Why Top Lane is the Best Role for Improving in Low Elo
Sun 17th May 2020 - 12:10pm
A really big thing that tends to hold players in the Iron to Silver range back from climbing higher is a weak grasp on the laning fundamentals of League. A lack of knowledge on wave control, aggression, and especially patience are a few of the biggest things to learn in order to reach your true potential as a player. But if you’re in low elo and struggling to climb and are having a hard time learning these concepts, there is a solution for you. Main Top Lane! Every single one of those fundamental lane phase concepts are things that are very quickly absorbed as habits if you play Top Lane with them in mind.
Wave control can be used to either survive the laning phase unscathed if you’re a scaling Champion or to completely obliterate your opponent if you’re a lane bully, which are two Champ types that are extremely common in Top Lane. And because of the prevalence of Teleport in the role, it creates an extra layer to your thought process when identifying what to do with minion waves. So how should you be manipulating minion waves as a Top Laner, and when? Well, wave control can be divided into three different categories:
Slow pushing - A slow push happens when you’re hitting the enemy minions more frequently than just last hitting, but also not killing the wave as fast as possible. Slow pushes also start when a wave crashes into a tower, causing the wave to slowly build up. So when should you slow push? Slow pushes are usually best for when you’re trying to either draw Jungle pressure or prevent your lane opponent from going for harass. Because slow pushes build up your minion wave while also pushing towards the enemy tower, it prevents your opponent from trading without them taking a whole lot of minion damage. Due to this safety net of your large minion wave, it lets you have a lot more security in rough matchups. But, because you’re going to be pushed far up in the lane, it makes you easy pickings for the enemy Jungler. So slow pushes should only be used if you’re confident that the enemy Jungler is nowhere near Top, and if they are, you need to sure that you can either 2v1 or avoid the gank without losing too much. But if those conditions are met, and it’s also a good situation to slow push, go for it!
Fast pushing - Fast pushes are pretty self-explanatory, it’s pushing the wave as hard as you can, using all your abilities to crash your wave into the enemy tower. Fast pushes are good for when you need to recall but your opponent is still in lane, forcing them to deal with the wave before they can reset. If you’re looking to roam or take an objective, fast pushing is also ideal. And the most well-known of fast push timings is when you kill the enemy Top, denying them at least a whole wave of minions.
Freezing - Freezes are kind of the opposite of Fast Pushes. When you fast push, it’s usually to speed up the tempo of the lane or to affect the map. Whereas, with freezes, you’re looking to quite literally freeze the pace of the lane. Freezes are best used when you’re either trying to farm safely without taking too much damage or if you’re trying to keep your opponent from getting CS without taking a bad trade or to force them to open themselves up for getting ganked if they want to play forward. Freezes can be set up by catching the enemy minion wave before it crashes into your tower like this:
But know that the closer you freeze the Wave to your Tower, the more enemy Minions you need to outnumber your own:
Freezes can be extremely punishing and rough for an opponent to deal with, but keep in mind that you won’t be able to roam or rotate to fights without breaking the freeze and losing a lot of gold.
Wave control is quite possibly the most important thing to get a grasp of to play Top Lane at a higher level. So keep practicing at it, and you’ll be able to manipulate Waves efficiently and correctly.
The key to winning fights in lane is not by mechanically outplaying your opponent, it’s by taking fights when you can be one hundred percent confident that you can come out on top. What do I mean by that? I mean that fights can often be auto-wins if you have either a sizeable amount of stats or combat tools over your opponent. Stats as in items or levels; and combat tools as in having a combat Summoner Spell instead of Teleport or having a combat ultimate like Darius, as opposed to someone like Shen, whose ult has no use in a 1v1. Other combat tools include having an extra ability on your enemy from hitting level 2 or 3 first or possessing a buff like Red or Blue Buff, you get the idea. To make it more understandable let me give you a scenario:
Let’s say you’re playing Mordekaiser and the enemy is Gangplank, you’re both Level 6 and the Gangplank just used his Orange (W) to heal up. This gives you a 22-second window to bring GP to the Death Realm without him being able to get out with his W. Without a way to escape your ult, all-inning GP will at the very least completely chunk him and push him out of lane if not net you a kill.
Another relevant skill to learn as a Top Laner in regard to aggression is your ability to snowball games. Even though your ability to affect the other lanes is more limited than other roles, Top Laners can snowball the game in a very unique way - through pressure. If you’re able to get a comfy lead in lane from using your newfound knowledge of wave control and punishing mistakes, your opponent will most likely be asking for ganks. And this is where you can affect the map without ever leaving lane; if you start getting ganked repeatedly while you’re strong, you should be able to either escape or 2v1 them. When the enemy Jungler shows up, tell your team to get Dragon, or 4v2 or 3v2 dive Bot. This way you are strong enough to dodge your opponents’ attempts to interrupt your snowball while also being able to help your team out.
But once you do eventually take down the Top Tower, make sure not to just keep running down Top, causing your lead to stagnate. Swap with your Bot Lane, and get the Bot Tower too, or take Rift Herald with your Jungler, or gank Mid and give them a lead. A very, very important lesson to learn when being aggressive is that time is Gold and XP, especially when you’re ahead. Each minute you just keep going Top after taking their Tier 1 without getting anything done is a minute you could be getting your team closer to victory.
It’s vital to be aggressive in low elo, as it’s very easy to snowball games because of the high volume of mistakes made. So if you’re able to be aggressive at the right times, it should be a cakewalk to get leads and translate them into wins.
As I’ve just shown you, aggression is a key piece to playing Top Lane, but the opposite of that - patience, is just as important if not more. Unless you’re against a Tank, a defining characteristic of almost all Top Lane Champs is how good they are at 1v1 duels. Because you and your opponent are both good at 1v1ing, the thing that differentiates who wins those duels on an even playing field is power spikes. So if you’re Tryndamere playing against Darius, you will lose every fight from levels 1 to 5. But, because of Trynd’s kit being centered around his ultimate, and Darius’ kit being centered around his strong trading in early levels; you will win fights against Darius if you manage to not give him a lead before level 6. That’s just one example of a matchup where power spikes have a huge impact, but it’s illustrative of how matchups in Top Lane go generally. I cannot stress enough how important patience is for coming out of laning phase ahead in Top Lane. If you’re a lane bully, go full speed ahead early on punishing your opponent. But if you don’t get a lead early on, then you have to exercise patience by realizing that now your opponent has scaled and is at a stronger point than you.
The importance of patience as a Top Laner also extends to more than just 1v1s. If you’re getting camped as many Top Laners do, then it’s important to be patient and play safer, not going for too many daring plays. Even though it might not be very fun to play back and not go for kills, your patience will be handsomely rewarded. As if you keep drawing the enemy Jungler Top, you can tell your team to make plays Botside, getting kills and Dragons. And in the mean time, the enemy team is getting nothing done Top because you played patiently.
These are just a few of the important fundamentals to learn for improving, but they are all things that can be easily learned and practiced from playing Top. Even if Top Lane isn’t for you, these fundamentals are things that can be extended to any role; they are just easiest to learn from playing Top. And if you are in low elo and play Top with these things in mind, you should see a very big spike in winrate.