League of Legends: Riot Needs to Figure Out the Jungle

League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games.
League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games. /

Over a year ago, when Riot was contemplating some pretty hefty changes to the jungle and thereby altering the League of Legends meta, I had one simple suggestion: after this, leave the jungle alone. Unfortunately, Riot does not appear to be willing to heed this warning.

Riot recently provided insight into the updates that it will be pushing out with Patch 11.4 in a tweet from RiotScruffy. These nerfs pull back on the gold and experience given by the Gromp, Krug, and Raptor camps. Therefore, junglers will be weaker on Patch 11.4 than they were previously.

While these changes have come as relief to most laners, who have believed the jungle role to be massively overpowered for a while now, both high elo and professional junglers have come out in widespread disagreement with the changes. But it was former professional jungler Amazing who had the best perspective on the junglers’ frustrations.

This was the point we made over a year ago and it continues to be a problem plaguing Riot and League of Legends when it comes to their approach to the jungle. Right now, Riot seems to be constantly tinkering with the jungle, flip-flopping between hard farming or hard ganking.

Riot needs to figure out what the jungle is to League of Legends.

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They’ve changed the camps, the respawn timers, the neutral objectives, the gold, the experience, and thereby caused massive changes to the pool of jungle champions. In doing so, they’ve also made it nearly impossible to balance the pool of jungle champions because these changes can cause champions that were previously weak to become incredibly strong and vice versa.

The biggest problem with the jungle right now is that Riot still does not know what its function in League of Legends is. Presumably, a jungler’s role is to accomplish three major objectives: 1) farm the neutral camps of the jungle 2) contest and secure neutral objectives 3) impact lanes via ganks and/or map pressure. This is a gross oversimplification, but the fact remains that junglers have a tremendous burden of juggling these three objectives in the early game and Riot cannot seem to find the proper balance. It should stop trying to.

Instead, I would propose that Riot answer five fundamental questions about what it wants the jungle role in League of Legends to be and balance the game accordingly.

1. Is the primary role of the jungler to farm neutral camps or to gank lanes?

If the jungler is meant to farm, they should not be able to duel laners early on and play a defensive, PvE role. If gank, the jungle should only be a source of gold and experience as a last resort.

2. Should (almost) all League of Legends champions be able to complete a full first clear of the jungle?

If yes, the jungle should become an open pool of champions, meaning that you are not balancing a discrete group of champions for the jungle role. If no, you have a small pool of champions that you can then balance around the jungle role itself (similar to ADC and support).

3. Is it the jungler’s job to secure neutral objectives, or is this a team goal?

If it’s the jungler’s job, they should be able to do it independently of their lane states and a measure of good jungling is a player’s ability to secure those objectives. If not, junglers should not be heavily punished for being unable to contest dragon, herald, or scuttle crab.

4. Should laners be able to influence the jungler in the same way a jungler can influence laners?

If yes, laners should have some way to either neutralize a bad jungle gank, prevent a jungle gank (either with vision or some other mechanism), or duel junglers early on when they are weaker.

5. Should junglers’ power come largely at the beginning of the game, the mid game, or the late game?

This is the most important question, and will largely result from the answers to the previous four.

Using the answers to these questions, Riot should have a fundamental understanding of what the jungle should look like going forward. Regardless of the decision, Riot needs to stick to that decision. Stop rebalancing the role itself, but rebalance the champions within that role to make the pool of junglers healthy.

The reason to leave the jungle alone is to allow junglers to understand how their role works, but also to allow competent laners to understand how their role works relative to the jungler. If Riot decided that the laners should not need to play relative to what the jungler is doing, that’s fine, they just need to hard incentivize farming, counter-jungling, and contesting neutral objectives.

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If Riot wants the jungle to be more of the early game quarterback, then it and the players need to accept that the jungle is the strongest role early in the game and they must play accordingly. Either way, though, it’s time for Riot to let all League of Legends players know the answer to one simple question: what is the jungler’s job?