Post written by Ram “Brokenshard” Djemal of compLexity.Black.
The jungler role has been constantly evolving and reshaping itself over the season and meta changes. The effective item builds, playstyles, and competitive champions have all shifted with the meta since the very beginning of the roles creation. One thing, however, that hasn’t changed, is the effectiveness of a jungler on your team. For those who don’t know what a jungler is, let me briefly explain. The jungler is one of the most versatile roles in the game. They commit themselves to harvesting the resources in the middle of the map in an uncharted area known as “the jungle.” It is in the fog of war, which means enemies cannot see you killing these monsters unless there are wards pre-emptively placed.
The Summoners Rift Map:
The summoners rift map in League of Legends is divided into three lanes which are inhabited by the other roles in the game. However, in between the lane lies another resource for experience and gold; the jungle. The jungle is inhabited by monsters known as “neutral creeps.” They are neutral because they can be killed by both players on either team. As of the latest patch in Season 4, there are 6 camps on either side of the map as well as 2 “legendary” status monsters; the Dragon and Baron Nashor. Of the 6 camps are 4 “small” camps; the wight, the wolves, the wraiths and the double golems. The other 2 are the ancient camps which have the Ancient Golem (also known as Blue Golem or Blue Buff) and the Elder Lizard (also known as Red Buff). What differs these camps from the others are that they grant a special unique buff to the killer. The blue buff grants increased mana regeneration as well as cooldown reduction, while the red buff grants a damage over time bonus on auto attacks as well as a slow. It is the junglers job to collect and distribute these buffs, as well as make use of the resources in the jungle in order to collect items. The added bonus of being a jungler is also that without wards you are unseen in the fog or war, making “ganking” something of a side-job to most junglers. Some junglers are better suited to killing the monsters quickly and efficiently while others are better suited to strong ganks. Basically speaking, the jungler can be anywhere on the map and assist each lane as he see’s fit.
Brief History of Jungle Development:
In early season 1 and 2, junglers were taken as more of a support role. Effective junglers in that time were Nunu, Maokai, Lee Sin, Skarner, Cho’gath and Nocturne, just to name a few. One thing that should be made obvious is that these junglers are all melee champions. The reason being is that junglers must have a way of sustaining themselves or being bulky enough to take the damage since they do tank the minion damage in the jungle. Most junglers are melee, however some ranged junglers have found their way into the league. As season 3 developed the jungler role, tanks and heavy melee bruisers found their way into effectiveness. Champions like Xin Zhao, Nocturne, Vi and Jarvan quickly replaced the supporty-tank junglers of the old. It wasn’t, however, until the current patch, Season 4, that the jungler role took a massive twist. Junglers were now seeing more income through farming the camps. The jungle items, which are items specifically catered to increasing the junglers combat stats while still giving them an edge in destroying the creeps, became more powerful and cost effective. Notably, the spirit stone changes made a lot of junglers who were previously unviable become more and more powerful. The changes removed the regeneration stats from the item and instead brought in a passive ability that returned a percentage of damage dealt as health and mana, which increased the sustain of junglers heavily. Melee bruisers or tanks were becoming less efficient and a new age of assasins came into the jungle. Champions like Pantheon, Khazix and Gragas are now viable picks, whereas in previous seasons they were considered ineffective. That isn’t to say, that champions like Lee Sin, Vi, and Olaf became weaker as a result, with the tank items being stronger as well these champions still find a lot of success. It is safe to say now that the jungle is in a perfect state. If you ask any jungler, they would say they are happy with the current state of the jungler, as it allows you to have an impact even if you cannot gank the lanes. The jungle has finally become the most versatile role in League of Legends.
What makes a champion a top-tier pick:
In order to be effective as a jungler, you must be able to accomplish many different things. As I had said above: every champion is different. Each jungler has a unique playstyle over others, with their different skillset they can accomplish different things. To save time, I will only talk about the current 4.2 patch junglers and why they are effective.
Elise is probably the best jungler right now. With a 100% ban and pick rate across multiple regions, she is one of the most sought after champions in the League of Legends. Her champion is unique amongst the others because she is both a ranged champion in her human form and a melee champion in her spider form. Elise brings strong single target damage both to the jungle creeps and as well in her incredibly powerful ganks. Her signature skill, Cocoon (in human form) shoots out a skillshot web with high range that stuns the target, and Rappel (spider form) which makes her untargetable for a few seconds and allows her to drop down onto a target within range. She also is one of the very few extremely viable magic damage dealing champions. Her kit heavily revolves around dealing damage though magic damage, unlike most of her jungle counterparts who scale off Attack damage. Her versatility as both a farming jungler and a ganking jungler make her the strongest jungler in the league right now.
Vi is easily a top contender for one of the strongest junglers to pick. She has a solid clear, great ganks both pre- and post-6, and high scaling as both a damage dealer and a tank. She lacks in dueling other junglers pre-6, as she requries to be the initiator in most cases, Vi is probably the best engage jungler. Her signature move, Assault and Battery, is a lock-on initiate tool that singles out a target and CCs them for a brief time. Her Vault Breaker also allows her to pass wards which make her a solid ganker post 6, and if she gets the jump onto a target with the Vault Breaker, she can deal heavy damage before the enemy can counteract. Vi’s strong clear, great engage and high damage make her the best initiator jungler in the league.
Lee Sin has been a familiar pick since the later stages of season 1. While he lacks in reliable and hard CC, he makes up with an immaculate kit and high potential for utility. His early game mobility and damage make him a formidable duelist and his displacement ability in his signature move, Dragons Rage, make him a solid pick team fighter. Lee Sin plays like an assassin with high mobility, but his goals are different than bursting one down. Lee Sin has one of the highest skill caps in the game, making him incredibly favored in Asian regions as well as EU, however mostly untouched in the North American and South American regions. The famous “insec” maneuver brought a lot of fame to the champion. With high mobility, decent clear, great ganks, and a clever player behind the champion, Lee Sin, although never recieving a single buff (save 1 hotfix) since his release, continues to be one of the most entertaining and powerful junglers in competitive League of Legends.
It’s no coincidence that I picked these 3 junglers to represent what I felt are key champions to describe the flow of jungler picks in this meta. These are considered by many pro players to be the key 3 junglers. Each jungler is unique in their kits and what they bring, but also are similar in the sense that they are able to be picked early and into almost anything. They have overwhelmingly powerful strengths while having very small weaknesses; weaknesses that are difficult to expose. Lee Sin for example has the misfortune of falling off later in the game and the inability to strictly “hard-carry” a game by building damage. Vi can be bullied early in the game and can easily fall behind. Elise is a ranged champion and as such is squishy by nature, making her vulnerable to hard CC and champions that can hard engage onto her. The current jungle is dominated by versatility and transitioning. If a champion can transition from the jungle into a powerhouse in the mid game, they become effective in their role. Being a tanky initiator, a bursty assassin, or an aggressively disruptive force, transition is key and these junglers have it all.
While these are just a few, they basically outline what is expected of a jungler as a champion. However, as a player, you must be able to do several things that are different from lanes. The jungler has eyes all over the map, so good vision control and micro-management are great traits to have in order to succeed as a jungler. Communication with your team as well as strong early game calls along with well-timed ganks can easily pull the game into your favor from the get go. The jungler has been a role that has developed over the years, and has always been considered as an incredibly effective and necessary role. It allows full control over the resources of the map, as well as removing the stagnant “farm-fest” laning. With a cool head, a solid plan, and one of your favorite champions behind you, look to control the game as a Jungler.