The Season 4 jungle is much changed from the Season 3 jungle in solo queue, but much the same in higher-level. Season 3’s jungle meta had become pretty pinned down, with Jarvan, Elise, Vi, Lee Sin, Aatrox, and Zac being pretty much the only competitive junglers towards the end of the season. All of these junglers have high base damage, decent mid-game scaling, good late-game scaling (with Lee Sin as the exception), strong CC (preferably displacement of some sort). Equally importantly, they all have extremely strong early ganks, with gap closers, reliable CC, and some way to survive or escape tower aggro in dives. This should come as no surprise, given the way 3v1 pushes and dives for early towers defined competitive play. So how has the jungle changed in Season 4?
Essentially, once you have Spirit Stone Items, your gold income is much higher than it would otherwise have been, with an additional 6.66 gp10 as long as you keep clearing. It’s not that jungle minions give you more gold, however. As long as you clear 2 camps every 2 minutes, you just have an additional 6.66 gp10. However, what this means is that your overall gold expectation is higher, and given the multiplicative value of gold, this means that the marginal effect of more gold is higher. However, before the Spirit Stone Items, gold and experience are about comparable to Season 3.
This means that in the early game, ganking is just strong as before. However, if you fail at ganks, you are now much farther behind. Somebody who farms straight to a Spirit Stone item now has the gold passive, and can gank without sacrificing as much gold. If your ganks fail, not only are you behind in items, but you are further behind because the other jungler can afford to gank, then fall back and farm a few camps for Conservation stacks.
In my experience, there are two essential styles at the moment, and a few factors affect this.
The strongest ganking junglers are those who have gap-closers and CC; essentially the same as in Season 3:
Zac has fallen out of favor, while Evelynn is very popular due to the change to pink wards.
The strongest counter-gank junglers are those who have high clear speeds but multiple or long-range gap closers, but being manaless also helps a lot:
As well, a few junglers have the capacity to simply power-farm. Their clearspeeds are so high that they can gank like normal champions but still clear as much as other champions would while powerfarming:
Basically, you need to have good enough ganks or good enough clear speed to guarantee finishing your Conservation item early while still providing early pressure. It’s not that you’re going to power-farm to your first item, it’s that your ganks are weaker, but with higher clear speeds, that doesn’t matter as much because you can attempt more ganks when you get the chance.
Mattias “Gentleman Gustaf” Lehman is a big time nerd-gamer who has been involved in both SC2 and LoL. He has ranked as high as Diamond 1 in solo queue and Diamond 3 in arranged 5s.
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