While a jungler wants to win all 3 lanes, this is too large a task to place solely on his shoulders, since the more resources he gives to a single lane will diminish the amount he can give to the others. To be able to contribute meaningfully to each lane while keeping up in gold and experience himself is difficult, to say the least. In the previous article, Jungling 102, I discussed this balance, along with the fundamentals of decision making related to jungle monsters, and in Jungling 101 I discussed the fundamental decision making related to ganking. In this article, I would like to address the next step in gank-related decision making, how to balance the pressure given to each lane.
Snowballs gonna snowball – Top to bottom ganking
As I’ll discuss more in Jungling 202, Dragon becomes a very helpful objective during the Late Laning Phase. Because of this, if a jungler ganks top during this time, the other team will often rush a quick Dragon, knowing they will have a numbers advantage as well as a free smite opportunity. Because of this, as well as several other factors that make toplane prone to snowballing, focusing your first ganks top often pays off substantially. The enemy jungler then has to either let your toplaner snowball out of control, getting kills, towers, and a huge CS lead, or else surrender Dragon control in an attempt to bring the lane even for his team.
Whether you are successful with your initial ganks toplane or not, midlane is the next target. Midlane has more gank paths than any other lane (which are also conveniently close to your jungle camps), making it an easy target to hit. Additionally, If the enemy midlaner is likely to be given Blue Buff, then you can plan to ambush them with your midlaner as soon as they go for it, giving you their Blue in addition to the kill, and possibly enough presence on the map to take Dragon. If it doesn’t, it will still give them more presence in lane, which will only help you for the upcoming fights revolving around Dragon.
Lastly, we come to botlane. Since there are 2 people from each team in this lane, making an impact here will be best around the exact time you want to take Dragon. Forcing them too low to fight won’t mean much early on unless your laners capitalize on that for you- something you can’t be reliant on. However, forcing them too low to fight can be highly impactful when you are looking to set up a Dragon immediately after. But how much is enough to take Dragon? How low is “too low?”
Pressure is an elusive concept, a term almost universally used but seldom defined. I find it practical to say that “pressure” is just another way of saying that you are making use of strengths/weaknesses to limit the amount of right choices your opponent can make, increasing the amount of wrong decisions they make– in other words, you are able to control their actions to some extent. For example, let’s say I’m pressuring a lane as the jungler. If the enemy laner goes in for a trade while I’m there pressuring, I turn that good decision (assuming he wins trades) into a bad one by ganking him, which will snowball into helping my laner with trades in the future, and also make the enemy more hesitant to even try to trade.
There are many ways to win a lane: take the turret, get more CS, get more kills, or possibly even just break even depending on the match up. As I’ve stressed before, and I shall continue to stress, the level of detail that you understand match ups as a jungler will correlate directly to your success in ganking. If you have a champion that just wants to farm for the late game, such as Vlad or Karthus, all you have to do is make it safe for them to farm. If they are going against an Annie, then taking away her flash will prevent a flash-Tibbers combo, making it fairly safe for them to farm. If they are against a Fizz, you will need to chunk a good bit of his health away so that he can’t all-in, allowing them to farm safely. If they are going against a hard counter, you will probably need to get them a kill or two before they are able to hold the lane on their own. There are too many possibilities to address in-depth, but every champion wants to win lane one of the three ways- CS, tower, or kills. Assess just how much pressure you need to create (e.g. burning flash) to set them up to achieve their goal, and aim to get at least that done for every lane, giving more to the lanes that can optimize more. If you can get more than that done in a gank, then of course do so, but if all you get is some health chunked off, and that’s enough for the laner to reach their goal, then you are free to move on.
Over the course of a laning phase, a jungler should typically be able to get some killing ganks, but rarely will every gank result in a kill. While the previous paragraph outlines the minimum pressure a lane should get, you should be able to give some of your lanes more than opponents with chunked health and burnt flashes. The lane you invest the most in should be the lane that can snowball that lead the most, so choose wisely when deciding where to repeat gank, use your ultimate, summoner spells, redbuffed time, etc. (keeping in mind the principles from Jungling 101).
To explicitly answer the questions at the end of the previous section, “too low” is when you are able to have an edge for a Dragon fight, including the damage that Dragon will do to you while you take it. If I get both of the bottom laners below 50%, and I’m able to start tanking Dragon at near-full health, with my laners also near-full, we can be pretty safe that if worse comes to worse we can still escape with Dragon and our lives. If they only get down to 80%, then I’m not so sure, and we’ll need some other advantage (e.g. jungler top, allied Shen top, etc.) in order to make a good call on taking Dragon.
What does it all mean?
To recap, to maximize your control of Dragon, start ganking as far away from it as possible, and gradually work your way closer, timing the intervals such that you start ganking the bot when you are strong enough to defeat Dragon. Deciding when exactly it’s time to move on from a lane is balanced between when you reach your minimum success threshold for ganking a lane, and how much of your surplus you want to invest in that lane. Timing is everything in League- what is true today is false tomorrow; what is right one second is wrong the next. The order in which you pressure areas of the map can be infinitely more impactful than how much time you spend there, so ponder carefully how you can maximize early game differences as they phase into mid-game differences. The “top to bottom” approach gives great Dragon control, but what about when other objectives are valued more? Just as a jungler would after a gank, we will return to the jungle and securing objectives next article to see what can be learned there. See you then!
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