Hey all, Riot Phlox here to talk about how the jungle changes introduced in patch 12.22 have landed.
As of writing this post, it’s only been about a week since Preseason has been live. We’ve seen a lot of junglers talking about the changes to their role, so we wanted to talk to you about how we think things are going. Keep in mind, this is still Preseason, and we’re going to continue to make adjustments. But we wanted to open up the dialogue because we’re playing on this patch, have thoughts of our own, and are listening to yours as well.
Before we get started, I just want to list out our goals for the jungle changes overall:
Okay. Let’s talk about what we’re observing, what we think, and plans (if any) we have to address some of these areas.
The first area we want to discuss is counter jungling, as it’s been a hot topic ever since the changes were announced earlier this year. And while we do think it’s a core part of the role, and adds depth and skill expression in the forms of pathing, ganking, and general decision making, we also don’t think the way it was in the game before Preseason was the healthiest version of it.
Junglers often pick their champions to round out a team comp, for clear speed, comfort, or what’s meta at that time (or in my case, to play Shaco). But more than that, early in the game junglers are at the absolute mercy of their teams. So even if you pick a champion with decent clear speed, if your mid is being shoved in you have no one to help you stave off a 2v1 invade.
So to help prevent the early invades we made it take more time to clear the enemy’s jungle early. You still can invade, but it's more important that you either have knowledge of the enemy’s location or you’re just willing to take that risk. But this tradeoff means the rewards are more impactful than they were before Preseason—with the addition of companions your Smite’s upgrade is reliant on the number of camps you clear, not how many times you Smite. This means if you take a risk and counter early, even with the increased time it takes to clear the camp, you win bigger than before as your Smite is closer to being more powerful and your opponent’s is further.
The other reason we wanted to move away from very early counter jungling is because it’s a pretty miserable experience when you’re on the receiving end. Every laner has had the experience of having a lane frozen on them and being forced off the wave—you’re down in CS and experience. But when this happens in lane someone can come help you break a freeze while that isn’t possible in the jungle. When your camps are gone and you’re down in experience, you have nothing left to do other than gank (and ganking when you’re behind leaves you open to counter ganks and losing objectives). Even then, the enemy jungler has timers for all of your camps and can continue to punish you (unlike a freeze) making the experience uniquely miserable.
So while counter jungling is a bit different than it was before Preseason, we feel like it still exists in the game, but in a much less frustrating form. All of this said, while we’re happy with the direction this is moving in, we are keeping a close eye to make sure that jungling still retains places for skill expression.
I’m going to level with you here: I play Shaco, and I love clear optimization. So I’m sad that it’s less of an option than before, but we needed to make a change here.
Before Preseason the clear speed and health for an optimized clear versus a non-optimized clear was, honestly, pretty insane. When we were thinking about these jungle changes we had to answer the question, “How much should we prioritize a player’s learned skills and experience over things like role accessibility, champion diversity, and so on?” The answer to that is... complicated. Optimizations are good for the role, with two major exceptions: Jungle viability being defined by clear speeds, and unintuitive optimizations like camp dot dragging.
We still want clear optimizations to exist. We think that they’re a healthy aspect of jungling skill expression, but we want that to be taken out of champion select and into the game by putting AoE and single-target junglers on a more even playing field and removing the particularly unintuitive optimization of letting a camp die to the jungle DoT while you walk to your next camp (this still sort of exists though, as your companion will damage camps when you start to walk away).
Some of the most dramatic updates this Preseason were the leash range changes to reduce double camping and make kiting optimizations less important. Directionally, we think these changes are valuable, but the original launch versions overshot our goal and removed too much clear mastery. To correct this, we recently adjusted the leashing ranges to be a bit more lenient. That said, we do expect to continue to examine jungle clearing mastery/rewards and look at where we may have gone too far in the future.
We also altered pathing a fair bit this season with scuttlecrab changes, clear speed tweaks, and adjustments to Gromp and Krugs. A large portion of jungler skill expression is dynamically adjusting your pathing based on the game state. Our goal isn’t to change that, but we also don’t want pathing to be exclusively decided by your clear speed and crab timings like it has been previously. We also don’t want it to be defined by which camp is painful to take (Krugs) or which camp will get you back to full health (Gromp).
Krugs were a painful camp to take, they’re out of the way and take forever to clear, meaning many junglers just skipped them. As they were, Krugs meaningfully reduced pathing options since most champs could have (and should have) pretended they did not exist for large portions of the game. Now that they aren’t as durable and time consuming, they’re now potential candidates for an interesting or unusual first clear path.
Another problematic camp was Gromp and its chonky built-in heal. While satisfying, there were two major issues here: Gromp was “solving” pathing due to its ability to heal you up at the end of a clear and it was providing too much sustain (especially if paired with Smite’s heal). This led us to bring overall healing in the jungle down and shift it into areas with more skill expression (ex: kiting, back timings, etc), and tying the heal to the jungle companions and not a specific camp. Sustain in the jungle and its influence on pathing is a VERY sensitive system and we may have undershot on this, but we’re looking at ways to improve this system moving forward.
Another problematic camp was scuttlecrab. Scuttle’s spawn time meant if your champion couldn’t clear and make it to scuttle by 3:15, then they weren’t viable. Now that it spawns at 3:30, faster clearers can get full recalls or full ganks off before crab while slower clearers can actually get through their camps in time to contest. This should open up the window for more creative and interesting pathing beyond the typical 6-camp into crab clears.
It will take some time for these changes to fully manifest, and they may even end up being dangerous to the clear meta. However, I don’t think the previous meta was a very good one when it came to jungle pathing. Our ultimate goal with these changes is to open up a new meta full of options and interesting decisions for junglers. While it’s still a bit too early to draw conclusions, jungle pathing remains a deep, strategic part of the role and a part we expect players will constantly be engaging with and developing.
Introducing large changes like this to League is never an easy decision, but it’s one we do with the goal of making the game better for ALL our players (not just the new ones or the top 0.5%). The jungle changes are still very new, so we ask that you be patient as we collect more data to help us continue to improve upon these changes over the next few months. Thanks for reading and hope to see you in the jungle!