Riot, why can’t we figure out the Jungle?

Patch 6.24 goes live later today, and with it, more changes to the jungle of League of Legends. The thing is, though, that they aren’t just more changes, they’re more reversals to changes. 

Normally, getting rid of changes when they are deemed failures isn’t a bad thing, but some of the changes being reversed don’t quite make sense to the community. Not only that, but when changes are implemented and torn out and implemented again for other roles, it means learning new abilities, new items, and maybe even new strategies. But not with the jungle. The changes that have been forced down the jungle’s throat over the past couple of years have been so drastic that the players of the position have had to completely re-learn the role. Not only new pathing, new items, new masteries, new jungle monsters, new plants, new objectives, new focus points, and new ganking priority, but the role of the jungler itself has been shifted so drastically that it’s gone from a supporting role whose aim is to strategically aid teammates to a carry role, regardless of champion, that carries more weight than any other position in the game. The jungler doesn’t revolve around the team anymore, the team revolves around the jungler.

Last year, a number of new features were added to the League arsenal, and now, after a year of learning them all for the sake of following Riot in a never-ending quest to improve the game, a ton of these features have been removed at the beginning of Season 7, one year later. More changes were reversed than just the jungle’s but the jungle was certainly the target of most of them. Let’s get into these reversals, what the goals for the features were when Riot originally implemented them, and what it means that they’ve been removed already.

1. Smite Buffs

Like all the changes listed here, smite buffs were added last year and removed this year. Smite buffs were the poison armor you got from Gromp when you smited/smote it, the mana you got from Blue Buff, the stun every sixth attack from Krugs.. you get the idea. These were added in an attempt to make the jungle more complex, making each of the monsters useful to focus first depending on the situation. To my knowledge, it solved this problem, or at least helped to solve this problem. The only issue was that there were clearly better choices, so regardless of game or champion played, you always got certain monsters at certain parts of the game no matter what.

Riot removed them because it didn’t feel like they solved the problem enough. My question is this: If they solved the problem but not enough, why remove them entirely and move back to where we were originally? Now the problem is even worse, as it’s just as it was before. It made sense to get rid of them from some monsters, especially ones that didn’t make any realistic sense, like the wolves buff that granted that little orb of vision. Like.. what was that exactly? The ghost of the wolf you just murdered?

2. Red and Blue Buff

Image result for blue and red buff league of legends

Before you ask, no, they didn’t remove Red and Blue Buff. They removed the features they added to red and blue buffs last year. Blue buff was given a buff to AP, and red buff was given more damage in a sense that a proc of the burn damage was immediately applied every time you landed a basic attack. Both of those were removed, and now blue is just CDR and mana regen and red buff is just the slowing burn that’s duration resets every time you basic attack.

These features were added to make the jungle more important. Riot wanted buffs to be strategically given out to champions other than junglers and Riot wanted the buffs to be focused on more by each team, including countering the other team from getting their own. Keep in mind, I’m not speculating on what Riot’s goals were here, the design team flat out said that was their goal when they implemented them. These goals were definitely accomplished. Both Red and Blue became much more relied on, and laners split off to ward enemy camps and their own camps to strategize which buff to go for and when. More mid laners took blue, more marksmen and other AD carries took red, the jungler set up moments for them to take the buffs. Well, Riot removed them, and again, we’re back to square one.

The issue here is that Riot can’t even claim it wasn’t doing a good enough job, and communication with Riot on the matter is unclear at best. If their goal was met, why remove it? Is that not the goal anymore? Or are they just planning on replacing it with something else in the future, forcing the jungle to shift dramatically again? I hope you’re starting to notice that that’s the big issue here.

3. Strength of the Ages

Now before you start throwing pitchforks at me, Strength of the Ages needed to be changed. It was way too strong, and very jungler regardless of being tank or not built it because it was just so damn effective. But did it need to be removed entirely? I don’t think so, and here’s why.

SotA was the ONLY mastery that truly felt like a jungler’s mastery. Sorcery? That’s for mid lane mages. Fervor? That’s for marksmen. Bond of Stone? That’s for supports. Strength of the Ages? That was the jungler’s mastery, and it’s been replaced by a mastery that’s merely good for tanks, Courage of the Colossus. All jungler’s have now that aids in their quest to be junglers is the tier one mastery that makes them do 2 extra damage when attacking neutral monsters.

I don’t necessarily think getting rid of SotA was a bad idea, but I do think that there needs to be more jungle-beneficial masteries in the list to add variety, especially now that the role is this carry-monster that it’s become in recent times. But that seems obvious, doesn’t it? If so, Riot may be planning on adding them at some point, which, again, will change the jungle dramatically once more.

Conclusion

The jungle has been gutted and re-stuffed more times than can be said for any other role, and for the role that’s always carried more importance than the others, you’d think the opposite would be the case. Junglers have had to relearn their role or give up on it entirely due to how different things are year-to-year, instead of just the normal meta-shifting that the other roles have to deal with. This would be fine if it were actually going somewhere. If there was a common goal of improvement that was being worked towards, changing constantly wouldn’t hurt, but that’s not the case. We’ve had some changes stick, we’ve completely flipped some, implemented contradictions to others, and pulled more completely out of the game. At this point, it’s an exhausting game of back-and-forth, and if the jungle is going to remain a popular position, a statement will need to be made painting a picture for the future of the position. Otherwise, we’ll just be shown drastic flip-flops year-after-year and for what? Confusion? Because that seems to be where it’s heading.

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Editor-in-Chief and Owner of Smite Steal Esports | Follow me on Twitter @aaronmickunas

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