Sejuani became queen of the jungle after months of no buffs and no pro play—here's why
Champions can ascend to the top of the meta in League of Legends for seemingly no reason. Usually, it's because of some huge buff, rework, or item change. But sometimes, none of those factors will be present, and a champ will still rise up.
Sejuani is one of those champions. She's either picked or banned in nearly every pro game, and she performs better than any other solo queue jungler, too. Her uprising was quite recent, though, and her popularity didn't really spike until Patch 7.17, when she was picked or banned in 54 percent of all pro games, according to Stage.gg, a pro League stats platform.
Sejuani was reworked along with Maokai and Zac during the Midseason Update nearly six months ago in May, and since then, she's remained mostly the same. Curiously enough, the only change she received was a big nerf immediately after her update was released.
The truth is that a long, gradual stream of small item changes and other champions falling and rising in the meta are to blame for Sej's ascension. Her current dominance over the jungle comes after several months of balance changes hitting everyone except her until Patch 7.17 rolled around, when she ultimately succeeded in the aftermath.
Cut one head off, and another one takes its place. The Midseason Update came at a time when Sej was nowhere near the meta. Almost every other tank in the game was considered to be a more viable option than Sej, and her fans were hoping that the update would bring her some attention. It did, but it was the wrong kind of attention. She was made impossibly strong—so much so that she needed an emergency hotfix nerf days after it went live.
She was nerfed again in the next patch, Patch 7.10, and by then, everyone had written her off again as a problem champion. At first, it was because she was too OP. And, after the nerfs, it was because she was too weak. As the dust settled, the meta did too, and the same popular tanks from before the update returned to the top: Gragas and Zac. Olaf and Jarvan IV rose up later in the summer, but Sej was left in the dust.
Granted, tanks weren't even in meta as a class before the item changes of the Midseason Update, so at least the fact that tanks were stronger in general could help Sej a little. Even so, she fell further and further behind as the tank meta began, watching as her tanky counterparts dominated the Rift without her being given a second thought. She wasn't actually weak, but her reputation was marred by the shoddy release of her update and her sheer unpopularity from beforehand. Keep in mind, she hadn't been changed for months when she became meta. She had been that strong the whole time.
So, when Zac was nerfed into the ground in Patch 7.15, followed by smaller nerfs to Jarvan, Gragas, Cho'Gath, and Maokai—nearly every other popular tank in the game—players started to look for the next flavor-of-the-month tank, and their eyes fell on Sejuani. She had been there this whole time as an insanely strong tank with nonstop crowd control.
She'd been overshadowed. But now that the other tanks had been nerfed, she was in the spotlight. Starting there, her playrate began to steadily climb all the way until now, where she sits as one of the most played junglers in the game, according to stats site Champion.gg.
In Patch 7.15, she was either picked or banned in 26 percent of all pro games, and now at Worlds in Patch 7.18, she's been picked or banned in 89 percent of all games, with seemingly no changes made to her.
Those tanks are so hot right now
Sejuani didn't really need any buffs, though, because she's a tank, and tanks were shown lots of love by Riot's balance team this summer. A massive buff was given to the Cinderhulk, the tank jungle item, in Patch 7.13. Its jungle mana regen was buffed, it dealt more damage to monsters to help with clear speed, and its cost was dropped by 200 gold. Not only that, but the bonus health multiplier was raised from 15 to 20 percent, which added a great synergy with Warmog's.
Thanks to the new health boost, Sejuani could pop the Heart of the Warmog passive with only two items—Warmog's and Cinderhulk.
This was a huge boost to all jungle tanks, and it paired together nicely with the Locket of the Iron Solari, which was converted to help out tanks more than enchanter supports, and the Gargoyle Stoneplate.
Tanks are at the top of their game right now, and the only ones that fall out of meta are those that are nerfed. So, when the top tank junglers were nerfed all throughout the past five months, Sejuani remained just as strong as she was before. That meant she was stronger than all of them. She also fits perfectly into the current damage meta as well. Hyper carry ADCs are the focus of any pro team at the moment, due to their incomparable scaling damage and the ability to rip through scores of enemies in a matter of seconds, no matter how tanky they are.
The meta revolves around ADCs like Tristana, Twitch, Kog'Maw, and even Jinx. They're all fairly ineffective early on, and it takes them a long time to scale up, which means the strongest tanks are the ones that can protect them the best while they scale. Sejuani's kit is littered with more peel and crowd control than arguably any other tank, and it's all really easy to use. So, as the hyper carry ADCs have risen through the meta, she rose right along with them.
Because of her inane synergy with the current ADC meta and almost every good tank item, Sejuani will probably stick around for a while, even if nerfs come her way throughout the next few patches.