It’s a jungle out there, Summoners! Riot rolled out a revamped version of the renowned Summoner’s Rift with a completely new jungle. While millions of players attempt to figure out the best champions to play in the new jungle, experimentation is encouraged. During the 2014 professional season, several champions remained popular through several nerfs, including Evelynn, Elise, and Lee Sin. Nunu regained some popularity throughout the season, Kha Zix saw considerable play for awhile, and Rengar became a standard jungle pick in the end.
Some champions, such as Lee Sin and Jarvan IV are timeless; they always tend to be at least solid picks in any jungle meta, including the new one. Pantheon and Warwick (during patch 4.20) have been top tier picks during the preseason, but I doubt they will remain at the top; in fact, with recent nerfs on Patch 4.21, Warwick is currently a mid tier jungle pick at best in competitive play. However, as the 2015 rolls in, I have some interesting (and possibly wacky) predictions for the jungle meta.
Riot Buffs Poacher’s Knife, Making Nunu a Legendary Pick
Ever since the release of the new jungle items, the Poacher’s Knife is widely regarded as the weakest one by a large margin. Whereas two of the jungle items add ganking pressure and the other makes the jungle easier to farm, the Poacher’s Knife rewards you 20 bonus gold, gives you a short 175% movement speed buff, and halves your smite cooldown time if you smite a large minion in the opponent’s jungle. Unless you practically live in the opponent’s jungle, this item is not very helpful. There is only one champion you may conceivably be able to counterjungle with hard enough to make this item efficient: Nunu.
The Poacher’s Knife is in need of a major buff. One option could be to reduce Smite’s cooldown to 10 seconds as long as you smite an opponent’s large minion. The bonus gold granted by successful use of this item probably wouldn’t cover half the cost of the Poacher’s Knife in the first place (750 gold). Raising the reward to 50 gold would make the item much more gold efficient and give the jungler a real trade off of jungle pressure versus lane pressure. If these changes take place, Nunu will be a top tier pick. He has always been the king of counterjungling, and if he receives massive rewards to do what he does best, I see professional teams picking or banning Nunu at every chance possible.
Devourer Enchantment Gets Slight Buff: The Return of Twisted Fate and Kayle?
One of the most intriguing developments of the preseason has been the use of the Devourer Enchantment on jungle items. The Devourer Enchantment is built on junglers that utilize attack speed and applies magic damage bonuses on hit. Like the former item Feral Flare, the damage on hit gets buffed by 1 for each large monster smited and by 2 for each kill or assist. After seeing the gargantuan snowball effect this item had, Riot nerfed its base magic damage per hit from 40 to 25 on patch 4.21.
Since the nerf, less attack speed based junglers have been played, which is a shame because it brought a new dimension to the meta. Unicorns of Love jungler Kikis pulled out a Kayle and Twisted Fate jungle to great success during IEM San Jose. Although attack speed based Twisted Fate is extremely situational and a longshot to realistically see more than a few games during the season, Kayle jungle has an upside. Kayle can motor herself into a lane, deal massive damage in a short period of time, and provide massive utility with her ultimate Intervention.
Where Did Sejuani Come From?
Flying under the radar for years, Sejuani finally made a return to competitive play during IEM Cologne with Gambit Gaming jungler Diamondprox. Sejuani was slightly buffed and reworked in Patch 4.21, so that her skills match how she would be played as a jungle champion. They also gave her extra base mana to allow her to clear the jungle much more efficiently. During both games Diamondprox played Sejuani, he had the highest kill participation for both teams.
With the rework, Sejuani can stick to targets much easier and provide constant damage while trying to rampage the opposing team. Sejuani can benefit a team running two carries in the solo lanes, using her primarily as a tank that forces the opposing team to focus her. I truly think that Sejuani is the sleeper in the 2015 jungle with the tools she currently brings to the table.
Irelia Out of the Jungle
I’m looking for this to be a Shook pick this year. Alliance jungler Shook loves to play interesting carry style jungle champions, such as Riven. Jungle Irelia has some potential, but she works much better in the current top lane meta (and Wickd probably wouldn’t let him have it). However, Irelia can provide amazing gank pressure when she can sneak behind the opponent. Irelia can dash to her opponents and apply a stun if her health is below that of the champion she is ganking. Although her early jungle clear and late game use (as a jungle champion) on the new Rift is questionable, the gank provided by her kit and an empowered smite may prove fatal for enemies.
AP Junglers Invade the Rift
Unfortunately, Gragas and Kayle jungle were the closest we got last year to an AP jungle meta (barring the occasional carry jungle Elise and a Haunting Guise built on Nunu). With the introduction of the new jungle, it may be time to finally bring AP junglers, such as Fiddlesticks, back to professional play. During the North American LCS Expansion Tournament, Saintvicious played a very solid jungle Karthus, which I think will be played in certain compositions around the LCS.
Another sleeper pick that I predict to dominate Summoner’s Rift is jungle Zyra. What did this noob just say? Here me out. Although Zyra is squishy and would have somewhat of a difficult first and second clear of her jungle, her plants do a lot of the work for you starting around level 4. Her crowd control synergizes extremely well with Maokai, a very popular top lane champion currently, and if you land the grasping roots on a gank, it sets up a fairly easy kill. This may not happen right away, but I would be overjoyed to see Zyra played in the jungle because I feel she has potential there.
Rek’Sai – Although I have never played Rek’Sai before, she seems like the best of both worlds in the jungle. Her kit possesses ranged attacks, melee attacks, and the ability to surprise the enemy. Only time will tell whether she becomes a great pick in the 2015 season meta.
Vi – Vi’s return seems probable if Jarvan IV and Lee Sin continue their strong campaigns this season. With a engagement to these two champions, she provides some decent crowd control and a way to get to the AD carry quickly.
Heavy engagement junglers – Amumu and Zac have a one-way ticket into a fight, but getting out is sometimes the hardest part for these two champions. Therefore, I don’t know how popular they will be unless all-in compositions become popular again (time to bring back Malphite).
Shaco – Yeah, no.