Teamfight Tactics has been trucking on for some time now; for almost two years in fact. As a result, it has grown to become a surprise hit for Riot Games. Nestled within its own corner of the League of Legends client, Teamfight Tactics has garnered its own community of dedicated players, some of whom have been along for the ride ever since its release.
All this time later, can the latest update, Dragonlands, still impress an audience that has stuck around with the Auto Battler? In this preview, we took a look at the update on the PTR to find out.
A big update with some big changes
Dragonlands is coming with some serious switcheroos, mix-ups, and overall twists on the Teamfight Tactics formula. As with all updates to the title, it brings a whole new cast of characters each with their own origins and classes. In Dragonlands, there are fourteen of each, with every one contributing a unique spin to your board of units that drastically alter their performance.
This was anticipated, but there’s a real feeling that this set is a step up in complexity compared to prior updates. Take the Guild Origin; this provides individual units that provide unique buffs to your entire squad and become deeply sought after as a result. Or Jade champions that can spawn a vast number of statues that buff nearby units and explode on death, forcing you to carefully consider placement more so than many other sets in the past.
Don’t get me started on Shimmerscale. It provides random items unique to the Origin as you build up your board, providing ample opportunity for some super valuable tools at the cost of precious space on your team. I felt like an absolute stoner every time I jumped into another game, trying to figure out the best combinations of traits while constantly being surprised at the latest cool combination that bodied me. All of this and more made every game interesting, and I have a feeling that won’t dissipate in the coming months.
Then there’s dragons - yes, a new trait but so much more - they’re the keystone the set is built around. There are seven in total, each are monstrous and hugely powerful units that are naturally carried on the board and provide huge boosts to their traits when used. The rub? They are also epic or legendary, and cost twice as much as units usually do at that rarity. So, not only are they valuable and fought over every game, they’re pricey. Getting one on your board at all is a major investment, getting one at two stars means you’re locked in. I’ve yet to see one at three stars, but I can only assume your PC bricks if an opponent gets one.
The final significant change apparent to all players will be the treasure dragon that takes the place of the raptors later on in the game. This provides you a selection of free loot - including gold, component items and even full items - which can be rerolled so you can always get something useful as long as you’re willing to bust open the piggy bank. More often than not, this means you can secure something of use for your team, and removes some of that RNG from the end of games (for good and bad, we’ll get to that).
It’s the small things that matter
While the aforementioned stuff is the biggest and most apparent changes to the game, and are by all accounts really good, it’s the smaller changes that make the biggest impacts ten, twenty, or one hundred games in.
Augments are back from Gadgets and Gizmos, this time with a draconic spin. This is lovely, since augments were a sweet addition that really mixed up the game-to-game variety in a big way that frankly should stick around for the long haul. But it’s the tiny choice of making gold augments the standard, rather than silver, that further provides explosive variations to your game that make you want to throw caution to the wind and try a weird new team comp. You can reroll them once per game too, which allows you to grab a augments you really vibe with.
There’s also the small item adjustments that make the whole experience less of a headache. The switch over from AD/AP specific self-healing from Bloodthirster and Gunblade to omnivamp lessens the impact of bad item luck, and means you aren’t left with random component items that have little purpose at the end of games.
Then there’s the new Guardian PvE fight at the end of the fifth series of fights, which no longer drops trait emblems unless they’re active on your board. TFT players will know just how frustrating it is to receive a dud emblem, so taking that possibility out makes the whole experience bliss.
Worries moving forward
This is not all to say that Dragonlands is perfect, it has some weak spots and barriers that remain steadfast in the face of continued attempts by the team at Riot to tweak and enhance their title.
The first issue is the other side of the coin with Dragonlands being a more complicated set built for pre-existing Teamfight Tactics players is that it may be an arduous experience for new players to pick up. Now TFT has always had a learning curve, and there will always be newer players figuring things out at the bottom of the ranked playlist, but it seems a greater problem here than it has ever done before.
I’m torn because I love the complexity of this set. I would say a perfect answer to the problem would be a tutorial for the set, going through each and every new addition. That would take a lot of work of course, and I’m not sure it would be worth the time investment from the team, but it could make a dent. Hell, maybe even a website link in the client walking players through things would go a long way.
The other worry on my mind is a consequence of some of the quality of life changes - specifically the treasure dragon and ability to reroll augments - and how it makes it far easily to brute force team comps you have in mind. There has always been an element of adaptability in Teamfight Tactics, and the ability to both pick out an augment straight away that plays into a comp you want and the option to pick out perfect items and / or gold means you can go into a game with a build in mind and achieve it with regular success.
This is nice for those who like to complete missions on the release of a Dragonlands, but I have a bad feeling that we’ll see a lot of players fishing hard for whatever augments play well into the best traits in Dragonlands, which will lead to low-skill games with gormless players betting it all on jade mystics or whatever while everyone else has free reign to pick up the scraps of this economic battle. Thankfully, it does take a while to actually get to the treasure dragon, but it’s something I hope the team keeps an eye on moving forward.
The fact that all of my worries are speculative, focused on potential problems rather than actual obvious issues, speaks to the quality of Dragonlands. We didn’t have many issues with it at all - it’s stellar. It does still have an issue with getting fresh players up to date, but if you’ve been a fan of Teamfight Tactics at any point in the past two years you’ll be more than content this time around. From our time with an early version, it’s worth your time.
For more content on Teamfight Tactics: Dragonlands - check out our Dragonlands Origins cheat sheet here!