The phrase “triple AD carry composition” has now become standard. Teams in all five major regions have slotted AD carry picks like Quinn or Graves into the top lane and jungle. Corki and Varus mid have emerged as favorites. A lot of poke and sustained damage means longer fights and more siege compositions. It doesn’t have to be like this. One doesn’t have to die to an onslaught of 1,000 arrows in competitive games. There is another way.
Since even before preseason changes rolled out, Rengars have been poking their noses into picks and bans. Vision changes only exacerbated the problem. The removal of sight wards makes coordinating vision more difficult in League of Legends solo queue, and that has spilled to an extent into competitive games. With spottier vision control, stealth champions have a tentative doorway back into the meta. Given Rengar’s relatively healthy existing balance, these combined changes have granted him situational viability.
As of this past weekend’s North American League of Legends Championship Series, Rengar has been played in every major region at least once since the end of the World Championship (though not necessarily in the main leagues). Some attempts at Rengar supremacy have been slightly more awkward than others (like Xiang “Condi” Renjie building Warrior enchantment alongside tank items with four early kills), but the most interesting part of the Rengar rise is the versatility he provides.
This past week, the LPL's EDward Gaming and the NA LCS's Immortals both ran successful Rengar compositions, but they were very different from the Rengar itself to the execution.
clearlove’s Cunning Kitty
Almost as soon as preseason patched, Ming “clearlove” Kai began spamming Nocturne and Rengar in solo queue. His return to the League of Legends Pro League after his absence in Week 1 meant both came into play. EDward Gaming’s first game against Vici Gaming resulted in global plays between clearlove’s Nocturne and Heo “pawN” Wonseok’s Twisted Fate. Casters referred to Game 2 as the “Kitty launcher” with clearlove playing Rengar and pawN on Lulu on Patch 5.24.
This Rengar seems more consistent with the Rengar one might see in solo queue: the selfish, kill-stealing Rengar player who always seems to be hunting AD carries. While the LPL doesn’t publish match histories, one can find clearlove’s preferred Rengar build on one of his Korean solo queue accounts.
From his two most recent Rengar games on this account, clearlove only differs on whether he wants increased attack speed or ability damage. Otherwise, he's happy to pick up assassin-style abilities in the Ferocity tree, as well as additional damage to champions with impaired movement that synergizes well with Bola Strike.
Rather than the keystone Thunderlord's mastery, the "Assassin" choice in Cunning is most telling of the way in which this Rengar was played. While 1.5 percent increased damage isn't considerable, it shows clearlove's Rengar is an independent Rengar in search of stragglers and happy to dominate during the laning phase.
As with most Rengars, clearlove's Rengar wanted to farm until level six when he can use Rengar's main form of vision abuse, Thrill of the Hunt. With stealth and increased movement speed as well as full Ferocity stacks, clearlove's Rengar wanted to gank during laning phase and then look for straggling split-pushers in side lanes later on.
Probably the most interesting and least immediately imperative function of clearlove’s Rengar play was in how much he invested in maintaining his own vision. While heavy damage building champions often shirk warding duties to rush items quickly, clearlove bought many pink wards on backs, secured a Tracker’s Knife early, and changed out his trinket to a Sweeping Lens at nine minutes.
Choi “DanDy” Inkyu attempted to demonstrate Rengar's vulnerability to extremely early invades. While junglers in the LPL have placed their first warding totems at the entrance to red side jungle nearest mid lane from the river, DanDy placed his totem in clearlove’s red buff. clearlove managed to navigate it by skipping his red until after his first back (since he was probably just going to keep farming anyway).
On his return to the jungle, clearlove used smite on the raptor camp to get true sight, then began invading DanDy’s blue side jungle to keep sight of him instead. In this manner, clearlove protected his own farming phase, though typically into a matchup like Graves, teams might consider lane swapping with Rengar to give him a clear dominant side on which to farm and also minimize early ganking from the Graves.
In standard matchups, the composition draft also became more important. Vici Gaming have a tendency to focus top lane, so the team put Tong “Koro1” Yang on the champion with which he avoids ganks best, Gnar. Miss Fortune and Poppy had strong bullying potential in the bottom lane. One hangup of the draft was Vici Gaming securing Trundle, as Trundle’s Pillar of Ice can both disrupt Miss Fortune’s ultimate and Gnar’s engagement efficiently.
As a result, though Lulu, MF, Poppy, and Gnar all work well in team fights, the intent wasn’t necessarily to actually team fight, but to hold strong lanes and play off Rengar getting picks. It also became paramount that Koro1 avoid allowing Zhu “Loong” Xiaolong to get ahead. Lulu creates an extended threat with an ultimate and enhanced movement speed. Shields also allowed for dives and facilitated a much less durable build for clearlove’s Rengar.
Lee “Easyhoon” Jihoon’s Corki became the obvious gank target since bottom lanes usually have better vision, and Alistar can punish a Rengar more easily. DanDy tried to keep Easyhoon’s lane protected with a pink ward in river, but clearlove went through pawN’s side of the lane instead for the gank, and the combination of Lulu’s buffs and clearlove’s first ult got him ahead easily. After that, it was just about continuing to move the vision and vary gank pathing to continue getting picks.
clearlove’s extremely squishy build makes this Rengar a risk. A complete lack of tank items meant that sweeping areas and maintaining vision was very important, and Rengar could not team fight. Ravenous Hydra aids farming and split-pushing, Youmuu’s Ghostblade stacks even more movement speed and assassination potential, and cooldown reduction boots just make it so Rengar can kill people with his ultimate more often.
It also means it’s very easy for Rengar to explode when he gets caught. Lulu can provide shields and artificial tankiness, but since clearlove was often on his own, he truly exploited gaps in Vici Gaming’s vision and had to have an individual mastery of the new warding system with diligent use of his Sweeping Lens to be effective. He also had to move fast to keep a split-pushing Trundle from getting online.
Probably the key moment that made this composition work came when Easyhoon failed to foresee he would be the obvious target when clearlove hit level six. He should have played more conservatively, but since the “Kitty Launcher” combo allowed for turret diving, there was little he could do other than demand DanDy lay in wait — or dodge.
Reignover’s Resolved Rengar
Against NRG Esports, Immortals took a completely different approach to Rengar. Fans of the European LCS or Korea’s Champions may remember Kim “Reignover” Yeujin’s fondness for Rengar. The last time he played it competitively for Fnatic, he built a Warrior Enchantment, but followed it up with tank items.
Reignover committed completely to Cinderhulk and the Resolve tree against NRG. He exhibited a commitment to utility botting by rushing Ionian Boots of Lucidity and failing to build out his jungle item until 11 minutes in. In the Resolve tree for this match, Legendary Guardian and Strength of Ages were the most interesting picks. Legendary Guardian shows this Rengar fully expects to team fight and tank, while Strength of Ages synergizes well with a Cinderhulk build and resistance pickups.
NRG drafted a poke-and-siege composition that entirely wanted to avoid fights. As a result, Immortals looked for flanks and engagements as a group to disrupt attempted pushes up the lane. Immortals made the decision to execute their first flank as soon as Reignover hit level six, and the team picked up two kills for one.
Since this Rengar went fully into tank specialization, Reignover always needed to travel with a teammate to be effective. Immortals drafted Lucian and Zed, which were the high damage "assassins" of the composition. Early on, Reignover roamed with Jason "WildTurtle" Tran, proving that this isn't just a Rengolution, but a Rengo-Lucian.
While the goal of the composition was to team fight, Immortals lacked a true tank like Tahm Kench. Reignover's Rengar, even with Cinderhulk, Randuin's Omen, and Spirit Visage, could be shredded without terrain management. A failure to set up carefully resulted in at least two fights that went wrong for Immortals in the series. Immortals had a strong terrain-based fight in the purple side red buff jungle 21 minutes in.
Janna's Monsoon, Lissandra's Frozen Tomb, and Rengar's Bola Strike work well to separate targets for assassins in absence of terrain. Even Lucian's The Culling forced targets to scatter for Zed to swoop in. These weren't strict team fights with super tanks and an ADC dealing sustained damage, and they were a treat to watch when executed correctly.
Vision management in the Immortals and NRG game differed considerably from vision management in EDward Gaming's Rengar game. Far from being responsible to clear his own vision by himself, Reignover didn't actually pick up a Sweeping Lens until 22 minutes into the game. Immortals wanted to set up multiple pink wards as a team to keep vision control and bait NRG into attempting a siege without flanking wards.
While one might criticize NRG's poke-oriented draft without obvious disengage on their side, it came down to reacting to flanks and vision control. Immortals kept many more pink wards in their inventories and were diligent about maintaining control. NRG should not have attempted group sieges without eyes in the surrounding jungle.
Then, when Immortals did engage, execution plagued fights. NRG didn't execute their own crowd control to disengage properly and scattered. Perhaps less poke-oriented champions in draft would have helped them evade disaster in collapse, but their primary mistakes weren't champion select-related.
NRG had all the resources to siege and force Immortals out into plain sight to get poked down. They instead let the jungle become overrun and over-extended for collapses. The Lissandra engaged, team fighting Rengar could lock down a target, Janna scattered prey. In some instances, Reignover led the charge to lock someone down with his Thrill of the Hunt. If NRG had maintained warding totems but not vision wards, Reignover's flanks for picks would have been more instrumental. As it was, he simply helped separate and CC targets for assassination.
These two applications of Rengar vary drastically, but commonalities include farming for level six, a love of cooldown reduction, and an ability to abuse vision better than the opposition. Reignover's Rengar was strong against a grouped poke composition, but clearlove's is catered more toward crushing split-pushers and dominating early.
As Rengar continues to ramp up in popularity, more applications and compositions will surface to allow him to find a place. clearlove's Rengar is suited for a team with an individual jungler of high skill and sense of the map, while Reignover's aids a team that is extremely coordinated and can execute complex team fights.
Rengar is a situational pick, and he won't work into a lot of tanky champions (obviously). He may also be a flash-in-the-pan symptom of growing pains in the vision meta. Either way, he'll continue to be played, and teams interested in executing triple AD carry compositions (or drafting Nidalee) won't be able to keep the Rengolution at bay for long.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore eSports. You can follow her on Twitter.