life was sent down a much darker path thanks to Evelynn’s sadistic proclivities. 
It’ll still be awhile before the updated Evelynn’s eviscerating her enemies on spikes of hatred, but expect to see her (or, more realistically, not see her) sometime after the new Vanguard mentioned above. 
Before we discontinued class updates, there were two Divers that kept coming up when we talked about the possible champions for a Diver class update: Aatrox and Xin Zhao. While we won’t be doing a massive Diver update, we do want to give both of those champs a little love. I already went over Aatrox in my last devblog, so let’s talk about Xin Zhao! The Seneschal of Demacia will be a smaller update aimed at upgrading a few of his less interesting abilities and also giving him a strong strategic identity in League. We know that the core essence of Xin’s playstyle is his E->Q dash knockup combo. So rather than messing with a good thing, we’re focusing on the W as an opportunity to add both some counterplay and a much more skillful tool to his kit. 
It’s looking like Xin Zhao’s changes will ship live before Aatrox’s, as Xin’s are shaping up to be much smaller. Expect to see him sooner rather than later. 
So, as many of you know, we are planning on doing a smaller rework to the legendary Emperor of Shurmia, Azir. Azir has been a balancing nightmare since his release. He has a little bit of everything—engage, disengage, long-range damage, hyper-carry potential… you name it and Azir probably has it. When Azir is strong (and played optimally) he removes all potential for counterplay due to how well rounded he is, a problem that becomes even more pronounced in competitive play. In order to bring Azir in line, we’re going to have to tone down or remove some of his strengths in order to open up some more weak spots. 
At the center of all these issues is the Shurima Shuffle, which is his ability to dash a pretty long distance and use his ult to force an engagement or escape a tough situation. We are currently looking at two possible solutions to the Shurima Shuffle dilemma. One would be to keep the shuffle and build a supporting kit that can co-exist with this iconic move. The other solution would be to remove the shuffle and push his kit closer towards his thematic, which is that of an Emperor commanding his sand soldiers from the backline. 
We are still in very early exploration on Azir, and it seems that players are just as torn as we are between the two possible directions. Stay tuned for future Champion Roadmap blogs that will go into more details about Azir once we have better locked down which direction we want to go. 
I’m happy to announce that our next big VGU after Evelynn will be none other than the leader of Noxus himself, Swain. To start off, his visuals haven’t held up very well over time. Swain is supposed to be the the all-powerful ruler of Noxus, and he doesn’t really look the part at the moment. His theme is also a bit confused with his actual gameplay—he’s a Master Tactician, yet he plays more like a Drain Tank/Battle Mage. 
His gameplay has also been a design problem for a while. If Swain gets behind, he doesn’t really make an impact on the game. If he gets ahead, he becomes a unkillable tank that can also output massive amounts of damage. Swain also has a lot of his power pushed into abilities and effects that enemies can’t really do anything about. Looking at him as a whole, we feel there’s a great opportunity to revisit Swain and truly deliver a champion worthy of leading one of the most ruthless and iconic nations of Runeterra. We’ll be updating his visuals to better match his theme as the leader of Noxus, as well as doing a major overhaul on his gameplay. We want to keep the “essence” of Swain intact, even though we will be completely rebuilding his entire kit from scratch. 
We are still very early on Swain but I will be back with more details later in his development. 
Let me know what you think in the comments below and I will try to answer as many questions as I can. Thanks!"

Further discussion from Reddit and the boards:

On Vanguards, Reav3 explained:
So, uh, what exactly is a Vanguard?
A aggressive initiating tank, like Sion or Malphite."

Reav3 commented that they would like to give Xin Zhao a full VGU someday:
Honestly Xin deserves a model update too, not drastic like Galio or Urgot but like Miss Fortune. He is supposed to be a Ionian, taken captive by Noxus and then freed by Demacia but in my opinion his model is all over the place and doesn't give him justice. 
This being said Reav3, is the team who will work on Swain the same people who worked on Urgot and Warwick? And what is your current stance on updating the dialogue of the older champions you've touched in the previous years - Kasaddin and Alistar for example.
We would definitely like to give Xin a full VGU someday, this should just hold him over in the meantime as there are higher priority champions to keep us busy for a bit."

When asked why Swain was a candidate when he was already a powerful champion, Reav3 commented:
It's not like Swain is already a strong champion or anything. There should be more champions prioritized over Swain.
You will be reworked one day, trash can man
Power has nothing to do with what champions we prioritize for VGUs"

Reav3 revealed the lead designer on Xin Zhao:
"RiotXenogenic is the designer on Xin Zhao. It's his first project on Champions team."

Over on the Xin Zhao Mains subreddit, RiotXenogenic gave an intro and some tidbits on what he wanted to do with Xin Zhao:
"Hey folks. I'm the designer working on the Xin Zhao updates. The goal certainly isn't to set him up for a smack from the nerf bat. We primarily wanted to give Xin players more decision making opportunities and to make him a bit more flexible so he's less binary and more useful later in the game (at least in terms of utility) - all while trying to preserve the play pattern and feel that we're used to as Xin players. 
I can't go into specifics just yet but I think we've done a good job of taking power from areas that didn't need it so we can make room for the new changes without making him categorically overpowered."

Reav3  gave his thoughts on what lane they wanted the champ to be played:
Can you confirm new vanguard is a top laner? I like being surprised, but I also like managing my expectations.
We think he will be good in top though its always hard to predict what will happen when millions of people play it."

Reav3 commented on the release order for champions and VGUS in the future:
Hey Reav3, if you're allowed to say, is the upcoming release schedule champion->VGU->champion, or champion->champion->VGU?
Champ -> VGU -> Champ"

He continued:
"New champ > Xin > Eve > New champ > Swain"

Reav3 commented on the status of Aatrox:

Any ETA on Aatrox
We just started early kit ideation so he is a long way off given the scope of the changes."

Reav3 provided more info on modernization of champs:
Phew, I thought full VGU meant a full scope one. I think the semantics are important here since we know of two types of VGUs: modernisation and full scope.
Hmm, well the Modernization's are still full scope. Warwick was the same scope as Galio. It more refers to how if there overall play pattern changes or not. Warwick and Taric have similar play patterns where as Galio/Sions base play patterns changed a good amount."

On Twitter, RiotXenogenic talked a little more about Xin Zhao:
Cool, so is one of the goals for Xin to make him much less stat checky?
[1] To some extent, yes. His current kit doesn't give the enemy player many options OR the Xin player many. It's basically: do I engage or not? 
[2] and if yes, then it's a stat check. So we're hoping to increase the decision making opportunities/flexibility so you have more to think abt"

In another reddit thread, RiotXenogenic continued:
I for one enjoy his basic playstyle, mostly because I don't enjoy playing champions with complicated mechanics. I play him primarily in toplane so his clear speed is never really an issue. I see in the blog post that you guys will be only messing with his W, is that correct? That you guys want to add some counter play to his kit, I assume this means his kit was unhealthy in one way or another, if this is the case could you explain how? 
Why can't Riot just leave some champs in a state where it relies on the Summoner's ability to use proper game sense/knowledge and macro play and not who can do some crazy fast combo while also remembering some crazy book report length passive. 
Just remember that a portion of the League community love simplistic/binary kits ex.Trynd Mains 
These are some fair points. Some champions are unpopular and get updated so they're better/more fun, but in Xin's case, he's actually fairly popular. Thus, one of our top priorities was to achieve our design goals while making sure we don't radically change his play pattern or "straightforwardness," which I think is a big part of why people enjoy him."

RiotXenogenic went on:
my main question is, if ur going to be changing his W.. is this going to hurt his jungle sustain a lot?
No. Xin's one of the "easier" junglers in that his clear is fairly safe and straightforward, and we didn't want to change that."

RiotXenogenic continued:
I'll be kind of sad if they only change the w. The e and ult are the things lacking any skill and are extremely basic. Why can't they change them instead?
It's not accurate to say we're "only" changing W. W's an entirely new ability but there have been changes across most of the rest of the kit."

RiotXenogenic added:

That's all I wanted. Instead they will trash his w which to me is his bread and butter. Might have to pick a new main.
We agree that what W currently provides feels like a core part of his kit. We're not looking to remove those aspects, even if W is a new ability. There are other places the third-hit passive and attack speed can go, in other words."

Reav3 mentioned that champion titles were usually changed with an update:
Does this mean post-VGU swain is also going to have a kickass new title?
Because let's be honest, the "Master Tactician" Doesn't really have the same OOMPH like his fellow other Noxians.
"Hand of Noxus" and "Undead Juggernauts" do carry a lot more weight, don't they?
We usually update the titles of Champions with their VGU"

Reav3 continued:
Dictators ARE master tacticians though... I mean, it takes a lot of planning and reading people to be a "non-dead" dictator. An art for manipulation, if you will. 
That being said, Warlocks are known for being manipulative AND just straight up scary with their magic. So it could work out either way I think.
I agree that a ruthless dictator implies intelligence, cunning and the ability to think multiple steps ahead of your enemies, but I'm not sure I agree that explicitly implies a "Master Tactician" 
Let's take Tywin Lannister from GoT or even Snow for Hunger Games. Both are ruthless leaders, they are intelligent, powerful, cunning and can outsmart there opposition yet I wouldn't describe either as a "Master Tactician." 
There is a difference between a Master Tactician that sits in a tent commanding troops from a distance and a Ruthless, intelligent warlock with the power to rule a nation. I personally feel like the ladder will resonate with Swain players more then the former.
To be clear I am not saying this is the direction we are going with Swain, as we are still pretty early on him, just pointing out the 2 different directions we could take. I'm my next blog when we are further along I should be able to go into more details about which direction we take. 
One thing to note is that Swain will be changing quite a bit as with most champions with multiple identities. I would compare his VGU to that of Urgot. His kit will be changing a lot as we need to make his gameplay/art/theme feel like a cohesive package but we will also try to keep as much of current Swain as we can to achieve our goals. There is no world in which we will make 100% of Swain players happy as different players attach to different parts of his confused identity and that is something we accepted going into this (as with all VGUs)"

Reav3 commented on a user's fears for Swain:
It was somewhat implied in the way his "Drain-tank" and Battlemage identity seemed to be depicted as problematic aspects of his kit. 
Confused thematics and gameplay elements always seem rather tricky too as it poses the question what's more important to a character's appeal.
I usually take old Mordekaiser as an example as he looked like an actual Juggernaut but played like a squishy burst mage.
Swain's case is that his Master tactician fantasy is usually related to a "Behind the scenes" type of character who pulls the strings and orchestrates warfare from a safe distance whereas his current Kit wants him to charge recklessly into the enemy team. 
Some people are rather attached to that kind of gameplay fantasy but I thoroughly agree with it not being something that "Swain" should be. It's just that the entire premise of this update seems to be trying to make "Bird Demon who'll eat your face" go hand in hand with "Master Tactician" as both don't seem to mix all that well.
While drain tanks can be problematic I think Swains gameplay identity is that of a Warlock rather then specifically a drain tank. 
As for his theme if you read through the section about the goals for Swain you will see that we are much more interested in his theme as a the ruthless dictator of Noxus then that of a master tactician. 
I kind of agree that the gameplay a master tactician would require would probably take Swain waaay to far from current Swain even by massive VGU standards. 

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