Understanding the Summoner’s Rift jungle is one of the most invaluable tools that any League of Legends player can have in their arsenal. Not only is it useful for aspiring jungle mains, but it’s also crucial for every other role to know as well.
If you can predict the enemy jungler’s movements, you can avoid game-changing ganks that end in tragedy. Or better yet, and for more practiced players, you can even set up traps and rotations designed to catch the enemy jungler at specific camps to turn the tide in your team’s favor.
Likewise, as a jungler, moving around the map and clearing camps in a specific way allows you to maximize how quickly and how often you can gank, and oftentimes, the jungler is responsible for controlling the pace of the game and setting up the big plays. The jungler with the most impact on their team is the jungler that wins the most.
The first step to all of this is understanding proper pathing and routing through the jungle.
What is jungle pathing?
As difficult as it sounds to predict an enemy jungler’s movements or pull off tricks to get ahead, it’s actually a very simple concept. Jungle pathing, or jungle routing, simply means the paths that a jungler chooses to take. It dictates the order in which they clear camps and the directions they take to get to those camps.
There are numerous factors that weigh into why a jungler goes where they go, and “predicting” where they’ll be is as easy as learning what those factors are and understanding that the enemy jungler will probably follow them. As such, you can always attempt to throw off the enemy team as a jungler by taking more spontaneous paths, but you run the risk of slowing your clear speed, and, therefore, potentially lowering your impact on the game.
Likewise, if the enemy knows where you’ll be and attempts to thwart you when you try to take a camp as a jungler, your best defense will be map awareness. It’s important to know exactly when an enemy laner goes missing and how long it’s been since you’ve had vision of them, and respecting your own strength in fights.
In this guide to jungle pathing and routing, we’ll dive into some of the more common paths shared by most of the game’s junglers at the start of each game, followed by a deeper look into special paths used by other specific champions that have kits that allow them to do so.
The common paths
Stage one: Blue side standard path A
When you start on the blue side as a standard jungler, like Jarvan IV, Vi, Sejuani, or Warwick, you’ll want to start with your Red Brambleback, otherwise known as the “red buff.” This will instantly put you at level two, and the health regen provided by the buff will make clearing the rest of your jungle slightly easier. The next camp is determined by which champion you’re playing.
If you have any semi-reliable AoE at your disposal, like Sejuani’s W, Zac’s W, or even Maokai’s Q, you’ll want to move onto your Raptor camp. The Raptor camp provides a lot of gold and experience, and since it’s much faster to clear it than Krugs, it’s one of the most valuable camps in the game behind the buffs.
Typically, it’s one of the more difficult ones to kill thanks to the camp’s high damage, but if your champion is partially reliant on AoE to clear camps, chances are you also took the Talisman starting jungle item, and you’ll get enough health back from the item’s passive to justify taking this camp second. Next, you’ll move onto your Blue Sentinel, or the “blue buff.” After you finish your second buff, you’ve now completed the first stage of your jungle path.
TL;DR: Red buff > Raptors > Blue buff
Stage one: Blue side standard path B
On the other hand, you may be playing a champion with much stronger single-target damage than AoE, like Kha’Zix, Jarvan IV, Vi, or Warwick. In that case, you should have taken the Hunter’s Machete item over the Talisman, and that will boost your single-target camp clear by providing you with lifesteal toward jungle monsters.
With these champions, you still start with the Red Brambleback, but you’ll want to skip straight over to your Blue Sentinel, and then finish the first stage of this jungle path by clearing your Gromp. The Gromp is very tanky and can take a little while to kill, but it’s only one monster, so with a strong single-target champion, you’ll find that it’s much easier to kill than any Raptors or even Wolves. Remember, when facing the Gromp, its first and second attack are far stronger than any of its attacks thereafter, so blocking them with some sort of heal, shield, or crowd control goes a long way.
You may also choose to take Gromp before Blue Sentinel. The difference in timing is negligible.
TL;DR: Red buff > Blue buff > Gromp
Stage one: Red side standard path A
For the standard paths on the red side, you’ll essentially just do the reverse as you would on the blue side. For instance, if you’re playing a tank or mage jungler that has decent waveclear but terrible single-target damage, you’ll start with the Blue Sentinel, move across the lane to the Raptors, and then take your red buff.
Occasionally, you’ll play against a rather rowdy enemy jungler like Shaco who likes invading your side of the map as early as possible. To prevent a sneak attack when you’re at your most vulnerable, place a ward in the bush next to the red buff before actually attacking your Raptors, and then move back to continue your jungle path, business as usual.
TL;DR: Blue buff > Raptors > Red buff
Stage one: Red side standard path B
We’re sure you’re smart enough to realize what we’re about to tell you, but we’ll explain it again anyway. Simply reverse what you would have done as a single-target damage dealing jungler. Start with your Blue Sentinel, move onto your Gromp, and then trot across the lane to your Red Brambleback. This maximizes your damage by pitting you against strictly single-target monsters.
It’s also very possible to move into the Wolves camp from your Sentinel, rather than Gromp, because it could shave a few seconds off your clear. Also, similar to path A on the blue side, make sure to ward the red side of the jungle when you enter it to prevent invades, even if, as a single-target jungler, you’ll probably fair better in a duel against a Shaco than an AoE tank could at early levels. It’s still better to be safe than sorry.
TL;DR: Blue buff > Gromp/Wolves > Red buff
Stage two: Early gank
After finishing the first stage of your standard jungle path, you’ll find yourself in between the mid and top lanes wondering where to go and what to do next. Don’t worry, because there’s really only three simple options. As for laners, the jungler usually begins this stage at around three minutes into the game or slightly before, so prepare your lanes with wards before pushing up any further.
Option one: Look for a gank
The first option is to gank a lane. Walk out into the top side river and take a glance at both your top and mid lanes. Is one of your allies pushed up hard enough to make for a safe gank? No? Move onto option two. If they’re pushed back, and the enemy laner is exposed, move in. It’s as simple as that.
If you pull off a successful gank, you can go farm your jungle some more, recall, or even gank again. Typically, ganking again won’t work, because the enemy laner will probably ward to prepare for you almost immediately upon returning to lane. There’s a small chance, however, that you can do a repeat gank to set them extremely behind your ally. If you have careful vision of them when they return, you’re sure they didn’t place wards, and they’re somehow still pushed far up in the lane, walk right into the lane and mess with them a little more.
This typically only works if the enemy laner has Teleport, and they get back to the lane before the minions push back toward them.
Option two: Kill Scuttle, look for a gank
The second option is to clear the Scuttle Crab, and then gank a lane. There are two reasons you’d move to clear the Scuttle Crab before ganking a lane. First and foremost, if your jungle clear during stage one didn’t go quite as planned, or you’re on a particularly weak early game jungler, you may have too little health to gank without getting killed yourself. Taking the time to kill the crab will give your red buff time to regen some health. That, paired with the health return from either your starting jungle item or Smite, if it’s available, should be enough to make you healthy again.
The second reason you’d kill the Scuttle Crab before ganking would simply be because neither of your lanes are quite ready for you to gank, but they will be soon, and they just need a little extra time. Remember, if a lane isn’t quite ready to gank, the worst possible thing for you to do is just sit still and wait for the opportunity. You always want to be doing something in order to keep up in gold and experience to the enemy jungler, and the Scuttle Crab provides you with that very easily after stage one.
Option three: Full clear
This stage doesn’t often happen, but if you’re still too low health after taking Scuttle Crab or both your top and mid laners pushed insanely hard and are looking very difficult to gank, you do have the option to go back into your jungle and clear the rest of the camps before recalling or attempting your first gank.
This option is almost never the best choice for one big reason. Even if neither of your solo lanes look ripe for a gank, they may be extra gankable for the enemy jungler, providing you with the perfect opportunity to lay a trap or prepare a counterattack. For example, if your top laner pushes in extremely hard on the opposing top laner, the enemy jungler will probably look to gank that lane first. If you’re there and ready, you can catch them off guard, and it might just turn out even better than a regular old gank.
If, perhaps, the enemy jungler was just seen ganking somewhere else, or a deep early ward caught them on the other side of the map and neither of your lanes are suitable to gank, you can clear the rest of your jungle, starting on the side you’re on.
Remember, if you choose this option, always look for a lane to gank in the meantime, and prioritize your Krugs camp last as its difficult to kill and takes the most time.
You can also recall to get a Control Ward and your next jungle item if you’re too low to even clear your jungle. There’s no shame in running away as long as it’s the right call.
Stage three: After your first recall and into the midgame
This is where things get weird, mostly because there are far more considerations into deciding where to go in this stage, and therefore, it’ll be harder to predict as a laner. Fortunately, there are some general rules of thumb to make your life a little easier.
If you ganked right away after the first stage of your jungle path, one of two things will happen. The gank may have worked out, and you have the gold for a big item. If you got the kill, you can probably buy an Aether Wisp or a Bami’s Cinder. If it was first blood, you might even be close to picking up a full Caulfield’s Warhammer on your first back, which is a massive damage spike for so early in the game. If your ally got the kill, you probably have enough for at least the first upgrade on your jungle item.
In either scenario, recalling isn’t a terrible idea so you can get the items needed to jungle more efficiently.
If the gank went awry, and you’re either super low on health or, you know, dead, you’ll want to recall as well. Well, obviously, if you’re dead, you’ll already be in base, so problem solved.
On the contrary, if the gank was mostly uneventful, you can either look for another gank or to clear more of your jungle, since you won’t have much gold at all. If you want to gank, your first option is mid lane if you ganked top first, and top lane if you ganked mid. If that lane isn’t prepared for a gank, then head into your jungle to clear your remaining camps.
When clearing, you’ll be working your way to the other side of the map from where you’re standing, which usually means you’ll be working your way from top side to bottom side. In between each and every camp, look for another safe gank, and if there isn’t a good ganking opportunity between the end of stage two and when you finish clearing your camp, drop some choice wards near the river for your teammates to track the enemy jungler, and recall. It’s very unlikely that you won’t have a chance to gank before finishing your clear or even to countergank the enemy. If you do gank, it’s usually best to recall for the first time then.
Stage four: Midgame and into lategame
For the remainder of the game, this will essentially be your plan of attack. Move through your camps while looking for ganks, and never wait near a lane for too long for it to open up for a gank without either clearing a camp for gold or recalling for an item. Always stay active.
The camps that you’ll want to prioritize, in order, are your buffs, Raptors, and Wolves. If a large objective is spawning soon, like Dragon or Rift Herald, you’ll want to try to clear camps and prepare ganks on that side of the map to make sure you’re ready to move. Dragons are almost always more important than Rift Herald. The same goes for a tower. If a tower is low anywhere on the map, constantly look to gank that lane to push it over the edge.
Keep an eye on your enemy’s side of the jungle, too. If your red buff is spawning, there’s a good chance that their blue buff is spawning, which means they’re probably on that side of the map. Warn your laners if that’s the case, because they’ll want to prepare for a countergank. Likewise, if you know your enemy’s buff is spawning, and you see them gank the opposite side of the map, you probably have a great opening to swipe their buff and get a lead in experience or gold.
When the lategame rolls around, farming the jungle becomes slightly more mundane, similarly to how a laner’s farming becomes less important around the same time. Typically, junglers are playmakers—even the assassins. Control your jungle with wards, and get ready to control the pace of each fight with your positioning and knowledge of the enemy jungler’s location.
The unique paths
High AoE champions
There are few champions in the game that have such extraordinary early game AoE damage that they can actually begin with the Raptor camp. Champions that fall under this category are Kayn, Evelynn, and Shyvana. There are several benefits to this strategy, if you’re on the right type of champion.
Firstly, it requires significantly less help to clear. Thanks to the extremely low health of the small Raptors, your mid laner only has to basic attack a couple of them before your AoE damage cleaves through all of them, which is vastly different than the amount of time your bot lane would have spent helping you on the buff. This frees up your bot lane to prepare their lane faster, and your mid laner should finish leashing you so quickly that they make it to their lane before the minions even get there.
The second benefit is simply that you’ll then be level two when you try to clear your first buff. This means you’ll have more health and a little more damage, which also means you’ll take less damage, which is very straightforward.
After you finish your birds, clear the nearest buff, head across the lane to the next, and then move into stage two. If you deploy this strategy from the red side of the map, you can prep a gank for bot lane, rather than the top lane, when you reach stage two, because you’ll be on that side of the map. Supports rarely ward this early in the game, allowing you to catch them off guard and get your bot lane snowballing very early. A snowballed bot lane is hard to beat for one simple reason—it gets two-fifths of their team ahead in one fell swoop, rather than just one.
This means, as a support or ADC player, you want to be extra weary of champions with high AoE damage when your team is stationed on the blue side of the map. You’ll want to avoid pushing your lane, and make sure to ward your river bushes before it’s too late.
Level two invade
This strategy is reserved for champions with extremely high-damage early games, like Lee Sin, Rengar, or Shaco.
What you’ll want to do is start the game on the opposite side that you normally would. For example, if you’re on the blue side, start with your Blue Sentinel. If your team is on the red side, start with your Red Brambleback. After you clear it, head across the river toward your enemy’s second buff. You’ll know what their starting buff is by using the strategies listed in stage one of this guide.
After getting into the enemy jungle, you have two options. Either you can wait in the bush nearest their next buff for them to start fighting it, and then attack them, or you can just swipe the buff and leave. This strategy has the potential to severely cripple your enemy jungler, but it’s also very risky.
For starters, it’s very rare for the enemy team to be completely unprepared for this, especially at high elo where invades are much more common. One good trinket placement, one step out of a bush, or even if the enemy jungler follows a slightly different path than you expect can mess the strategy up completely or waste your time. This is a very “feast or famine” type of strategy, because it either works really well, or goes horribly wrong.
Alternatively, you can even gank a lane at level two, but you pretty much need to have your red buff for the extra damage and crowd control, because your effectiveness at that low of a level isn’t fantastic unless you’re Lee Sin, Jarvan, or a few other champions.
The early dragon
There are a few champions that can actually kill the dragon extremely early in the game. Typically, you’ll need to be at least level four, have both buffs still, and have at least one upgrade on your jungle item. With those circumstances met, you can solo kill the dragon as a small number of champions.
These champions are Warwick, Shyvana, Kindred, Nunu, Udyr, Fiddlesticks, and Olaf. Shaco can also do it once he hits level six by using his clone to tank its damage. Among those, Udyr, Warwick, Fiddlesticks, and Nunu are the safest, so if you really want to be a pain in the side of the enemy team, get ready to clear objectives insanely early. Unfortunately, this usually only works once, because the enemy team will wise up after your first sneaky dragon.