Take a needle to a balloon.
Now imagine there is a red light behind it. As soon as it turns green, you must pop the balloon as fast as you can. The balloon is flailing from a string and, at random intervals, a gust of wind blows it back and forth. If you don’t pop it within half a second of the light turning green, you fail.
Now imagine the only oxygen in the room is in that balloon. If you don’t get it, you will suffocate. So you wait quietly for the green light -- this single moment is the Baron steal.
It is the greatest possible glory for a jungler. They hurl themselves into the pit in a “witness me” type of shot at martyrdom because it’s almost always a one-way trip. And it’s the single most deflating play in League of Legends. Nothing swings the game as much as a Baron, especially in its current iteration. It can resuscitate a team on the brink of collapsing or serve as the final nail in the proverbial coffin. And at the professional level, a steal turns you into a hero. Two steals turns you into a messiah.
Fnatic jungler Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pederson was supposed to only be part of the supporting cast behind his star carries. All eyes were, deservedly, on Caps and Rekkles before the Group Stage began. But Broxah literally stole the show with two massive Baron steals in their second matchup against a Flash Wolves team that had opened the stage 6-0.
I think it’s unfortunate for junglers that so much of their reputation can be staked around a Smite steal, which seems like such a tossup. Even Broxah says that he was aware of the perception around him when he started his career -- people called him Broxvicious because he was famous for missing smites. The vicious part comes from retired NA jungler Saintvicious who never managed to shake the missed smites from his name.
There isn’t any one thing that makes it easier or harder to smite. Broxah says, “I think it’s a mix of everything. Like who handles the pressure the best. Who’s a bit lucky. Who has skill in the moment. It’s just a mix of everything.”
After jumping into the pit, the only thing he thinks about is Baron. It’s an absolute obsession with the objective and one of the few times in the game where you actually want to tunnel vision. Once the Baron dies, though, all the tension is lifted for better or for worse. The jungler attempting the steal is swiftly cut down.
But to Broxah, that’s okay -- dying is always worth it if you can get the Baron. And even if you don’t get it, you pretty much always have to try. That is the duty of a jungler. Getting it even once, though, can make you feel invincible.
In the game against the Flash Wolves, after the second one, “Everyone went really crazy and it felt really nice,” he says. Broxah talked a little about how he felt like he understood, if only briefly, the kind of crazy fanfare that surrounds a player of Rekkles’ stature. Broxah doesn’t have the same type of superstar clout, but the Baron steals were a superstar moment that briefly propelled him to the top.
"On the second [Baron steal], after you steal one already, you're like, 'Okay, this is going to be easy. I got this.'"
And it also gave him confidence -- both in that game and beyond. He was nervous about the first Baron, but by the second one, “After you steal one already,” he says, “Then you’re like, ‘Okay, this is going to be easy. I got this.’”
The Baron steal is the single most breathtaking play in League of Legends. For just a second, it seems like everyone watching holds the same breath. All of us frozen as if time itself pauses to watch the outcome of the Smite fight. In a game that is increasingly team-oriented, this is one play that signifies individual greatness.
The pressure of the moment. Some luck. Some good reflexes. You need all of these things or the Baron dies and the moment passes you by. The ability to control your own breath is absolutely vital for any professional. The ability to control someone else’s breath? That’s a hallmark of legends.