Forest chump? Nah, Ivern just takes time to master

First thoughts on League of Legends' unusual new jungler.

Word started voting its way up the League of Legends subreddit this week that Ivern, the game's latest champion, had an unusually low winrate, even for a newcomer. Popular data-mining cribsheet had him at just 32.7% in the jungle role, and only 34% playing support. So what's going on? Is the Green Father all bark and no smite?

Nathan "Riot Blaustoise" Blau, from the developer's gameplay research team, dived into the thread to explain. First of all, he said, the winrate was being underreported - it was actually up to 41% after the weekend. Second, a recent micropatch buffed a bunch of Ivern's key stats, which Riot expected to make a difference.

Riot says his winrate is actually higher and he'll take a while to master anyway.
Riot says his winrate is actually higher and he'll take a while to master anyway.

Most interestingly though, Blaustoise said the low winrate wasn't unexpected anyway.

"This might not be the best place to go in-depth into the nuances of winrates, but we predict Ivern to have a steep mastery curve," he wrote. "What that means is that the delta (sub-optimal word choice, I know) between his game 1 winrate and say his game 30 winrate will be large. However, there will be an obvious 'clicking' point between games 5-15 where players will really get the champion. That's different than an extended curve (Nidalee: she starts at 37.5% on game 1 and then arduously climbs to a 51.5% by game 100, never truly clicking) or a flat curve (ironically Miss Fortune).

"Also I know this goes against all my best practices for data, but one of our playtest members has an 80% winrate on him on live and the playtest team in general thinks that with the micropatch, he's very strong. His gameplay pattern, jungle clear, and interactions with his team are just so out there that it will definitely take a bit of investment for him to click and for you to start bopping nerds with Daisy."

Anyone who has picked up Ivern since he launched will concur that he is... a bit weird. Ivern is a sort of tree-man who doesn't like hurting the creatures of the jungle, so rather than killing Gromp, the wolves and so on, instead his passive, Friend of the Forest, lets him create a grove around them that charges up over a short period of time. When the grove is complete, or if Ivern smites the camp, he 'frees' the monsters and gains experience and gold as normal.

This quirky approach means he doesn't have to be physically present at each camp while he's farming it, which allows him to behave a bit differently to typical junglers, while the cost of creating a grove doesn't vary per camp, meaning he can clear stuff in any order he likes.

So there's that. In addition, Ivern has been envisioned as a support jungler, making plays so his team-mates can secure the kills, and his kit plays out accordingly. His Q, Rootcaller, roots an enemy in place and allows allies to jump to within their max attack range of it. His W, another novelty, is called Brushmaker, and literally makes extra brush. Using homespun bushes and Rootcaller together can engineer some unlikely picks. (Ivern's autos become ranged when he's hidden in the bushes, too.)

His E, Triggerseed, shields an ally and pops some damage out, Leona style, after a few seconds, while his ultimate, Daisy, brings forth a moss-covered sentinel who can knock up enemies when she strikes them three times in succession.

Check out Riot's Champion Spotlight if that's all a bit difficult to grok at first blush:

Given the wackiness of his kit, perhaps it's little surprise that Ivern is taking a while to click with players. He doesn't just need a refined approach; he needs other players to play around his eccentricities. Heck, even Cloud9 jungler Meteos, taking time out from being NA's last hope of success at Worlds, reacted unfavourably to the new champion at first:

Some commenters were even theorycrafting jungle builds that didn't utilise any standard jungle items. After all, Ivern doesn't actually attack the monsters in the camps, so any bonuses to damage versus monsters are useless. Is the bonus experience alone enough to justify still buying Tracker's Knife? The fact there is any debate at all is kinda cool and confusing.

Ivern's unusual kit, not to mention his jovial demeanour, also lends itself to comparisons with trolly champs, particularly a certain Wandering Caretaker. "During development some people referred to him as 'the Bard of the jungle'," Blaustoise confirmed on Reddit.

Time will tell where Ivern ends up, but Riot typically gives new champions a couple of weeks before piling in with larger buffs and nerfs to balance things, so the story may be different by the time Worlds is over and we all get back to grinding solo queue full-time. In the meantime, we're enjoying the novelty, particularly faking people out with Bushmaker before coming at them from a different angle, and recommend giving him a go if you have enough spare IP.

Oh, and Riot, if you're listening - given that he moves like John Cleese in Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks, a Gentleman Ivern skin would be most welcome sometime in the future.

Tom Bramwell

British writer who used to work for Eurogamer and Riot Games. Increasingly obsessed with esports.

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