Fearless and Axes here to talk about the jungle changes coming in the upcoming 2015 Preseason. Our big goal this time around is to bring strategic diversity back to jungle. Currently a small pool of optimal junglers has been skewing team compositions toward a small set of strategic plans, so our focus for 2015 is to let players take the junglers they love and the junglers they want to fit into their team’s strategies. I realize jungle diversity improvements have been a focus a few times in the past (has it been every season?), but this time around we’re taking bigger steps and we’re excited to share our ideas with you.
As I mentioned in the foreword, the 2015 Preseason changes are taking a crack at some problems in the jungle that have built up over many seasons. In the past, our approach to the jungle has been through smaller sets of changes, aimed at fixing only the issues that arose in the previous year. Our fixes did largely address past problems, but they also didn’t have the mechanisms to deal with some of the power balances that appeared later on.
As players mature in their understanding of the game landscape, the strength of a jungler ends up getting boiled down and optimized into a small handful of champs who do roughly the same thing: who can clear the fastest while also having strong dueling / ganking capabilities? This season, for example, we saw a lot of Kha’Zix, Evelynn, Rengar, Elise and, everyone’s favorite, Lee Sin. A side effect with having ‘optimal’ junglers who crowd out other choices is that teams tend to orient their team selection and strategies around their limited choices. For example, if there aren’t any powerful junglers that work in a siege comp, it becomes that much more of a gamble to commit to one.
The 2015 changes are aimed at building a jungle that has components to empower and react to many different actions that junglers take. This allows us much finer control to react to the live state of the game with small changes to the jungle, rather than only having to tune champions and items. In past seasons, collateral damage with each jungle change was very high, where a buff to a few champions creates huge imbalances (anyone remember Feral Flare?). The new jungle aims to give us many angles to attack problems as they arise, to give us more precision than we’ve ever had before. More scalpels, less sledgehammers.
One of the symptoms of a dominant strategy is that players feel like they know the actions they’ll take throughout the game by the time the loading screen is up. After a few dozen repetitions of the Lee Sin vs. Kha’zix match up, we as junglers have a very good idea of how the match up will play out, and the game is very likely to feel very similar to the games before and after. Not only is this not delivering the level of excitement League of Legends should bring, but it takes the strategic decisions out of a role built around strategic choice.
Junglers are the role most free to make strategic decisions throughout the game. Not being bound to lane, they largely self determine their points of interaction on the map. The jungler role is most rewarding and healthy when the strategic decisions of the jungler are as important as their mechanical play. On the other hand, when there are far too few variables in each game, jungle play feels much more shallow and gets focused on tiny optimizations. Without the constant presence of a lane opponent, and without interesting decisions to make, the jungle position becomes less deep and diverse.
Given our high-level goal this season is strategic diversity, each of our following changes (reminder, they’re still in testing!) is subservient to that goal. Whether it be modifying the pace of the jungle, adding new jungle monsters, or giving buffs through Smite, all of the below changes are in pursuit of opening up strategic diversity in both the jungle and for teams at large. By injecting multiple sets of new variables, we can highlight the unique strengths of each jungler so that all have different optimizations and can interact with the jungle in more unique ways.
First, the current jungle is heavily biased in favor of fast-clearing junglers who double up on their sustain through offense. Our first goal was to balance this more equally in favor of other attributes like sustain and mitigation in order to open up the strategic space for jungler power. As such, we’ve given basic camps a pretty hefty base stat increase. We’ve also changed the pacing of the basic camps, increasing their gold and XP rewards, along with their spawn delay. This puts a higher premium on mitigation-focused junglers who can stay healthy to gank after clearing a camp, while high-damage junglers might be more effective at ganking but will have a tougher time keeping up.
We’d previously moved away from junglers being able to full clear their jungle as this meant they were then forced to take action on the map. With the increased power of counter jungling, the new crab camp (more on this in a minute) to take in the river, and the new vision tools from the camp rewards (almost there!), junglers should now have more meaningful strategic gameplay even when their camps are down.
This brings me to my next point: jungle camp rewards. Each jungle camp now grants a buff the first time Smite is used on them (this buff is available each time they spawn). We’ll have more details on these camps as we get them dialed in for release, but the goal of each reward is to provide a flexible tool that junglers can use in different ways based on the current state of each game.
For example, Gromp currently gives the jungler a poison armor that, you guessed it, poisons enemies that attack the jungler, dealing magic damage over time. This buff is great as a starting point to help tanky junglers in their first clear while also providing safety vs. invades as well as some power in team fights and objective control. Each jungler should have a reason to want each camp’s buff throughout the game, so that junglers are always making meaningful choices on what camps to take and how to tweak their routes to fit their larger goals.
Finally, let’s talk about the new Scuttle Crab camp. This is the new monster found in the river that actually runs away from its attackers. The goal here is to give junglers a new reason to venture out of their jungle and contest the crab in smaller skirmishes. Currently, when a team defeats the Scuttle Crab, they’re awarded a vision bubble and movement speed shrine that grants out of combat movement speed in front of Baron or Dragon pit. While the Scuttle Crab itself isn’t dangerous (but is durable), the chase for it can pull champions up and down the river. This means that taking the crab can easily turn into a small fight with a few champs on each side. There are larger team-based implications, like creating a new decision point for mid-laners to roam for vision and safety, but I’m focusing mostly on the jungle impact here.
We’re very excited to see how players use the Scuttle Crab monster, and what crazy strats shake out of this addition.
All of these changes are only half the equation. Let’s talk new jungle items! Axes, I choose you!
Preseason will include a completely new set of jungle items, built from scratch towards a different set of goals from previous seasons. This is obviously a big change, and before getting into the details, I want to take a minute and talk about why a large-scale item change was necessary in the first place.
The previous jungle items combined your champion’s role (Fighter, Tank, Assassin) with a fairly specific pattern of jungling. Spirit of the Elder Lizard, for example, is an item that’s only good on AD champions dealing sustained physical damage - mainly Fighters. It’s also only good on champions who want to gank or duel before moving back into their jungle to heal up and claim their bonus gold.
While these results correspond with our goals from last season, we saw two problems over time: first, champions whose have a playstyle that doesn’t work well with their optimal role item are left out in the cold. Shyvana is never going to be a great Spirit of the Elder Lizard user because Shyvana doesn’t need a mechanic that stores up gold while she goes and does something else. Instead, Shyvana stays in the jungle pretty continuously because she has a kit that empowers her to safely and quickly clear her jungle and invade but leaves her as a relatively lackluster ganker.
Second, our previous items amplified role problems. When fighter junglers get an item that makes them particularly good at fighting enemy champions as their core jungle purchase - and tank junglers don’t - then whenever that item is strong, fighters will tend to stomp tank junglers out. When that item isn’t strong, fighter junglers just don’t get picked at all because they have no real fallback item. Fixing this problem doesn’t instantly level the playing field among all junglers - it doesn’t make Sejuani a top tier jungle pick by itself - but it does mean that our jungle items are no longer exacerbating her problems.
There’s also an opportunity here: the new jungle is about diversity of action. In addition to the ubiquitous ganking of Season 4, invading the enemy jungle has become more valuable, there are new and more impactful objectives to contest, and there are more ways to engage in the vision war on the map. Even if you pick the same champion in two consecutive games, the conditions of those two games should result in different experiences. If we can create a set of jungle items which support different important jungler actions (depending on circumstances) then these items can serve as a good tool to help promote this diversity of action in the jungle.
On to the items! We’re retaining Hunter’s Machete as a starting item, but changing how it deals damage and sustains your champion to be nearly role-agnostic - in other words, it shouldn’t be better on a fighter than on a tank. Hunter’s Machete then upgrades to four other items, each of which changes your Smite spell so as to augment what type of action you might want to take as a jungler.
Stalker’s Blade increases your power while ganking, allowing the jungler to play a larger-than-usual role in helping snowball lanes and put the whole team ahead.
Poacher’s Knife provides you with additional power and incentive to cross the river and invade the enemy jungle, stealing whatever camps you can opportunistically take and putting the enemy jungler behind.
Skirmisher’s Sabre gives combat power specially targeted to a 1 versus 1 situation, empowering you to seek out the enemy jungler and try to kill them, to show up during enemy ganks and turn the tide of a battle, or to punish an invading enemy jungler.
Ranger’s Trailblazer makes you faster and safer at fighting jungle monsters, allowing you to stay safer while farming because your health will be generally higher and giving you more time to take other actions.
These items are role agnostic - they can be purchased whether you’re a Fighter, an Assassin, a Tank, or something else (jungle Karthus?), as they don’t provide stats binding them to one role or another. The only requirement is that the action they help you to do has to be important to you as a jungler, whether as a strength that you want to reinforce or a weakness that you’re looking to shore up.
These are items, however, and to want them in your full build they probably need a good set of stats! We’ve also addressed this issue by creating an enchantment system for them to provide stats relevant to your roles. The Warrior enchantment adds attack damage and Lifesteal, the Magus enchantment gives ability power and cooldown reduction, the Juggernaut enchantment adds health, armor, and tenacity, and, finally, the fourth enchantment, Devourer, gives attack speed and on-hit magic damage which stacks up as you kill enemy champions or large monsters. Each enchantment gives roughly the stats you’d get for the total cost of the enchanted item, so the jungle passive from Hunter’s Machete and the additional bonuses on the second tier items come effectively for free on the final items.
That’s it for now! Big changes are coming, and we're excited to take this next step into the jungle's evolution with you.