Let’s talk about the 2015 season jungle. Up front: we knew the preseason changes were going to make things significantly tougher, but it’s clear we’ve misstepped along the way in both communication and design. Not only have we not done a great job of sharing our thoughts (present and future), but our subsequent changes to the jungle from patch 5.1 to 5.4 have been nerfs to jungle diversity rather than continuing to deliver on our preseason goals.
First, let’s see how we got here. From the beginning we knew that “strategic diversity” would basically become a meme for the 2015 season, but it’s still something we strongly believe in. A lot of players might associate champion diversity with strategic diversity, but it’s more about one feeding into the other. The former is only about what champions get played - even if they’re doing the same thing - while the latter emphasizes champions who can enable a variety of other strategies on a team (objective control, wombo, lane pressure, etc). With Jarvan IV, Vi, and Lee Sin all fulfilling identical roles (with priority given to whoever’s strongest), we know we’re not there.
In line with the above thought, our goal with 2015 was to support a rock-paper-scissors game of jungle styles: ganking, farming, and counter jungling. What we ended up discovering, however, was that counter jungling wasn’t actually a proper response on par with ganking and farming, so jungling went back to who could gank or farm the best (or both).
It’s clear that we’ll need to reconfigure what available playstyles there are for junglers out there, but for now our big focus is getting jungler diversity up before attempting to tackle the larger problem of strategic jungler playstyles (versus champion playstyles like playing Amumu vs. Vi).
So what do we want to do, and how can we get there? High-level we’re still pursuing strategic diversity in the jungle (and, well, all of League of Legends), but we also realize we need to get champion diversity up to support it. Finally, while we intentionally made clearing camps harder and riskier to better differentiate jungler strengths, this has also made the jungle position less satisfying and fun for junglers, so we’re investigating other ways to improve this.
Short-term, here are some tactics:
First, we’re going to be pushing our experimental jungler tank item to the PBE with this patch. We’ve actually been working on it for a little while behind the scenes, but - as we mentioned earlier - haven’t done a great job of communicating that. TL;DR: Juggernaut is being reworked into Cinderhulk, a new Sunfire-esque item build that gives both tankiness and extra clear speeds to the junglers in need.
In terms of auxiliary changes to help get tank junglers get their satisfaction back, we’re going to be looking at a bunch of tank junglers this patch to see if we can give any small buffs in the early game, along with buffs to Gromp’s Poison Armor Smite reward and some early monster damage nerfs. This does mean we’ll need to look at specific dominant champions who are standing (or pouncing) well above the pack, but we’ll have to tread a fine line of balance here. The goal is to get junglers feeling satisfied and empowered to play the position, but we need to be wary of a world where they’re doing so at the cost of everyone else.
Finally, what’s in store for the future? We still believe in creating a compelling set of unique jungle actions beyond just ganking and farming, but haven’t firmly locked down additional paths to support. We have a few ideas we’re really excited about, but we’re definitely looking at making Poacher’s Knife and Skirmisher’s Sabre more robust and exciting items for the future. We’re also going to be examining the feeling of the jungler “potion tax” where junglers always need to be chugging away to stay healthy.
On the communications front, we failed to recognize the stacking pain we’ve been causing junglers through the patches, and that’s something we want to improve. We need to get better at engaging in a healthy dialogue with players while also highlighting our short and long-term goals for the future, and we will.
Wrapping it all up: if it wasn’t clear from our multiple revisions throughout the years, the jungle is a tough position to get right. The jungle needs to test multiple capabilities while also providing the space for a jungler to have impact on the game through different actions, even though right now it’s more focused on high-damage and ganking prowess (which sounds familiar, we know). That said, we’ve never been more confident in our long-term goals - as ambitious as they are - but we know it’s not fair for junglers to languish while we work toward that vision.
We’re definitely committed to opening up the jungle without just giving out power haphazardly, but we’re also hoping that by keeping these communication channels open you’ll help us guide the jungle to a more compelling, diverse, and healthy position in League. We really appreciate your feedback, and we’re excited to continue sharing more of our plans in the future.