Top Competitive Junglers
In the changes introduced throughout the preseason up until patch 5.1, if there is one thing teams have learned in the competitive season, it is the importance of objective control and versatility of their jungler. The objective control aspect is extremely obvious: camps spawn less often (vastly increasing the strength of denial found in counterjungling), dragon now provides a passive bonus that scales with items and (therefore game time), and baron gives heavy pushing bonuses in addition to the combat stats it previously gave.
These changes have not only vastly increased the importance of objective control, but also highlighted the importance of having a versatile jungle. The jungler now is forced to spend more time out of the jungle (since the camps have such a long respawn now), so fast farmers are no longer the best junglers. However, the jungle camps give so much gold and passive bonuses from smiting it that the traditional heavy gankers can’t afford to ignore it. The top competitive junglers put these traits together, in addition to a large teamfight potential threat (as most objectives comes from won teamfights), and you get versatility as the defining factory of each and every one of these 5 junglers.
Nunu is, quite literally, the king of objective control. At level 9, he does 1000 true damage to a minion, which makes outsmiting him almost impossible (should be impossible, but there is always the chance the enemy jungler is Chogath). In addition, he gains bonuses when consuming jungle monsters, bonuses that stack with smite bonuses to increase his base stats. Not only that, but his blood boil adds a lot of versatility to the team, as it is a great attack speed steroid for late game, hypercarry ADC’s, or even for early game fast push strategies. His ult also makes him a large threat during teamfights because of its high base damage and potential as a reengage/trap tool.
Jarvan IV is the very definition of a jungler with versatility scales into the late game. His early ganks are extremely good with his EQ combo knockup, while at the same time having fast jungle clears. Not only that, but his teamfight potential post 6 is amazing. His ult locks down every champion without a built in escape, and in combination with his EQ combo, provides for a very long range guaranteed initiation. He also scales into the late game the best out of any competitive jungler, as his q provides armor shred for his percent max hp passive or for his ADC to do even more late game damage. On top of all this, Jarvan IV is naturally tanky because of his W shield, which also enables him to clear the jungle without losing much health. He is just extremely strong at almost every aspect pertaining to the jungler position. His only weakness is he does not have a built in execute for objective control. He should be considered the new king of versatility, replacing Lee Sin.
Lee Sin is the old king of versatility. His kit (everything besides his q) makes him good for both offensive and defensive situations. His w serves to either insec someone or peel for a carry, his e does damage and slows the enemy, and his ult can be used for damage/insecing or for peeling off a champion from one of his carries. With the execute on his q and the natural mobility from his w, Lee Sin has excellent objective control. However, the reason that Jarvan IV outshines him in the versatility stage is because Lee Sin has issues clearing the new jungle (it makes him take a large amount of damage). In addition, he does not scale as well into the late game as Jarvan IV because he does not have armor shred or is as naturally tanky. His kit may be the most versatile, but it does not scale well.
Rek’sai is strong in the current jungle because of her extremely high damage, the global map pressure her ult brings, and the engage from her burrowing. She just does the most damage out of any jungler right now and scales incredible well with only one damage item (the build popularized by Nightblue of stalkers+warriors enchant and Triforce comes to mind). Her burrowing ability in combination with her e and flash makes for a guaranteed knockup/engage, with little room for counterplay if flash is available. Lastly, her ultimate allows her to teleport almost instantly to anywhere in the map with a tunnel at its location, allowing her to have a lot of map pressure. In addition, she can participate in a fight, get low and have to back, and then be able to come back to take an objective through the use of her ult. Her e ability also serves as a decent execute for objectives with its true damage at max fury.
Last on this list is Elise. Similarly to Lee Sin, her kit gives her a lot of versatility. She is extremely good at catching people out with her cocoon, while at the same time being extremely good at taking objectives because of her spiderlings and her q (human q does percentage max hp damage, while spider q serves as an execute with percentage missing health damage). Her spiderlings allow her to tank objectives without taking damage for a period of time, making her excellent at taking early dragons and barons. Although very few junglers can match her early pressure, and none of the other junglers mentioned were AP, Elise currently has issues in her itemization path (especially her jungle item) which makes her outclassed by other junglers. She is definitely the best AP jungler at the moment though, so it is worth considering picking her up if a team has an AD top and mid.
Honorable Mention: Vi
Vi is extremely good in the current jungle, but she is outclassed in damage, utility, objective control, and general versatility by other junglers. Her kit is also extremely one dimensional, especially her q and ultimate, making it really easy to predict what she is going to do and play around it.
Thank you for your time reading this.