League of Legends: Riot Games Needs to Leave the Jungle Alone to Fix it

League of Legends. Photo courtesy of Riot Games.
League of Legends. Photo courtesy of Riot Games. /
Safecracker Evelynn, League of Legends.
League of Legends. Photo courtesy of Riot Games. /

Riot Games is going to do another pass on jungle experience in Patch 10.3, but the best way to fix the most divisive role in League of Legends is to leave it alone.

In Patch 10.3, Riot Games is set to make some more changes to the jungle including giving more experience to large monsters, more experience to the Krug camp, and more experience to the camps as they level up in the mid game. All of these changes have been made to placate junglers in League of Legends, who have been saying that the role feels unimpactful (cut to all laners everywhere scoffing) due to them being under-leveled.

The jungle has been a role that Riot has re-tuned over and over again for years, adding mechanics to the camps when smiting them, removing or replacing monsters, moving monsters around, adding new camps, adding jungle plants, and more to try and make the role feel fair for both laners and the junglers themselves. For the camps themselves, Riot Games balance team has also pulled the “levers” in many different ways including adjusting the experience and gold they give, the damage they do, the health and resistances they have, and when and how often they respawn.

By my count, there have been 14 changes just in changing the jungle camps in the last three years (Patches 9.23, 9.9, 9.2, 8.24, 8.23, 8.16, 8.11, 8.10, 8.4, 7.22, 7.7, 7.6, 7.2, and 7.1)! And that is just since the end of Season 6 when the jungle was revamped to the version we are familiar with today. In the 77 patches since the start of Season 7, 14 times junglers have had to re-learn or adjust how they interact with the creatures that are their primary source of income and experience.

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To compare, minions in general have been adjusted only nine times in that span, with the biggest changes involving experience dealing with shared experience back in Patch 9.23 and the changes in gold last-hitting grants in Patches 8.7 and 8.8. Those changes are meaningful, to be sure, but they didn’t fundamentally alter how the lanes is played or which champions are viable in the lanes like the jungle changes do. Even changing the health a camp has or the damage a camp does will impact whether certain champions can clear the jungle at all, while any champion could (theoretically) go into a lane and be able to farm.

After all of these changes in the last three years, we’re now seemingly at a breaking point. Junglers feel their impact diminishing while laners (including the pros) continue to crow that jungle is the most influential role in League of Legends.

With this level of disconnect, it seems readily apparent to me that Riot Games will never be able to balance the jungle in such a way that makes everyone happy, so here is my proposal: stop trying to balance it.

After Patch 10.3 goes through, I would like to ask Riot to publicly announce that they are not going to change anything about the jungle for the next two years other than bugfixes. No changes to the camps or the respawn timers, the plants, the experience, nothing. The only thing I will allow them to change are the epic monsters like Baron and Dragon because those are more team objectives than jungle camps.

Part of the frustration for junglers (of which I am one, for full disclosure) is the fact that we are constantly being taught to play the game a certain way only for that way to be changed and left ineffective. From full-clearing and pathing to half-clearing and ganking to Level 2 ganking back to half-clearing and ganking again, the jungle is a role that forces players to be able to change their playstyle or champion pool constantly.

Now it may seem hypocritical to say that forcing junglers to adapt is bad, considering jungle is by far the role with the most need for adaptation (whether it be the lane you planned on ganking for engaging and dying, the enemy jungler showing somewhere on the map, or whatever). The problem is that junglers should not have to adapt their baseline strategies over and over a few times per season.

That is why leaving the jungle alone for a long period of time could be the best thing that Riot can do after these experience buffs. Regardless if they are enough to satisfy us junglers or not, the knowledge that this is the jungle we will be living with for the foreseeable future will at least allow us to learn how to play in it most optimally. Whether that means only heavy-ganking junglers are viable, passive farming junglers become viable, or the balance falls somewhere in between, give us the chance to learn the optimal pathing and strategies so that we understand how we can best influence the game.

This change would also benefit laners too, because they would (or should) understand the timings of jungle ganks, when objectives can be taken, how to play around Scuttle skirmishes and the like. A stable meta, even if it’s not optimal for everyone, would at least give all players a chance to understand their role in the game. From there, they can either maximize their impact or decide to move on to another role if they feel strongly that their impact isn’t sufficient.

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At the end of the day, I know Riot Games is going to keep trying to find this magical balance in the jungle where all junglers are meta, there are diverse pathing and playstyle options, and junglers and laners feel they have equal agency, but to me, it’s a futile effort. There will always be optimal jungle paths to maximize gold and XP efficiently, there will always be certain junglers who can execute that path faster and healthier, and laners will always cry when their lane is impacted by a jungler. Changing things won’t please everyone, but not changing the jungle for a while will at least let us accept that which will not change.