Adapt or Die: A Guide to Reactive Jungling
Thu 12th Jan 2017 - 10:33am
We’ve all been there.
You pick your champion, load into the game, and get a leash. Things seem to be going quite decent. And then you realize that you’ve just hit level 2 and your mid laner has already given up first blood! No worries, though, a single death isn’t the end of the world. But by the time you’re done clearing your red buff, your bot lane gets double killed by a cheesy gank. You desperately turn to top – only to find that he has been zoned from the creep wave ever since he took that one bad trade at level 1. It’s five minutes into the match, your team is 0-3, and the game looks over before it's even started. There really wasn’t much you could’ve done here.
Or was there?
Image courtesy of marybunny8
This scenario is every jungler’s worst nightmare. Jungle is widely regarded as the most influential role in the early stages of the game, yet why is it so often that everything slips out of your control before you can even get started? Sure, you could blame your teammates, and sometimes you'd be right. But that's the same as saying that you have no control over your wins or losses. And that's no good when you're trying to climb.
Instead, think what you could do to save the situation – and act upon it.
The game starts at 00:00
In the game of League of Legends, the first minute and a half are often overlooked. Too many times have I seen players sitting behind their turrets waiting for minions to spawn. Doing that is a waste. A waste of valuable time that could be spent on securing advantages for your team. As a jungler, any information you can get is vital. At the very least, you want your laners to cover your jungle entrances, at best – to set up vision control or get an early kill.
But don't expect your teammates to know that – tell them. Ask for cover in champion select, get an invade going or just group up for deep wards. Every little piece of data will make it easier to optimize your route and stay ahead of your opponent.
Be water, my friend
Bruce Lee once said that a perfect fighter must be shapeless, formless, like water. If you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup; you pour water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. And water can flow or it can crash. Now, Bruce wasn’t exactly known for his League of Legends jungling skills but that's a great approach to jungle play style. First, you observe the situation – and then adjust your play to make the most of it.
There’s nothing worse than going into every match with the same mentality and game plan. Of course, I'm not arguing in favor of complete chaos. You need to have guidelines but these should be flexible, not set in stone. So whether you think it’s best to always go for an early gank or to start every game off with a full clear – you're probably wrong.
Think of the bigger picture
Most roles have the luxury of focusing purely on their own play. Not junglers. As a jungler, you have to be constantly jumping around the map and looking for opportunities. The key is often in the matchups. Look around. Should your teammates feel comfortable laning by themselves or are they facing a counter-pick? Are they likely to push or to get pushed in? What about your own matchup? Are you stronger than the other guy? You should be able to answer these questions at a single glance since these will determine how you’re going to approach the game.
Just remember to be flexible. Sometimes you might feel like you can dominate the enemy jungler, but you should still tone down your aggression if your laners are having a hard time. After all, forcing a flash in the jungle only to find yourself getting collapsed on is nothing short of disastrous. Whenever you go for a play, try to figure out who can follow it up and whether they’ll manage to do it faster than their opponents.
But even if you are a strategic genius, you won't be able to account for everything. The truth is that…
People will make mistakes
There’s no avoiding it, your teammates will mess up. Hard. Your bot lane will overextend against a Teleport, your mid laner will get solo killed, and your top will fall for a telegraphed gank. And sure, it might be their fault. But what you should be thinking here isn’t how you’re going to report them for feeding after the game, but rather how you can cover for their mistakes.
Even amidst chaos, junglers have the most control over the game.
One of the best ways to do this is counter-ganking. If you have a top laner like Darius or Riven, then you can be almost certain that their lane will be extremely volatile. They will go for aggressive trades and they will overextend trying to make that kill happen. Makes them a perfect target for the enemy jungler. But they don't have to be the inevitable casualty here. After all, they have you on their side. Show up to their lane, make that early kill happen or, if there's no window for a play, wait for their jungler to come and start the fight for you. Drop your Krugs if you have to, but don’t abandon your laner.
And remember to be a bit wary here. It doesn’t matter how well you set up your counter-gank if their 2v2 is stronger. So, trying to counter a Lee Sin/Riven as Evelynn/Gangplank is just asking for a disaster to happen.
Establish your presence
Counter-ganking isn’t the only tool in your arsenal. Sometimes just showing up to a struggling lane can be enough to turn the tide or, at least, avoid a complete catastrophe. You don’t always have to get a kill here, instead, aim to relieve pressure. Even something as little as helping your teammate push out the wave may be enough to give him some breathing room or an opportunity for a safe back.
Don't feel bad if it's hard for you to spot times when you should be counter-ganking or helping out your laners. These will be difficult to recognize at first. Just keep these concepts in the back of your head, and as you play more and more, you’ll find that reading the flow of a Solo Queue game is relatively easy.
Let them mess up
If you’re looking for a counter-gank, don’t be afraid to camp a bush for up to 30 seconds. The enemy jungler won’t always be exactly where you think he is, but he probably won’t miss an obvious opportunity. Give him time to walk into your trap. It might feel like a giant waste of time when you’re just sitting there. But the pay-off is huge. And there’s no worse feeling than giving up on your plan halfway only to find out that your opponent chose to show up a few seconds later than you thought he would.
Reactive jungling isn’t about mechanical outplays, it’s about game knowledge. It’s a play style that strives to determine where the best place is for you to be at any given moment. And in doing so, you help your allies and cripples your enemies. That’s all great, but are there any practical ways to implement this in actual games? Well, one of the biggest things is map awareness.
Keep tabs on your laners
If you want to be reactive, you first need to know what you’re going to react to. Pay attention to your lanes. I know I run the risk of repeating myself, but knowing your matchups is huge. Which lanes look good and which do not? Who can follow-up on a gank and who’s likely to not have much to offer? Who’s playing safe and who’s overextending?
While you’re clearing jungle camps, you can jump between your lanes using F2-F5 keys. Spam these constantly to look after your teammates. This might get a bit overwhelming at first, but trust me, using this trick will do wonders towards improving your map awareness. Still, if you find this hard to manage, take quick glances at the minimap and champion health/mana bars under the portraits. These can give you some vital information without having to bounce around hectically. Besides, you should check these out anyway since no good will come from forcing a play when your laner is too low on mana to follow up.
Pay attention to health/mana bars. These could be the difference between a smashing success or a terrible flop.
Put yourself into the other guy’s shoes
Reactive jungling is as much about you as it is about your opponent. Ask yourself what would you do if you were the enemy jungler? Does your Yasuo look juicy enough for him to consider an early gank? Or is his laner so weak that he might be wary of dying 2v1? Maybe he’ll look for an invade because his champion has a strong early game? And what if he goes for a sneaky objective instead?
Don’t just rely on guessing, though. Mark his starting location, make an effort to ward his jungle, and take scuttle crabs to secure river control. Vision is your best friend. Communicate with your mid laner and support to ward enemy camps, so you’d always have an idea of where their jungler is and where he’s going. Also, knowing different junglers' preferred clear paths will make this step that much easier. There’s no feeling more daunting than when your opponent reads your every move. Make sure your enemies experience it to the fullest.
Reactive jungling is a style that’s very useful to keep in your arsenal. It puts down the enemy jungler, covers for mistakes, and snowballs your teammates. Still, just like any play style, it has its own uses and limitations. Sometimes you might not want to react but dictate the pace of the game instead. Maybe you’d even want to focus on AFK farming if that’s what your champion and team composition demand.
A reactive approach isn’t be-all and end-all of jungling. But I hope I’ve given you enough perspective on why it may be one of the best styles for Solo Queue. With that in mind, I’ll see you on the Rift!
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