For the last couple of weeks, solo queue has been overrun with the newest craze of Smite Janna in the top lane. Not only is this strategy finding huge success in solo queue with a 55%+ win rate in some elos, it’s already been played in the LCS and some ERLs. Let’s break down the strategy and how it emerged into such a frustrating and powerful abuse of game mechanics.
The Janna top will start off by buying Spellthief’s Edge and heading to the top lane until they have reached level 3. Upon reaching level 3, they will completely abandon the lane to roam around with the jungler with the ‘double jungle’ strat, assisting the jungler with their clear and ganking other lanes. This is where the power of the Janna top lies, as you are sacrificing one lane/position to have absolute pressure in other the other parts of the map:
- The enemy mid and bot lane must play very defensively, as overextending will put them at risk of getting ganked by the jungler and the Janna, rather than just the jungler
- The enemy jungler can’t gank the top lane as there is nobody to gank, and will always have the numbers disadvantage if they countergank the lane being ganked by the Janna and the jungler
- The enemy jungler can also be invaded by the double jungle squad and will lose most skirmishes or lose their camps to the 2 smites
Once the laning phase is over, the Janna player will just play as a regular Janna during team fights by sticking with the team and protecting allies.
This strategy can be so effective as Janna is an enchanter, meaning she does not need much gold or experience to be an impactful champion. She can accumulate a lot of the gold she needs for her core items (Moonstone Renewer, Shurelya’s Battlesong, Chemtech Putrifier etc.) from getting assists and proccing Spellthief’s Edge, so doesn’t need all of the top lane farm she is missing out on. Furthermore, her kit does not require many levels to be strong, so she can forego experience in the laning phase without being punished and recuperate it by sharing xp later in the game.
How did this happen?
The top lane has been a historically difficult role to balance; it’s the deserted island that’s ignored for most of the game while everybody else has all the fun. It’s played host to other strategies with equal levels of cheese over the years, such as the lane swap meta where both teams would handshake the first 6 minutes of the game and trade towers in the bot and top lanes.
This latest iteration of this style of cheesy strategy is a consequence of three main changes to the game:
- Janna’s mini rework pushing her into an S+ pick
- The preseason teleport changes making top laners drastically less powerful in the early game
- Objective bounties being introduced to the game
Considering top laners have much fewer teleport options until it becomes unleashed at 14 minutes, they are much weaker in the early game. This means a Janna can be locked in top, but completely ignore the lane because they aren't missing out on much. The standard top laner they are against will be able to get a major CS advantage and take down the tower, but they won’t be able to do much with their advantage with their weaker teleport while Janna causes chaos everywhere else on the map. Additionally, the objective bounty system is calculated based on the experience and gold differences between the two teams. As previously mentioned, Janna will have much less experience and gold compared to the other top laner, which will trigger the objective bounty system and provide even more gold for the rest of the team when they’re claimed. Meanwhile, Janna is still impactful with not much gold or experience due to the efficient nature of supports and enchanters.
Riot have confirmed they are addressing this strategy, and now that it’s been played in competitive leagues for hundreds of thousands to see, action will be taken soon. However, the strategy has once again revealed intrinsic flaws with the top lane role and how little its impact has on the game holistically. Nerfing Janna, the cost of supports’ items or changing how objective bounties are calculated might help, but they are band-aid solutions that will not solve the fundamental reasons why this strategy has emerged and is so powerful.