The Summoner's Guidebook: Changes to League of Legends' jungle meta

The 3.14 patch to League of Legends created some massive shifts in the game, and everyone is trying to make sense of it. The new support game is completely bonkers with every character with any kind of CC now jockeying for the support spot. That area of the game is such a mad funhouse that I don't think anyone knows what the heck is going on. The only way to play a game of LoL where anyone understands how the game is played is to go to TT or CS.

I switched to maining jungle a while back, and the big shift in the jungle game has taken some adjusting to. Trinkets, the change to jungle items and EXP, the changes in jungler gold, and the emphasis on farming has taken some time to really settle in for me.

The basics haven't changed

I don't suspect anyone is surprised by this, but the jungler's job is still to be the most map-aware person on your team. Your job is to clear jungle camps while scouting for opportunities and try to make things happen if opportunities arise. You still buy more wards than most people, and sometimes games can happen where you have very little impact until the midgame because your lanes don't give you anything to work with.

You still need to be aware of which areas might be warded and approach through places where you think might be safe. You are probably the single largest purchaser of pink wards because they are cheaper now, and you are the most likely one to notice changes in behavior when you go through a ward.

And yet, everything is different

The weirdest thing for me is that you can no longer hard leash your first buff, rush to your second buff, and Smite it for level 3. You actually have to clear another camp now, since the base XP of the buff camps was slightly reduced. The camp you choose will depend on your route and what type of jungler you are: AoE junglers can do wraiths or wolves, whereas ST junglers can do double golems or the new wight camp. I was initially a bit afraid to do the wight camp early (the 1400 base health was sort of daunting), but he dies fairly quickly.

The other weird thing is that you use Smite every other camp, and it's weak. It is a lot harder to Smite now because it does around 500-600 damage for most of the game. Old Smite, which dealt between 700-1000 true damage, made it a lot easier to secure a dragon or a buff than it is now. You do get to use it every other camp, so from what I'm told you can play with a sub-optimal jungler and still clear decently. I just have to get used to using it all the time. It is nice because I can use it on a small camp and have it up shortly to use on Dragon or a blue steal, but it's harder to time. It definitely takes more skill to Smite now, which I like, but it is weaker and takes power away from the jungler, which I don't like.

One thing I do prefer about the new jungle is that getting lanes fed is super rewarding now. If you get behind in farm because you're ganking a lot and letting your lanes win, it takes far fewer clears to get caught up. This is because the new jungle scales to the average champion level in the game, so if you're behind, the camps will level you much more quickly.

On the flip side, counter-jungling is basically worthless unless you steal a buff or kill the jungler now. There are just too many camps, and they respawn much too quickly. You might cost the enemy jungler a few seconds from his route, but he'll just cycle to the next camp on his list. I have been still able to get away with blue and red steals regularly though, which is unfortunately one of the only real ways to get ahead as a jungler now.

Trinkets are not well-balanced yet

It is a lot harder to gank now because the overall vision of the game is much higher. Trinkets give everyone in the game a ward, and I'd be plenty surprised if all but one person on each team buys a ward trinket every game. The one person is the jungler, and they frequently buy ward trinkets too. It makes lanes much harder to gank in general, especially early on. Mid lane tends not to ward before 4-5 minutes, but now you have to guess when he placed down his trinket or where he placed it. It's a bit more challenging.

My biggest complaint is the sweeper trinket is just not good enough. The area it covers is just too small, its cooldown is too long, and it has absolutely no leeway; you have to guess where the wards are exactly. It also can't be cast from outside ward vision range, so unless you cast it from over a wall, you'll be visible when you sweep the ward. Unfortunately, the sweeper and pink wards are now the only way to clear wards. There's no Oracle now, and pink wards are visible, which makes things really difficult.

My biggest complaint actually comes for lanes who know that they actually still need to buy wards. Right now, too many people aren't buying wards and are relying on their trinket, so I can often still gank early game in the gaps where there isn't a ward in my approach. I can also do lane ganks or wall-jump ganks to bypass common ward spots. The trinkets make warding easier and clearing wards a lot harder.

What happened to my jungle items

How many of you guys are just building Ancient Golem now? Unless you're running a manaless jungler, it's pretty much the only jungle item worth building. Wriggle's Lantern is awful, Spectral Wraith is gutted, and Elder Lizard is just nowhere near as good anymore. Ancient Golem has a nice, reliable bonus gold income along with stats that are universally good. I've heard Shyvana is really strong now, but I can't imagine wanting to build Wriggle's on her.

Even Ancient Golem was nerfed heavily, losing 150 HP for no reason except that Riot thinks junglers don't need good items. I understand that Riot's intent is that only junglers will buy the items, rather than having AP mids build Spectral Wraith because the stats are good for them. However, it really hurts because junglers basically have to pay a tax to get their jungle items, then they have to wait to get that money back. Junglers are paying a pretty big premium for extra gold income and 30% bonus damage to monsters, which doesn't help us have map presence.

I really like the support right now, and that's fine except that it's not what Riot intended for junglers. I feel as if I need to just roam around and farm jungle like it's a 4th lane, get in a duo top lane with a Relic Shield, or play support (from the jungle) because my jungle items don't give me enough stats to be effective in a gank. I'm OK with carrying a Sightstone and not ganking because everywhere is warded and I can't clear them without placing a visible pink ward, but is that really the intent for Season 4? Am I just supposed to farm and wait for the late game?

We understand what it's like to climb the skill ladder in League of Legends. The Summoner's Guidebook teaches you the tools you need to get a competitive edge. Whether you're climbing the ranked ladder, playing Draft Dominion, or getting crushed by intermediate bots, every enemy has a weakness. And every Thursday, Patrick Mackey shows how you can improve improve on yours.

This article was originally published on Massively.