Ivern: The Modern Nunu
Ivern is a champion that came out just a little too late to show up in 2016, but we've started to see him played frequently across the world so far in 2017. Week one of the European LCS showed G2 picking up Ivern for a game three victory over Fnatic, and the pick has been heavily prioritized in the region ever since. This past week, we saw the champion make his debuts across the NA LCS, LCK, and LMS. Standing at a record of 15-7 (12 wins and five losses from Europe), Ivern has had quite the successful run thus far. Let's take a look at how the champion works, and what makes him so strong in this meta of carry junglers.
To start, let's think about what Nunu has done in past years, and how a champion so limited by the simplicity of his own kit has worked and found success. As a champion with such long cooldowns, no skillshots, and only one ability to consistently deal damage, you have to consider, what are Nunu's strengths? Well, Nunu's primary strengths are his ability to quickly burst down individual neutral monsters via Consume and his high movement speed from Blood Boil. Nunu's primary weaknesses are his weak dueling capabilities and low gank pressure, both caused by a lack of damage outside of his ultimate. Looking at the way Nunu has been played is quite simple; run into the enemy jungle and quickly take away camps, then escape due to being difficult to chase. With the heavy slow from Nunu's Ice Blast, a level three Nunu is just about impossible to chase down for any jungler. This has allowed Nunu to be one of the most frustrating junglers to play against by giving him the ability to take away a camp, right in front of his enemies, without them being able to respond, making up for a lack of playmaking ability that the other junglers may have.
Now when we take a look at Ivern, we see similar strengths, but a more up-to-date kit that helps to take care of the weaknesses. With a skillshot for his Rootcaller, the passive on his Brushmaker, as well as the need to properly micro Daisy, Ivern has a much more complex kit than Nunu, but one that is also much more rewarding. Ivern has the same ability to instantly steal away enemy camps, and between the slow from his shield, his ability to root enemies, and creating extra bushes to run through, Ivern is also quite a difficult champion to chase down. While he's also not an excellent duelist, Ivern has much better ganks than Nunu. His sustained damage is much better, he doesn't slow champions as much, but he has a root that allows allies to gap-close, and at level six, he gets a knock-up, making him a much more feared champion in the early game. Nunu still maintains some advantages by having a bit more reliability in his counter-jungling, as Ivern either has to wait long enough to clear the camp or have smite available. On top of this, Ivern doesn't have the same security that Nunu brings to controlling Baron and dragons, which are very key components of the champion. Despite these advantages, Ivern's kit offers a lot more flexibility, as well as having a much higher skill ceiling to impact games. The similarities, along with the loaded kit, make me think of Ivern as "the Modern Nunu," or what a champion such as Nunu would look like if he was designed in today's League of Legends.
Now, in order to explain Ivern's success in a meta where carry junglers are the most common picks, you have to look at what the job is of champions like Ivern and Nunu. While counter-jungling is a strength, as well as some neutral objective control, their primary job is to neutralize the enemy jungler. If the enemy wants to heavily farm, these champions can go slow him down. If the enemy is going to be more gank focused, while these champions aren't the best for turning kills with counter-ganks, they are still very good at escorting their allies to safety. When playing Ivern, your goal in the first few minutes is to set the enemy jungler behind, and get them in an uncomfortable situation. Whether this is from stealing camps to put them on a sub-optimal path, or just tracking the enemy and making sure your team remains safe from ganks, Ivern has all the tools to effectively neutralize the enemy jungler throughout all stages of the game. If we take a look back at Europe, Ivern currently holds a 5-2 record against Kha'Zix. While the rest of the world has been looking for a way to answer Kha'Zix, Ivern seems to be doing the job quite well by being able to neutralize Kha'Zix in the games that we've seen.
Where he stands right now, I think Ivern is an S Tier jungler. With enough viable carry champions in the top lane, I don't think a carry jungler is much of a necessity right now. With the success he's been seeing in Europe, I think that the other regions will continue to see this champion being picked up. Despite the upcoming Daisy nerfs, I think Ivern will become a staple jungle pick, especially with the other top junglers facing some of their own nerfs.
Photo credits: Riot Games