Ability Update: Azir

By Gentleman Gustaf

To say Azir has been a balance minefield would be an understatement. Shurima’s Emperor has been caught in a game of tug-of-war between his difficulty for new players and how overbearing he can be in the hands of experienced players. We’ve tried to find a middle ground for Azir where he’s playable at all skill levels, but ultimately we ended up needing to settle for “pretty weak unless you’ve mastered him” to keep him from disrupting the mid lane landscape.

With this update, we didn’t want to fundamentally change the core of Azir’s abilities, because we already thought his kit was pretty cool! Our biggest priority was making it more clear where he should be strong and where he should be punishable. As a result, this is more of a large tuning pass than a traditional update, but that tuning is significant enough to deserve more explanation than a patch note.

The Emperor’s New Weakness

The old Azir lacked exploitable vulnerabilities. Most long-ranged champions get bopped if an enemy champion gets up close and personal, whether because they’re immobile or because they have low durability. Azir, however - in addition to his long range - had the mobility to escape and a shield to keep him alive. On top of that, Emperor’s Divide gave him a ton of zone control to keep opponents at bay.

When it came down to it, he didn’t just do a little bit of everything, he did a lot. We don’t want to take away those capabilities which make him uniquely “Azir”. However, we do need to make him less effective in some situations, so that - when Azir is balanced - the best Azir players are punishable.

A Boy and His Armies

So who should Azir be? He’s a commander of a bunch of dudes with spears who he can command around the screen to do his bidding. If you’re fighting where his soldiers can hit you, he’ll poke you to death and then Shurima Shuffle you into his team.

If his soldiers can’t hit you, he shouldn’t be a significant threat. If you keep your distance from his soldiers and chunk him down from range, he won’t have the reach to fight back. If you get in his face and force him to run away from his soldiers, he won’t have the damage to kill you.

They Can’t Hear You, Azir

To realize that fantasy, we need to bring Azir’s threat range under control, so we’re dialing back slightly on the range at which soldiers remain active. In exchange, we’re upping the overall damage on his soldiers, as well as giving him an extra power spike if he managed to summon three soldiers to the field.

  • W - Arise!

We're also bringing down the range at which Azir can reposition his soldiers. He can still use his soldiers to escape pressure or close onto a vulnerable target, just not quite as far.

  • Q - Conquering Sands

Divide and Conquer

As well, his persistent teamfight control is too high for how much consistent teamfight damage he has. Using his ultimate creatively to start a fight, or knock somebody back as they dive in is awesome. Putting it up and leaving it there so nobody can get on him for 3 seconds? Not so much. We’re trimming some of the static zoning power in his ultimate to make sure it’s more of a sharp high moment.

  • R - Emperor's Divide

Shifting Power

Finally, we’re doing a pass on some Azir’s more egregious strengths. Largely, that meant making Azir’s shield more consistent to use (granting it on cast, not after hitting an enemy champion), but also last way less long. Instead, if Azir hits an opponent with E - Shifting Sands, he gets a new Sand Soldier for deploy.

  • E - Shifting Sands

So where does that leave Azir? Overall, Azir should end up having to stand a bit closer to enemies to be a threat, which will expose him to more ambient or poke damage. Unlike Ryze or Cassiopeia, he doesn’t have the consistent heals or shields to shrug off that damage, which will make good positioning and clutch jukes critical to retaining his duelling power. Compared to those champions, however, he brings a good deal more initiation power, mobility, and poke. A well-played Azir will have to close the gap on artillery champions, or kite champions who dive him but if he does keep his opponent amidst his soldiers - and away from him - he’ll be pretty hard to fight.

2 years ago

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