Alright so I've played many many games as Azir (enough to get mastery 7 and over 130k mastery points), and it goes without saying I absolutely love the champion. His entire thematic (general who brings his soldiers backs to life and attacks through them) is just fantastic and you guys hit the nail on the head in terms of representing that with gameplay.
I've played a couple games with Azir on PBE and I want to give my feedback on the direction you guys are going with him. I'll preface this by saying I don't like the "short range" direction you chose and I'll give my reasons why.
**First off, what I like:**
* The cast time/delay for soldier autos being reduced makes auto attacking as Azir feel SO much better. I didn't realize how much I would like the change, but man its so much better than live.
* Hit box on Q being a tad longer. This one really does help as well, a lot of times in lane on live it looks as if the Q is hitting and it doesn't. I will say the hitbox is a little longer than I expect (some Q's hitting when it feels they shouldn't) but definitely the little bump in the hitbox help with QoL as well.
* The Q damage/cdr nerf. I think it needed to be done, for sure. Especially if you are going the short range route. What I don't like is how you went about the nerf; I think the base damage early should've been reduced, along with the CDR. The ap ratio should stay to keep Azir's late game power. Or you can make the slow a little more, or longer, to cement the move as CC oriented.
**Now, what I'm neutral with:**
* The shield activating regardless of whether you hit a champion or not. I'm saying this is neutral because while I don't like the short range direction you are going, I think if you do end up with that decision the shield change is actually very good. I think the shield needs to be active a little longer but I'll get into that later.
**What I don't like: **
* The "spam soldiers" playstyle. A lot of Azir's new kit rewards Azir for spamming soldiers (E giving him a W charge, the attack speed buff @ 3 soldiers), but the problem is that's just not fun and is contradictory with his Q. Q now reads: "Enemies hit by multiple sand soldiers will not take additional damage." In teamfights, it seems hard to make use of the attack speed buff from his W unless you build defensively. If you build semi defensibly then you cant make use of his E resetting your W in combat because if you jump in, you'll get bursted after your short shield runs out. So right now, you need to sit back and try to build up W's, but by the time you go in, the enemy time will most likely have moved from your soldiers...
**It seems like you want Azir to be in the fray, trading blows with enemies. But Azir has no way to itemize for Spell Vamp/Lifesteal, and if he chooses to build defensively it's hard to reach CDR cap, which means its harder to take advantage of the W attack speed. All in all, to me, this playstyle feels like a disjounted half-measure, and feels strictly less fun than live.**
**Suggestions for short range playstyle:**
1. Q needs to do more damage for more soldiers. Right now if you are in the middle of a fight it kind of feels wasteful to use a q because its so lackluster. Q directly contrasting the new "spam soldiers" strategy does not feel right.
2. He needs more survivability. There has to be some way for him to either gain more health or just generally not die as fast. It would be interesting if you gained spell vamp for every active soldier, and that would certainly push the spam soldiers playstyle. It would also be interesting if soldier attacks extended the length of Azir's E shield. Another option is to bring back the knockup from his E, that would definitely push the playstyle.
**Suggestions for long range playstyle**
I'm not sure if you are set in stone on this short range playstyle but I know personally I've had a lot less fun with it. I think Azir should be a general that instructs from afar. **It is strange, thematically, to see Azir in the mix of his soldiers NOT attacking on his own.** Why would the general get into the fray just to point at someone and say, "you there, attack this guy breathing down my neck!" Again, I think the long range general/puppeteer fits his thematic better AND is more fun to play.
So how do you make that playstyle healthy?
1. Completely change his E. A long range artillery mage should not have such a good escape, and you guys have already said this. This move doesn't even have to be a defensive ability! There are many long range carries without escapes (Kog'Maw, Jinx, just to name a couple). You guys would probably think of something better than I could, but my suggestion is an active that increases his attack speed based on the amount of active soldiers. A fun ability that rewards Azir for setting up his army and punishes his enemies for fighting in an area Azir has conquered. It would need to be exponential in damage though, not linear (like, for 1-3 soldiers, 5%,25%,60%, and not 20/40/60).
2. Keep his range/increase his range to compensate for having no escape. A cool thing to do for this playstyle would be to completely unhinge his deactivation range, making him a true general/puppet master. I'm talking like a deactivation range of something crazy like 2k (not global obviously), making his soldiers ALWAYS a threat if Azir can micro manage.
3. Make his laning phase bad. His early damage is just too much for a late game carry right now and thats a huge reason why hes frustrating to play against. Do whatever you need to do, but an early flat damage reduction or CD increase is probably the easiest way to do it.
**Those changes create clear strengths and weaknesses: Azirs strength is hes a long range aoe killing machine that gets better the longer the fight goes, but his weaknesses are: if you get to him, he has no escape besides his ult, and hes vulnerable in lane (low damage, easy to gank).**
If you read this all, which probably nobody will, thank you so much. I hope it's obvious how much Azir means to me and why I don't like what you've put out right now. Thank you!