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Assassin Advanced Jungle Guide [Mid Season 6]

Assassin Advanced Jungle Guide [Mid Season 6]

Updated on June 9, 2016
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League of Legends Build Guide Author SpikeThePike Build Guide By SpikeThePike 48,896 Views 6 Comments
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This is a general guide to advanced jungling techniques.

It includes material which was originally in my popular Shyvana guide and my Kha'Zix guide, but which really applies to a lot of junglers, and jungling in general.

This is a work in progress (May 2016), I will be expanding this and adding more pictures and explanations over time.
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This video is a good introduction to a lot of the concepts here. It isn't my video, but I think it is well made and good and clear. (Note it's a pre-patch 6.9 video - the Devourer enchantment has now been removed from the game.) If you are an advanced player, start watching at 08:45 in the video, it explains invades very clearly and usefully.

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Best starting item

Since Patch 6.9, your starting item really has to be either Hunter's Talisman or Hunter's Machete. If you do not have one of these two items, you will not gain enough XP from each camp to level up - specifically, without one of these you will not hit level 2 after taking your first camp.

Hunter's Talisman is the strongest starting item on a jungler who:
  • does most of their damage with abilities (but not enhanced attack abilities)
  • has any area-of-effect ability at all, or
  • is extremely mana dependent early
So it's best on, for example, Elise, Gragas, Shaco, Amumu, Fiddlesticks, Hecarim (because area of effect), Shyvana (because constant area of effect damage with her W), even Kha'Zix (area of effect with his W and his E, and very mana dependent). It is strong on area of effect champions because it provides sustain off all the jungle monsters affected by abilities, even while you focus your basic attacks on the large monster in each camp.

Hunter's Machete is the strongest starting item on a jungler who:
  • does most of their damage with basic attacks or enhanced basic attacks
  • has no area-of-effect ability
  • is mana-less or not too mana dependent
So it's best on, for example, Jax, Xin Zhao, Kindred and most other ranged junglers. It's not a disaster on any champion who has strong auto-attacks, for example Kha'Zix and Shyvana, but if you compare the start with Machete and with Talisman on those two you will see that Talisman is stronger.

The humble Health Potion is, in most cases, a stronger start than a Refillable Potion. If you are a jungler who needs the early sustain from potions, then three Health Potions gives you 450 health back (or more than that for biscuits), compared with 250 from a Refillable Potion. That difference means - for example - that you can take one extra jungle camp before first back, so you can buy better items on your first back. Or it might make the difference between being able to fit in a level 3 gank, and having to go back without ganking. The 'logic' of the Refillable Potion is that it's a better gold investment because it refills, but it's a worse gold investment early which is when you need the most help. And after you have a full jungle item most junglers should hardly need the help from a potion thanks to the Tooth/Nail sustain on a jungle item. Finally taking Health Potions as your starting item gives you the option of not buying all three and so saving some gold, see fast start. (You could alternatively start with 1 Health Potion and a pink ward.)
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Starting jungle routes

Basic routes

The * shows which camp you will smite.

Linear route: Gromp* - Blue Buff - Wolves - Raptors - Red Buff* and go back. This linear route gives least walking from camp to camp, and you should not run out of mana because of having blue buff so early. But you have to take the Blue Buff camp at level 2 which is tough (or slow) for many junglers, you will lose a lot of health doing that. Most junglers will be low on health (= vulnerable to an invade) by the time they reach Red Buff, and can only survive that camp because of smiting it for the health restore. It's a good route for high sustain junglers like Warwick, Udyr, Hecarim.

Skip the Raptors: Gromp* - Blue Buff - Wolves - Red Buff* and go back (or gank if you are a high sustain jungler). This is very similar to the linear route, but passes by the Raptor camp. A jungler will hit level 3 after the third camp - that's the Wolves camp here - so will have all 3 abilities available for taking the Red Buff camp. One reason for following this route is if you are weak or lacking defences early you will lose too much health and mana if you take the Raptors camp en route to the Red Buff. It's quite an efficient route because after backing, you can then return to the map and take all four small camps (Krugs - Raptors - Wolves - Gromp) because they will have re-spawned by that time.

2 buffs start: Gromp* - Blue Buff - Red Buff* and then gank (or take Krugs and then back). This route is a standard route followed by a lot of high elo players, it was very popular in Season 5. The main reasons for using this route are (1) if you are worried about your buffs being stolen (2) if you want to gank with double buffs. This route has several disadvantages:
  • You take both buff camps at level 2, which is slow because you don't have all three abilities yet
  • Because those camps are taken slowly, you will lose more health at those camps - they will hit you more times. You may be forced to back after taking Red Buff.
  • Unless you gank immediately, a good part of the time that you have blue buff and red buff will be wasted, on backing and then walking out onto the map - so it's a bit pointless taking those buffs and then wasting them.
  • It's a lot of walking between the two buff camps, you will be slow to reach level 3.
  • You are vulnerable to an invade at the Red Buff camp, because you take it so slowly that you will be spending a long time there and you will be on low health when you finish it.

Red Buff tactical start:: Krugs* - Raptors - Red Buff* and go back or do an early level 3 gank - bottom lane should still be on level 2. Smiting the Red Brambleback lets you take the camp quickly and also gives health back (20% of max health). Even the weakest junglers should be able to achieve this, because you will not have lost half your health taking Blue Buff already. After backing, you then head over to the Blue Buff side of the map: this gives a stronger level 4 and level 5 as you will have blue buff throughout that time, good for ganking. Tactical advantages:
  • This Red Buff route reduces the risk of you dying to a level 2 invade. You can ward the river entrance near the Raptors camp so the sneaky invade route is warded, and if the enemy jungler invades by the more direct route through tri-brush he won't catch you at Red Buff (you will be at Raptors).
  • When you get to the Red Buff camp, there's a chance you will find the enemy jungler there if he decided to stay and steal your Red Buff camp. You can counter-attack him, he will be vulnerable because of using his cooldowns on the camp and taking damage from the camp. Alternatively instead of fighting him you can use your second Smite to secure the camp (he will probably smite it first for the health restore when he sees you, but he won't kill it) and just walk away towards mid lane, so that he wasted all his time coming to your side of the map for nothing.
  • Best of all, if you find the enemy jungler you can ping your laners for help, they can probably cut off his escape paths
This route is good against opponents who are likely to attempt a level 2 invade - that's usually a Shaco and an Udyr. For more chance of catching the enemy by surprise, when taking the Raptors camp, position yourself so that you cannot be seen by any mid lane minions getting vision on you.

Smiteless start: Krugs - Red Buff* - Raptors followed by a gank. This start is the fastest to level 3, good for a mid lane gank. Make sure your leash understands that you will not smite the Krugs, so that the leash stays until that camp is almost dead. It's easier on blue team where you will have a leash from the two bottom laners. You should have more than half your health after this start, because of smiting the Red Buff and then having red buff proccing while you take the Raptors camp.

Generous start: Blue Buff - Gromp* and then follow with Wolves - Red Buff*. You do this with a leash at the Blue Buff camp and the aim is to give blue buff to your laner. It's a massive help to your mid or top laner to start his lane on level 2 with blue buff. Note that you lose out on all the Blue Buff gold and XP, so you will be on level 1 for Gromp, your leash really ought to help you with that camp. It slows you down by a few seconds because of helping with Blue Buff before you start your own route at Gromp, and you might lose a bit of health at Blue Buff, but the advantages for your laner are huge if he knows how to use them.

4 small camps start: Krugs* - Raptors - Wolves - Gromp* and then go back immediately. This is the route used in Season 6 by Valkrin and other high elo players on farming jungle champions, but in my opinion it's also handy for the champions with weak clears. The same route can be done in either direction, starting at Gromp is fractionally faster (due to its poison buff), but starting at Krugs gives more sustain (due to its stun buff). Advantages:
  • It's a strong start even for weaker junglers, because you don't lose so much health to the small camps: and you won't be taking the large camps until you have level 4 and an additional jungle item for higher sustain.
  • It has the similar advantage to the Red Buff tactical start: you are not vulnerable to being counter-jungled at your buff camps
  • It's a faster start, because every jungler can take small camps faster than large camps.
  • The start is efficient because you follow this clear by a full 6-camp clear after backing: all camps will have reset by the time you can get back to them, giving you maximum efficiency for your early clears, no waiting for respawn times.
  • With the new XP changes since Patch 6.9, this start gets you level 6 as early as possible.
  • Assuming they are not stolen, you will have red buff and blue buff (double buffs) for your level 5 and 6, for strong ganks or sustain in the jungle. Levels 5 and 6 are the most useful time to have these buffs, for example it means you can reach level 6 without needing to go back to Fountain a second time. (You can also donate blue buff to your mid laner: again level 6 is a perfect time for him to have it.)
The disadvantage of this route is there is a risk of one of your buffs being stolen by the enemy jungler: I don't see that as a huge disadvantage, because if you took your buffs at level 2 then you would not have the buffs at level 5-6 anyhow, and if the enemy jungler decides to steal a buff, that's a lot of walking for him which will slow him down: you should be on level 6 long ahead of him.

Ultra Fast Start

Strong junglers can do the easier starting routes - specifically, the 4 camps start - without having three Health Potions. Some champions, including Kha'Zix and Jax, can do 4 camps with only one Health Potion. The strongest junglers, including Udyr, Warwick and Shyvana, can do 4 camps with no Health Potions at all (you need to be skilled with your champion and have a good leash: it's generally safer to carry one Health Potion "just in case").

If your route will involve going back to Fountain anyhow after the fourth camp, you therefore do not need to start with three Health Potions. So instead of spending all your starting gold on Health Potions, why not save some of your starting gold? You can hold 100 gold or 150 gold unspent. This opens up huge possibilities, because then on first back instead of going back with 550 gold, you can have 650 gold - maybe even 700 gold if you started with no health potions at all.

As should be obvious, going back with 650 gold or 700 gold - at the exact same game time that you would be going back with 550 gold with a standard start - gives a massive advantage for an AD jungler. The advantage is that with 650 gold or more you can buy two good items on your first back, or for example you can upgrade to a full jungle item Skirmisher's Sabre or Stalker's Blade immediately. Or you can have the other starting jungle item for the Tooth/Nail increased sustain, plus Boots or a Dagger. Or a Long Sword and one of those. Or with 700 gold, it could even be two Long Swords.

A start which gets you those items sooner, without giving up anything, is incredibly strong. Advantages:
  • Jungle clears with both starting jungle items and a Long Sword are the fastest possible at this early stage in the game, putting you faster to level 6
  • A Dagger also gives you faster clears
  • You have higher sustain with the faster clears, so your level 4-6 is safer, you should not get too low on health
  • If you get counter-jungled or you want to go and do some counter-jungling, you probably have an advantage over the enemy jungler.

I do not recommend starting without health potions if it's your first time playing the champion. If you are unsure, try it in a custom game first.

Tips and tricks
  • With this start do not invade at level 1 or even go close to river at level 1, you want to be completely invisible to the enemy team. If the enemy jungler checks your items and sees that you started without health pots, he will know to come to kill you on low health near Blue Buff.
  • If the enemy team does a level 1 invade, this plan will probably be messed up. If you took any damage at all, you should back and buy 3 health pots and follow a more standard start.
  • If something went wrong - a level 2 invade or a bad clear - you can go back after just 2 camps to buy a 350 gold item.
  • Against Shaco or Udyr who have a high chance of invading you, you should ward the river entrance near Raptors or the brush on the river side of the Red Buff camp. And you might even want to smite your Wolves instead of saving your smite for Gromp.
  • If you know the enemy jungler has come, just let him steal a buff instead of contesting it, you are not in a position to contest anything with low health and no potions - and that's not a bad outcome for you: your opponent wastes a lot of time walking across the map for that one camp and then back, if you just carry on with your own route as if nothing happened, you will be a level ahead of him.

Options after a standard start

Now that you know about the potionless start, why would you ever not do it? Basically because a start with health potions gives you enough health to gank at level 3, sometimes you might want to do that instead of backing.

If you start with 3 health potions and followed a standard route like Gromp - Blue Buff - Wolves, at level 3 after the first 3 camps, you will have four options.

Option 1: take a Rift Scuttler, and then go to see which camps in the enemy jungle are up. You are hoping to encounter the enemy jungler in his jungle. You should be able to kill him or severely damage him, because you are level 3, but you should have higher health thanks to healing up off the Rift Scuttler. If you don't find him, you can steal one of his camps, then look for a lane to gank.

Option 2: an immediate level 3 gank, do this if the setup is good (does your ally have mana? is the enemy over-extended?) But do not just do it randomly - for example the enemy mid laner is probably level 4 by now, and you don't yet have Chilling Smite or Challenging Smite.

Option 3: take more jungle camps on your side of the map before going back with 950 gold. If you did the Red Buff start, then Rift Scuttler - Gromp - Blue Buff - Wolves is a good route because it secures the Rift Scuttler before the enemy jungler can get to it, and you can take the Rift Scuttler quickly because you will still have the Heavy Hands buff from smiting Krugs at the start. When passing, you can place a ward near the enemy Raptor camp to gain sight on the enemy jungler: you really want to have knowledge of the enemy jungler's route around now, and that is a place he must inevitably pass at some point.

Option 4: go quickly to invade the enemy jungler, probably at his Red Buff, and try to get a level 3 kill - see Early Kill Cheese.
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  • A jungler who scales with bonus AD, like Kha'Zix or Jax, should take Enchantment: Warrior
  • A ranged jungler should take Enchantment: Bloodrazor, the 50% attack speed is amazing to have early and means you can focus other items on hard hitting damage
  • A tanky or bruiser jungler should take Enchantment: Cinderhulk, it is gold efficient when combined with other health items and the area-of-effect damage has been buffed since Patch 6.9
  • An AP jungler should take Enchantment: Runic Echoes, this also works well on a hybrid jungler like Kayle

You do not have to buy an enchantment immediately as your first item. For some champions that is a good idea: and Enchantment: Warrior is a strong early pick, because at +60 AD it gives a very high amount of damage for the gold cost, and 10% CDR as well; similarly Enchantment: Runic Echoes is a lot of AP for the price. But Cinderhulk and Bloodrazor are more scaling items - they become stronger in the mid and late game, and are not necessarily a good gold investment as your first item.
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The new Dragons

Each elemental Dragon provides permanent buffs for your whole team which stack up to higher levels according to how many elemental Dragons of the same type your team has killed. At first level some of the buffs are better than the old Dragon buffs, some are worse! Details:
  • Fire Dragon (Infernal Drake) is like the old first Dragon buff, but bigger: it will increase AP and bonus AD (purchased AD) by +8% / +16% / +24%
  • Earth Dragon (Mountain Drake) gives +10% / +20% / +30% bonus damage only against turrets and epic monsters. Riot call it 'true damage' but actually its only a bonus to non-true damage. The Patch 6.10 update stopped this from buffing Smite damage so that Smite races remain even contests.
  • Water Dragon (Ocean Drake) gives good sustain - restoring 4% / 8% / 12% of missing mana and health every 8 seconds out of combat.
  • Air Dragon (Cloud Drake) increases out of combat movement speed by 15 / 30 / 45.
The Water Dragon is the best early, with pretty nice sustain (stronger than blue buff and red buff when you are low). The Fire Dragon is the best mid game and late, if your team has two or three Fire Dragon buffs it would be hard not to win. Earth Dragon helps to take Baron and turrets faster, but in reality it only shaves a couple of seconds off the time (a team can already take these objectives fast if no enemies are there to stop you). When first introduced in Patch 6.9, Earth Dragon also buffed Smite, giving a team which had it for example a 1200 damage Smite at level 18: that could be an advantage at a contested Baron or Dragon, and so Riot in their wisdom removed that in Patch 6.10. Most people think Air Dragon is the weakest but it's pretty nice for most junglers themselves, as junglers benefit strongly from out of combat movement speed - out of combat movement speed helps when coming in to gank or when chasing.

The elemental Dragons each have a different attacking style, for example the Water Dragon applies a slow to you, but none should present too much of a problem. The Fire Dragon does a bit more damage than the others but most junglers should be able to solo it once the jungle item is completed.

The Elder Dragon, which spawns some time after 35 minutes (6 minutes after the last elemental Dragon was killed, and then again 10 minutes after each Elder Dragon is killed) is tougher, similar to Baron and takes even longer to kill so your team is vulnerable while taking it. When killed, it grants a 2 minute buff which enhances any of the dragon buffs which you already have by +50%, and gives all your attacks and damage spells bonus true damage, increased for the number of elemental Dragons your team has killed. This buff has the same beautiful golden glow effect as Aspect of the Dragon had before Patch 6.9. If you didn't take any elemental Dragons, the Elder Dragon buff is extremely lame, and the main benefit of killing the Elder Dragon is simply to deny the other team.

There will normally be 4 elemental Dragons total killed in a game. If teams are slow, it could be only 3 elemental Dragons, or if teams are quick to take all the Dragons then you could see 5 elemental Dragons (the first four could be killed at let's say 08:00 minutes, 15:00, 21:30, 28:00, so that the 5th elemental Dragon spawns just before the 35 minute cut-off). Killing six elemental Dragons is theoretically possible but not realistic unless it's a bots game.

If 5 elemental Dragons spawn, there's a 12% chance of having three dragons of the same type in any one game - that's a 3% chance of three Fire Dragons, a 3% chance of three Earth Dragons, etc. Because the later Dragons will be contested, it's going to be rare for any team in fact to achieve the level three buff.

The Dragon changes seem complicated, but they're actually pretty simple: you want to be sure to take every Dragon, without fail. All the Dragons are good, definitely worth dying for (OK maybe not the Earth Dragon!) And because elemental Dragons will stop spawning after 35 minutes (instead, there's the Elder Dragon), it means that a team which misses out on the early Dragons will never be able to catch up.

In practice in my experience, the Dragon changes are not having the results which Riot intended. Riot wanted to see more contested Dragon fights in the early game, but in fact we are seeing less. Teams are not getting all that excited about the new Dragons, because half of them have relatively weak bonuses and the unpredictability means you don't know if you can ever get to the level 2 or level 3 buffs. In ranked games teams are often not contesting first Dragon until 14 or 15 minutes in, leading to maybe only 3 elemental Dragons being killed in games where lanes are well-matched. As a consequence, the Elder Dragon also does not give very strong buffs, the team killing it may only have 1 or 2 elemental Dragons - making it much weaker than the 5th dragon buff was before Patch 6.9.

The elemental Dragons are not bad in terms of raw stats - the Fire Dragon and Water Dragon are good buffs - so I think it's the randomness people don't like. League of Legends is fundamentally a non-random game, the only random element in it before the elemental Dragons was critical chance!
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Dragon strategy

Apart from Baron, the Dragon is the most contested objective for a jungler, and this contest has only increased with the new Elemental Dragons. Jungler's reputations can be made by who Smites better.

The elemental Dragons give only 25 gold, and no more XP than a jungle camp, but each Dragon is an important objective due to the permanent buffs it grants.

Many teams still under-estimate the importance of taking Dragon. The first important feature of each Dragon is that its buff is permanent and applies to all team-mates. (In contrast, Baron buff has a short duration, and an opposing team can eliminate its benefits by killing champions who have it.) The individual Dragon buffs are not such flashy buffs, but the cumulative benefit of everyone on your team having a bonus over, let's say, 20 minutes of game time is huge - this also means the earliest Dragon buffs are the best to have. The second important feature of each Dragon buff is that it is binary: for each Dragon death, either your team has the buff or the enemy team has it, but it cannot be both. If the enemy team gets the Dragon buff, you can think of that as like your team having a de-buff because what is good for the enemy is bad for you: this binary situation means that every Dragon buff is worth twice as much as you think it is - even the Air Dragon makes a difference, for example it affects ganking, roaming and chasing. The third important feature of Dragon is that to have the second tier buffs (and the best benefit from Elder Dragon later), you must have the first tier buffs: so if your team can take an early Fire Dragon (for example) then you have the possibility of higher tier Fire Dragon buffs. These benefits mean that it is usually worth 1 person on your team dying to secure a Dragon buff - an early Fire Dragon or Ocean Dragon is probably worth 2 deaths.

There are very strong reasons why you want your team to have the first Dragon.
  • Early game, the Dragon Slayer buffs may not seem like much when AD and AP are low, but if you can have the buff early then your whole team has it for a longer time. In addition, the real benefit is twice as strong as it looks due to the binary effect noted above: one team or the other has to have the buff. This binary difference is important, especially if the first Dragon is Fire Dragon - that's a 16% relative difference in AD and AP, during minutes 10 to 20 in the game which are perhaps the most crucial part of any game: that's the time when one team can start to build a strong lead.
  • If you can get to 2-0, 3-0, or even 4-0 in Dragons, it's a big psychological boost for your team and the enemy team will by this stage be blaming their jungler - it doesn't matter which elemental Dragons they are, nobody wants the enemy team to have multiple Dragon buffs. It shows who is boss in the jungle, and it would be hard for your team then not to win with the advantages these buffs give, it should lead to almost certain victory if you can also take the Elder Dragon at 35 minutes.
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One of the most important tasks of the jungler is to ward and to clear enemy wards. You should not be leaving that to your support: it is something all team members should be doing, and the jungler is specially well placed to do it because you are covering more of the map. Vision wins games. Vision helps avoid unpleasant deaths. If you watch good players, they make it a goal to fill the enemy jungle with deep wards.

As well as warding with trinket wards and your Vision Ward, you should also be taking the Rift Scuttlers whenever you see them up: they give a free ward in a perfect spot, 80 gold and some XP, and the movement speed buff might help someone in your team later who is fleeing or chasing through that area. Also importantly, if you don't take them then the enemy will: these are contested objectives.

Clearing wards is important, especially in Season 6 because the enemy team will generally not have so many wards on the map as in earlier seasons.

Pink Eye - the buff from the Raptors camp

Recommended warding items & trinkets
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Early Kill Cheese

Getting an early 1v1 kill on the enemy jungler - especially if it is First Blood - is an excellent move. It will put you ahead all game, it will give you gold allowing you to complete items sooner meaning you will take first dragon sooner and have power spikes sooner, it puts the enemy jungler a long way behind, it helps your laners because they can't be ganked while the enemy jungler is dead or in base and they probably won't be ganked while the enemy jungler is behind in levels and AFK farming to catch up, and in general it is a massive psychological boost for your team. It is the best way of counter-jungling.

I don't know if anyone has ever done a data analysis on a large number of games to see what the win rate is for "games where the jungler took First Blood on the enemy jungler", but I bet it is well over 50%.

Although this is an excellent thing to achieve, it is not possible to do it every game, and some games you can try it and it just doesn't work out for whatever reason. So don't beat yourself up if you don't achieve it. Think of it like attempting an early gank which didn't work out: maybe you still had some positive benefit from the attempt, like burning the enemy jungler's Flash.

I call it a "cheese" move because if things work out, it is an easy kill: you will have a 1 v 1 fight against the enemy jungler when you are higher health than him and also his abilities are probably on cooldown.

Flash is a factor

Do not take unnecessary risks trying to score an early kill: so do not do it if your health is low or your Exhaust (alternatively Flash) is on cooldown, do not do it if one of your own laners is dead or backing (meaning the enemy laners are free to roam), and definitely do not do it if you don't have sight on all enemy laners. Do not even think of doing it against Warwick: he will always kill you at levels 1-5, because he has lifesteal. Likewise do not do it against Udyr.

If something goes wrong, you can normally use a combination of Exhaust on the enemy and your extra movement speed from W to escape.

How to find the enemy jungler

To succeed, you need to understand the enemy jungler, you need to be able to anticipate his preferred jungle routes for first clear and how much health he is likely to have at various points.

To learn all this, if you don't play all the different jungle champions yourself, it may be helpful to watch recorded games of other champions jungling and note what they do in the first 4 minutes. You can also record your own games (there are several free tools for doing that) and then play them back from the perspective of the other jungler. You will see that most junglers get extremely low on health at times in their early jungle camp clears, so that they are very vulnerable if you can find them. At low level, the Red Buff camp especially, which is the strongest camp, will come close to killing a lot of junglers.

Most importantly, you need to know which side the enemy jungler started on. Generally speaking, mana-less junglers like Rengar or Rek'Sai or Lee Sin or Shyvana, will be more likely to start at Krugs. Mana-dependent junglers will be more likely to start at Gromp so they can take blue buff at level 2. But it can be different as between purple side of the map and blue side of the map: even if a Krugs or Gromp start is preferred, the majority of players like to start on the bottom side of the map for the stronger leash they get from having both bottom laners present. So:
  • Purple side, mana-dependent junglers will normally start at Gromp
  • Blue side, mana-less junglers will normally start at Krugs
  • Purple side, mana-less junglers could start at either one (Krugs more likely for champions which do not need a leash)
  • Blue side, mana-dependent junglers could start at either one (Gromp more likely for champions like Shaco which do not need a leash)
To find out where the enemy jungler started, you can watch the behaviour of the enemy laners on the mini-map - if top lane is in sight all the time, but the bottom lane pair only showed up in lane after the minion waves already met in the middle, then it's a safe bet that the enemy jungler started on the bottom side of the map. Alternatively, ask your bot lane to go ward near Gromp / Krugs, or go and place an early ward there yourself.

Times to get an early kill

You can get an early kill at:

Level 1 - you can catch the enemy jungler around 02:05-02:20 near his second jungle camp (Blue Buff or Red Buff) at a time when he will, for sure, be very low on health, and after the team-mates who leashed for him already went to lane.

Detailed steps

Some opponents - for example Nidalee or Shaco - can escape you quite easily when they have their level 2 abilities (maybe depending on which order they took abilities), so in those cases the result you are looking for is not a kill (unless you are lucky), but simply to steal their blue buff and put them on such low health that they are forced to back.

Level 2 - if you started on the same side of the map as the enemy jungler (e.g. both started on bottom side) and if his early clears are slow, then you can clear your first camp quickly, achieve your level 2, and go to look for your opponent just as he is finishing his second camp. This video shows how: at 1 minute in to the video, the Shyvana kills the Kha'Zix at his blue buff.

If you are purple side, you can follow the reverse route to the route shown in that video, so start at Gromp and then go invade the enemy Red Buff at level 2.

Shaco opponents will do this level 2 invade to you in about 90% of games. Apart from the fact that all Shaco players are little ****s, it's because a Shaco can take his first camp without using Smite, so he can save his first Smite to use it on your Red Buff, restoring his health and giving him a massive advantage in his fight with you. If you are a strong early jungler and your opponent is Shaco, the best strategy is probably to go to do a level 2 invade on him, and hope to meet him half way. If you meet him half way, you can kill him because you won't be tanking damage from a jungle camp, and his Smite is useless. He will probably Flash away, but at least you burned his Flash and stopped his level 2 invade.

Also watch out for games where the enemy jungler teams up with the enemy mid (or the enemy ADC) for a 2-person level 2 invade, normally at your Raptors camp. This is quite common at high elo. It's why warding between your Raptors and river is so important.

Level 3 - Junglers with fast early clears have enough time to clear three camps and then walk to the enemy side of the map and catch the enemy jungler while he is taking his second buff (which will likely be his fourth camp) - most commonly, that's going to be his red buff. Both junglers will be at level 3, but you can be at higher health than him from regen and potions while you were walking across the map, and again you will have the advantage of surprise and of his abilities being on cooldown because he used them on the jungle camp.

In this case, your primary goal is not to steal the camp with your Smite, it's to get a kill and 300 (or 400) gold. Best outcome is to kill the enemy while he is taking the camp so you can also get the gold from finishing the camp after, and he doesn't get the gold: that gives you a +130 gold lead on him even apart from the kill (or if you missed the kill because he flashed away). But almost as good is to kill the enemy jungler right after he took the buff, so he lost his double buffs to you.

The Amumu is about to die and give the Shyvana his double buffs and 400 gold.

Routes for a level 3 invade


Here is a Patch 6.7 game where the Shyvana has a standard start, takes three camps and a Scuttle Crab, and then catches the Tryndamere on low health at his Red Buff for an easy kill at level 3. It's because the Tryndamere showed himself in mid-lane en route to the Red Buff, trying to help out the midlaner - this is not a good idea for any jungler, especially early, as vision on the opponent jungler's route is such valuable information for counter-jungling.

Of course only attempt any of these things if you can win a 1-on-1 fight at level 2 or level 3, so it depends on the enemy champion. If you took Exhaust, you should definitely use it to help you win the fight. Don't forget the enemy will have either the poison buff from smiting Gromp, or the damage over time from red buff, but you should also have one of these things.

If the enemy warded his own jungle - for example if red buff is his second camp, this is possible at the river entrance near Raptors, or in the brush on the river side of the Red Brambleback pit, as he knows red buff can be contested - then you will be seen coming in. In this case you may still be able to secure a kill - just because the enemy jungler sees you, it doesn't mean he is smart enough to run under the nearest tower at the first moment you appear, a lot of players will try to finish their jungle camp first so that you can't steal it. The danger is more that he will ping for help and one of the enemy laners, most likely mid, will come to kill you. So whatever the outcome of that fight, you need to keep far away from mid lane on your route back to your own jungle afterwards.

If you have not tried these things ever as a jungler, you probably should: it seems "risky" because you are invading the enemy jungle at low level and not at full health, but actually the risk is small because your opponent will also be low level and low on health, and all the enemy laners should be busy in their lanes. The real risks are loss of time if you did not correctly predict where to find your opponent (but in that case at least you can steal a buff); and the risk that an alert enemy mid will come to help his jungler.

Now that you know about the early counter-jungling possibilities, you may want to ward your own jungle better against the chance that these things will be done to you!
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General tips

1. __Early game, generally it is a mistake to try to "help out" laners unless you have a specific objective, like an enemy where you can score a probable kill. So do not come to the protection of a team-mate who is being killed in a 3v1 (you will probably also die). Do not hold a lane while your team-mate backs. Your allies have turrets for that stuff, they don't need you. Do not engage in "all mid" skirmishing unless there is a specific objective, like a tower which you can take down. All these things are a waste of a jungler's time as you can earn more gold and XP by either farming the jungle, or ganking a lane which you can gank more easily - for example go to gank top lane if most of the enemy are bottom, and in this way you can punish the enemy for their decisions.

2. __Importantly, holding a lane or skirmishing in mid lane makes you visible to the enemy, so allows the enemy jungler to go do other things without fear of being interrupted, and makes your next move more predictable when they see you leave the lane (so the enemy might come to kill you in a 2v1). See this video for a good example of why holding a lane is not a good idea: in that example the Tryndamere gives the Shyvana vision of himself at level 3, and dies shortly afterwards...

3. __In your earliest clears, use Smite on Krugs (for the Heavy Hands buff), Red Brambleback (for the 20% max health insta-heal) and Gromp (for the poison). After your earliest clears, try to save Smite only for the Raptors (for ward checking), the enemy Wolves camp (for vision) and for enemy champions, and Dragon of course.

4. __Except when taking Dragon or Baron, use Smite early, at the start of taking a jungle camp. Four reasons:
(1) you gain the bonus from smiting the large monster sooner
(2) your Smite will be off cooldown sooner
(3) it avoids any 'overkill' from smiting the monster too late and so ensures your clear time is as fast as possible
(4) it means you don't have to watch the camp while you clear for that good time to Smite, but instead you can be looking around the map
A fifth reason, if it's your first camp and you have a leash, is to make it easier for the leashers to see when they have done enough damage to be able to leave. But exceptionally, if you're getting a leash from Zyra or Malzahar, you need to smite last, because otherwise there's a chance their plants / voidlings will get the last hit on the jungle camp.

5. __Out-psyching your opponents and improving the morale of your own team is very important in League of Legends. It's part of your overall role as jungler to deliver that. This type of thing makes your side play better as a team and help each other out, makes opponents go on tilt, and leads to their early surrender. Therefore you should be making an effort to:
  • get an early 1-on-1 kill on the enemy jungler, to show who is boss
  • take every elemental Dragon - if your team has 3 dragons and their team has none, they're going to be flaming at their jungler
  • when ganking, if you have the option of who gets the kill, give the kill to your laner: it's better for your team if your laner has a positive score against his lane opponent, and the fact that you did this deliberately will be noted by your laner and his opponent: that's great psychology, it shows you are totally in control of the situation
  • counter-gank if you see something going down and you can get there in time, you don't want your team to feel you abandoned them to die, and a counter-gank is actually a situation where you can be very powerful and get a kill if the opponent hs used all their abilities already.

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