The Big Four
When it comes to jungling, four champions stick out above all others: Xin, Vi, Hecarim, and J4. While this may not seem like a huge deal, how often does a team-mate instantly rage when one of those four champions is selected on the enemy team and yours has a jungler not on that list?
Survey says: almost every time.
While we can argue that itemization, health stacking, and all the other shiny new things season 3 has brought us make these champions OP, the real answer lies elsewhere. These champions can all carry from the jungle; in a sense they invalidate the ranged DPS champions. They can roam, gank, and eventually become un-killable demi-Gods of death and destruction.
How did we get to this?
1. The old counter-jungle, snowball-based, ganking junglers have all been nerfed to a point where counter-jungling is mostly risk, without reward. Shyvanna, Lee, Shaco, even Noct, all have been nerfed to balance around the Season 2 meta, leaving the Big Four not just as the most viable picks, but the superior picks every time. Think on it, since the start of Pre-Season every patch has more or less knocked a champion out of the jungle until the previous popular picks were almost unviable. Lee is an example of this, a champion many suspect was nerfed, simply because he saw too much gameplay.
2. The increase of warding in general has knocked out some other junglers who needed the element of surprise to be successful. Fiddlesticks is easily the best example, he needed those spots in the dark to sneak an ultimate, however those dark spots are near non-existent. Meanwhile because of their gap-closers the Big Four hardly need to worry about wards.
3. A shift away from sustained teamfight to a herd and slaughtered set-up. Heal, Peel, and Protect the ADC is a thing of the past. While a team might be able to stop J4 from diving the carry- the burst AP Carry is now free to insta-gib a team free of CC methods, flashes, and maybe ultimates. Think about Xin, how often does a team have to Chain CC that champion to contain him. If one champion eats up 100% of a teams CC, what do you use on the other four that remain?
4. The addition of more roles to carry from. Think Season 2: Tanky Top, ADC Carry/Support Bottom, APC Mid, with an Off-Support Jungle. Now we have a Tanky Carry Top, Tanky CC Bottom or AP Soft Carry on Bottom, Carry Jungle, APC Mid, and the ranged DPS is raging at you to keep him alive.
5. The falloff of utility and support junglers. Think about champions like Malphite who was a strong pick in season 2, now however most champions can simly eat his ultimate, and thats if any choose to stay in one spot, meanwhile the tankiness of champions like Malphite are shredded by the free stats given to the Big Four that allow for easy tank busting, while being tanky themselves.
6. Lastly, that knock-ups and knock-backs have almost replaced stuns and slows as the most effective type of CC method. While Lee or Shaco might be able to slow Hecarim, the effect is lost soon as he uses an ability. Meanwhile dive an enemy carry with a Hecarim on their team, and watch as you get knocked into a wall to be focused.
In essence we have a last man standing mentality. We saw this at the start of season 2 with Akali dominating the scene. Basically ALL the other jungle champions found themselves nerfed or invalidated because of items or clear times, this left the Big Four as the only champions remaining to pick. Not because people initially were following FoTM OP, but because the more popular picks had simply been nerfed too hard, leaving few logical choices to jungle with.
The Big Four
So what exactly is it that makes those champions not only the most viable junglers, but also carry junglers? What it comes down to is gap closers mixed with a formation disruption and the innate abilities to counter the HP/Resistance Meta they represent. Does it matter if a teams Ranged DPS is fed if a jungler can simply ignore the front line, dive and kill him?
It is arguable one of the largest problems when playing against these champions is the amount of itemization it takes to counter them. Any summoner who plays against them will usually need health to last long enough during engages, some defense to not let their life-steal get out of control, armor penetration, and a item to neutralize lifesteal or health regeneration.
Those four champions can do exactly that; they can ignore the front line and go straight to the Range DPS. Meanwhile those champions have a kit that disrupts the enemy formation, and allows for their team-mates to have a 4v2 followed by a 4v1 followed by clean up of the survivors.
Formation disruption is what makes these four champions so viable. If you can separate a team during a team-fight, you win. If you can separate carries from their tanks, from their supports, from those who can peel for them, can they still carry? Not so much.
Which leaves one question, who is the real carry?
J4 Overall Win-rate: 53%
Vi Overall Win-rate: 48%
Xin Overall Win-rate: 52.5%
Hecarim Overall Win-rate: 54.75%
J4 vs: Xin, 50.9% – Vi, 53.4% – Hec, 49.6%
Xin vs: J4, 49.1% – Vi, 54% – Hec, 49.5%
Vi vs: J4, 46.5% – Xin, 46% – Hec, 43.9%
– Vi loses hard to the other members of the Big Four, but wins against everyone else.
Hec vs: J4, 50.4% – Vi, 56.1% – Xin, 50.5%
How to Manage
1. Ban them outright. Though this route is not ideal, partially because one of those champions will be left unbanned, and the other will be that team-mates will instantly rage when the popular Season 2 bans of Shen/Malphite/Darius/Other pub-stompers from months ago don’t get banned.
2. If you can cannot beat them, join them. There are only three champions that have an even or winning rate versus one of the Big Four, and those are the other three on the list.
3. If your team has done neither of the first two options, numbers wise, you are destined to fail and who wants to play a fifty-minute game with your big hope being an afk player, a troll, or a legendary throw?
-Upcoming articles, The Fallicy of Balancing a game around the Ranged ADC – Support Meta, and why its still done.