In the current meta, picks that look like they can be used for more than one role are few and far between. In the 7.15 status quo, picks that used to look like flex picks no longer stand out as such. Teams are aware that a former flex pick, such as Gragas or Galio, is 95 percent likely going to be in one particular role due to its optimized strength in that position. On patch 7.15, teams have picked up on one champion in particular who is a strong, viable, and actual flex pick: Jarvan IV.
Personally, I’ve been an advocate for Jarvan jungle since his shield buffs brought him back into prominence. Now, the combination of early pressure and his synergy with strong items such as The Black Cleaver and Gargoyle Stoneplate made him the best of both worlds when it comes to early pressure and having a tanky frontline jungler. Teams like Immortals have picked up the jungler earlier, and have seen great success because of it.
Only now has Jarvan become a really prominent pick/ban in the top tier of competitive play, as the NA promotion tournament and the LPL in particular have been big adopters of Jarvan as a flex pick between the top lane and jungle. As a result, his strength as a competitive pick is even more nuanced.
The power of the Jarvan flex
Jarvan has been touted as a strong top laner for quite some time now, with most considering him a great blind pick due to his stable lane against splitpushers that outscale him as well as a great tank-buster due to his consistent damage and ability to push them in to roam onto weaker targets. He can even start to scale past tanks in the 1v1 matchup and be a prominent splitpushing threat.
With the power of Jarvan jungle on full display, where attack speed reds and the shield from W give him a healthy enough clear to also gank, Jarvan has emerged as a great flex pick. Flex picks are so powerful given the current meta and pick and ban system, just because they force the enemy into awkward situations in order to match the potential of both options.
By picking Jarvan you are picking the champion that is the easiest to flex between roles in patch 7.15, something that China in particular is keen on exploiting. This is best shown in the Snake Esports vs. Edward Gaming series, where Li "Flandre" Xuan-Jun and Lê "SofM" Quang Duy played Jarvan top and jungle in sequential games.
Though the strength of Jarvan top has been clearly stated, Jarvan jungle’s strength and viability is a little less clear. One thing that has boosted his presence is the mana regeneration changes on completed jungle items, which no longer forces Jarvan into the tough decision of spending mana to clear camps versus using it to capitalize on a weak lane and hope for a kill. As a result, the risk is lowered for a similar reward.
Jarvan is also a beneficiary of the rise of tank junglers. Though his clear is safer, he still faces junglers such as Elise as an early threat to his game plan. More tank junglers means that his clear has less of an opportunity to be exploited. Similar to Elise, another great aspect to Jarvan jungle is his ability to free up the top lane for either a carry or tank, as he can build the other option.
Finally, Jarvan is a great pick against the current set of AD carries, where they are generally immobile and unable to push Jarvan away from them or get out of his ultimate, Cataclysm. His ability to roam effectively with his EQ combo allow him to set up flanks on unwarded areas by jumping walls to avoid wards. This allows Jarvan to be a great part of a dive buddy and flanking combo.
Jarvan's strengths in either the top lane or jungle cannot be understated, and as NA and EU playoffs start to kick into gear, you should expect Jarvan to flag and drag his way into those games, and consequently your solo queue games as well.
Gabriel Zoltan-Johan is a news editor at theScore esports and the head analyst for the University of Toronto League of Legends team. His (public) musings can be found on his Twitter.