Want to hear a good joke? Jungle diversity!
This article comes in after Riot decided to make changing between smites cost you gold. Now I totally understand and actually agree that it is stupid that you could have done that in the first place. It completely negated the idea of decision making and risk reward that Riot wanted to promote with these machete upgrades. If you purchased Ranger's Trailblazer you should have better clearing but worse ganks than if you had purchased Skirmisher's Saber or Stalker's Blade. However, even though I agree with the change, I do believe it is beyond stupid and unfair to push it out.
This change was made to "nerf" the ability for junglers to sustain their early clears with Ranger's Trailblazer and then switch to the strongest smite for the rest of the game. It was made to nerf the strongest of junglers currently dominating the meta. The thing is that this barely affects them, if at all. Those junglers could clear without much issue if they take Stalker's Blade first or didn't even need Stalker's Blade for their ganks to be effective in the first place. The change hurts weaker junglers and off-meta junglers much more especially because Riot had made some really negative changes the month before.
As I said, I agree that you should not be able to swap between smites at will but it was currently necessary for a lot of champions. The weaker junglers who get destroyed by the jungle currently rely heavily on Ranger's Trailblazer to sustain themselves through it. They often do not want the item but are forced to take it because they'd get hindered heavily otherwise. Weak junglers would purchase Ranger's Trailblazer, clear once or twice with it and then exchange it for the actual item they wanted.
It is sad because this could have also been avoided if Riot had not nerfed the three camp clear plus fountain pathing some junglers were taking. Weaker junglers could clear three camps, go home and buy the machete upgrade plus two potions and then sustain themselves perfectly for the next vital clears. After those next clears most junglers would have no problem at all. The weak junglers would actually have a choice between which smite they wanted thanks to those two potions but Riot decided to increase the cost of the upgrade and thus nerf their ability to do this sort of path. They did it because the potential for a jungler to snowball early which, again, I feel is stupid. They made a change to prevent something that may or may not happen in a game but a change that would most surely nerf some champions immensely.
Since the beginning of Season 5, the number of junglers that could be played effectively has been dwindling. Some nerfs were justified such as the Devourer nerf while others, like the machete upgrade gold increase, were uncalled for. Also, while some can argue that every season also had a sort of handful of champions that were competitive while the rest were largely ignored, it could be said that the difference in power between the junglers in previous seasons was not as disturbing as it is now.
Understandably, it is very hard to fix this problem because any buffs you make to the jungle run the risk of just making the top tier junglers even more powerful. One clever player had the idea of giving the jungle items scaling that is not attractive to bruisers. It was suggested that machete gain health and/or AP scaling that would increase the power of its sustain and damage. Bruisers tend to rune for attack damage so they would not be able to utilize these bonuses unless they runed for health but that would just be stupid and redundant. While it may force tank junglers to rune for health instead of something like penetration or attack speed, it would make up for that loss by boosting their clearing speed and health. The same would go for AP champions but they usually equip themselves with AP runes anyways.
Anyhow, as already stated, Riot's latest change is baffling. I can understand that they are planning on rolling out some tank changes soon but, until then, weaker junglers just got mega shafted. I cannot lie, jungling feels very unfulfilling right now and not very fun. I hope Riot comes up with a fix soon enough.