Just because a hero is capable of jungling doesn’t mean that you should, but in pubs it seems to be option A. Take a look at our lane statistics for heroes like Lone Druid, Legion Commander, Lifestealer, Nature’s Prophet—all are top notch laners in their own right, but a significant percentage of pub players play those heroes in the jungle (>50% for LC and NP). In pro and high skill games, jungling is either a backup plan for a disadvantageous lane, or it’s a deliberate decision, with the team understanding the laning sacrifices they make in the early game to essentially make space for their jungler to farm. They’re buying time for a hero like Enigma, who is one of the fastest junglers in the game.
The reasons for jungling in pubs can be a little more complex, ranging from:
The last one is actually a valid reason and not a rationalization. Dedicating a hero to the jungle is inherently greedy. The team with the jungling hero will be able to extract more gold from the map, provided they’re allowed to do so. It’s up to the opposing team make something happen, or else they’ll fall behind in farm.
The opportunity cost of picking a jungler is that now your team won’t have a second support (and in some cases, none at all). There are some factors that can mitigate the effect of losing all your lanes so that you can play PvE in the jungle. For one, pubs rarely identify the weaknesses of a jungling lineup and punish the opposing team during the laning phase. Sometimes there’s a plucky Bounty Hunter or Riki player who takes the mantle of harassing the jungler, but it’s not too often a team will pick strong lanes and pressure early.
The other thing about pubs is that mistakes don’t compound as they usually would in a pro game, since so many more of them occur throughout the game. Lost lanes don’t always mean lost games, as they would most of the time in higher skill level games. So it might just be fine that your team lost the lane, but now it’s up to you to help them come back, with all that gold you’ve been making on your lonesome.
Legion Commander auto-attacking her way to victory
Laning is a highly tense affair. Every click matters, each last hit and deny matters, and all your successes and mistakes add up to either a “win” or a “loss” that can have significant repercussions for the rest of the game. That’s why the jungle is so alluring. You will always get the last hit. And it’s easy to get good at it if you know the right patterns and routines.
But while you’re in your own mini-game, the rest of your team suffers. Yes, jungle heroes pressure your opponent to not fall behind in gold, but it also saddles your own teammates with the responsibility of surviving their lanes with one less player, like a hockey power play. You are trying to extract early game gold at the risk of losing all your lanes. For most heroes, it’s high risk and medium reward. It can work if your team can handle their lanes, but in that case the jungle is just a “win more” strategy and not a sound foundation for a team.
Losing the lane and winning the game is an idealistic strategy. It’s a thin rationalization for being selfish. You’re burdening your team to not only carry the early game for you, but also to buy in to the strategy that it’s all for the greater good. Because of that, it’s easy to point fingers elsewhere when things go wrong as they happens, rather than the moment you picked that hero, which is the root cause. You can say that your jungling LC would have fared better if every lane could’ve just held their own until you hit level 6. Or only if they could’ve survived for a few more minutes for that first Blink Dagger.
Despite the weaknesses of jungling, it’s still going to happen on a consistent basis. And if you are going to jungle, then you’ll need to still be active on the map. It requires a bit of multi-tasking, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to do if you’re just auto-attacking creeps.
Look around the map and be another set of eyes for your team. This is especially important for Nature’s Prophet players, who can literally jump in at anytime. Try to identify when you can make a rotation and pop in the lane to secure a kill. That’s one psychological advantage of playing the jungle—it’s that you’re off the map and your opponent has to be aware of where you are. That’s why Chen or Enchantress rotations can be so devastating, since they can rotate for a gank within the first five minutes—in any lane.
Jungling has its purposes, but it shouldn’t be the norm. Pub players would fare better in learning about when and why they should jungle, rather than defaulting to it. Step out of the comfort zone of the jungle and into the lane. Learn how to lane with heroes that are the usual pub junglers. And learn how to lane as a support, even if it ends up more disastrous than if you had jungled.