With the introduction of item sets in the new patch, many players are looking to create item sets for their junglers! This post focuses theoretical and practical concepts for itemization for junglers.While it focuses on meta building for junglers in an initiating role, which is the most common role for junglers, it touches on building for champions in general. Ultimately, building in any role is dependent on the champion you play; however, there are certain concepts to follow which can be applied to mostly all junglers.
Learn more about understanding itemization in the jungle after the jump!
Playing a jungler role in most high ELO solo queue and competitve, arranged 5s teams fills a specific niche role. As seen on the international scene, the regional LCS, and high ELO solo queue, most junglers play tank initators. I have mentioned this kind of role constantly throughout my posts and I attempt to reason to players that this is the way the jungle should be played. While the role may seem 'dull or stale,' it is a necessary component in the current game meta. Until Riot changes a method for junglers to attain more gold on the map than laners, a Jungler will mostly retain this role. While innovators try to play new champions as carry roles with junglers who can farm and gank extremely efficiently, junglers who do not get kills or take CS from lanes will find it difficult to 'carry' with the amount of gold they can attain steadily.
That being said, the first concept when a Jungler considers items to build is the Cost Efficiency Concept. Junglers who are only taking assists, holding CS for laners, and only farming when there are no gank opportunities will find that they cannot keep up with big ticket defensive items like Sunfire Cape, Randuins Omen, or Warmogs. These items, while cost efficient and give amazing stats, are expensive. Junglers, in normal situations, who build these items will find themselves behind with no global benefit to the team. Which is why many pro Junglers prefer items like Runic Bulwark and Locket of the Iron Solari. These items are more cost efficient than big defensive items laners tend to get. Furthermore, these items make the entire team tanky. Every gold you spend on a Runic Bulwark is worth more than every gold you spend on a Warmogs for the entire team. In addition, these team items are needed by teams. Who better to build a tanky aura item than on the tanky initator jungler who runs around the map and participates in most skirmishes? As long as junglers have less accessible money than laners, junglers will always tend to favour building aura tank items which are more cost efficient than other big ticket defensive items.
The second concept when a Jungler considers items to build is the Initiating Role Concept. In the current standard NA meta, teams generally like to come together and fight as five. In order for good opportunities to start fights to be capitalized on, there needs to be a champion who has hard crowd control that can initiate the fight. This champion has to be tanky so that he does not get bursted down completely by the enemy team. Furthermore, the hard crowd control that these champions have are useful in ganks in the early-mid game. Of course, top laners like Malphite or Zac can also take on the initiating role. However, the CC available by these champions are wasted sitting in the top lane when it can be available globally in ganks. That being said, the jungle fills the initiating role the best. As long as there is a demand for an initiating role due to how the game is played, Junglers will always want to build a certain way.
The Damage Condition is one condition where you junglers should recognize to deviate from the traditional build paths. When a team lacks damage, sometimes a jungler is coerced into building more damage for the team. For example, an initiating Top Laner like Malphite or an ADC like Urgot are all champions who are not valued for their damage when their counterparts for their role are. Make sure you recognize when your team is building too tanky and lacks damage which allows you to build more damage than traditionally warranted.
The Fed Condition is another condition where junglers can deviate from traditional build paths. While you generally want to be giving kills to your team, sometimes its better to secure a kill than to let players get away. Junglers who unexpectedly pick up multiple kills will find themselves with more money than laners. In these situations, you want to be building differently, preferably some damage. Junglers who stick to their traditional builds while picking up many kills to find gold being wasted as the Cost Effiicency Concept does not apply properly. For example, in the recent Shang Hai All-Star Games jungler SaintVicious for North America managed to secure many kills in the laning phase, but was not able to utilize them properly. As a result, the NA LCS Team who managed to secure an advantage in laning phase were not able to win.
Core defensive items on Junglers tend focus on three areas - Health, Resists, and Cooldown Reduction. These three stats allow junglers to satisfy the initiating role by being able to take more abuse and provide an optimal amount of utility from their kits. The following items are all effective and efficient items for junglers and are considered core on many standard junglers in general situations.
Runic Bulwark / Aegis of the Legion
Locket of the Iron Solari
Spirit of the Ancient Golem
Boots of Mobility
Situational Items for junglers tend to be required when the above mentioned conditions are met or the concepts cannot be applied appropriately. These items may be purchased when a special situation arises. Other items for damage which can be purchased on specific junglers can be: Brutalizer, Spirit of the Lizard Elder, Blade of the Ruined King, Last Whisper, Hex Drinker, Rylias Crystal Sceptor, Abyssal Sceptor. Whereas, situational defensive items can be: Frozen Heart, Thornmail, Sunfire Cape, Warmogs, Shureylias Reverie. Use your own judgement on these items when putting into account the different variables that the game brings up.
With the major items on most junglers being the same, many players believe that the NA meta for junglers which has favoured a support role to be stale and boring. Three threat teams that dominate the NA scene have always run with this setup. However, Korean teams have been known to run four threat teams where the jungler plays another quasi-carry role. Popularized by Insec's Zed play, four threat teams are difficult to play but are extremely strong. However, NA teams tend to only average 300 to 350 GPM; while Korean teams manage to average 400+ GPM. The aggressive playstyle by Koreans yields more gold than how the NA scene plays. As a result, more gold is readily available.
With an ever-changing, evolving meta, League of Legends does not guarantee that the 'core items' listed above are going to be built in the future. However, if game mechanics remain the same due to the mentioned concepts, players should be able to discover the most efficient items easily. However, I would be hard pressed to be convinced that Riot would want to shift the meta to favour quasi-carry junglers in the jungle. In order for such norm to be created, gold for junglers has to be provided in a consistent manner and in some way not available to laners at the same time.