The Role Swap

The way I am, regardless of emotions, I relate more to the jungle than to the mid lane.

Role-swapping isn’t easy – even less at a professional level. But that’s what I did when I went from the mid lane to the jungle in 2018.

Junglers and top laners are more composed and selfless, and mid laners tend to be shy and go for the outplay.

When I played in the mid lane, I used to ask my jungler what we were going to play for after every single minion wave. I wanted to be involved and get the ball rolling.

The champions I specialized in were roamers; Twisted Fate, Galio and Lissandra weren’t carries. Granted, I also played Azir. But at the core, I wanted to start team fights and get my teammates ahead.

That’s a jungler’s role, not a mid laner’s. A mid laner’s job is to perform well independently of the map. Because of that, I feel that I have slotted myself better into the jungle position.

It took a lot of trial by error and bumps on the road, but I am finally seeing results. Not that the lack of results would have prevented me from working at it.

Talking about it might help other players who are either thinking about taking a similar decision or who are going through with it, if they can benefit from my experience.

The elements you need the most are: discipline, realism, and the drive to learn.

It doesn’t take a lot for doubt to start creeping into your mind, especially when things aren’t going well. It takes a good amount of discipline to push through it.

When I first made the swap, I think I was perhaps a little too overconfident in everything that I was doing. Obviously most of my early experience of jungling came from solo queue, and I thought I was doing pretty good. Unfortunately, I soon remembered that solo queue and competitive play are two very different situations.

I had to start in solo queue to see whether there was potential. So, when I was at home, I played mechanically demanding champions like Nidalee, Lee Sin and Kha’Zix until I hit Rank 1.

But jungling in competitive League of Legends is completely different. I knew that, because I studied pro junglers and noticed that their pathing and their in-game priorities were different.

Thankfully, I was able to become much more of a leader during that period.

And because I had been playing in the jungle for six months, I also had to be self-conscious and realistic with my expectations.

Some of my opponents have been playing in the role for years and were far more experienced. Being behind motivated me a lot; catching up became my main goal.

Junglers need selflessness to succeed. If they want to be aggressive, they have to draw a line between safe and greedy. I had to find that line, and I needed experience.

Imagine if I just walked into the LEC and said “What’s up, lads?”

I’d rather not think about it.

Instead, I got my experience by playing with a lot of different teams in the regional leagues (LDLC, Diabolus Esports, Ninjas in Pyjamas), just so that I could refine my play in competitive games. There was simply no way that I could have jumped into the LEC without building that base first.

At the start, even in competitive play, my tendencies were oriented towards the “win by carrying” mentality. It hit me after a couple of weeks that you can’t just have that one playstyle. Even the best jungle players in the world can’t go 10/0/0 every single game.

In the 2018 Summer Split, I was able to test myself with three matches in the EU LCS as the jungler for H2K Gaming. Franchising was coming in, and all of us were just looking to have some fun while trying to impress for the impending roster shuffles. It was every man for himself, but also a pretty low-pressure environment.

That experience built my confidence and clearly gave Excel enough of an impression to pick me up for the LEC.

That’s when things became serious.

Even though I had gained some experience, my old tendencies shone through in the opening two weeks. I was a little selfish, and too quiet on the mic. Xin Zhao was in meta, and demanded some aggression, but I was still just playing for kills.

It took some reflection and discussion, but soon enough the team and I were much more in sync. I was catching up to everyone else, and it was time to make that transition from focusing on learning, to winning.

This is a results-based industry, and the added pressure is part of the job. Improvement was necessary. Losing the game and just “going next” wasn’t really an option anymore.

Come Summer Split, I was ready.

We went from dead last to being in the running for a playoff spot. We didn’t make it, but it showed clear improvement on our part.

Our games weren’t clown fiestas, win or lose. Our execution became cleaner, and we slowly but surely came into shape.

When we were down, I made sure to keep working and maintaining that learning curve. The same applied when we were trending upwards – not going too chill.

Although the season is over, I am glad I have made the roleswap. As a mid laner, I was limited in what I could do, and I couldn’t hit my performance ceiling.

As a jungler, I haven’t found that ceiling yet.

And I’m feeling good about it.

Image Credit: Riot Games

Adel Chouadria assisted in the creation of this article.

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