Riot to tweak top lane balance in Patch 9.5

A couple meta picks like Yorick and Sylas are being hit, but the true terror is that Cho'Gath might come back.

Image via Riot Games

Top lane has been one of the best lanes in terms of balance lately. There are a slew of champions that are competitive in solo queue and in the pro scene, there aren’t many must-ban characters with ridiculous win rates.

But in Patch 9.5, Riot is taking heavy aim at top lane power, and we’re not entirely sure all the changes are in the right places. Most of these changes are aimed at bringing back champions we haven’t seen in a while. Curiously, the few nerfs that Riot did dish out don’t really target oppressive champions.

Add it all up and we’re not sure what the thought process is here besides to change things up for the hell of it. But here we go with the nerfs and buffs to top lane in Patch 9.5:

Buffs

Image via Riot Games

Akali

Riot thinks Akali’s last nerfs fixed what was so oppressive about her, and they’re right. Her healing made her an extremely attractive pick in pro play and her unbreakable invisibility was difficult to play against.

She’s getting stat buffs in multiple areas: More movement speed on her passive, more damage on her E, and a lower CD ult, especially at rank one. Her shroud is also getting reworked to be easier to use, but diving under turrets will still draw aggro within the turret range.

But now she’ll be in an awkward state where she’s better for solo queue but still not great. And she won’t be fixed for competitive.

Dr. Mundo

Mundo is getting more stacking magic resistance on his E. Each stack, which will now grant three percent MR for a total of 42 percent at max stacks. This is a pretty good change that makes Mundo more viable into mage matchups.

Gangplank

Gangplank is getting a lot more damage on both his E and ultimate. This will help him at all levels, but in pro play, his weak lane phase will still hinder him. Games these days tend to end before GP really hits his power spikes.

Cho’Gath

On its face, Cho’Gath’s buff doesn’t actually do anything. He’s just getting a bit more damage on his E that scales with ranks. Instead of 20/30/40/50/60 damage, it will deal 22/34/46/58/70. That won’t really matter through much of the lane phase.

We’re concerned though because Cho’Gath is starting to sneak back into the professional meta despite a pretty low win rate in solo queue. Cho’Gath is one of League’s most ridiculous champions, with multiple forms of AOE CC, percent health damage, and a range advantage over other tanks. Any power given to this beast is really tough to balance at the highest level.

Neeko

Until last week, we weren’t sure what Neeko was. But then TSM top laner Sergen “Broken Blade” Çelik showed us how oppressive her lane phase can be. Riot is buffing her E root to deal more damage when it catches a champion. She probably needs it since she’s not been a popular pick in any lane since release.

Nerfs

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Only two champions are getting nerfed, and honesty, we’re not really sure why.

Sylas

Pros have figured out that Sylas is a pretty safe blind pick because of his healing, wave clear, and game-changing ult—hey, kind of like Akali used to be.

Patch 9.5 will rebalance his W so it heals more early and less late, though with a higher AP ratio. That will encourage more AP Sylas with the Rod of Ages start instead of tank builds. Tank Sylas was never that good anyway though, so this doesn’t actually do too much to him as a valid professional pick.

Yorick

We’re not sure why Yorick is being targeted when champions like Jayce and Kennen have blown up in the top lane. Expect to see a lot more from those two champions on Patch 9.5.

Yorick isn’t even that oppressive in solo queue: He can be kited and isn’t the late-game problem that Riven and Jax pose. So of course Riot is nerfing his ultimate to deal less damage.