LoL Skarner Jungle Guide
LoL Skarner Jungle Guide by sGvDaemon
Hi I am the salty jungler a diamond 3 jungle main, I enjoy writing short guides and helping people out in general. Today, mainly due to popular demand, I will be talking about SKARNER. I used to play Skarner infrequently in season 4 as a counter-pick to melee ADC’s but had not yet picked him up in season 5. I did some research and found there is a certain lack of good guide material for Skarner and he doesn’t see much top elo play so I decided I would do some theorycrafting and play-testing in ranked before writing this guide. I knew Skarner was a solid pick but my tests greatly exceeded my expecations, I think he is a top 5 perhaps even top 3 jungler and I have already begun working him into my main jungle pool. So anyways, let’s talk Skarner.
Skarner Overview: Strengths and Weaknesses
Skarner is strong for a multitude of reasons right now, he is a cinderhulk jungler for starters, he fulfills the role of beefy frontliner which is seen more often these days in lieu of bruiser based warrior junglers. With most comps typically consisting of a massive 2-3 tank frontline and a super carry adc/apc’s.
Champions who excel at isolating and picking off carries are more valuable now than ever. The high CC / high tank composition typically has lower damage and is abusable by champions with spammable shields (Skarner, Udyr, Sion, Naut) and invulnerability (Vlad, Fizz) are becoming more popular because they can simply soak tons of damage and be otherwise very difficult to kill once they hit their core tank items. Champions with sustained damage are becoming more favorable than burst damage because it is simply too hard to burst all these tanky frontliners and if it’s difficult to get your damage off good targets when menacing supertanks are running around everywhere just itching to engage.
Enter Skarner, he is the perfect answer to the shifting meta, he is naturally tanky has a spammable shield that scales well with tank stats and makes him tough to take down, his Q spam offers solid fighter-style sustained dps and his E, R and passive bring considerable utility to teamfights. The biggest misconception people have about skarner is that he is a one-trick pony flash-ult bot, this is not true at all; Skarner is an extremely strong and durable brawler that wrecks face in extended engages.
Skarner has a very strong early game much like udyr for his raw dueling ability, his ramping attack speed, shields, and Q offer a lot in terms of raw combat strength. A lot of popular tank picks right now like Sejuani, Sion, Amumu ect. simply can’t handle fighting Skarner and you can abuse that to bully early game. Skarner also has considerable mobility with his W and Q to speed away from danger or chase down and secure kills. You don’t necessarily have to invade just because you are stronger but it is an option should the opportunity arise, it also gives you the peace of mind knowing that in a 2v2 or 3v3 scenario you have a significant advantage over most other junglers. I’ve scored lots of triple kills botlane with Skarner’s extended skirmish potential.
Skarner does have a few small downsides, he does suffer a bit from mana-gating. Spammable his spells will find you out of mana fairly quickly if you don’t have a blue buff or an adequate mana pool, he was recently buffed to have slightly less mana costs which does help. The easiest way to mitigate this issue is by taking the second (and sometimes third) blue buff, this can make your midlaner mad sometimes but I feel you really need it to keep your farm and gank pressure up. You can’t be stealing blue buffs all game though and it does have downtime so to offset this issue I build frozen heart and either sheen or catalyst EVERY SINGLE GAME no matter what.
The second downside to Skarner is simply being kited, his kit relies completely on being in melee range and slows and stuns can stop him from reliably getting to his targets, the best tools skarner has against being kited is simply flash ulting or using W+Righteous glory to cover the gap extremely quickly. If you have neither of these things I tend to take a more peel focused approach, simply bash your head into anyone who tries to force their way through your frontline, your passive and E should be enough to nearly halt them in their tracks, worst case scenario you can use your ult to literally peel the enemies off your carries.
All in all I think Skarner’s strengths greatly outshine his weaknesses and smart play and itemization can mitigate those issues almost completely. With that being said let’s now take a look at Skarner’s mechanics and gameplay.
Skarner Jungle Route, mechanics and tips
- My route is usually something like Gromp/Krugs -> First buff -> Wolves/raptors -> Wolves/Raptors -> Recall and buy Smite+Pots. You can also go gromp/krug -> first buff -> second buff if you think you will have good gank potential.
- I think chilling smite is best for closing the distance when ganking, particularly early on in the game. However I believe that trailblazer is a solid option as well providing some nice sustain. I’m not a huge fan of skirmisher sabre but I think situationally it can have its uses for early game dueling and damage mitigation lategame. So i rank them in that order Chilling > Ranger >>> Skirmisher
- Skarner Q can stack up to 3 times granting him increased attack speed, movement speed and magic damage. It is important to keep your stacks up when dueling and clearing. When jungling try to use Q to kill the last mob in the camp, this way you have time to run to the next camp and keep your stacks maxed between camps
- Skarner’s Q (the cast not the empowered auto) and E will apply a stack of crystal venom, an auto attack on a target with 3 stacks will stun for 0.5/0.75/1 seconds as well as deal bonus damage. This applies to both champions and minions/monsters.
- Get good at orb-walking with Q/Auto you want to be cancelling your attack animations as soon as possible and be a sticky as possible when chasing down targets
- When ganking pre-6 try to hold on to your E until it is guaranteed to hit, it offers a pretty strong slow and it is pretty important to get the extra crystal stack for a faster stun. I will usually just run at them with W activated and tag them once with Q/auto then follow up with a melee range E then another Q/auto for the stun. Saving E means you can also tag them with a slow if they flash giving you a chance to catch back up without burning your own flash.
- Flash ult is the strongest tool in your arsenal, become very familiar with the range of your flash ult to make reliable picks mid and late game. If you are patient enough someone worth pulling will almost always come into flash range if you are vigilant enough, just don’t make it look too obvious by spamming your shield and running back and fourth at them. If you make it too obvious that you are about to flash ult they are most likely going to be expecting it and flash your flash or simply stay out of your range, instead try to look non-threating, indifferent; walking side to side or barely moving at all then out of nowhere surprise them with a W+flash ult and drag them back into the metaphorical meatgrinder.
- Skarner is very threatening in the fog of war when vision is denied as champions have to facecheck and that can mean being dragged into the middle of a team all alone. Normally you don’t want to pull a tank but if you know their team is not grouped and they would have to fight an uneven fight to save him it is perfectly acceptable to pull the top laner or jungler. Even dedicated tanks who typically feel relatively safe facechecking can’t often survive being pulled into the middle of a team and stunlocked. Don’t underestimate the power of displacement abilities.
- Skarner is heavily pick based, try to play him with other champions who have strong pick potential or chain CC, champions like Morgana, Annie, Ahri ect. all work well as they just dump their burst damage and CC on whoever you pull in to them.
- Skarner is insanely effective against melee ADC/APC as they typically build glass cannon and rely on their in-combat mobility and abilities to keep them alive. Champions like Zed, Riven, Fiora, Katarina are all hard countered by Skarner because they have to get into melee range to do damage and that makes them extremely vulnerable to being grabbed. They often build glass cannon so its easy for your team to burst them when they are pinned down by your ult
- Skarner ult does more damage based on the amount of stacks the target has on them, this is almost meaningless as you rely on your team to provide all the damage on the targets you pull in but it can have some significance in a 1v1 I suppose, still very rare and not that important at all
Skarner Build paths
Skarner has fairly excellent itemization who can function very well as utility tank/initiator as well as fighter/bruiser. I think no matter the circumstances you always want to go cinderhulk, the item is simply extremely good right now and it outshines the other enchantments. The sunfire it provides helps his dps quite a bit and he has no problems staying in the thick of things early, the %HP boost passive allows his durability to scale extremely well late game as well.
The second item you choose dictates the focus of the build, in my eyes there are 3 options you can choose.
1) Righteous glory – This item is quite good on Skarner if your primary objective is to serve as the initiator or if you find yourself behind and still want to be useful. The activate allows you to start fights very easily in the mid-game and the speed it grants you and your team is insanely powerful for closing the gap on your targets to engage on them and it even provides a follow-up shockwave to CC the rest of their team. It’s very easy to create picks with this item, if you see something like an Annie hanging out midlane all you have to do is pop your W + glory and you will be on top of her in 2 seconds flat.
2) Trinity force – Skarner scales so well with this item it’s retarded, only Udyr can contest him for using a trinity so well. Skarner uses every single stat including the phage and sheen passive’s to it’s fullest capacity. Finishing this item will give you an insane power spike and give you god-tier dueling potential and make your damage relevant for the rest of the game.
3) Iceborne Gauntlent – The poor man’s trinity, this can work as a decent substitute to trinity force if you don’t have the gold for it. It provides some utility but nearly as much as righteous glory and for that reason it serves as a middle point between the two items. Personally i would rather commit fully to one side or the other, I think having a bit of both leaves you a bit weaker overall. This is just my opinion though, Skarner still makes decent use of the stats. It really comes down to whether you think the iceborne passive will be worth it or not. It relegates you to more of a peel-heavy role.
As far as tier 2 boot choices are concerned mercs is typically king Vs. teams with stuns/CC or tabis for heavy AD teams. I think swifties are a fine all-around choice for more speed if they aren’t CC or AD heavy or if the team you are facing has a lot of slows. I personally dislike mobi’s, when you are running at them as soon as you get tagged with something your speed boost instantly drops and you revert back to T1 speed. It’s generally worthwhile to get distortion upgrade also for more flash ults.
After your core items are complete you want to finish up your defensive core of Frozen heart and Banshee’s Veil. I like Frozen heart over randuin’s omen because Skarner makes great use of the Mana and CDR and you have the HP to back up the huge chunk of armor it gives with your cinderhulk + Trinity/Glory. You can optionally replace your Banshee’s veil with a maw of Malmortius for a bigger damage punch when snowballing or if you feel their AP damage is weak and not worth itemizing for. It’s worth noting that Abyssal scepter is a serviceable MR replacement on full tank skarner if you want to help boost your teams damage as well as your own.
You will want to finish with a righteous glory if you went the trinity route or a trinity force if you went the righteous glory route. Some other good options are: Guardian angel (only if you went trinity 2nd item), Thornmail, Randuin’s Omen, Botrk, Rageblade (kinda troll?).
As you can see Skarner’s item path and role is quite flexible for filling in what the team needs. I believe I have theorycrafted out the best possible build route at this point in time but I am always open to suggestions
Runes and Masteries
I run the following rune set-up with Skarner:
x9 Attack damage reds
x9 scaling armor yellows
x9 scaling magic resist blues
x3 Attack speed quints
I think these runes are overall the most balanced load-out you can run on skarner. They provide good clear speed and dueling early and nice tanky scaling into the mid and lategame. Skarner does not really need the flat armor early to clear/duel and scaling breaks even with flat at level 6 and triples their value at 18 so in my eyes there is really no reason not to take scaling.
As far as alternatives go you could run full scaling CDR for blues if the team is AD heavy or something like x6 flat CDR and x3 scaling MR. You could also run some movespeed quints but Skarner already gets up to 500 movespeed without them and you get pretty severe diminishing returns after that point, I would rather just have combat stats.
Now my masteries will probably spark some controversy but I think by far the best option for Skarner is 21/9/0. I have tried 9/21/0 and 0/21/9 but they seemed to pale in comparison to going for an offense oriented route. You can find them here.
I think this is mainly due to how incredibly well Skarner scales with the masteries in the offense tree, in particular Blade weaving and Spell weaving. These two skills are typically hard to utilize on junglers however Skarner uses both at practically 100% efficiency with his Q/Auto spam, this is coupled with the fact that Skarner outputs decent hybrid damage making excellent use of devastating strikes. If you take double-edged sword and executioner you can reach 13% increased damage with 6% hybrid pen, this will help with your ganking power, clear speed and provide a nice damage boost all game long. I look at the defense tree and all I see is a handful of flat resistances which don’t amount to hardly anything and a few semi-useful tank passives. Overall I think the offense tree provides far more value than the defense tree ever could. You function as a hybrid fighter/tank, offense is just as if not more important than defense.
Why I think full tank/utility Skarner is bad
I wanted to add this as a small addition for those who might argue a full tank/utility Skarner is the superior option. By that I mean full tank build with utility runes and masteries like running movespeed quints and speccing heavily into the defense and utility tree; forgoing speccing deep into offense.
I think this is a bad mentality to have with Skarner as you essentially pigeon hole yourself into one playstyle which is a great weakness because it makes you extremely predictable. Versatility is the key of the jungle and you want to be as flexible as possible in your potential roles within a team.
For example if you spec heavily into utility for flash cooldown and run movespeed quints to better close the gap you have greatly reduced overall combat strength Vs. a Skarner using this guide’s recommendation. Now your strategy is essentially a gimmick, say their adc builds a QSS, your entire strategy of flash ulting the ADC is gone. You need to be able to adapt your strategy on the fly and change as the game changes, never try to strategize solely around a single idea.