Ganks are the easiest way to quickly swing a game wildly in your favor, which makes everyone agree that meaning ful ganks are good and necessary. But how do you make meaningful ganks happen?
Jungling is a position that revolves around making sound strategic decisions, or Macro, more than making skilled mechanical play, Micro, and it’s not enough to make good decisions, you have to make the best decisions. That means that while there are four places to gank (three lanes and the enemy jungle), at all times one will be better to gank than the others, although which place this is will continually change. With so many options on the table, what does a poor Summoner do to pick the right one?
The fight is won or lost before it breaks out
Because jungling is a Macro-oriented position, the most impactful thing a jungler does is collect information in order to make educated decisions. That means understanding how each champion works, and particularly how lane matchups unfold. If, for example, in the toplane matchup you have a champion that will be weaker than their opponent pre-6, but be stronger post-6, you know that helping them early will be more impactful than waiting for them to get behind and helping them to catch up. Collecting information also means knowing how well you synergize with the laner you are ganking for, and whether you should lead with your skills or wait for theirs. Currently, “meta” junglers have good CC, and want to lead in with that first, but sometimes the laner has a better opportunity to get the victim in a bad position, and sometimes it doesn’t matter- knowing which is which can make a big difference on the success of a gank. Knowing the state of summoner spells, both for your side and theirs, as well as ward placements, item choices, %hp and mana for each side, where the next creep wave is, etc. (the list never really ends) can all help you make better decisions about the gank.
The best way to improve your skills in this area is to assess as many factors as you can think of going in. When a gank fails, look at exactly why it failed (e.g. the incoming creep wave blocked your Nautilus hook) and work harder at assessing that factor every time you gank after that until it becomes habit.
With the information the jungler collects before ganking, they need to ask themself two questions: (1) Can we gank? and (2) How much impact will it make?
Can we gank?
One of the biggest reasons ganks fail, and sometimes even get turned around, is because junglers ignore the first question. If a lane is thoroughly warded (like bot often is at the start of laning) then you have to walk through wards to do anything, which reduces your chances of success significantly, and means you will have better luck elsewhere. If the target is someone like Zed who can jump away at will, unless you have a way of dealing with that, you are dependent on him using that escape before you go in or you have just wasted time. If you are low health or don’t have mana from other engages or clearing your jungle, then all but the easiest ganks will go awry.
But it’s not just the jungler who needs to be ready for the gank. Except in occasional cases where the target has been beaten mostly into submission beforehand, the jungler needs his laner to join him or the gank will not be productive. That means the gank needs to happen when the laner can respond to it. Junglers usually like to gank when the target is pushed up, but if they have built up a giant wave, then the laner will have to either tank frightening amounts of minion damage, or miss out on frightening amounts of gold and experience. So, what seems like the perfect time to gank to the jungler is actually an awful time to gank for the laner, which makes it an awful time to gank, period.
But wait, what if the target is at 70% hp, my laner is Fizz, and I’m J4 with double buffs? We can burst the target down while they are out of position and only miss 2 creeps! There are always exceptions to rules, so use some discretion when following them, because there will always be times when it’s appropriate to break them due to factors that weren’t taken into account when making them. However, in this example the J4 assumes Fizz is on the same page as him, and they will have perfect synergy- but what if Fizz doesn’t see J4 until the knockup, and decides to just farm with the temporary relief the gank provides? You can’t account for other people’s actions, and assuming the best case scenario from teammates is rarely a good idea. Unless the Fizz called in the gank, chances are better opportunities are available somewhere else.
How much impact will it make?
The first question, assessing the possibility of a gank, while absolutely important becomes habitual quickly, and with practice a good jungler spends most of their time assessing the impact of potential ganks.
Let’s say that for my first gank (approximately 3:30), I (as Nautilus) am considering ganking Morgana mid, Vayne/Janna bot, Tryndamere top, or Jarvan in the jungle. If I know bot is warded, that’s out right away, and Naut isn’t a strong duelist early, so ganking Jarvan isn’t the best idea without special circumstances. That narrows it down to Tryndamere and Morgana, neither of whom have warded, and for argument’s sake let’s say we have a way of dealing with Morg’s shield, so Naut’s CC will still hit and the gank is possible. Even with the possibility of a gank being relatively equal for mid and top, it’s much better for me to gank the Tryndamere, because it will have more impact. Tryndamere is an exceptional duelist who snowballs hard and becomes a splitpushing menace that’s difficult to deal with as the game goes on, but as the game progresses he becomes exponentially more item-dependent, so shutting him down early converts him from a snarling wolf ripping out your throat to a clumsy puppy trying desperately not to be trampled. Morgana on the other hand provides so much utility that she’ll be impactful regardless, and while a successful gank on her certainly wouldn’t be useless, it wouldn’t do as much as a gank top.
Well that’s a simple example, but what about when things aren’t that simple? What about when it’s Tryn top and Fizz mid? Both of them have incredible snowball potential, but by their nature get snowballed when behind. Who’s right to gank then? That’s where being a good jungler kicks in, and knowing how matchups play out at every level and item helps you know where to be when. When there are particular weak points, like pre-6 for Kassadin, be there to help them through it, giving enough presence that they can weather the storm and get to their strong point. At the same time, if there are particular strong points, like someone going against a pre-6 Kassadin, you should be there to make use of that power and abuse their weakness.
By assessing which gank will be most impactful of the ganks that are available to you, you will contribute as much as you can to winning the laning phase- the primary objective of the jungling position.
Chew on this for awhile
So in the end, the way to maximize ganking potential is to gather a plethora of sundry information, and apply it critically to assessing the viability and profitability of a gank. But what rates as a successful gank? Is it a kill? A summoner spell? Protecting to allow someone to catch up? How much time and pressure do you need to give each lane to win it? Present your ideas to these and any other related question in a comment below, and wait for Jungling 102!
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