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How to jungle in Season 7

by theScore Staff Nov 15 2016
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games

Riot has once again changed the jungle, leaving many junglers in disarray as they try to optimize their paths to victory. Not content with the current state of Smite rewards and power-farming, Riot added a normalized heal on Smite, longer spawn timers on jungle camps, and a variety of plants that have collectively altered the path that junglers ought take and the ganks that they commit to. In this guide, we’ll go over which champions are trending towards success, how they’re doing it, and what paths you ought to take in order to apply ideal amounts of pressure to the entire map.

Here are the things you need to know to stay ahead of the competition and gank your way to a higher ELO.

Champions

Before we delve into what makes the champions listed below good, we have to establish criteria for what exactly makes for a strong jungler in the preseason meta. In my opinion, you should look towards champions that can do a full clear (shown in the pathing section) in under four minutes. If they cannot do that, they are too slow to be considered viable given the necessary early pressure a jungler has to now produce. Furthermore, the jungler needs some form of area-of-effect damage in order to effectively damage the raptors and krugs in the early game.

Here are a few examples of strong candidates for top tier junglers.

Rengar

Rengar seems to have been a good and patient kitty, as he was the beneficiary of a massive rework after suffering a long-winded period of subpar play and win rates. While North American solo queue have yet to fully realize this iteration’s strengths, Korean solo queue players have been using him in a way that many analysts had expected: a bruiser with great stickiness, survivability, and consistent damage. His high base damage and low cooldown on Q (a W that combines Ekko's and Olaf's ultimate) and an R that applies decent global pressure and creates powerful gank situations is something incredibly valuable in competitive play. Black Cleaver amplifies his effectiveness, with Q applying two stacks, and Dead Man’s Plate gives enemies much less time to react to the Pridestalker’s pounces. Combining this with his flexibility in both keystone masteries and pathing make Rengar a powerful pick on 6.22.

Lee Sin

What can’t Lee Sin do? Riot tries to guide him out of the category of overpowered or way too strong, but the blind monk always finds a way to stumble back into those places and is always relevant regardless of the meta. His high single target damage and good sustain make him suitable on his first clear, and an early Tiamat makes clearing raptors and krugs a breeze in the early to middle stages of the game. This, in combination with increased mobility from blast cones, give Lee Sin the ability to maneuver in and out of fights with ease while also giving him one of the best Level 6 spikes of all junglers. At the moment, Lee Sin is still among the best in the jungle despite the flurry of changes.

Elise

In a jungle meta that favors ganks and dynamic pathing, Elise becomes a high priority pick. Her execute and Thunderlord’s Decree make her a more potent early game threat than before, especially now that the free health of Strength of the Ages is gone and ranged supports are more popular meaning that there will be squishier targets for the spider queen to sink her fangs into. Invades are more popular, and hers are more safe now that you have another rappel target in plants. Rylai’s is still an incredibly strong item as well, as it allows her to still be able to transition into a secondary/tertiary damage threat with fairly decent utility.

Ivern

Ivern is an interesting case study as a champion that simultaneously thrives and is hampered by a meta that prioritizes invades. You’d think that the increased cooldown on smite makes his invades occur less often and thus handicaps him, but the time to freely move around the map caused by increased jungle spawns, as well as usability buffs and friendly utility itemization makes the happy-go-lucky tree a strong force in the preseason jungle meta. If you’re looking for the ultimate supportive style jungler, Ivern is your strongest and shield-iest bet, especially when building things like Locket of the Iron Solari, Redemption, Ardent Censer, Athene’s Unholy Grail, and Iceborne Gauntlet.

Some champions previously considered highly contested have also been put into awkward positions by peripheral changes. The most notable example is Olaf, who struggles to find a relevant keystone mastery for the jungle with the removal of Strength of the Ages.

Pathing

There are six major paths that we can immediately identify to take in the new preseason patch, with each one meant to maximize your time before you recall and go back out to make plays on the rift. There are obviously more, and I encourage readers to be creative with these paths during a game and manipulate them based on the flow of the game.

Safe Full Clear

When to do this?

When your lanes are self-sufficient and you’re able to safely go through your jungle and power-farm. This is most optimal in solo queue because of the lack of co-ordination on collapses between teams.

Why is it good?

You get level 4.7 through doing a full route in less than four minutes if done correctly, and allows you to recall for your jungle item and start being able to put pressure on lanes more effectively. Don’t forget to ward near your second buff with your trinket in order to scout out cheese or aggressive invades before starting.

Vision Route A

When to do this?

If you expect a full clear from the enemy jungler, this route puts a lot of pressure on them and allows for more aggressive invades if they start krugs or continue to their red buff. It's also that much more effective if your solo lanes are shoving in their opponents, as they will have priority on any sort of collapse in the enemy jungle. It’s even more effective when you know you are playing a jungler with a higher tempo (e.g. Lee Sin vs. Zac).

Why is it good?

This is a fantastic supportive path that gets vision for your team on an entire side of the map, because it makes that information available and allows you and your team to make better decisions across the board. Scryer's Blooms spawn between 3:00 and 3:30, leading to early invades getting even more information than previously through this path and the one below.

Vision Route B

When to do this?

If you need to alter your full clear route to protect your lanes, this is a great route that will allow you to put pressure on both your mid and bottom side of the map. It is best to utilize this when you have high pressure lanes in bottom and middle.

Why is it good?

Not only does this route provide ample vision on one side of the map, but it can also transition into passive or aggressive play. For the former, after getting the deep vision for your team, you can path back to getting a full clear and recalling or looking at opportunities. On the latter point of aggression, you can look for opportunities to gank the middle or bottom lane without fear of counter-gank because you’ve set up appropriate vision to ensure the other jungler is not around. Even further, you can counter-jungle the recently spawned gromp or wolves camp if you choose to wait around a bit or go somewhere else (such as going back to clear raptors and then get the newly spawned enemy gromp, with protection from the recent deep ward helping you secure it).

Ganking Route A

When to do this?

If you need to alter your full clear to support your middle or bottom lanes that are being shoved in, this is the best route to start putting pressure on lanes early without sacrificing the opportunity to go back to farming efficiently. For higher risk/reward, see the Cheese section.

Why is it good?

Being able to identify efficient ganks that blow summoner spells or kill people is always a good thing. This route also benefits from a safer fall back plan in the form of flexibility in going back to farm Raptors and Krugs without undue pressure.

Ganking Route B

When to do this?

Similar to Ganking Route A, this route is meant to create early support onto solo lanes if they have a lot of kill pressure or are prone to being pushed in. The Scryer’s Bloom provides for the opportunity to avoid potential counterganks. For higher risk/reward, see the Cheese section.

Why is it good?

Whereas Ganking Route A has the fallback plan of going back to jungling, This route has the added and different benefit of utilizing the long lane portions of tribrush and the mid-to-raptors bridge for ganks that have a higher percentage of success in getting a kill or blowing key summoner spells.

Cheesy Path

When to do this?

If you feel like a specific lane is going to be shoved in early (e.g. Rumble vs Poppy, where Rumble shoves Poppy in aggressively while carving out an advantage), this path, which can be reversed, is a good way to get an early and effective gank onto a priority target. The path presented can be reversed to have access to top lane.

Why is it good?

The quickest way to double buffs and level 3, this path opens up an early surprise gank for an unsuspecting laner, and can lead to a first blood and immediate advantage in the game if all goes well. However, it is considered cheese just because of the huge loss of tempo from a failed gank so early, leaving your stray small camps to be taken; this hurts even more in the new jungle, where spawn timers are drastically increased.

Masteries

Greenfather’s Gift

A new mastery, Greenfather’s Gift, is great for junglers because of one simple reason: it triggers on monster camps which allows you to speed up your clear immensely. On a Level 1 blue buff, the first Greenfather’s Gift attack will deal roughly 80 damage, which is more than a normal auto attack. Its compatriots on Tier 4 are not as worth it for a jungler either, in so far as they do not help with your clear. If you take this while your opponent does not, you could see yourself being massively ahead in tempo. This is also amplified by the notion that there lots of chances to use it because you’re weaving through jungle, and can therefore help catching enemies off-guard with extra burst on a gank or invade.

Double Edged Sword or Bounty Hunter

These are masteries that will give damage immediately to a jungler on this tier of the ferocity tree, and that utility far outweighs the damage Battle Trance will give you overall, because Battle Trance damage only applies during combat with champions. As such, junglers should be more inclined to take the other two masteries in its place in order to clear their jungle faster.

Fearless + Courage of the Colossus

This combo is great for diving and ganking often, as your tankiness in those situations improves immensely. It also scales much better in the late game as your health and resistances increase. You’re more likely to take this as a jungler than if you were a laner, as Insight isn’t as effective on you due to the usage of smite rather than something like Teleport or Exhaust. Someone like Jarvan IV will see great benefit to Fearless, as he can use his ultimate and his flag and drag combo to get the Courage of the Colossus shield, and further buff up that shield’s value through the extra armor and magic resist as he likely gets focused.

Runes

Lethality, the new alternative to armor penetration, is not worth taking due to the scaling factor of the statistic; the low value of lethality at level one puts you so far behind in the jungle and makes survivability in the jungle a lot more difficult. As such, some combination of attack damage, attack speed, and armor are musts to survive if you want to do a full clear as safely as possible.

Gabriel Zoltan-Johan is a News Editor at theScore esports and the head analyst for the University of Toronto League of Legends team. His (public) musings can be found on his Twitter.

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