The best top lane champions in League of Legends

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

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 12.9.

Shen

Image via Riot Games

Pros

  • Can influence other lanes early thanks to ultimate
  • Tanky

Cons

  • Easy to defeat in the early game
  • Requires high map awareness

For a long time, Shen has been one of the best top laners in the game, and the case is no different in season 12, where the Eye of Twilight returns to our list. As the match goes on, Shen will become tanky while also dealing high amounts of damage. This, combined with his taunt and global ultimate, makes Shen one of the better split pushers in the game, who can instantly join a teamfight to create a wall between his carries and the enemies.

Item build

Screengrab via Riot Games

As Shen, players should aim to stay alive as long as they can in teamfights while trying their best to maximize the damage they deal to their opponents. Grasp of the Undying is a key rune for Shen. The other choices in the Resolve tree are there for the same reason. Shield Bash will play alongside your passive perfectly, while Second Wind and Revitalize will increase your defensive stats as well.

In the second tree, it’s best to pick Domination. Many new players think that Shen doesn’t have great one-vs-one potential, but that’s just not true. And with Cheap Shot and Ultimate Hunter, you want to boost your most important elements throughout the game. The former will increase your damage in early game skirmishes, while the latter will shorten the cooldown on his ultimate, which is one of the best skills in the meta currently, especially after the teleport nerfs in season 12.

Ability priority

While playing Shen, there’s really no other option than going R>Q>E>W. Twilight Assault (Q) will make your wave clear early much easier, especially thanks to its short cooldowns. It’s also crucial once you go for trades. Maximizing Shadow Dash (E) will make its CD shorter while extending the period of the taunt itself. Additional levels of Spirit’s Refuge (W) just aren’t worth picking over the other abilities.

Game plan

Shen has multiple options. Naturally, in today’s meta after the Teleport nerfs, which basically made the Summoner’s Spell useless before the 14-minute mark, your Stand United (R) is priceless. With it, not only you will shield your teammates, but you’ll join the fight in a span of seconds. Therefore, Shen should always try to influence other areas once his ultimate is off cooldown. Though remember you need to watch the map and your allies at all times, so high map awareness is critical.

On the other hand, as mentioned, Shen isn’t bad in one-vs-one scenarios as people make him out to be. But he still lacks many tools against bully top laners, especially ranged ones, so be careful who you try to pick a fight with.

In late-game teamfights, your plan really depends on the compositions of both teams. You can either decide to stand by your carries and try to taunt the enemies coming at them. The other option is to engage on key targets yourself. But it might not always be as easy as it sounds. Nevertheless, always try to create pressure on the map when you have your Stand United available.

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 in Patch 12.9, 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.

Tryndamere

Image via Riot Games

Pros

  • Enormous damage in the late game
  • Mobile
  • Outplay potential

Cons

  • Easy to shut down early
  • Squishy
  • Requires some time to master

Tryndamere didn’t receive any direct buffs in Patch 12.8 or Patch 12.9. But with the nerfs to Hullbreaker, which was a pivotal item for split-pushing top laners, he’s made a comeback as one of the best champions to pick in the role. 

Item build

Screengrab via Riot Games

On Tryndamere, your main goal is to load as many powerful auto attacks onto enemy squishy carries as you can. To do so, Tryndamere players will naturally need a lot of attack speed, thus picking Lethal Tempo as the main rune is the best option. Once you hit an opponent, you will be granted additional attack speed, and it stacks up to eight times. When fully stacked, you’ll be a one-man army. 

In the Precision tree, there are also several other great runes for Tryndamere. Triumph is one of them, especially in the early game. While the champion isn’t the best fighter in the early levels, it’s crucial as the match goes on since it will replenish 12 percent of your missing health once you score a takedown. Down the line, choose Legend: Alacrity and Last Stand. The former is going to boost your attack speed even more, while the latter makes you deal more damage once you’re low on health. 

Still, players will need some survivability in the laning phase. To fill up those gaps, pick Bone Plating and Unflinching, with the second one also coming in handy throughout the game. 

Ability priority

On Tryndamere, there’s only one sensible ability priority: R>Q>E>W. You want to have as long a duration of your ultimate as you can, so putting points in it, whenever you can, is a must. By maximizing Bloodlust (Q), players will not only gain additional damage with every percent of missing health but will also be able to heal themselves by consuming fury, which is key in the early game. Lastly, there’s really no point in prioritizing Mocking Shout (W) over Spinning Slash (E). 

Game plan

The game plan is really simple on Tryndamere, especially now that Hullbreaker has gone out of favor. In the earlier minutes of the match, you want to collect farm and experience, so you can get level six as fast as you can. Once you do, you could look for some one-on-one duels, depending on who you’re facing, or call your jungler to aid in dives. In the end, the faster you start to snowball, the better.

The real fun on the Barbarian King begins in the mid game. Your goal is very simple: You want to get behind the enemy lines and shut down enemy carries, ideally the opposing marksman or mid laner. Securing a flank won’t be as easy as it sounds, though, so it’s smart to have Teleport or Ghost at hand.

Riven

Image via Riot Games

Pros

  • Extremely mobile
  • Huge skill ceiling
  • Massive damage in the late game

Cons

  • Hard to master
  • Low survivability in lane

When it comes to high-risk, high-reward champions in the top lane, Riven is a pick that instantly comes to mind. With her kit, it’s easy to pull off impressive plays and eliminate opponents as they come. This, however, also has its setbacks. The Exile is difficult to master, and trying to do so will almost certainly take you dozens of games. 

Item build

Screengrab via Riot Games

Conqueror is without a doubt the best rune on Riven. It maximizes your AD damage, so it’s pretty much essential on the champ. The same goes for Triumph and Last Stand, which should be picked 99 percent of the time. The only change you could make is swapping Legend: Tenacity for Legend: Alacrity for more attack speed. But tenacity is generally more useful on Riven, especially when teamfights begin. 

Ability haste is a stat that will be greatly appreciated on Riven. The champ already has short cooldowns, but making them even shorter with Transcendence will do you no harm. Players should aim to scale even better with Gathering Storm. 

Ability priority

On Riven, players should go for R>Q>W>E. It increases the possible AoE damage you deal in teamfights, as well as your one-vs-one potential in lane or while splitpushing. This path is the most common Riven, though in some instances you should consider maximizing E second instead of W. This will come in handy when you need some extra sustain in the game.  

Game plan

As Riven, you have the potential to one-vs-one your opponents. But be careful not to overcommit. The champion is tough to master, and once you fall behind,  it’s not that easy to get back into the game. Aim to trade efficiently in the top lane and look for openings and ganks from your jungler.

Once you find yourself in the driving seat, you can choose to create a threat on the sidelines or look to become an executor in teamfights. It’s not always the best to look for the enemy carries. Sometimes, you can peel for your teammates and get rid of the opponents diving your backline. Nevertheless, in fights, you will be a force to be reckoned with.

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 split-push 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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