One of the great things about League of Legends is that the game is always fresh—new champions, new builds, and ever-changing strategy keep the landscape from becoming stale.
The Riot World Championships provides the perfect place for professional players and teams to introduce new things. With the stakes so high, surprising an opponent with an unconventional yet effective strategy becomes all the more tantalizing, and taking advantage of the latest popular picks is required.
The hot new champions so far? Rumble and Janna.
In the League Championship Series, neither champion saw a single game during the Summer season, playoffs included (though Janna did appear in promotions and relegations). At the World Championships, Rumble is 2-0 and Janna is a whopping 5-2, appearing in more than half of the 12 matches so far.
Both champions have advantages that make them work in the current metagame.
Rumble used to be a common top lane pick, but nerfs to his Electro Harpoon damaged his ability to farm under turret, making him susceptible against bully type champions. But he has advantages in many lanes thanks to his ability to dish out damage. His use is increasing in part due to the popularity of the powerful tank Maokai. Rumble’s Flame Spitter is strong enough to break through Maokai’s passive. His ultimate, a flaming barrier that slows and damages foes, is one of the most dangerous in the game.
Samsung Galaxy White top laner Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok used the champion in such a role against Edward Gaming on Thursday. The Korean team managed to shut down Tong “Koro1” Yang’s Maokai, who put up a 0/6/6 KDA line in their loss.
Janna, on the other hand, is quickly becoming the most popular support at the tournament. She has a number of tools that make her dangerous. Her shield is extremely powerful, allowing almost any marksman to win trades in any matchup. Her movement speed bonus is small but powerful. Most importantly, her disengage tools are some of the best in the game: her whirlwind can knock up multiple foes and she has a targeted slow. If those don’t work, her ultimate can knock back an entire enemy team while healing her own—the ultimate League of Legends reset button. And that’s ignoring her passive movement speed bonus, a seemingly invisible boost that can make the difference between escaping doom or catching that fleeing foe.
The power of both champions was perfectly on display in the Team SoloMid match against Taipei Assassins. SoloMid didn’t pick Rumble as a Maokai counter, but they took advantage of his strengths thanks to their overall team composition.
SoloMid lead with versatile jungler Lee Sin before picking Kog’Maw and Janna on the second rotation. That bottom lane composition combines a long-range hype carry with Jannas’ incredible disengage ability. Then, in the final picks, they backed it up with Xerath, a mid laner with insane poke ability himself, and Rumble.
Rumble fit neatly with the team’s goals—he has his own solid poke with Electro Harpoon. And his ultimate, The Equalizer, lives up to its name. One of the best zone control abilities in the game, it, along with Janna’s ultimate, ensured Team SoloMid would fight on their own terms.
The two champions worked perfectly. Team SoloMid took a commanding lead at the 13 minute mark thanks to a combination of plays made possible by Rumble and Janna, with Marcus “Dyrus” Hill using Rumble’s damage to score a solo kill in lane while Janna took over her own lane matchup. The team then completely zoned out the Taipei Assassin team.
TPA picked a lineup featuring Rengar, Tristana, and three support-style champions, Lulu, Orianna, and Leona. It was a team with the ability to engage hard with Leona’s grab and stun and Rengar’s ability to jump in while stealthed with Orianna’s ball of death attached. But Taipei Assassins could never execute a clean attack, as Janna and Rumble kept Xerath and Kog’Maw safe, able to deal destruction from afar.
Taipei Assassins actually got in on the Janna action earlier today against SK Gaming. Here is Li “Jay” Chieh’s use of Janna’s ultimate not as a defensive tool, but as one to engage the enemy team.
Taipei Assassins won their match against SK Gaming off this fight—just like a lot of teams are winning games on the back of Janna. She’s a solid pick with a lot of tools at her disposal, and teams are finally taking advantage of her on the World’s biggest stage.
Rumble has only seen two games so far, but with him in Jang’s back pocket, it’d be a surprise if we didn’t see him later in the tournament. The champion’s tankiness and damage, combined with the danger of his ultimate, are simply too much to ignore.
Worlds is showing the metagame is wide open. What more surprises await us in the coming weeks?
Image via Riot Games