Season 12 of League of Legends has come to an end. As such, players can finally experiment with the new pre-season patch, which always makes major changes to the core systems of the game. This year, aside from the addition of a few new and returning items, most of the preseason changes center around the role of the jungler.
In the past League of Legends seasons, the jungler has traditionally been the most difficult role to take on, as it doesn’t share many of the necessary skills with other roles, typically relying more on knowledge of the game than raw mechanical skill. Prospective junglers often need to read guides or watch how-to videos to learn the role, rather than just learning by playing. Riot Games is aware of this fact, and the new preseason changes are their attempt to make the jungler a more accessible role for new or inexperienced players.
Pre-Season Changes Raise Skill Level Significantly
The main changes of the preseason in the jungle role revolve around the first clear of the game. In past seasons, junglers had to carefully choose which clear path to take, taking into account their champion’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, fast AoE clearers like Hecarim were able to clear all six jungle camps before the scuttle crab spawned in 3:15, while slower junglers would have to take fewer camps and go for one. early ambush, or sacrifice the extra golden and completely transparent Crab.
Previously, one of the main abilities in the jungler role was being able to completely clear yourself before the scuttle crab spawned through clever use of each camp’s patience range. Essentially, players could move camps closer to each other to reduce travel time. In the case of Gromp and Blue Buff, players could even lure camps close enough to take them both at the same time, drastically reducing their free time. For many junglers, perfecting the game’s first clear was what generated much of the enjoyment of the role and the expression of skills.
The first clear is almost impossible to miss
In the new preseason, several changes have been made around the first clearance of the game. There’s a new feature that recommends following a jungle path based on high-level players, but it generally doesn’t account for lane matchups like real players would, so it can be a trap for new players. Preseason also adds new jungle pets, which deal AoE damage to camps. This, coupled with the fact that the scuttle crab now spawns at 3:30, makes it possible for junglers who were previously slow clearing to fully clear before the scuttle, which removes the identity of the jungle champion somewhat and makes it more difficult for players to track down their enemies.
Preseason has also significantly reduced the patience range of jungle camps, making advanced strategies like removing Gromp and Blue Buff together impossible. These changes combine to make the game’s first clear extremely easy, almost to a fault. Without the skill expression and patience range play involved, the early game as a jungler isn’t nearly as fun to play. While the skill level of the first jungle clear was raised significantly with these changes, clearing was never the hardest or most important part of the role.
The reason jungle is so hard for new players to understand is that RPG, at its core, is about long-term decision-making. This means that when a jungler makes a mistake, it’s much less immediately obvious than the same thing that happens in a lane. If a laner makes a mistake, they drop a bit of health or die, instantly teaching the player what they did wrong. Making the wrong decision in the jungle may not negatively affect the player for several minutes. If Riot wants to make the jungler role-playing more welcoming to inexperienced players, making the former point so easy is not the way to do it.