When we talk about roles that have the most meaningful impact on a League game, one in particular comes to mind: the jungler. The art of jungling has evolved significantly over time: from the perilous season 1 jungle; season 2’s “can you deal damage? Congrats, you can jungle!”; the counter-jungling era spearheaded by Diamondprox; the legendary Lee Sin/Elise/Evelynn meta; all the way through to today’s more varied implementation, full of plant life, scuttlers and roided-up purple mega-crabs.
For new players and veteran players alike, jungling can be a daunting role. Not only is your moment-to-moment gameplay vastly different from the constant trading and minion-killing of lanes, but you need to approach the role with an entirely different mindset. You’re not just battling with the opposing jungler throughout the game, you have the unique ability to be anywhere at any time, and sometimes that means being everywhere at once. You lead your team to victory or find yourself an isolated figure as they collapse around you. Should you succeed, however, you’ll earn praise from your teammates as you stand triumphantly in front of the enemy’s exploding Nexus.
Last year when Deficio put together some tips for improving at mid lane, he compared League of Legends to chess and mid laners to the Queen piece. Junglers, however, are more like Knights: they move and play differently to other pieces on the board, and if left unchecked can threaten any foe they set their sights on. The approach needs to be perfect so the enemy never even sees their killer stalking them until it’s too late.
Jungling requires as much game sense as it does pure mechanics; you not only have to keep track of your own movement, the position of your laners, camp and objective timers, but also the enemy jungler. Great junglers will know where their opponent is at all times through sheer game knowledge; the best junglers, however, will not only know this but also understand their opponent is trying to do the same and work to surprise them and outsmart them at every opportunity.
With all this in mind, we’ll be covering a range of topics with input from some of the best junglers in the EU LCS, including Fnatic’s Broxah, G2’s Trick, Unicorns of Love’s Xerxe, H2K’s Jankos and Splyce’s Trashy.
PICKING THE RIGHT CHAMPION
Every game starts with a big decision — what champion do I pick? This may sound redundant, but there’s potentially more importance placed on the jungler you pick than any other role because it signals how much impact you’ll have on the entire map and when. Because junglers have a disproportionate impact on the game as a whole thanks to their freedom, you must pre-plan your approach to the game and that begins with the champion you pick.
For the current meta, G2’s jungler Trick recommends the following champions:
- Early-focused: Elise/Lee Sin/Rek’Sai
- Late-focused: Kha’Zix/Gragas/Zac
- Supportive: Nunu/Sejuani
It’s no surprise to see Trick identify Elise and Lee Sin as priority picks for the early stages of the game. Both junglers are mobile and deal staggering damage when the game is in its initial stages, and they combine those characteristics with potent objective-control. Rek’Sai lacks the objective control of Elise or Lee Sin, but she brings unpredictable gank paths (more on pathing later) thanks to her tunnels. Strong Rek’Sai players skirt around vision, seeking their prey before tunnelling in for the kill. Elise is a welcome source of magic damage in the jungle, and cocoon’s range stun often spells death for anyone caught in her web. Pro tip: Elise can Rappel to plants, allowing her to cross some walls she would normally need a target to traverse. Lee Sin can also approach from unorthodox angles thanks to ward-jumps, and brings strong late game initiation if you can land the all-important Insec.
As far as late-game junglers go, Zac and Gragas provide similar strengths; both are strong initiators and can lock enemy carries in frustratingly long crowd-control chains. Gragas is a great pick if you want a more flexible tank, as he can disengage just as well as he can engage thanks to Explosive Cask. Zac, meanwhile, brings the range: Elastic Slingshot allows Zac to initiate fights from absurd ranges, and should he catch a carry or two he can easily deliver them to the slaughter thanks to Let’s Bounce. If you want pure carry potential, however, it’s hard to ignore Kha’Zix. The Voidreaver is the quintessential jungle assassin; he cuts through isolated targets like a Doran’s Blade through butter, before Leaping to his next victim. Isolated damage also allows him to tear down neutral monsters like Baron or Dragons with ease.
If your carries decide to go full hypercarry, why not go for the Nunu special? The Yeti Rider’s enjoyed a resurgence in recent patches and there are few junglers better at assisting the Twitches or Vaynes of this world than Nunu thanks to Blood Boil, not to mention best-in-class objective control thanks to Consume. Alternatively if your comp’s packing a few melee champions and you need a beefy frontliner, Sejuani is an obvious choice. The Fury of the North is more furious than ever thanks to her midseason update. Permafrost is perfect for locking down single targets, and while Glacial Prison no longer stuns every foe caught in its AoE it’s still a powerful ranged initiation tool.
Whichever champions you choose to master, Fnatic’s jungler Broxah suggests you keep your pool tight: “Play a small amount of champions, preferably 2 or 3,” he said. “This’ll help you learn different jungle matchups quicker, and at the same time it’ll make it easier to learn how to play around specific lanes with those champions. Another bonus is the mechanical aspect—the more you play a champion, the better you'll become mechanically.
HOW TO PATH EFFECTIVELY
The hot new buzzword to measure a jungler’s worth is “pathing”; the term’s become more commonplace in the 2017 season thanks to the changes to jungle camp spawn timers and the increased need to be efficient with every move a jungler makes. Pathing refers to the route a jungler takes through theirs and their opponent’s jungle, how they farm their camps and how they weave ganks in between (or vice versa, depending on the player and champion).
Splyce’s Trashy believes strong pathing is essential to being a top-tier jungler: “Make sure you have good pathing—ganking alone will not make you a good jungler,” he said. “The best junglers in the world are determined by their ability to know when to farm their jungle, and when to pressure the map. Try to time your camps’ respawn timers in your head, and make sure you don't let the enemy jungler get your camps for free. Always look to trade or match the enemy jungler if you are stronger.”
Broxah backs that up: “In the early game it's important to find a good balance between ganking and farming camps,” he said. “If you have pushing lanes and an equal or stronger jungler than the enemy, you should always look to contest enemy camps and take fights around them. Try to play aggressive and provide vision for your teammates. Even if you're not able to get ganks off, make sure that the enemies are aware that you're around looking to have an impact, and that if they make the smallest mistake you're there to punish them for it.”
Pathing should always take into account your early game plans as a jungler, which you should outline to your team as the game begins. “At the beginning of the game, you should always look at your lanes and decide which one you'll gank early (depending on CC),” said H2K’s jungler Jankos. “If the lane is pushing towards your ally, you can always try to gank it because the enemy laner will be in a disadvantageous position. If you suspect the lane is warded, however, and he’s still playing aggressively, be smart—it's probably a set-up for a counter gank. If your laner is pushing hard and doesn’t relent—hi Yasuo mains—try to ward around him or be nearby if the game allows you to do so. It’s very likely you’ll be the one to set up a counter-gank and it could snowball the game."
If everyone is safe and pushing, either invade the enemy jungle and look for the opposing jungler so your lanes won’t die, or try to set up a counter gank.
PLANNING AN INVADE
Broxah and trashy touched on contesting enemy camps previously, but what about invades? Solo queue invades usually involve less foresight and planning than the invades we typically see in professional play, and generally spawn out of someone simply typing the order in chat and walking into the enemy jungle. Knowing when to invade is a skill for junglers, and we’re not just talking about level 1. If you’ve ever watched TSM’s Svenskeren attempt an invade, you know how poorly it can go without proper planning and a knowledge of jungle matchups.
On this matter some of our EU LCS junglers differ in opinion, especially when it comes to solo queue. One one hand we have Broxah: “Play respectfully and don't go for risky invades,” says the Fnatic jungler. “If you think there is a chance that entrances to the enemy jungle are warded and your lanes can't back you up when you invade, you should highly consider not walking into the enemy jungle.”
For Jankos, it’s all about the queso: “Try to cheese a lot in solo queue, invade enemy jungle at levels 2-3; as long as it’s a smart play it should always work,” says the H2K jungler. “Just look at pro players and what do they do when they invade early; try to abuse jungle match-ups. Strong junglers can invade and come out unscathed, especially against tank counterparts. Keep in mind that you need to focus on lanes with CC that will allow you to gank easier or lanes that are pushing. If everyone is safe and pushing, either invade the enemy jungle and look for the opposing jungler so your lanes won’t die, or try to set up a counter gank."
HELPING LOSING LANES
What do you do if your lanes are struggling? This is one of the most common areas of frustration for junglers, and that’s because it’s just a genuinely tough situation to deal with, especially if you play at a lower elo or struggle to make decisive calls. Often you as the jungler take the blame for your team losing across the map, even if they’ve all died before you cleared your first buff.
“You have to understand you can't help every lane on the map, even if they flame you, focus on your own game.” says Trashy, and that’s great advice for keeping your mentality in check. You need to understand that you can’t influence every lane at the same time and sometimes things will go poorly. Staying mentally calm and laser-focused on trying to wrestle the game back into your team’s control is paramount.
When you are struggling in that kind of situation, however, how can you actually turn the situation around and get your team back in the game? “It's always really hard to play with three losing lanes as a jungler,” says Broxah “If you have three losing lanes it usually means that all your camps will be contested both by enemy laners and the enemy jungler, so you'll have to put up a serious fight in order to avoid falling behind. You need to try to have an impact on this type of game as early as possible, and often it's necessary to sacrifice yourself in order to get a lane or two ahead. You'll have to prioritize ganks over camps and do your best to help out your team before it's too late.”
Broxah raises another great point that’s especially useful to remember in this situation: “Give away kills to your teammates when possible,” he said. “As a jungler your role is to support your team and make them carry, not the other way around. In most cases it's far easier to win if you give most kills to your team rather than taking them all yourself.” This makes a lot of sense, particularly in the context of dealing with losing lanes. Broxah mentioned sacrificing yourself, and donating kills to your laners is exactly that. If you can roam bot and donate a double kill to your AD carry that’s losing lane hard, it could mean the difference between a slow painful death and a well-fought victory.
Once you successfully navigate the first half of the game, it’s all about working with your team and securing objectives. It’s unlikely you’re a split-pusher, unless you’re picking Master Yi or something similar, so your duties as a jungler will largely involve objective control and setting up picks or initiating teamfights for your carries to pop off. Master the pro tips above, ensure you’re always learning from your mistakes and bringing the right mentality into your games and you’ll get that LP in no time.
If you're heading straight into solo queue, make sure to check out Xerxe's jungle tips to start off strong!