The current king of the jungle is one of the biggest questions entering the 2022 Summer Season. Compared to most of the other positions where you can slot-in T1’s starting player as the best in the region, the jungle is more contested. It’s very difficult to gauge the skill of some players, considering how important their team’s strength is to their success. Inven Global presents the five players that stand out the most, coming into the next series of LCK competition.
5. Lee "Dread" Jin-hyeok — Nongshim RedForce
Dread may seem out of place compared to the others on this list. Nongshim RedForce had a very weak Spring run — eighth overall. On top of that, he’s wildly inconsistent, coin-flipping between carry jobs and embarrassing inting. On the surface, it’d make more sense to pay respects to recognize someone like Eom "UmTi" Seong-hyeon or Choi "Ellim" El-lim — both players with better team success and overall stats.
What sets Dread apart is how important he is to NS. The team is garbage, but without him, it’d turn into a garbage fire. Though most of his counting stats are ordinary, Dread had the third highest kill share percentage (KS%) of any regular jungler in the Spring Season — only behind Moon "Oner" Hyeon-joon and Kim "Croco" Dong-beom. Not only that, he is the team’s biggest win condition, and received more “Player Of The Game” honors than anyone else on his team (and more than UmTi and Ellim). While his inconsistency is worrying, his impact on the game is something only a few other junglers in Korea can match.
4. Hong "Pyosik" Chang-hyeon — DRX
What is there to say about the rock of DRX? He’s good, but he just isn’t as good as others. While he’s always been a very solid player, there’s not as much to be excited about compared to other junglers in the region. He isn’t carrying a bad team to decent results, and he isn’t along the ride for an excellent team to climb to glory. He’s playing decent on a decent team — simple as that.
It’s impressive that DRX has managed to be as successful as they are despite how new their roster is, but more of that can be attributed to players like Kim "Zeka" Geon-woo and Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu. Still, though, Pyosik doesn’t have too many noticeable weaknesses — something that cannot be said for many of the junglers in Korea — which makes him a valuable asset for DRX.
3. Han "Peanut" Wang-ho — Gen.G
The fact that Peanut is able to be so good in the latter part of a decade-long career goes to show why he’s one of the greatest Korean junglers in history. While some of his LCK-brethren have surpassed his mechanical skill, Peanut has taken the role of the mega-veteran that always makes the right move. He had a positional-best 5.9 KDA throughout the regular season in Spring — narrowly beating out even Oner as he was helping his team to an undefeated season.
He has shown a wide variety of picks this year with 14 total. He still finds the most success with power picks like Poppy and Jarvan IV, but his versatility has made Gen.G that much more dangerous as a team. The only thing preventing Peanut from being ranked higher is that other players have surpassed him in multiple ways. While he had an excellent season individually, he wasn’t close to the best at carrying his team when they needed him to. While Gen.G had a great first half to the year, they weren’t able to triumph the best. Peanut has had a great year few can match, but two simply surpass it.
2. Moon "Oner" Hyeon-joon — T1
It may seem like recency bias, but Oner wasn’t ever the definitive best jungler in Korea. Don’t get me wrong, he’s fantastic. He’s able to spot hidden and impactful plays, he has a strong sense of where to be for his team throughout all stages of the game, and he has a mechanical vigor very few players in the world possess. He usually looks excellent. But if T1’s run in MSI taught us anything, it’s that Oner is not the unstoppable jungle god some were hyping him up to be.
Oner still has room to improve in his decision-making and can be bullied by more seasoned junglers if they have the right supporting cast. Throughout LCK Spring, Oner had two advantages to his benefit that made him always look good: he had little competition in his position (the fact Dread is the fifth-best jungler in Korea proves that) and he had three lanes that were the best in the league. It’s hard not to look fantastic as a jungler with such a setup.
Oner’s professional journey is still in its early stages. He should not be written off for one bad series in his first-ever international competition. But we must recognize that he has come down to earth, and must overcome the longtime Korean king of the jungle to rise again.
1. Kim "Canyon" Geon-bu — DWG KIA
With Yan "Wei" Yang-Wei demolishing Oner at the 2022 MSI finals, it’s finally safe to say this: Canyon is still the best jungler in the LCK. Many wrote off Canyon’s 1st All-Pro Team honor as a legacy pick. When T1 were on their streak of dominance, many argued Oner deserved the title of best jungler in the region — putting together the Exodia-like honor that each player was the best in their position. And don’t misunderstand: Oner has a decent argument. Any player that can help put together an undefeated regular season and have arguably the best statistics of any player in your position — all before the age of 20 — is special.
Canyon is still Canyon, though; DAMWON just isn’t DAMWON. He hasn’t had the luxury of three winning lanes this year the same way Oner has and has still looked fantastic. He is by far the best performing player on their team and has carried enough games to have them still be a top team in the region — enough to be awarded the Player of the Split. We can only pray that his organization has a better team around him this time, so people can recognize his greatness in full view.
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