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The Shifting Meta: The Ramifications of Carry Junglers


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With the introduction of Feral Flare on patch 4.5, changes to the game that have been slowly occurring for some time are starting to create a very different style of gameplay that is more effective than what you’re used to. With the changes to the jungle in season 4, Junglers earn comparable gold from clearing that laners do from farming, and its designed such that it’s beneficial to the team to give these camps to the designated jungler, instead of having laners take them, unlike Season 2. That means that more gold than ever before is going to the jungler, and that means that Damage-oriented champions, who are inherently gold-dependent, have the ability to take function in the jungling position the same as Utility-oriented champions (tanks).

Why it’s best to put a carry in the jungle

But there’s an advantage to putting a carry in the jungle- the gold there is safer and more reliable. If you have a Twitch as your carry, he might go against a counter in lane and get wrecked, costing him a lot of CS. If you have a jungle Twitch however, and he gets countered (by Lee Sin, for example), then to act on that counter Lee has to put himself at risk by entering enemy territory, presumably without support from allies, potentially walking over wards, and accurately guess where the Twitch will be. It’s possible that Lee will be able to outplay the laners that come to help Twitch, but it’s much more likely that Leona and Draven kill him over and over in lane, which will significantly hinder his gold flow. If Lee goes for ninja-style, opportunistic counter jungling, where he just takes a big monster and leaves, the camp respawns are low enough right now that he puts himself as far behind as he does Twitch, so there’s not much net difference.

Not only is the gold flow from  farm more reliable in the jungle, but it’s possible to get more kills there than anywhere else. Most early kills are due to roam of some sort, and that roamer is almost always going to be the jungler, because he’s not tied down to one specific spot on the map, he gets to visit all 3 lanes, while also being able to counter jungle when he sees the chance. That means he has 2.5-5 times as much potential to get kills during the laning phase as a laner (since there are two people to kill bot lane). But there’s also a snowball effect with a jungler getting kills. Not only does he have more opportunity to get them, but participating in a kill one place make him richer, increasing his ability to get them other places as well, which means the kill pressure on plays is increased everywhere on the map when the jungler participates in a kill.

But there’s one final advantage to having a carry jungler. All of the jungle items (even Ancient Golem) have the damage you deal to camps, and the sustain you get back from them scale off of your damage- meaning as you get more damage, your clear becomes exponentially faster and you have more health. So, if you pick a damage-dealing jungler, you’ll be able to gank faster, and be healing enough off your jungle that you will have comparable durability to a tanky jungler that isn’t healing as much, at least during the early and mid-game. Don’t think so? Try Amumu with Ancient Golem for a few games, then switch to Spectral Wraith.

Early Ganking

The problem most people point out with carry junglers, is that they often lack early ganking potential. While there are a few exceptions, like Jax, damage-dealing kits often come at the price of CC and/or gapcloser power. But, there have been a lot of changes in season 4 that reduce the effectiveness of early ganks.

The introduction of trinkets means there are more wards on the map than ever, making early ganking more difficult, and more likely to lead you into a counter gank. The recent buffs to Heal and teleport also make ganking less viable, because someone with Heal is MUCH harder to kill (the health and mobility synergize with each other, and often with abilities in the champion’s kit). Teleport, too makes ganks less viable, because the person who died can just teleport back to lane, only missing a few cs, and depending on how the situation for the gank occurred, they might be able to freeze the lane outside of tower range, or force their low-health laner back and push a couple waves into their tower. What’s more, most champions that are highly played in the meta have ways to deal with ganks, since jungle pressure has been something players have been playing around for so long. Most Marksmen will have a dash, or at least some CC to keep a ganker at bay combined with a support that can peel well for them. Zed, Oriana, Fizz, Leblanc, Ziggs and most other popular mid laners have the same types of escapability, and the main characteristics for popular top laners is the ability to farm safely- meaning safety from ganks.

If a Tankchuck could Tank Chuck, how much Chuck could it Tank?

The problem that SoloQers face with bringing a carry jungler to the team, is that it often leaves the team short a Tank. But then, how necessary are tanks, really?

In order to be a successful tank, you need people to be hitting you, not someone else, but in order for that to happen, you need to give them a reason to hit you over someone else. If I’m choosing who to kill between a damage Yi and a tanky Jarvan, I’m going to choose Yi 100% of the time, because he’s just as close, and he has more sustained threat. Even a damage Jarvan will accomplish most of his goal without needing to be tanky- if he ults an immobile squishy with their flash down, throws down his AS buff, gets an armor shred out, and slows a few people, He’s done most of his job as an initiator up front, right away, whether he’s tanky or not. Being a tank means he might get some people to focus him, or they might just ignore him and kill the Zed that ulted in after the initiate.

So what does a tank do that a squishy can’t? Typically that answer has been initiation- they can start the fight and absorb enough hate to let their team catch up and make good things happen. As helpful as that can be, how necessary is that to a team? If you have a split push or poke comp, not really at all. If you’re going for an AOE wombo comp, someone like Sejuani is perfect, but the CC from her abilities is the important thing (in no small part because it guarantees to block damage for everyone), and building tanky doesn’t make that CC any better, while building AP will help the fight go in her favor much faster. Assuming others in her wombo are going to be diving in after her, she’s going to have teammates diluting the damage focused on her. Even if she doesn’t, with AP she can get more done before she dies than she would with tanky stats, particularly considering how much defensive statses fall off at full builds with penetrations and %HP damages making tank stats highly inefficient unless they have multiple synergies with defensive stats, like Mundo or Shen.

More than that, there are several ways to get around investing heavily into durability. Champions like Aatrox and Riven can convert damage into durability to make them just as durable as someone building defensively, while doing more damage. Likewise, champions with heals and shields, like Soraka, Lulu, Nidalee, and Orianna can help keep their team alive without sacrificing damage. Banshee’s spellshield works independently of tank stats, which is why it’s so good on squishies, so they can pick Banshee’s up as needed, and having a dedicated tank isn’t necessary. Also, there are many abilities available that have ways to block damage that work regardless of durability- Kayle ult, Tryn ult, Lissandra Ult, Zhonya’s, Fizz/Elise/Yi’s capacity to dodge abilities, Pantheon’s passive and Jax dodge, etc.

In other words, while tanks are still useful, they aren’t strictly necessary, and if you don’t get a tank in one of your lanes, there are viable non-tank options available to you.

What does this all mean?

So let’s recap: putting a carry in the jungle is not only possible, it’s highly efficient and most beneficial. This may come at the cost of early gank pressure, but that’s less of a problem than ever. And, even if your team doesn’t have a tank as a result, you can adapt your play style to work without one. That means there are multiple forces reshaping the meta around having a jungler be a carry, which will affect how every other position is played.

Because the jungle is now the best place to put a carry, and the best person to put in the jungle is a carry, the way that power is distributed across the map changes in response to that, and changes that have been happening gradually for some time now can be taken advantage of with new strategies. We’ll start with the double-bruiser bot strategy, one that has long been on the cusp of viability.

Double Bruiser Bot

Have you ever ran an immobile Marksman into a Darius-Leona bot lane? The answer is no because you don’t run into them, they run over you. However, one problem bruiser bots have typically run into is that they are extra vulnerable to jungle pressure- their aggressive, all-in, kill lane play style is readable, and the jungler just has to show up when they go to make their move. However, with free wards, Heal, and junglers having less and less motivation to choose ganking over farming, that disaster is highly preventable.

Because of the many factors deterring junglers from ganking heavily, particularly bot lane, laners are significantly more free to fight each other without fear of outside intervention. This is even more pronounced in bot lane, because 2 people can burst down a single target much more effectively than someone in a solo lane. Since bruisers reign supreme in these all-in scenarios, it makes sense that double bruisers can take advantage of the absence of jungle pressure better than a traditional bot lane.

Another weakness of bruiser bots is that they usually have weak level ones, which lets a standard bot lane take control at L1, and never give it up, harassing the bruisers away from cs, and staving off the all-in. Remember when the new support items first got released, and EVERYONE got Relic Shield? Most of the nerfs to it weren’t actually nerfs, they just made it so it was an item almost exclusively for melee champions. One of the great things about starting with a Relic Shield is that you can push the wave quickly at level 1, and 2 of those means you can push it even faster and both heal for some of the harass damage you take, which means if you can take advantage of it, it’s still an incredibly strong option.

Making a double Targon’s lane is still one of the strongest laning possibilities because of this wave-push and healing combination, meaning you can not only get to L2 easier than before, but the payoff once you do, in terms of cs and overall laning strength, is absolutely better than it has ever been, and while it’s riskier than a traditional bot lane, the payoff is potentially much much better.

Because having an extra gold generation item means more gold for your team even if you go even on kills in lane, even if you aren’t able to make big plays, going even will give you more mid game gold that will keep you strong throughout the decisive stages of the game. While a traditional marksman will oustcale at full build, the extra gold generation from double Targon’s, as well as the superior laning power this provides, and high likelihood for snowballing, mean that you can cut that scaling short, and even if this isn’t in the explosive manner that kill lanes are known for, you will have an invaluable mid game power spike that will win more games than going for a full build Marksman.

Now it’s important to note that double bruiser bot doesn’t mean that common supports should be phased out- your fighty tanks that go to the support position like Thresh, Leona, Alistar and Blitz will work great with Volibear, Darius, Yasuo, and Renekton (respectively), just as well if not better than your classic bruiser lanes like Jarvan-Xin and Pan-Taric.

Mid Lane

All the routes into mid lane mean that ganks there are extremely doable, even with all the wards out these days. That means champions that can both set up ganks and survive them are highly desirable, a combination that typically works best with either a mobile, CC heavy assassin, like Leblanc, or the “support mage” mid laners, like Lulu, Soraka, Karma, and Ori. Generally speaking, an assassin will have a stronger laning phase, while a supportive mid laner will be better in fights where they can support teammates, but that’s a fairly general rule of thumb- match ups and team comps can sway that quite a bit.

The meta is already laregly favoring these, so I don’t think much needs to be said on this, except that having more supportive mid laners, in the sense that they work towards fulfilling the support role of foiling enemy attacks and enhancing allied ones, means double bruiser bot is even closer to being standard.

Top Lane- The March to Infinity

With the recent changes to teleport, champions that work well with it have a distinct edge over those that don’t. Simply put, Teleport’s low cooldown at early levels means that weak solo laners can recall freely, and outscale later. At the same time, they can take advantage of TP’s mid and late game strengths in creating fights with an extra person. In fact, the buff to the distortion enchantment means TP’s late game has been buffed as well.

TP users and champs with global or semi-global ults are also great right now because the safety that laners feel from the jungler prompts them to be more aggressive in lane making them more susceptible to global ganks, even if thats just a Soraka/Karthus ult. The best champions for top lane are generally those who can react to ganks somehow (CC, an escape, etc.), since the long lane means easier ganks and long distance splitpushes lead to collapses, and have strong waveclear and sustain since the isolation of top lane means extended pushing. Renekton, Vlad, Swain, Gragas, and Zac all fit this category, and a mage like Lissandra who has all those characteristics except sustain can make a lot of matchups work if she clears carefully enough to avoid taking much damage.

While a strong waveclearer will be able to push and poke, or push and roam/TP gank, the isolation of top lane simultaneously favors another type of champion- the late game scaler. Someone like Karthus or Veigar, who mostly wants to just survive the laning phase with competitive amounts of farm can do that better in top lane than they can anywhere else. If you want to play a late game scaler who doesn’t have fantastic waveclear, they can work particularly well against champions that don’t have the best gapclosing potential, such as Trundle.

The trend you may be noticing from all of these suggestions is that a lot of midlaners are now migrating their way top, and that’s a lot of what the buffs to TP do, they make it less about being able to all-in people because of the long lane, and more about getting big or roaming to get your team ahead, because TP lets you sustain and survive against all-in champs, and then eventually outperform them.

Conclusion

While the changes coming to each position are largely to benefit them individually, they all come together to create comps that are largely similar to what you already see- the mages move to top lane, supports to mid lane, bruisers to bot, and carries to the jungle. Just how much the meta changes toward this depends largely on how Riot continues to release changes, but barring anything drastic, these types of position swaps are heavily favored by the current state of balance.

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BlueNoseReindeer

I am a support main that went from Silver 4 to Platinum by learning instead of complaining, and from Platinum to Diamond by learning to relax and follow others. I enjoy teaching, so I decided to write articles about League when I reached Platinum, and play Silver vs. Platinum games when I can. I am extremely informal so feel free to ask me anything, anytime.

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