The Jobs of a Top Laner
The particular role of the top laner isn’t quite as cut and dry as some of the other roles in the rift. While the Mid laner attempts to carry and take out the backline, the ADC does the same while taking objectives, and the Support helps to achieve said goal, the top laner sort of has to decide what their role will be. Because of the diverse amount of champions that can go into the top lane, more pressure is put on to make the right choice, and therefore, the right play style.
Should you be another carry to ensure that the enemy team has a hard time countering all the damage? Should you pick into a more split push oriented champion and make picks when available? Should you pick into a tank or bruiser and wad into the enemy team to wage war and start fights? Thankfully in this meta, tanks can kill you AND peel. So there isn’t as much to worry about as far as who to pick, because it is kind of obvious. However, that being said, to put it into more blunt terms, the Top laner is there to take down objectives, harass the enemy team, make picks, and generally help carry the game if they aren’t carrying themselves.
Warding is Still Important
For some reason, in lower elo, the Top lane forgets that the rest of the map was indeed programmed and exists, and will often forget to ward. This inevitably leads to their death, in which case, they will often question the jungler as they are taking their blue buff. So whether it is because you’re greedy for kills or you simply often forget, consider this a reminder.
When it comes to warding the bush in river, remember to try to ward at the tip of the bush to extend vision as far as you can. I like to keep a control ward in that bush, to deny the enemy laner vision if they try to push and open them for ganks. It also helps to leave wards open for you, allowing you to ward the bushes on the side of the lane in case the enemy laner attempts to use it to drop aggro or hide and engage. However, if the lane is one you’re not going to win or you’re simply being pushed in very hard, forego the control ward because you will be in no position to contest it when the enemy goes to clear it. Vice-versa, if you can win a fight against the enemy laner, attempt to freeze the lane and bait them into going to clear the ward. It will leave them too far out of position to get away, and makes it an easy kill.
When pushing too hard against the enemy, try to ward the tri-bush, or it still leaves you open to ganks, especially from the current meta junglers who all have very large and easy gap closers. On the other hand, if you’re being pushed to your tower, or the enemy laner suddenly begins to aggressively clear wave and force you under tower, ward/look out for your tri-bush because it most likely means an incoming gank from behind to pinch you. Something that I like to do, though it sometimes irritates the jungler, is if I’m ahead and pushing in the enemy lane, I will go take scuttle to give me more/better vision and allow the wave to reset at the same time. Remember, if you are winning lane, it is likely that your jungler will use your position to his advantage to roam and steal the enemy’s jungle camps.
To lighten the load a bit, if you can’t take scuttle, ward the enemy buffs/ganking paths to allow your wave to reset and give your team and jungler an idea of where the enemy jungler is on the map. Though top lane is often a separate game in it’s own world, the current meta calls for top to be more of another carry lane and is therefore getting more attention. However, because you are so isolated, it still makes you a very easy and desirable choice for ganks. So if you wish to avoid a 3-4 man clown fiesta top lane, ward.
Laning, Roaming and Remembering your Teammates
The laning phase for top lane is relatively simple. The main objective is to farm and zone your opponent off. The current meta for top lane is to pick up either a tank or a hyper carry, usually a tank. However, in either case, you can easily make the top laner useless for a majority of the game by forcing them off CS, or even better, forcing them out of lane. If you can constantly force your opponent out of lane, they will quickly fall behind in gold and level, forcing them to farm or feed well after you take the tower.
To achieve this, you’re simply going to want to relentlessly poke your opponent. Be patient, remember that you’re quite alone, and that if the enemy isn’t well behind then, with good enough counter-play, they can turn the fight against you. A large reason that top lane goes wrong is over-aggressiveness or being greedy when you get ahead. Patiently poke your enemy laner, and if you pose a big enough threat, walk up to the caster minions and force them to walk away and miss experience. While you try to poke your opponent you can freeze the wave in the middle of lane, or in front of your tower if you can manage. While this does give up a large amount of pressure, and can make the laning phase painstakingly slow and boring, it opens up more chances for your jungler to gank and help take tower. In the meantime, you can simply deny the opponent farm.
Setting a Freeze
Now setting a freeze can be a little complicated if you are not used to it so allow me to explain. Setting a freeze simply means to force the minion wave to stay in one spot/area so that the pushing process is frozen. To do this, only last hit minions and try to do so at the last possible second. Once your opponent gets desperate, they will use abilities to attain CS which will help push the wave further into you. To effectively set a freeze, you only need four minions. The caster minions are the best to keep simply because they are easier to last hit and don’t suicide run into your tower. If you end up with less, consider the freeze broken, and quickly shove your wave into the enemy tower to reset. The easy way to win lane is to simply deny the enemy laner of everything. However, you can always resort to destroying them. Death is the best form of CC.
During the laning phase, remember to look for potential moments to roam and gank. Although exhaust and ignite are currently quite popular in top lane, many still take Teleport simply for map pressure and roam potential. The best time to roam is when the enemy laner has backed. If your team is trying to make a play elsewhere, you can also quickly push and force the wave under tower and teleport. Make sure that whenever you teleport, you walk away and do it out of vision to add some guesswork and perhaps surprise your enemies instead of letting the enemy know your intentions. If you want to add even more guesswork or you have a large amount of gold to spend, buy your items and then walk to the lane you’re ganking. That way, the enemy laner is unsure of where you are, and you still have teleport to quickly get back to top if need be. As a top laner, you either have a large amount of damage, a large amount of CC, or both. So it is a good idea to utilize that in the early game to help snowball and take down other lanes.
Come late game, remember that often times, you are the initiator. Whether you are tanky, or pure damage, your job is to either delete the backline or engage and help stall the enemy’s frontline. Most of your team is probably rather squishy, and without you, will have a hard time initiating and starting a fight. If you happen to be a split push orientated champion, keep track of who is pushing back or fighting your teammates and where the enemy team was last seen on the map. If the enemy team starts a teamfight, respond by pressuring and taking an objective, then teleporting in to help. Basically, do just as you did during the early game, and bully everyone in which you come in contact.
Good Top Picks & Suggested Builds
As stated before, the current meta for top lane consist of tanks, or hyper carries. Often times, such as with Darius and Fiora, a bruiser can hyper carry. The top three, and most annoying, champions to pick into top lane right now are: Jayce, Darius, and Nautilus.
Jayce is still ridiculous. The nerfs were needed and definitely hit his early game, but make no mistake, tank or not, he can still destroy you. With his high damage and easily spammable poke, Jayce has no problems punishing you with every step you take. Trying to CS? 500 damage to the face. Trying to run? 600 damage to the back. Trying to FF and AFK in fountain? 700 damage to the face, and afterwards you can fully expect him to come flying in with a To the Skies to finish you off. Laning phase with Jayce is a breeze, and, with his Acceleration gate and long range pokes, ganks are as well. With the Lethality buffs, Jayce is a champion that has decided to abuse the change as well. So for his build i would suggest: Youmuu’s Ghostblade, Boots, Edge of Night, Black Cleaver, Maw of Malmortius and Guardian Angel.
Darius is simply a constant threat. With his passive, early game is a dangerous time to be around him or CS. His decent base damage, combined with the unfortunate bleed leads to easy poke and trades with Darius. Later in teamfights, he is incredibly tanky and becomes a large threat because of how long fights tend to get. After he procs his full passive, the entire team is in danger of getting slammed on. Combine that with the relative ease that Darius has when it comes to sticking to someone and his incredible sustain, and he simply becomes a menace with large kill potential at all times. For Darius, I would suggest building: Black Cleaver, Boots, Dead Man’s Plate, Spirit Visage, Sterak’s Gage, and an optional item (though I prefer Titanic Hydra).
After the nerfs to Maokai, Nautilus is the best tank to go to. His base damage leaves no room to argue or fight early game, but late game his tanky stats will make it seem nearly impossible to take him down in teamfights. He has incredible engage and CC, and a rather decent disengage as well, should things go south. A fed Nautilus can blow up an ADC, much to the misfortune of the ADC, and will be tanky enough to wade through the rest of the team if done correctly. Much like Poppy, getting behind on Nautilus isn’t nearly as devastating as most other champs, because he will still be greatly beneficial in teamfights, and come minute 30 he will be tanky enough to dive tower after tower anyway. The suggested build for Nautilus would be: Sunfire Cape, Boots, Zz’rot, Spirit Visage (or Abyssal Scepter), Iceborn Gauntlet, & Deadman’s.
Well this is all the help I can give. I know top lane can sometimes get a little lonely; so I figured I would drop by and give some advice. Hopefully it helps all who read this and for all those who have read this, thank you. May you accidently cancel Teleport, and may the LeeSin camp your top lane.