Top lane, it's not just for bruisers any more.


The meta is in a weird state right now. I think it's easy to understand that, given how nobody really wants to change out of the current lane setup and efforts to stop it really get met with crushed ambitions (due to the seemingly high strength of the current meta.) However, I'd like to discuss the "meta" and why I think it's going to start seeing a shift to far less melee bruisers, and far more .... not melee bruisers. 

Okay, lets start off with a brief description. Ranged carry/support is practically unbeatable bot. It takes a very specific lane setup to beat it, and even if you do you won't scale in to late game. What's more, some lane setups such as Soraka/Graves can just beat pretty much anything, even counter lanes. AP goes mid for two reasons: Gank coverage, and the fact that you need an AP. AP champions are also generally bad at laning, and as such they are given the safest lane in order to ensure they don't have imminent destruction. Junglers are tanks cause... junglers don't really get gold and it's easiest to not get gold with champions that are inheritely tanky and rely mostly on CC. The top laner is a bit more complex. 

The Benefits of Bruisers

So what makes a bruiser a good choice to have on a team? Why are you bringing a bruiser over someone else? 

So where I'm going to shift away to here is my completely professional description of top lane. Top lane as it is is the team's main tank for the first 15 minutes. He can't get wards for the first 5 minutes, he's constantly getting ganked, the opposing laner is trying his hardest to kill him. Effectively, the top laner eats all the jungle ganks for the rest of the team because he is the most gankable. What does this mean? Well look above. You send an AD bot because AD/support is really strong, and you NEED an AD for late game. You send AP mid because AP ganks are really strong and you NEED an AP for late game, but because they aren't good at laning they get the safest lane. What I'm saying is that there is a rational reason that people send the bruiser top. There is a general need for someone who can eat all the ganks yet come out alive. However, simply being tanky and beefy is not the only way to survive top lane. In fact, one might suggest that the only reason top laners need to be so beefy is because their general ailment of being "melee" causes them to be so gankable. However don't get carried away, the bruiser's sheer tenacity is what allows them to survive those ganks.

What you should be noticing here is the bruiser is NOT needed for late game. In fact, every team would trade away their bruiser for any other champion archtype if they could. The only problem is the top laner's role is a very lethal journey. Isolated from the support (no backup, no wards), out on his own away from help. Easily ganked, can't double ward like the bot lane can. No early game wards. Top lane is, again, the team's main tank for 15 minutes. It's his job to be the punching bag and eat all the early aggression yet come out of it on top. This means that the top laner MUST be an incredibly powerful laner who is tanky or escapey enough to survive ganks, yet still dominant enough in his lane to win 1v1 (or at least survive.) Generally speaking, the best combination of early game resilience/damage is the bruiser. He can win 1v1s, shrug off ganks, and when he gets a gank can obliterate the opponent with his manly damage. 

Mid-Game: The Bane of Bruisers

So bruisers are there to win their lane, but what about after the lane?

Bruisers suck in team fights. Lets just get that out of the way. Generally speaking, AD>=AP > Jungle > support > red buff on your ranged carry > your bruiser. Being last means you suck. And it's not by some small margin, it's RIDICULOUSLY noticeable how much bruisers suck in team fights. The games when bruisers win team fights in tournaments are extremely few, while the games you see an Anivia or Karthus or Kog'maw sitting firmly in the spotlight are.... every game. Even when a bruiser is "carrying" he has his AP and AD doing the majority of the work. So basically bruisers suck in team fights. But as stated above the only person who can lane against a bruiser is typically a second bruiser. It's kind of a catch 22. Nobody wants a bruiser because they suck in team fights, yet everyone has to get a bruiser to beat their bruiser top lane. 

Now what you're seeing lately is Kennen/Vlad/Malphite/Kayle/ect. being brought top. Tanks, carries, APs. AKA: Not bruisers. Why? Because why bring a bruiser to top lane (a champion who sucks in team fights and is only there to win the lane) if you can bring something that doesn't suck in team fights as your top laner and not lose the lane? Can you give me a rational reason? We're so attached to the current thinking that you need a bruiser that it doesn't really dawn on you, does it? The day of the melee champion is coming to an end, and without some serious riot retrospective on their rampant melee hate (especially the atma's nerf) I think we're going to see bruiser top start to become a rarer and rarer trend as time goes on.

We can all rationalize it. Bruisers are so tanky, they MUST be good in team fights! But we know it simply is not true. If bruisers were good in team fights then Jax teams wouldn't systematically be getting shut down once team fights start. If it were true then Irelia and her uncanny ability to slaughter everyone in front of her wouldn't be such a burden in team fights. It makes sense, you know? If they're so tanky and so damaging then how could they suck in team fights? But, again, we all know its true. They get kited, they get AoE'd, and once voidstaff/LW hits the field they are simply burst down like paper. They can't harass, they are useless against poke comps, they can't defend turrets, and once the ranged carry gets a GA can't even be a real threat to them any more.

Win Lane: Win Game?

What we need to do is go back and remember just why we started using bruisers.

Personally I've realized the fate of the bruiser and decided to only play champions that will assuredly win the lane. Why play Jax if he doesn't even win his lane early, and sucks in team fights later? Why not just play Yorick, dominate your lane early on and get a good team fight in before you are tissue paper to the AP/AD overlords? I find even Irelia to be a good choice for this because of her amazing gap closer (near instant, procs item effects, low/no animation time) she can actually dish out real damage to an AD carry in the early team fights and potentially cause swings. Whats more, Irelia with her high sustain, stun, and amazing gap closer can shut down even the typical non-bruisers who are brought in like Kennen/Vlad. If you merely lane evenly with the Vlads of the world then you are losing the game. You aren't serving your purpose. If people could easily get 2 AD carries in a team instead of a bruiser they would. (See: Kayle.) It's the bruiser's job to ensure that people can't go double AP or double AD, or at the very least can't do it very effectively. 

Lets not get ahead of ourselves now. As I said above bruisers ARE still the mostly dominant laning force, most of the time. Don't think I'm bagging the entire archtype to take to the trash. While Kayle can get an edge over some bruisers there are some (Irelia, Yorick, ect.) that she simply will get shred to pieces by. Bruisers also have too truthy truth that top is the snowball lane going for them, and that a snowballing top can often carry a team in to getting a few early dragons and therefore winning the game. However, again, keep an open mind. If Kennen can leverage his no mana/low CD gap closer/massive range to win a lane AND follow it up with being an amazing team fighter then he's simply better than a bruiser counter part, no? What I'm trying to suggest here is that picking a top laner that can't really be countered (kennen/vlad) or counter picking a bruiser with a non-bruiser will yield far more results than diving in to the bruiser vs. bruiser game. I'm not trying to suggest you pick Kayle and just head first run in to Darius and see what happens. Not at all. I'm trying to convey the idea that counter picking a bruiser with a non-bruiser that will merely stalemate the lane will most assuredly mean you will win team fights down the line. 

People need to start picking non-bruisers for top lane, as their massively more powerful team fights will yield winning results. 

What I'm trying to say is that with the numerous nerfs to bruisers and the disasterous and undeniably shortsighted nerf to Atma's bruisers are at an all time low right now. To summarize I suppose, bruisers aren't useless, but more and more whenever possible people will send a non-bruiser top if they won't lose the lane. If you don't lose the lane and you are more useful in team fights you will win the game, or at least help your team a lot more (no one champion not an AD can win the game single handedly.) I think that if people are willing to play more like snakes, eagerly waiting out the top lane and picking a non-bruiser when they know they won't be beaten in lane that we will see that a shift in the meta, however small. It is coming, that much isn't deniable. Bruisers are falling out of favor quickly because they simple fall off in the game now too easily.  Vlad churns out massive AoE damage, Kennen stuns entire teams. Kayle has an invuln shield and crazy high ranged damage. Bruisers have their weaknesses already outlied by me above so I won't repeat myself. 

The last and greatest example I'll leave here is the example of Jax and Riven. Undeniably amazing 1v1 champions. So tanky, so damaging. Yet who keeps getting used in their place? Renekton, Yorick, and Darius. (Irelia too, but that's a special case I won't get in to right now. Suffice it to say that the general communitty has done a fine job of underestimating her lane dominance.) There's a reason for that. Nobody cares about the mid game when the mid game is all skirmishes and team fights, and non-bruisers do that job better than bruisers. So people go for the early game bruisers to dominante their lane, to do their job. Remember as above, you're there to main tank for your team for 15 minutes, and win your lane. LW/voidstaff invalidate late game bruisers, and that's a fact.

What can you take away from this post? You need an AD, they go bot. You need an AP, they suck at laning and go to the safe mid lane. (AP champs don't suck at laning against OTHER AP champions, but can you imagine a Cassiopeia trying to lane against an Irelia? Really scary against another AP, not so scary when faced with someone who can 3 shot you.) You need a tank, they jungle. You need to win top lane, you get someone who can win it... who used to be exclusively bruisers. Expanding horizons and playing non-bruisers top will lead to more wins, I assure you. The time when not choosing a melee for top was basically suicide is over. It's been getting that way for quite some time, and it's truly true now. 

(Things that I didn't go in to in the article: Ranged inheritely leaves you less open to ganks than melee, and as such even squishier ranged champions end up being FAR safer. Melee's tendency to get harassed by the jungler and latest trend of never getting sustain often leaves them completely helpless when their ranged enemy can just sit back all day. Top lane this day is far more dominated by the jungler than by the actual top laner, meaning weaker yet ranged top laners can leverage their jungler + range advantage to poke and harass down top laners that have been severely weakened by the jungler to make up for the disparity in early game power. The fact that it's like five times harder for a jungler to harass a ranged champion because they're always 500 spaces further away than a melee champion would have had been. Kennen/Vlad are OP and need nerfs. These are all issues that contribute to the bruiser no longer being dominant top, yet not really long enough of an issue to go in to more in detail than what I just said here. I could talk about the pros and cons of a bruiser top for a very long time and still not offer conclusive arguments as to why either is superior, and that is the telling point that my article is right.)

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  • #68 Naketsu

    I'm not sure i get it, maybe i didn't understand what's your point, but if i understood, you are saying that bruiser just sucks ? Well, Irelia can facemelt any carry late game in less than 5s, Jax can just survive a teamfight and clean it up pretty easily, Jarvan IV, well same, use your ult right, knock up, slow, use randuins etc etc, some bruisers are not "Reliable" and can't really carry, but others just do their job, in my opinion, the main goal of a bruiser is to kill the ennemy carry, if he can do that, then he did his job, even if he died after, wich is almost impossible as bruiser are offtank, if you use all your skills and summoners on him just to save your carry, you are pretty much dead after. His team will attack you while you are focusing him and then ace you, that's to say, Bruiser is really way too important in the current meta with AD Carry/AP Carry to be switched.

    (Remember 5 Bruiser meta ?/ 4Bruiser-1AP Mid with strongs AoE; If you don't, just try one day Lee Sin/Udyr Botlane, Morgana midlane, what you want in the jungle and Jax toplane, they all deal Physical and Magical damage, and still they are tanky and dish out a lot of damage really fast, this was in my opinion the best meta this game as known for now.)

    Last edited by Naketsu: 7/3/2012 5:48:29 AM
  • #67 markthema3

    I've noticed a lot of games recently where the winning team is lacking a jungler. The games generally progress with top being dominated by the team without a jungler, pushing top turret super early, and then both top players on the junglerless team roaming and ganking mid and bot.

    I'm not sure if this is a new meta, or just poor 1v2 champions going top. I think it kinda ties in with your musings about having a 2nd AD Carry top, but to the next logical extension. The setup I generally see in these games is: AD Carry + Support bot; AP Carry mid; AD Carry + CC Machine Tank (Ali, Malph, Cho, Leona, Amumu, etc).

    I believe this is becoming the new mid-range ELO meta. Every day I see more games being played with one or both teams missing a jungler. What are your thoughts on this? 

  • #70 Waaargh

    Quote from markthema3 »

    I've noticed a lot of games recently where the winning team is lacking a jungler. The games generally progress with top being dominated by the team without a jungler, pushing top turret super early, and then both top players on the junglerless team roaming and ganking mid and bot.

    I'm not sure if this is a new meta, or just poor 1v2 champions going top. I think it kinda ties in with your musings about having a 2nd AD Carry top, but to the next logical extension. The setup I generally see in these games is: AD Carry + Support bot; AP Carry mid; AD Carry + CC Machine Tank (Ali, Malph, Cho, Leona, Amumu, etc).

    I believe this is becoming the new mid-range ELO meta. Every day I see more games being played with one or both teams missing a jungler. What are your thoughts on this? 

    Ha! That strategy is old news, low ELO EUNE meta evolves around just that.

    On a more serious note, if solo top and jungler has more gold and XP than duotop. And the top tower is healthy. Then the team with a jungler does better. If the duotop has more gold and XP then these are doing better than the jungler team.

    Fact: Jungler is the first to get to lvl 2 and often first to get lvl 3, from around there solo lanes will surpass jungler in XP. Though some junglers have a sloow start and for them it is different when the team does not help catapult the jungler through first camp (like Naut) .

    So depending and the jungler/roamer/top lane sidekick it is better to start in jungle and wreck havoc on some of the easier camps. With other champs it could be interesting to have a start in top lane to zone out opponent or simply kill him, giving the would-be jungler an easier start and set back the opposing top lane.

    Last edited by Waaargh: 7/17/2012 6:01:37 AM
  • #66 PhilNye

    I think one problem further doing this, is that many of the bruisers that are more useful for teamfights, and not just strictly dueling usually lose their lanes pretty badly (Jarvan/Wukong most notably).  I think another anomaly if you count him is malphite, he's got amazing anti-AD, but he's sort of more of a pure tank anyways.  I disagree though with bruisers being very useless, there are several that if anything become scarier later in the game (Olaf, Jax), but if you're comparing them to AD carry it's pretty obvious they're going to get outclassed, pretty much every role in the late game is outshined by the AD carry in the end-game if the AD carry didn't get shut down, and the battle then turns around to providing utility/peeling for the carry/focusing on theirs in teamfights, even AP starts to diminish later in the game, but is still needed to prevent the opposing team from just building armor to completely counter your damage, but most AP fall off to become mostly cc and less damage-oriented when your AD starts picking up the slack.

    I think the appeal of the bruiser is that they're pretty "Jack of all trades" in nature, they can some strong damage especially from snowballing (in fact, the "snowball" meta, while not as big as it used to be a couple of months ago, is still very real, and the top lane is easily one of most fluctuating lanes to utilize that power), and they still provide a lot of durability so that they can still deal with damage.  I don't think any pro team has let their bruiser fully commit to the role of either pure carrying or pure tanking, it doesn't let them do what they do best.

    However, you are right that they are not quite the stars they used to be.  I think the atma's+warmog's nerfs, Darius, the nerfing of a couple of them, while also providing a ton of FotM counters (Kayle, Darius, etc.) is making them experience an all time low.  I'm sort of hoping that in turn less traditional bruisers, with stronger cc and utility start becoming more popular after the more traditional "gap close and damage" bruisers get shut down.

    Last edited by PhilNye: 6/29/2012 2:31:39 AM
  • #64 Lupastar

    o.o I am slightly confused. Is darius one of those bruisers that is an exception? He does provide some good team fighting abilities. Just kinda brain farted sorry.

  • #69 kaptenrobert

    Darius isn't one of those bruisers that is an exception. He's the one that lanes really good, And kills people really good. There is one problem though, People won't run into you. Your E, face it, Sucks ass compared to other gap-closers. You have so much killing potential, But the only way to ever really use it is by flashing onto the carry in a teamfight and if they fight, Well then they are hitting you and they are hitting you hard. You are slowed because they have red. Sucks for Darius.

  • #63 jook2oh

    Hehehe, one more "exception".  Mundo.  He can hold the lane as a bruiser with good poke for the earlygame, and endgame is probably the best tank out there.  NOONE will EVER focus that 4k hp bar first in a teamfight when there is a tasty Ash, Annie, Vieger, or (insert <2500hp champ here).  Plus, that spinning death is quite nice to throw some serious dps in the midst of a teamfight.

    Case-in-point: he needs a nerf.  Maybe a flat regen ult, or an upper-limit cap on his ult.  Otherwise, you will start seeing alot of ok-damaging/5k hp beasts out there running amuck.

    Edit: Just thought Id point out, if he activates his ult in the middle of a teamfight, you have (5k + 3k) 8k hp to burst down to finish him off.  Thats like throwing a baron into the middle of the teamfight...


    Last edited by jook2oh: 6/26/2012 1:06:27 AM
  • #65 PartyMagier

    SOOOOOOO you are saying a tank taht doesn't get focuse is good? For some... YES. That would be amumu or alistar becasue they have cc. However a none cc tank needs to damage the team, otherwise they won't focus him. And a tank that doesn't do damage and doesn't get focused is near useless.

    And what da hell are you talking about with his ult? It doesn't need a nerf, they tried it and he got useless. +50% healreduc from ignite. Finally,  a flat regen ult would just stop people from spamming health on him and build resistances (which are just as effective on him right now, believe it or not), leaving him just as tanky

  • #62 Hears_Hunter

    This thread is interesting, but the funniest point here is that he have a LOT of "exceptions".

    In fact top lane is still for bruisers but we can see more different characters here, like some AP or AD carries.

    In the title we can read "not for JUST bruisers anymore" but when i read the whole article, it looks like "not for bruisers anymore"...
    Yeah that's right now we can have many different champs in the top lane but coming from that little fact to say "yup, solo-top bruisers are useless now : new meta, gtfo" is just an easy and not accurate shortcut :-/.

    Last edited by Hears_Hunter: 6/25/2012 2:02:21 AM
  • #61 Nizbel

    Every team comp has a counter, this new more "ranged" team comp is very strong because they can kite bruisers really well. After awhile people will realize that assassins can shut down those squishier teams fairly quickly. Talon, Kass are perfect examples of this. They'll quickly burst down people and the enemy team is in a huge disadvantage.

    Even the old AeO comps could probably do very well against them. 

  • #58 Henrik009

    Good post, and thank you for sharing your view on toplane champs. I really appriciate when people make the effort of writing so detailed.  I think bruisers have their place, but there are so much other stuff that is viable in toplane like malphite, vlad etc. My favorite toplanechamp are Kennen; He is awesome vs bruisers, and end up beeing so useful later on, so definetly a viable and strong pick.  I don't think people should stop playing bruisers alltogether toplane, because they are definitly useful; Can protect carries, can go for carries (for an example, Irelia is really good for going to nuke down carries/shut them out of the teamfights).  When you say: why pick Jax and the reasoning you think he is bad is that he lacks in teamfights. However, if you manage to play splitpush, and get 1 v 1 fights, Jax is really good. Also, when he is farmed, he does actually alot in teamfights. So, a great article, but I dont think we should say that bruisers is not viable alltogether for toplane, because they definitly are. 


  • #57 ExeQte

    Excellent article - knowledge wise and formatting wise.

    But please stop writing 'Ect.' when referring to 'Et cetera' and instead use 'Etc.' as the valid sequence.

  • #53 Jesoy

    All these comments which are about "No bruiser doesn't suck in teamfights. They have ... and ...". They are just...I mean they are right. Ok of course a front line is good. He can deal some damage. He can eat some auto hits. He can defend Carries somehow. BUT if you compare it to a team comp with 2 AD Carries, an AP Carry, a tanky Jungler and a tanky Support, it is really worse. The double AD will take less damage because they have one more ranged + they can kite better and they will deal way more damage because ranged AD scales better than a Bruiser. Of course a Bruiser can snowball a game, but if you build an AD Carry top he can do the same. Another thing is that especially has a lot of success by picking late game comps and stalling the game with huge creepclearing abilities like Anivias ulti into the very late. If you're good at stalling double AD wins. It's not hard to come into the 40 minutes mark if you try it on purpose. BUT I can say CLG won't run AD top because Wickd won't start to play it. He thinks Bruisers are better than AD Carries...

    And AP top can work as well with the addition of Athenes Unholy Grail because blue buff isn't a must have on the AP Carry anymore.

    And all these guys thinking that Bruisers easily beat AD Carries, you should just try Ezreal or Corki and go to the top lane a few times. It's not as hard as some people say. The biggest problem is that you can be towerdived very early but in the end you won't always lose your lane. I'm just about 1500 elo but if I go AD Carry top I can at least hold my lane and farm as good as the bruiser. (Irelia could be probably a bit harder but something like Olaf is pretty easy)

  • #52 srks

    This article is quite a bit off.

    Indeed people DO pick a bruiser top to have a good early lane , but how easily is it to counterpick by the enemy team? think about it !Then you simply have a lost top lane (every champion has a counter) .

    Why not pick Trynda? he IS a bruiser yet he deals more damage than most AD carries due to crit and AD steroids and higher base stats, 35% crit and 40AD outweights tristanas Q ! yet you can have similar builds.

    Kited? i supose you are another trynda with exhaust/ignite and  you deserve it.

    try Cleanse/Ghost + ghostblade and you will even catch Ahri.

    Lee bad late game? yes he is with lantern and atmog! skip lantern and rush damage + randuins ; in a team fight you will do -120% AS on AD carries and even more if they target you , you become scary due to both damage and utility. something along the lanes of this guide;amp;amp;c=0&amp;amp;c=0#comments

    Olaf , trololo imortal lifestealing pure damage spam XD, fuck carries ill kill your tank if need be! kite trolololo R + ghost.

    tl;dr  not all bruisers suck , try different builds since you NEED  a front line


  • #54 Salanthro

    You have never seen TSMs trundle, nid, cait poke comp have you? Besides tanks fit the role of front line better than bruisers.

  • #55 srks

    WTF has that to do with anything??? nid is not an AD . Did you even read a thing posted here Salanthro?

    on the 2nd part : watch me ignore you tank and walk past...As I said , against a double AD team (happens EU quite a lot) tryndamere or olaf are the counterpicks , and yet they ARE bruisers.

    A double AD comp simply doesnt bring enough for it to overcome the current meta.

    Double AP is different , the APs you send top are either VLAD, GALIO (both are actual bruisers) or CASSIO/Kennen.

    its a standard double WOTA comp that people arent discussing here . we shifted the subject to double AD



  • #60 Jesoy

    First standard Nidalee build at the moment is AD so she can be an AD top as well as an AP top but AD Nidalee is more like a bruiser than a ranged AD Carry because of her ultimate.

    Second double AD team happens not at all in Europe. Teamless is maybe the only team that runs Twitch as an AD Carry in the jungle but top lane is at least in high elo not for AD Carries.

    And Olaf wouldn't be a good counterpick because his early against an AD Carry sucks w/o a good gap closer. You will be permanently on low health if the other top laner knows how to play AD Carry. In late game the ulti might be helpfull to chase AD Carries but double AD usually lacks CC anyways. I doubt he could take out both AD Carries if the team has no advantage. Better counters would be as you said Tryndamere, Jax, Irelia, maybe Nasus or Yorick.

    For the double AP Vladimir and Galio are no bruisers. They are played as AP Carries. But I'm not sure if a double AP would be stronger than a double AD in the late game. It should be just safer to play in the top lane if you have APs with escape so Zilean, LeBlanc, Fizz, Lulu, Kassadin, Ziggs and maybe Orianna or Ahri would be possible. Champions like Cassiopeia can be pretty easily ganked so I doubt they would do very well.

  • #51 Supreme12

    I think this is only half true.

    Sure bruisers are weaker in extremely late game team fights, but that's only because the other team has bruisers/tanks protecting their carries.

    If one team stopped using bruisers for that front line, the AD/AP carry will have to kite All the time instead of DPS. If he's kiting, he's not doing any damage. Especially when a bruiser can kill an AD carry in 3 hits, which is pretty much instantly when you use all your skills. Whereas it takes one and a half dozen auto attacks to kill a bruiser with a ton of HP and armor.

  • #50 Dub_Rio

    It's true that bruisers CAN be kited, but it's NOT true to say that will necessarily ALWAYS be kited. Also, your argument about the advantages in team fights is an empirical one (may or may not be true), but games in LoL are not always decided by team fights. In fact there are many skirmishes throughout the course of the game and very few of them are full 5v5 duels. It's not fair to focus on one part of the game while ignoring the majority of it. Bruisers that do significant damage like Jax, Olaf, or Irelia can single handedly win games by catching enemy carries. That's pretty important too. 

    Last edited by Dub_Rio: 6/22/2012 2:56:42 AM
  • #49 Meradanis

    Excellent analysis in my opinion.   :)

     Maybe you should have made more clear that the "bruisers suck in teamfights" part is especially true in competitive play, and not so much in soloQ.    

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