S5 Worlds: An answer to the Gragas ban
Last Saturday, Fnatic faced EDward Gaming for the quarterfinals of the 2015 League of Legends World Championship. In Game 2, ReignOver’s Gragas faced a bug where he couldn’t cast his Barrel Roll anymore and, after some minutes of internal debate, referees decided to remake the match. Champion was still enabled but with the condition that if the bug ever repeated itself, he’d be disabled for the whole tournament.
This bug was known by the League community as something that happens very rarely and without clear reasons of why. It seems that Riot’s investigation after this incident got a little tighter, and they found out it was related to the instant-cast explosion of the barrel. After quarterfinals were finished Riot released a ruling, stating they would disable Gragas, Lux and Ziggs (as Lucent Singularity and Satchel Charge work in the same way) for the rest of the tournament. While being a good temporary solution for the bug, a lot of concern surrounds players, coaches and analysts. Gragas wasn’t only a staple, safe pick for almost every jungler at the tournament (and all four going to the semifinals) but he’s also been one of the few champions to be massively played. With this in mind, a lot of people have been talking about the enormous difficulties for an already troublesome draft and how much of a disadvantage will Red side have as Gangplank and Mordekaiser keep being banned more than 90% of the games. Now the question that should come to mind to each of the four teams and their respective coaches/players is: aren’t we underestimating our alternatives?
For more complete stats look here
For sure, Elise, Gragas and Rek’Sai have been the top three junglers at the tournament, as with a total 96 picks in 63 games that’s impossible to deny. Elise in particular has seen great success, having a 96.8 PB% (100% in bracket stage) and winning 65.8% of her games (25w/13l), so it’s pretty hard for the champion to get any more value than it already has. Gragas was mostly used as a fallback, low-resource alternative, being banned only four times but picked 29 (same as Rek’Sai), and without him people would expect Rek’Sai to climb to the 100 PB% as the only effective way to fulfil Gragas’ role. Lee Sin is the other expected champion, as during his 14 games across the tournament he’s been a pretty effective early pressure pick, topping the chart in terms of KPA at 75.7%. Besides, of the four players to reach the semifinals the only one who doesn’t play Lee Sin is ReignOver, who has his signature Olaf instead.
Now, is this all we have? So far in this tournament, 10 more champions were played for the jungler role across 16 picks. Some of them are pretty rare pocket picks like KaKAO’s Hecarim/Skarner or TBQ’s Vi, who seem pretty unlikely as they are really easy to counter for the enemy team. But let’s break down the other champions we’ve seen:
Looking into the carry junglers, Evelynn and Nidalee have been pretty hot picks across all of 2015, and while some nerfs and meta changes have made them less powerful they still have a lot of unique tools to provide. Nidalee’s duelling and fast clear makes her really good at invading the enemy jungle and skirmishing during the early stages of the game, while providing poke, sustain and a powerful execute for neutral objective control. Evelynn’s stealth will always create that unique niche of permanent global pressure, as a very aggressive and complex warding pattern is necessary to spot her pathing and prevent her ganks. While none of the semifinalists has shown to play Nidalee in recent times (except for one ReignOver loss), all of them have played Evelynn in the Summer Season, especially Bengi and Hojin (12 and 8 games respectively). With SKT, KOO and Fnatic playing a really aggressive early game, one of these two champions should surely be contested.
Other less used junglers have been Rengar, Ekko and Jarvan IV. Rengar’s difficulty around his execution makes him a less than preferred choice, and even someone like Bengi, who has played it quite successfully in the past, would be smart not to pick him. Ekko and Jarvan on the other hand are much easier to use, as they don’t depend on their ultimates to apply early pressure and provide two powerful zoning tools for late game teamfights. Ekko’s Parallel Convergence is one of the best defensive spells in the game, as he can zone the enemy away from his carries by landing an AoE 2.25s stun. His ability to force disengages and set up objective control is almost unique, and while his tank build has received huge nerfs, he’s still effective against close-ranged comps and could maybe even be played as an AP Assassin in the jungle. Jarvan’s Cataclysm on the other hand is a mostly offensive spell, his point-and-click condition leading to a great all-in tool against the enemy’s carries. The new Juggernaut meta also fits him really well both in terms of itemization and team composition, having great synergy with champions like Darius or Fiora, who prefer when their enemy’s locked down in a certain place.
While it’s true that Rek’Sai has seen a really high priority this Worlds, its strengths aren’t as remarkably unique or high to be considered a must-pick. Teams have set their minds on Elise being the only truly powerful jungler, and when she’s not available they just prefer to go for a low-risk champion even when the reward may not be as high either. Whether the Gragas ban will enforce this mindset or break it we don’t know yet, but the champion pool the game provides would lead to the latter. It’s now up to the players and coaches to show how much they have prepared for this and how strong is their adaptation. Whatever’s the outcome, I just hope to see more than three junglers played.
Thanks to LoLesports for the picture/s and to eSportspedia for the stats.
RuloMercury is a writer/analyst from Argentina. You can follow him on Twitter here