Are Mystery Boxes the solution to Teamfight Tactics’ item RNG issues?

Items have become even more randomized.

Image via Riot Games

Teamfight Tactics Patch 9.18 dropped yesterday and the latest change to item distribution has added yet another layer of randomness to the RNG-filled game.

Before today, PvE enemies would drop loot boxes that contain either an item component, gold, or a full item in rare cases. Supposedly, the number of item parts a player gets evens out as the game goes on. So if a player only received one item in the first three PvE rounds, they’d ideally get more in future rounds. By the end of the game, the number of items each player received should even out.

Now, PvE rounds can drop three different types of “mystery boxes,” which are tiered by rarity. And each box has the chance to contain various loot. 

  • Common boxes contain gold, champions, or Neeko’s Help.
  • Uncommon Boxes contain item components, gold, champions, or Neeko’s Help.
  • Rare boxes contain Spatulas, full items, gold, champions, or Neeko’s Help.

In addition to the boxes, a new item called Neeko’s Help was added. It allows a player to create a one-star copy of any champion they already own. The mystery box system was added to “keep a variety of experiences across many games, but also to make the game more fair over the course of a single game,” according to the 9.18 patch notes. This can potentially be achieved with the boxes, but it comes with an extra dose of RNG. 

RNG on top of RNG

Most notably, there are a lot more possibilities compared to the previous system. Instead of one box dropping, there’s three possible outcomes. There’s even more randomness within each box. The boxes don’t contain the same loot and more than just gold and item parts can drop. And the loot itself still has an element of randomness. If a rare box drops, the player has a chance to get a random champion.

We also need to look at the value of each individual loot. In a rare box, for example, there’s the chance to get a spatula, champion, and so on. But if we compare the value of a spatula in TFT to a champion, which is better? This greatly depends on the meta, what champion is dropped, and what components a player has to make use of a spatula. Based on the variety of factors involved, it’s difficult to consider that all the loot in a given box is of equal value.

At first glance, it seems like all this mystery box system did was increase the frustrating randomness involved with TFT’s item drops. But it’s up to the player to make optimal decisions despite the RNG, and that’s what this mechanic does well.

Putting the “Tactics” in Teamfight Tactics

Image via Riot Games

Adding champions and Neeko’s Help to PvE drops can promote dynamic gameplay. Maybe a player doesn’t get an item early, but they get an extra champion and are able to create early two or three-star units. Additionally, further along in a match, Neeko’s Help can be a great asset when trying to find that last four or five-cost unit. Depending on the situation, Neeko’s Help could be far more important than an item component.

TFT has always been an RNG-based game where players must use the items and champions presented to them. The mystery boxes can encourage players to learn and understand the most optimal choice to make in a given scenario. With more possibilities, the tactics aspect of TFT will likely become more pronounced.

Furthermore, the patch notes say that boxes and item components will be evenly distributed throughout a single game. So if a player only receives coins in the first PvE round, later rounds are expected to provide more item components or champions. Optimally, each player should have the same opportunity to do well if they’re able to properly assess their individual position.

The new loot-distributing system has the potential to create more engaging and dynamic TFT matches. But it could also make games feel more unlucky and stressful. As the meta develops in Patch 9.18, we’ll see exactly how these mystery boxes affect the game.