Hit the Ground Running: Jungle Champion Effectiveness in the First Fifteen Minutes
The first 15 minutes in League of Legends can sometimes decide the outcome of the entire game. In the 2015 Spring Split playoffs in the LCK, the LMS, and the North American and European LCS and Challenger leagues, the team with a gold lead at 15 minutes won 74% of the time.
Junglers often play the most active role in the early game, ganking and counter-ganking, setting up Tower dives, or just hard farming to level 6 as fast as possible to hasten the mid game. But what we'll see is that early-game strength is no longer the defining characteristic of strong junglers, as it was in previous metas.
We're going to explore the ways that different jungle champions were used, and how much success they had, in the first 15 minutes of games. We'll be drawing our numbers from the 2015 Spring Split playoffs in the North American and European LCS.
Bear in mind that these statistics reflect the ways that champions were actually used during the LCS playoffs; they don't necessarily tell us which champions are inherently "stronger" or "better" in different aspects of the early game. The same champion can be played in different ways at different times, especially as the meta changes. These stats are just a snapshot, for the sake of comparison and discussion.
There was a fair amount of diversity in the jungle in the NA and EU spring playoffs. In past seasons, the jungle was dominated by champions who did nothing but gank gank gank. Lee Sin, Vi, and Jarvan IV still saw some play in the Spring playoffs, and Rek'Sai with Warrior's enchantment fits this mold, but the introduction of Cinderhulk saw the rise of Sejuani, Gragas, and tankier versions of Rek'Sai. There was even an appearance from Shaco, who may be the second most hated champion in the game (after Teemo, the devil himself).
All of the jungle champions used in the LCS Spring playoffs are listed below.
Among champions played at least three times, the most common pick was Gragas, while the most successful pick was Sejuani. Nidalee, meanwhile, didn't capture a single win in three attempts, but was still banned 11 times, and Rek'Sai only had a 35% win rate in 20 games.
Ganking, diving, and skirmishing are still very important tactical options for Junglers, and some champions were more successful at it than others. The chart below shows the average number of kills, assists, and deaths each jungle champion had at the 15 minute mark throughout the playoffs. Only champions who were played at least three times are included.
The two champions who instantly stand out are Lee Sin and Vi. Lee Sin players averaged four kills+assists and only 0.3 deaths in the first 15 minutes, and that was across eight different games. The blind monk was as deadly as ever early on, though that only translated to a 50% win rate. Vi, meanwhile, also had four kills+assists, but added in 1.3 deaths, a far higher death rate than average. Like Lee Sin, she only turned that into a 50% win rate.
Sejuani and Gragas come in near the bottom end, doing less early-game fighting, though Gragas died a little more often than average.
Nidalee's numbers are conspicuous by their absence. In three games, Nidalee was never involved in a pre-15-minute kill or death.
When compared to win rate, early-game combat effectiveness was not a key factor. Lee Sin was the best early combat jungle champion, with Vi nipping at his heels, but neither was especially successful in the Wins column. Rek'Sai and Udyr held up the second tier of combat effectiveness. Nidalee pretty much just farmed. (See the next section.)
Nidalee may have shied away from early combat, but she made good use of that time to stalk less dangerous prey, gorging on monsters and minions. The chart below shows average gold, CS, and XP differentials at 15 minutes for jungler champions who were played at least three times in the NA and EU spring playoffs.
As mentioned, Nidalee was a real barn cat, with huge advantages in gold, XP, and CS at 15 minutes. Lee Sin and Udyr did fairly well, too, though they each fell behind slightly in their advantages in one category.
Gragas is a big surprise (pun intended), averaging sizeable farm disadvantages at 15 minutes. Nunu was in the same boat, and he's one of the best jungle farmers in the game, when looking at his skill kit. These are two champions you definitely don't want to pick if your goal is to get a lead in the laning phase and snowball the game--unless you literally want to snowball people, in which case, giddy-up, Willump!
Like early combat, early-game farm advantages didn't effectively lead to high win rates. Nidalee failed to win in all three games, and Lee Sin and Rek'Sai had low win rates, as well. So while Nidalee, Udyr, Lee Sin, and Rek'Sai were good choices for donning the overalls, firing up the tractor, making hay, and mucking out the cows' stalls (okay, I'm getting a little carried away with the farming metaphor here), they weren't necessarily good choices for actually contributing to wins when it mattered.
Riot's big jungle changes coming into the 2015 season have definitely worked: early-game impact is no longer the hallmark of a strong jungle champion.
Lee Sin, Rek'Sai, Vi, and Nidalee had high combat and/or farming effectiveness in the first 15 minutes, but had poor success in earning Wins, while Sejuani and Gragas had a relatively difficult time keeping up the early pace, but had much higher win rates. Udyr was a bit middle-ground champion, reasonably good in the first 15 minutes and with a 60% win rate to go with it.
The age of the gank specialist is over. Long live the mid game team fighters!
Share your thoughts! Where did some of these numbers come from? Is Nidalee really such a bad fighter in the early game? What's the best farming-related metaphor you've ever heard?
For team and plater statistics from the NA and EU LCS and CS, LCK, and LMS, head to OraclesElixir.com.