Glory of the Climb – The Stale Meta: Intro + Junglers
With Season 3 actively live for about three weeks and LCS starting its third week tomorrow, the meta has finally settled and the dominant strategies have emerged. There is still a little room for champion innovation as far as viability goes (i.e. Volibear being used by Gambit and Giants in EU LCS) but most top tier champions and item builds have been established. If you are behind the times the current trends revolve around champions that can build primarily tanky while still doing good amounts of damage, shredding Armor/MR, and thriving in prolonged engagements. If your champion can not do these things then it better be packing some major utility for your team otherwise they really have no place on the fields of justice. I will be discussing what is the primary culprit in this shift towards HP is, as well as giving my opinion on which junglers are the best to play right now to gain LP and climb divisions.
What Caused Such a Major Shift in How the Game is being Played?
The biggest contributor to the shift in meta has been the re-evaluation of stats by Riot. Health and Damage are cheaper while Resistances and Attack Speed are more expensive. What this has done is make it so that the early game gets completely dominated by health stacking. Giant’s Belt is a premium at 1000g giving the wearer 380 HP. If we compare that to the premium AD and AP items (BF Sword and Rod) they give 45 AD for 1550 and 80 AP for 1600. While BF sword is 100g cheaper its power is masked over ten fold by the cheaper Giant’s Belt, same with Needlessly Large Rod. It takes nine attacks before armor to chip away all the extra health that Giant’s Belt provides compared to your BF Sword. It’s even worst for AP characters who don’t even receive the full 80 AP on a majority of their spells, plus factoring in cooldowns and it could be a while before your extra 80 AP negates that extra HP. Plus the purchaser of the Giant’s belt also has 550-600 more gold to spend on whatever they want. Now these numbers are not infallible truths as I am not factoring in things like your base auto attack damage or scaling AP from runes, etc but I am just trying to show comparatively what the items provide to the user at face value. The other contributor to HP being out of control right now is that Attack Speed is no longer the premium stat it was in Season 2. I don’t play AD carry a lot but I was forced to play it a few days ago in ranked and even when fed, with BT/IE, PD, LW at 30 minutes I felt incredibly weak shooting at the opposing Shen and Hecarim. We did eventually win but I felt like such a small contribution of damage as I watched every auto attack tickle that massive HP bar when I felt I should be blowing them away! Things are not as they used to be.
Anyways, the main point is HP is out of control which in turn is making bruisers out of control, which in turn is making playing non-bruisers futile, which is making the meta very stale already for only being three weeks in. I would definitely advise against playing any kind of assassin or damage dealing character (excluding ADC’s) that can not provide some kind of significant utility to your team. Let your bruiser/jungler take care of tanking, killing, and winning the game, while you take a back seat and grab some pom-poms to cheer them on.
The Best Junglers and Why.
To keep this section clean I am going to list what I think are the top 5 junglers right now and list some close honorable mentions. The traits that I am looking for that help me decide power level are based on junglers who fit a very precise curve of being able to provide early game pressure, do good early damage while being tanky, and scale well into late game transitioning into an unkillable tank/initiator/frontline/cc machine.
Vi is incredibly new to the League scene and I think that it took Riot fixing all her bugs for people to discover how powerful she really is. Now that she is fully functional I see her banned or picked in almost every game I play. She has a very long range gap closer with her Q, shreds armor, has high base damage, has suppression, scales well, and she gets a free shield that scales well with the stats she wants to prioritize. She has great pressure early game with her ability to fly long distances over walls, does good damage because of her base values, becomes incredibly threatening once she gets six, and she scales well as a tank into the late game providing her team with initiation, armor shred, and cc. She does everything at an above average level and fits my jungler curve very nicely. The reason she is 5th on my list is that she is really only scaled well to prioritizing one enemy at a time where the other junglers outshine her.
Next is Amumu who is no stranger to the League or the jungle. A high priority pick in all three seasons, his use seems to get more refined the more time passes. Despite being very susceptible to early counter jungle pressure, Amumu is a tough champion to ignore even when he is at a disadvantage. His Q give him a gap closer and stun in one, while also lowering the targets MR with his passive, this gives him the ability to pressure lanes early. Once he hits six he doesn’t even need to hit you with his Q to stun you anymore, just use it to close the gap and set up a gank. He scales incredibly well building only tanky while providing great damage with his Despair’s % damage. In team fights he shreds MR with his passive, provides a giant AoE Stun, and meanwhile is able to stun someone every few seconds with his Q which has a base damage of 320 at rank 5! Ya I bet you didn’t know that. Amumu is everything you want in your jungle tank. He gets the edge over Vi because his ultimate is more game changing than hers because it can effectively be used on all five enemies. Its also as big as the Baron pit which makes contesting an enemy Baron with Amumu a walk in the park.
Of all the junglers to start picking up major speed, Hecarim is leading the charge. A fan favorite of Season 2, he is now starting to make his way into the spotlight of season 3. Hecarim has great jungle clear doing it both fast and healthy. While he doesn’t have the greatest gap closer on my list he does have a unique one in his Devastating Charge; couple this with Ghost and its almost like having a 1000 yard Flash with how fast Hecarim can appear on the scene and mess up your day. His Q scales well with levels which lets him build pretty tanky and if he ever gets really ahead he can start prioritizing damage and really make heads roll. Once he gets his ultimate the angles at which he can gank from go up astronomically and it provides AoE-CC to boot! His real power lies in his W which allows him to be a late game brick wall that never dies. Hecarim again fits the curve perfectly being able to provide pressure and great early game damage while prioritizing all his items to transition him into that 4k hp monster that will never die come late game; all while ripping your team to shreds with a spear/scythe/javelin thing. His ultimate is a little less devastating than Amumu’s because it has a smaller chance of actually hitting five people, but its how incredibly hard it becomes to kill Hecarim late game that really gives him the edge. If you have Hecarim in your front line you basically always have a front line which is why he gets my #3.
#2: Jarvan IV
Jarvan is a scary jungler right now. If you ever hear that “DEMACIA!” and you don’t have flash you are dead. It’s that simple. Jarvan fits the curve almost flawlessly providing tons of pressure as early as level two with his gap closer that knocks you up, shreds your armor, and increases his and his allies attack speed. If he comes back at level six he will have a shield and brings a giant ring of death that he can also use to close the gap a second time! He doesn’t need to build damage because he gets free armor shred, attack speed, and % damage from his kit, which allows him to prioritize into HP allowing him to fight up to five people in his Cataclysm for as long as his team needs him to while they rip them to shreds. Oh yea his shield also slows. Jarvan is in a very privileged spot right now, as he should be he is a god damn prince, and is definitely a top tier pick for jungler, and a scary one at that.
#1: Xin Zhao
Xin Zhao gets my #1 spot because he fits my jungle curve perfectly as well as taking almost no skill to play. He does most things Jarvan does but with such increased simplicity it may actually make you face palm after you pick J4 and Leave Xin open. His Charge gap closes and shreds armor, no skill shot involved. He has a knock up that is based off his auto attacks, and increases their damage, which is what you are already doing anyawys, and he has an attack speed steroid which also heals him and has no cd (the heal proc) unlike Jarvan’s shield. His ultimate also has dual functionality in the fact that it can be used as a hard engage or hard disengage tool. Catch their adc trailing behind, just charge to him and separate him from his team. Did they catch you trailing behind? Target their support and knock the rest of them away as you make your escape. Crescent Sweep also provides Xin with free Armor and MR which means that Xin can deviate in prioritizing health into damage more freely than the other junglers. But in recap he provides great pressure early game with a gap closer and cc as early as level two. Has a team wide displacement ult with free defensive stats tacked on. He can build tanky and perfectly transition into the late game tank/initiator/cc machine you need him to be. He is the real deal.
These are the junglers that don’t make my Top 5 but I think are definitely worth mentioning as viable in the confines of the current meta, filling the Jungler/Tank/Bruiser role. They are listed in no specific order.
Elise (although she’s better top)
Olaf (better top)
Shen (better top)
For those of you who don’t jungle stay tuned to News of Legends as I will be releasing a Top 5 for the other roles (Top, Mid, ADC, Support) in the future. Until then good luck and may this help you rise!
Previous “Glory of the Climb” Articles: