State of the Jungle: Article 5 - Fjelord Patch V3.06
State of the Jungle is an article series that details current meta changes in the jungle. IT is aimed to inform players of all skill levels on how the jungle is currently played when effected by tournament results and solo queue formalities.
Check out what the All-Star Shanghai 2013 International Tournament has brought to the jungle!
I'm writing this in the Airport terminal while waiting for my flight to Tokyo, so I do not have as much time to analyze the data and games of the all-stars; however, the 2013 Shanghai All-Star International Tournament has set some minor precedents for the jungle meta. While the time for the teams to prepare was limited, I believe it is safe to say that the chosen players know a little about what they are doing and which champions are strong enough to pit against the best players in the world. I have already briefly written my thoughts on the meta that the different regions played in a previous post, so I shall focus on specific changes in the jungle.
Before I begin to explain my thoughts on why the champions that have been picked, the picks for the All-Star tournament in general were: Zac, J4, Volibear, Udyr, Lee Sin, Nautilus, Evelyn, Hecarim, and Gragas. There are some consistent meta picks, some returning junglers, and just some silly champions. As this is a all-star tournament, there is bound to be quirky picks to appease the players in some way.
The first thing that I thought while watching the champ select for some of the games is that the kings are back - Support Junglers are now seeing more play in competitive. While I have not been following some of the Korean, Garena, or Tencent server tournaments, these junglers have almost been abolished in the North America and European Scene in favour of my previously classified hybrid junglers who act as quasi-late game tank-initators without the lack of early-mid game damage. Specifically, champions Zac and Nautilus saw a ton of play. These two junglers were seen in every BO3 except for the round 1 match between Europe and Korea. Zac was picked nine times out of twelve games in the entire tournament and Nautilus was picked four times out of twelve games.
Nautilus was picked by the North American jungler SaintVicious four out of six games he played. With the ability to peel and initiate extremely well, Nautilus played to the North American squad's strengths of protecting NA man of steel, Doublelift (aka pentalift). Furthermore, after extensive play of Nautilus in Solo Queue, I have found that he has been buffed back to existence. While Nautilus never lost his ability to peel and initiate in mid-late game, he lost appeal when his jungle safety was nerfed. However, with recent patches and buffs to his armor and W ability, he has once again regained his safety in the jungle. Arguably, I believe that Nautilus is now more safe in the jungle. In fact, I believe he is safe enough to duel to safety most average bruiser junglers on Solo Queue experiences. Nautilus was always one of my favourite junglers back in Season 2 and I am, personally, very glad to see him return to his former glory.
The other two support junglers who have made an appearance in the Shanghai All-Star Tournament, Zac and Hecarim, were played mostly by Asian teams. Korea, and China have played these two champions, specifically Zac, to some significant degree of success. Zac has been picked up by a lot of the aggressive Asian teams who utilize him to dive, and secure kills deep within enemy towers. Furthermore, Zac's ability to effectively trade tower allows the Korean teams to completely neutralize most tower damage in dives. However, both Zac and Hecarim were played by the Chinese as key components of the 'freight-train' composition debuted by Team OMG of the LPL Tencent League. The fast paced composition focuses on catching, and quickly bursting single targets through terrain. Champions such as Zac and Hecarim, along with Thresh and Graves, excel at bursting, catching, and following up with catches over walls. If played effectively, the 'freight-train' comp allows teams to quickly, as one may imagine intrinsically, to powerfully roll through the enemy team swiftly. As such, teams playing in the LPL Tencent League have learned to quickly not position themselves where they can be caught. Such play can be exemplified by North America versus China round one game two where the North American squad failed to catch any members of the Chinese team for an extended period of time during the mid-game even when they acquired an early game advantage.
The hybrid and bruiser junglers also make an appearance at the All-Star Weekend. Specifcally, Jarvan IV, Volibear, Nasus, and Udyr make an appearance in the NA, Chinese, Garena, and European teams. Nothing really to say about these junglers as they have all been good, consistent picks as Season 3 progresses. The only odd pick would be Nasus due to the nerf on his wither, my guess would be that it was a comfort pick for the Garena Jungler.
Without a doubt, Europe's Diamondprox and Korea's InSec were the junglers to watch in this tournament. These two junglers are known for their 'carry' play style, innovation, and unconventional picks. InSec's inspirational Lee Sin play was highlighted throughout the tournament, even forcing target bans on a sub-prar jungler. While I retain that Lee Sin is in a good place in the meta right now, he is definitely not a very 'safe' pick in competitive play just because he is easy to peel and blow up with good team coordination and landing damage on him is quite difficult in team fights. However, InSec was able to take Lee Sin to a whole new level and dominate world class teams with immense lane pressure and god-like Lee Sin mechanics.
InSec, also, showed off his Gragas play in the last game of the tournament where he was able to defeat the Chinese team who thought they target picked and banned him out. A less noticed highlight play by InSec was a bottom lane tower dive and skirmish where he was able to knock XiaoXiao into a friendly Caitlyn trap with his ultimate (0:30 on the video below)!
Without a doubt, Diamondprox played just as well as InSec. He showcased impressive Evelyn play where he was able to pick up a plethora of kills. Diamondprox once again showed that he is able to innovate and play unconventional champions in the jungle to a degree of success.
There can be a special note that due to the specific Fjelord patch used in this tournament, where Trundle was disabled, that Trundle has not seen any play because of this situation. Trundle may be the new 'broken' jungler that is yet to be debuted; however, I find that hard to believe. While Trundle's top lane potential has been improved due to his increased sustain, he still suffers from the same issues as before. The lack of any true gap closer makes him similar to Udyr. Furthermore, his pillar rarely stops good players who are not quick to burn escapes. Trundle still suffers from the same issues as before the remake, and should not see a huge increase in play.
In conclusion, while unique unconventional picks for specific players is not a new trend, the return of true support junglers has got me excited! TheOddOne has seen some success in the North American LCS with Cho'Gath, it was yet to be affirmed in the international scene until now. As a jungler who really picked up jungling in Season 2, I learned how to jungle primarily support junglers and I am extremely glad they are seeing more play.