TFT: Why Riot Needs to Put Spatulas Back on the Carousel

League of Legends. Photo courtesy of Riot Games.
League of Legends. Photo courtesy of Riot Games. /
Teamfight Tactics. League of Legends.
League of Legends. Photo courtesy of Riot Games. /

In Patch 10.3, Riot removed the Spatula item from the Carousel round of TFT. Here’s why that was a mistake.

One of the most overlooked changes that Riot made to TFT back in Patch 10.3 was the decision to remove the Spatula from the Carousel round. Unfortunately, the decision had wide-ranging impacts that warped the meta in a very negative way. It greatly shrunk the number of comps and champions that were viable and made the game far more about adapting and luck than planning a strategy and executing it.

Now, part of this appears to be by design. According to Riot Games TFT lead developer Mortdog, the removal of Spatula puts more onus on players adapting to what the game gives them:

"This might not be popular, but I see this as a win and a good thing for the game long term.TFT should be about adapting. It was too solved before. Happy to see players having to change their style based on the lobby, not play the same way every game via a guide."

While I think this principle is admirable and TFT should encourage adaptation, I think this approach woefully misjudges how players act. The game was, and still remains, a game about optimizing your strategy around randomness, but that requires planning as well as adapting.

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There will always be a given set (or sets) of comps with certain items that will outperform all others and as long as that is the case players are going to try and optimize towards that. Players who know and understand the optimal builds and compositions in the meta (i.e. the ones who play based off a guide) shouldn’t be punished for that. Having the knowledge of the meta is a skill that should be rewarded in TFT and the removal of Spatula from the Carousel shrunk that gap.

Because Spatulas were so difficult to get, players began to gravitate towards more stable builds and comps that didn’t rely on their RNG hitting a Spatula. Thus, we saw Poison/Ranger and Crystal/Ranger become the default comps because they didn’t need a Spatula to bring them online. Even previous strong comps like Ocean/Mage and Inferno/Summoner comps only remained strong because they had enough units in different types that they didn’t need Spatula items to optimize the build.

Mortdog is correct in saying that TFT was a “solved game” in Patch 10.2, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. That patch received a lot of praise because there were at least four or five different compositions that could succeed. This meant that the best players were the ones who not only had the knowledge base of those optimal comps, but they were also the ones who could identify which comp was dictated by the boards, lobbies, and items in front of them.

Removing Spatula, however, shrunk the pool of viable comps because players would not have a chance to grab their needed item in the Carousel round, the one time players have control over which item to select. This decision also removed a powerful comeback mechanic from finishing last in the first few rounds, and also made losing early a completely unviable tactic.

It also reduced the power of Spatula items as a whole because players would often get it after they already combined their components on full items that fit their comp. A lot of times, I have had a Spatula left over at the end of the game because I didn’t have a good item to combine it with. Finally, losing Spatula from the Carousel meant that Force of Nature is now an extremely overpowered item that is entirely RNG-based.

Next. Three variations of the Blender comp. dark

My (completely unsolicited) suggestion would be to keep Spatulas off the first Carousel round but put them back in for all the subsequent rounds. That way, there can be some actual strategy around how to build your comps, the game would still be (mostly) decided by adapting to randomness, and players would have much more of a feeling of agency over their comps than they do now.