The jungle meta is possibly the most standardized (read: boring) meta in competitive play with Lee Sin and Elise dominating the scene for almost a year. Other junglers have fallen in and out of favor, but the popularity of Lee and Elise has generally limited the meta to junglers that can fight from level 1 and make lots of plays before level 6.
Just as Riot’s balanced teams seemed to have given up, we have seen an upstart in the jungle capable of shaking the floor of the meta with new-found utility and raw power. Does Rengar stack up well against the other top-tier junglers of the day?
With junglers, all power is in utility. This is why we have seen Lee Sin and Elise persevere through a long string of nerfs, whereas more damage-orientated junglers such as Kha’zix, Jarvan IV, Pantheon and Vi have fallen out of favor after only a couple whacks with the nerf bat.
To examine the power of reworked Rengar, let’s have a look through his play in OGN, where he has seen the most success. He is not properly established in the meta yet and we have seen a wide variety of builds and interpretations on the best use of his power. It’s most important to focus on the champion’s utility, which will show whether Rengar is capable of being a top-tier mainstay or simply a flavor of the month doomed to extinction after some nerfs.
Damage Rengars: Spirit and Watch
An AD-focused assassin Rengar has never been a cat to take lightly.
In the very first game of OGN Summer Samsung Blue’s playmaking jungler Spirit picked up Rengar and showed off a fancy high-risk, high-reward assassin style with heavy farming and a 17 minute feral flare. With Twisted Fate, Spirit’s Rengar, and Kayle, Blue steamrolled their game off of continuous picks on an unfortunate Kog’maw.
With the Kayle ultimate and Dade’s Twisted Fate joining him in the backline, Spirit was not punished for building damage on Rengar, as in the time it would have taken them to burst him down the opposing team would have already lost the fight. The key thing to understand about Spirit’s Rengar was that it was highly situational, and if not for the prowess of Samsung Blue’s pick potential and heavy burst with TF, Twitch and Nami it may not have worked.
In Najin Shield’s first game against their sister team Najin Sword, Watch debuted an insane jungle build, going full damage on the lion. Not only did he go for the Feral Flare, he built a Blade of the Ruined King and a Youmuu’s Ghostblade next, giving OGN its first true assassin Rengar. It was a huge success but again, highly situational.
The build was insanely high-risk, high-reward, and Watch was largely able to make it work through heavy counterjungling and making picks before teamfights, hence turning the teamfights into easy 4v5s. If Najin Shield had fallen behind at any point that game Watch’s build would not have succeeded, but it was exactly this high-risk, high-reward play that earned Watch the MVP for that game.
In the KT Arrows vs JIN AIR Stealths match Rengar is picked under very different circumstances. With Jax and Lulu in the solo lanes, the Arrows had burst but less of an ability to pick the enemy off in their jungle and behind towers. Most importantly, the Arrows had no tank (note: neither did Blue when Spirit built Feral Flare, but they had Kayle’s ultimate, all the tankiness needed for a heavy burst pick comp).
This is where Kakao pulled out an adaptive masterpiece. He started with Madred’s Razors, possibly looking to steamroll his team with a power spike from an early Feral Flare after a crazy 4v3 tower dive which gave the Arrows a 3k gold lead at 4 minutes.
However, noting the frequency of skirmishes as well as how often he could and should have been ganking, Kakao built a Spirit of the Ancient Golem after Madred’s.
This turned out to be an excellent decision; as his team lacked tanks Kakao was able to be the initiator for all the skirmishes, which the superior damage of his team’s composition and the excellent mechanics of the KT players ensured they won every time.
Kakao’s Rengar had a 90% kill contribution at 20 minutes with Arrows’ early grouping spearheaded by Kakao’s play allowing the snowball to get as large and unstoppable as it did. After the Spirit of the Ancient Golem he built Boots of Lucidity, then Locket of the Iron Solari (a great item if your team is fighting all the time), and it was GG before he could finish his next item.
Rengar vs. Elise: Is Rengar a Top-Tier Pick?
Interestingly, tank Rengar plays a very similar role in a composition to tank Elise. Both prioritize CDR and focus on maximizing the impact of their long-range cc for ganking and initiating power. As Kakao showed, Rengar has the potential to be a high-risk, high-reward alternative to Elise and in certain situations potentially even a more valuable pick.
With the buff to Bola Strike it functions exactly like an Elise cocoon when empowered. This means that if Rengar ensures he has 5 stacks when he comes into a gank, he has the same cc power for ganks as an incoming Elise. The speed of Rengar’s ultimate, its versatility and its greater unpredictableness makes it a far better initiating gap-closer than Elise’s rappel. The catch is that its very difficult to manage his abilities to ensure the empowered E, but if Rengar is able to do that, he has better initiating (as opposed to counter-ganking or joining a skirmish) ganking power than an Elise.
However, Elise still offers far more versatility than Rengar and my previous arguments are not enough to show why Rengar can stand even with Elise as a top-tier jungle pick. I started believing in Rengar’s potential when I saw the gank Kakao made on Stealth’s bot lane when they were actually very close to their turret.
The Golem-Lucidity CDR build enabled the power of this play, which he was able to repeat multiple times in the game. When in the river brush he activated his ultimate and jumped onto Cpt. Jack’s Lucian, landing the initial empowered E as he landed. This blew Lucian’s flash and dash, and KaKAO almost immediately hit him with another empowered E.
Two long range snares in quick succession. This is an obvious power advantage over Elise, and if utilized correctly, this mechanic has the potential to put Rengar right at the top in terms of utility in junglers.
The double-snare is in my opinion the greatest buff in Rengar’s rework, which gave him fury-stacking upon exiting the stealth from his ultimate. This buff combined with his use of Q and W in the gank gave him a cooldown of approximately 2 seconds between two equivalents of Elise cocoons. This anything but guarantees a kill even with a flash up.
Rengar remains a high-risk pick as Lee Sin and Elise almost always win out in the picks and bans phase because of their immense utility and versatility. However the buffs to Rengar were largely all utility buffs, and perhaps we could see the lion compete with the monk and the spider.
He fits well into compositions that do not have a primary initiator in top or support and may see more play with the rise of carry top laners. Kakao’s synergy with Rookie (the Arrows mid laner) demonstrated that Rengar is perhaps best played with Lulu for the guaranteed knock up when they combine their ultimates; and the champion has always been a preferable ball-delivery system for Orianna.
I believe that because of his newly added utility, when pros become more mechanically comfortable on Rengar, especially with fury management, the champion will see an emergence as a top-tier jungle pick in professional play.
Edit: Rengar’s E, even when empowered is not a stun. Snared champions can auto-attack, unlike stunned champions.