League of Legends: Top Lane Meta Guide ft. DIG Lourlo
Thu 11th Jun 2020 - 11:36am
League of Legends is a game that will evolve from patch to patch as Champions, Items, and other game mechanics are fine-tuned to create the most balanced competitive environment possible. The Top Lane is currently in a precarious place, as many players feel as though it does not have much of an impact as other lanes in the grand scheme of the game, but we had a chance to talk with Dignitas’ own Lourlo, who brings a seasoned perspective of the Top Lane to our discussion. Read on as we dive into the meta involving all things Top so you can get the edge over your opponents this season!
Following the tier lists available through an analysis of high-elo ranked games, Top Lane is tied with Mid for the lane with the most tier 1 champions in Patch 10.11. These champions are:
There are a few possible explanations for the level of dominance displayed by these champions, but there are two in particular that we will focus on. Firstly, all of these champions synergise incredibly with the Precision Keystone Conqueror, as their fast style of play can generate stacks faster than most and then use it to deadly effect as they dish out some of the highest damage you can see on the Top side of the rift. Secondly, they all build around Trinity Force or Black Cleaver, which are incredibly powerful items thanks to the Unique Passive Rage (as seen below). All of these champions have abilities that either trigger on-hit effects or amplify their own basic attacks, and as such are naturally geared towards benefitting from this item.
Lourlo: "I think in lower elo you can play champions like Wukong, Darius and Renekton, Champions that can just hard-stomp a lane, as the game will more often snowball out of control than in higher elo games. Overall, the most stable and consistent blind picks considering the state of the meta are Sett and Aatrox, in both competitive and solo queue. I think there are a lot of avenues you can explore with Top in comparison to other lanes because there’s so much you can do with the role depending on your own playstyle. It’s hard to label one or two specific champions, however, because I might have two totally different picks to someone else just based on our individual playstyles."
Countering the Conquerers
In countering these Champions, it’s difficult to discuss just one or two solutions to such a variety of problems. Typically speaking, playing one of these top-tier champions into another can ensure that the matchup is going to be fairly skill-based, as each possess the ability to carry their team through to a decisive victory. More generally, however, you can implement the use of ranged Champions to counter the oppressive nature of these melee champions; Kalista, Vayne, and even traditional Top Laners like Jayce are all capable of giving their opponents a headache with the advantage of range.
Lourlo: "For Sett, you can play champions like Gangplank, Renekton or Aatrox for duelling in lane, while ranged champions such as Gnar, Kalista or Kayle are great as well. For Aatrox, I think the best counters are Fiora, Camille and Gangplank; where Gangplank is a more consistent counter that will scale through the game, Fiora and Camille can completely take over the game if they’re playing well (especially in solo queue)."
Trades Up Top
In the Bottom Lane, an all-in engage from your Support can often lead to either a trade of Summoner Spells or a kill being secured from one team or the other, thanks to the high damage output that comes with 2v2 situations. Top Lane, however, is unique in that the Champions you’re likely to face won’t be able to kill you straight away unless you decide to commit fully to an encounter. With the prevalence of Teleport in the current meta comes a subsequent decline in the frequency of Ignite in your games, meaning less kill potential in Top Lane from the very start of the game. That being said, the isolated nature of the lane means that you’re less likely to find support from your team, and can leave you falling far behind on a bad trade.
Lourlo: "Usually you’re more punished with a bad trade in Top, since you’re kind of left on your own. Say you make a bad trade in mid and miss out on wave management, you can get bailed out by your Jungler. It’s also a shorter lane, but with all of those opportunities for help from Jungle, Top and roaming Supports, it’s much easier to recover. For Top, most trades are Jungle-reliant, meaning you’re pretty much stuck until your Jungler can find the right time to help. This means that taking small leads where you can and snowballing those into an advantage for you is really big when taking control of the game from the Top Lane."
Keeping Your Cool Against Kiting
As previously mentioned, ranged Top Laners can seriously hassle their melee counterparts with potentially unrelenting poke. Combining this with the isolation that comes with the top side of the map, many players find ranged opponents in Top Lane incredibly difficult to play against. There are a few counterplays that you can employ against ranged lane opponents, but the most important tip to remember is to stay tilt-proof. Unless your ranged enemy is inexperienced and struggling to understand how to keep the pressure on, you’re most likely going to be down in farm while your lane presence is minimised. Keeping a cool head and acknowledging that it’s going to be a tough game ahead is the best way to instigate a comeback in the mid-game; giving up before you’re capable of contributing to fights isn’t going to win you any games!
Lourlo: "The most important thing when playing against a ranged top is to minimise your losses. You’re almost definitely going to be down in CS, but realistically the melee Champion that you’re going to pick will be more effective in teamfights than a team with a ranged Top Laner, unless they manage to pick well around this composition. The thing that’s so scary about them, especially in solo queue, is that you really have to rely on your team to help you out; that being said, they’re often susceptible to ganks and most bruisers will be able to duel them after level 7 or 8, so making sure that you reduce their impact on the game is the most important thing."
Teleport vs. Ignite
As previously mentioned, Teleport is the clear favourite when it comes to Top Lane (secondary) Summoner Spells. Taking Flash is a must, but there remains a debate at lower elo play between the threat of Ignite and the utility of Teleport; simply put, Ignite will find more use in the early to mid game, as you attempt to lock down the enemy in smaller skirmishes where there won’t be too many sources of damage contributing to a fight. As the game goes on, however, the ability to cover the entire distance of the map is typically more valued, as objectives can be contested and fights can be picked regardless of where your Top Laner may be on Summoner’s Rift.
Lourlo: "I think it’s very rare. You should only think about Ignite for the Grievous Wounds; think about it like this, Teleport is a far more consistent way to play the game. When it comes to the first Tier 1 towers being broken down, Teleport is always going to grant you more value unless you happen to get an insane lead from Ignite. Provided you’re not constantly dying to someone with Ignite, being down in CS with the advantage of Teleport means you can make so many more plays for your team. Say you’re setting up for a Baron play, and both Top Laners are splitting Bottom, the Teleport player has a clear advantage as they can stay in lane longer than the Ignite player. There are so many more windows of opportunity that are given by Teleport, but don’t get me wrong! Taking Ignite at lower elo can definitely be a way to close out the game, as inexperienced players will tunnel in on fights more often, but if you’re looking to play the game at a higher level then you should never really be taking Ignite. It’s kind of like cheating your way out of playing the lane properly."
Playmaking with Teleport
Taking Teleport is one thing, but using it effectively is something entirely different. There are infinite possibilities when considering how to use Teleport in game, but there are a few you’ll find are more common than others. Using Teleport to return to lane and secure more CS is a great way to extend your lead over your opponent in terms of both Gold and XP, but of course you must consider what opportunities you’ll be missing out on while the Spell is on cooldown so be prepared to run back to lane if you can afford to. Teleporting across the map to secure a kill in a fight is a great way to extend your lead for your team, but again you must be conscious of what you’re leaving behind; will your opponent take your tower in your absence? Lastly, Teleporting as reinforcement for a play around an objective is great when you know all attention is on that location, but you can also hold off on it and side lane instead to generate greater value if you have confidence in your teammates. Let’s see what Lourlo has to say!
Lourlo: "It really depends on the game. There are so many variables when it comes to League; your lane matchup, whether you can affect a play around Dragon, Baron, or a fight in Bot Lane, and more. Overall, I think I hold it as much as I can. Think about it like this, if you use your Teleport and your enemy is thinking about the game the way they should be, as soon as they see that your Teleport is gone then the opportunities for everyone on the other side of the map to you will open up to make plays. On the other hand, if you’re able to run back to lane without missing much CS and a fight breaks out on the other side of the map that you can positively influence, you’re going to have a greater impact on the game than you would by just Teleporting to keep a perfect creep score. That being said, there are definitely some matchups (like Fiora into Aatrox) where you really need a little boost in XP, so Teleporting back to lane with an item advantage at 4 or 5 minutes can help you snowball that advantage into a confident lead for your team."
Building for a Beatdown
Where Black Cleaver and Trinity Force can emphasise the power-spikes of certain Champions in the game, there will always be a different number of variables to consider when addressing your build. Champions like Gnar can lean comfortably into the tankier route if they find themselves in a squishier team, so that Mega Gnar can fill out your team with the resistances they need, while also being able to play more aggressively with a Guinsoo’s Rageblade or Wit’s End for more damage after dominating in lane. While there are some items that are found more commonly across the board in different Top Lane builds, your itemisation should be treated on a game-to-game basis.
Lourlo: "Right now I think the best items for Top Laners are Black Cleaver and Death’s Dance. All of the stronger Champions that we talked about earlier benefit from these items greatly, and can spiral out of control if they get them early in the game. My personal favourite item to use, especially on Fiora, is Ravenous Hydra; it’s just such a feel-good item that gives you an immediate power-spike and allows you to win most 1v1s too. It helps that Fiora is also my favourite Champion to play in solo queue as well; you can have some of the most agency in the game as Fiora and she can be incredibly mechanically challenging, but satisfying at the same time. I’ve had lots of games where my team is down, like, 10,000 gold but I’ve been doing well in lane so we still have a chance."
Taking this advice into account, your Top Lane performances will improve astronomically with correct application. Practice makes perfect, but effective practice always starts with a greater understanding of exactly what you need to do, so we'd like to thank Lourlo for his input through this guide! You can check out my interview with Lourlo here, and follow Lourlo on Twitter @Lourlo to stay up to date with all of his latest updates. GLHF!