By now, most Dota 2 players have realized that the laning phase has become the most crucial part of the game. The value of the lane creeps has increased in both gold and experience, support heroes have become stronger, and they can transition into semi-carries for late game. Carry heroes have to not only become strong earlier in the game, but they have to be just as good in the late game. Because of the new laning economy, jungling heroes are having a hard time keeping up. Not only do they have to farm jungle creeps on their own, but they have to do it faster than their laning counterparts. Any kind of interference could devastate their standings later in the game. So which jungling heroes survive in the meta and how?
How Important is Your First Item?
There are only a handful of jungling heroes to begin with, and the list keeps dwindling with each update. Players are discovering new and more efficient item builds for heroes that allow them to farm outside the jungle. Legion Commander, for example, has been denounced from jungling. While she's not the titular example of a jungling hero, she is known to farm for an early Blink Dagger. However, since the game moves at a faster pace, the Blink Bagger doesn't come out early enough for her damage to be substantial. When she decides to use her ability Duel on an enemy, her best chances of winning is if their health is below fifty percent. Other builds suggest substituting Blink Dagger with a Shadow Blade.
For a hero to be invested in jungling, they should only need one item to get up and running. Enigma, for example, only needs a Blink Dagger to be effective. Once he has a way to engage the enemy team, he can use his ultimate ability, Black Hole. From then on, any other item is used to prevent anyone from interrupting his ultimate. The same case could be made for Axe. If a player is jungling any longer, they're weakening the lanes.
How Weak are Your Lanes?
By dedicating a hero to the jungle, the team is actively making the lanes weaker. The offlane suffers by having to face two heroes alone, and the safe lane loses jungle creeps for pulling and stacking. To balance it out, the offlane hero has to interrupt the enemy's farm, out-level them, and protect their own tower. Bristleback is a standard choice, but as long as the player can outpace their opponent, any hero could be suitable. The jungling hero also has the responsibility to respond to ganking or counter-ganking opportunities in the middle and safe lane. By having the majority of the team on one side of the map, players should be able to resolve conflicts without the offlane getting involved. The jungling hero has the ability to freely rotate between the two lanes, so the mid lane hero shouldn't have to respond to all threats to the safe lane. While rotating could potentially interrupt the jungling hero's farm, this is unfortunately the choice they made.
Leaving the Jungle Behind
Once the jungling hero has progressed to being active in team fights, they shouldn't have to return to the jungle. By the end of the laning phase, all actions should be dedicated to map control. The only hero who should be jungling at that point is the first or second position carry, hopefully farming stacked camps. The jungling hero has a duty to fulfill their role, whether it be an initiation, pushing lanes, or using their all-important ability to win team fights. Any form of backtracking weakens the team, thus proving whether that player should have jungled.
Consider Jungling Carefully
While it's hard to say explicitly which heroes should and shouldn't jungle, it can be said that they have to follow these guidelines. In this current meta, a jungling hero will typically be a liability; more is expected from them. The intention isn't to dissuade players from trying it out but to better understand what they're getting themselves into. There are plenty of accomplished jungling players who have thrived in this meta, but only after practicing and analyzing camps. If you're interested in jungling, just consider if the hero could do better in lane; it's worth testing.