Author: MMOsite Writer Alexander Hinkley
Playing a jungler is one of the hardest roles to master in League of Legends. Your job is to pressure the lanes by maneuvering through the fog of war and ganking your opponents. A gank is pretty much another word for an ambush. Opponents not saavy enough to place wards in bushes can be unpleasantly surprised when you pop out of them. Hopefully a kill is secured, yet even driving an opponent away from creeps and experience can be worth the gank attempt.
Depending on your team composition, different types of champions will be better junglers/gankers than others. On a team that is more AD based, a jungler with high AP scaling, such as Diana, would be a good choice. The reason for this is that your opponents are likely building defensive items based on the champions they face in lane so the ganker should have the opposite type of damage in order to maximize their effectiveness and burst. On the flip side of things, an AP heavy team could use someone like Rengar or Vi as their jungler/ganker.
One basic tip for junglers is to start off by killing the buff golems. There are two buff golems on each side of Summoner's Rift, Blessing of the Lizard Elder (aka red buff) and Crest of the Ancient Golem (aka blue buff) If a jungler uses mana, it is generally best to start with the blue golem because it the blue buff significantly increases man regeneration and adds some cooldown reduction, too. On the other hand, if the jungler does not rely on the mana, or do not use mana (like Rengar), then it is generally better to start with the red golem. The red buff adds an on-hit slowing effect to your basic attack and also deals bonus true damage to targets. Spells that apply on-hit effects, such as Rengar's Q ability and Ezreal's Mystic Shot, will also apply the red buff's bonuses.
There are also several non-buff monsters located around the map - wolves, wraiths, and golems. The wolves and wraiths are smaller camps that are easier to take down but grant less gold. The golems have more hit points but give more gold when killed. Which monsters you attack first will depend on which buff you went for first. If you go for blue, then you would take down wolves next. If you go for red, you would take down wraiths. Sometimes in ranked games the middle laner will take out the wraith camp when they can for extra gold. Do not get mad at them, and let them take the wraiths.
Something else junglers should know about is leashing. A teammate can help "leash" one of the big monsters by attacking it. This will draw the monster's attention toward your ally instead of you and save you from suffering additional damage.
Buffs will last between two and three minutes depending on what masteries you have. Once the buffs wear off, it is up to you to know when they respawn. Keep an eye on the clock. Buff camps initially spawn at 1:55 and then respawn after five minutes of being killed. Smaller camps initially spawn at 1:40 and will respawn after just one minute of being killed (or 50 seconds for the wraith camp). You should also consider placing wards around the bushes near each buff so that you can be alerted if an enemy is trying to come steal them from you. Additionally, make sure you are mindful of the spawn timers on the dragon and Baron Nashor. The dragon first spawns at 2:30 on the game clock and then six minutes after death. Baron doesn't spawn until 15 minutes on the clock and then will respawn again seven minutes after he is slain. Baron's buff lasts for four minutes.
There are two decisions that a jungler must make at the beginning of the game: to stay in their own territory and take their own buffs, or make a riskier play and try to "invade" the enemy jungle and steal their buffs. Staying in your own jungle is probably the better option for inexperienced players in the role since it is less risky and allows you to keep track of respawn timers easier. Invading the enemy jungle does have its merits, however, since you can cripple your opponent's jungler. For example, Amumu will lose a lot of early game jungling ability if he does not get his blue buff because his Despair ability consumes a lot of mana and is his main tool in quickly wiping out monster camps. Taking away the red buff from someone like Rengar will have a similar effect. This is what's known as counter jungling. Make sure you tell your team if you want to invade, though, because they will have to come with you. It is a team effort and not something you can do alone.
Nunu in particular is adept at counter jungling. His Consume ability can only be used on minions and monsters, but it deals a ton of damage to them. Combined with Blood Boil, which increases attack and movement speed, Nunu can run into enemy territory and kill the big monsters before the other team has a chance to find him. If he does happen to be found, Ice Blast can help him escape since it will slow the enemy by 25% which early on is a significant amount. Another good Counter Jungler is Rengar, who can use his Q twice in a row with his passive to deal lots of damage and greatly increase his attack speed to quickly take the buff.
As mentioned above, one of the jungler's primary objectives is to pressure enemy lanes. This is achieved through ganking. One of the best tips for ganking is to ask the support and top laner to provide wards for their rivers. This will allow you and them to see when an enemy places a ward, as well as see when the other jungler comes up the river to gank. The tri-bushes on both sides should also be warded as that is another place junglers will gank from if you push the enemy to their tower. Knowing where the enemy jungler is will open up opportunities for you to gank. You can choose to help that lane or pressure a different one.
Ganking is also best done with champions that have some sort of crowd control abilities (stuns are always preferable). Pantheon is a great champion to gank with since he can jump onto an enemy and stun them, as well as dealing some nice burst damage. Maokai is another good ganker due to his Twisted Advance ability that will root an enemy in place for up to two seconds. He also has a nice slowing ability in Arcane Smash.
Keep in mind that many times an enemy will use a summoner spell such as ghost or flash in response to you ganking them. Plan for this to happen by anticipating their potential escape roots and then attacking from one of them rather than just coming at them head-on. A good way of doing this is to put yourself in their shoes. If you were them, and you were being ganked, how would you get away?
Hopefully you, as the ganker, will get behind them while your teammates in lane attack from the front closing your opponents into a pincer attack. Patience and teamwork are required for this. Wait in the bushes for your opponents to pass. Don't jump out until your teammates are ready to attack at the very moment you do. You should ping which enemy you intend to target first to let your allies know the moment is right. Then spring the trap!
Even if they do happen to escape by using flash or ghost, this could still be seen as somewhat of a success since you made them "waste" that spell. They have pretty long cooldowns (flash is 300 seconds while ghost is 210).
There are a few items that Riot built specifically for the jungler/ganker role. Most of the time you will want to start out with a Hunter's Machete and five health potions to give you the sustainability needed to avoid going back to heal too soon. Hunter's Machete also upgrades into three items that allow you to absolutely shred monster camps: Spirit of the Ancient Golem (for tanks, as it provides bonus health), Spirit of the Elder Lizard (for AD champions, as it provides a mini red buff without the slow), and Spirit of the Spectral Wraith (For AP champions, as it provides spell vamp). What items you make from then on out will depend on what champion you are playing and what's going on in the game. You will probably need to experiment with a few builds to find one that you feel is right for you.
Another good tip for Lee Sin junglers is to pick up a Sight Seer Stone. Lee Sin can actually use the wards to dash around, thus giving him awesome battlefield mobility and frustrating his opponents.