Welcome to the Jungle: 10 Tips for Intermediate LoL Players

Beyond the stability of the lanes is the jungle: a maze of trees populated by monsters and the fools crazy enough to hunt them. These “junglers” have given up the steady cash flow of the lanes for the freedom to travel through the wilds unseen, attacking anyone at any time. For them, leaping out of the bush and killing someone is the biggest thrill of all.

The jungler is a terrifying role. By gathering his experience and gold from neutral monsters, rather than the enemy minions & champions, he stays hidden from their sight. The spread-out locations of these monsters encourages him to roam, sometimes even into the enemy jungle to steal some of their monsters. This makes it extremely easy for him to attack any lane, punishing foolish aggressors that move too far from their tower.

But this freedom comes with responsibility. He’s responsible for supporting every lane, setting up ganks (invading another lane to help a teammate get a kill), giving teammates losing their lane a bit of breathing room, countering the enemy jungler, and basically being anywhere he’s needed as often as possible, while making sure he still earns enough experience and gold to keep up with the enemy team. In other words, it’s the most stressful role on the team. But it’s all worth it when you see the enemy laners rage in all-chat because you keep killing them.

Jungling is not the only change awaiting you in the mid levels of LoL. You can finally buy the most powerful runes at Level 20, and you have graduated beyond understanding the basics of the game to learning the details of several champions. To give you a leg-up in champion building, jungling, and keeping yourself from falling prey to a jungler, here’s 10 tips for playing in the LoL jungle:

Tip 1: Look up champion guides on Solomid.
Now that you have some experience on the field, you’re probably looking for good guides on playing your champions. I recommend Solomid.net. It highlights guides made by high-ranking players who often use that champion, usually with video tutorials, in-depth explanations, and advice on countering specific champions. If I’m trying out a new champion, I have his Solomid guide displayed on my iPhone. It’s my most-used LoL resource.

Tip 2: Learn 3 champions per role.

Specialization is for insects. -Robert A. Heinlein

The addition of a jungler changes the lane setup from the 2 top, 1 mid, 2 bottom you’ve played so far to the 1 top, 1 jungler, 1 mid, 2 bottom (damage + support) setup that’s standard in high-level LoL today. Now that the roles have finally crystallized, it’s time to start practicing each of them. On multiple champions. It’s going to take a while, but you’ll be glad you did.

If you focus on just one role, what do you do when you’re grouped with a player who refuses to play anything but that role? One of you is going to be stuck in a role they aren’t skilled at. Practicing multiple roles will let you fill multiple roles, which makes your teammates very happy when none of them want to jungle.

Just focusing on one champion per role also doesn’t work. If someone else chooses that champion, you’re hosed. If your team’s composition doesn’t work well with that champion, you’re hosed. If your opponent chooses a champion that counters yours, you’re hosed. This is luck of the draw in Blind-pick mode, but in Draft-pick mode (which is required in Ranked games), your opponents can see which champion you pick (and vice versa). If you can play a lot of champions well, it’s harder to counter you and easier for you to counter them. I’ll get into the details of that in the next guide, but you should start diversifying now.

I suggest learning two standard champions and one unusual champion per role. The standard champions should be solid all-around picks for the role, while the unusual champion either fills a different role in the team once team fights start, or can counter a lot of standard picks for that role. For example, the standard top lane champion is a physical melee bruiser, like Lee Sin or Olaf. However, Rumble (magical melee bruiser) and Vlad (magical ranged caster) are also popular top laners because they utterly wreck a lot of the standard picks for that role. Lee Sin, Olaf, and Rumble would make an excellent trio of top laners to practice.

For reference, here’s the standard roles in each position:

  • Top Lane: Melee physical bruiser
  • Jungle: Tank or melee
  • Middle Lane: Ranged caster (AP carry)
  • Bottom Lane: Ranged physical attacker (AD carry)
  • Bottom Lane’s Support: Healer or tank

Tip 3: Buy These Runes First

So you’ve finally hit Level 20 and have access to the Tier 3 runes. Which ones do you buy first? Since they’re very expensive, you probably want your initial set to be useful on just about every champion you own. Unless you’re focusing solely on a certain role (which you shouldn’t be; see Tip 2), this rune set works well on just about anyone:

  • Red Marks of Strength: Extra attack damage lets you hit harder and makes it easier to last hit minions for gold. Even magic casters can use this for getting more last hits.
  • Yellow Seals of Resilience: Extra armor = less damage from attacks = less chance of dying. Every champion appreciates dying less often. Vital for jungling.
  • Blue Glyphs of Shielding: Extra magic resistance = less damage from abilities = less change of dying. These glyphs are magic resistance per level, instead of flat magic resistance, because magic damage is a larger threat midgame than early game.
  • Quintessences of Avarice: They give you extra gold every 10 seconds. Everyone can use gold. These are vital for playing a good support, who is supposed to avoid getting minion kills while his partner’s in lane. They’re also dirt cheap to buy compared to the other quintessences.

How many Influence Points does this whole set of runes cost? 7,080 IP. This is why I recommend not buying any runes until Level 20.

Tip 4: Practice jungling by yourself first.

You want to start jungling? Create a Custom 1v0 match. Choose the champion & build you want to jungle with then start the match. Now try to clear out your entire jungle without recalling back to the shop. Can you? If not, quit the match, make a few tweaks, and try again. (If you’re having trouble, make sure you’re using the Smite summoner spell and try buying Cloth Armor + 5 health potions at the start.) Continue practicing and tweaking until you can complete your jungle with at least a third of your health left. Now you’re ready to start jungling with that champion in actual games.

You do not want to try jungling with a new champion for the first time in an actual match and die to the monsters. That sets you back a lot and aggravates your teammates; you might as well put a neon sign on yourself stating “Does Not Know What He’s Doing”.

A map of two basic jungling paths in LoL.

A map of the jungle mobs in Summoner's Rift. The blue numbers in the lower-left show a good jungling path for mana-intensive champions that need blue buff first. The red numbers in the upper-right show a good jungling path for melee-oriented champions that want red buff first.

Tip 5: Learn to leash.

A great jungler appreciates good leashers. Leashers help the jungler with their first group or two, distracting the monsters or doing extra damage to preserve the jungler’s health. A good leash can mean the difference between “I have enough health to gank a lane” and “I need to go back to base before I die”.

The term itself comes from the most basic type of leash: the mid laner attacks the blue golem or red lizard 1-2 times from the opposite side of the tree wall and then runs to his lane. The monster chases after the leasher for a few seconds before turning its attention to the jungler, letting the jungler get in a few free hits and preserve his health.

Advanced leashing takes 2-3 laners from both lanes adjacent to the jungler’s initial target. The mid laner still makes the initiating attack to distract the monster, but the other laners get in a few free hits along with the jungler before they run off to their lane. The jungler clears the enemies with even more health saved. The key is that the other laners must run from the monster before it gets too low on health, else they could steal experience from the jungler or cause the monster to reset by luring it out of its range.

Mid lane leashes blue golem, while bot lane helps the jungler kill it.

Diagram of an advanced leash. First Vlad (mid lane, red) attacks blue golem and immediately runs towards his lane. Taric (bot lane, blue) and Udyr (jungler, purple) then attack it. Taric withdraws to bot lane once the golem's at half health to avoid stealing some of the golem's experience points. Udyr quickly kills it and moves on.

Expert leashing helps the jungler with his first two groups, giving him a strong head start against the enemy jungler. Instead of starting at the blue golem or red lizard, they start at a smaller camp nearby, such as wolves or wraiths. These smaller camps spawn sooner; the jungler can clear them before the big camps spawn if he has some help. On the first camp, the jungler makes the initial attack to group the enemies around himself. Meanwhile, the laners take potshots at them from afar, careful to damage them but not kill them. The jungler gets the last hit on each of them before going to the big camp, which is leashed as stated above. An expert leash like this lets the jungler get his first two camps in the same time it takes a basic leash to do one, letting him clear the jungle faster, gank sooner, and relieve pressure on the lanes quicker.

Tip 6: Laners: always be warding.

You rarely know where the enemy jungler is. At almost any moment, he could be barreling down the river into your lane, hoping to cut you off from your tower long enough for his partner in-lane to kill you. How can you see him in time to escape before he can cut you off?

You ward you ward you ward.

After the first few minutes, you ward the river. When it’s about to run out, you place another ward there. Each of those wards is three minutes of utter frustration for the enemy jungler because you have just made their best attack route worthless. Now they have to get fancy to catch you, like sneaking in through the side bushes or running past your tower (taking damage in the process) to attack you from behind. There’s a good chance their jungler will just quit trying to gank you if you ward so often he can’t catch you with your pants down.

Wards are your best friend in this game. That Infinity Edge won’t warn you when you’re about to be dogpiled.

A map of all the paths on Summoner's Rift.

This map shows the laning paths, river paths, and jungle paths in Summoner's Rift. Intersections are good places to ward so you can track the enemy's movement.

Tip 7: Coordinate ganks.

“What is the key to-”
“…successfully pulling off a gank.”

Most ganks are a 2-man performance. The jungler and the laner have to attack the enemy laner at the same time, burning him down for the kill before he can escape back to his tower. The jungler has to let the laner know she’s ganking his lane, the laner has to lure the enemy into overextending, and both the laner and the jungler need to focus their attacks on the target. If the jungler forgets to announce she’s going to gank, or the laner delays when he should be attacking, a gank can fail or even turn against you.

A few target pings from the jungler plus a message like “coming top to gank” gives the laner enough time to prepare for it. If the laner thinks it’s not a good idea (due to the enemy not being extended enough or warding the river, for example), he can do a retreat ping to tell the jungler to back off and do something else. If the laner wants the gank, though, he needs to set it up.

First, he needs to survive until the jungler arrives. (Do you know how annoying it is to watch your laner die right before you reach his lane?) Second, he needs to get the enemy laner to overextend, leaving him vulnerable to a gank. Letting the enemy minions push towards your tower is a good way of doing this, but leaving yourself open to an attack is a risky yet effective alternative. Players often get reckless when they have a shot at a kill and do stupid things like tower dive or chase you into a bush. If you lure them in on purpose, congratulations, you’ve just baited them to their deaths.

If they don’t overextend or fall for the bait, tell the jungler to back off. They probably have the jungler’s path warded or suspect a gank, and the longer a jungler waits for an opening, the longer it takes him to get back to jungling.

Once the jungler is in position and the enemy laner is vulnerable, you need to hinder him and burst him down. Many champions have control effects like slows, stuns, or taunts that hinder an enemy’s attempts to escape; once they’re hindered, unleash everything you got on him. If you time it right, even if you don’t kill him, you’ve taken off a large chunk of his health and forced him to use a summoner spell or two to escape, making it harder for him to stay in lane and rack up experience and gold.

Vlad is baited into an "easy kill" by Ashe. Lee Sin ambushes him and kills him instead.

A perfect example of a bait gank. Vlad advances aggressively, trying to kill the injured Ashe, only to be killed by Lee Sin instead.

Tip 8: Junglers: give away your buffs.

A good jungler gives away his buffs. The blue golem’s extra mana regen and cooldown reduction? Very useful for a mid lane caster. The red lizard’s extra damage and slow effect on basic attacks? Turns a physical laner into a big threat. Giving these buffs to your laners gives them a major advantage in lane.

The blue buff is given away more often than the red buff (since a slow-on-attack buff can be just as useful on a jungler as a laner), so I’ll focus on that. Most junglers need the first blue buff to clear the jungle initially, but they should help their mid laner take the subsequent blue buffs. A ping on blue golem and a message like “mid, come get blue” tells the mid laner you’re ready to help him kill blue golem. (The mid laner could solo blue golem, but most of them will take too much damage in the process.)

The jungler makes the initial attack this time, whittling down the blue golem while the mid laner takes potshots at it from across the tree line. Once the blue golem’s health is low enough, the jungler quits attacking and darts around the blue golem to occupy it until the mid laner finally kills it, grabbing the blue buff. Then the mid laner heads back to his lane to rain terror and death upon his opponent. Rinse and repeat each time the blue golem respawns for a happy mid laner. Of course, it helps if you know exactly when the blue golem respawns…

Nocturne helps Morgana take down a blue golem so she can get the blue buff for mid lane.

A jungling Nocturne helps Morgana kill the blue golem. She'll get a lot of use out of its mana regeneration & cooldown reduction buff in mid lane.

Tip 9: Predict respawns.

Each jungle camp takes a certain amount of time to respawn. If you know that, and when it was cleared, you can be ready to kill it again the moment it respawns. Such punctuality is useful if the enemy jungler has scouted your jungle. If you scout a cleared monster camp, its icon disappears from your minimap and reappears when that camp respawns. Therefore, if the enemy’s scouted your blue golem camp, he could see when it has respawned and try to steal it. What they don’t know is when you killed it; if you’re ready to kill it before they even know it has respawned, they can’t steal it. (Cunning junglers would just ward the monster camp and move in to attack once they see an enemy waiting in the bushes… the power of wards!)

So, how long does it take for each camp to respawn?

  • Small camps: About 1 minute
  • Blue golem & red lizard camps: 5 minutes
  • Dragon: 6 minutes
  • Baron: 7 minutes

If you start jungling at the blue golem camp, it will usually respawn around 7 minutes, 15 seconds. If you kill it quickly after that, it’ll respawn around 13-14 minutes, and so on. This prediction also helps if you have a good idea of when the enemy team killed Dragon or Baron; if you approach them just in time to see the enemy team run and the monster gone, you can make a decent prediction of when it’ll reappear (about 6 minutes from now). You can even predict when you need to set down a ward in front of it so you can see if they try to kill it first. (The power of wards!)

The two teams clash at the Dragon.

A team fight breaks out at the Dragon. The huge reward for killing Dragon or Baron makes them heavily-contested when they respawn. Also note the ward planted near the Dragon.

Tip 10: Learn when to retreat.

So you’ve followed the jungling tips so far and you’ve had a great match where all your ganks are successful and your team is steamrolling mid lane into their enemy base. A big team fight breaks out and you kill them all to get an Ace, but two of your teammates died and the rest of you are at half health and mana. Still, they’re all dead so you push that last tower before the inhibitor. The tower goes down, so you push on through to the inhibitor, and you nearly take it down…

…before five refreshed, respawned, angry enemy champions jump the lot of you, unload every burst they have, and kill all of you. Suddenly they’re on the offensive and your two recently-respawned teammates can’t do jack about it. Next thing you know, they have the Baron buff and you’ve lost two towers because you didn’t retreat a few seconds sooner.

This is a stupid mistake that can cost you the game, and it’s easily remedied. If you press O, you bring up a scoreboard that shows how long it will take the enemy champions to respawn. If they have all respawned and you don’t have all of your teammates attacking at near-full health, retreat. If you’re dead while your teammates attack, bring up the scoreboard and watch the respawn timers. A 5-second warning before they respawn is invaluable. Don’t lose an offensive because you couldn’t watch a timer.

Once you’ve mastered these tips, it’s time to push through several dozen matches all the way to Level 30… where the real competition begins. Ranked matches, counter-picking, counter-jungling, mind games, and wards galore await you.

Next week: Welcome to the Big Leagues: 10 Tips for Expert LoL Play

One Comment

  1. Kevin

    Thanks for this!