The vast majority of Season 4 was dominated by only 3 junglers: Lee Sin, Elise and Evelynn. In order to bring more variety in the picks, Riot released a series of balance changes – most notably the nerfs to Kha’Zix – and new items, including Feral Flare, the Quill Coat and the re-worked Spirit of the Ancient Golem.
As a result, we have seen a 4th jungler start to be commonly picked. Rengar, the Pridestalker, has quickly leaped into every region, but not everyone agrees about his strength, or at least about players’ ability to use his kit effectively, especially outside of Korea.
Interestingly enough, Rengar is the only jungler (together with Nocturne, a niche pick that didn’t gain much traction) being played on a professional level that builds Feral Flare. Consequently, his power spikes are very different from the other popular jungle picks.
First of all, Rengars are normally looking to farm until level 6, and then gank repeatedly as soon as their ultimate, Thrill of the Hunt, comes off cooldown. But for the first few minutes, the Pridestalker is very vulnerable to being counter-jungled or caught out at a camp by the enemy jungler (who will usually be on a powerful early-game pick). He also risks having his lanes fall behind due to the enemy jungler’s pressure which he finds hard to reciprocate.
As soon as he hits 6, the moment comes for Rengar to impact the game and as with Twisted Fate, the first couple of ultimates are key to his success: if he manages to get kills and objectives, he will be able to keep farming, get items as well as stacks on his Bonetooth Necklace, so as to out-scale his opponent, but if he fails, he often falls behind and his mid-game suffers for it.
As a hunter, Rengar needs to adapt to the situation and to both teams’ compositions with his choice of items. If he is far ahead, he can build full damage, with Feral Flare, Tiamat/Ravenous Hydra and Last Whisper or Youmuu’s Ghostblade. In that case, he will be looking to jump directly onto the enemy carries and kill them in no more than a couple of seconds.
Most Rengars though, build more defensive: they don’t upgrade their Madred’s Razors until very late in the game, they build maybe one offensive item, Youmuu’s or Hexdrinker, and then start building defensive items, with Randuin’s Omen, Sunfire Cape, Guardian Angel or Banshee’s Veil.
Rengar’s choice of boots sets him apart from other junglers, as he likes to get Boots of Lucidity: cooldown reduction allows him to use his abilities more than once in a fight, which is a huge boost to both his damage (on his Q) and his utility (the slow or root on his E).
Teamfights and Late Game
In team-fights, Rengar usually wants to leap onto the enemy carries and either kill them or, if he built very tanky, at least force them to focus on him and not on his own team’s carries. He also prefers to fight in the river or in the jungle, so he can gain surprising mobility by hiding in a brush only to jump back on his target of choice.
But, while Rengar is not bad in team-fights there are two roles in which he really shines:
first he excels at surprise initiations on the enemy team. The movement speed he gains with his ultimate, as well as the leap from his passive, can surprise unaware teams and win fights that otherwise shouldn’t have been won. It works especially well in combination with Orianna, who can put the ball on Rengar, have him jump in the middle of the enemy team and set up for a potential 4 or 5-man Shockwave
Secondly, Rengar is one of those champions that can turn a game around by picking people off if they are ever out of position. Again, thanks to his stealth, his movement speed, his leap and his high burst damage, anyone on the enemy team who is not a tank needs to fear being separated from his or her team, as the Pridestalker can come out of nowhere, root them and assassinate them before they can react.
The Good Rengars and the Korean rengars
Pro players and spectators alike have strongly criticized the vast majority of Rengar play in every region except Korea. Here is Fnatic’s top laner Soaz, voicing his dislike for Rengars in North America and Europe, and suggesting that teams should not prioritize him in picks and bans as much as they do. This is Chinese LoL expert Kelsey Moser lamenting the disappointing performances of non-Korean Rengar players. The same perception was so widespread that Reddit decided to try and find a Rengar bug in order to have him disabled for the LCS play-offs, and “save an LCS team from shooting themselves in the foot” by picking the champion.
Statistics support this: in the NA LCS the Pridestalker has only won 3 of the 14 games he was picked in (21.4%), whereas in EU the sample size is only a mere 7 games, with 3 wins and 4 losses (42.9%). On the other hand, in the Chinese LPL Rengar has a positive win-rate, with 9 wins in 16 games (56.3%). Korean stats on the champion are impressive: in (Edit: The group stage of) OGN he has won 7 of the 9 games (77.8%) he has been played in. (Stats as of 4th August 2014, thanks to Leaguepedia)
So, what are the mistakes preventing most pro players, especially in the West, from using the pick to its full potential? Let’s turn to some LCS games for examples.
The most common mistake is without a doubt being too predictable: too many times Rengar tries to go for a gank, but his allies give it away with overaggressive positioning and the cooldown on Thrill of the Hunt goes to waste. In this case, Dignitas tries to catch Curse’s bot duo, but Kiwikid tips them off, and the prey runs away even before the exclamation mark pops over their heads. Another example is from Amazing, in TSM’s game against LMQ.
Another error that can easily have a huge effect on the game is trying to force ganks where there aren’t any, or when the time is not right. In this case, Fnatic’s Cyanide tries to gank for his bot lane against Copenhagen Wolves, but a number of things go wrong: Yellowstar flashes too early, and his black shield coming out of the bush warns his enemies about his intention to go aggressive. Kog’Maw still has flash, while Braum is too tanky to be burst down, and the minion wave arrives just when Cyanide would like to hit his root. He could have watched his own minion wave in order to time the gank better. Another example of a poorly-executed “Thrill of the Hunt”, looking for a kill when there isn’t any, is here.
Of course, missing skill-shots, especially the Bola (E), can completely ruin a Rengar gank, but the Pridestalker can be turned from a tiger into a nearly inoffensive cat by putting him on the back foot, and forcing him to use his ultimate to run away, as Impaler was forced to do in Supa Hot Crew’s game against Roccat.
Ultimately, Rengar requires a different mindset and play-style from every other popular jungler, so teams as well as individual players need to improve their ability to play around him, especially by protecting him better in the early game and setting up better ganks in the early- and mid-game.