Typically, when major changes hit good old Summoner’s Rift immediately before an international tournament, the results are mixed at best. See the Season 5 World Championship and the Juggernaut meta, where Darius and Mordekaiser reigned supreme, or Season 7’s Ardent Censer fiasco — either way, competitive integrity takes a hit.
So when the competitive jungle pool dramatically shifted as a result of a myriad of champion buffs heading into the Mid-Season Invitational 2021, it could have been a complete disaster. While for some teams it absolutely was, a few notable players flourished and showed the world exactly what they could do with these unconventional champions that they found to be forced back into the meta.
While Udyr remained on top, Hecarim and Taliyah took a backseat relative to their pole position throughout Spring… but some players didn’t appear to have gotten the memo.
We’ll look at statistics across the board, drafts, and more, all tied back to one question: just how good were these select players at Rumble, Morgana, and Udyr?
For Yan “Wei” Yang-Wei, expectations were at an all-time high coming into this event. Looked at as the real difference-maker in his domestic series, the up-and-coming jungler has elite lanes to play around and as such should be able to move around the map freely.
Wei’s three most-played champions this tournament were Udyr, Morgana, and Rumble, and the latter two were especially promising to see as both of Royal Never Give Up’s sololaners are prominent Lucian players. His five games of Udyr in the Grand Finals showcased just how strong the LPL powerhouse could be, making his opponents’ lives hell as he lived in their bottom side jungle.
Wei’s most powerful asset, however, is his objective control. In tandem with the rest of his team or completely isolated for a quick Drake solo, Wei’s tendency to secure neutrals is a surefire way to get his team rolling.
Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu carried the weight of the World(s) on his shoulders at this event and unfortunately crumbled when it came down to the wire. The reigning World Champion looked good, but there’s only so much weight you can carry when you are drafted Morgana every other game. Yes, his mastery of the en vogue jungle pick was impressive to see, but compared to his Nidalee in Game 4 of the Grand Finals it was utterly ineffective.
It was Canyon’s Rumble prowess that carried DamWon KIA through a tumultuous series versus the LEC’s MAD Lions, and it cannot be stressed enough just how comfortable the DK jungler looks on champions that are seeing competitive play in the jungle for the first time. KDAs such as 5/1/10 and 3/0/12 truly defined how much of a teamfighting monster Canyon can be on these champions. Claiming ownership of the single Diana game played this tournament is another small win for the DK jungler.
The only non-finalist to find himself this high up on the list, PSG Talon’s Kim “River” Dong-woo had the best tournament of his career so far. The veteran jungler looked world-class, and when you factor in that he is paired alongside PSG’s fourth midlaner in less than a year, River’s synergy with the rest of his team is hard to fault. Even in PSG’s most heartbreaking losses this event, River generally had them off to a good start.
In particular, PSG’s second semi-finals game versus RNG was almost entirely dictated by River’s early game prowess on the Udyr. Pressuring out his opponents time and time again, River snowballed his lanes and secured neutral objectives galore, posting a deathless KDA record by the end of it as well as destroying almost one ward every minute.
Rookie of the Split Javier “Elyoya” Prades Batalla couldn’t quite replicate his domestic form and as such finds himself slipping a little bit relative to the other Knockout Bracket junglers. Stellar performances on Volibear and Morgana were marred by an inability to perform when it mattered on the Udyr. A 33% win rate (post-Groups) with what is evidently the strongest jungler right now means that it is difficult to put Elyoya in the same tier as the other elite players in his position.
That being said, the MAD lad himself definitely has a tremendous amount of potential, and while his Rumble statistics should be held to a similar standard as his Udyr post-Groups, Elyoya is the key to MAD’s success. Higher damage share than most junglers (a breathtaking 26% in their sole victory versus RNG) on a similar budget (18% of the team’s total gold in that aforementioned game), shows that Elyoya can indeed step up when required.
A rather unfortunate Hecarim game to open up their Group Stage with an upset loss against Gillette Infinity aside, DetonatioN FocusMe’s Mun “Steal” Geon-yeong had a spectacular performance this tournament all things considered. Often looked at as the weakest member of the DFM superteam domestically (barring temporary starting support Kazuta “Kazu” Suzuki), Steal came into his own this event with one of the cleanest Udyrs going.
Tally up a mark in the loss column for the sole Rumble pick aside, and there’s a lot that can be said for the DFM jungler. It would have been nicer to see him shine on one of the other meta champions, but with Rumble and Morgana both banned out against him in 4 of his 6 games played, Steal did a great job.
Cloud9’s Robert “Blaber” Huang was a pendulum this event, swinging wildly between great and pretty terrible. The C9 jungler continually overextended in high-risk-minimal-reward situations, and unfortunately, even a world-class Morgana performance to end C9’s tournament wasn’t enough to redeem him.
Blaber has shown that he is capable of going toe-to-toe with the world’s finest, but he has also demonstrated that should the coin ever land face down he can single-handedly lose a game for his squad. Towards the later end of the tournament, Blaber seemed almost neutered, refraining from making any of his trademark aggressive plays and just slowly falling apart with the rest of C9. As such, he finds himself here on our tier list.
PentaNet.GG’s Jackson “Pabu” Pavone would be much higher on this list had his team just been slightly more successful overall. A fantastic depth of champion pool saw Fiddlesticks and Karthus brought to the table as AP junglers made their resurgence, but even with the surprise factor Pabu and PGG were unable to make things work. Pabu’s emphasis on carry champions meant that the utility meta picks could trip him up — after all, he shares almost 20% of his team’s gold on average, far more than his counterparts — but he didn’t shy away from picking them.
B overall, but S when it comes to innovation for the PGG jungler.
Both of the junglers in this tier at least attempted to make things work with the new champions, but unfortunately after falling flat a few times it seems like they defaulted back to old habits. Credit to paiN Gaming’s Marcos “CarioK” Santos de Oliveira Junior for two phenomenal Udyr performances, but they don’t make up for his subpar statistics on other champions.
For Diego “SolidSnake” Vallejo Trujillo, this tournament was an opportunity to show that the LLA still has junglers that can rival Brandon Joel “Josedeodo” Villegas. A decent Udyr performance and a good choice of the newly meta picks unfortunately aren’t quite as flashy as Josedeodo’s explosive highlight reels from last year, but perhaps a carry meta can let SolidSnake shine around Worlds.
The junglers here had such a poor read on the MSI champion pool meta (not 100% their own faults) that their teams were actively banning the strongest junglers on both red and blue side.
Hakan “Ferret” Mert Çakmak gave it his best shot, but even in IW’s sole win the jungler couldn’t find his stride this tournament. Kirill “AHaHaCiK” Skvortsov found himself unable to adapt to the meta, and even though his pocket picks were fun to see, the UOL jungler saw limited success this event.
This Mid-Season Invitational was great for competitive composition diversity, as strong AP junglers have been sorely lacking since Nidalee and Taliyah both fell out of the meta (Elise and Karthus are also worth mentioning, though the nerfs to them were a little more drastic). We’ll find out in a few weeks if these same picks will stick around for Summer, and if these junglers — and their competitors — will have mastered them fully by then! Be sure to keep reading our analysis and reads on the meta here at TrackLOL.