The best top lane champions in League of Legends

These are League's top-tier top laners for this season's solo queue.

Aatrox changes
Image via Riot Games

There are a variety of top laners that counter each other in League of Legends. Some vary in strength based on metas, while others vary depending on matchups. For top laners, there are three archetypes of champions that fluctuate as the meta changes: hyper carries, support-style champions, and split pushers. 

Split pushers have weak laning presence and a weaker ability to trade damage until they get a few items. Once they get some items and can duel with their opponents, they just steamroll through the lane, taking turrets until the enemy team sends forces to stop them.

Support-style top laners, like Sion, Ornn, and Shen, are the beefiest tanks in the game. They can trade damage with their lane opponent reasonably well, but their main strength comes from surviving in their lane until they can build up enough tanky items to join their team in all-out teamfights. There are, however, a few intriguing support-style top laners, which are vastly different from others.

Finally, we have the top lane hypercarries. These champions put out insanely high damage in the blink of an eye, and can usually hit multiple targets at once with high cleave and AoE damage. 

This list of top-tier champions can change depending on a number of things. Sometimes the meta shifts for no apparent reason other than players’ tastes, but usually there’s some kind of balance adjustment behind it. It can be difficult to keep up on the flavor-of-the-month champs, so let us do that for you.

Here are our top five top laners for League’s Patch 12.11.

Wukong

Image via Riot Games

Pros

  • High burst
  • AoE crowd control ultimate

Cons

  • Squishy
  • Tough to make an impact if he falls behind

Following the durability update, Wukong cemented himself as one of the better fighters in the game, currently wreaking havoc both in the top lane and in the jungle. His high burst and exceptional ultimate allow him to make a huge difference in teamfights. And it looks like Patch 12.11 didn’t change much in that matter.

Item build

Screengrab via Riot Games

When you play Wukong, you want to increase your damage and survivability both in the early and late game. To achieve the first goal, it’s wise to pick Conqueror as your main rune. It will allow you to stack adaptive damage, making you an even bigger threat in teamfights and in one-vs-one skirmishes. If you somehow manage to reach full stacks (12), you’ll also heal a bit, which will always come in handy.

Later on, we have pretty standard runes for AD-based fighters in the top lane: Triumph, Legend: Alacrity, and Last Stand. As usual, when it comes to champions like Wukong, these runes should maximize your damage in the late game.

When it comes to two filler runes in your build, the best option to go for is Magical Footwear and Biscuit Delivery from the Inspiration tree. Both of them will allow you to save some money on boots and potions, allowing you to put gold into much more important items, like your Mythic choice. They will also give players some much-needed sustain in the lane.

Ability priority

On Wukong, both in the top lane and the jungle, there is only one sensible ability path: R>Q>E>W. Your Crushing Blow (Q), despite receiving a slight nerf in Patch 12.11, is still Wukong’s main source of damage, especially when trading with an enemy laner or trying to finish off enemies. Afterward, there is really no reason to maximize your Warrior Trickster (W) before Nimbus Strike (E), especially since the latter is a great gap closer and deals some damage. 

Game plan

When choosing fighters or bruisers in the top lane, there are usually a few tactics that players may choose from. One of them is picking Teleport and Flash and trying to safely make it into the mid game, which is mostly picked in losing matchups. Wukong, however, has impressively high damage from the get-go, therefore a lot of players are picking Teleport and Ignite to aggressively pressure the enemy laner. With that combo, it’s easier to get a kill and start snowballing, and if you overextend, you have the Teleport to quickly return to the lane and collect waves.

Nevertheless, Wukong’s main goal in games is to properly utilize his potential in late-game teamfights. Only a few champions can impact them as much as Wukong since he has the ability to make them airborne twice, and you can’t escape that CC with Clarity or Quicksilver’s Sash. Thus, as the five-vs-five battles start appearing on the horizon, players should look for effective flanks on Wukong, where they can disable enemy squishes from the fight for a couple of seconds. If you have a proper synergy with your team, they should always follow and finish the opponents off, giving you a victory in most cases. 

Still, you will be quite squishy, so once looking for an opening, be careful, so you don’t go too far. If you do, you might just sacrifice your life, with your teammates not being able to follow you in time. 

Darius

Image via Riot Games

Pros

  • Poweful in lane
  • Tanky
  • Snowball potential

Cons

  • Not really mobile
  • Easy to kite and shut down

Despite Darius not being directly buffed recently, he returns to our list of best top laners once again. And while he always has been incredibly strong in the top lane, he’s now better than he’s ever been thanks to the meta.

Item build

Screengrab via Riot Games

Darius is a perfect example of a fighter, which means picking runes that will increase his damage in both teamfights and one-vs-one scenarios is the best thing to do. To do so, it’s wise to go for the Precision rune tree, with the Conqueror as your main choice. With it, you’ll gain additional damage every couple of hits while allowing yourself to heal a bit here and there.

Down the line in the Precision tree, we have options that suit Darius perfectly. Triumph grants him additional gold early and a bit of health every time he scores an elimination. Since the Hand of Noxus is astonishingly strong in duels and should look for early fights, having Triumph will help him a lot. The same goes for Legend: Tenacity and Last Stand. The former is especially helpful in teamfights, where you won’t be as mobile, while the latter will allow you to execute enemies more efficiently once low on health.

As the second tree, the wise pick would be Second Wind and Overgrowth from Resolve. On a fighting champ like Darius, it makes perfect sense to pick up some survivability along the way

Ability priority

As Darius, there is only one sensible path for maximizing your abilities: R>Q>E>W. Decimate (Q) is your main trading tool early. It also helps you clear waves, so you can push up and look for kills in the mid lane or enemy jungle. Later on, you should aim to put points in Apprehend (E), rather than Crippling Strike (W). While the latter will improve your all-in potential on single targets, having the shorter cooldown on your E, which allows you to cut the gap between you and your enemies, is a much better option, especially in mid-game skirmishes.

Game plan

When playing the Hand of Noxus, you should aim to outplay your opponent in lane so you can grab a couple of kills and get rolling early. Once you do that, it’s much easier to roam to other lanes and create impact. Sometimes, though, you will be facing ranged champions, who are perfect counters to Darius. In those games, you should farm through the laning phase and try to stay alive. You should, thankfully, be able to cut through them once you reach the late game.

Past the 20-minute-mark, Darius players should look for opportunities in other areas of the map. The advantage you build in the top lane won’t matter if you don’t use it to gain neutral objectives or kills on the other side of the map. You should always be looking to seek dragon and Baron pit control, and try to be in the right place at a right time.

In teamfights, your priority is taking out the enemy carries. Getting to them, however, won’t be as easy as you might think due to Darius’ low mobility. Therefore, search for possible flanks and try to utilize them when possible.

Olaf

Image via Riot Games

Pros

  • Versatile build options
  • Great in one-vs-one duels
  • Powerful ultimate in teamfights

Cons

  • Tough to come back as Olaf
  • Not very mobile
  • Not so great in the late game

After the recent changes to Olaf in his mid-scope update, he has cemented himself as one of the best top laners in the game once again. What’s more, with the latest durability update to all of the champions in League, he has an incredibly high win rate in solo queue and is so far one of the better champs for top lane mains to climb the ladder. If you’re uncertain about what to do with him after the changes, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. 

Item build

Screengrab via Riot Games

On Olaf, you want to maximize your damage from your skills and auto attacks. While playing champions whose goals are the same, and are AD-based, Conqueror is usually the best rune to choose as your main one. With it under your belt, you will gain a stack of Conqueror with every attack, which increases the adaptive damage you deal. When fully stacked (the maximum number of stacks you can have is 12), you will heal, which is even better for champions like Olaf, who will oftentimes be low on health. 

Down the line, we have Triumph, Legend: Alacrity, and Last Stand. The former helps you even more with restoring health once you score a takedown, which can come in handy in numerous teamfights. The two other runes enhance your attack speed and attack damage, which are pivotal to the Berserker.

When it comes to two filler runes, it’s wisest to pick Magical Footwear and Approach Velocity from the Inspiration tree. You should be able to claim some early kills, which will shorten the time at which you get your free pair of shoes. The second option, on the other hand, allows you to gain additional movement speed toward impaired enemies. And since Olaf isn’t very mobile himself, this should help you many times.

Ability priority

On Olaf, there is hardly a better ability priority than R>Q>E>W. Undertow (Q) is your main trading skill, especially when facing ranged enemies. It deals considerable amounts of damage and, at the same time, slows your opponents down, allowing you to close the gap. Then, it’s best to put your points in Reckless Swing (E) since it deals true damage and will turn you into one of the most dangerous champions in the mid game. 

Game plan

The plan for Olaf is simple. Due to being favored in many matchups in the top lane and with the recent changes to the game, you should start snowballing as fast as possible. Understandably, though, there are still some counters to the Berserker, so if you’re not able to get ahead single-handedly, call your jungler for some help. 

Your true task begins once the middle game comes in and both teams start to fight around objectives. By that time, you should have a few items under your belt that increase your damage and survivability, like Trinity Force, Sterak’s Gage, or Death’s Dance. With them in your inventory, you shouldn’t have many problems shredding through more squishy enemies, which you should prioritize in teamfights. Luckily, however, Olaf deals true damage with his E, so you’re also a huge danger for enemy bruisers and tanks.

As we mentioned, Olaf isn’t as mobile as players may want, even with his ultimate turned on. Therefore, it would be wise for you to look for flanks to maximize your potential and the damage you deal. 

Aatrox

Image via Riot Games

Pros

  • Fantastic lane bully
  • Mobile
  • Diversified path options

Cons

  • V
  • Tough to master
  • Doesn’t have any hard CC

There are a couple of champions that players hate to have in their game, and one of them is Aatrox. With some impressive tools to win early trades and wreak havoc in the late-game teamfights, he’s one of the best bruisers in the game. Still, with a really tough-to-master kit, not every Aatrox player will instantly climb the ladder by picking the champion. 

Item build

Screengrab via Riot Games

Aatrox is yet another top lane fighter that excels the most with Conqueror as his main rune. In the end, his damage will be coming from spamming Qs and auto attacks one after another, which will allow Conqueror to stack fairly quickly, giving him additional attack speed. On top of that, it might also heal the champion once he reaches full stacks, a crucial feature on bruisers and fighters in League

In the other runes from the Precision tree, players should aim to increase Aatrox’s threat. To do so, it’s best to go for Legend: Alacrity and Last Stand, which raise his attack speed and damage while he’s low on health, respectively. Triumph, on the other hand, allows players to slightly replenish their health bar by scoring takedowns, simultaneously giving them a bit of gold as a reward.

While playing Aatrox, you should try to survive as long as you can, so having Resolve as your second rune tree makes the most sense. While there are a couple of viable options for the Darkin Blade, Bone Plating and Unflinching standout. The former lowers the damage you receive from enemies, while the latter influences your tenacity. 

Ability priority

The wisest way to maximize your abilities on Aatrox is going R>Q>E>W. The Darkin Blade (Q) is Aatrox main source of damage, with it having three different shapes of casting. It’s the spell that allows you to win early trades and shred through the enemies’ back line in the mid to late game. And while Infernal Chains (W) deals a bit of damage as well and has a unique crowd control mechanic, it’s better to lower your cooldown on Umbral Dash (E), which is a great gap closer and grants Aatrox omnivamp. 

Game plan

When playing Aatrox, the game plan depends on the matchup. If you find yourself in a favorable one, you shouldn’t hesitate to engage in solo skirmishes. In the end, if you start snowballing in the first minutes of the game, the impact you will have later on is even better. 

The key to playing Aatrox is to use World Ender properly. The ultimate boosts his attack damage, movement speed, and self-healing by a significant amount, though, it decays over 10 seconds. Enemies will be well aware of this, and will most likely kite or dodge a teamfight once they see that you’ve turned your ult on. Thus, it’s best to look for flanks or windows of opportunities created by your teammates. Since you don’t have many engage and crowd control tools, oftentimes you will be reliant on them.

Eliminating a champion prolongs World Ender’s duration for an additional five seconds, however, so if you get a kill or two in a teamfight and have enough survivability, you should be pretty much unstoppable. Combining your E and Qs, so you maximize your damage is also essential, and it’s best if you land them on squishy targets, so that you won’t have to chase them. 

Fiora

Photo via Riot Games

Pros

  • True damage
  • Mobile
  • Crowd control (CC) denial as a basic ability

Cons

  • Mediocre teamfighter
  • Requires good awareness to make good use of W

Fiora is one of the best split-pushers in the game, which can easily net you wins if you have a good laning phase. She’s one of the highest skill-cap top laners in the game with which you can show off your mechanical prowess.

She rose in the meta as a result of Camille becoming more popular. Fiora is a great answer to Camille with the matchup being highly skill reliant between both parties.

Item build

Screengrab via Riot Games

As with many bruisers, Conqueror is the core keystone to take. It grants you additional AD that scales well alongside the healing component when fully stacked, which makes you a huge nuisance for the opposing team. Triumph is taken for the additional gold and health return for those risky plays. Some people like to go for Overheal due to the abundance of assassins in the meta, but Triumph is the better default choice.

Legend: Alacrity is taken for the additional attack speed but other options are viable as well. Legend: Tenacity is valuable against CC-focused compositions, while Legend: Bloodline can be taken against heavy tank compositions to keep you topped off. But Coup de Grace, on average, deals more damage, so it’s taken instead of the other two.

While there’s a lot of experimentation regarding the secondary tree, Resolve is one of the most picked due to Demolish, which can help you snowball early on. Bone Plating can also help you get favorable trades. You can try out Inspiration for the Biscuit and free Boots of Speed as well.

Ability priority

Fiora’s skill priority is R>Q>E>W. Q is maxed first to help you out with your wave clear and mobility. It’s the most valuable skill in your kit and should be used wisely early on to proc your passive. E is maxed second due to the effectiveness of having your attack speed steroid as often as possible. W is maxed last. Even though the utility from it is tremendous, if timed correctly, you can negate all incoming damage and CC.

Game plan

Fiora is one of the most snowbally top laners in the game. If you win your lane, most of the time you’ll be able to convert that lead and help out your teammates as well. During the laning phase, focus on using Q to proc the passive on your opponent for a huge amount of damage. Due to Conqueror and Bone Plating, you have a huge advantage early on and can take fights against most top laners without issues. If you’re having a rough time, try to farm for your core items such as Goredrinker or Ravenous Hydra.

Your main goal should be to splitpush with your core items. The more time you spend teamfighting, the more opportunities you give the enemy team to come back.


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