LPL jungle pathing assessment

by theScore Staff Sep 29 2016
Thumbnail image courtesy of LPL / LPL Screengrab

See the Introduction for Methodology and overview.

With the exception of EU LCS' Kim "Trick" Gangyun, The League of Legends Pro League junglers attending the World Championship spent less of their actions in the first ten minutes of games on Patch 6.15 farming and more of their actions confrontationally (in counterganks, looking for ganks, ganking or in acquiring kills, deaths or assists) than EU LCS or LMS junglers. Otherwise, attributes of Ming "clearlove" Kai, Liu "Mlxg" Shiyu, and Fan "Avoidless" Jun Wei in the first ten minutes of their games vary significantly.

Avoidless has the bloodiest early games on average of any jungler attending Worlds from the LMS, EU LCS or LPL. I MAY tend to travel as a pack and pick up a lot of their leads by flanking better and grouping earlier, playing in tandem with Avoidless, but his strengths are in minimizing losses in poor matchups.

clearlove focuses the most on counterganks of any jungler in the sample, and plays most off vision claimed by Tian "meiko" Ye. Keep in mind the sample sizes for Mlxg and clearlove are very small, as both have only played eight games each on the patch.

Mlxg's trends, surprisingly, differed much from his reputation as a surprising early ganking jungler, as he is among the top three junglers in the sample with the most counterganks on average. Unfortunately, these counterganks seem largely inefficient and reflect potential synergy and communication issues in Royal Never Give Up.

I MAY's Avoidless

Pathing sheets

Avoidless has the largest sample of any jungler in this assessment, having played a total of 19 games on Patch 6.15. He’s also one of the junglers in LPL, LMS and EU LCS with the highest rate of confrontation on the new patch, averaging 1.93 kills or assists in the first ten minutes of a game. Avoidless also dies a lot, averaging .42 deaths in the first ten minutes in a game, higher than the other seven junglers.

This reflects I MAY’s somewhat scrappy early game style. Much more of a gambling team than Flash Wolves, I MAY look to find an advantage and then hit it over and over. The most extreme example of this was the fourth game between I MAY and WE in the Regional Qualifying final where Avoidless was part of nine kills in the first ten minutes of the game. This heavily skewed the total, but without that game, Avoidless still averages 1.38 kills or assists in the first ten minutes of a game, which still gives him a higher average than all junglers except for Mlxg.

If Avoidless doesn’t get an easy advantage in a confrontation, he’ll go through a dry spell or have only one kill, making I MAY’s performance unreliable. Part of the reason they manage this is that they only gain advantages by grouping a lot early. It’s incredibly rare to find Avoidless roaming for ganks without support Yun "Road" Hangil, who apparently doesn’t believe in actually staying in lane, or top laner Shek "AmazingJ" Wai Ho.

Mid lane, especially Kang "Athena" Hawoon, is most often tasked with holding mid, and group invades to the mid lane are not uncommon when he plays a heavy wave-clear champion. Outside of just ganking, I MAY look to set up invades in the top side jungle, using AmazingJ’s strength relative to their other laners to contest. I MAY’s strengths are in numbers or not at all.

In the above example from I MAY's third place match, Avoidless opts into the confrontation with Xie "Condi" Renjie at the standard three minute scuttle contest, and the team sets up for kiting and an extended fight in jungle to secure an advantage.

Despite this high risk style, somewhat necessitated by the skill gap of I MAY’s laners, Avoidless’ pathing is still smart. In a weak jungle matchup, he’ll avoid standard starts to refrain from being too predictable. For example, in Game 2 against Royal Never Give Up in the LPL playoffs semifinals, he chose to smite wolves to gain additional vision in case of Mlxg's invade, then back to buy a Hunter's Potion so he could continue sustaining and clearing. He is most likely to look for this start on Hecarim or Gragas, but from there, he wastes a lot of time looking to start fights or interfere in lanes and falls behind in experience often before level 6.

Avoidless is at his best when he’s minimizing losses, as if assuming losses will be inevitable for I MAY. He invests a lot of his personal resources into pink wards, and he has a higher overall wards placed per minute than the other junglers from the LPL, Ming “clearlove” Kai and Liu “Mlxg” Shiyu at .75. Perhaps the riskiest thing about I MAY is that they benefit a lot more from capitalizing on early game mistakes of their opponents, taking the opportunity to punish awkward invades with numbers advantages. At times it seems like it’s difficult for the team to find an advantage on their own.

EDward Gaming's clearlove

Pathing sheets

Rated by many as the best jungler coming into the 2016 World Championship, Ming “clearlove” Kai’s ability to take on creative and variable paths has impressed his opponents. He seems aware of the lane matchups on the map and when he needs to alter his pathing, though his preferred style is to focus the bottom side.

Because EDward Gaming’s solo lanes are still rookies, they seem to lack awareness of the enemy jungler’s pressure. As a result, clearlove has had to adapt his focus from the bottom side to the mid lane, particularly after the WE semifinal series, when he publicly lamented that WE’s mid lane and jungle had outplayed and performed better than EDward Gaming’s.

As a result, in the Royal Never Give Up series, EDG played multiple strategies, including one based upon global coordination and one that necessitated early action in the mid lane to work.

“EDG was playing a full AD composition that really needed to snowball,” Splyce jungler Jonas “Trashy” Anderson said of Game 2, “[clearlove] did a full clear top side and red side into path bot and fast gank mid, and then he got two kills out of it. They had a Zed mid that snowballed out of it. In my mind, that is him understanding that he can’t just play it safe and farm it out with the picks he had.”

clearlove’s preferred style is more countergank focused, as he averaged .75 counterganks per game. Often, clearlove is seen waiting near a lane for a jungler to act first so he can pressure a 2v2 or 3v3 scenario. He relies on Tian “meiko” Ye to set up vision and then builds off it in deeper invades, rarely acting without knowledge of the enemy jungler’s location. Like Group B’s Hung "Karsa" Hauhsuan, clearlove also focuses on scuttle crab control, and averages early wards from rushing tracker’s knife. On Elise, he also started with a pink ward and red pots in the final against Royal Never Give Up to provide stronger control around mid lane.

In the above example from EDward Gaming's semifinal against WE, the team secures river and complete map control off a single bottom lane flash. clearlove is able to identify that he can pressure the invade based on the mid lane and bottom lane matchups with Kassadin forced under turret by Lissandra early.

Naturally, there are always caveats. Despite clearlove’s willingness to adapt to exert more mid lane pressure, he only ganked the top lane once in the first ten minutes of eight playoffs games. This, along with EDG’s habit of early picking their top laner and leaving him open to getting counterpicked, makes Chen “mouse” Yuhao an exploitable vulnerability for EDG.

Additionally, clearlove’s three Hecarim games brought down his average clears considerably. Without them, clearlove averages 14 clears per game, and farming takes up a higher proportion of his actions. He lost a lot of farm time due to deaths or failed countergank attempts with Hecarim. In response, he focused more on training an Elise pick for EDward Gaming’s final. Elise is a champion he hasn’t traditionally been known for playing.

When clearlove wasn’t misplaying his counterganks with a weak jungle matchup, however, he still exhibited the same sense of where to be on the map with Hecarim, diligently burned summoner spells, and had a sense of where to be on the map. Because EDward Gaming rely so much on the unit of clearlove, Kim “deft” Hyukkyu and Tian “meiko” Ye, however, a weak jungle matchup can be extremely detrimental to EDG, so they’ll look to secure high priority picks in the draft.

Royal Never Give Up's Mlxg

Pathing sheets

Mlxg, like the other League of Legends Pro League junglers, is more apt to skirmish in invades or try to pressure lanes in the early game. He averages 12.94 camp clears per game and has one of the lowest early game warding action values at 7.75 wards or ward kills on average in the first ten minutes of his playoffs games.

Though Mlxg has a reputation for taking initiative extremely early in games and warding at around Level 2, Mlxg didn’t initiate a gank on his own (counterganks not included) prior to Level 4 except in two instances against I MAY’s Fan "Avoidless" Jun Wei. Mlxg also did not over focus bottom lane in the ganks he initiated, contrary to expectation. Of nine pre-10 minute ganks in eight playoff games, two were for top lane, two were for bottom lane, and five were for mid lane.

In playoffs, Mlxg showed two separate tendencies. One was to play much more based off invades. Mlxg also averaged a surprisingly high countergank rate of .625 counterganks per game. In this strategy, the best lane to focus on is mid lane for the map control it brings, dipping into the side lanes. As Hecarim, he focused on controlling the enemy red buff.

Otherwise, Mlxg power farmed in the early levels. Strangely, despite less of a gank-centric approach than he’s had in past seasons, he averaged a CS defecit at 10 minutes to his opponents while all three of his laners averaged a CS lead, even Li "xiaohu" Yuanhao, who struggled in the final.

Mlxg in particular was criticized for his play against clearlove in the LPL final. He was, in general, much slower to react than expected.Though he managed to countergank, his counterganks were more reactive than pre-meditated, and he failed to predict Ming “clearlove” Kai’s pathing, wasting time in Game 1 to walk to part of the jungle where a ward would already spot clearlove heading bottom and accomplishing nothing. In general, however, poor reaction from top and mid lane made it difficult for Mlxg to assert strong jungle control on his own throughout the series.

Though termed "counterganks," much of Mlxg's reactive play wasn't pre-meditated and sometimes ended catastrophically throughout the LPL playoffs.

Overall, however, Mlxg struggled to keep up with both Avoidless and clearlove. His over-focus on finding invade opportunities made his pathing inefficient. Not predicting jungle ganks effectively meant he re-routed his paths to countergank and lost timing on camp clears. Mlxg was also slow to adapt to Avoidless’ top side focus, though he ultimately did change his approach by starting on the blue side red buff area in Game 5 of the semifinal against I MAY to get an advantage.

Though Mlxg hasn’t been considered a cerebral jungler, some difference in his form from Mid Season Invitational is that he seems more hesitant to act first. This could be as a result of a deterioration of communication.

Mlxg is also slower to purchase warding items, in part because he played Hecarim and rushed damage, making his warding and ward clear average in the early game low. Near the end of Spring, Mlxg would sometimes rush Tracker’s Knife extremely early. In playoffs, he was reliant on Cho “Mata” Sehyeong’s roams to secure vision, but Mata roamed less, focusing on the 2v2 matchup in bottom lane, inhibiting the risk-taking that previously characterized Mlxg’s style.

Though he has performed well in later game teamfights, Mlxg looks a little lost as a jungler right now. Unless his previously successful, risk-oriented style can be facilitated again at Worlds, he may bring less to the table than his counterparts.

He has very little to offer unless this can be facilitated again.

Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.