Baiting with the ADC
The Protect the ADC is one of oldest compositions in the history of League of Legends. You can call it what you will-- Protect the Puppy, All Support-- and the champions may change, yet the goal will always be "keep the ADC alive." But this recent season has given birth to a new innovation to this age old composition. Hailing from Korea and attributed with the GE Tigers, the Juggermaw has been capturing the interest of teams around the world as they attempt to emulate the approach of the GE Tigers by taking what was once protected in the back line and throwing it into the face of the opposition.
To understand what makes the Juggermaw different from Protect the ADC (referred to as PADC from now on)—especially in team comps which have used the same pieces of the Juggermaw—we’ll look back on examples of PADC in LoL history. Then we will look at what the Juggernaut Kog’Maw is as innovated by the GE Tigers through analysis of the usage of the key components of the composition. Finally, we’ll look at the weaknesses of the composition in order to theory craft ways to defeat it.
Protection through the Seasons
Alongside poke, pick, team-fight, and skirmish compositions, PADC has existed throughout League of Legend’s history. The logic of the composition is this: survive the early game with a hyper carry ADC and then protect them so they will carry. Other players will use shields, heals, AS buffs and AD buffs to empower the ADC, keeping them alive and increasing their damage.
Perhaps the most infamous example of the PADC is Tai Pei Assassins iteration in Season 3. In the 8th week of GPL’s 2013 Spring split, Taipei Assassins drafted a composition with Lulu top, Nunu jungle, Janna mid, Taric support and Vayne ADC; a team of four support/utility champions and Vayne. Against Singapore Sentinels’ pick composition, the team peeled for Vayne with its layers of slows, sustained her with their shields and heals, and empowered her with Blood Boil and Whimsy while Taric shredded the enemies’ armor.
Despite falling 6k gold behind, TPA won a team fight at 32 minutes which caught them up to the SGS. The following gif shows the parts of this composition in play during the team fight which turned the game around.
Subsequent fights followed the same formula, and the approach carried TPA to a victory. It’s important to note that this wasn’t simply TPA styling on a lower level GPL team. SGS would finish that particular split and the next split of GPL in second place. It is also observed that during the 2013 year, TPA would not play a 4-support comp again, though they would continue to play PADC. TPA also would never replicate their Season 2 success at Worlds where they walked away with the championship, instead failing to qualify for Season 3 Worlds and being eliminated in the group stages of Season 4 Worlds.
A recent example of a team achieving success playing PADC internationally would be China’s Star Horn Royal Club at Season 4 worlds. Uzi, the core of the “Protect the Puppy” as China LoL scene experts refer to it, would be given all of the farm and kills in order to carry the game with his impressive mechanics and timely engages. This approach would bring SHRC to their second appearance in the finals, where they would once again lose to the favorite Korean team; in Season 3 it was SKT T1, and in Season 4 it was Samsung White. SHRC were taken to the fifth game in best of fives twice against their Chinese rivals EDG and OMG during their climb from quarters to the finals. Uzi would go off while his team followed up and then protected him with their late game scaling picks.
SHRC’s ability to go so far suggests that with an elite ADC, teams playing with the PADC can go far in competitive play, but are just a rung below teams with greater diversity or strength in their jungle or solo lanes. Perhaps that may change this year with the Juggermaw.
The Insatiable Voidling
During the second week of LCK, the GE Tigers showcased a new iteration of the PADC. After losing the first game to Jin Air, GE drafted Lulu top and Kog’Maw ADC for game two. At 19 minutes into the game, GE’s ADC Pray stepped close enough to invite TrAce to engage on him, baiting him to his death.
Like Undersea Kog’Maw luring in prey, Pray dangles his own champion before the jaws of the GE Tigers.
Two weeks later, and playing KT Rolster, GE Tigers draft Lulu and Kog'Maw, and we see the same tactic with a twist: Kog'Maw is running at the enemy team with Lulu's shields, but this time he's attacking them with his Bio-Arcane Barrage, using his range and percent health shred to tear KT apart singlehandedly. In the river or under towers, Pray doesn't care - he continues this unprecedented positioning with style. Doa makes a quip about watching a "Juggernaut Kog'Maw," and the name "Juggermaw" soon followed to identify this playstyle.
The definition of the Juggermaw is shrouded in confusion: some say that the GE Tigers did not invent it because solo lane Lulu has been played with Kog'Maw ADC before the Tiger's time, even as recent as Season 4 (below is an LCS game from the second week of summer with these two picks, and additional Lulu-Kog'Maw pairings appeared in the group stages at Season 4 Worlds.
The thing is, the term "Juggermaw" was not used with this connotation until GE Tiger's innovation in the playstyle of Lulu and Kog'Maw's synergy. Traditionally, Lulu uses her spells on the teams' frontline, only using her spells on Kog'Maw after a teamfight starts reactively. What the GE Tigers have done is consistently have Lulu use her spells on Kog'Maw to give him the ability to attack the enemy team as the frontline before any engage has occured. It is this unique interaction- not the pairing of Lulu and Kog'Maw- which Doa and Montecristo identify as the "Juggermaw." Based on this, the most accurate definition of the Juggermaw would be "a composition in League of Legends which utilizes a solo lane Lulu's spells to buff an ADC Kog'Maw so he can proactively move at the front line of the team, either baiting engages or harassing the enemy." That is Juggermaw.
To further illuminate this point, a comparison and contrast of the playstyles of PADC with the Juggermaw is necessary, and we have a frugal example in Team Liquid's second game against CLG in the NA LCS Summer 2015 Playoffs. This game highlights the differences in playstyle between a PADC and the Juggermaw because Team Liquid plays both styles in the game, giving us both a microcosm to point out the differences in play style between them, displaying the flexibility in using Lulu and Kog'Maw as a basis for a composition. Let's place the two gifs side by side so you can observe the difference in Kog'Maw's positioning and Lulu's spell usage in both cases.
In the first clip, Team Liquid is playing PADC style by positioning Kog'Maw in the back of the team and using Lulu's spells to enhance Nunu. In the second clip, Team Liquid utilize the Juggermaw playstyle by using Lulu's spells on Kog'Maw send him to the frontline, chunking CLG under their inhibitor tower. This is the difference in play styles between a PADC approach and the Juggermaw, but this is occurring with the same composition in the same game. This coexistence is why my definition focuses on the play style rather than the champions used. In the past we've seen Lulu use her spells to buff Kog'Maw in PADC, but most of those uses were reactive to engages from the enemy team. Nobody consistently used Lulu to buff Kog'Maw to siege and poke as aggressively or consistently as the GE Tigers did when they first innovated the playstyle.
In team fights the Juggermaw plays similarly to PADC with a key difference: Kog’Maw can die and his team can win the fight because an AP carry mid-laner is used. Whereas traditional PADC tend to run utility mages like Oriana in mid, the Juggermaw as originally conceived by the GE Tigers uses an AP damage mid laner like Leblanc to serve as a clean-up. The reasoning is this: if the enemy focuses Kog’Maw, they will have to burn through the extra defenses he receives, which will draw more cooldowns. With those cooldowns used and retaliation damage taken, the mid laner is left unfocused and can clean up the enemy team. Rather than putting all of the chips onto the ADC, the Juggermaw provides a secondary level of threat hiding behind the baiting Kog’Maw, as illustrated in the following team fight between Jin Air and GE Tigers.
It is this aggressive use of Kog’Maw as your frontline to bait engages and to harass the enemy team which diversifies the Juggermaw playstyle from PADC—rather than keeping the carry in the back and away from engages, the Juggermaw actively uses the ADC as a frontline. To compensate for this risky play, the teams using the Juggermaw select a damage mid-laner as a second damage source, thus delegating Lulu to the top lane as there are fewer reliable carry top lane champions in play than carry mid laners in the season 5 meta.
We’ve discussed why Lulu is an integral part of the composition, but Kog’Maw is equally important simply because he is the only ADC in the game you can play in this frontline siege fashion. This is because of both his build path and the innate capabilities of his kit.
Let’s discuss his build path first. Kog’Maws will usually build Triforce first in order to get the sheen proc synergy with his low ultimate cooldown along with other vital stats. Kog’s ideal second items are either Blade of the Ruined King or Infinity Edge. Blade of the Ruined King synergizes with Kog’Maw well because the attack speed gives him more attacks while his Bio-Arcane Barrage is active, gives him lifesteal, and adds to his percent health damage with the passive. Infinity Edge is a staple item for ADCS because of the increase in crit damage, so depending on the enemy team composition either item is viable. I prefer the Botrk second in the Juggermaw because the life steal lets you siege more with the Lulu shields since you sustain through the miniscule damage which gets through while guaranteeing incredible damage with the constant percent health damage.
Kog’Maw’s kit is the engine of the Juggermaw. Every spell plays a vital role in his ability to bait the enemy engages and to harass the enemy. His Bio-Arcane Barrage is the most important spell in this playstyle: giving Kog a maximum range of 710--one of the highest in the game-- for 8 seconds on a 17 second cooldown, this spell enables Kog to harass the enemy team with consistent range and damage which no other ADC can match. Tristana needs levels to scale to match Caitlyn’s range, Twitch’s ultimate has a cooldown of over a minute, and Jinx’s Fishbones form causes her to lose attack speed. Kog’Maw suffers from none of those weaknesses, and with the buffs from Lulu and maybe a support like Janna or Nami, Kog’Maw can eat through entire front lines and take towers singlehandedly. The additional damage from sheen procs coming from spamming his ultimate further amplify the damage, and if someone steps too close, Kog’Maw can slow them with his Void Ooze and land additional attacks onto them.
Perhaps the most underplayed part of Kog’Maw’s kit in terms of the Juggermaw is his passive. Since Kog’Maw is used as bait and is one of the primary damage dealers on the team, the enemy will want to kill the voidling, which we’ve established is hard to do as he will have support from Lulu’s defenses and other supportive champions. So once you do get through those and kill him, you are further punished by his passive deal true damage to you; either you have to avoid it by using a spell or take the damage. Doing so helps Kog’Maw’s mid laner clean up the fight. If the Juggermaw dies, he is going to take you with him. Minimizing the punishment a team faces in losing their ADC further diversifies the Juggermaw comp and makes it harder to beat, which begs the question: how does one defeat Juggermaw?
“Be very quiet; it’s Yordle Season. Heeheehee.”
At first, teams had no answer for the Juggermaw, but as the weeks have worn on cracks in the armor have been revealed. The obvious weakness of the comp is the dependency of Lulu to be positioned next to Kog’Maw in order to pursue the comps win conditions. If Lulu is away from Kog’Maw and the enemy team capitalizes, Juggermaw loses momentum, such as the case of KT Rolster trying the comp out themselves in their game against Samsung.
SKT T1 also show the power of pick compositions against the Juggermaw: having the ability to always jump on the enemy team when the Lulu and Kog’Maw are separated and kill either sets the composition massively behind and prevents it from sieging or team fighting like it wants to. This is more effective against a Lulu mid composition though as top lane Lulu will have teleport to join in fights, and requires enough vision control to catch the targets out in rotation.
Camping Lulu or Kog’Maw in the laning phase sounds like a valid idea, but which do you target to keep down? Ganking Kog’Maw in the bottom lane is hard as he has a peel support to protect him, and if the gank backfires you suddenly have a fed hyper carry to deal with. In a lane swap scenario you run into the same issue of Kog’Maw being too hard to gank early on. The answer seems to be focusing Lulu and getting her behind so she does not have the ability to take Kog’Maws minor mid-game spike and amplify it. Lacking AP and levels means Lulu’s spells will be less effective at buffing and protecting Kog’Maw, limiting his offensive capabilities and making him easier to kill. Focusing Lulu in fights also means she will be using her spells on herself rather than Kog’Maw, and if you can shift targets after Lulu has used her cooldowns on herself, you can make Kog’Maw more vulnerable.
The final game in KT Rolster’s victory over the GE Tigers in week 10 of LCK is an important game to analyze how to defeat the Juggermaw as this is the first time GE have lost a game running the "comp" they have pioneered. KT was able to snowball the game with strong roaming from Nagne and Fixer, and KT was able to catch out Smeb’s Lulu. They were also able to engage in the moments Lulu wasn’t next to Kog’Maw and kill the ADC quickly. More impressively they were able to delete Kog’Maw when Lulu was next to him by cc’ing Lulu so she couldn’t cast spells and then killing Kog’Maw. The coordination this takes is impressive, but this shows a potential approach teams can utilize coming into this tanky meta to dismantle the Juggermaw.
The Juggermaw has been one of the most exciting and complex compositions created in League of Legends. Turning the role of marksmen on its head, it transforms the vulnerable Kog’Maw into a massive frontline, spitting out damage with the voracity befitting the monsters abyss of a stomach. At first, it seemed like there was no answers to this, with the equally impressive offense and defense of the Juggermaw being unstoppable and impenetrable respectively. However, as teams have begun to understand the composition, they have developed strategies to defeat it, such as fighting with Lulu and Kog’Maw separated. We should watch the development of this composition and see if it lasts through the metas, revolutionizes the style of Protect the ADC, or disappears with the changing of the seasons.