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 12.6.
- Can influence other lanes early thanks to ultimate
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
- Strong engage
- Can stand his own in the laning phase
- Tough to come back to the game
- Easy to shut down
Since the beginning of League, Malphite has been heralded as one of the best top laners there is. With his natural tankiness, great engage potential, and a kit that’s a pain in the neck both in the laning phase and in teamfights, the Shard of the Monolith remains one of the best choices to go for in the upper part of the Summoner’s Rift.
Malphite’s abilities deal magic damage. And while players will likely maximize their survivability by going for the Resolve tree for most tanks, it’s better to go for the Sorcery one due to Malphite’s damage and scaling. With it, you could win several one-vs-one matchups and you’ll still deal tons of damage post-30-minute-mark while building tank items.
On the Shard of the Monolith, your priority as a skill should be Seismic Shard (Q). It deals quite a lot of damage and slows enemies down, so Arcane Comet plays with it perfectly. In most instances, it will hit the opponent, improving the damage you put out. Other choices in the Sorcery tree are fairly self-explanatory. Malphite is quite mana-demanding, so Manaflow Band should come in handy. Transcendence helps you gain much-needed cooldown reduction, and Gathering Storm will give you a bit of damage throughout the game.
For your second tree, players should pick Inspiration. Biscuit Delivery and Time Warp Tonic will be tremendously helpful early, when you will try to go through the early game without a scratch. They will replenish your health and mana with greater effect and will give you more tools to do so.
As Malphite, you should put your points in your Q first. Once you get that maxed out, spend them on E, and W afterward (naturally, maximize your ultimate when you can in the meantime). This path of your abilities will enhance your damage, especially on squishy single targets, which you should reach without any issues thanks to Unstoppable Force (R).
The strategy when playing Malphite is relatively simple. Before you achieve your level six, it’s nearly impossible to win one-versus-one skirmishes and trades. Thus, at the beginning of each game, focus on farming and dodging unnecessary fights. Once you get your ultimate, that’s when the fun begins.
You can start to set up some ganks with your jungler in the top lane or try to roam. With teleport behind your belt, returning to lane and catching up on cs won’t be a problem.
Leaving the top lane to aid your other allies won’t always be possible, however. Sometimes, the enemy laner will require too much attention or simply cannot be left on his own. If that’s the case, you can wait until the mid-game comes around and the first bigger teamfights for objectives begin. These are the ground on which you can make the most impact thanks to your ultimate. The more people you land your Unstoppable Force on, the better, especially if you catch any squishies with it. Depending on your team composition, you may end up as the main initiator, but finding the perfect moment to begin the battle isn’t an easy job. So, patiently wait for your moment and keep an eye on the state of the game.
- Revival mechanic, useful in certain situations
- Adaptable build options
- Weak ultimate and Q damage
- Tough wave clear
When Akshan was first released, many players claimed he was one of the most overpowered champions in the game. Those overreactions were quickly silenced, but it didn’t stop Akshan from cementing himself as one of the best top laners in season 12.
Press the Attack stands out as one of the best runes for Akshan. You want to hit your opponent in lane as many times as possible, and with relatively weak ability damage early, the rune will boost your chances of becoming a threat. The other three Precision runes grant you mana, lifesteal, and more damage against enemy carries, all of which should prove useful later on.
Shield Bash works perfectly with your passive, so it seems logical to pick it on Akshan. And although you’re pretty mobile, Bone Plating is a smart choice to increase your chances of survival.
On Akshan, you should maximize your skills in R>Q>E>W order. While Avengerang doesn’t deal a great amount of damage, it’s still essential to your kit, especially when it comes to wave clearing. Later on, Heroic Swing is your go-to pick. Its cooldown is long in the earlier levels, so spending points on it will lower it, and thus impact your mobility, which is a key on Akshan.
Early on, use your range advantage to harass your enemy laners and keep the lane pushed. With your grappling hook, you have a great escape tool, so save that for early ganks, as the opponents will likely aim to take you down as fast as possible.
Once the mid-game comes around, you should try to find angles to flank your enemies. Thanks to Going Rogue and Heroic Swing, you have two amazing tools to do this.
In the late game, Akshan can shine the most with his revival ability. You need to stay alive for it to work, though, so remember to stay behind in teamfights and focus on finishing enemy carries. With the revival skill, even when a direct fight is lost, your team should still have some fuel in the tank thanks to revive.
- Extremely mobile
- Huge skill ceiling
- Massive damage in the late game
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
- True damage
- Crowd control (CC) denial as a basic ability
- 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.
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.
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.
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.