The Basics of Toplane part one, Champ Select/Lane Matchups
Before Gogoing's performance at the World Championship no one considered Toplane anything else than just a really tanky support that farms top for the entire game with the exception of some teleports onto botlane to assist at dragons.
Before Gogoing’s performance at the World Championship no one considered Toplane anything else than just a really tanky support that farms top for the entire game with the exception of some teleports onto botlane to assist at dragons. Some might disagree but especially against Najin White shield his Ryze and his Irelia won games on their own. While Toplane does not have the same amount of impact, Midlane or Jungle enjoys in this Meta, there are some techniques, tricks and tips to pick the right champion, win the lane and transform that into an overall advantage for your team. This series of articles will give its reader a basic understanding about Toplane and the duties of a Toplaner especially in a Ranked 5v5 environment. I will not go in depth about solo queue since it’s not as strategic and is often just about winning the laning phase.
1. Champion choice and Lane Matchups
In premade 5v5 you should have a general idea about the team composition you want to run even before you queue up. This can be determined by a player being really confident on one champion after which you build the composition to complement this player or champion or you can decide what general playstyle (Be it Poke, Pick, Teamfight, Split etc.) fits your team the most.
-Poke teams usually use a toplaner that can hard engage (Malphite, Rumble etc.) after the ”pokers” in your team are done harassing the enemy to a point where engaging will result in a certain victory.
-Pick compositions normally run with a Toplaner that has some sort of cc (Ryze’s Runeprison, Maokai’s Twisted Advance etc.) that can pick people of after your team has established ward control in a certain area.
-Teamfight compositions use Toplaners that have game changing ultimates (Rumble, Maokai, Kennen etc.) combined with an Amumu/Fiddlesticks in the Jungle and you can just win an entire Teamfight just by landing goot ults. Sounds wonderful, right? In lower elo it works, but in most cases this composition loses really hard to Splitpushing, so i wouldn’t recomment this sort of setup in the current Meta.
-Splitpushing can be executed by your Midlaner, (Zed, Twisted Fate etc.) your Ad-Carry (Vayne) or by yourself if you pick something more unconventional like Zed or Riven you could potentially do it aswell. Having the Teleport Spell (Every single toplaner should use it since it is by far the strongest choice right now). Splitpushing relys on the idea of being stronger than anyone in the enemy team. By being able to beat everyone in a 1v1 while you push Bottom- or Toplane, you force two or three people top just to stop you from taking their turrets. While they make their way up to you your team takes objectives or different turrets. If you ward the area well enough you might be able to get away wihtout dieing, thus you just bought time for your team and built up pressure.
Usually a Toplaner does not have the luxury of getting a team build around him (unless you’re maybe Gogoing good). That’s why your champion select phase is more reactive. The first picks your team should make are either individual op picks like Ryze or Kha’Zix etc. (assuming you are comfortable on them), champions that compliment the team’s style or a pick that does really well against the enemy pick (e.g. picking Janna after the enemy picks Rammus). If you don’t firstpick something ”overpowered” or don’t have any clue about what team you want to build you should pick a safe pick that can accomplish what this meta demands from Toplaners: Teamfight presence and viability in lane-swap scenarios (Dr.Mundo , Rumble , Maokai etc.) Teamfightability is given to (almost) all Toplaners since soaking up huge amounts of Damage is already a great contribution.
It is also really important to know what you will most likely lane against. Let’s say your Botlane picked a weaker lane like Twitch, Thresh into Lucian, Morgana. This is a scenario where most teams would go for the laneswap since it gets Twitch out of this ”unfair lane-matchup” and provides him free farm in most cases. Because of circumstances like this picking champions like Riven or Tryndamere, who do fairly well in most solo queue matches but struggle pretty hard against more coordinated teams (which you will face in higher 5v5 elo), is not a good idea since the enemy team will completely take your toplane out of the game completely while theirs can safely farm and defend the turret in a 2v1 scenario.
The ability to do well in lane-swap scenarios on the other hand is a blessing that keeps many Toplaners like Nasus, Tryndamere, Riven or Rengar from being played on Toplane in higher elo’s or the competitive scene. The criteria you need to fulfill goes something like this:
-The ability to push lanes as fast and as well as possible. (Renekton, Rumble, Gnaar etc.)
-Sustain or shields in any form are a big bonus. (Rumble, Lulu, Renekton etc.)
-Range enables you to farm from a safe distance while avoiding the harass of the enemy laners. (Gnaar, Lulu etc.)
-CC lowers the enemy eagerness to dive you (Lulu’s Polymorph, Ryze’s Runeprison etc.)
I hope that this brief strategy guide helped you understand the thought process behind Toplane in champion select and that you should carefully choose your lane matchups and that you should be prepared for lane swaps. My next article will focus around Runes, Masteries, Itemization and Skill order of flavor of the month Toplaners.