Due to the Preseason 4 changes, this tier list is going to be way less of a Tier List in a formal sense, and more a discussion of the new jungle, how it affects champion strengths, and what sort of strategies are strong.
The new jungle is somewhat different than any jungle we’ve seen before.
- The Season 1 jungle was unforgiving once you fell behind, which made control junglers and duelists dominant, and natural sustain crucial. However, warding was less consistent in Season 1, which also allowed a few ganking junglers to take hold. But for the most part, Season 1 jungling was defined by who could survive in it, with Amumu, Jarvan, Nunu, Udyr, and Warwick dominating.
- The Season 2 jungle was very forgiving, with weak monsters, low experience, and low gold. In a sense, you could hardly fall behind because you never had much anyway. As such, many junglers ended up as supports to the lanes. It was the first jungle which already had an established meta, complete with supports and ward coverage, which meant that it was defined by early ganks top and mid, followed by low gold builds and spammed Oracle’s Elixirs to clear wards. Anybody with a gap closer and CC dominated: Jarvan, Maokai, Nautilus, Amumu, and so on. The prevalence of these tanks also allowed for the rise of DiamondProx and counter-jungling. He played entirely fast-clearing, strong dueling champions — Shyvana/Lee Sin/Dr. Mundo, and so on — who could invade, fight, and set behind these tanks. In a sense, Season 2 was defined by tanks who could play with low-gold builds. You either were a tank, or you could make the other team regret picking one.
- Season 3 blurred the lines between tank and bruiser, with champions like Jarvan, Vi, and Xin Zhao dominating the early part of the season. Then the 2v1 meta changed from a dive meta into a push meta, and champions with AoE push power like Nasus shined. But by the time the World Championship rolled around, the dive strong champions were back, adding revive-passive champions like Aatrox and Zac, as well as the ever-present Lee Sin and Elise — whose mobility allowed them to survive early dives — to their lineup.
Season 4 is a whole new game. Riot is attempting to validate each style, whether it be ganking (Lee Sin/Jarvan/Elise), invading (Lee Sin/Shyvana) or diving (Aatrox/Jarvan). They have done this through new gold items – crap, out of time.
In my experience, there are two essential styles at the moment, and a few factors affect this.
- Everybody has trinket wards, making ganking harder. This means champions who can avoid wards (Lee Sin and Evelynn especially) have become very strong.
- The prevalence of early wards also makes farming while being ready to counter-gank — some have been calling this “Meteos style” jungling — stronger, simply because a counter-gank is much more likely to be successful than a gank, so you lose out on less jungle gold by guaranteeing a constant clear.
First, let’s talk about what’s new in the jungle.
- There are now Conservation stacks. There are some misconceptions about what exactly they do. Yes, there is more gold overall in the jungle with the Conservation passive. No, that doesn’t mean ganking is ‘better’ than power farming. Essentially, Conservation stacks gives gp10 to anybody who farms the jungle every once in awhile. As long as you knock down 2 camps every 2 minutes, you get 80 gold, and it doesn’t particularly matter when you do it. However, this means that if you are power-farming, you get a lot more gold. Power farming wasn’t worth it before simply because a champion who has low gold getting a bit more isn’t a big deal.
- Jungle rewards scale better. This means that the 10-20 minute mark is crucial for junglers. It is the point at which the jungle is worth more, but they are still able to farm it without too much interference from laners.
- Smite is on a lower cooldown.
- If you have a low clear speed, you can smite every 2-3 camps, making your clear speed not bad.
- If you have a high clear speed, this means you basically skip every 3 camps (when smite is up).
- You take less damage in the jungle if you have short-term tankiness (a shield). Smite lets you take down most camps in the time it takes your shield to wear off, meaning you only take damage from every 2-3 camps.
Keep in mind that I’ve only played 200 games or so in the new jungle, so my experience level with junglers varies wildly. Hopefully as this tier list develops, this effect will be less pronounced
(shine at everything or best at what they do with no sacrifices)
Vi, Shyvana, Evelynn, Elise, Amumu
(no glaring weaknesses, but generally outclassed by a God Tier champion)
A: Olaf, Nasus, Lee Sin, Mundo, Aatrox
B: Jarvan, Udyr, Nocturne, Fiddlesticks
(has a significant weakness that they can make up for)
A: Skarner, Jax, Nautilus, Rammus, Zac, Xin Zhao, Master Yi
B: Sejuani, Cho’Gath, Shaco, Maokai, Hecarim, Trundle, Volibear
(has a significant weakness that is relatively easy to exploit)
A: Warwick, Gragas, Renekton, Kayle, Pantheon, Kha’Zix, Wukong, Riven
B: Malphite, Nunu, Diana, Karma, Shen, Yorick, Zed, Tryndamere
For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to divide these champions into four groups: the gankers, the farmers, the hybrids, and Nunu.
Farmers – Farmers have extreme clear speeds, if not much CC for ganks. Their mid-late games are strong, giving you another front line or damage dealer for your team.
Shyvana – Shyvana is just the strongest farmer. Her clear speed is ridiculous, she scales incredibly into the midgame because of her passive armor/MR, base damage, and ultimate. She falls off a bit late-game due to kiting if she misuses her ultimate.
Olaf – Olaf is not far behind Shyvana, and is actually seeing more play than her in OGN. His ultimate and axes allow him to avoid kiting, and his damage scaling is ridiculous. He is a bit less tanky than Shyvana when he activates his ultimate for CC immunity and Armor Pen. He also has to choose: activate the ultimate to reach the target (and waste the Armor Pen + be less tanky), or try and get on them before ulting (and risk being kited). That small weakness – combined with his being limited by mana – is really what puts him below Shyvana.
Nasus – Nasus is less easily kited than Olaf, due to Wither, but is hurt more by a weak early game (Q stacks), suffers more from QSS/Cleanse, and is of course, extremely weak against Lucian. Look to see him move up or down next patch dependent on Lucian’s popularity.
Mundo – Mundo farms as hard as Shyvana, but doesn’t scale quite as hard, is hurt more by ignite, and gets dangerously low during early clears.
Udyr – Udyr gets as tanky as the four above him – maybe more – with much more early game damage and a little more mid-game damage. However, he is relatively mana reliant, and the easiest of the bunch to kite (due to having no ranged abilities).
Master Yi – Master Yi is a pure damage jungler who suffers from having no builds to fall-back on when low on gold. The farming junglers above him can build full tank, with optional damage items, but for Yi, it’s DPS all the way. If he falls behind, he risks becoming irrelevant.
Kha’Zix – Kha’Zix wants to benefit from the addition of the Wight (and he does). But it’s on the opposite side of the map from his other favorite came: the Golems, meaning he doesn’t farm that much faster. His scaling is not bad, and his jump + slow make for decent ganks. He simply isn’t that exciting.
Wukong – Wukong is a sort of damaging Malphite, but with more need to build damage.
Diana – Diana has ok ganks, but her early clears are rough, and she can’t afford to build tank, Spectral Wraith is practically core on her, and her CC is minimal.
Zed – Zed clears blindingly fast. He just doesn’t bring much else as a jungler, and needs to build 100% damage. Moreover, he doesn’t benefit much from Elder Lizard, being a burst oriented champion.
Tryndamere – Tryndamere is a slightly faster clearing, slower-ramping up, CC-less Aatrox who can’t provide early pressure. In exchange, he gets more late game damage – barely.
Gankers – Gankers want to pressure lanes often (and – most of the time – early). They have slightly slower farming, but good CC, gap closers, or burst.
Evelynn – Trinkets might mean theoretically more wards – many think they’ve caused laners to grow complacent and reliant on them, forgoing other wards – but the change to pink wards makes Evelynn a terror if you don’t know how to play against her (and it’s nigh-guaranteed somebody won’t). She scales strongly, and can full-to-0 most champions when fed.
Elise – Elise is incredibly mobile, can be built for damage when ahead and tankiness/utility when behind, and ganks like nobody’s business. Gap closer + stun + burst + versatile builds = always a solid pick.
Lee Sin – can avoid wards with easy, loves to farm the enemy jungle and gank from behind the laners, and strong early game? Lee Sin’s kit is just so damn good. The jungle may not fit his current style, but that’s not going to stop this blind monk from wreaking havoc, snowballing one successful gank into ten. He is, however, reliant on this, which is why I’ve neglected to God Tier him. His ultimate is also very strong against most God Tier/Tier 1 junglers. On the other hand, games tend to go pretty late right now, and he can fall off pretty hard.
Nautilus – Why Nautilus out of nowhere? Because of the new Smite. Shield-users got a huge buff because every 3 camps, they don’t take damage. You gank, you return, you pop your AoE and smite, and you’re ready to go immediately. Nautilus gets into a nice gank → camp → gank → camp rhythm, and the Conservation passive keeps him topped off for gold.
Rammus – Rammus has been Powerballing up the ranked ladder for some time now. The new Season didn’t particularly help him, but he’s finally starting to get recognition. Yes, his ganks are strong. But he has to make hard choices between clear speed (W), gank speed (Q), and gank threat (E). His real strength comes in how quickly he takes towers after successful ganks with his ultimate. You’ll feel like you’re playing a bruiser, not a tank!
Shaco – I must admit to only having played this guy twice ever, so I’m going off of what I’ve seen. He feels like a weaker Evelynn, although he can get level 3 faster than most champions. His scaling is nothing to write home about, though, and if his ganks fail, he finds himself without a place.
Maokai – Maokai’s ganks are devastating. He just doesn’t farm as well as he could in this meta.
Trundle – It’s weird to call Trundle a ganker. He has always suffered from indistinctness. His kit just isn’t exciting. It’s there. His ganks are situational, and while his scaling is ok, his clear speed is just too low. But if their laners lack for dashes/jumps, he can pull off some nice ganks with his pillar.
Volibear – Same as Trundle; his clear speed is simply too unimpressive to focus on. Moreover, his early game ganking and dueling ability is ridiculous. He is, however, good with gold, which makes him decently strong. Get a few ganks off with him early and you become very hard to deal with. Fail, however, and your gold from farming is just too low to scale gracefully into the late game.
Malphite – Malphite is one of a couple of ‘gank-at-6’ champions. His ganks are crazy strong with his ultimate, and almost useless without it. Champions like that are decently strong in the current jungle, but his clear speed in between is too low to justify a high tier.
Pantheon – Pantheon has strong ganks with his stun, but the necessity of damage builds on him isn’t exactly a plus. He is in a similar position to Kha’Zix, but slightly more flexible (can build tank-ish due to stun).
Riven – Riven farms decently well, but really shines in ganks. She can snowball super hard out of the jungle, just like out of lane.
Karma – Karma is a utility bot. Her ganks are nothing to write home about, but the pushing she does after a successful gank is pretty strong.
Yorick – Yorick barely jungles. His job is to show up in lane and bully. If that doesn’t work, he’s practically a useless pick.
Hybrids – Hybrid junglers are really the tone for Season 4. They have enough CC, burst, and gap-closing to successfully gank, but they have very high clear speeds as well. Many of them have strong ganks only sporadically (typically with their ultimates). This allows them to clear constantly, but look for opportunities to gank or counter-gank.
Vi – Vi’s Q + Ultimate let her join ganks from a distance away, and her clear speed is quite impressive. On top of that, she scales brilliantly with damage, but can build tanky as well.
Amumu – Amumu is crazy strong, and Spectral Wraith lets him clear almost permanently. He can build any mix of damage and tankiness, and has among the best teamfight of any champion in the game. He has two weaknesses that put him below Vi. First, his gap closer requires that he hit a target. Second, he’s a bit more mana reliant, so if you don’t go Spectral Wraith, you’re going to have to go back occasionally, whereas Vi is free to farm while waiting for the perfect gank. He used to fear early invades, but the trinket ward really helps with that.
Aatrox – Aatrox scales well, ganks well, and even clears reasonably well. On top of that, he can build damage-heavy or support-tank. His early game can be a bit squishy, and he seems to want to snowball a little bit. Being manaless really helps him in the S4 jungle, as he can clear indefinitely while waiting for the right gank.
Nocturne – Nocturne should be incredibly strong in the current jungle – he can gank from anywhere and clears quickly – but it feels like a few things are holding him back. First, he does tend to run OOM faster than you’d like, but you can prevent that if you save spells. Second, he really wants to build a bit more damage, but doesn’t have the innate tankiness to afford it. Third, he doesn’t have THAT many late game tools, and is best with another dive buddy to bring extra CC/damage., making him a bit situational.
Fiddlesticks – Fiddlesticks, like Rammus, has been creeping up as a solo queue hero for some time. However, the S3 changes just didn’t benefit him as much as other champions. Why would he care about a spell vamp item, when he has drain? The change to Spectral Wraith in S4 is actually very strong on him, as it prevents him from going OOM while clearing. Moreover, the fact that double buffs don’t get you level 3 makes him harder to invade (you really want to fight him at level 3, because many champions won’t have CC to interrupt drain before then). Finally, the increased gold in the jungle and the introduction of the Wight allows him to farm much faster. Many people build him for pure damage, but you can also build him as a tank support. That may change with the fear nerf.
Skarner – If you ask me, Skarner is the best solo queue champion in the game. He gets extremely tanky, has exceptional base damage/clear speed, and incredibly strong CC that can only be mitigated by QSS. However, he has 3 notable weaknesses: kiting, mana troubles, and the late game when everybody has QSS, GA, or BV. If you can win by the early late game, however, he is an extremely strong champion.
Jax – Jax is another extremely underrated champion, in my opinion. His clearspeed is phenomenal post-6, even built tanky, he farms into a late-game monster, and his early-mid game ganks are actually pretty impressive, with a gap-closing stun and good damage. He feels underwhelming if he gets shut down early, however.
Zac – I expect that ganking junglers will fall off a bit, once laners realize that having a trinket doesn’t mean they don’t need wards. But not this guy, with his huge range jump! His clear speed is not bad, he scales well with gold (top lane Zac, anybody?), and he brings tons of CC to any team. He can counter-gank with ease, given the range on his E.
Xin Zhao – Xin Zhao is, to me, the same as Jax, but for power. His early game is stronger, but if he doesn’t snowball, his late game is much weaker.
Sejuani – Sejuani is much like Amumu, and I find her to be extremely underrated. She has strong tank and AP bruiser builds, and is a good initiator who can carry a game if she starts to snowball (no pun intended).
Cho’Gath – Cho has good ganks early on, especially when ganking into a lane with additional CC to aid the landing of Rupture. He also farms pretty well with points in E, and scales reasonably well with gold. Dying early, however, sets back his feast stacks, and makes him more likely to die again. He is a truly snowbally champion, as a result.
Hecarim – Hecarim needs blues. If it weren’t for this, he would end up as one of the strongest junglers. Unfortunately, he isn’t very useful without blues until he has Elder Lizard, Iceborne Gauntlet, and Spirit Visage. Worse, his reliance on Elder Lizard leaves him with no tank option if he falls behind early.
Warwick – Warwick’s clear speed is slow. This could be mitigated in S3 with a Sunfire Cape rush, but doing so now will delay your – crucial, mind you – Spirit of the Ancient Golem. His ganks post-6 are extremely strong, however, and his mid-game scaling is quite high.
Kayle – Kayle is another champion I have scarcely played. Her clear speed is strong, and her ganks come with a ranged slow and tons of damage. Post-6, her ultimate makes her hard to counter-gank, and she is one of the true jungle carries. She is, unfortunately, pretty blue-sensitive, and none of the Spirit items feels natural on her.
Gragas – Fast clear and fits well into poke comps. Has to build damage; hurts when shut-down. Good mobility and strong ganks pre-6 with body slam and post-6 with ult.
Renekton – Very fast clear, but no solid damage builds (clear falls off without damage). Could just take the right player figuring out the right build.
Shen – Shen is a champion who has such a strong combo of abilities (Ultimate + Taunt) that people will always fear him. Everybody remembers the frustration of Shen ulting in and Taunting to thwart your double kill and turn it into one of his own. But nobody realizes the frustration of having a Shen on your team who doesn’t ult – either because they don’t see the fight or because it’s down – and realizes just how little he brings in the jungle despite his ult. Yes, he can farm the jungle and ult in for ganks, but his clearspeed is so slow that you might as well play a faster-clearing jungler, then take time off from jungling to gank.
Nunu – Nunu is Nunu. He’s just not so terrifying anymore, with how often Smite is up.
Mattias “Gentleman Gustaf” Lehman is a big time nerd-gamer who has been involved in both SC2 and LoL. He has ranked as high as Diamond 1 in solo queue and Diamond 3 in arranged 5s.
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