It has been some time since the jungle meta has changed, with Lee Sin and Elise having dominated last split as well. Since then, Kha’Zix has risen to be perhaps the top jungle pick, however. Historically, there tends to be an archetype of sort defining the meta.
Season 2: tanks – Maokai / Nautilus / Skarner
Spring Season 3: bruiser tanks – Jarvan / Vi / Xin Zhao
Meteos / Diamond: Nasus
Season 3 Worlds: gap-closers who could dive towers – Aatrox / Jarvan / Lee Sin / Vi
For much of Season 4, the jungle meta has been very static: strong duelists with early gank pressure.
The Current Meta
Kha’Zix is starting to become as hard to remove from the meta as Lee Sin, as no nerfs seem to be able to take him out. He has high damage that scales up immensely with items, should he get ahead. However, his high base damage, mobility and stealth allows him to zone out a priority target when built tanky. Finally, his Leap makes for a very strong initiation in combination with a champion like Orianna or Lulu.
For a long time, Elise was considered Lee Sin light, with the same great ganks and damage, but without the same abilities for huge late-game plays. After her damage nerfs, she looked to fall out of favor, until Vander and Meteos revolutionized her builds, making Cocoon second and getting 40% CDR as early as possible. This gives her a long-ranged, 2 second stun on a 6 second cooldown, making her a walking stunbot in late-game teamfights, capable of leading with a stun to start a fight and yet still having a stun ready to peel later on.
Notice how Meteos (on Elise) starts off the fight with a Cocoon onto Kha’Zix, who immediately is blown up by Cloud9, and then Elise has her stun back up at the end of the fight for Tristana (who jumps away from it).
Check out lolesports’ Pro Tips on Jungle Elise!
Lee Sin is one of the most versatile champions in the game, hands down. Even without his ultimate, he has 2 gap closers, a CC, and a ton of damage.
A player with excellent mechanics can pull off what’s called an insec: using some combination of your abilities to get behind your opponent, then kick them into your team. Note how Lee Sin initiates the dive, disengages after the Kog’Maw kill, waits out the Fiddles ult, Safeguards towards him and flashes behind him, Dragon Kicks him into his team, then uses Sonic Wave to kick back to him to finish him off? That’s an insec, performed by God himself, insec. But even better, since Lee Sin is manaless, he gets to continue making plays. He lands a Sonic Wave on Thresh, who gets out of range of the followup kick. Not to be outdown, he drops a ward, uses Safeguard to dash to it (and in range of his kick, then follows up the sonic wave to kill Thresh before Rengar can bring him down.
It’s hard to imagine a world where Lee Sin’s kit isn’t valued in the jungle, short of reducing the damage on all of his skills to 0. Check out lolesports’ Pro Tips on Jungle Lee Sin!
On the Fringes
There’s not too much to say about Evelynn: she shows up behind you, she drops a ton of instant damage on your whole team, slowing them and allowing her team to follow up. Typically, she is built relatively tanky, given her initiation role, although builds may vary. Her weaknesses include weak dueling in the mid-game and a lack of hard CC. If she falls behind and the enemy team wards well, her initiation from behind becomes extremely risky, as she is isolated from her allies, behind the enemy team.
Nunu is one of those junglers that is really only played by a few players. Most Chinese junglers are skilled on Nunu, thanks to the ADC-centric nature of that region. I pick for Nunu is a pick for zoning and teamfights. In the early game, Nunu serves largely as a nuisance to the enemy jungler, disrupting his ganks and eating his jungle. However, as he gets tankier and tankier, he serves as a massive zoning tool. His ultimate is not something you want to be fighting in, as shown by LMQ’s NoName:
He can use his Blood Boil to speed up 2-3 teammates, while using Ice Blast to lock down the Movement and Attack Speed of an important target. What this means is that the enemy ADC ends up with low damage, the enemy bruiser stands no chance of getting onto Nunu’s ADC, and Nunu’s ADC churns out massive damage and can kite for days. If the game is a battle between two ADCs with 2 teams standing in between them, Nunu makes sure that it’s a fight between a machine gun and a pistol. For more on Nunu, check out my analysis of his competitive play!
Rengar has been quite the solid pick in Korea as a CDR tank, and in China as a pure damage dealer, and largely unsuccessful elsewhere. Anadi at Cloth5 delivers a pretty good explanation as to how jungle Rengar works, and I think it’s one of the best articles I’ve seen on Rengar.
Jarvan is one of the most old-school junglers still viable in the game. He has solid ganks and initiations with his flag-and-drag. However, it’s Cataclysm use that defines a good Jarvan, as the terrain block can just as easily hinder as help his team. He fell out of favor for a long time, although a number of junglers have pulled him out recently in responses to bans on the power 3.
Nocturne is a pretty rare pick, but his strengths are notable. He has strong assassination potential in the late game with his Paranoia, and can use the same ability to gank lanes from miles away. However, critics of Nocturne point out that Rengar does the same thing, while having better tank build paths.
What do you think? Do you agree with my list? What junglers do you think will see play at the 2014 World Championship? Weigh in in the comments, and stay tuned for the current mid lane meta next!