Fans of North American League of Legends dread one thing above all. No, it’s not the Worlds group stage: As long as you’re Cloud9, that’s fine. The thing we fear is a champion. A champion who isn’t picked often, but when he is, it’s absolutely terrifying—for the team that picked him. You know what it is: NA Jayce.
So when Clutch Gaming locked in Jayce against 100 Thieves on Saturday, you could almost feel the impact of thousands of fans simultaneously slamming their palms against their foreheads in disdain. How many NA top lane Jayce’s do we have to see before we realize that it will never work?
That’s when Clutch went from dumb to daring: They shocked everyone by flexing Jayce to jungle and picking Zilean for top laner Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon.
It was the biggest of big brain plays. Huni took Kleptomancy as his keystone rune and built Spellthief’s Edge, a support item, at level one. His goal was to ignore the minions and poke the ever-living hell out of Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho’s Urgot.
He had to ignore minions because basic support items don’t grant gold if you kill a minion. So Huni had to complete his support quest quickly, which would allow him to upgrade the Spellthief’s and remove the restriction on farming. With both Klepto and Spellthief’s giving him gold for poking Ssumday, he actually ended up with a lot more gold during the laning phase.
That had him feeling good—a little too good, because Clutch decided to try and dive an Urgot:
Yeah, don’t try this on Ssumday. He’ll tear your heart out.
From there, 100 Thieves had lane control across the map and looked like they’d cruise to victory. But with a ton of poke on their side—Clutch supplemented the Zilean and Jayce with Zoe and Ezreal—Clutch managed to hold them of at the Nexus turrets. Clutch stole a Baron, took an Elder Dragon, and just like that, the game was even. That’s when 100 Thieves finally realized that the only way to beat poke is to engage. 100 Thieves mid laner Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun actually tried to make a big play before that Elder, but nobody followed him. The second time around, 100 Thieves didn’t leave him hanging:
With the loss, does that mean the end of the Zilean-Jayce top duo? Sort of. The Zilean actually worked. There aren’t many good options for going against Urgot right now, and his biggest counter matchups are getting nerfed in Patch 9.3, which will hit competitive play next week. Stuff like Zilean with the wonky runes and items can work.
But if you’re going to play passive in the top lane, you need more pressure around the other lanes and jungle—and Jayce didn’t really provide that. And Clutch indexed way too heavily toward poke: All game, they needed more ways to disengage. Four poke carries was a little much. So until we figure out something that works better, please no more NA Jayce.