There's nothing more terrifying than an unstoppable viking running directly at your face, screaming "BROMACIA!" along the way. But that's just how Olaf and his frattiest skin Brolaf, operate. After a long period of dormancy, the Berserker has made his way back into the professional scene, seeing regular play in both the top lane and the jungle.
So what makes Olaf such a strong pick in the current meta? To find the answer, we sat down with the originator of the pick in the West, Fnatic's jungler Yeu-jin “Reignover” Kim.
SQUASHING SPIDERS (AND EVERYONE ELSE)
Before Olaf had become a top pick around the LCS, Reignover and Fnatic had been experimenting with him on the LCS stage, much to the surprise (and occasional chagrin) of analysts and fans. They made effective use of him with engages aided by Righteous Glory, taking advantage of the speed buff to get him into the fight. But when Righteous Glory's active had its cooldown increased, Olaf's couldn't find quite as many ways in, and Reignover took him out fewer and fewer times.
But when Elise came back into the meta, Reignover knew that it was time to whip out an old strategy. "A long time ago, I used to play Olaf to counter Elise," he said, explaining that many junglers struggle to fight the Spider Queen 1-on-1 in the early stages of the game. He continues, "Olaf can actually duel Elise in the jungle if he needs...He can pressure the jungle equally." Plus, his ultimate Ragnarok (R), which makes him immune to crowd control, takes care of any Cocoons (E) that Elise may toss at him once he's hit Level 6.
Olaf's not just an Elise counter, though. In a meta where flex picks have become incredibly important, he's also got the capability to take his axes to the enemy in the top lane. Players who decide to take popular tanky champions like Shen or Maokai against Olaf should watch out. "Olaf is pretty good against tank tops, because of [Vicious Strike's (W)] lifesteal and his [Reckless Swing's (E)] true damage," says Reignover. "His laning phase is actually really strong."
Because Olaf can be played out of the jungle to counter the popular Elise or out of the top lane to counter the ever-present super tanks, he has risen as a real threat.
GETTING WHERE HE NEEDS TO GO
The problem there is, he doesn't really have a great way to get to the back line of teams. Sure, Ragnarok blocks any crowd control that the peeling members of the opposing team attempt to use on the big guy, but he still doesn't have any gap closers to really get in the squishies' faces.
That's where Olaf's team comes in, says Reignover. "I don't think you can just pick him randomly in any comp," he says. "But if you've got a really good combo, like with Sivir, Lulu, Rumble, or the Alistar that we used in the Semifinals, then he's really good."
Notice a theme? All of the champions that synergize well with Olaf either have ways to speed him up (Sivir/Lulu) or have long-range engaging abilities that allow him to catch up to his target (Rumble/Alistar). Once he does get into the enemy back line, he can run rampant, dealing tons of damage and lifestealing through much of the pain he takes with Vicious Strikes.
And that's not even mentioning Olaf's signature ability, Undertow (Q). Assuming he can land one of his axes, he can chase down whoever he's got his sights on damn near indefinitely. Says Reignover, "If one of your teammates can successfully CC and you can land your axe on their carries, there's no way to stop them from dying. They have to use Flash or a dash to get away from Olaf."
Given the right tools, Olaf does exactly what a frontliner should: soak up CC and damage when he needs to be a huge tank, cause havok in the opposing backline when he needs to find a kill, and generally be a deadly nuisance. Put simply by Reignover, "He doesn't get CC'd so you can just kill their hypercarries!"
WHERE DOES OLAF GO?
With all that he brings to a team, you may be wondering what the best role for the viking is. Well, as Reignover says, it depends on if you want to become an unstoppable damage threat or a massive meat wall for the rest of your team. Because the only way to stop a Ragnarok'ing Olaf is to kill him, he needs to be able to survive oncoming damage to be effective. And with a low-income role like jungle, he may never get beefy enough to survive an onslaught.
"As a jungler, you really need to be tanky to do what you need to do," explains Reignover. "If you're not tanky enough to actually go in, he can be kind of useless...Once you go a damage item, you'll just melt before you even touch the damage dealer."
Top laners -- like Team SoloMid's Marcus "Dyrus" Hill, who whipped him out in the NA LCS Playoffs -- have a bit more freedom to dish out the pain. "For top laners, building damage is fine because you have a lot of gold and experience because you're a laner," says Reignover. You'll see a lot of top Olaf players go Black Cleaver before starting to build tanky, allowing them to become even more of a damage-dealing threat, all enabled by that sweet, sweet solo lane gold.
So where are you going to take Olaf? Do you like roaming the jungle, tossing axes at Krugs and Bramblebacks alike? Or do you want to bask in the richness of top lane, nabbing more items along the way? Let us know below, and make sure you keep your eye on Lolesports for more Olaf action. If you missed Reignover -- or anyone else -- take him for a spin, make sure to head over to the spoiler-free VODs page.