A few new power picks headlined Saturday's NA LCS games in the wake of Patch 6.3's introduction to the competitive scene. With even this slight shift in the meta, teams' new drafting choices either made the difference in a victory, or became the primary reason for their loss.
NRG eSports: Karma mid
Karma has a history in the NA LCS, thanks to former Cloud9 support Daerek “LemonNation” Hart. LemonNation was responsible for 100 percent of Karma’s NA LCS appearances in the past year, all in the support role, until today. NRG eSports’ mid laner Lee “GBM” Chang-seok was the first to play Karma across all regions major and minor in 2016, taking the Enlightened One into the mid lane against Team Dignitas.
Poke compositions are all the rage in the current meta, with turrets reigning supreme as the most important objectives, rather than neutral targets like Dragon or the much-maligned Rift Herald. NRG created a triple-poke threat with Karma alongside AD carry Johnny “Altec” Ru on Ezreal and jungler Galen “Moon” Holgate on Nidalee. Ezreal’s late-game prowess has made him a priority pick for many poke comps throughout 2016, although he's usually combined with Corki or Lucian. However, Karma provides strong AP scaling, particularly on her W (Focused Resolve), which scales up to 90 percent and provides up to a 3.25-second root when Mantra-empowered.
NRG eSports has run poke compositions before, most notably in a coordinated effort against Immortals. In that game they were thwarted by top laner Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon’s teleport flanks on Lissandra. In this game, Dignitas lacked the necessary vision to set up similar engagements to stop the poke. Additionally, Billy “BillyBoss” Yu played Trundle, whose kit is designed for slows and kiting rather than hard crowd control to lock opponents down in a team fight flank.
NRG's triple-poke wouldn’t have succeeded without the layered knock-ups and stuns from support Kevin “KonKwon” Kwon and top laner Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong on Alistar and Poppy, respectively. Together, the two consistently allowed ample time for NRG's three damage threats to land their poke.
Immortals: Rumble jungle
Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin is hardly the first to take Rumble in the jungle this week. The Mechanized Menace has made his presence felt throughout Korea, first played by Go “Score” Dong-bin in tandem with Rammus top. Since then, junglers across the region have tried jungle Rumble with varying success. Reignover debuted Rumble jungle for North American audiences this Saturday, showcasing another pocket pick in Immortals' arsenal.
Rumble jungle has quick clear time, but more importantly offers consistent damage in team fights — just as he does in his usual position in top lane. Reignover’s Rumble burn damage, and his use of The Equalizer ultimate, made a big difference in the many messy skirmishes that led to Immortals’ eventual victory over Renegades. He dealt 16.1K damage to champions, part of a fairly even four-person damage spread across Huni (17.2K) on Ekko, mid laner Eugene “Pobelter” Park (17.6K) on Lux, and AD carry Jason “WildTurtle” Tran (16.8K) on Lucian. Reignover ended the game 1/2/11 with 93.8 percent kill participation for his team.
Cloud9: Soraka support
Soraka is hardly new to the NA LCS — Immortals’ Adrian “Adrian” Ma has been showing his prowess on the champion since last year while on Team Impulse. However, today's Cloud9 game against Team SoloMid marked the first occasion this year that an NA support besides Adrian accompanied the Starchild to the Rift.
C9’s Hai “Hai” Du Lam has had success on supports that can engage decisively, chiefly Morgana and Alistar. Oddly enough, C9 chose Soraka to partner with Kalista while Alistar was still up in the draft. Although this combination has worked for Adrian and his sometimes over-aggressive partner WildTurtle, the pairing cost C9 a few fights when they failed to hit Fate's Call, which provides a an on-hit knockup. Without secondary crowd control, there’s very little that a Soraka can do in the center of a fight. She works far better next to her AD carry on the backline, providing heals, slows and roots.
While Hai’s Soraka was awkward in certain fights, his timely Wishes were crucial to his teammates’ success in both early turret dives and late-game team fights. This was especially true for C9 mid laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen on Twisted Fate, who with Hai's healing survived multiple fights, even while porting to the center of the action. The same was true for the team's late-game damage-insurance, Gangplank, played by An "Balls" Le. Hai's efforts to keep Balls alive during longer engagements helped ensure he topped the post-game damage charts with a whopping 58.4K.
Team Impulse: Nocturne jungle
Nocturne is the odd champion known for proactively diving without being a particularly aggressive jungle choice. Locking in Nocturne guarantees that the team's jungler will be stuck in their own jungle farming for the first six levels, without much early ganking potential.
Korea's ROX Tigers showed how difficult it is to field Nocturne in their recent game against e-mFire. ROX jungler Yoon “Peanut” Wang-ho took Nocturne as part of an all-engage composition, but the champion's passive early game before hitting Level 6 was directly at odds with Peanut’s dynamic early jungle style. Even e-mFire, one of the worst teams in Korea, was able to take advantage of his early weakness, before falling in team fights come mid game.
Likewise, Team Impulse jungler Kim “Procxin” Se-young failed to make Nocturne work on Saturday. Procxin has a known affinity for Nidalee, and he's seen some success with Rek’Sai, both champions that deftly apply early pressure. That suits Team Impulse’s oft-reckless style of play.
Yet when Counter Logic Gaming and Jake “Xmithie” Puchero picked Nidalee away from Procxin, he settled on Nocturne, and CLG promptly punished him for it with stifling early pressure. Xmithie, a jungler who has come under fire for his lack of aggression, momentarily silenced his critics and played a large part in CLG’s one-sided victory over TIP. He dealt out the most damage of any CLG member, and ended the match four levels up on Procxin’s Nocturne. After that performance, it might be some time before we see the Eternal Nightmare picked again in NA LCS.
Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore eSports. She is eagerly awaiting the arrival of Rammus top in North America. You can follow her on Twitter.