The top 5 junglers for Solo Queue
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Even a bonobo could carry games with these champions.
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With a new patch comes a new meta shift -- and, once again, jungle is in an amazing spot for solo carrying potential. The role is extremely important at all stages of the game and is currently full of playmaking and high damage dealing champions, some of which have very little or no counterplay. While a lot of other champions are completely serviceable in the jungle role, these champions have tools that are downright oppressive in the right hands. These champions can take the smallest leads and run over the entire enemy team with them.
With patch 10.16 recently dropping, a few notable changes were made to powerful junglers and shook the meta up a bit.
1. Kha’Zix, the Voidreaver
This spooky void bug, Kha’Zix, is a melee assassin who has high mobility, can go invisible multiple times per fight, and can completely destroy squishy, isolated targets in the blink of an eye. He also scales extremely well, having the ability to evolve his abilities over the course of the game. He is not only one of the highest damaging junglers, but can often be the highest damage dealer on the team -- putting those carry pants on and winning games solo with his fast-paced assassin playstyle. He is extremely good at farming in the jungle as well and comes with plenty of self-healing.
Don’t forget that the Hunter’s Talisman is a much better starting item than Hunter’s Machete, as the burn from your abilities and the healing it provides you is very useful!
Some of Kha’Zix’s issues revolve entirely around whether he can assassinate high-priority targets or not. Tanks, bruisers, characters with good peel (knockbacks, stuns, snares, etc.), and supports who can shield and heal are often the bane of his existence. A well-coordinated team can also play babysitter and protect the carries. Thankfully, most people in solo queue completely disregard this style and usually just play to solo carry every game. Another key issue is the fact that his highest damaging ability, Taste Their Fear, had its isolated damage reduced, and has subsequently made his win rate drop a bit. Still, he finds himself at a respectable 50.48%, despite his popularity, pick rate, and recent nerfs.
2. Graves, the Outlaw
While Riot Games can’t decide whether or not they want him to keep his cigar or lose it, Graves’ consistency finds him at the top of the meta once again. He’s got a respectable win rate of 50.72% in solo queue across all ranks in NA -- impressive, considering how popular he is and how often he gets picked in solo queue. Graves is a ranged, physical damage dealing bruiser with low range, high damage, high durability, and high mobility that scales well at most points in the game.
He is very strong at dueling other champions 1v1 and has a lot of built-in durability with his Quickdraw ability: allowing him to dash, reload one of his auto attacks, and gain armor for a short duration. In a fight, this gives him the upper-hand in most early game jungle matchups. Graves also farms extremely well in the jungle and clears very fast, having a built-in mechanic that pushes enemies away with his auto attack. His high damage and durability (combined with lifesteal and bruiser items) allows him to put his entire team on his back in most situations, especially in solo queue where the enemy team will probably just run into him and give him a bunch of free kills.
Graves’ biggest issues lie in his short range. With only 425 range, he sits in the bottom half of all ranged champions in this department. While this isn’t awful, he is still a ranged champion, this can put him in awkward scenarios where everyone on the enemy team can outrange him and the second he gets close he gets stunned, knocked into the air, snared, stunned again, washed, rinsed, rolled, steamed, grilled, and all that fun stuff before he can even get a single damaging ability off.
However, in solo queue, most teams are extremely uncoordinated and you can probably bank on someone messing something up and allowing you to live in the face of absolute tragedy.
3. Vi, the Piltover Enforcer
A classic ‘Press R, win game’ champion, Vi is a melee bruiser with one of the most anti-fun abilities in the game with her ultimate: Assault and Battery. This ability is a point-and-click knock-up and stun with high physical damage and virtually no counterplay unless the enemy team has a lot of supportive healing/shielding champions.
Vi comes with a lot of damage and often builds in a way that allows her to get into fights, lock a carry down, and disrupt the entire team as your ultimate also knocks any enemies out of the way while you’re traveling to your target.
She’s kind of like a weird bullet bill with pink hair and massive Hulk hands. Clearly it works since she’s sitting at a 53.2% win rate right now in solo queue across all ranks in NA, despite being an underrated pick that doesn’t generate much hype or skin sales.
Vi’s biggest drawback is that she’s a very one-dimensional champion where, very often, the other nine players in the game will know exactly who she’ll target in the next teamfight. A lot of players don’t enjoy this playstyle and it isn’t very flashy, which often places Vi as an underrepresented champion in solo queue, despite her clear power. While she doesn’t technically 1v9 carry the game very often, she is very good at shutting down one player in particular (maybe they kept spamming question marks at you in all-chat).
In higher ranks, her playstyle isn’t as effective as teams will be more coordinated and will play protect-the-carry much better.
4. Volibear, the Relentless Storm
The angry, storm creating, lightning wielding, bear demi-god, Volibear, is once again sitting at the top of solo queue junglers, in spite of a huge nerf to the movement speed gained from his ability, Thundering Smash. That said, Volibear is still an extremely strong jungler with an easy-to-play kit, capable of threatening just about any target or objective on the map, who has way too much damage for how tanky he often gets with items and runes.
His biggest strength lies in his durability, high damage, and mobility with abilities. As a jungler, he works well with the rune Nimbus Cloak and the Chilling Smite upgrade to his jungle item, making him run Mach 6 speeds, giving the beatdown to just about anyone he unfortunately starts pathing towards. His ultimate also disables enemy turrets if he lands by it, often making tower dives extremely easy for his team and extremely frustrating for any poor fool who decided to be in Volibear’s general area. On top of this, something that is often overlooked is his ability to flex into another role.
Volibear is a great jungler and arguably an even better top laner. He can be used to steal a premier toplaner away from the enemy team, or even steal a counterpick away, allowing your own toplaner to pick something that would otherwise lose to the battle bear.
Volibear’s biggest weakness is that he just goes forward, jumps in, and tries to soak up as much damage as he can while dealing a bunch back. Teams with lots of stuns, slows, and snares can make the pick completely useless in cases where Volibear is trying to engage and start the teamfight. On top of this, the movement speed gained on his Thundering Smash ability was reduced by a substantial amount, making the angry ice bear, demon spirit thing a little less terrifying to play against.
This nerf alone is enough to drop the champion into a lower tier, but his easy-to-play and extremely strong kit and role flexibility means he still absolutely decimates lower ELO and is a very high priority pick in solo queue and competitive play. In fact, Volibear toppled the stats last patch, landing at approximately a 53% win rate, but falling to just under 50% since the nerf.
5. Evelynn, Agony’s Embrace
Currently considered the queen of the jungle, Evelynn is a magic damage dealing assassin with an extremely high win rate in solo queue (53.36% in the jungle), placing second amongst all junglers while being a popular pick. She has, quite possibly, the highest burst in the game right now with her full combo, capable of even popping unsuspecting tanks who aren’t aware of how much she can reduce magic resistance. She also has an execute that works on total % health, often leaving tanks bewildered when they’re suddenly sent straight to the Shadow Realm from seemingly nowhere.
A big strength of hers is how, once she turns level 6 and unlocks her ultimate, Last Caress, she gains the ability to permanently stay stealthed (Camouflage) until she attacks or gets attacked. This is very strong in solo queue because many players are not willing to spend money and inventory space to carry Control Wards, as the free trinket wards won’t spot her while she is camouflaged. The only stipulation is that camouflage only works for champions 300 or more units away from her, meaning she has to reveal yourself a second or two before she attempts to assassinate a target.
She even has great farming potential, as her Hate Spike ability hits multiple targets and heals her over time with Hunter’s Talisman (and the subsequent upgrade). On top of this, Hate Spike got a buff where the ability’s cooldown is permanently halved (down to four seconds from eight), but the mechanic where hitting a jungle monster reduces the cooldown by 50% was removed.
Even if you miss your initial Hate Spike or use it against a champion and not a monster, it will still be on a cooldown of four seconds, allowing her to teamfight and skirmish a lot better than she used to as well as possibly find herself in a solo lane now that she can farm a lot better.
Evelynn’s biggest weakness is that she doesn’t often come online until after she’s hit level six since she doesn’t have her camouflage ability active, making her ganks much less effective. This, with the fact that she relies on her ultimate as a high-burst ability with an execution mechanic, shows she clearly struggles before getting access to these mechanics and abilities.
If any strong early game junglers invade her jungle and take all her monsters early on, she will struggle to even hit level six and will become completely irrelevant for the rest of the game.
These champions are very strong and could easily make a top 5 jungle list so they at least deserved a mention or explanation for why they didn’t quite make the list:
Nidalee is a high-damage, ranged magic dealer excelling at sieging objectives and fighting at far range with her spears, while having an extremely deadly close-ranged execution in her animal form. She sits out of the top 5 this time solely because she only really slots into teams that want to play a hit-and-run playstyle, siege objectives, or keepaway with lots of disengage and escapes, which requires more coordination and communication with your team than you’ll likely get in solo queue.
Karthus has been a very popular jungle pick in the meta for quite some time now, doubling up as a flex pick for mid lane if you want to go for a 200 IQ draft play and trick the enemy into trying to counter him as a jungler when, instead, he’s just sitting mid and farming safely under tower. His damage is absurd for a jungle and he has a global nuke that hits all five enemy champions with his ultimate. While he is very powerful, and could easily make top 5, the biggest concern with him is the nerf on Lay Waste ‒ his high-damage, spammable ability that does ridiculous damage to isolated enemies. With its Ability Power ratio dropping by 5%, it makes him do noticeably less damage every game, no matter what. This nerf, along with his frailty, means that Karthus is a champion that takes a lot of skill and finesse and to carry properly from the jungle role.
These champions are stylish and borderline overpowered in certain aspects, especially in a setting like solo queue where no one is really working together or trying to help each other. If you are trying to climb the ladder and collect that sweet, sweet ELO, pick up some of these champions, as they offer so much in terms of carry potential and game control.