Nocturne Build Guide by legacyraider
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Offensive DPS Nocturne
Not Updated For Current Season
How to Use This Guide
NOTICE: This guide, while the content is finished, still needs some work on the visual elements. Most gameplay-related words have not been linked, and some pictures have not been implemented. In the meantime, the guide itself is done, so feel free to read through; however don't rate concerning the visual aspects yet. Furthermore, you may want to read with colors inverted; white on black seems to hurt people's eyes.
While most players writing guides have large amounts of experience, I currently do not. Rather, I've always been the theorycrafting type. I may not have the mechanical ability to perform twitch reactions; nor the sheer amounts of games many other players have. However, I am fairly sure of my ability to analyse gameplay situations and make correct decisions. You could say the main reason I haven't risen is because I simply don't play much; rather, I spend my time researching and theorycrafting.
However, I won't pretend that I'm superior to many of the better players who also are writing guides on the same subject. Rather, I hope this guide will become a beginner's guide to Nocturne and jungling in general; while I still had 200- games under my belt, I felt that all the guides were focused on item builds, and wasn't very beginner friendly. I hope to help other new players by concentrating on the mindset and the various decisions one has to make in the jungle, and less about Nocturne's specific runes, masteries and item builds.
When rating/commenting, please keep in mind this is a guide for beginners, written by a somewhat of a beginner. I hope I can use my low level to explain things at a level which will be comprehensible for people starting out jungling. Furthermore, a majority of the guide will be focused on the general skills and strategy needed for jungling, as this is a beginner's guide after all.
The majority of the guide's explanations will be in the Author's Notes section as well as the gameplay sections, so don't just skip the build chapters as well.
Finally, this guide will have exorbitant amounts of text in it; I'm not a coding whiz, and I believe that the material of a guide is far more important than good looks.
Please excuse any spelling or grammar mistakes I may make, as I am not a native speaker. If you do find any (or any incorrect sections, for that matter, please tell me of those; I would be happy to correct them.
This guide was originally posted here, but due to lack of versatility with the format I have moved it to MobaFire.
A Brief Introduction to Nocturne
Nocturne is one of the most balanced and versatile junglers in the game. He has several traits that makes him a good champion to learn jungling with, and his skillset and high skill-cap (or rather decision/game-sense requirements) will allow you to keep using him in higher levels if you do advance to such.
His main trait is that he requires decision-making skills rather than twitch reactions or muscle memory; while the latter two are certainly useful in playing him, he relies more on game sense and the knowledge of when to go in, and more importantly, how to spend your time in the jungle. Since Nocturne is a more damage-based jungler than full utility ( Nautilus, etc), he cannot afford to fall behind. His lack of instant CC gives him a relatively poor peeling mark, and he should (especially at low levels) build damage early game then transition into a couple of tank items late game. However, because of this, Nocturne cannot lose time waiting in brushes for minutes for a single, perhaps unsuccessful gank. He should default to constantly farming, while helping lanes when needed. The knowledge on when to transition between the two will come with time; however, since Nocturne requires it so much to play him effectively it will make learning that considerably faster.
Furthermore, he also helps beginners understand that item builds aren't set in stone. I remember my first days of playing League; I would search up a random guide, and follow the build in that to the letter. However, because of Nocturne's extreme versatility (as he can go tank, bruiser, or assassin) you must adapt to the situation. Your assassin falling off, and your tanks fail to do enough damage? Build damage and act as a carry with the ADC. If your team is incredibly squishy, you can have decent initiation and can serve as a distraction as a tank build. While he is gold-reliant, he can make up for that with good farming abilities; and can also teach proper warding and jungle control as he can counterjungle fairly well, while being hurt if the opponent counterjungles well.
Nocturne is also a great first jungler because of his ability to mold to any playstyle. For example, when I first started playing him, I liked the safety and simplicity of farming; and Nocturne can do that with great vigor. On the other hand, he is excellent for gank-oriented playstyles as well. His versatility comes in the form of being able to adapt to and shape your jungling style as well. Because of this, he's also an excellent first pick if need be and a good starting point for your ranked jungler pool as well.
Nocturne's strength lies in the fact that he is one of the most average, yet powerful junglers in the game. He has a little bit of everything. He has good initiation with his ultimate Paranoia, chasing capabilities, mobility and duelling ability with his Duskbringer, utility in his shield, crowd control in his Unspeakable Horror, while having sustain within his passive. While many other junglers have come and gone, Nocturne alongside some others have always been there. He has never been overnerfed so much he was unplayable, but he was never buffed so much he was FoTM or OP (other than right after his release).
However, while this guide will be covering both tank, bruiser and assassin builds, the focal point will be placed on what works best for me; since League is a game where (especially at low-mid elo) personal preference and playstyle have a much larger impact on your performance than just what is marginally best, feel free to ignore such parts if you tend to like a different form of jungling.
Nocturne functions best as an assassin early-mid game, abusing his high level 3 burst alongside his ability to bypass wards with his ultimate to drop in lanes and pick up kills/assists. As the game progresses, your build path splits into several different options; if you're behind (as the enemy shut you down / you got counterganked early), you would probably want to start to build relatively tanky. Unfortunately, the changes to the Spirit of the Ancient Golem (not building out of Spirit Stone anymore) makes it rather hard for Nocturne to build tanky early game (if you got shut down after building Spirit Stone). Specific items will be discussed in the items section.
Smite is absolutely mandatory for any jungler. Giving 390 - 1000 true damage depending on level on a relatively low cooldown, this allows you to survive the first several major buffs while taking minimal damage in return. However, the importance of Smite lies in the fact that one who has it in their arsenal exercises a lot of jungle mob control. Smite allows you to burst down a mob before the enemy, allowing you to prevent steals from the enemy while allowing steals by yourself as well. Even on junglers who can sustain through the jungle without the bonus damage from Smite, the fact that 99.9% of junglers run it puts you at a massive disadvantage throughout the game, resulting in slower clears, easy steals by the enemy, and much less jungle control.
This second summoner spell is much more interchangeable than the first, but Flash is generally the better option. Despite the chasing nature of Nocturne's ganks (which may suggest Ghost as the better option at first), Flash holds several advantages over the former. First of all, it covers the lack of gap-closing ability that can be cast through walls. As a jungler without Flash it puts you at a severe disadvantage compared to wall-hoppers such as Lee Sin. Furthermore, as a jungler you are often involved in Dragon and Baron steals; and without Flash you lack a way to get out without fighting through the mass of the enemies. Secondly, due to the small duration the leash lasts on your Unspeakable Horror after they Flash away, you can Flash right after to keep the tether alive and successfully fear the enemy.
While Flash is generally the better choice, there are situations where Ghost may be better. Firstly, if you plan on having a gank-reliant playstyle and the enemy has several lane-pushers (Kayle, Ziggs, etc) the extended duration and lower cooldown of Ghost's mobility can allow you to secure more kills for yourself and the laners. The speed from both Ghost and Nocturne's Dusk Trail combined is extremely powerful, and can ensure much more damage in extended chases than Flash would. In the end, personal preference plays a major role in the selection of the secondary summoner spell; while I would recommend Flash, I know many who succeed with Ghost instead.
Greater Mark of Attack Speed
Greater Seal of Armor
Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist
Greater Quintessence of Attack Speed
Attack speed is an excellent stat to have on Nocturne. Attack speed is usually preferred over attack damage because his main source of damage apart from his autoattacks in his Passive scales with attack speed (which results in more procs). Furthermore, attack speed gives him more damage early (with the flat damage bonus on Machete).
These are mandatory on any jungler. The extra armor early game allows you to survive the first clear of your jungle while being at good enough health to gank a lane afterwards. Furthermore, these are relatively cheap; if you've just reached Level 30, focus on getting these first.
These overcome its flat counterparts at around level 6-9. Since Nocturne scales exceptionally well into late game, these are usually preferred. However, if you're planning on shutting down the enemy mid early because of his snowbally nature etc, you might want to take the flat Magic Resist Glyphs for early ganking and duelling potential.
These, along with Attack Speed Marks, drastically boost your early game damage and jungle clear speed. While Attack Damage used to be a viable option here, the Hunter Machete changes (+10 Damage against Monsters) makes these the superior choice. This rune page will give 28.8% Attack Speed, which is a huge bonus to early game clearing.
Double-Edged Sword - A must for any damage-reliant jungler. Since you rely on the element of surprise and getting a combo in before the opponent reacts, definitely worth the one point in it.
Fury - Attack Speed, as described in the Runes section, are essential for fast clears. Combined with Attack Speed Marks, you gain a 20% Attack Speed bonus at Level 1, giving you more procs of your passive which results in more damage and better sustain. Also much more useful in one-on-one duels compared to the alternative of Sorcery.
Brute Force - A relatively straightforward mastery. More scaling damage empowers his autoattacks as well as some of his abilities, making him much more powerful in ganks and skirmishes late game. Furthermore, his passive also scales with Attack Damage.
Martial Mastery - Flat attack damage greatly helps in early game clearing and ganking. Worth as much as 1.5 Attack Damage Quintessences, this is an extremely cost-efficient mastery slot for one point.
Spell Weaving - This buffs Nocturne's Duskbringer as well as any additional Unspeakable Horrors Nocturne may cast in extended chases.
Executioner - Drastically improves his assassination potential, and empowers his towerdives along with Dangerous Game. Furthermore, it gives him an edge in fights to the death, and more damage is always welcome.
Warlord - While it does near nothing early game, the boost to the items it gives gives Nocturne a further advantage. This is especially useful as I like to build Nocturne as a bruiser, not a tank, meaning it is much more efficient due to the large amount of damage I build.
Dangerous Game - Is extremely effective on preventing Ignite kills after duels, while improving Nocturne's towerdiving survivability.
Havoc - More damage is always good on Nocturne. Cost-efficient for one point.
Block - A great mastery when fighting autoattack champions, and will serve to ease ganks in the early game, as it will lessen the punishment you take when fighting ADCs.
Unyielding - See Block. Great for negating damage in duels and skirmishes.
Tough Skin - Essential for jungle damage mitigation, which allows you to farm longer / gank with higher health.
Veteran's Scars - 36 HP in your first clear is massive, and while it doesn't do much late game it will help your clear.
Juggernaut - If you build tanky or any HP at all, this will help your survivability by a small margin. A good mastery for one point.
Umbra Blades (Passive)
Nocturne's attacks are periodically enhanced, dealing damage to surrounding enemies for 120% of his total attack damage and healing himself for 10/18/26 for each enemy hit. Every basic attack reduces cooldown by 1 second.
A relatively straightforward passive, but essential for Nocturne's sustain and fast jungle clear. With Umbra Blades, Nocturne can keep attacking the largest creep in a camp, and have the others die naturally. Try to position the main creep so the AOE will attack all mobs in the jungle, which results in a faster clear and more healing. The reason building attack speed on Nocturne is so good is because each basic attack reduces the cooldown; therefore, the more attacks you get in the more frequently this will trigger. Furthermore, the combination of Umbra Blades and Duskbringer will, mid-end game, clear a whole wave of minions by itself. Make sure to position yourself so that the AOE hits most minions; the proc from Statikk Shiv will usually clean up any surviving minions. Try not to waste this on one small minion; if the big minion is dead but the smaller wolves/wraiths are still there, it may be good to wait a second for the cleave to hit both mini-mobs.
Nocturne sends out a shadow blade in a line that leaves a Dusk Trail in its path, causing physical damage to enemies it passes through and causing enemy champions hit to also leave a Dusk Trail behind their movements for 5 seconds. While on the Dusk Trail, Nocturne ignores unit collision and gains 15/20/25/30/35% movement speed and 15/25/35/45/55 attack damage.
This is the primary damage tool and chasing tool in Nocturne's kit along with his Ultimate. The skillshot itself has a relatively slow travel time, but the missile width is large, and with some experience it should be easy to hit every time. The dusk trail is an extremely powerful buff, with extra movement speed for chasing and more attack damage for killing faster. Furthermore, this ability can also be thrown in front of you when escaping, as the speed boost can get you out of sticky situations. However, Nocturne stops for a second when throwing Duskbringer out, meaning it shouldn't be used when the assailant is right behind you.
The trail also is left behind invisible enemies, meaning it's very easy to track down running Kha'zix and Rengar. However, Nocturne cannot attack these enemies directly, thus he needs to wait until the invis has worn out. With some cooldown reduction, Nocturne can spam this ability very frequently, and usually can keep it up during chases. You should also aim to use Duskbringer as an harrass tool when preparing for a towerdive; be careful of your mana, though, since spamming it can take a toll on your resources. Use blue buff or jungle monsters to heal back your mana if that happens.
When clearing camps, the trail if fired towards the camp at close proximity can go over the wall, giving the enemy a clear indication of your presence as with Trundle. Try to get to the back of the camp and fire it forwards, or fire it when approaching the camp as to save time while not being seen. This is especially crucial when counterjungling. On the same note, when clearing your first camp, fire it towards some bushes where any invaders may be lurking; if they are present, the trail will last longer on the bush and will spread out marginally. Use that to avoid facechecking bushes at level 1.
The attack damage this ability gives can also work on structures; lay it away from the tower, so you can gain the attack damage while having a speed boost if you need to run away for the time being.
Passively, Nocturne empowers his blades, permanently gaining 20/25/30/35/40 attack speed. Actively, Nocturne creates a barrier that blocks the next enemy spell that his him for the next 1.5 seconds. If Nocturne blocks a spell, the passive attack speed bonus is doubled for 5 seconds.
The Shroud, while needing some reactions to use properly, can be devastating in teamfights and duels respectively. The single shield can block a majority of a burst mage's damage (such as a Nidalee Spear), or prevent otherwise lethal ranged attacks (Karthus's Requirem, Caitlyn's Ace In The Hole), while giving Nocturne a massive attack speed boost. Furthermore, it can also save your life to block a Lee Sin Q when low under tower, or a Blitzcrank grab, or a Thresh hook... the list goes on and on. Futhermore, the passive 20 attack speed is major in the early levels; if you aren't fearing an invade or aren't feeling for a level 2 gank, take this as your second spell.
Shroud of Darkness has a fairly long cooldown, meaning you should be careful of when you use it in teamfights. For example, blocking a Nidalee spear and getting hit by Amumu's ultimate is a foolish example of using Nocturne's W. However, when not fearing attacks Nocturne can use his shield to disable traps such as Nidalee's Bushwhack, Caitlyn's Yordle Snap Trap, or Teemo's dreaded shrooms. Furthermore, the former two will not gain any vision of you when you do so; however, they may notice the disappearance of one of their traps on the minimap, so take note of that.
Nocturne plants nightmares in the target's mind, dealing magic damage over 2 seconds. If Nocturne remains in a 465 range of the target for the full duration, it turns and flees for 1/1.25/1.5/1.75/2 seconds.
This is Nocturne's main hard CC, and can easily secure a kill during a gank. The fear works on a tether system; if the tether is not broken for 2 seconds, the target is feared. This can be critical when escaping from melee enemies as well, as the enemy is forced to retreat or get feared. The target can be feared when invulnerable or untargetable as long as you cast it before the enemy went into that state; thus, using it right before Kayle uses Intervention or before Vladamir sinks into his blood pool can end in hilarious results. However, nothing will happen if you fear them as they Zhonya's, so keep that in mind.
Fearing the large monster in a jungle camp will briefly stop their damage output while outputting some minor damage. However, the mana costs are quite high, and thus this is only recommended when you have blue buff or some sort of reliable mana regeneration. However, using this on an initiating enemy can also be effective, since most often the enemy will retreat, thus preventing a manual initiation. At level 5, the cooldown is quite short at 11 seconds, which will usually be 8-9 with some cooldown reduction from the Brutalizer/SotEL. Don't spam it early, however, as that will leave you defenseless in a jungle invade/steal.
Make sure you can fear the opponent when using Unspeakable Horror when ganking. First landing your Duskbringer, or having a laner CC them, can drastically improve the chances of them being feared. If an enemy tries to flash away, there is a short duration where the tether will still be active even when outside its range. Use this small time frame to flash right behind them, as that will keep the tether intact and thus result in a successful fear.
Nocturne reduces the sight radius of all enemy champions and removes their shared vision for 4 seconds. While Paranoia is active, Nocturne can activate it again to launch himself at an enemy champion, dealing physical damage.
The infamous hiss of "DARKNESSSSS" that accompanies Nocturne's dash is probably what most people think of when talking about Nocturne. The darkness in itself is an incredibly powerful tool. First of all, it allows you to assassinate enemies without the rest of their team knowing for a short while, meaning their reaction will be slow. It's always hilarious to watch them scurry back to tower when the darkness falls, while the one guy caught alone is decimated. At level 3, this has a massive range, meaning Nocturne can farm safely even late game, and join a teamfight as soon as it starts. This also gives Nocturne a lot of split push potential, as his mobility back to mid lane is incredibly fast. The vision denial also works wonders for helping a fleeing teammate juke his enemies. Finally, the lack of vision from Wards or Clairvoyance allows you to secure Barons very easily (as enemies won't be able to see the health of the monster), while giving you the ability to engage straight afterwards.
Even though the level 1 radius of Paranoia's dash is relatively small, it still can create brutal ganks during the laning phase. The combination of ultimate to a fear tether and a Duskbringer can very easily burst down squishies, while outputting massive damage on even bruisers or tanks. One shouldn't forget the dash has a good amount of damage with it as well. If you're duelling an enemy, both are low health, you can use your ultimate dash to burst down the enemy before they burst you down.
While the new jungle item changes may have adversely affected Machete's popularity for AOE clear junglers (who may prefer Long Sword now), Nocturne's AOE scales with his attack damage, meaning this may have even been a stealth buff for Nocturne for a change. This is by far the most cost-efficient first item for junglers, and while it doesn't give combat stats the sheer clearing speed and versatility it brings makes up for it. Just make sure to not duel any Doran's Blade starters like Shaco.
This will be one of two items that will change your playstyle for the rest of the game. While many people insist on one, I personally think the choice between Madred's and Spirit Stone is something that is influenced by the current game. Several factors will decide which you pick. I would pick Madred's if: a) a majority of lanes are safe, farm laners, b) there's not much pressure for you to gank, and c) you need lots of damage late game.
The other choice between Madred's, Spirit Stone gives more power to sustain stats and prefers a ganking playstyle while clearing camps in-between (as the Conservation passive gives less gold than Wriggle's Lantern if you only farm). However, this item also gives you mana sustain, so if your mid laner is a Blue-reliant laner then I would recommend getting the Spirit Stone. While Madred's prefers a farm-all-day sort of playstyle, Spirit Stone is much more gank-oriented. Unfortunately, it has lost much of its versatility (as before one could pick this when they are unsure if they would be shut down or not) due to the changes in Spirit of the Ancient Golem, and can only build into Spirit of the Elder Lizard for Nocturne.
Wriggle's Lantern is an excellent choice if you're going to put emphasis on farming. The Feral Flare is much more powerful than Spirit of the Elder Lizard late game, so if you have a focus on late game carrying then make sure to get this. However, since this item is devoid of mana sustain you want to get blue every time you can if the mid doesn't need it. Counterjungling with the support of your mid to get the enemy's blue is also a viable strategy.
Spirit of the Elder Lizard
While I prefer Lantern over SotEL, this can be a very powerful early-game item. With Red Buff, the double burn effect will act as a mini-ignite (and is often enough to secure fade-away kills), and the Conservation stacks allow you to gain good amounts of gold even if you're only farming in-between frequent ganks. However, this item scales badly towards late game, so make sure you have some good late game damage on your team (as you'll be more of a tank/peeler with this).
These are the primary choice for most Nocturne builds, this one included. The attack speed bonus early game is tremendously helpful for early game clears, and the speed boost doesn't hurt either. If your laners have crowd control, getting these over Mobility Boots can have a drastic impact on your damage output during ganks as well. Attack Speed scales wonderfully with Nocturne, giving him more sustain, damage, and AOE cleaves. Get these if you're ahead / on track.
Boots of Mobility
While these lack in combat stats, it makes up for them in utility and a lower price. If you're planning on ganking more often, then these can be very effective. However, they quickly scale down in the mid-late game after laning phase ends, so I would recommend switching these out with Berserker's Greaves or Merc Treads later. I personally dislike this option, as the extra speed does nothing when running away from a countergank or chasing enemies who can kite properly, but some people succeed with it, so try it out and see if it fits your playstyle.
If you're behind and want to transition to tank status, these would be the way to go. The Tenacity offered is extremely rare, and with the loss of Tenacity on Spirit of the Ancient Golem Mercury's Treads are the only defensive method of obtaining it. Furthermore, the magic resist on it allows you to take the Giant's Belt -> Randuin's Omen path first, as to obtain a balanced tank base before moving on to Banshee's etc.
One of the best early items to take when ahead. It has an excellent build path, meaning that once you've finished your lantern and boots you can go ahead and take some Long Swords towards this. The Brutalizer itself has excellent early combat stats; the attack damage is a must to give you some more damage in ganks, while the CDR is good for negating some of your ultimate's extremely high cooldown at level 1. Finally, the armor pen allows you to shred opposing tanky junglers as well as deal even more damage. However, don't upgrade this until the rest of your build is complete, as the Brutalizer is good enough on its own.
Blade of the Ruined King
An excellent core item on Nocturne. The percentage health shred along with the Brutalizer gives Nocturne great anti-tank damage mid game, while the attack speed from the Feral Flare goes hand in hand with the health shred procs. The lifesteal allows you to take practically no net damage from jungle creeps, while the active is great for slowing carries during ganks. While it has an annoying build path after Bilgewater Cutlass, the dagger buff made them more than good items to carry around on their own.
While the item itself is outscaled by its counterpart of Phantom Dancer late game, the early game burst damage with its combat stats is not to be ignored. The lighting proc allows you to farm even quicker, while having great lane push potential to take down towers faster. Furthermore, the Zeal is an excellent early item after the changes, and you can decide whether you want Shiv or Phantom Dancer after you build it.
A great duelling item on Nocturne, and usually what you'll build from the Brutalizer (the other being the Black Cleaver). The crit chance really builds up in combination with the Statikk Shiv, and the active gives you a lot more damage in skirmishes and teamfights. The 20% armor penetration is massive on its own, and combined with the Last Whisper (if you're ahead) it really puts you at even ground against full tanks as well.
Hands down the best stackable item on Nocturne. If you're really fed you can skip the defensive items (though Guardian Angel is still a very respectable choice) and get two of these, which will give you the ability to practically delete carries in fights. You also might want to sell the Statikk Shiv after you've reached full build for one of these, as well. However, it still is quite expensive, so it's not an item you would rush.
The ultimate tank shred item. Together with the penetration item of your choosing (Ghostblade or Black Cleaver), it can deal close to true damage on carries. However, only take this when you are ahead, as it's not a great item on its own.
The Black Cleaver
If your ADC is extremely fed, this may serve your team better in the long run. Compared to Youmuu's Ghostblade, the Black Cleaver gives you some more survivability with the health, while still giving you an excellent source of damage. If you're focussing on teamfights rather than catching people out, get this.
One of the best defensive items in the game. While the build path was delayed somewhat (it used to be 2 cloth armor into Warden's Mail instead of Chain Vest), it still is a great first defensive item to buy. Giant's Belt gives you a great advantage early-mid game, while Warden's Mail can be rushed if the opposing ADC is fed. The active slow gives you some peel, while if you use it when using your ultimate it can effectively initiate a fight.
Great against poke comps. The build path is fairly good, and Spectre's Cowl on its own is still a great early buy. The shield is excellent both for engaging and disengaging, and together with your W it can block a majority of a mage/AD caster's damage in a duel. When the opponent has burst champions, get this; otherwise, Spirit Visage will be a better choice.
A defensive item that gives you a lot more sustain compared to Veil. The extra self-heal gives Nocturne much better lifesteal efficiency, while the overall tank stats are all-rounded and great when paired with Randuins. If the opponent has DPS mages (Rumble, Ryze) then I would recommend Spirit Visage over Banshee's Veil.
Somewhat of an offensive tank item. Compared to the MRes items on the list, this can be used as a standalone defensive item as a backup when fed. However, Guardian Angel still hold up as a great last item when you've finished building tanky, as the passive can decide a defense after you've lost a teamfight.
This is generally the best starting trinket for Nocturne. In the first few levels, nobody really buys any real green wards except the support, and having a ward of your own is much more useful than killing a 1-minute ward. Whether you're counterjungling and want some vision, or you're taking your own buffs and are cautious of an invade, the Warding Totem is usually the best choice for levels 1-4.
Change out your totem for the Sweeping Lens on your first back/second back. The vision denial and ganking capability serves you much better after you've finished your first farming spree. As a jungler, you will be roaming the map often; make sure to clear wards in key areas.
While a situational item and rarely used on most junglers, it often helps Nocturne by leaps and bounds if used correctly. While it doesn't have the permanent vision of the Warding Totem or the vision denial of the Sweeping Lens, its main function is to reveal farther enemies for easy ganks using your Ultimate. Especially good for towerdiving deep in their base if a laner is low and walks back further than their first tower. It also helps for checking enemy buffs. If you know how to use it, the Scrying Orb is very powerful on Nocturne; if not, I recommend the Sweeping Lens for beginners.
A Jungler's Role
The jungler is perhaps the most complicated out of all five positions in League. While all the laners (with the exception of the support) focus on farming and working in a 1v1 or 2v2 against a lane opponent(s), the jungler deals with all five of the enemy team. Rather than focussing on a single lane or area of the map, it's the jungler's job to roam the map, exert control over it, and influence your laning partners so both you and they can become stronger in various ways, while always making sure the opposing jungler doesn't do the same.
Because of this, the jungler is the most decision-based role in the game as well (with the support coming close second). He needs to have supreme map awareness, keep tabs on your enemies, ward the map, and defend your jungle. This is why I mainly like the role so much; while you don't need as much reactions or pure skill as the other roles, you make up for that with more mental necessities. Furthermore, the jungler is the most influencing on the outcome and flow of the game. A good jungler will snowball all his laners to victory, while a bad one will just become dead weight.
As a jungler, you also rarely have reason to blame your laners. A lane is feeding? It's your fault for not going there to help, as you could have predicted that that would be a weak lane (garen vs teemo, for example). While many memes exist on the fact that laners "always blame the jungler", as a jungler myself I can honestly say most of the complaints have some shred of truth in them. Of course, you can't always carry 4 level 1s in ranked, but you, as a jungler, can damn well come close.
On the other hand, jungling isn't something I can write a guide about to make you great at the role. However, I can give you the thought process on making decisions in-game, and if you have enough experience your performance will rise accordingly.
I have divided a jungler's thought process into three sections for simplicity's sake. However, only use this as a framework, and make decisions based on gameplay rather than a pre-determined plan.
Section 1 - Farming Your Jungle
This is the simplest section of the jobs you have to do, but critical nonetheless. Especially as Nocturne, you can't afford to waste your time and fall behind. As a jungler, you need to be relevant enough to hold your own; otherwise, you'll end up doing the opposite of how you wanted to influence the game. I'll assume all readers here understand the basic layout of the jungle and how each camp acts and gives; if not, look for some jungling for dummies guides.
As a basic rule, you always want to start off on the buff your bot lane is closer to. The AD carry has the highest early-game damage among your teammates (because of the damage-oriented runes, masteries, and first item), and having him/her leash your buff can drastically improve the health you come out as. Make sure to Smite the large buff; hover your mouse over the Smite icon for the current damage it will deal (390 at level 1), and select the main buff to observe its health. When it reaches the Smite damage range, instantly kill it to prevent any unwelcome steals from the enemy jungler, while saving yourself some damage. Due to the Smite changes, once you do a mini-camp in-between the first and second buff, the cooldown will be up for another Smite kill.
Both buffs marginally affect your clear speed. Red Buff's burn gives you a little more damage output on camps, which makes single-target camps such as the Wight or smaller camps (Double Golems) very effective. On the other hand, Blue's mana regen allows you to spam Q to get around, which increases your mobility by a small amount. However, understand that these all have very small effects, so don't overestimate or underestimate your clears.
As a rule of thumb, you want to conserve your red buff as much as possible. If you're on Blue Side and take Red first, you want to gank at level 3 to make the most of your Autoattack Slow proc as possible. Red Buff drastically increases the success rate of a gank, so don't waste it by farming after level 3 as well. Of course, don't spend 3 minutes camping a lane; Nocturne absolutely needs farm as well, so if no particular lane needs farm just keep farming. On the other hand, if you're on the Purple Side and take Red second, you have more freedom on your ganking possibilities. If the enemy has a tank-jungler who usually doesn't invade, I often go Blue -> Wolves -> Wraiths -> Golems -> Red to surprise the enemy with a Red Buff much later than I should've. I don't like to outline the specific clear order, since it all depends on your opponent's choice of jungler. If they have a Lee Sin, get to your second buff ASAP, and make sure you secure it. If they picked Amumu, on the other hand (who is Nocturne's natural prey by the way), you can slow down and take as many mini-camps as possible until a) your mana is nearly depleted (if you started red) or b) you've finished all nearby mini-camps / you have only 1 health potion left (if you started blue) (since you want to be near full health on your first gank).
Mid-late game, you want to be conserving your Smite. If you use it to kill a normal camp and if the enemy starts Dragon, you have no way of stealing it; furthermore, if your team starts it, you're prone to an easy steal. Unless you're absolutely sure none of the two teams will attempt to secure Dragon or Baron, try to manually finish your buffs instead. This also goes for Smiting cannon minions; the enemy will see that, and if they are intelligent, will capitalise on that.
As Nocturne, you should live by a single rule; never waste your time. If you have an easy kill/gank/counterjungle, do that; other than that, just keep farming. Think of it this way; ganking is an investment. You build up your "bank" by gaining levels and items by farming. If you have that, you can afford to "invest" in a gank. If that succeeds, you get a lot back; however, if it fails, you've just wasted your investment (in this case, time). Counterjungling is similar; you can "invest" in putting the opposing jungler behind, but if it fails, all the investment you put in goes to waste. Finally, here's the kicker; the more you've farmed, or invested, the higher chance the gank will succeed. If you've farmed a lot, you have more items and levels, thus you have a higher chance of securing a gank. When doing something as Nocturne, always keep in mind; "is this investment worth it?"
Section 2 - Control and Ganks
The balance between ganking and farming is a delicate one, and a simple slip could push you off the edge. Most games where you "fell off" were games that you over-invested in ganking (which was ultimately unsuccessful), while most games where "your team fell off" were games where you farmed too much and didn't help the laners enough. The key to doing well with Nocturne is finding that fine balance between the two.
In this section we'll be focussing on the various techniques for ganking, as well as general lane control and pressure.
Pressure And The Art Of Faking It
Pressure is an invisible thing, but very powerful. In other terms, you need to make the laners fear you. While that can be done by pressing E and staying in range, the key to having good pressure is to "fake it", so to say. You need to exude the feeling that you're always nearby, while being off somewhere in the distance farming up. Let me give you a more tangible example of that; the enemy top laner has a green ward in the river bush, thus giving him safety. However, you remove that with the sweeping lens. Even at that point, the enemy is extremely worried. If he goes to manually replace the ward, he may be ganged up on by you and his lane opponent. As his opponent (your fellow laner) backs, he goes and places a ward further into the river, as now Nocturne's ult is active. There, he finds you jumping onto him, and he barely escapes. While this seems terrifying from his perspective, it's quite simple and not time consuming from yours. You visit a lane, remove a ward, place one of your own, and farm the nearby jungle. The enemy top laner passes your ward as he goes to ward himself, where you come out and attack him.
While this is quite an utopian example, this just goes to show how powerful pressure (aka fear/uncertainty) is. You need to balance showing yourself (for ganks etc) and not showing yourself, but removing enemy vision. The ganks prove to the enemy that you are dangerous, while the lack of vision on you makes him hesitant to do anything bold. With enough ward coverage, you can use your ult while farming if the enemy engages, making him mistrust his every action. Think Shaco. You need to scare the living hell out of your enemies, and your kit allows you to do just that.
However, to master pressure you need to master releasing it. For example; if you've had pressure on the enemy mid laner, and they place a ward to see you walking away, it releases his build up tension (pressure on your part). Your ultimate allows you to just jump back into the fray if he engages.
At its core, pressure is the art of making the enemy doubt every single action they do; and unlike Shaco, Nocturne can make good use of his time while pretending to camp every lane simultaneously.
There's a fine line between having silent pressure and having no pressure at all. If you never show your face in the game, or only so on weak attempts at ganking, the pressure will backfire. You need to support your pressure with a few, powerful ganks.
Nocturne isn't the best ganker compared to extremely creative junglers such as Lee Sin, Elise and Jarvan IV. While Nocturne can usually use his ultimate for an almost guaranteed kill, the fact that it hasn't been used can create a lot more impact and pressure on the game.
Firstly, Nocturne doesn't like to waste time camping lanes. Make sure the lane's at least even, and the enemy doesn't have any blinks (Ezreal etc). Also, unward the bush you're standing in. You want to play mindgames with people. If you've done the silent pressure strategy a few times, the enemy may get cocky and assume you're off farming, in which you can initiate the gank.
Nocturne's ganks are not un-similar to Lee Sin's; it mostly relies on hitting his Q. Once that has landed, Nocturne can follow up with a fear, while blocking any CC they may have. Nocturne's forte is his sustained damage unless fed; the gank will usually result in a chase (which you should win most of the time). The good thing about Nocturne is that kills aren't wasted on him; so unless it's a fed AD Carry, you don't need to deliberately give your laners kills as someone like Malphite or Nautilus may do.
Section 3 - Map Awareness
This is perhaps the most complex part of playing Nocturne (and any balanced jungler in general). While you've farmed well and had good pressure on lanes, there's one more angle you need to cover; the enemy jungler. While having information on the enemy jungler is good for your farming and ganking purposes, it helps your team far more; it completely nullifies any pressure tactics they may try to exert on your laners in turn, and gives you ample time to go in and kill them if they're naturally weak duelists.
The main way of doing this is to ward constantly. I won't put a ward map on here, just because all the spots are so situational. They've got a tank jungler? Ward their next buff and some of their mini-camps, as well as slap in the middle of their jungle. They've got a Lee Sin? Ward all your jungle entrances and river, and make sure he can't take a step into the borderline without everybody knowing. With the disappearance of Oracles, warding has become a lot more efficient; use it. This can be used for more slippery junglers as well. Take Evelynn, for example; notoriously famous for people never knowing where she is. Well, a Pink Ward in the bush outside her Red Buff (to monitor if she enters the river that way, and place wards on her Wraiths and Wolves; that by itself reveals her whenever she stops to farm, and with the Red Buff ward covering all her exits and entrances that way you can almost always know where she is, and wait for your insane scaling to beat her to late game.
However, the same strategy also destroys any pressure you might want to exert. If they have an aggressive/smart warder, get a pink and place it in a bush where opponents often place wards. Upgrade your sweeping lens, and use it often. Tell the laners to remove any wards in their river bushes as well.
Gauging Your Advantage
In this chapter we're bringing out the Investment Principle again, so brace yourselves!
A laner's advantage is quite easy to see; they have more CS, more kills, and more zoning potential. It's practically just that. However, measuring your advantage as a jungler is much more vague and difficult; there are countless factors to consider; and yet this is such an important piece of knowledge as it tells you how much you can invest and how much you should invest, as well.
For example, watch this match. (The guide itself is excellent, by the way, and this taught me most of what I needed to know to get started with Nocturne. I recommend you to do the same).
In this match, Nocturne put a lot of emphasis on farming, while Vi racked up kills via mobility ganks. At a glance, it may seem Vi had the advantage here in kills and map pressure; however, Nocturne ended up winning the match on an incredibly powerful killing spree, while Vi just fell off. What happened here?
To know this, I have several criteria on determining a jungler's current advantage, and potential advantage (as they are two different things). A note here; the jungler's current advantage is how much power and pressure they exert over the map. If a jungler can 1v1 any member of the enemy team, that jungler has current advantage; if they gank successfully often, they have current advantage. Even the fact that they are an early-game champion nets them some current advantage in the first 10-20 minutes of a game. However, potential advantage is much more difficult to calculate. If they have tremendous farm and they haven't fought properly yet, they may have potential advantage. If they scale well into late game, they have potential advantage.
If you have current advantage, your main focus should be to transition that to potential advantage. The reason that Vi lost was that she just wasn't shutting down the enemy hard enough. Sure, they may have killed bot and top often, but she didn't stop Nocturne from farming all day, which led to him being strong enough to make up for all the other teammates. She used her current advantage to exert even more advantage over the laners, but she didn't convert that into potential advantage against Nocturne. If she had counterjungled more and duelled Nocturne early and came out on top, the game may have turned out differently.
As Nocturne, your focus is on building your potential advantage while keeping your current advantage relatively high. This is where the concept of silent pressure I outlined before comes into play; with silent pressure, you can keep your current advantage (where the laners are hesitant to do bold moves etc) while building potential advantage (aka farm).
Real-Life Examples of Pressure
Here are some examples of wielding pressure (for easier understanding).
Example 1 - Riven vs Nasus - Top Lane
Your teammate Nasus got counterpicked by Riven. Let us assume both are competent. Usually, one would give up trying to gank that lane (as Riven can easily destroy a Nocturne early game and Nasus has no damage output before his Q starts stacking). However, that would lead in Nasus getting killed early, getting towerdived, Riven getting fed, and the game lost because of that. Rather; the only pressure you need in this scenario is preventative pressure stopping Riven from towerdiving Nasus. Nasus can escape from most engages due to his Wither, meaning if Riven's unsure if Nocturne is close by and thus does not towerdive, Nasus can farm up and eventually will be able to hold his own against Riven. At that stage, the preventative pressure turns into active pressure, as Riven will be bursted down if she goes in on Nasus and Nocturne comes to gank. With a small investment early, we were able to shut down the Riven for late game while giving Nasus much more power.
Example 2 - Ziggs vs Kayle - Mid Lane
Ziggs is an extremely safe, ranged champion, and Kayle is relatively short range. Let us say you gave Kayle Blue; and thus she can sustain through Ziggs' poke due to her innate heal. However, we can improve the situation further. Any direct pressure will have no effect on Ziggs; he can farm from afar and jump away if needed. You're not strong enough to towerdive. Here, preventative pressure is better. Ward Kayle's river bushes together with her wards as well, which prevents any ganks which Ziggs may want to call. Furthermore, another indirect way of pressuring Ziggs is to steal his blue, thus ridding himself of any mana sustain and forcing him to back, allowing Kayle to get the turret.
Example 3 - Ezreal+Blitzcrank vs Caitlyn+Nidalee
Nidalee is currently out of mana. Caitlyn doesn't have much life steal (she rushed Infinity Edge). Here, it would be worthless to pressure Ezreal, as his blink negates any ganks. However, the situation changes when Blitz grabs Caitlyn, and chunks a large amount of her health. Now, Ezreal may use his blink aggressively to try to all-in and kill Caitlyn. Here, you need to have a large amount of silent pressure; thus stopping Ezreal from using his blink early and getting potentially ganked by a Nocturne.
At its core, playing Nocturne is a lot like walking the line between safety and chance. You need a little of both to keep relevant and to influence the game.
The main framework of the Investment Principle is the act of
using time efficiently, gauging your current and potential advantage
and shifting your ganking frequency and style accordingly.
In simple words, don't waste time. Make sure you have absolute safety in your jungle at all times via wards, while keeping tabs on your enemies via the same. Remove enemy vision, which leads to uncertainty and pressure, which in turn leads to (fake) current advantage. During that time, build potential advantage via efficient farming. Reduce the opposing jungler's current advantage by counterganking, and their potential advantage by counterjungling. When doing something other than farming, calculate the risk / reward using the concept of advantage and act accordingly.
While I only talked about the jungler's role in the first section, each of the others covered concepts vital to the full understanding of the overall job of the jungler. I don't think that guides should tell you what to do; rather, they should tell you how to think and give you an understanding of how the role works. The actual gameplay and decisions will come naturally if you keep in mind what a jungler is supposed to do. All in all, this guide was one that detailed one concept; but I hope that through this, you have gained a much better understanding of the jungler than when you first read my convoluted, concentrated explanation on what a jungler does.
PS. All this, while focusing on junglers in general, was written with Nocturne in mind. If you keep what I wrote in your head when playing him, I ensure you success.