The best top lane champions in League’s Patch 11.9

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

Storm Dragon Lee Sin - Screengrab via Epic Games

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There are a variety of League of Legends top laners that counter each other. Some vary in strength based on metas, 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. 

Splitpushers have a 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 are the beefiest tanks in the game, like Sion, Ornn, and Shen. 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 team fights.

Top lane hyper-carries 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 be affected 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 change 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 11.9.

Lee Sin

Storm Dragon Lee Sin – Screengrab via Epic Games

Pros

  • Mobile
  • Insec
  • High skill cap

Cons

  • Melee
  • Lackluster is falling behind

Lee Sin is the ultimate skill-check champion released by Riot. Recent buffs have shot his pick rate to new highs in three different roles: top, jungle, and mid lane. While he was a lackluster fighter in the past, he has become much stronger with the new items and skill level-ups. He is one of the deadliest laners who can take over the game from the early stages if played correctly in the top lane.

Item build

Screengrab via Riot Games

The Precision tree is crucial for Lee Sin. It grants him damage, healing, and attack speed. While Conqueror and Triumph are the must-have runes, Legend: Alacrity can be changed to Legend : Tenacity if the opposing team has a lot of crowd control. Last Stand can also be changed to Coup de Grace against a squishy team

The secondary rune page is Resolve to gain additional tankiness. Bone Plating will make you harder to kill during an all-in, while Revitalize is great throughout extended fights.

Ability priority

Lee Sin’s ability priority is R>Q>E>W. His mobility and damaging tool is Q and should be maxed first. E is maxed second and sometimes can be maxed in parallel with Q, one point in the first ability, one point in the second ability. It’s a great tool to waveclear and also trade against opposing champions. W is maxed last as a laner since it’s utility compared to Q or E is lower.

Game plan

Lee Sin is one of the strongest fighters in the top lane right now. He has two flexible build paths, one that goes full Lethality and the other going for tanky stats such as Omnivamp, Health, and Armor. The choice is up to you, but if you want more success by default, going for Lethality is better. The armor penetration granted by the build will allow you to one-tap most squishy targets and instantly convert a five-vs-five into a five-vs-four. With an advantage, you should be easily able to clear the remaining members.

During the mid and late stages of the game you shouldn’t aim to only split push as a top laner, but also look for opportunities to Insec people back to your team. This tactic is especially effective if you know that a certain carry wasted Flash earlier since they’ll be more vulnerable to your kick.

Shen

Image via Riot Games

Pros

  • Flexible buildpath
  • Great kit
  • Game-changing crowd control as a basic ability
  • Global ultimate

Cons

  • Hard to come back if behind

After being away from the Rift for multiple patches, Shen is back in action. His recent ultimate buff in Patch 11.9 has made him a global terror on the Rift and it even made people remember that Shen exists in the top lane. The new items also give him a huge buildpath flexibility since he can pivot into various Mythic items due to his global utility.

He is quite simple to pick up and can also be fun to play due to how his abilities work. He has a great laning phase due to his spirit sword, which allows you to deal quite a lot of damage to opponents. While he did have a pretty weak early-game in the past to compensate for his mid-game pressure, that is no longer the case with the correct runes.

Item build

Screengrab via Riot Games

The Resolve tree is core on Shen, since it grants him additional damage and sustain via the Grasp of the Undying. Shield Bash is easy to proc and should be taken as well. Second Wind alongside Overgrowth will make you harder to kill by granting you health and health regeneration.

The secondary Domination tree will make your short trades deadlier and Ultimate Hunter will ensure that you have your ultimate up as often as your team needs.

Ability priority

Shen’s skill priority is R>Q>E>W. Your Q is maxed first for the waveclear and trading potential. Without it, you’re going to have a hard time killing anything. E is maxed second due to how much potential it has. You can easily turn the tides of a lost game with a good taunt. Having it more often is only beneficial to you and your team. W is a nice basic ability as well, but maxing Q and E is a much higher priority.

Game plan

Your goal as a tank in the top lane is to not lose the game, scale into the mid-game, and purchase your core items. You can set up ganks for your jungler quite well with your taunt. As you slowly level up, you’ll get access to your global ultimate.  You should start looking around the map to see opportunities to turn the tides of a gank and help your allies survive in low-health situations.

In teamfights, look for flanks to surprise the opponents with a flash taunt, or throw your ultimate to save an ally then engage on the enemies. One thing is important, never stick to your allies if you have your ultimate up, always look for split-pushing opportunities. By keeping up with this playstyle, you’ll force your enemies to come to answer to your push. If they don’t, you can easily get a tower while your team turtles. If they do, you can Teleport or ultimate away and force a fight where your team has a number advantage.

Renekton

Image via Riot Games

Pros

  • Strong sustain
  • Strong duelist
  • Good split pusher

Cons

  • Falls off late game

Renekton is back in the meta after falling off due to the latest item rework. He synergizes well with the Goredrinker Mythic item, which allows you to unleash havoc in teamfights and be a beefy frontline, while also dealing a lot of damage.

He’s one of the best top laners in the game currently due to his ability to impact the early game pressure and create room for his jungler to gank or take top side crab alongside Rift Herald.

Item build

Screengrab via Riot Games

The Precision Tree is core on Renekton. It grants you access to Press the Attack or Conqueror. Both keystone runes amplify your power both in and outside the lane. While Press the Attack is usually taken to dominate the lane, Conqueror is taken to have better scaling into the later stages of the game.

Other notable runes are Triumph, Legend: Alacrity, and Last Stand. All three runes sync well with your kit and teamfight presence, increasing your damage the lower your health gets.

The secondary rune page is more flexible with some players preferring to go for Domination while others favoring Resolve. Resolve has two great runes that allow you to increase your lead in Demolish and Bone Plating. Considering your plan is to engage on your opponent as often as possible, Bone Plating ensures you get the upper hand in the trades.

Ability priority

Renekton’s skill priority is R>Q>E>W. His Q is the best skill in his kit, arguably better than his ultimate due to its amount of healing damage. You want to use your fury to empower it and do major damage in trades during the laning phase. Maxing E second is recommended due to the additional mobility you’ll have with its longer uptime. While W is a great ability overall, the utility from Q and E outweigh it.

Game plan

Your goal as a lane bully is to make sure your opponent never goes unpunished for every attempt at last hitting minions. You should try to go for trades as often as possible since your most powerful period is the early to mid game. Once your opponents start scaling, you’ll most likely fall behind.

Try to aim for a Goredrinker as soon as possible since it grants you everything you need and can extend your lifespan significantly since it can be used in combination with empowered Qs to gain a lot of health back. Once the laning phase is over, look to split push and maintain pressure over the map.

If the opponent sends one member, you can usually farm up well against it and keep pushing to get a tower or an inhibitor. If two or more members try to come for you, you can usually take them down if you’re farmed since your kit relies on fighting multiple opponents to fill your rage bar so you can use empowered abilities. Use your teleport to aid your team and not tunnel on split-pushing. Your tankiness will come in handy during a teamfight, since you can usually soak damage from the opponents, giving your team enough time to do damage and kill enemy champions.

Sett

Image via Riot Games

Pros

  • Strong one-vs-one fighter
  • Resourceless
  • Exceptional teamfighter

Cons

  • No dash
  • Can be easily kited

Sett’s kit is strong. He has crowd control, damage, movement speed, an untargetable ability, and he’s resourceless, which is the most important part. His only weakness is that he has no dashes and can be easily kited by experienced players. This can be overcome with a flank, which you need to learn to do to maximize the utility of Sett’s kit.

He’s drifted away into other lanes after nerfs to his kit, but Sett has found himself emerging in the top lane once again after the Blade of the Ruined King buff.

Item build

Screengrab via Riot Games

The Precision tree is crucial on Sett. It grants you adaptive force via Conqueror stacks, which you can stack quite easily. The tree also grants additional healing via Triumph and Conqueror when fully stacked, Tenacity to reduce crowd control, and Last Stand to deal increased damage when low on health. The secondary Resolve tree will grant you additional tankiness via the health regeneration from Second Wind alongside the additional health from Overgrowth.

Ability priority

Sett’s skill priority is the following: R>W>Q>E. Your W is your core ability to farm and fight opponents. It has good scaling with damage taken and it allows you to overpower enemies in teamfights. You should be wary of not wasting it early, especially during a teamfight, since the shield it grants you can be the difference between life and death. Q is maxed second to allow you to get more frequent Trinity Force procs and deal more damage overall. If you buy Blade of the Ruined King, you can try to max Q first as well since the base damage from W is quite high by itself.

Game plan

Farm up early since you scale well with items. If your opponent comes within melee range to kill minions, try to land your stun with E and follow up with a fast Q into W for a small burst of damage to which they can’t respond. Your goal is to get Trinity Force as soon as possible and then start splitpushing. You’re extremely strong with Trinity Force and can easily take one-vs-two fights against an enemy solo laner and jungler. Look for teleport plays behind the enemy and initiate with your R on the tanky champions to deal devastating amounts of damage to the enemy team.

Darius

darius
Image via Riot Games

Pros

  • Strong one-vs-one duelist
  • Exceptional sustain
  • Good at punishing immobile champions

Cons

  •  No dash
  •  Falls off in later stages of the game

The Duke of Dunk is a strong pick in the meta simply because of how much raw damage he deals—if you’re playing against a melee champion. If you’re ranged, or a Pantheon, he’s going to have a tough time getting close enough to deal damage, but there aren’t many melee champions that can match his power early in the game. He has one of the best level-one damage outputs in the game, and he’s excellent at getting an early snowball rolling to run away with the match. With so many tank top laners dominating the meta, Darius is a great answer due to his resilience and true damage.

With the new Mythic items, you can have a small dash to circumvent the lack of dashes in your kit or get Goredrinker to have even more sustain and become an unkillable top laner.

Item build

Screengrab via Riot Games

The Precision tree is one of the core trees on Darius. While there are some players who prefer to go for Sorcery main for Phase Rush, most go for Conqueror since it grants you a lot of damage and healing when stacked up. The Precision tree is great since it gives you additional sustain via Triumph in teamfights and the Legend: Alacrity will make your attacks more fluid and more frequent. Additionally, Last Stand does increased damage when low on health. The secondary Sorcery tree will make you stick easier onto enemy champions since mobility is the biggest problem of Darius.

Ability priority

Darius’s skill priority is R>Q>E>W. You want to max your Q since it is your primary waveclear ability, alongside heal, and poke. E max second over W since you need the lower cooldown on the drag. It’s better to have a gap closer more often than the additional damage from W.

Game plan

Darius is one of the strongest early-game fighters. His passive alongside Conqueror allows for easy outplays on both the enemy top laner and jungler. Engage on your opponent with E when they go for last hits, stack your passive, and let them bleed. If they try to engage on you, your passive alongside Conqueror will overpower most top laners and give you a chance to pick up easy kills.

If you have Ghost, group up in teamfights and avoid split pushing since you won’t be able to match the enemy teleport. In teamfights look for the immobile carries and charge towards them with Ghost or Flash. They are the easiest targets to pick off and allow you to get your passive stacked to be stronger for the remainder of the teamfight.