See the Introduction for Methodology and overview.
It isn't an exaggeration to say that Hung "Karsa" Hauhsuan and Xue "Mountain" Zhaohong have a large gap in skill and style. One of the things that most drew me to, including LMS junglers in this assessment, was ahq's recent surge and the difference in the Karsa we remember from the Mid-Season Invitational to the more vision-focused Karsa who showed up in the recent playoffs.
What the two LMS representatives do have in common, however, is a low countergank rate, with Karsa preferring to avoid most confrontation and Mountain at times seeming to lack any notion of his opponent's location.
Flash Wolves' Karsa
“Mainly I think ganking is like gambling. When you win on a gank, you’re double down, but if you lose on a gank, you lose farm, but I like gambling, and if we win all those gambles, then our team will be up,” Hung “Karsa” Hauhsuan said on the first day of the 2016 Mid-Season Invitational
Historically one of the world’s most exciting junglers, Karsa, enters the 2016 World Championship as part Group B's first seeded team — a seed slot he helped the team win through aggressive mid lane ganks in this year’s Mid-Season Invitational. The first thing one might note, contrary to Karsa’s past reputation of no-holds-barred aggression, is that in his eight games on the new patch, he has had a relatively low percentage of direct confrontation action lines at 9 percent in the first ten minutes. By contrast, he has had an incredibly high rate of warding actions in the first ten minutes of his games, averaging 11 wards placed or killed, comprising 38 percent of his actions.
Yet Karsa isn’t backing at a high rate to refresh his wards. Most of the actions come through in the sheer volume of free warding he gets, which point to using trinket almost every time it’s up and also showing a lot of attention to securing the scuttle crab when it’s available. Notably, in the final game of LMS semifinals, Karsa secured four scuttle crabs, increasing his warding total and giving Flash Wolves a great deal of passive side lane control.
With these methods, Karsa can focus more on farming and ganking mid. This is especially important since over the course of the first ten minutes in eight playoff games, Karsa only initiated ganks in the bottom lane once and spent more time hovering around the top and mid side.
On the recent patch, Karsa has played with limited direct confrontation, and most of his kills actually come from the last game he played against J Team that qualified Flash Wolves for the World Championship. During that game, he secured five of his seven total early game kills or assists. Most of this snowballed off Flash Wolves’ creative double jungle strategy in response to J Team’s lane swap and a misplayed invade attempt by J Team.
More typically, Karsa focuses on maintaining river vision. This allows support Hu "SwordArt" Shuojie to roam more, and though Flash Wolves lanes are vulnerable to direct matchups, it limits enemy jungler interference while Karsa and mid laner Huang “Maple” Yitang farm to a point where they can carry. If river wards are threatened, Maple group with Karsa to contest them almost immediately.
In this clip, Karsa secures two scuttle crabs, initially walking into river on top side to check for the first. Maple also rallies to contest the second scuttle.
Karsa’s gambler doesn’t come out until later in the game with more aggressive team fights. If teams can pressure side lanes effectively, this might become a more pronounced issue for Flash Wolves and a gamble of its own for him to execute a less confrontational early game style. His efficient pathing earned him a CS lead of 3.5 at 10 minutes in playoffs and makes him a force in tandem with Maple. Taking down Flash Wolves may mean eliminating their scuttle control, but Flash Wolves are incredibly patient and good at capitalizing over-aggression with their jungle, mid and support core.
ahq e-Sports Club's Mountain
Even with somewhat promising talent, Wang "BayBay" Youchun and Mountain's demonstrated limitations, ahq decided to keep Mountain as their starting jungler. His presence as a stable shotcaller won the team over, but his role as a jungler is slightly less impressive.
Mountain has a similar focus on farming with fewer ganks like Karsa, but he lacks considerably in vision control, pointing to inefficiency. Against Karsa in the LMS Summer playoffs semifinal, Mountain only reached Level 6 first in one of five games, and fell behind by as much as a whole minute in at least two games.
Like the LPL's clearlove, Mountain's Group B opponent, Mountain also spends a lot of time hovering around lanes looking for gank opportunities, but unlike clearlove, he is rarely waiting for a countergank. He is the only jungler in the eight jungler sample to spent more of his time in the first ten minutes of games on Patch 6.15 hovering around lanes and waiting for gank opportunities or passively siphoning experience than entering lanes for a countergank or gank opportunity.
During the course of the first ten minutes of ahq’s 14 total games in playoffs and LMS Regionals, Mountain didn’t countergank a single gank initiated by an opponent jungler. This makes him unique among LMS, LPL, and EU LCS junglers heading for Worlds.
Generally speaking, Mountain’s pathing is incredibly inefficient, though he did manage to perform reasonably well against Hong Kong Esports and Machi 17’s junglers. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Mountain, however, is his synergy with mid laner Liu "Westdoor" Shuwei and the rest of the team. Whenever Mountain went to invade or he found himself invaded upon by the enemy jungler, ahq's ability to react instantly to the threat often made ahq win skirmishes.
Because of wards in the river, ahq can react relatively quickly to collapse on Karsa. Mountain's team fighting with Gragas allows him to target and pull Karsa in.
Westdoor’s reputation to exert pressure outside his own lane is well-known, and it was Mountain’s saving grace on the new patch. It may serve ahq surprisingly well against some of the stronger junglers of this group, as both the likes of clearlove and Jankos, despite their pathing efficiency, lack the same synergy with their mid laners.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.