As I have mentioned in a previous article, playing the five positions for equal amounts of games is beneficial to your improvement as a player. Aside from forcing you to look at the game from another perspective, it teaches you skills you would not normally practice if you were to focus on a single role.
Previously, we saw that playing in the top lane developed several skills – trading, minion wave control and map awareness. This time, I will provide with you a small list of aspects of your play that jungling will help you improve. Although these can be practiced in other roles, jungling is the fastest and most effective path to mastering them.
Not only are these skills valuable for any player regardless of their position, they are also a common trait of world-class junglers, like DanDy and KaKAO; both of them are known for their ability to psychologically outplay the opponent, as well as having a great ability to make reactive decisions and an outstanding awareness of the game.
1. Psychological Strength
Even though some jungle champions are mechanically intensive, such as Lee Sin and Elise, to be a great jungler your mental skills must be on point every game. As a jungler you will often find yourself in disadvantageous situations; maybe you just died while attempting a tower dive and gave double buffs to the enemy top laner. Part of you might start thinking the game is most likely over at this point. Afterwards, you gank their top laner — in an attempt to regain double buffs — only to get counterganked by their jungler and dying once again.
A mentally strong jungler will not commit the same mistake. He understands the bad situation he has put himself and his top laner in. But instead of tunnel visioning in getting the double buffs back, he keeps his calm and decides that a better way of turning the game around is to apply pressure in bottom lane, so that top lane stays a one versus one lane and your ally does not get further behind.
Likewise, we have all seen clips of DanDy completely predicting the position of the enemy jungler. He might drop a ward for his top laner, leading his jungle counterpart into thinking he will not gank that lane for a while and is simply trying to secure vision to support his ally’s aggressive stance in lane. DanDy’s opponent will then attempt a lane gank, only to get counterganked.
This is a very difficult concept to learn and apply correctly. It is, however, important to play some games as a jungler to get a basic idea of how you can psychologically outplay your opponent — using mind games for example — to achieve an advantage in game. I suggest you take a look at Tabopu’s guide on the psychological aspect of jungling. It is a very interesting and useful read.
2. Reactive Decision Making
The jungle is the most volatile position in the game. Although there is a basic script for the early game (mostly for the first clear), jungling becomes an extremely complex task. It turns into a game of gathering and using information to make smart decisions.
Perhaps you were going to gank bottom lane, but you saw the enemy jungler also heading there. You have to instantly think if you will initiate the gank, wait for their jungler to commit or simply back off and try a gank elsewhere. If you are hesitant, however, you will lose precious seconds that you could be using to apply pressure in another lane or continue farming.
Developing your ability to quickly react to what is happening in the game is crucial to every role. As a mid laner, you might be trying to place a deep ward in the enemy jungle. You spot their jungler and have to quickly make the decision between fighting him or running away. A slight delay on this decision can be the difference between you getting double buffs and the enemy mid laner showing up and killing you.
To improve this skill, all you can do is simply play many games and review your replays to spot wrong decision making patterns in your gameplay. Perhaps your immediate response to a gank is to run away, when sometimes you are able to turn the situation around if you play it correctly. With this knowledge, you should force yourself to preemptively think about what the best course of action in case you get ganked is.
3. Game Awareness
Similarly to how top lane improves your map awareness, jungling will enhance your game awareness. I consider this to be an extension of the former. Game awareness is, apart from knowing or inferring the position of champions and wards on the map, the fundamental knowledge of the situation of the game.
Knowing summoner spells’ cooldowns, timing buffs and neutral objectives, understanding the pushing pattern (to which side they are pushing towards) of minion waves throughout the map are all things related to game awareness and they are, along with the support player, the jungler’s responsibility.
While the top laner is mostly worried about the position of the opposing jungler and the possibility of making plays with teleport, the jungler should take into account the situation of every lane when deciding his jungle route.
Jungling is a process of gathering and processing information and using it to adapt your decisions to the current situation of the game. Grasping this concept — and applying it in your games — will substantially improve your performance. It is therefore an essential skill to develop; one that jungling will help you improve.
Playing in the jungle will heavily contribute to having a strong mentality in game and will foster important mental skills. The ability to maintain a calm and rational attitude while playing as well as being able to predict, adapt, react and psychologically beat your opponents will immediately place you a step above the average player. As such, it is important to try out this position from time to time, even if only to have another perspective of the game.