Tank Mordekaiser jungle is better than top lane, and here’s how to play it

A quickstart guide on why and how jungle Mordekaiser works.

Image via Riot Games

Old Pizza Feet. The Master of Metal. Mr. Steal Yo’ Soul. These were the many nicknames of Mordekaiser, League of Legends’ biggest joke of a champion.

But as of Patch 9.12, all of those names were thrown in the trash as his champion remake was released, turning him into a serious threat and an overall monster. He hung up the pizza feet, and in exchange, he was gifted with raw, unwavering badassness.

Sounds pretty rad, right? Of course it is, he literally banishes his enemies to the Shadow Realm with his ultimate ability, and you can almost feel your screen shake every time he takes a step. The dude is scary now, and players are flocking to try to play him. When he doesn’t get banned, that is. And if you were to ask any League stats site, like OP.gg, U.gg, or Champion.gg where you should take him, the stats would all tell you to use him as a top laner.

Don’t listen to those scrubs.

In the top lane, or any lane for that matter, he has to deal with too much harass. That harass bullies him away from his minion waves and greatly diminishes his ability to smash face with his mace.

“But Dot Esports, the same could be said about every laner.” Shut your mouth. Yes, the same could be said for every laner, but Mordekaiser is above that. When you play Mordekaiser, you want to feel cool. You want to feel powerful. You want to walk up, pull victims up to your chest, and then bury them into the ground with your mace as they try to run away. There’s only one way to ensure every encounter goes that way without first being bullied away—don’t lane.

That’s right, jungle Mordekaiser is the way to go. His jungle stats might not be as great as his top lane stats on those stat sites, but that’s because no one plays it correctly. I’ve been jungling for eight years and about 3,000 hours of gameplay, and I specialize in theorycrafting. His clear, when executed properly, is healthier and faster than most jungle champions in the game. His ganks hit hard and force Summoner Spells almost every time, as his crowd control is easy to land. This is the only way to play him, and if you do it correctly, it’s the most effective way to play him, too. Let’s break it down.

Items and runes

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The real tricky part of jungle Mordekaiser is the execution, so we’re going to breeze through this part. You want to emphasize tankiness and sustain in everything you build on the big guy. By taking Conqueror as your rune choice, you’ll get plenty of damage to make up for the fact that you won’t be building a damage item until your second or third item. And the healing provided works incredibly, incredibly well with his passive.

So, here’s the build.

Runes:

Primary

Conqueror > Triumph > Legend: Alacrity > Last Stand

Secondary

Nimbus Cloak > Celerity

Shards

Attack speed, adaptive force, and armor

Items:

Early

Cinderhulk > Boots > Liandry’s Torment

Mid-game

Cinderhulk > Mercury’s Treads or Ninja Tabi > Liandry’s Torment > Rylai’s Crystal Scepter

Full

Cinderhulk > Mercury’s Treads or Ninja Tabi > Liandry’s Torment > Rylai’s Crystal Scepter > Spirit Visage > Dead Man’s Plate

Your core is always jungle item, defensive boots, and Liandry’s. Morde lasts in fights really, really long, so you’re going to get some serious mileage out of its percentage damage boost. After that, Rylai’s gives you a nice mix of damage and tankiness, while making it harder for enemies to run out of your passive, and then you can build situational tank items. This build gets him incredibly tanky in a very short amount of time. By mid-game, you’ll be thiccer than any laning Mord could ever dream of, and your damage won’t suffer for it.

Clearing camps

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We won’t get into your pathing at all, as that’s more of a jungling macro thing and less of a Mordekaiser thing, but there is a little bit of finesse required with his camp clearing. The trick is in his W’s active ability, the shield/heal. If you do it the right way, you can clear every camp by barely only taking a scratch, leaving you nice and healthy for ganks.

Your passive and the damage stored from the W’s passive both work on jungle monsters. Your passive doesn’t work on minions, though. Just saying. You don’t want to store up maximum damage before popping your shield, although your instincts may tell you otherwise. If you do that, you’ll take too much damage before actually using the shield. But if you use it at half-full, you’ll almost always be able to kill the camp before the shield wears off, or at least right after. If you time it correctly, the camp will die as your shield runs thin, and you’ll never need to use it as a heal, at least against jungle monsters.

With the incredible AoE from his abilities and passive, as well as the shield and boosted single target damage from his Q, there isn’t a single camp he can’t healthily clear, and he clears them all very quickly. Time to move onto ganking.

Ganking

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Ganking is why this strategy is so fun. It’s why you lock in Mordekaiser. To walk into a lane, stomp all over enemies with reckless abandon, and then walk away from the flames. With jungle Mordekaiser, that’s the only interaction you’ll be having, assuming things go well. You don’t have to worry about trading harass or farming when you see an enemy champion. And his dueling power is incredible, too, as long as you time your shield, making jungle duels fun for you, too.

When you reach a lane, things are pretty straightforward. Walk up to a champion, hit them with your Q and some auto attacks to trigger your passive, and then yoink them back with an E when they try to run away. With how long-range his E is, and how fast the projectile moves, he can gank ranged champions just as easily as melee. He’s scary, and the enemy will always be on the backfoot to respect him, not just when his ult is up. When his ult actually is ready, though, things tilt in your favor.

When you hit level six and your Shadow Realm banishment is raring to go, you want to prioritize ganking a lane with more than one person. That means counter-ganking the enemy jungler or heading to the bot lane. Or both, if you’re feeling a little spicy. Why? Because you can remove the champion with the highest damage from the fight, allowing your teammates to pummel the weaker target while you deal with the more macho target. And you absolutely can deal with them. As long as you can get them in melee range, it’s incredibly difficult for an enemy to win a duel, provided you aren’t too behind to be effective.

That sounds way more fun than living in the top lane and only ever dealing with one enemy, at least until teamfights start, right? Exactly, now you’re getting it. So go, pick up your mace, and go to town. And welcome to the church of jungle Mordekaiser. You’ll always be welcome here.