When a champion is nerfed, it’s usually because they’ve crossed our predefined thresholds for measuring when a champion is too strong or too weak. These thresholds are broken down into four groups of players (average, skilled, elite, and pro), and these groups have pretty disparate player needs.
Some champions, Akali included, exhibit extreme effectiveness differentials between the best of the best League players and everyone else. When that differential is massive, we may need to make larger changes to the champion so they’re at least viably playable for other audiences. Unfortunately, this can take a lot of time and result in a lot of pain—for both that champion’s players, who are constantly having their champion changed, and for opponents who may be facing a champ who remains overpowered for long periods of time (or when a champion bounces in and out of being overpowered repeatedly).
For Akali specifically, there were patches where she simultaneously had a 90+% presence in professional play while maintaining around a 43% win rate in solo queue brackets. In this case, our framework says Akali should be nerfed for pro play, but it also says she’s already very weak for most players. In situations like this, we don’t typically do a simple nerf. Instead, we aim to do a combination of changes that include solo queue-impacting buffs and pro-impacting nerfs.
When working in this territory, it can be challenging to nerf a champion for its strong audiences, while ALSO buffing it for its weak audiences, while ALSO trying to preserve the fun components of their kit that may be impacting their performance disparity.
Situations like these have been a significant challenge for us over the last couple of years, with champions like Galio, Aatrox, and Irelia falling into a similar bucket. Managing champion performance disparities—both by resolving the issues quickly and by better anticipating them—is something we’re actively trying to get better at. Massive champion performance disparities can put a lot of pain on players, and the amount of time it takes to resolve them detracts from other work we could be doing on the game.