The first appearance of League of Legends champion Cho'Gath in major western regions came from the North American Challenger Series semifinals when eUnited's Eric "Licorice" Ritchie first picked it against Big Gods Jackals. For those who tuned in for Licorice's debut, his 5/0/4 KDA (kills/deaths/assists) performance where he pushed to Big Gods' Tier 2 turret in just the first 20 minutes of the game left a chilling sensation.
Cho'Gath was going to be big.
Much of the appeal comes from the removal of its Feast stack limit and Feast stack reduction upon death contributing bonus attack range and bonus health. With Vorpal Spikes changed to also deal on-hit percent health damage and slow, this synergizing combination can allow Cho'Gath to snowball out of control. Add in the fact that the Gargoyle Stoneplate active cannot reduce Feast's damage because it's True Damage, and Cho'Gath immediately seems like a problem to play against.
But despite Licorice's impressive debut, Cho'Gath hasn't seen the same success despite what its 69.3 percent presence and 66 bans across major regions, LCL and CBLoL might suggest. On Patch 7.14 in competitive play, Cho'Gath has won 52.3 percent of its games, which is positive, but does that necessitate the champion's high ban rate?
At the end of the first week of 7.14 play, Splyce's Jonas "Trashy" Andersen referred to Cho'Gath as one of three "OP junglers" and said "the problem people run into is are you willing to give up one of the OP junglers or are you willing to give up Caitlyn?"
Splyce have since oscillated between banning Cho'Gath and Caitlyn. While it worked out for the team against Misfits, H2K's Sin "Nuclear" Jeonghyeon had an impressive Caitlyn performance that had many wondering if the Cho'Gath ban made sense.
Cho'Gath, after all, has had some less-than-stellar showings. Shortly after Licorice's Cho'Gath tore through NACS semifinals, Unicorns of Love's Andrei "Xerxe" Dragomir picked the champion in their series against ROCCAT. He failed to land timely Ruptures and didn't aggressively stack Feast.
This exposed one of Cho'Gath's greatest problems. Given that Rupture comes with a 0.5 second cast time, Cho'Gath works better as follow-up engage rather than primary engage. Unicorns' composition didn't have much in the way of crowd control and lockdown with Rumble, Vladimir, Xayah and Rakan (who works best as follow-up engage). Xerxe could throw all of the absurdly over-tuned Vorpal Spikes he wanted, but he couldn't easily catch his targets.
"I think Cho'Gath is a powerful pick," G2 Esports jungler Kim "Trick" Gangyun said, "so if you have Ashe or Varus, you can make plays. Or Thresh/Kalista like this will do good."
Naturally, one then wonders what other conditions must be met for a successful Cho'Gath game. In the North American League Championship Series, one of the first Cho'Gath critiques on broadcast revolved around how easily junglers could abuse the pick in the top lane.
"After seeing the Cho'Gath pick," Phoenix1's Mike "MikeYeung" Yeung said during his casting debut, "[Immortals] are going to opt for a very aggressive top-jungle matchup on their side to counter and abuse the Cho'Gath's immobility."
Cho'Gath does very well in early trades, winning a lot of top lane matchups. For aggressive junglers, this tendency allows them to invade and control the top side. If a Cho'Gath team has a losing jungle matchup, however, Cho'Gath winning the lane early can backfire when it gets ganked for over-extending.
Licorice, for example, picked Cho'Gath again in the NACS finals and Gold Coin United's Lucas "Santorin" Tao Kilmer Larsen punished him three minutes in.
In the League of Legends Pro League, where the champion has made an appearance in the mid lane twice, Cho'Gath fever has cooled almost entirely for similar reasons.
Despite OMG's Xie "icon" Tianyu being the first in LPL to pick Cho'Gath, his top laner, Hu "Xiyang" Bin said, "He can push lane really fast, and he's really tanky, but it's too easy to get caught."
Newbee's Baek "Swift" Daehoon also referenced Cho'Gath's Rupture delay, complaining about its "long ability animations" when he told journalists "we don't think it's OP."
With over-extensions and punishment from strong junglers, Cho'Gath top has actually averaged negative experience and CS differentials at 10 minutes across the LCK, LMS, NA LCS and EU LCS. For this reason, some may begin to think Cho'Gath works best in the jungle.
Yet Cho'Gath has even higher early mana costs than Olaf, making it blue buff dependent; the champion's clear speeds also don't put it in the top rung. The unreliable crowd control problem means that teams need to bring more stuns in lanes to make Cho'Gath work relative to more popular picks like Elise, Gragas or Sejuani.
Cho'Gath fever has dropped, but that doesn't make the combination of his snowball effect less intimidating. With the right compositions, Cho'Gath can still terrorize foes.
When H2K Gaming picked jungle Cho'Gath for Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski against G2 Esports, H2K also brought Ashe, Thresh and Syndra for additional stuns to control the field. A Thresh dive works really well followed up by Cho'Gath on a Dark Passage. Cho'Gath also functioned well against the likes of G2's Jarvan IV, who has a clear initiation trajectory for his E-Q or ultimate that Cho'Gath can react to by priming Rupture.
Taliyah, Gragas and Jarvan IV could have made it difficult for Cho'Gath to get into fights, but Jankos navigated setups well. In a pivotal dragon fight, Jankos took advantage of Kim "Expect" Daehan teleporting in on a ward to position himself on top of it and catch both Expect and Alfonso "mithy" Aguirre Rodríguez in a Rupture after Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen ulted his support into the fight. He then saved his Flash to escape the Cataclysm and his own ultimate for Zven.
In the LPL, OMG picked Cho'Gath in its first rotation on red side so it could theoretically play the champion into three different positions. Icon picked it in the mid lane to answer Kang "Athena" Hawoon's Karma. Karma has since fallen out of favor for many mid laners, but she still gets push advantage in a lot of mid lane matchups. Though Cho'Gath got pushed back early, strong side lane matchups for OMG allowed its jungler to stay safe, and Cho'Gath could easily sustain through Karma's poke.
After his first back with Dark Seal, Doran's Shield and Ruby Crysal, Karma couldn't push him out easily. Icon and Hu "Jiekou" Zixiang's Sejuani could chain CC against anyone who entered the bottom side river, making it hard for I May to contest their wards.
Overall, OMG's composition had a lot of flaws. It had low damage, but the combination of Tahm Kench and Trundle set the team in good stead for split-pushing to avoid teamfights, and the rest of the team formed a sturdy group that I May could not easily engage upon mid.
After two weeks on Patch 7.14, teams have mostly concluded that Cho'Gath is strong, but not necessarily first pick worthy or bannable. It needs crowd control to come from other roles, and if it shows up in top lane, an early ganking jungler matchup to protect him.
With these parameters in place, Cho'Gath excels at objective control, can provide crucial lane pressure, and can nearly eliminate choice targets in teamfights. Played incorrectly, however, he becomes at best a slightly annoying fleshy mass to navigate around.