It’s often said, but worth repeating: every champion is unique! Junglers in League of Legends come in all shapes and sizes. As a result, every jungler requires a different game plan based on individual skill set and intended playstyle. Trying to understand what each and every champion wants to accomplish is challenging if you’re going on a case-by-case basis. Instead, it’s best to focus on archetypes and learn to classify a champion’s archetype on the fly! People often divide junglers into “Passive” or “Aggressive.” I take a different approach. In this article, we’ll look at classing junglers based on how they earn income. Let’s start working our way down the food chain!
Jungler Archetype #1: The Alpha
The “Alpha” archetype is of great importance, because some junglers are simply too good at everything! They gank effectively, scale well, and farm efficiently. Junglers rarely stay in this archetype for long due to balance changes. Nonetheless, they are too powerful to ignore!
Generally speaking, an Alpha can originate from any other jungler archetype. True Alphas require a truly carnivorous nature (see next section) in addition to top-tier jungle clear. Some patches will have Alphas, while some won’t. It is easy to spot Alphas: they stick out like sore thumbs due to being (grossly) superior to everyone else in a patch. Junglers with high ban / pick rates rarely escape the Riot Games nerf hammer for long!
Two great examples of Alphas who stuck around for a little too long would be Season 7 Graves and Hecarim (pre-season Shyvana was pretty good too). An Alpha champ will usually feel like a strong pick no matter what. But that doesn’t mean they’re immune to the usual pitfalls of League: it’s up to the Alpha player to decide which playstyle fits their draft best!
Jungler Archetype #2: The Carnivore
First among the common archetypes, we have what I call “Carnivore” junglers. The Carnivore’s win condition is to feast on enemy champions. They aim to gank quickly (whenever possible), get ahead, and maintain momentum by making frequent aggressive plays. These junglers are losing if they are only farming. They typically don’t get as much reliable gold income as other archetypes, due to subpar clear speed and jungle sustainability.
Carnivores want to close out games as quickly as possible due to their inherent weaknesses. Some examples: a Carnivore can be too squishy as a melee champion, or may not scale well with items compared to other characters. A few examples would be Lee Sin, Pantheon, or Shaco. Consider picking Carnivores when your team can support a snowballing strategy with reliable kill potential in lanes. Conversely, avoid picking Carnivores when your team relies on late-game scaling without early game kill potential!
Jungler Archetype #3: The Omnivore
The next archetype is the “Omnivore.” These junglers have situation-based win conditions that vary depending on matchup. Omnivores have gank potential, but they may choose not to gank at times due to the risk of failure. Enemy junglers who are more efficient at ganking, such as an Alpha or Carnivore, may prove tricky for Omnivore types to handle.
Omnivores are junglers who can “bite back” when invaded upon, but won’t necessarily be as aggressive or daring as Carnivores. This is because they aren’t desperate to snowball a game!
It’s usually easy to draw the line between Carnivores and Omnivores by keeping one thing in mind. Omnivores scale much better than Carnivores, and typically hit a power spike when they acquire their ultimate. Level 6 is when these champs turn it up a notch! Some examples of Omnivores would be Vi, Sejuani, and Graves.
Omnivores are typically the safest draft choice (outside of Alphas) due to their inherent flexibility. You can select these junglers early or as the perfect last pick – the icing on the cake for your composition!
Jungler Archetype #4: The Herbivore
Finally, we have the “Herbivore” jungler. The Herbivore’s win condition is to farm safely and scale into the late-game. The only times these champs should be looking for gank are if it’s 100% risk-free due to a dead or distant enemy jungler.
Herbivore junglers excel at clearing camps quickly while staying healthy. They look to steal monster objectives such as Dragon (also known as Drake) or Rift Herald. And they can even sneak enemy jungle camps when it’s safe to do so! For these junglers, the goal is to safely get a lead in experience and gold by clearing each of their jungle camps the moment they come up.
Advanced Herbivore junglers should be carefully tracking the enemy jungler’s movements. This lets you capitalize when they leave camps up and are too far away to contest. Some examples of Herbivores would be Shyvana, Nunu, and Udyr.
You should consider Herbivores draft-neutral because they come and go as viable picks in the metagame. Herbivores can be a viable pick in any game, but they’re often difficult to execute correctly as a result of their low early-game impact. To play Herbivores at a consistently high level, you must have strong game knowledge and solid mechanics.
Knowing When to Bite Back
Now that we’ve gone through the whole food chain, it is important to note that even Herbivores can take down a Carnivore. We’ve all seen Nunu chase Kha’Zix to The Void and back! Remember that archetypes exist to help us classify how junglers get their gold in the early game. They’re not indicative of kill potential once you’ve built a few substantial items. If you’re having issues with jungler classification, optimal jungling, or deciding which playstyle fits you best, discuss it with your coach!
Putting This Knowledge to Use
By understanding jungler archetypes in LoL, you’ll know what role to play in any match! This goes hand-in-hand with identifying the enemy jungler’s archetype and building a strategy based on your matchup. There’s a ridiculous amount of depth to breaking down jungle matchups. With this in mind, I highly suggest you take your play to the next level by checking out my jungle matchup guide coming next week! Thanks for reading and best of luck on the Rift!