This week, Ekko became eligible in the LPL, as well as the EU and NA LCS. While still disabled in LCK, it’s always exciting when a champion enters or returns to the meta, and in this case rings especially true. Regarded as “overloaded”, Ekko can be seen as a burst mage with a ton of utility, not to mention the fact that he can escape most situations relatively intact. His E skill, Phase Dive, grants him the ability to chase down opponents, or get out of a potentially lethal encounter. Coupled with an AoE stun, the pick potential is real from whatever position he is played.
Making his competitive debut in EU, Ekko would take on a variety of roles as players figure out exactly where the AP assassin belongs. Billed as a mid laner, does Ekko truly stand without limits?
Let’s take a look at what we’ve seen so far.
After bans in the first 3 games of the week, we would finally see Froggen bring Ekko out to a strong performance of 4-1-4, though eventually falling to Fnatic. In his next appearance, Airwaks brought the time shattering menace into the jungle, ending up with a 3-2-3 score and a defeat.
Played 3 more times, only one player would find success on Ekko as Froggen received yet another loss with a modest score of 2-2-1. Fnatic top laner Huni pulled off the only Ekko win in EU, going 7-1-7 and rushing what has become the standard: Morellonomicon. In the clip below, Huni shows us Ekko’s bait potential, Fnatic style.
Kikis would also bring Ekko into the jungle, suffering a 1-4-5 loss to H2K. It’s worth noting that in both Kikis and Airwaks games, neither jungler opted to build sightstone. With a questionable rush of Spirit Visage on Airwaks, and Kikis going from his Cinderhulk into a Locket of the Iron Solari and Glacial shroud, a case can be made for the early vision offered by sighstone over getting tanky as fast as possible. Time will tell.
Ekko premiered in Europe, but would make his first true mark in North America.
At the end of day 2, Ekko’s debut would spark numerous questions. Where is he best played? What should he build? What role does he serve? The NA LCS would provide no clear answer as he ended week 3 with wins across all three roles.
Interestingly, in both of his losses in North America, Ekko was played mid lane, and ended with a positive score. With Innox going 5-2-5 in their loss against Team 8, and Bjergsen 7-1-6 against Team Dignitas, neither player could capitalize on their advantages, hinting at something far from revolutionary: Ekko is team dependent. While he boasts awesome slaying power, Ekko is also loaded up with a stun and a slow, granting his team just as much utility as damage. Coordination is key, best displayed in Team Liquid’s game against Cloud 9.
Opting for a sighstone rush and lots of early game pressure, IWillDominate gave us the first glimpse of Ekko’s strengths in the jungle. At the end of the 39 minute matchup, Ekko became a tanky time-travelling terror, soaking up damage for his team and controlling team fights through zoning and intelligent placing of his ultimate.
In their match against TDK, Bjergsen was able pull off a score of 12-6-7, taking control of the mid lane and eventually the game in a relatively standard match from TSM.
Finally, ZionSpartan would put up an admirable 4-3-9 in his victory against Gravity, once again showcasing Ekko’s carry potential even when starting defensively, choosing to build a Seeker’s Armguard before the traditional Morellonomicon.
Ekko secured a 3-2 overall win record in NA, leading to even more questions. Next stop, China.
There was no shortage of Ekko play in the 12 team LPL, finding himself played in 11 out of the 24 games in Week 4. In a region known for it’s teamfighting, it would be interesting to see the Chinese teams approach to the league’s newest champion.
Our first glimpse of Ekko in the LPL would come in the form of a loss in the midlane as Dade gave up first blood and fell 3-5-1 to Pawn’s Leblanc. Being forced into an abyssal scepter, Dade never quite managed to claw back into the game and EDG closed the game out in typical EDG fashion – convincingly.
The next showing of Ekko would be by none other than Rookie. Living up to his nickname of “Faker Junior”, a 10-3-13 score in game 2 against LGD showed us what can happen when Ekko gets ahead early. Controlling the pace of team fights and zoning enemies with his W ability, Parallel convergence, Ekko’s presence in 5v5 scenarios is impossible to ignore.
In a less than spectacular performance, Flandre would flounder, going 2-7-1 with another strange item build on Ekko, choosing to build Cinderhulk and Trinity force and operating with a summoner spell combination of Teleport and Smite. After Snake took an early tower, QG would take hold of the game with a solo kill from V, and never slowed down from there. From behind, Ekko was never able to get into the Snake backline, and his team fight impact was rendered useless.
The first matchup of IG vs. OMG would feature Cool on Ekko, but with an 0-0-1 score, it was pretty much the Uzi show. It would be the 4-1-16 Jungle Ekko of mlxg to give us our next win on the champion in game 1 of RNG vs. WE, followed by a poor attempt to do the same by Spirit in the next game, closing the set 0-2 with a score line of 3-2-6. Not wanting to follow in Spirit’s footsteps, Eimy showed us once again that Jungle Ekko is more than a gimmick, controlling the pace of the game against one of the best teams the world has to offer in EDG. He would close game out game one with an impressive score of 4-1-22. With Pawn and GODV both posting losses in the mid lane, it would be Eimy to bring out Ekko two more times, posting up a 3-1-19 win and a 1-4-4 loss in their set against WE. Not out of the ordinary for a jungler, every game Ekko was played in the jungle featured a Sightstone rush, with victories using both Ranger’s Trailblazer and Stalker’s Blade.
Wanting a more clear idea of his success in China, I consulted with LPL caster Froskurinn Devin “Froskurinn” Ryanne Mohr.
“I think Ekko has found most of his use in the jungle – starting fights using his kit as a gap closer and slow for the rest of his team, serving as an initiation tool. Mlxg and Eimy showed much better performances than the mid laners, apart from Rookie.”
I asked her what she thought about Sightstone on Ekko, and mentioned that in EU, there was no Sightstone on Airwaks Ekko in his loss against Gambit, but Team Liquid’s win against Cloud 9 was impacted heavily by the presence of IWillDominate’s sighstone Ekko, allowing him free reign over the map.
“I mean obviously it has some relevance but I think it’s more how they’re considering using him versus how its being executed. In the mid lane he’s just another burst that can soft counter assassins but in the jungle it’s more about choke points – and his W being used in those choke points. They only build him tanky to help his clear be safe, but he can run so far ahead of his team and catch everyone with his W/E combo. His ult is a safe backup in case the enemy team turns to burn him – and while they try to do that, the time the enemy spends on him allows his team to catch up and murder them now that all their cooldowns are gone.
As far as China is concerned – His jungle dynamic really works with the team fighting specialties in China of in playing with angles and choke points, and I think that’s how the Chinese teams have been using him best and where we’ll see a priority outside teams that have all-star mid laners like Cool, Rookie, GodV, etc.”
Ekko would end his run in China at 5 wins and 7 losses, with three of those wins coming from the jungle. It’s been made clear that Ekko doesn’t fare well from behind, and that team coordination is more important than ever, with many of his strengths coming from how much impact he has in team fights. He may have a huge toolbox, but using those tools efficiently is critical to his success. It will be interesting to see where Ekko finds his place as the various summer splits unfold, but one thing is certain: Ekko does have limits, and teams will have to play around them if they want to succeed with – or against – the boy who shattered time.
Here’s a quick look at Ekko’s performance so far, broken down by region. All games took place between Jun 11th and Jun 14th.
Number of games available June 11-14: 44
Picked or Banned in: 37/44 (84% P/B)
Total picks: 21
Total bans: 16
Winrate: 43% (9 Wins, 12 Losses)
Most successful position: Jungle (4 wins)
Breakdown by wins: Jungle (4), Mid lane (4), Top Lane (2)
Breakdown by losses: Jungle (3), Mid Lane (7), Top Lane (1)
Most played by: Eimy – Jungler of Unlimited Potential (3 times, 2 wins, 1 loss)
Total games mid: 11
Total games Top: 3
Total games jungle: 7
Total Games: 10
Picked/Banned: 90% (5 picks, 4 bans. Uncontested 1 game)
Winrate: 20% (1 Win, 4 losses)
Total games: 10
Picked/Banned: 70% (5 picks, 2 Bans. Uncontested 3 games)
Winrate: 60% (3 wins, 2 losses)
Total Games: 24
Picked/Banned: 87% (11 Picks, 10 Bans. Uncontested 3 Games)
Winrate: 45% (5 Wins, 6 Losses)
Winning players across EU/NA LCS and LPL
Top: Huni (EU), ZionSpartan (NA)
Mid: Bjergsen (NA), Cool (LPL), Rookie (LPL)
Jungle: IWillDominate (NA), mlxg(LPL), Eimy (LPL)
Tim Kimbirk is a journalist writing about eSports for SoloMid. You can find him in the depths of solo queue, or on twitter talking about eSports.