This year has been a marquee one for junglers, as the role had some of the most impactful players in the game worldwide. How exciting then that 11 of the game's best will meet in Reykjavik to help their teams win the 2021 Mid-Season Invitational. There are five, though, that stand above the rest and have the highest likelihood to carry their team to victory.
Inven Global's top five junglers at this year's MSI are:
- Kim "Canyon" Geon-bu
- Yan "Wei" Yang-Wei
- Javier "Elyoya" Prades Batalla
- Robert "Blaber" Huang
- Kim "River" Dong-woo
There have been a lot of astounding jungler performances. Some of them have racked up impressive stat lines, won major individual awards in their region, and helped carry their teams' victory. Canyon bests them in every respect.
Canyon is more than the best jungler in the LCK. Canyon is more than the best jungler in the world. Canyon is one of the best players in the world and if he keeps playing like this, will be in the conversation for the greatest jungler of all time.
Canyon enters MSI 2021 having won the 2020 Worlds Finals MVP and the 2021 LCK Spring Split MVP. As the lynchpin to the best team in the world, he led his position in the LCK in kills, damage per minute (DPM), and average gold difference at 10 minutes (GD@10). Canyon is playing out of his mind.
While other MSI junglers have also had great spring splits, Canyon towers over them with more international experience (and most importantly — success) than anyone else. He’s dominated the LCK, which already hosts the best junglers in the world, and he has a telepathic-like relationship with Heo “ShowMaker” Su — arguably the best League of Legends player right now. The gap between Canyon, pun intended, and the rest of the field is vast.
It’s impressive how fast Wei has established himself as one of the best junglers in the world. Debuting in the spring of 2020 on eStar, he has gone nowhere but up. He has been invaluable to the team’s success, carrying RNG many times as other players on the roster faltered. He not only made the LPL All-Pro First Team but tied for first in the regular season MVP standings.
Although not aggressive as other junglers at MSI or even in the LPL, Mei serviced his team well and has shown to be an intimidating player throughout the mid-late game. A new potential “Prince of Thieves”, Wei has quickly become famous for his skill in stealing Barons and Dragons. Mei is a young and talented player, who is in desperate need of some warm-ups before facing a player like Canyon, however.
As he debuted in this LEC Spring season, Elyoya took off like a firework after a somewhat slow start. In the span of a single split, he’s now in a league with the likes of Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski and Kacper "Inspired" Słoma and beat them both to win LEC Spring, with the Rookie of the Split Award to boot.
Elyoya has been essential to the success of this new version of MAD. He ranks first in Kill Participation (73.7%) and Kill Share (29%) — the marks of a bloodthirsty and committed jungler. With the highest GD@10 and XPD@10 differentials on top of that, Elyoya has been instrumental in creating leads for his team. The way he builds early advantages for Marek "Humanoid" Brázda(MAD’s best player) will make the European squad a scary opponent for anyone.
A note that points in favor of Elyoya’s success for this tournament is his versatility. With 11 champions played this season, he’s shown a deeper champion pool than any other player on this list, which is a trait that should help him on the new Patch 11.9 at MSI.
Admittedly, there are other junglers with either more success, or more international experience (or both) than Elyoya, but what points in his favor is his conditioning. While Elyoya wasn’t as consistently dominant domestically as the likes of Blaber or River, he played the LEC of some of the best junglers in the world. Somehow, he not only learned to hold his own against them but out-jungled them enough to win the finals.
If you asked for a ranking at any other time in the split, Blaber and River would have been ahead of him. But with a playoff performance like MAD’s, Elyoya deserves the third spot.
There’s reason to be optimistic about Blaber’s chances of doing well this tournament. He won the award for MVP of the 2021 LCS Spring Split, leading the league in kills, assists, damage, total team kill share, and damage. He’s already created a fruitful partnership with Luka "Perkz" Perković in the mid lane, looking poised to defeat almost any pairing that comes their way.
With all this success considered, there’s still good reason to worry about Blaber. This is his first international tournament in almost a year and a half — in total, he’s only had the privilege of playing a handful of games on the world stage. His domestic performance, while good, wasn’t that good and there’s something to be said of the level of competition he was facing. Wei and Elyoya had several junglers in their regions who could challenge them. Blaber had Santorin, who looked significantly weaker this split, and even when he was subbed out from TL at the LCS finals, Cloud9 barely clutched the win. Jonathan “Armao” Armao was an Academy jungler that Blaber should’ve eaten alive. If he couldn’t do that, how will he fare against Canyon and Wei?
Blaber has performed well as a jungler in North America, but MSI will answer many of the question marks that float around his career.
River has a lot going for him. He has recent (and fairly successful) international experience with a 9-12th finish at Worlds 2020. He was one of the best players in the PCS, leading his position in so many statistics that listing them becomes boring, and culminated in a stellar championship run in the playoffs.
Still, River does have a few problems. He doesn’t seem as essential to PSG’s success as the other players are to their teams. PSG still performed relatively well at Worlds Play-Ins last year without him when he ran into visa issues. Even in this very strong Spring Split for River, his impact didn’t feel as significant as someone like Gemini’s. Pairing this with the PCS not possessing the jungle talent of other regions, and River has his work cut out for him if he wants to perform well.
The Hyperbolic Time Chamber Trainer: Ferret
Though his team isn’t expected to make an impact at MSI, Hakan "Ferret" Mert Çakmak has the most to potentially gain experience-wise of any jungler in the tournament. Ferret is young, but at only 19, he already has a TCL title. His talent tied him for most Player of the Week Awards in his region and he possesses a skill set that makes him arguably the sixth-best at MSI. Finally, he’s got a golden opportunity right in front of him — to play against and learn from junglers like Elyoya and River. This is a valuable training experience for Ferret. Let’s hope he uses it wisely.
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