Hello ladies and gents!
I’m Terra Primus, a D1EUNE/D2West top laner with over 4k games across 3 seasons (moved to West a few weeks ago as to get D1 there as well) and this is a “how to” guide to top lane in the current meta. I will elaborate on several key points, from picks, laning phase to when you should prioritize Ignite vs TP in SoloQ and other similar aspects. To begin with, note that this guide is based solely on my own opinion and my own experiences in lane. Currently, top lane isn’t by far the solitary island everybody thinks it is (especially with how crucial TP is nowadays). One bad map movement on your part or one failed TP can mean a lost or won game – thus don’t ever think you’ll get to sit around for 30 minutes and farm (even in SoloQ).
To begin with, we’ll establish what the top current meta picks are(in my opinion), in no particular order: Mundo, Shyvana, Lulu, Nidalee, Gragas, Yasuo, Irelia, Maokai. Other picks which still work
fine if played correctly are: Renekton, Ryze, Aatrox, Jayce.
Evidently, in SoloQ anything and everything goes, and any champion can get you a win if you know how to play him or her properly, yet I’d suggest you prioritize these picks above anything else.
Below, I’ll provide a standard set of generic runes runes and masteries for each champion, alongside matchups and a few tips and tricks. The following matchups are based between level 1 and level 10 and take into account an even lane (or 1 kill to the enemy laner) and even CS (or, at maximum, a 10-15 CS dif. minus on your side). I will also group champions intwo two parties, based on their nature (farmers & bullies): Farmers & Bullies.
Farmers (strong end game picks):
Mundo: Reds – 9x Hybrid Pen; Yellows – 5x Flat ARM, 4x ARM/lvl; Blues – 9x MR/lvl, Quints: 3x HP/5.
Masteries: 9/21 or 0/30/0 (I’d only recommend these if you have a squishy assassin in your jungle, such as Kha’zix).
Max: R>Q>W>E. Level 3 – Q>E>W. Always run TP.
Matchup: Mundo unfortunately gets shat on in lane by absolutely anything and everything which is currently played on top. Your best bet is to farm safely with Qs and wait for assistance from your
jungler, or get to level 9 without dying too much/missing too much CS when you start to get your items and can actually to a bit of bullying on your own. The upside is that end game you become an unkillable tank.
Tips & Tricks: Your ult has a small CD. Don’t be afraid to use is every time it is up so you can stay in lane longer (unless you know a team-fight/important objective is about to come up).
Once level 6, if at low HP, ensure you have all entrances to your lane warded (read, have two wards up) as to ensure you won’t get dove by the enemy laner and his jungler. Use E under tower for easier last hits.
Shyvana: Reds – 9x Hybrid Pen; Yellow – 4x ARM & 5xHP/lvl; Blues – 6x CDR/lvl & 3x MR/lvl; Quints – either 3xHP/5, 3xDMG (if you have issues with last hits), 2x ARM & 1x MR.
Masteries: 15/15/0 or 9/21/0.
Max: R>E>W>Q (if vs. ranged), otherwise R>W>E>Q. Level 3 – W>E>Q (if you want to shove vs melee), if vs ranged – E>Q>W. Always run TP.
Matchup: Fine against Irelia, Mundo, Maokai, Yasuo, Renekton (keep in mind you still need to play safe vs a few of these matchups, such as Renekton), yet if played correctly, you can avoid being
shoved into your tower 24/7. Once you get to lvl 9, you should be more than fine. Is bullied early by other champions.
Tips & Tricks: Don’t go for extensive trades unless you’’ve hit E on your target. Q resets your AA, thus when trading: E – W – AA – Q – AA. When trading at level 6, if you know the enemy laner has used up all his escape CDs, pop your ult instantly to make as much use of the Armor/MR bonus as possible.
Yasuo: Reds – 5x Crit & 4x DMG; Yellows – 4x ARM & 5x HP; Blues – 9x AS; Quints – 2x AS & 1x DMG.
Max: R>Q>E>W. Level 3 – Q>E>W (take W at 3 if you’re vs a ranged champion or their jungler has a skillshot that can gap close such as Lee’s Q, or slow you, such as Kha’zix’s W, if not take Q). Ever since the E nerf, I no longer find it viable to max E vs ranged champions. Can run both TP and ignite.
Matchup: Yasuo is a bit of an odd pick in top lane, mostly being based on his early game. If it goes well for you, you can win any matchup against any of meta champions. If it goes badly, you’re stuck to tower farming and team fights. He is my current main and I pick him absolutely every time he is open. Certain matchups you might want to avoid, depending on how good you are with him: Nidalee, Irelia.
Tips and Tricks: Between levels 1 and 5, use E and Q on an enemy minion nearby the other top-laner after which quickly use E on another minion in order to deal damage to your opponent and escape without giving him a chance to hit back. Your W is extremely useful when getting ganked by junglers with skillshots used to gap-close (Lee’s Q) or slow (Kha’zix’s W). When you hit your 3rd Q (tornado), remember there is a small delay in which you can still use your ult, even if the animation seems to have passed (just mash the R button and see what happens).
Irelia: Reds – 9x DMG; Yellows – 9x ARM/4x ARM & 5xHP (flat or lvl)/4x ARM & 5x ARM/lvl; Blues – 9x MR/6x CDR & 9x MR/lvl; Quints – 3x As. Once you have a few games under your belt as Irelia, I strongly suggest going full AS on Reds & Quints. Last hits will be a pain until you get used to it, but it is 100% worth it.
Masteries: Can run 21/9/0, 9/21/0, 15/15/0. Personally, I play her with 15/15/0.
Max: R>W>E>Q. Level 3 – E>Q>W. If vs. ranged – Q>E>W. Can run both TP and ignite.
Matchup: Fine against Shyvana, Mundo, Maokai, Yasuo, Renekton. You will most likely lose the early game vs other champions and should focus more on farming until you get a few items under your belt. If you get a few early ganks/kills/assists and speed up your sheen, you can start to bully the enemy top from as early as level 6. Is bullied early by other champions.
Tips & Tricks: Use Q on low-HP minions to help you catch up to a fleeting target or close gaps against ranged champions, thus having your Q up in case they flash/disengage/escape. If you’ve got an early advantage in lane, build sheen instead of phage first and use it to bully the enemy in every trade. When using your ult in an all-in, remember that each charge procs your sheen passive, thus instead of spamming all of them at once, hit 1, use sheen proc, wait, hit another 1, use sheen proc, repeat.
Maokai: Reds – 9x Mpen; Yellows – 9x ARM; Blues – 9x AP/lvl; Quints – 3x AP.
Max: R>Q>W>E. Level 3 – Q>E>W, yet you should take W at lvl 2 if your jungler plans to early gank in order to provide as much CC as possible. Always run TP.
Matchup: Fine against Shyvana, Mundo, Irelia, Gragas. Once you get your RoA (should be around the 16th minute mark) you should be able to be a bit more pro-active in your lane. Is bullied early by other champions.
Tips & Tricks: Remember that correct use of your passive (after 5 spells you receive a 7% of your maximum HP heal) can potentially allow you to both stay in lane longer and bait a dive from the enemy laner if both of you are low HP. When chasing a low-HP target, always remember that potentially W-ing them can be the death of you, as they might flash into a tower or the enemy team, taking you with them.
Ryze: Reds – 9x Mpen/Yellows – 9x HP/4x ARM & 5x HP; Blues – 9x Mana; Quints – 3x MS.
Masteries: 9/0/21 or 0/9/21.
Max: R>Q>E>W. Level 3 – Q>W>E, can take E second if you’re sure you won’t get ganked and want to push faster. Always run TP.
Matchup: Fine against Mundo, Shyvana, Gragas, Renekton, Jayce (if played well). If you avoid random deaths in the early game (when he is most vulnerable due to a lack of escape aside flash, making ganks hard to avoid once you blow it) you should become a real threat once you get your RoA. Careful with matchups such as Irelia which will always win against you if even in lane once you hit lvl 7-8-9.
Tips & Tricks: Ryze: Your R has a short cooldown and can be used to clear waves extremely quick before TPing away for a dragon or another objective, whilst still ensuring you will have it up in time (given you drag it out a few moments before engaging). Getting an early catalyst will allow you to stay in lane longer, whilst getting an early tear will allow you to spam to your hearts content.
Bullies (strong early-mid game picks):
Lulu: Reds – 9x Mpen; Yellows – 4x ARM & 5xHP/lvl; Blues – 9x AP; Quints – 3xAP.
Masteries: 21/9 or 21/0/9 (I’d recommend the 1st).
Max: R>Q>E>W. Level 3 – Q>E>W (if you want to shove). If vs. ranged and not good at dodging skillshots/AAs E>Q>W (shielding yourself helps). Can run both ignite and TP.
Matchup: The ultimate top lane bully. You should win every single matchup early with her if you play correctly – the downside to this champion is that once you’re going towards late game, your damage falls off quite a bit and you become a control/support top laner.
Tips & Tricks: In mid-game, shielding yourself or your friendlies in a teamfight is much more useful than trying to deal that extra 1% damage to the 100% HP tank. Use your E as an offensive spell only when you want to poke (by using it to extend your Q range) or to finish off somebody. Keeping your R with low HP under tower can bait an enemy dive, turning it into a kill for you.
Nidalee: Reds – 9x DMG; Yellows – 9x ARM/4x ARM & 5xHP/lvl; Blues – 6x CDR & 3x MR/lvl; Quints – 3x DMG.
Max: R>Q>E>W, if you’re good at landing skillshots in lane. If not, R>E>Q>W (use E to harass your enemy with AAs and get him out of lane). Level 3 – Q>E>W/E>Q>W based on what I explained earlier. Can run both TP and ignite.
Matchup: After her rework, Nidalee had seen very little game play for a while, yet she finally came back as an AD top laner/split-pusher. You should do fine vs mostly every matchup from the above (if played correctly, keeping into account that you have in-built sustain, a gap closer, an escape, free “wards”). Vulnerable early to gap closers and poor trades (people sometimes spam AAs at level 1-2 and forget that minions can take away 1/3 of your HP in the blink of an eye). When vs Irelia/Aatrox/Jayce/Renekton, watch out for level 3 all-ins if they have a decent chunk of HP extra compared to you, especially if they have ignite.
Tips & Tricks: Using E on yourself in early trades allows you to generally out-trade the enemy top laner due to your increased AS. It is also a fantastic tool when it comes to taking down towers. Use W in brushes, both on lane and river to potentially scout an incoming gank. Your Q-pounce combo does a deceptively large amount of damage if fed. Use it to 1-shot squishies if fed in early-mid game.
Gragas: Reds – 9x Hybrid Pen/9x Mpen; Yellows – 4x ARM & 5xHP/lvl; Blues – 9x AP/lvl; Quints – 3x AP.
Masteries: 21/9/0. Max: R>Q>E>W. Level 3 – Gragas has quite a flexible early game. I genearlly start E>W>Q (as to give me an option to avoid a level 2 cheese with Es mobility). You can also start Q>W>E (if vs. ranged) or Q>E>W. Can run both TP and ignite.
Matchup: Fine against Mundo, Shyvana, Irelia, Maokai, Jayce (if played well), Renekton (if played well). Your CC and in built sustain make you an absolute pain in lane, especially in the early
game. Abuse your power and ask for early ganks in order to take an advantage and proceed to smash your enemy. The healing from W and your ranged clear allow you to stay in lane even after a bad trade. Watch out for Nidalee, Lulu and Yasuo though, as they’re still able to push you into your tower early on.
Tips & tricks: Your W is your in-built sustain, spam it every time you need HP. Remember that your E does both a small knock-back and a stun, thus placing a Q on the ground before turning to E the two enemies chasing you might just make the difference when it comes to escaping with your life or dying. Whilst his AP ratios have been nerfed, an end-game Gragas can still do a considerable amount of damage with his Q+R combo to squishies. Never go full tank Gragas after RoA. It is absolutely horrible.
Renekton: Reds – 9x DMG; Yellows – 4x ARM & 5x HP; Blues – 6x DR & 3x MR/lvl; Quints – 3x DMG.
Masteries: 21/9/0, yet you can take 9/21/0 if you’re the only tank or are unsure of your matchup.
Max: R>Q>W>E, if vs a ranged R>Q>E>W. Level 3 – Q>W>E (only take W at level 2 if you plan on an allin with ignite and 50 rage, after you’ve done enough harass at level 1), otherwise Q>E>W. can run both TP and ignite.
Matchup: Fine against Mundo, Shyvana, Irelia, Maokai, Yasuo, Gragas, Aatrox. Renekton used to be – the – top bully in lane a few months ago. With the change in meta going more towards utility picks with good wave clear and decent end game, he’s fallen out of competitive play and has mostly become a safe pick in Solo Q. Your kit allows you to remain even in the early game against any matchup, and if played well, allows you to dominate. The key to picking Renekton is to make sure that you either get enough kills in the laning phase to make the enemy laner rage-quit (which isn’t hard to do) or put him at such a CS disadvantage that he won’t be as much of a factor as you are in early-mid game team fights. Going even with picks like Irelia/Shyvana will see you lose 1vs1 against them from level 9 onwards.
Tips & Tricks: Built two dorans into BOTRK. Using a 100 rage combo with Q+W+BOTRK active will either kill a squishy or force him to blow summoners. When wanting to dive a squishy, if you’re afraid you don’t have enough rage to kill him in one go before he could flash away, use R and wait nearby in a brush. Your ult will build rage and once you’re ready to go, use either your flash or your E (first use doesn’t use rage) and kill them. Don’t be afraid to blow your flash early on (levels 2-6) to get kills in lane.
Aatrox: Reds – 9x DMG; Yellows – 9x ARM; Blues – 9x MR/lvl; Quints – 3x DMG.
Masteries: 21/9/0 or 0/21/0 (I enjoy the first more).
Max: R>E>W>Q. Level 3 – E>W>Q, yet take E>Q>W if vs a ranged or if expecting a gank from your jungler early on top. Can run both TP and ignite.
Matchup: Aatrox, much like Jayce is a tricky pick. He has an extremely broken kit for the early game with a knock-up, a slow with a rather long travel-distance, in built-sustain and a revive passive. He can do amazingly well against any and all matchups, or quite poorly, based on how you play him. The upside when compared to Renekton is that you are more relevant with Aatrox end game than you are with lacoste (due to the revive passive and amount of CC). Losing your passive early to any and all matchups becomes a pain as you’re quite squishy without it.
Tips & Tricks: At level 3, you deal an insane amount of damage with the offensive portion of your W. If at half HP, you can either kill your enemy laner with Q+DMG W+E or force them to flash away, thus leaving them vulnerable to a gank. Try building an early GA (I usually build it as a 3rd or 4th item), as a champion that respawns 3 times is quite annoying to kill. If you know you don’t need to team-fight or 1vs1 the enemy laner in the nearby future, use R to take down towers extremely quick.
Jayce: Reds – 9x DMG; Yellows – 9x ARM; Blues – 9x MR/lvl; Quints – 3x DMG.
Max: R>Q>W>E. Level 3 – Q>E>W. Can rub both TP and ignite.
Matchup: Fine against Mundo, Shyvana, Gragas, Renekton, Irelia (early). Jayce is a tricky pick. He has an extremely good kit for a lane bully, has good harass early, a lot of mobility, a gap closer/escape in his Q and a disengage in his E yet can be a terrible champion if played poorly. His mana costs aren’t the smallest, his AA range is rather short and he is quite squishy. He can win against any of the above matchups or lose to any of them (except Mundo?). It all comes down to how well you play him. If you plan on picking him up, I suggest playing anywhere between 20-40 normals with him so you can master both his forms.
Tips & Tricks: When trading in hammer form, use your E first followed by your Q, as Jayce’s Q can be escaped by moving away from it, even after you’ve clicked on the unit/champion you want to hit; your E will keep them in place and ensure you always hit your Q. Use W then switch to hammer form when taking down towers without enemy laners nearby to get the most out of your damage procs. Use your E+Q combo to gain vision in brushes instead of face-checking.
*Personal note: I tend to avoid MR as much as possible and go for CDR/other stats, yet that is simply because I consider myself decent at dodging skillshots/avoiding damage from spells. If you notice you’re doing poorly vs AP champions on top, I suggest taking MR until you get used to the champion you’re playing and the matchup you’re having issues with. Mostly all of these picks will do well against other champions which are not seen as often in play, given you apply the logics above and have a few tidbits of knowledge about the matchup you’re going against.*
Ignite & TP:
Taking ignite – Generally speaking, ignite isn’t worth taking on late game picks such as Mundo/Shyvana/Ryze. Your goal isn’t to get kills early, but to farm up and become a force to be reckoned with end-game. I would suggest taking ignite in lower ELOs (anything from P1 and below, perhaps even D5-D4) as very few teams in those brackets will know how to properly work with TP. Take ignite if you are (in the very least) 90% sure it will allow you to take a significant early advantage vs. the enemy laner, thus ensuring he becomes a non-factor for a large portion of the game. Personally, when I take ignite, I look to get a kill by level 3 after which proceed to bully the enemy laner and take an early tower. Once you’ve taken the tower, push your lane all the way out, base and Drake (if up). If Drake isn’t available, look to roam while the enemy laner is farming at his 2nd tower. Try to dive mid with your friendly, even if it means blowing summoners to get a kill (it might turn into a tower or the advantage required by your mid laner to win his lane). Ensure that when you base you come back with at least 1 ward extra (besides your trinket – I personally take 2) and ward up the part of the jungle you’ve now exposed by taking the tower. Don’t be afraid to roam as far as bot-lane when it comes to creating map pressure. If the enemy top laner runs TP, you’ll most likely force him to blow it so his team doesn’t end up in a 5vs4. Only return to your lane once you see the enemy wave reaching close to your tower, or if you see the enemy top laner freezing for an extended period of time, point in which you’ll need to force the lane into his tower and reset it. Ignite is still viable in SoloQ, it just means you need to roam more and have extra map awareness as a trade for the early power you get. If all your lanes are doing well, simply ward your side of the enemy jungle and continue pushing, forcing their jungler to remain top as to avoid losing another tower while your jungler bounces between your lanes and his jungle, taking his farm and giving your team kills.
Taking TP – Frankly, I find TP by far more useful due to the map pressure it creates (having a TP on your team will make the enemy jungler think twice before ganking a lane or going for dragon early on, as it could potentially end up in a 4vs5 fight). TP also allows you to escape horrible trades in lane – did something poorly? Went to all-in and barely escaped with 2% HP? No worries, back to base and use your TP to pop right back into lane, thus ensuring you’ve not lost tower pressure/CS to the enemy laner. Keep in mind that TPs CD has now been increased (even when TPing on your own tower), thus TPing once a wave has hit your tower is no longer worth it (because by the time you’re there, the wave should already be down to 4~ CS, and thus you’ve wasted a 4 minute CD for 80g). When it comes to early Drakes and TPing to a fight, take into account the following aspects: if your team were to 4vs4, would they win? Does the enemy top laner have TP up (always time that, by the way; it is quite useful)? If I were to TP right now, am I sure we could in the very least secure drake without any worries (because there’s always the possibility your Doublelift-Vayne might get poked down by the enemy Xerath, thus making them able to 4vs5 and wasting your TP)? if I lose my tower now, am I strong enough to take his tower within the next 3, 3:30 minutes? Using TP early on implies you consider these aspects. If you do decide to TP, shove your lane as fast as possible and move to the fight; once you’ve taken Drake, spam retreat pings like a madman and rush to your lane to make sure you don’t lose CS or tower HP randomly (more than you already did). You can also use TP during the laning phase to move to your bottom lane and surprise the enemy if you know their jungler isn’t there, or if both junglers are (making it into a 4vs3), turning the fight into an almost secured win for your team and ending it with a tower and possible dragon.
Top lane is mostly decided by how well your early laning phase goes. I will try to elaborate on the first three levels as those tend to be most key when deciding who will win or take an early advantage.
Starting items: 80% of the times I start Doran’s Blade & 1x Potion. Is it the standard pick (even though its been nerfed repeatedly) and I wouldn’t suggest going Shield unless you’re somewhat unsure of the matchup you’re in and would rather not randomly die. Flask & 4 potions/Cloth & 5 potions is a viable start vs. AD heavy champions such as Renekton & Riven or ranged bullies to offer you that extra survivability in lane and allow you to make mistakes (which we all sometimes do).
Level 1 – Before the enemy creap wave reaches the middle of your lane, position yourself in front of it and take aggro from the first 3 minions, kiting them back towards your wave. This will cause the entire enemy wave to focus 1 CS at a time instead of randomly attacking creeps, ensuring his lane will push towards your tower and not the other way around. This is useful if you want to force him to over-extend through last hits and become vulnerable to an early gank from your jungler. Remember that when using this tactic, he will reach level 2 faster than you will (7 creeps are required for level 2 in lane), thus watch out for a trade which might leave you at low HP and force you to blow your potion. Try to make it so that every time the enemy laner comes to last hit, you punish him by either AAing 1 or using a spell to chunk him down (avoid AoE spells if you’re looking to let him push early). Whilst spells do not draw aggro, AAs do, and minions do a heck of a lot of damage to you early on, thus after AAing him back out until you lose minion aggro. If you’ve picked a lane bully, – never – let yourself be pushed in early on. Push your lane, get level 2 faster and harass him into his tower.
Level 2 – If you’ve allowed the enemy top laner to push you into your tower, you should be killing CS whilst praying you don’t miss half of your wave. The mark should be somewhere around 2:50~ when this happens. At this point in time your jungler should be in the middle of killing his second buff (most junglers start with the buff closer to bottom lane for a better leash, making their way to the one on top lane). If the enemy has over-extended, call for a gank and use the distance he has to close to his tower to either kill him or force his flash, point in which you will call your jungler again to kill him after the summoner has been blown. Make sure you don’t engage on him early (read: while your jungler is still going up the river) as that might give away the gank and make the enemy laner retreat. If you’ve chosen to push the lane, make your way to the river and set your ward at 2:55 (this should allow you to see the enemy jungler coming if he wants to gank you). After you’ve done that, ask your jungler to come top and counter gank. In 4/5 situations, both junglers will come and you will be able to use the extra creeps you have to help you win the fight (keeping into account that the enemy laner should have lower HP compared to you). If your jungler decides not to come, retreat and keep the lane in the middle while attempting to do benefic trades with the other laner (unless you notice the enemy jungler has ganked somewhere else, case in which you keep pushing).
Level 3 – By now, if you’ve played your lane well, you should either have a kill/assist or an advantage over the enemy top laner. If your lane hasn’t been ganked by either jungler and both of you are even, this would be the point in time where you judge which of you would be stronger in a trade with your full available combo. If you’re playing Renekton into an Irelia, for example, you
should come on top, even with or without ignite, thus attempt to establish lane dominance and set the pace of the game. It is always better to make the enemy laner react to your actions, rather than have you react to his. If you’ve been ganked by the enemy jungler due to poor lane management or bad positioning and have died, don’t be afraid to go for 3 Dorans for that early extra health/damage which will still allow you to trade in lane effectively. Try to go HAM only after the enemy has used at least one of his/her spells to ensure maximum efficiency.
Tips and Tricks: After your first shop, buy an extra ward (thus coming back to lane with your trinket and one ward) for extra safety against ganks. If you’ve already died once while having blown your summoners with the enemy laner still having his up, allow your jungler to help other winning lanes unless you are 90% confident you can get a kill/flash if he comes top. If behind once reaching level 6, roam. If ahead after reaching level 6, kill/push the enemy out of lane and roam. Even if you’re roaming to other lanes or to take your wraith/enemy golems, roam. I cannot stress how important this is. Keep tabs on the enemy flash/TP/ignite, it will potentially let you know when you can get a kill or not. If having pushed two waves worth of CS into the enemy tower, while the other laner is busy last hitting, take a few shots at his tower (even if he will hit you back, your CS will target him, making him lose HP while his tower will keep killing the CS). Wards are your friends, buy them as often and as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to blow your ult just to force your opponent out of lane, even if you won’t kill him, you’ll still get a CS lead and damage on his tower.
Closing note: I will once again state that this guide is based on my experience alone (with a few matchups being based both off of my SQ experience and LCS matches) and my own opinions. Some people might evidently disagree with me, and that is absolutely fine. I will be answering questions (if any) regarding the above matchups and other matchups with non-meta picks. Feel free to also use my Ask to inquire about game-related things (ask.fm/terra_primus). Finally, here’s a Yasuo escape I did today! http://www.twitch.tv/serial_prime/c/4803258 – Feel free to drop by as I stream quite often and I also do explain what I’m doing (most of the times). Excuse the typos/grammar errors/possible poor formatting. Reddit is not my strong point.