Introduction to Top Lane
What is Top Lane?
Top lane is the lane known as the island. It is probably the closest thing to a 1v1, and the lane where the most amount of wave management and outbraining the enemy is required. Now the question being: how can someone have much of an impact in the top lane? This guide on how to play top lane will teach you what the fundamentals are, everything essential you need to know about top lane, and how/when to impact the game and get as many LP as possible.
What is the role of a toplaner?
- Theres no specific role for a toplaner, a toplaner can have many roles, but its all dependent on how good you are at adapting to the current state of the game. Many factors will decide this. Things like your teammates, Dragon Souls, team composition, your champion, etc. This guide won’t cover every single scenario; it will be up to you to be able to adapt to as many situations as you can while making the most of them.
What types of champions can play Top Lane?
There are a lot of champions that can be played in the top lane. We could divide all champions into 6 different categories, those 6 are listed down below with an example of the most iconic champions based on that role.
Bruiser is probably the most common and most associated role with top lane. Their main goal is to constantly 1v1, win, and then create pressure from that, even going so far as to be able to 1v9 in teamfights or split-push so much that the opposing team needs to send more than 1 person to defend. It’s the most mechanically skilled role you can play in the top lane, and requires a lot of understanding about what the opposing champion’s abilities do, how much damage they do, their cooldowns, and how they work so you know when to go in for trades.
Tanks – The most common place for tanks to be played is the top lane. Tanks have a very simple goal in the game: frontline, peel, sometimes engage, and repeat. Their main goal in the top lane is to survive without taking much damage and losing too many CS so they will be viable for late game teamfights.
- Examples: Ornn, Sion
Mages are probably the most complicated role you can play in the top lane. Mages are normally mid lane champions put top lane because they have a good matchup where they can safely farm until late game and become a powerhouse that can normally 1v9 with their high AP damage. They normally only do full AP damage and are therefore a viable choice if your midlaner and jungler picked AD champs.
- Examples: Cassiopeia, Ryze
Assassins are something that’s fairly unusual to be played top, as their main goal is to assassinate squishy targets, which is fairly hard to do from the top lane when you’re facing a bruiser like Darius or Renekton. They rely on their high damage and good engage to try to one-shot the enemy team’s carry, and from then on play the 5v4 teamfight out.
- Examples: Akali, Wukong
Ranged champions in the top lane are the definition of a lane bully. Their main goal is to poke and zone the crap out of their opponent in lane, while still being viable in the late game with their high CS numbers, it’s a high-risk, high-reward strategy, since if you fall behind you will normally never be able to come back and be useful later on.
Playing a support in the top lane is a fairly easy concept. Farm safely until level 9, group and try to ARAM the whole game. Having a support is normally better in extended teamfights with the right composition compared to tanks or bruisers. Therefore your high sustain in teamfights will, in the long run, win you teamfights that can snowball into winning the game.
- Examples: Soraka, Sona, Taric
Early Laning Phase
Leashing is something people underrate quite a lot. If your jungler asks for help, it’s almost always necessary you go and leash. There are of course a few examples where leashing can be bad for you. An example would be if you are in a very 50/50 lane, where you have to get lvl 2 first. If you know your jungler has healthy clears, like Graves or Warwick, you should always prioritize getting that lead in your lane that can turn into a first blood or a CS advantage. Another big example being if the jungler such as Shaco is looking for a cheesy gank at lvl 2. Leashing would reveal where the jungler started and be negative for the early surprise.
It is crucial to control minion waves when laning in the top lane. Sometimes you will be in a matchup where there’s no kill pressure whatsoever, therefore the only way of getting a lead would be through wave manipulation by using techniques like freezing, slow-pushing, zoning, trimming, etc.
Top lane being the 1v1 island, there will be trades. There are very few top lane matchups where no trading happens. Trading patterns are something unique to the champion, considering every trade pattern is different. The only way to properly learn those is through videos or experience from playing the game. There are a few global rules that apply to most situations:
- Never underestimate the minion factor in a trade. It’s easy to mess up a trade that in theory was going to end in your favor because minion damage was bigger than expected. Therefore it’s necessary that you reevaluate your trade when the opposing laner has more minions to back him up.
- Trading when you have no idea where the opposing jungler is can also be risky unless you know you win the 1v2. Most of the time, taking an unnecessary risk will have higher chances of ruining your flow in the lane rather than giving you an advantage.
- Summoner spells make the difference. Risking to lose a trade when you don’t have TP and the enemy minion wave is stacking/pushing is not worth if a tower dive on you is possible.
Have you ever tried winning a game without vision the whole time? It would be unnecessarily hard. Vision is one of the most fundamental skills in the game, and it applies to every role. As a top laner, your warding will most of the time be directed towards denying an enemy gank, since you are far from the big global early objectives such as Dragons or first mid tower. However, it is still important to help your team by sometimes warding the enemy jungle when ahead or warding your own jungle when behind.
Overcoming enemy Ganks
What I mean with overcoming ganks is the following: imagine you’re Renekton and you know you can win a 1v2 against their Ryze and Amumu, if he ganks you. Winning that would be overcoming a gank. It is one of the hardest things to do, as it requires you to know your champion’s limits as well as theirs. Although in the chance that you do, it should give you a lead that can single-handedly win you a game if used well.
Setting up Ganks
Setting up ganks is an easy thing to do in most cases. The first factor that should be considered is clearing vision if possible. If not possible, then communicate with your jungler where the ward is through a vision ping. Then after that, the state of the wave matters as well. If the lane is slow-pushing towards them and the enemy has no intention of stopping such push, the gank needs to happen fast or else the enemy laner will be under tower soon enough. One way to avoid this from happening is to not push the wave when you know your jungler might come to gank. A quick glance at the minimap will give you that information. Once the vision and the minion wave has been taken into account, try not to engage too early or change your moving pattern, or else the enemy laner will understand what’s coming to him. Play as normal as you can. Finally follow up on the gank with your jungler by applying CC if your champion has it in its kit. A successful gank does not always mean a kill. Forcing the enemy to back and use TP is almost as successful as a kill. Forcing the enemy jungler to respond is also a plus. Last but not least, always set up a gank with an intent in mind. Avoid exaggerating ganks by following the enemy on their Flash or tower diving him if the chances of success are low. Burning a Flash or even just dealing some good damage to the enemy laner is most of the time a big enough advantage for you to use.
Playing around jungle presence
This is something very high-risk, high-reward. In some cases your jungler might come up and sweep the river bush, clear the wave, and then leave again. What you can do then is play around the enemy laner while making it look like your jungler is still there, going for an engage forcing him to run instead of trading back, zoning, and much more. It’s something that can really get you that extra edge in the island that is the top lane. This is something that means a lot of risk, and wouldn’t be advised if you’re far ahead. It’s also not mentioned enough that mental state and player attitude is something that can be exploited. By abusing that jungler presence and showing confidence even when your jungler is not looking to help, the enemy laner might feel overwhelmed and switch to a defensive playstyle, making it seem that you are winning the lane.
When to recall
Recalling at the right time can be very tricky, although when learned fully is something that can really help you when it comes to winning lanes, even when you’re not supposed to win them. There are a lot of different methods when it comes to backing, but the most common ones are:
- Backing after shoving.
- Backing when the lane is frozen.
- Backing when the enemy is slowly slow-pushing into you.
- Backing when you’re missing HP and mana. Sometimes your wave might not be in the most ideal position for backing in this scenario, but it’s definitely better than dying to the enemy laner and allowing him to snowball into a win.
- Backing when you have money for an item that’s necessary for your champion (an example would be Tier of the Goddess on Ryze or Cassiopeia) or a power spike item like Black Cleaver.
To understand back timing, you need to understand how minions work first. If you already know, it’s always a question of being as efficient as possible when it comes to minions. Avoid losing as many as possible, because experience and gold are what give you a lead in the game. If you don’t know, then look for minion management guides that will show you the different states of a wave, the techniques to change those states, the speed of those techniques depending on your champion, and more.
Level 1, 2, 3 and 6 powerspikes
Sometimes you might lose trades level 1, win them level 2, and lose them level 3 or level 6. You need to think about this constantly. It starts in champion select and it’s a big factor, as it might decide the fate of your lane. An example would be Kayle into Ornn. Kayle would in theory lose the matchup until she hits lvl 6 when she can kite him. Imagine if you went into a game without thinking about level power spikes and automatically try to trade with the Ornn, losing said trades and being forced to back at terrible times, making you lose experience and gold. As a Kayle, you might even be stuck at lvl 5 while Ornn is lvl 7 if he abuses the situation right.
Be aware of going for turret platings when possible. They give a lot of gold and could help you hit that power spike that wins you the next teamfight. Examples would be right after the enemy backed, or if they’re not able to walk up to you while you have a shoved wave under their tower. If you’re looking to back off, waiting an extra second just to get that extra auto-attack in for 160g is beneficial. However turret platings are a double-edge sword. If not calculated right, spending too much time on a plate will give the enemy laner the opportunity to abuse it or even the enemy jungler more time to gank you. Consider it like this: is it worth dying for a turret plating? Gold wise, not at all, since we’re talking about 160 gold against 300 gold. What about getting 1 plate and losing 1 plate yourself? It sounds like a fair and equal trade, but you actually want to avoid being in that situation as you’re giving the enemy laner more opportunities to set up the wave to their advantage. In other words, go for turret plates when you know you have the time and it will not screw up your lane flow. It’s a skill that comes with experience. With time you will know better.
Late Laning Phase
Roaming is something that not all top lane champions are able to do successfully, but it is necessary a lot of times. Some champions can also roam quite efficiently by going mid and possibly snowball the lead you get from a potential kill into a win. An example of a champion that can do that fairly easily is Camille, she has quick roaming and good lockdown.
Going into the enemy jungle and taking their camps when you have nothing to do is a way to maximize profits. If you know they’re botside you can take their golems for free experience and gold. Who knows, maybe that’s what pushes you to that power spike that wins the next teamfight for your team which gives you a free Baron or Elder Dragon.
Tower diving is something quite complicated that requires a lot of setup from you and your jungler. In reality, you could dive alone but that in itself doesn’t require much explanation. Here I’ll talk about diving with the help of your team, most commonly your jungler. It’s a coordinated move that can sometimes go wrong because of lack of communication. In premade situations and with communication, tower diving is definitely easier. With that said, a clean dive is one where you kill the enemy laner and no one from your side dies. To achieve a clean dive, a few things need to be considered:
- Minion – You want to shove the wave into their tower, that way minions will give you enough time to properly walk into the enemy without taking tower damage directly.
- Tower aggro and damage – Always predetermine who takes aggro first and never forget to keep aggro if you can take more tower hits. Drop aggro if you’re about to die or if the kill has already been executed. If your jungler gets the aggro then do as much as possible to kill the enemy fast, because time is very important here. Do not forget to make use of simple things like Stopwatch or aggro-dropping abilities like Elise’s E to your advantage.
- Response from enemy team – If you’re about to start a dive and you notice that it will be soon a 2v2 because of a counter-gank, most likely you will need to stop it and abandon the idea. Always keep an eye on the minimap before you start.
You always have to think about using Teleport before actually using it. A bad Teleport will be punishable by the other laner. After all, it has the longest cooldown on a summoner spell. Here are some things you need to think about before using your TP:
- Is Drake up? If so, keeping your TP is important to assist in fights. Doesn’t always apply but it is the general idea.
- Is the enemy laner TPing into a fight and you can’t cancel it? You might wanna follow on said fight to possibly turn the tables.
- What is your champion good at? If you’re playing a split pusher like Fiora, usually you’d want to keep your TP so you can pressure side lanes instead of always joining in fights. If you’re a tank like Ornn, you want to join as many teamfights as possible rather than using TP for sidelane pressure.
- How is your lane? If you’re about to lose two waves of farm because you died to a gank, using TP to collect the experience and gold is a good idea. No matter what champion you play, being 3 levels and 2+ items behind makes the game harder to win.
If you’re not very sure about a Teleport, don’t risk using it, as it takes a very long time to come off cooldown.
It’s the action of you, as top laner, going bot, and the botlane taking your lane instead. Usually you want to look to swap with the botlane at around 8 to 12 minutes into the game, after the first Drake is killed. Since your botlane is stronger combined than you are, and Rift Herald is usually the next objective to get, it ends up opening more doors for your team.
A lot of people underestimate split-pushing, but it can help you end games faster, win fights, and so on. An example of split-pushing correctly would be when you manage to pressure an inhibitor on a side lane. Drawing attention to you means your team will be able to either force objectives elsewhere, set up vision in an area without any threats, collapse on you and sandwich the enemy team while forcing a teamfight. etc. The possibilities are big, and while it’s your team’s job to do said things, it is first your responsibility as a toplaner to create those opportunities. Not all champions can split-push properly though. There will be moments where the enemy team’s laner has a stronger split-push than you do, or perhaps a bigger lead in the game. Split-pushing as a tank Sion into a Fiora is not a good idea, as she will kill you in a 1v1. That’s an example of when you should join your team and fight objectives together rather than split-pushing to draw attention.
This could be a guide in itself, so I won’t go too much into detail. One way to understand objective control is to first realize exactly what the game is about. To win you have to destroy the Nexus; to destroy the Nexus you have to destroy the towers and inhibitors; to destroy those towers you have to get rid of the enemy so they can’t defend; to do that you will most likely need to be ahead of the enemy team. Then we can add other neutral objectives to the equation, such as Dragon, Rift Herald or Baron Nashor. Each one of those objectives provides a new way to get advantages but will not in themselves win you the game by default. You don’t win a game by getting Baron if you don’t push. You don’t win a game by getting Herald if you use it poorly. You also don’t win a game by having an Infernal Soul if you don’t fight. That is the essence of objectives in general. Towers will give you gold and lack of vision/protection on the enemy side, and neutral objectives give various “bonuses” that give you an advantage. By knowing this, it’s up to you to decide which objective makes the most sense in your current game.
Basic stuff aside, let’s talk about what you can do as a toplaner to help objective control. Remember what was mentioned earlier, your role, it’s important. If you’re a tank that can teamfight really well, it is your responsibility to be ready to either join your team by using Teleport to do a planned objective or to be present before your team starts doing said objective. It’s paramount to be available before, because getting late for an objective will create a discoordination between you and your teammates, and as a tank you won’t be able to win a teamfight alone. If you’re a split-pusher, then it is your responsibility to draw attention away from the objectives that your team wants to do like mentioned earlier as well. In the end it comes down to how you can help your team while considering the kit of your champion, the state of the game, etc.
- Getting and using Rift Herald is really good. If you were to get it as a toplaner, there are a few ideas that can bring more advantages to your team. Be it using it in the top lane to get the gold from the plates (remember that the Herald’s charge deals as much damage as 2 plates and the tower gets resistance for every plate that gets destroyed, always try to use the Herald for the last plates, rather than the first plates), or roaming mid lane with it to get the first tower, which is arguably better than first tower top because of the map pressure. Or even just keeping it to look for better opportunities later on. Herald in itself is a card that has to be used properly and can’t be rushed, or else the amount of time spent doing it ends up not being worth it.
Team-fighting is very dependent on the current game. I could write a thousand words about a lot of examples that could happen in a teamfight, but in the end it depends on your general understanding of the game. That said, there are a few tips I can give when it comes to teamfighting, I’ll list them by role:
If you’re a tank, peeling and being the front line are normally the only 2 options. Engaging might also be your responsibility depending on the champion, but this is something you’ll be able to tell when you’re in that situation. Remember that carries in a teamfight will make the difference and the enemy team knows that too, therefore they will focus said carries. You have to always keep an eye on your carries and try to defend them as possible.
A bruiser’s role could also be described as a bully. You want to be as much of a pain to the enemy carries as possible. Chase them and kill them. The carries will usually know you’re a threat and will run away from you, meaning that sometimes you win the teamfight even without killing the carries just because your presence automatically zones them. Engaging here is more prevalent, as bruisers tend to have gap-closers or mobility. However, a bruiser can’t peel as much, can’t defend as much. A bruiser attacks more than he assists.
If you’re a mage, you want to stick behind your tank and get protected while bursting down their frontline or whoever is trying to engage on your team. If you’re able to choose your target it should always be the carry, but in most cases you just sit back and kill everyone with your heavy damage from abilities.
- Getting baron as a toplaner and knowing how to use it are 2 things that are required to play the late game well. If you have Baron buff without knowing how to use it properly, in the end it will gonna be useless, so here’s a detailed way of knowing how to use Baron buff to its full potential:
Going sidelanes. Stacking Baron buffs doesn’t buff your minions even further, so if you know you’re not the engaging champion on your team, and you probably won’t fight / they won’t contest the turret you’re going for, there’s no reason to not go to the sidelane to get even more objectives. This is of course dependent on how the current gamestate is, since leaving your team makes your team vulnerable when it comes to the enemy team engaging them and turning the game around.
Finishing the game
Finishing the Game is of course crucial for getting that extra lp and keeping the positive grind going, but you never want to greed for the win, going in for a 80/20% chance isn’t worth when you can wait for a minute and have a 100% chance of winning. Yeah, most games your gonna win by greeding, but in the long run it won’t be worth, 80% just isn’t better than 100% in any way.
- Geb Vence
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