As Monsters Attack, TFT Set 8 innovates on tested formula with quality changes

Birdio in League of LegendsRiot Games

In TFT Set 8, the Monsters Attack. To fight back, players have a lot of familiar tools at their disposal. TFT’s tried and tested formula isn’t changing too much, but there’s a lot of quality-of-life changes aimed at making everything just that bit clearer.

TFT Set 8 welcomes players to Spatulopolis, a land under threat from various alien invaders and whatnot. Players have a choice as the monsters attack: either band together and fight back, or potentially swap allegiances and cause chaos.

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There’s a huge roster of said superheroes and villains you can play with. Sometimes it’s best to ride the line between to get the optimal comp. Much like every set of Teamfight Tactics before it, staying adaptable in-game is key.

Gameplay-wise it all feels the same in that regard. But thematically? It’s very easy to get knee-deep in the lore. Even in the Dragonlands, you never really grew attached to a certain Dragon ⁠— but you can rally behind good or evil in Monsters Attack. 

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The ‘superheroes saving the planet’ topic is strong, and that comes from plenty of… fanfiction?

“At the start of the set, we got together in a room and actually wrote fanfictions and backstories for a lot of the traits that helped define the personality for the set,” set design lead Lynda Tang told Dexerto. 

“That allowed us to write things about the Gadgeteens being these really smart kid adventurers, and the Hackers are sending a trojan horse into the backline. We had a ton of fun with that for Set 8.”

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This was an inherent boon of the team behind Monsters Attack, lead developer Stephen ‘Mortdog’ Mortimer added.

“The Set 8 pod in particular, their strength is incredible thematic design,” he said, “whereas someone like me is much more rigid and mechanics based. That’s why you’re seeing so much flavor in this set ⁠— the Set 8 team did a really good job of bringing fun quirks and stories to the set.”

TFT Set 8 Monsters Attack key art with Pengu, Nasus, Lux, Fiddlesticks, and Bel'VethRiot Games
TFT Set 8 is a perfect union of gameplay and thematic, and a solid foundation for the game to continue its growth.

Gameplay and theme has never been so cohesively married in Teamfight Tactics history. Between intricate backstories to well-thought-out traits innovating on past successes, and the addition of new elements like Hero Augments to live out a power fantasy with twists and turns around every corner, TFT Set 8 is something to behold.

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Clearly defining champions as heroes

It’s on-brand for the superhero-themed TFT set to transform the game’s champions into something a bit bigger. However, Riot is trying to highlight units in more ways than one in an attempt to make them the very visible power points of the game.

Hero Augments is the more notable design choice. The selection of power-ups, buffing up individual units into super carries or supports with glowing auras, is a shakeup to the now permanent Augment system in TFT. 

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However, they are ultimately not meant to be the star of the show. That’s reserved for the champions themselves. TFT is at times a cluttered mess of systems. While that’s great for those at the top pushing for Challenger, it can be hard for new players to decipher. Making specific points of power easier to understand goes a long way toward improving game clarity.

“What we also did with Hero Augments this time is we went in with a very clear framework,” Mortdog explained. “They are meant to be at Gold-level power, we have framed that as like a team-based one is a 25% damage output boost, and we framed everything around that to get us closer to a balanced state. 

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“Any time someone pitched a Hero Augment and it didn’t fit in the framework, we said to chill and that gave us a lot more constraints.”

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Riot made a number of smaller adjustments to further that goal. Generally, items across the board are weaker by some 25%. Trait verticals are still strong but not the be-all-end-all, and there are anti-traits like Threat to emphasize that.

“When you looked at TFT at a really deep level, we had these awkward states which I thought were not correct,” he continued. “The example I used when talking with the design team was a three-star Ezreal with no items was far weaker than an Ezreal 1 with three items. 

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“That perception felt very odd considering items were something everyone gets, but a three-star Ezreal is something you have to try to get. We wanted to shift the power into the thing the game is asking you to do ⁠— upgrading your units, upgrading your traits ⁠— so that’s what presented that. 

“We want players to look at an army and recognize the power intuitively through the champions, not the items. Champions are the star of the game.”

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Star Guardian Kai'Sa in League of LegendsRiot Games
TFT was always about the champions, but things got cluttered. Monsters Attack makes them shine again.

Letting players shine with agency

The complexity of TFT wasn’t incubated in isolation. It came from a push to reduce the RNG elements noticeable in early expansions, to give players more predictability and skill expression through rational choices and agency.

Just because Riot is refocusing the spotlight of the systems away from something like Augments or item combinations doesn’t mean they’re removing those complexities altogether. In fact, TFT Set 8 is yet another step in the direction of giving players more control over the way they can play TFT.

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The Treasure Dragon of Set 7 might be gone, but there are now Item Anvils that drop from Boss Battles (PvE rounds post-Stage 4-7). These work like a Tome of Traits: it drops on your bench, you sell it, you get a choice of components or items depending on the boss you slayed.

“This is something we will be using more in the future, but it gives you a bit more agency so you’re not stuck with something you don’t want,” Mortdog explained.

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On top of that, numerous item changes were made to open up the floor and diversify best-in-slot builds. The fabled Infinity Edge-Jeweled Gauntlet combo for mages is no more, with Riot making Infinity Edge an AD clone of the latter in Set 8. Mana items like Blue Buff and Spear of Shojin are no longer crutches for casters. There are more counter items with Guardbreaker coming in as an anti-shield item over Banshee’s Claw. Even tanks haven’t been disregarded with Dragon’s Claw getting a notable buff with healing built into the neglected anti-magic item.

All of these changes in tandem really give players agency to build boards how they want. They can get a Hero Augment to make an unconventional tank or carry shine. They can more easily get the items they want for the situation at hand. But at the core of it all, the champions themselves feel like heroes ⁠— not just a mechanic to be overshadowed.

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The mix of simplifying complex game systems and bringing TFT back to its roots as an autobattler with champions doing the battling makes anything feel possible in Monsters Attack, much like heroes standing up to the unknown. And that’s exactly what Riot wants.

“I hope players, every time they play Monsters Attack, will get to find a new comp or a new unit they can really appreciate and be like ‘I’ve never seen this in this light before,’” Tang concluded. 

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“I want players to be like ‘damn I want to try and play more games to run this Defender Rammus back’ or ‘I got the bonk Nasus Augment so this game will be a Nasus game even though I’m a Star Guardian main.’ 

“I think if players can find new and exciting ways and always have that avenue of discovery and joy, I’ll feel very happy.”