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Jhin It to Win It

Four is the magic number. In the Mandarin language, it's a homonym for death, and looks like the parted curtains of a theater when written. It's the number of parts to a story's structure, if you include the denouement. And it's the number of times that Cloud9's AD carry Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi has piloted new champion Jhin, the Virtuoso, in the spring split of the NA LCS.

At first glance, the newest AD carry doesn't look like the sort of champion that Sneaky - or most professional players - would gravitate towards. Unlike the rest of the role's roster, Jhin doesn't fire off a constant and increasing barrage of auto-attacks, but runs off a limited ammo system. He's restrained to four shots and a mandatory intermission, and attack speed items don't increase his clip size, either – overall, his mechanics are more reminiscent of post-rework Graves, who's more of a jungler and top laner these days.

If a team needs their AD carry to melt tanks and towers with constant damage, the likes of Sivir, Kog'maw and other currently popular picks would take priority. As such, you'd expect the new champion to get consigned to casual play. But that's an expectation that, according to Sneaky, would be in error.

The Play's The Thing

"A lot of the times, when a new AD carry comes out, people see one game of him and then make an initial impression – which is actually always 'this champ sucks,' but it's never the case," said Sneaky. "There is always some merit to new champions being released, and it takes a while to realize their potential."

In Jhin's case, the benefits to playing him are two-fold. First, that with a good supporting actor or actress, his opening acts are almost unmatched. Said Sneaky, "I think most good support champions work well with Jhin. It's just a matter of matchups for the laning phase. I think the best way to play Jhin would probably be picking the stronger support in counter to the enemies' support. Jhin basically only loses lane phase to Kalista right now, so when she's gone you should be able to get big advantages from the lane and snowball."

Casting decisions especially matter in the sense that Jhin's lane partner has to be able to set up a Captive Audience for him, and on short notice. His best play is by forcing enemies to step over a Lotus Trap, slowing them down for a Deadly Flourish that roots them in place and lets Jhin empty his entire clip into them – a performance that's difficult to do alone, given that Lotus Traps take a moment to arm themselves, allowing for enemy champions to slip away unscathed. Some support champions are much better than others at setting up Jhin's combo – Morgana, in particular, makes it easy with Dark Binding's long root duration.

But picking Jhin does mean giving up one of the most powerful playmakers right now. "The only support that hasn't felt amazing with Jhin is Alistar, since Jhin has a hard time following up on a combo all-in," said Sneaky, referring to Alistar's Headbutt/Pulverize combination. Headbutt, in particular, flings enemies around at high speed, making it difficult when Jhin's damage combo requires them to stand in one place. Against Team Liquid, back during the last day of the regular season, team captain Hai's attempts to make Alistar work with Jhin was instead a total rout as both bot laners suffered five or more deaths over the course of the game.

The second benefit is how difficult it is to shut Jhin out of a fight. "Jhin does have issues with some assassins; mainly Zed," admitted Sneaky. "But, for the most part, any AD carry dies the same way Jhin does." However, despite Jhin's lack of dashes, like Corki's Valkyrie or Lucian's Relentless Pursuit, "Jhin actually has more options than normal, since he can stay a few screens away to deal his damage. He's in an even safer position to deal with a super-fed assassin," claimed Sneaky. Jhin's ultimate, Curtain Call, has almost as much sheer range as Lux's Final Spark – in other words, able to fire from over multiple walls, deep within the tentative safety of the fog of war.

Final Act

None of this is to say that Jhin is necessarily a must-ban. Back in Week 5, the Immortals gave Sneaky's Jhin a cold reception in the form of Braum's Unbreakable ice wall and hard crowd control. And when Jhin's supporting ensemble loses map control, his improv leaves something to be desired. "The easiest way to kill Jhin is just getting on top of him and landing some crowd control from anyone," said Sneaky. "He has a lot of trouble peeling people off of him, and needs some assistance most of the time."

Further complicating matters: thanks to his passive, converting critical strike chance and attack speed into attack damage and movement speed, even Sneaky hasn't yet figured out the best stage props for Jhin. "The build for Jhin isn't completely set in stone yet. There's the Infinity Edge into Zeal build path, and then there's Essence Reaver into a Zeal item. I'm not entirely sure which one is completely better, since IE just does a bit more damage, but Essence Reaver allows you to spam your abilities more often with no mana issues. Both have good upsides, but neither feel like they're just better than the other."

On the other hand, this at least makes it hard to go wrong. "I don't think there's any noobtrap items for Jhin, since everything turns into AD scaling."

No matter what items Jhin players decide to buy, the end result of his performances remains the same: death.

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