League of Legends is a dynamic game with roles that, on the surface, can appear stricly regimented. But, beneath the surface, these roles exist in an ever changing sea of meta-games, responsibilities, and capabilities. But perhaps no position on the rift is more dynamic, more ever-evolving than the jungler. Capable of making or breaking an early-game performance while developing its own significance in the late game, the jungler’s responsibility is, well, everything. Controlling the flow of lanes, defending turrets, delivering ganks, providing vision, all while maintaining its own farm and itemizing based on the needs of the team.
For this reason, it can be easily understood why limiting the jungler is a prudent strategy. During the LCS EU Playoffs we watched a night-and-day performance by Gambit’s Diamond essentially determine the outcome of two games. But how do you slow down someone who’s farm lies tucked in the fog of war, nestled between enemy turrets and allies?
Regardless of these safeguards, counter-jungling exists and its impact on the game can be far-reaching. A combination of game knowledge, timing, vision, and map control create opportunities for unequal trades in map resources while limiting the paltry bank of gold and experience available to the opposing jungler. Truly, any 1-for-0 trade is something that should be pursued, and the beauty is that you, the jungler, can create this disparity with a little help from your teammates and communication.
Three Rules of Ladder
Before we get started, let’s take a second to remember the Three Rules of Ladder (laid out in a previous column). They are as follows:
- Be positive
- NEVER flame
Simple in delivery but challenging to implement, these three rules bear repeating. On their most fundamental level, the Three Rules provide a foundation for good teamwork. Letting your teammates know what your intent is, along with what you believe the team objective should be, and opens up the door for cooperation and focused aggression on key objectives. The second two rules help to alleviate hostility within the team, making comebacks more possible and snowballs more dangerous as teammates work together as allies instead of enemies stuck on the same squad.
Breaking it Down
Now then, to understand how to counter-jungle, let’s take a look at the its constituent pieces.
In the first game, Diamond picks Lee Sin against Snoopeh’s Zac, the supporting cast includes:
- Gambit: Shen top, Karthus mid, Varus and Thresh bot
- Evil Geniuses: Aatrox top, Orianna mid, Caitlyn and Zyra bot
In this instance, we won’t examine the draft at length, simply because the lane pressure needed to cultivate the opportunity for counter-jungling depends on mostly in-game decisions. It is difficult to nail down one composition over another that necessarily enables the process. At this juncture it is enough to understand that both sides have chosen lineups with a good combination of initiation, damage, and lane presence.
In the very beginning, Gambit send Lee Sin over to the EG jungle to steal the blue buff. Since Zac is starting red in this instance, EG give the blue buff of Gambit to Caitlyn in the bot lane, simply to prevent a buff disparity between the two sides. Herein lies the first element of counter-jungling: both sides begin with an extremely limited quantity of gold and experience. For this reason, all considerations must be made to optimize its use or recover from its theft. By grabbing the blue buff, Caitlyn is able to pressure the 2v1 mismatch in the bottom against Shen and, while that gold and experience is not given directly to the jungler, he benefits as a result, having denied the same resources to his opponent.
Snoopeh then chooses to then gank the top lane. The successful kill, assist given to Aatrox, allows the top laner the opportunity to itemize early and then shove the turret down as soon as the duo of Gambit leaves. What follows this chain of events illuminates another key point: lane pressure creates opportunities for counter-jungling. Diving into the enemies side of the river under cover of darkness can just as easily lead to a stolen wraith camp as a donated kill. But when the lane is pushed in your favor, you open up lanes of rotation for your nearby allies, giving you a support system while you steal away precious jungle resources. Snoopeh then capitalizes on this fact by stealing away the Gambit-side golems, knowing that Orianna and Zac both have clear paths to utilize for assistance.
After seeing the early wraith steal from Diamond, EG decide to ward the river near dragon and the Gambit side banana brush. By doing so, they see Diamond’s jungle patterns, and are able to set up accordingly. Knowing that Diamond is in the blue buff side of the jungle, Zac hides next to the wraiths in the red buff side. After some quick harassment damage, Zac uses his Elastic Slingshot to jump on to the squishy Karthus and secure another kill. Two items are brought to light by this chain of events. The first is that counter-jungling requires vision. Without healthy vision of the enemy jungler, every trip across the river is a gamble instead of a certainty. The second is that, exploited correctly, the opposing side’s jungle is just as much your playground as theirs. The same fog of war that covers their movements covers yours. With the added advantage of vision, the opportunities for ganks, steals, and pressure increase and map control is asserted as a result.
At this point, Diamond will spend the rest of the game on the back foot. He is up in raw CS, but his team is well behind. As a consequence, he is forced to itemize defensively, never making his presence felt offensively as EG drives to a swift (SPOILER ALERT) victory.
Putting It All Together
Now, let’s apply these rules to the second game so that we can better understand why Diamond makes the decisions he does and carve out some insight of our own for our play. Again, for review, we now understand that:
- Jungle resources are precious
- Lane pressure opens opportunities for resource theft
- Vision enables positional advantages and ganks
- Successful counter-jungling creates map control
In game 2, Diamond opts for Jarvan IV while Snoopeh chooses Amumu. Respectively, the supporting casts include:
- Gambit: Zac top, Karthus mid, Twitch and Sona bot
- Evil Geniuses: Aatrox top, Zyra mid, Caitlyn and Thresh bot
Gambit ward their own jungle early and when EG moves to steal the red buff, Diamond heads across the river and steals red and the golems in response. Why? Because of rule 1! Diamond understands that the early resources are precious and for that reason must secure his own advantage. But his prowess is displayed as he takes rule 1 to its logical conclusion, settling the defecit between junglers and then building an advantage in the process with the golem and then wraith steal.
Seeing the top lane pressure by Zac, Diamond then heads back up to the EG golems, showing his understanding of rule 2. The lane pressure up top creates the potential for another resource steal and prohibits a kill in response as Zac rotates to defend Jarvan when Aatrox and Amumu engage. With a ward in the river at dragon, we see the importance of rule 3. In this instance, Gambit do not prevent a gank or steal a camp because of this vision, but seeing the commitment at dragon allows further top lane pressure for Zac and yet another red buff steal by Diamond.
With Amumu’s continued donation of the wraith camp to Zyra in the mid lane and the persistent buff and camp stealing of Diamond, Amumu suddenly finds himself behind despite a valiant effort to equalize the CS. With boots of mobility on Jarvan, Gambit are now suddenly ready for some real aggression, which manifests in heavy top lane harassment and protection for Zac, missed CS by Aatrox another golem steal for Diamond, and a tower kill for the Russians.
At this point it is important to notice how minuscule the steals were that lead to this sudden mobility and map control advantage. Three wraiths and a couple golems provided early safety for Twitch, Zac, and Karthus, all champions that enjoy that early farm because Amumu was forced to focus on farming instead of ganks. Another red steal and a ward at dragon lead to a lane disparity top and more opportunities for golem and buff steals. These tiny differences in gold lead to early boots of mobility, early, safe lane pressure ensures a tower kill, and map control is the reward. In each of these cases, tiny changes lead to big disparities down the line.
As the game plays out, the advantages become more and more acute. Zac can 1v1 Aatrox, the next dragon goes to Gambit, and the damage items built from early farm keep Gambit in the game against some devious EG ganks. Eventually, these advantages snowball further and further to a Gambit victory. The important thing to remember is that little advantages go a long way at all levels of play and with some leadership, bravery, and wards, you can secure advantages for your entire team at once. Oh, and the LP ain’t bad either.
In a game like League of Legends, a little understanding can go a long way. In the jungling position, a little understanding breeds an immeasurable advantage. Critical, calculated early-game decisions with a little bit of help and communication from teammates lead to snowballing for all members of the team and an almost sneaky build-up in gold and map advantage. In order to be successful, just consider the four rules and look for opportunities to take an advantage over your opponents. But most of all, have fun. For Demacia’s sake, you’re playing the game in your opponent’s jungle. What isn’t fun about that?
Good luck out there and remember, always be next level.