Matchups & Mastery: Understanding the Jungler’s Mentality

Jungler is notorious as the most mentally taxing role in League of Legends… There’s so much information that has to be processed into conscious decisions throughout the game! However, the most vital step for becoming a successful jungler is mastering matchups. If you haven’t read my article on Jungler Archetypes, I highly suggest reading it before this guide! Breaking down matchups can be a daunting task, but understanding the terminology and mentality components will help a ton. Without further ado, let’s begin!


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The Mentality of an Alpha

When playing an Alpha, it’s critical to understand why that particular champion has the Alpha classification in the first place. You need to know why this jungler is an Alpha in order to maximize their power versus other jungle archetypes (at least, while you still can). Let’s look at an example of a previous Alpha jungler.




Alpha Example: Lee Sin

We can use pre-nerf Lee Sin (early Season 7) as a prime example. On paper, Lee Sin is a Carnivore. At this time, however, he stood above all else! Before his surge in popularity, the Tiamat rush build solved his glaring weakness of poor jungle clearing. This item, paired with Thunderlord’s Decree as his Keystone let Lee Sin climb to the top of the food chain. He was simply too strong: he could farm more efficiently than S-tier Herbivores and gank better than any other Carnivore!


Even with these advantages, Lee Sin wouldn’t achieve Alpha status without the proper playstyle. Tiamat was the staple item choice and knowing the optimal jungle clear path was crucial to his overwhelming success in that patch. Without a playstyle that took advantage of his strengths, Lee Sin simply would not have been as effective! In other words, know your Alpha’s strength in a given patch and play to use it. Otherwise, you’ll be handicapping yourself with a weaker version of the champion!


For a jungler to qualify as an Alpha, it needs an overbearing, Carnivorous nature that your opponents will fear. You are likely superior in ganks than the enemy jungler and also able to clear camps with ease. Focus on putting your team ahead and counter any step the enemy jungler takes towards their win condition (regardless of archetype).




The Mentality of a Carnivore

The best mentality for a Carnivore jungler is to spawn into the game with more hunger than an empty stomach. Your source of energy is not calories, but gold! You need to figure out the most reliable way of acquiring it while putting the enemy team behind. This means removing champions from the map by killing them or forcing them out of their lane!


Carnivore Matchups

When playing against a fellow Carnivore, you’ll have to know each champion’s strengths in ganking. In most 1v1 matchups, the Carnivore who strikes first wins (assuming they are close in levels and gold). In a 2v2 or 3v3, however, the Carnivore who counter-ganks typically comes out on top, unless their lane was extremely vulnerable to begin with. When Carnivores face off, the bolder one wins: being proactive in taking the lead is key! These games will usually be snowballed by whichever jungler gets ahead first.




When compared to an Omnivore, Carnivores generally bring more to the table before level 6. But once Ultimates are available, things gets tricky if the Carnivore doesn’t have a significant gold advantage. At this point, the Omnivore will begin to outshine the Carnivore. It’s a risk you take when playing this archetype: if the Carnivore is overly aggressive and makes mistakes, expect the other jungler to punish your errors! However, a competent Carnivore will bully an Omnivore who doesn’t respect the former’s early game prowess.


Against Herbivores, Carnivores need to be mindful about how they clear their jungle camps. A good Herbivore player will know that the Carnivore will likely be trying to gank with level 3 after three camps (around three minutes into the game). If timed well, the Herbivore can sneak into the Carnivore’s jungle and steal some of their camps away! It’s best for the Carnivore to use wards defensively in this matchup. By doing so, you can spot Herbivores trying to steal your camps and punish them with the aid of your laners.




The Mentality of an Omnivore

The mindset of an Omnivore isn’t as one-dimensional due to their inherent flexibility. It’d be wrong to say that an Omnivore wants to focus on clearing camps or ganking lanes… It all comes down to the matchup and, at times, champion-specific variables when deciding on a plan of attack.


Omnivore Matchups


When against Carnivores, Omnivores must consider the champion-specific matchup at hand. Unless the Omnivore has specific counters (such as Gragas against Lee Sin), it’s best to steer away from lanes the Carnivore will be visiting early. Making the mistake of contesting a 2v2 too soon could set you up for a quick loss. In this situation, it’s far better to farm for your power spike and pressure lanes when you know the Carnivore isn’t near.


The Omnivore v. Omnivore matchup is entirely champion specific. It all comes down to the champion’s kits and how they interact! Let’s look at a quick example of an Omnivore mirror to show how to break this matchup down.




Omnivore Matchup Example: Vi vs. Hecarim

In this particular matchup, both Vi and Hecarim have a major power spike at level 6. They also have decent gank potential prior to level 6, depending on what the enemy laners are. However, Vi has one glaring weakness in the form of unreliable damage. If she misses her Q (Vault Breaker) ability in a gank or early fight, it could prove disastrous.  Therefore, unless the lane she’s ganking has reliable crowd control, it would be best to avoid contesting Hecarim in a 2v2 situation. This is essentially how you should think of Omnivore matchups: consider your champion’s weaknesses and strengths!


The Omnivore-Herbivore matchup is similar to the Carnivore-Herbivore one. The Omnivore should use their Trinket to establish defensive vision control and prevent the Herbivore from denying their jungle camps. The Omnivore also must be smart about clearing their camps: don’t leave them up for long, especially without vision in the area.




The Mentality of an Herbivore

Herbivores play every matchup, regardless of archetype, similarly. Herbivores want to track the enemy jungler and figure out what camps they can safely deny, while also power farming their own jungle. This protects their team by keeping tabs on the other jungler and preventing a Carnivore / Omnivore from getting successful ganks. Due to their speedy camp-clearing capabilities, Herbivores will also look to sneak Rift Herald and Dragon (Drake). This helps make up for their lack of early-game gank potential.


Generally speaking, Herbivores are quite weak when ganking compared to Omnivores or Carnivores. Because of this, it’s a poor idea to try to gank a 2v2 or 1v1 unless the enemy has extremely low HP. Herbivores often rely on a “you can’t catch me” strategy. Ideally, they want to avoid the action until ready to win the game later. Once far enough ahead in gold and experience, the once-passive Herbivore becomes dangerous and too powerful to kill – even if outnumbered!




Practicing Matchup Analysis

Having made it this far, you should have an idea of how to analyze matchups based on archetypes. There’s just one more step after this, which is breaking down champion-specific matchups! By understanding archetypes and how they affect one another, you can figure out a champion’s early game mentality and how their win conditions unfold.


To really dominate the game, you’ll need to grasp how your champion plays against the opponent. Try to practice breaking down each of your abilities and how they interact with the enemy jungler. Once you get archetype and champion-specific matchups down, you’ll be ready to master even more of the jungle role! Applying all this information can be overwhelming, and some matchups are harder to analyze than others: don’t hesitate to reach out to your coach when you’re having issues. Practice makes perfect! Thanks for reading and best of the luck in the Rift!


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