Today we are going to be talking about the Top Lane which is, in my opinion, is one of the lanes that got the most warped by Season 3′s stats re-evaluations. As you should know by now I feel that the re-evaluation of HP has changed the game for the worse. Early in Season 3 I preached about how many old champions would now be viable in all lanes, but ever since the evolution of the Giant’s Belt meta this is simply not the case. In Top lane you deal smaller amounts of damage over long periods of time due to auto attacks, ad skills, and shields/high hp regen. Because of this, buying straight HP absolutely wrecks buying anything that increases damage. Before we look at the champions that I list as Top 5 lets take a look at some champions who we used to see all the time in Season 2 and some champs we hoped would become viable in Season 3.
Riven: A major Season 2 contender now forced to live in the shadows. Someone who wants to dump all their money into AD items simply gets outclassed by a bruiser that can spend that first 1000g on a Giant’s Belt. She does a have crazy good early game and very high snowball potential but risking an all-in vs lanes that commonly start with two wards and nine pots is not as easy as it used to be.
Wukong: I put a lot of money on Wukong being a force to be reckoned with in Season 3, with the introduction of Flask getting rid of a lot of his early lane problems. Again though Wukong fits more into the role of AD caster/assassin and can simply not contend with someone who can buy a Giant’s Belt on their first back. He can function well in the mid lane.
Darius: A common pick/ban in Season 2, the axe man has stepped out of the spotlight in Season 3. Don’t let the PBE nerfs fool you, this is mainly to alleviate the complaints of the community that don’t know how to combat his ultimate. I don’t believe there is one recording of a pro player ever complaining that Darius is op. While Darius actually doesn’t mind stacking HP, he can easily buy a Giant’s Belt first buy, his ultimate actually gets weaker from OTHER people stacking HP. Also, he really wants to build some early damage and not being able to makes him a bit weaker overall. In Season 2 when resistances were king his true damage was a strong counter, but Riot has stated time and time again the best counter to true damage is flat HP; enter Giant’s Belt.
Jayce: Like Riven he hinges on buying items like Blood Thirster early. We sometimes see Jayce mid because he functions better as a carry rather than a bruiser and is allowed to thrive in a lane where both parties want to stack damage and not HP.
Attack Damage Nidalee: Nidalee benefits in no way from stacking HP. Typical top lane Nidalees used to get Trinity Force and poke, kite, and split push top lane. Now with equally scary champions lurking in top like Renekton, Shen, and Elise she has found her way to mid lane where she benefits her team more by stacking AP.
Irelia: Queen of the nerf bat has actually not been touched in Season 3 but her presence has dropped off completely. She can stack HP like any other bruiser but her kit really thrived on being able to build a mix of HP/AS/DMG and Resistances, the hallmarks of bruisers in Season 2.
AP Champs: except Rumble, Elise, Akali, and the occasional Katarina have all but disappeared as well. When was the last time you saw Vlad top? Some other top laners who used to be first pick/ban worthy in Season 2 and have now become more niche picks are Yorick, Jax, Lee Sin, and Cho’Gath.
The Best Top Laners and Why.
Pro’s constantly say that the reason Bruisers go top is because they are the only Champions that can; top lane has such an unforgiving dynamic compared to the other lanes. It’s so far away from anything that no one gives it any attention, which means the Champs that reside there have to be tough and self-sufficient. It’s also the easiest lane to gank, which means champs need to be able to handle the pressure of constantly being monitored by the opposing jungler. Today these champs are defined by how they best maximize stacking Giant’s Belt items like Warmogs/Randuins/Sunfire Cape, and then being giant damage dealing piles of HP. Their job is to be a brick wall that punches back at anyone hitting it. They function similar to junglers, but play more of a backseat role when it comes to initiating and cc, and take the front seat when it comes to dealing the damage.
Please note that I will not include any champions on this list who I included in my jungle list. It is true that Jarvan IV or Xin Zhao are more than capable of going toe to toe with any of these champs in the top lane. However, I believe they are better suited in the jungle as they function equally well while building items like Madred’s and Locket of the Iron Solari. Bruisers want to be able to afford two Giant’s Belt items and therefore it is better to stick them in the top lane which has a steady cash flow.
Also this list is more heavily biased towards success in Soloqueue and not necessarily meant to coincide with the frequency of picks being made in the LCS. My goal is to try and provide you with advice you can use to gain LP.
Malphite rounds out my list because in soloqueue he is picked or banned 90% of the time. I don’t think he packs as much of a punch in Season 3 compared to Season 2; he was mainly utilized because of how devastating the combined AoE damage of his ult and E were while providing an AS debuff for the enemy ADC. He was also innately tanky which allowed him to build damage items like Abyssal Scepter and Sorc Shoes. With HP stacking his ult has lost a lot of its UMPH, however, its disruption aspect is still very relevant and can be used to turn the tide of skirmishes and team fights and he still has his AS debuff. He also has a very safe laning phase with his passive shield and the ability to speed himself up and slow down his pursuers.
Olaf got beaten badly with the nerf bat recently, but like any Viking worth his salt he is still standing. While his laning phase was neutered the most, his team fight presence is still incredibly scary. He feels right at home in the stacking HP meta as he scales off HP and does not need damage thanks to the Armor Pen from his ult and True Damage of Reckless Swing. His presence has all but disappeared in the pro scene but I still think he is an incredibly strong pick in soloqueue and I would make the argument that a late game Olaf is the strongest champion in the game.
Renekton has seen the biggest resurgence of all the Season 2 Champs for top lane. He has a gap closer which shreds armor, a heal that does AoE damage, a wicked stun, and his ultimate gives him damage and, yep you guessed it, lots and lots of HP- oh and he’s manaless. If Renekton can farm 1000g in lane without losing lane too hard, he becomes incredibly difficult to deal with. With his level one ult and a Giant’s Belt he gets 680 HP… WITH A HEAL! That’s menacing. Good luck fighting that. Once again Renekton shows us that the dark side always prevails in terms of power. I’m looking at you Nasus, you sandy bitch! Renekton is also a huge monkey wrench in team fights because he actually does a TON of damage over a prolonged engagement. This leaves your team with the tough choice of killing the 3k HP crocodile that is destroying your face, or killing the guys behind him who are destroying your other face.
Ok get ready for another TF-esque rant! Shen is another Champion that I harbor nothing but hatred for. I feel like he is such a poorly designed ninja! Who the fuck was like “Ninja Champion! Wait for it…. He’s a tank!” That makes no sense what so ever. Ninjas aren’t tanky, that’s Samurai… Shen is also the loudest fucking ninja in the history of the world, louder than Chris Farley in Beverly Hills Ninja. His sword makes so much racket when he Ki-Strikes, he makes noise when he dashes, when he casts a shield, and even when he is coming to save an ally. None of his skills really make sense for a ninja either, and I also hate how he has to repeatedly draw his swords. A ninja is always prepared, have that shit drawn and ready. Ok, so he throws his swords… give him shuriken? He has a shield? Ok that kinda makes sense assuming he’s a master of inner-chi or something. He dashes forward and it taunts people… wait, what? Oh, and he can teleport across the map… that’s actually pretty fucking awesome, except it’s a defensive move that he uses to save his allies. Bitch, ninjas don’t look out for anyone, not even other ninjas! Good Job Riot! A white guy definitely designed him *cough* Guinsoo *cough* At least they got it right with Zed.
Ok, so what makes Shen good? Well lets start with his scaling off HP. Now that that’s out of the way, he also has global presence, like TRUE GLOBAL presence, meaning he can go from Nexus to Nexus if he has to. His ultimate can save lives and turn fights which has crazy snowball potential at all levels of the game, pro included. He does physical and magical damage which makes him a bitch to fight in lane; although this was a bigger problem in Season 2 because he was hard to itemize resistances against. He has a heal and a shield. He’s a lane bully in all senses of the word, but he can bully all the other lanes also. Did I forget to mention he’s probably the worst designed ninja champion ever? Ok, just making sure.
Strictly speaking soloqueue here, this bitch is fucking broken. I have never won a game against an Elise or lost a game playing with one. She is the new “purple team must ban this or we’re fucked” champ. No one knows how to counter her. She does damage based on HP%’s which means stacking HP doesn’t really work against her. She is ranged and melee, has a stun, a gap closer, and a crazy escape that makes Fizz look like a flounder. She can also readily stack HP because she gets free defensive stats AND MOVESPEED from her Spiderform. She’s ridiculous. It’s actually crazy how underpowered people thought she was when released, then Riot buffed her ever so slightly and now she rapes people’s nightmares. She’s really strong and I wish I didn’t sound so uneducated about her and what to do against her, but I don’t really play top lane and, like I said, I have never beaten a team with an Elise.
These champions function well in the top lane but are less of soloqueue stompers than the five listed above and better suited in the hands of pro players who know how to get them through their delicate laning phases and into late game. The only champion that I think deserves a “pro spot” on my list is Singed who I think would replace Elise as the #1 spot, leaving the rest of the list unchanged. The champs are listed in alphabetical order.
This list was actually pretty difficult for me to come up with because I know very little about top lane. I believe though from my observations that this is fairly accurate. It is definitely my most subjective list and because of that I will make no effort to defend it in the comments like I have on some of my others.
Previous “Glory of the Climb” Articles: