James Busby, February 22, 2017

The LCS Junglers climbing LoL's ranks

Jungling is one of the most complex roles to master and holds great tactical depth in both casual and competitive levels of play.

The role requires tremendous map awareness and team play, as ganks and objective control can have a huge impact on the overall outcome of the game. Mastering this role is key in both competitive and casual levels of play, and understanding its impact helps you know where those LoL bets should be going. So who are the strongest jungle champions in this year’s LCS?

Kha’Zix: The Void Reaver

Kha’Zix has been one of the jungle's most contested champions across the world of League of Legends pro play, especially in the North American LCS. The Voidreaver excels at assassinating out of position targets and possesses massive amounts of damage, as well as high amounts of utility that make him incredibly flexible. Kha’Zix can adapt to any situation using his evolved abilities and can assume many roles within a team composition. He can provide the necessary peel for his AD carry with his slow from Evolved Spike Racks, while his Leap allows him to quickly engage his foes and greatly disrupt team fights. The monster of the void is also great at instantly shutting down isolated targets thanks to his passive Unseen Threat, which marks all nearby enemies who aren't accompanied by their allies and bolsters Kha'Zix's abilities.

It’s no surprise that Kha’Zix’s highly coveted playstyle has made him hugely popular among junglers like Galen "Moon" Holgate, Matthew "Akaadian" Higginbotham and Juan "Contractz" Garcia. In week three of the NA LCS Svenskeren showed us how effective Kha’Zix could be when Phoenix 1 took on Team Solo Mid. In game three Inori failed to support his team with Ivern, which allowed Svenskeren to simply prowl round the Rift killing-off Phoenix’s squishy team. Svenskeren managed to successfully stop Ivern from counter jungling him and punished Inori’s aggressive playstyle when he tried to take blue buff. This early lead allowed him to snowball the game and helped Hauntzer’s Poppy find his feet against Zig’s counter pick of Rumble. This meant that Svenskeren could easily take complete control of the game and win their match against Phoenix 1.

Graves: The Outlaw

Lethality is absolutely ridiculous on Graves at the moment and his ultimate Collateral Damage can easily takes most champions down to half health with just a few core items built. His Smokescreen ability gives Graves excellent CC in teamfights, as he can fire it into a group of enemy champions to slow them and stop his opponents from using long range abilities. This makes Graves extremely effective when focussing and shutting down poke from AD carry champions. His passive New Destiny increases his auto attack damage, as each of Graves's basic attacks consumes one shell and sprays four pellets in a cone. Enemies hit take 70 - 100 physical damage, plus a third of that damage for every pellet that hits them. Graves’ high damage output allows him to quickly farm his jungle and maintain a healthy gold lead for items that can increase his damage potential.

Graves was used to great effect when Echo Fox defeated TSM in week four of the LCS. Akaadian was involved in almost every kill and his early game double kill against Svenskeren and Keith allowed him to apply pressure on both sides of the map and take the win for Echo Fox. Graves is in a great place right now and he is an excellent counter pick to the popular meta tanks of Maokai and Poppy, as they don't have the damage output to deal with him. The Outlaw is also strong throughout all stages of the game and the pros in the LCS have proved that Graves can crush his opponents like no other jungler.

Rengar: The Pridestalker

Rengar shares many similarities to Kha’Zix as he is a carry jungler who can quickly assassinate his targets and become a late-game monster. Rengar has remained a strong pocket pick for many pro players and it’s not hard to see why. His passive Unseen Predator allows Rengar to leap out of a brush and attack his target. The Pridestalker also gains Ferocity whenever he casts a basic ability. Upon reaching four points of Ferocity, his next basic ability is empowered, granting him bonus movement speed. Rengar’s also gains a trophy whenever a champion he damaged in the previous second dies. These trophies reward him with even more damage and allow him to snowball very early into the game.

The Pridestalker also has a few deadly tricks up his sleeve when it comes to ganking his enemies. Thrill of the Hunt grants him with a briefs period of invisibility and he gains vision of the nearest enemy champion, who he can leap to for a guaranteed critical strike. While invisible, Rengar gains 40% bonus movement speed which makes him extremely difficult to get away from.

Inori showed us how powerful Rengar could be when Phoenix 1 took on Team Liquid in week two of the NA LCS. He constantly dived on Matt’s Zyra in the bot-lane and was always there to stop Lourlo’s Maokai shenanigans. Even Reignover’s Kha’Zix could do little to stop Inori’s Rengar from decimating his team. With just 13 minutes of play Inori had snowballed his team and they stormed mid-lane to take the turret. Fellow teammate Adrian lay down a barrage of bullets with Bullet Time, forcing both Piglet and Goldenglue to retreat under their turret. Inori then simply leapt over the wall and quickly dispatched Matt and Reignover for a quick double kill, before Piglet and Goldenglue could even catch him.

Lee Sin: The Blind Monk

Lee Sin has always been a popular pick in pro play and he’s a great jungler who can effectively carry his team to victory. He’s very versatile and doesn’t require his ultimate to make big plays or launch successful ganks. His ward jumping with Safeguard / Iron Will and excellent targeting from Sonic Wave / Resonating Strike make Lee Sin very hard to escape from, while his Tempest / Cripple ability slows enemy attacks and his ultimate Dragon's Rage allows him to launch his targets towards his allies. Lee Sin brings a tremendous amount of utility to his team and excels at single target duels and skirmishes, dealing damage in shorts burst before retreating back to safety. However, Lee Sin requires good mechanical awareness, positioning and target prioritisation, as the Blind Monk’s success is highly dependent on player skill.

Cloud9's new jungler Contractz carried his team to victory with his impressive Lee Sin plays in week one against TSM. Contractz went 8/2/10 on the Blind Monk, picking up the MVP award thanks to his early game ganking. He shut down Bjergsen’s Katarina, which allowed Jensen’s Syndra to farm an early lead, while his strong objective play allowed him to take down dragon even though Svenskeren’s Rek’Sai tried to steal it. Contractz kept his cool and simply kicked Svenskeren out of the pit with Dragon’s Rage before using Sonic Wave to deal the final blow. Cloud9’s jungler gave us an impressive insight into the ways of the Blind Monk and proved that Lee Sin remains at the very top of the jungle tier list.  

James Busby

Bet your bottom Unikoin that James knows his esports. Hailing from the British Isles, making sense of the scraps on Summoner's Rift is his specialty. Find him on Twitter @JamesBusby64