League of Legends Jungling basics & best Jungle champions for you
March 10 2022
The Jungle role is one of the toughest roles in League of Legends. One key reason for its difficulty is how dynamic the jungle position is, as you have to balance the strengths and weaknesses of your team in real-time.
We'll cover some aspects of the Jungle role for this article, but with certain topics simplified to make them more accessible for players of all skill levels.
The different Jungle playstyles in League of Legends
Throughout League of Legends' history, several playstyles formed at polar ends of the Jungles-strength spectrum. Certain champions like Jarvan IV or Volibear focus almost entirely on impacting the game as early as possible. Often regardless of the cost to their own resources, the goal of these champions is to get their laners ahead as fast as possible. These champions fit the role of "early-game Junglers" and often struggle without getting a lead early on.
On the other end of the spectrum are the "late-game" junglers, which may be misleading to players new to the role. Unlike for most of League of Legends, "late-game" for Junglers refers to champions without the ability to impact a lane until they reach their Ultimate ability at level six. Notable examples of these late-game or level-six junglers include champions like Nocturne, Sejuani, or Vi.
Somewhere between are champions commonly referred to as "farming" junglers, who don't rely just on impacting their lanes to win games. Instead, these champions focus on efficiently clearing their jungle before impacting the game. These farming junglers often attempt to influence the game later, after their first recall, or as late as after their first completed items. Often these champions put heavy emphasis on the early objectives like the Dragons or Rift Herald, more so than other Junglers. Farming junglers in the current League of Legends meta include Graves, Hecarim, and Diana.
The basics of Jungling in League of Legends
The Jungle role in League of Legends has several levels of strategy you have to learn to master the position. There are traditionally two options to start a game, especially at the lower ranks, at the Red or Blue Buff camp. The buffs spawn at the 1:30 in-game timer and respawn five minutes after you clear them. You obtain level two right away after you clear the first camp, with which your team commonly assists you.
On occasion, whether your team gets invaded or something else causes your team to be unable to assist you, you can opt to start at your Raptors or Wolves camp instead by yourself. While starting solo is more difficult, it's worth practicing in the League of Legends practice tool or custom games to avoid falling behind when the situation comes up.
The decision of which side of the map you choose to start comes from your early game plan. Often you decide to start on the opposite side of the lane you want to impact first. So, if you want to try and help your top-laner early in the game, you start alongside your bot-lane at the Buff. (Blue or Red depends on which side of the map your team plays.)
How to use your first Smite & level 1-4 Jungle game plan.
Throughout almost every game of League of Legends, the early levels for the jungle role follow a similar path. After starting at your buff, you aim to clear a total of six jungle camps before your first recall. Your first six commonly include one scuttle crab, two buff camps, and three regular jungle camps. As there are seven different camps available, that means you often leave one camp until your second clear. Most champions cannot clear the Golems camp efficiently early in the game, so many players choose to ignore that camp for the first few minutes.
Using your Smite correctly can completely change your game. Unless you know where your opponent's jungler starts, you'll want to hold onto one charge of your Smite to secure yourself one of the Scuttle Crabs. That leaves you with one charge available in the first clear, which you use at your first buff camp, to secure level two. Or at the camp that you clear the slowest if your champion has a great first level.
Similarly, if your team gives you a strong leash level one (to ~250-350 HP) you can choose to smite a later camp instead. With the final exception being against specific champions you expect to invade your camps very early on, like Shaco. By saving smite, you can change the pace of your clear, making it more difficult for your opponent to successfully invade.
Controlling the Patience-meter in League of Legends
One of the easiest ways to speed up your jungle-clear on any champion in League of Legends is to learn to control the patience-meter of the jungle camps. Simply walking a short distance from where the jungle camp spawns allows you to save some time moving to your next location.
You can learn more advanced strategies here with certain champions like Fiddlesticks, Hecarim, and various others. With some practice, it is possible to clear two camps simultaneously. More experienced players often attempt to balance the patience-meter with the Gromp and Blue-buff, allowing their multi-target spells and attacks to hit both monsters simultaneously.
Few people know that you can clear the Raptor and Red-buff camp in a similar manner. However, due to the Raptor camp dealing significant damage to champions in the early game, few champions successfully manage to include this in their path. The main example where this strategy is beneficial is for Shaco and Fiddlesticks, two champions who have additional tools that make their multi-target clearing efficient enough to benefit from this.
The best playstyles for each experience level
Now that you know some of the basics of Jungling in League of Legends, let's talk champions. Since learning the Jungle role at first is extremely overwhelming, I'd recommend starting with champions that balance strength and ease of execution. And since we likely begin at the lower ranks when first starting, we have to keep in mind that we will constantly be fighting since that is what players in League of Legends love to do.
While you can never go wrong with traditional junglers like Nunu and Warwick, these champions just don't perform as well once you pass the silver ranks. Instead, consider starting with champions with a strong setup for your teammates like Vi, Poppy, or Jarvan IV. Similarly, you can't go wrong with most other early-game junglers if you are willing to prioritize impacting lanes throughout your match. Prioritizing "ganking" and helping your team can be effective, but it's also an immensely volatile strategy, so be prepared to win or lose quickly in the lower ranks.
Once you get more comfortable with the jungle role and your clear time speeds up, you can consider stronger "meta" champions like Diana or Hecarim. I wouldn't with champions like these or level-six champions like Nocturne or Fiddlesticks, as they require a solid understanding of the jungle mechanics to have an impact early and consistently enough.
Expert jungle players should focus on the trends of which junglers are most potent in the current patch. The mechanics of Jungling transfer well throughout the different champions, so making sure you pick up the strongest champions is vital to success. As you climb the ranks, the Jungle role becomes more and more important. The way you choose to path and assist your laners affects your teammates' choices throughout the lane phase. So picking a champion with slightly faster clear or slightly better movement options can completely change how a game plays out.
Understanding which lane to prioritize
A familiar issue that players new to the jungle role encounter is that their lanes fall behind too far, too fast. While unpopular, especially when you first learn to play the jungle role, you want to mute every person on your team. You will get unjust aggression from your teammates who can't take the blame for their own mistakes. Trying to solve their problems on their terms just won't work out for either of you.
Instead, look for opportunities while you are clearing your jungle camps. Simply click on your lanes or use your F-keys to take glances at your teammates. While understanding lane matchups may be a bit much for now, there are simple things on which we can pick up. Do you see your teammates in trouble nearby? Protect them or help them push out their wave so they can get a recall without losing resources. Or maybe you see your laner push their wave too aggressively or without flash, then try hiding around their lane to protect them from aggression.
On certain champions, like the early-game junglers mentioned earlier, you can also look for opportunities by trying to assist your teammates. Try and find a path around the vision of your opponents, or run straight in if they are overextended. This type of aggressive playstyle works out extraordinarily well at the lower ranks of League of Legends, as many players struggle to predict and avoid jungle aggression. You want to keep in mind what your opponents can get in return for your aggression. For example, if you show yourself on the top-lane, you may lose the Dragon, or your opponents may try to attack your bot-lane while you can't defend that area.
How do champion matchups affect your goals?
In addition to looking for opportunities everywhere you go, you want to get specific players ahead in some games. While understanding "who" you want to get ahead in your match is immensely complicated for new players, there are a few things that can help you choose who to prioritize. The mid-lane position always has the most control in League of Legends, and it's the only lane you can't decide to neglect*
(*unless your mid is really bad).
Aside from mid-lane, you often choose at first between your top or bot lane, as we discussed earlier from your first camp start. Trying to be everywhere is possible, but overall your goal is to get two out of the three lanes ahead. In most games, your team effectively makes this decision for you, as both the top and bot lane often opt into fights for no reason, making it clear who on your team is the better player to assist.
Something else that changes the decision is specific matchups and "targets." For example, if a top or mid-laner plays Ignite, they will be stronger in the 1-vs-1, but they lose far more if a jungler like you visits the lane. Similarly, ranged champions in the top-lane have immense dominance in an isolated matchup, but they can single-handedly lose the game if they ever fall behind. These things you can consider targets, as they impact the game drastically if you influence them in either direction.
That was a quick intro to Jungling. What did you think? Are you feeling more confident about your strategies or do you still have questions? Jump in Discord and let us know.
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