Today a couple old stalwarts in competitive League of Legends made triumphant returns to the game’s biggest league.
The tribal warrior Nidalee roared into the League Championship Series today as three teams picked her in a new role—the jungle. A highly contested pick in the mid lane in past seasons of League, a rework in June last year curbed much of her spear-chucking mid lane power in favor of a more bruiser-oriented, mobility focused play style. In the 5.2 patch on Jan 29, Riot Games boosted her ability to play that style in the jungle, and professional teams took advantage of it this week now that the changes are live in tournament play.
SK Gaming, Unicorns of Love, and ROCCAT used Nidalee to open the third week of the LCS with victories, adding a new weapon to a jungle that’s been dominated by Rek’Sai and Jarvan IV so far this season.
Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen showed why Nidalee is so feared as a jungler when he killed H2k jungler Jean-Victor “loulex” Burgevin while he was doing his Red camp three minutes in. Johnsen scored three more early kills and posted a 6/1/9 KDA for the match as the team used his sustain through his heal.
Unicorns of Love and their jungler Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek were not as successful early game as Johnsen, in large part due to Fnatic support Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim’s early game warding in anticipation of Nidalee’s aggression.
But Unicorns of Love managed to outlast Fnatic even so, combing Nidalee’s solid poke and sustain with siege from the marksman Corki to eventually outlast Fnatic in a long game. Szkudlarek ended the game 4/3/10 on Nidalee, and was relieved the pick got past Fnatic. The team had relied on it heavily in practice leading up for the match, but were worried SK Gaming had spoiled the surprise with their use of it.
ROCCAT’s superstar jungler Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski didn’t have as much success as his Nidalee counterparts, despite his reputation as the first blood master. Jankowski opted to build the risky stat-stacking Mejai’s Soulstealer early in the game, something he said worked in scrims—but did not against Giants Gaming thanks to their more passive style. Still, he finished the match an impressive 4/2/11, his heal proving critical in team fights and his chase ability never allowing Giants Gaming to salvage a fight.
Nidalee wasn’t the only mid laner showing up in a new role this week.
Unicorns of Love and Giants Gaming also pulled out another former mid laner now suited for a different role, Fizz. The fish assassin, famed for his mobility due to his dodge jumping ability Playful Trickster, was a popular mid lane pick during the Deathfire Grasp and Lich Bane eras, capable of bursting down enemy champions fast with Lich Bane-empowered auto attacks, the Grasp’s magic burst, and his shark-summoning ultimate, Chum the Waters. Fizz was played in the mid lane as the LCS as recently as last week.
But with those items removed from the game, and some changes to his kit in the 5.2 patch, Fizz, while still a mid lane stalwart, lacks much of the same oomph as a mage champion. But those kit changes also opened up some new options—namely, a bruiser-style attack damage build featuring Blade of the Ruined King.
The active on Fizz’s W, Seastone Trident, now deals damage based on the percent health the enemy is missing. Combined with the Blade of the Ruined King, which does damage based on their remaining percent health and provides a healthy dose of attack speed, Fizz can chunk down enemy tanks fast with damage that scales up with enemy hit points.
Giant Gaming’s top laner Jorge “Werlyb” Casanovas, who’s put together some impressive carry performances in the top lane this season, spammed the champion in solo queue last night before picking him in their match today.
But the new Fizz play style hasn’t proven as effective as Nidalee. The champion went 1-1 in games today, and while Tamás “Vizicsacsi” Kiss and his Unicorns of Love won with the champion, it wasn’t a primary contributor to the victory—he did the least damage of the carries on his team. Still, the Trinity Force and attack damage style helped the team push down towers faster, something that certainly helped lead the team to a win. For Giants, Casanovas proved ineffectual with a 1/4/2 KDA, struggling to make a huge impact by failing to hit any big ultimates.
Still, it’s nice to see teams unafraid to pull out new strategies in the LCS. League of Legends changes at a staggering pace, and staying ahead of the game could be the difference between a loss and a victory, making the playoffs or falling out of the league in relegations.
If there’s one takeaway from today’s games, though, it’s this: watch out in solo queue. Nidalee, the Bestial Huntress, is back.
Image via Riot Games