Strategies and picks in the North American League Championship Series (NA LCS) often get criticized for imitating those pioneered in the League Championship Korea (LCK). This is a fair criticism and is in a large part due to the fact that the LCK plays before the NA LCS on each patch by a couple of days, allowing for their North American counterparts to learn vicariously from the trials and errors in the LCK.
The jungle has always been a role that remains fairly static despite changes in the meta, with picks like Lee Sin and Elise seeming to always be viable. But with each region being on a ten ban system, this season has shown some prominent divergences from the standard jungle picks. Here we explore the top five jungle picks in both regions to see how each region has success with the strategies that arise from these power picks.
In the following list, the most picked junglers will be graded for each region based upon the entire Summer Split so far. Other junglers of note are Maokai, Rek’Sai, Jarvan IV, Graves and Nidalee who have either not seen enough play to make conclusions upon their value or have simply been outclassed by the five junglers mentioned below.
1. Lee Sin: S tier in NA / A tier in the LCK
With a win rate at 64 percent in the NA LCS it is no wonder that Lee Sin is the most picked jungler. His big plays allow for any player, rookie or veteran to steal the spotlight with a flashy play. No other champion is capable of the hype plays that Lee Sin can pull off. I’m talking about MikeYeung hype tier plays. While his success is slightly less impactful in the LCK, where Lee Sin has a 52 percent win rate, both regions have seen him picked in 25 games. Lee Sin is the jack of all trades and his value is recognized by all teams across all regions. Having the capacity to fit any team composition due to the diversity of his kit and the power of his mobility, Lee Sin is S tier in the NA LCS and A tier in the LCK. The reason for Lee Sin being slightly less valuable in the LCK is mostly due to the smaller amount of Lee Sin one tricks in the LCK when compared to the MikeYeungs of NA. Additionally, Thresh and Taliyah, both of which do very well into Lee Sin, are even more popular of picks in the LCK than they are in NA.
2. Elise: C tier in NA / S tier in the LCK
Similar to Lee Sin in more than just being a flashy playmaking jungler, Elise is the LCK’s version of Lee Sin. With a 81.8 percent win rate in the LCK and a dismal 31.8 in the NA LCS, Elise shows a distinct difference in the meta for each region. The LCK has only picked Elise a total of 11 times, which is less than half that of the NA LCS. Additionally, teams that pick Elise consistently try to pick champions like Syndra and Renekton. More so than any other champion, Renekton has the ability to lock down a champion giving Elise a free stun, oftentimes resulting in not only a kill but also the depletion of the enemy top laner’s summoner spells as well. In the NA LCS Elise is not used in the same as in the LCK and is instead used as a “fit all team compositions” jungler much like Lee Sin. In the LCK, Elise is an S tier jungler, while in NA she appears to be one of the many C tier picks.
3. Gragas: B tier in both regions
Often picked early due to the ability to flex this pick in top lane, Gragas is another one of those champions that always seems viable in competitive play. Being the second most picked champion in the NA LCS Summer split comes as no surprise, but the priority by which Gragas is picked does not always follow the success that he garners. While having a positive win rate in both regions, Gragas’ jungle success is much higher in the LCK, while his laning success is higher in NA LCS. While the fat man lacks in clear speeds, he makes up for it with the versatility of his kit. If you are noticing a trend in the top jungle picks so far, you are right to do so. Elise, Lee Sin and Gragas all have the ability to engage and disengage from fights, which is especially valuable in competitive. The ability for a champion to win most fights is great at all levels of play, but the ability to choose which fights to enter into is ultimately much more valuable at higher levels of play. For this reason, Gragas is a B tier jungler in both regions.
4. Kha’Zix: D* tier in NA / A tier in the LCK
Being the third most picked jungler in the LCK, Kha’Zix has recently been attributed as the most overpowered jungler in Korea. The rise of Kha’Zix is primarily due to his ability to abuse the very powerful Duskblade of Draktharr item, but despite the power of this item, his win rate and pick rate in NA is dismally low. With a 16.7 percent win rate in NA and a 64.3 in the LCK many viewers are left scratching their head. A lot of this difference in pick rate between the two regions stems from the assassin junglers being overvalued in Korea. More high damage AD junglers like Graves, Kha’Zix and Rengar are seen in Korea in general, potentially to round out the magic damage that is so popular in top lane tanks like Gragas, Maokai and more recently Cho’ Gath. NA, on the other hand, seems to be struggling with Kha’Zix as an AD assassin while simultaneously performing exceedingly well on Rengar. This is in large part due to who is picking Kha’Zix. Reignover, Contractz and Moon are prolific Kha’Zix players and unfortunately for them, they are on teams that have not found much success as of lately. For this reason, I have added an asterisk to the D tier rating for Kha’Zix in NA.
5. Olaf: B tier in NA / D tier in the LCK
Olaf is not the most popular jungler in either region being discussed. He seems to have arisen from the ten ban system as a result of junglers not being prioritized in the first pick stage. Despite his lack of popularity, Olaf has seen some success in NA. Olaf is one of the few champions that Team Liquid has seen success on and appears to be a popular back up pick for the likes of both Xmithie and Contractz. While on the other side of the Pacific, Olaf has been met with much disdain. Standing at a 30 percent win rate over the course of ten picks, Olaf’s lack of success in the LCK is to be expected given his inability to be able to pick and choose the fights he engages in. Having no way to traverse the jungle walls, Olaf’s invades can be risky. Olaf simply does not have the mobility that other top tier junglers have, but he still remains an “if all else fails” pick for many junglers in competitive.
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