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

Introduction

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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Comments

  • #47 Monadu

    I'm not sure of my opinion about this post. As you said, bruisers are taken top for a reason, and it's not only because they can win their lane: it's also because they are beefier and usually also have more escapes than other champions. That's what makes them bruisers. Throw good damage, an ability to escape sticky situations and/or very high mobility and you have yourself a good top laner. That's why certain AP's like Vlad and Kennen fit top lane - they are good at getting away from ganks and farming safely.

    When I read that the bruiser's days are over I though: "Well, ok, but who will replace them?". Another AP carry? Most are easily shutdown by ganks and have very little mobility. Another AD carry? If the enemy team takes an AD carry top, you can get a bruiser as a counterpick and shut them down.

    As you said, only bruisers can handle bruisers. And if someone takes anything else other than a bruiser top, then the enemy gets a bruiser, who will shut you down and render you more useless than they are in teamfights thanks to zoning you and preventing you from getting any decent farm. It's a cycle that really can't be broken easily imo.

    Last edited by Monadu: 6/21/2012 7:21:32 PM
  • #56 srks

    ^^^ exactly,though in specific situations Cait , Corki and Vayne come to mind, they can handle bruisers... but still its quite hard.

  • #44 Gameguy301

    i think in your rush to make a point you missed the fact that bruiser picks are also shifting to keep up with the times. not all bruisers fall off as hard as you say or team fight so poorly, the ones that can scales later and can team fight well are becoming top picks in their own right.

    picks like jax, olaf, darius, and riven actualy snowball hard enouph to be semi carries, and do quite well in teamfights. older less damageing picks are as you said falling away to the wayside in favor of AP tops like vlad or kennen.

    (side note, your posts could be much more concise, you reiterated your point multiple times each paragraph it felt like i was being beaten over the head with the main point)

  • #45 Hashinshin

    You have to realize that people who read this are people that after getting beaten over the head with my post go to the comments and say "but if you just pick a ranged carry for top lane they'll pick a bruiser and beat you" to which I have to re-re-reiterate that I didn't say just free pick ranged carries. 

  • #42 Nizbel

    I don't think AD carries will make the transition top, talk about easy tower dives and easy prey for the bruisers who do have a gap closer. As a jungler I'm always wary about tower diving top lane, bottom lane? not as bad .You said it yourself in your post, AD carries suck early, Bruisers are good early. Well put one against one in the lane and guess which one will get dominated or pushed out of the lane.

    AP's I see more of a chance, their already there right now.

  • #40 Nizbel

    I hate that people pidgeon hole themselves into a Tanky/Bruiser role. I play a bunch of bruisers top and just build 'em a little bit differently. Wukong is the best example of this, his burst is insane if you actually build for it. Maokai is another champion you never see top but can dominate anyone, with close ranged attacks or ranged harass (depending on the matchup). Nunu is almost invincible top, if you wan't to do a kill lane bottom. Lee Sin with a bloodthirsters can assassinate people and has amazing escapes and gap-closers. 

     

  • #48 Sir_Dougles

    Everyone you just listed falls off pretty hard late game, simply solidifying his point. The only one of those I would want late game is maybe wukong since he can burst carries pretty hard (and then they get GA and nullify you).

  • #39 kaptenrobert

    I agree on everything except people ganking top. That's a solo queue strategy to get your jungler fed, You don't see it as much in tournament play because ganking top doesn't actually matter. It's way more risky and doesn't give as much reward as bot or mid, because you're not a carry - You are a support with more items.

    The guy that mentioned Jarvan and Wukong fail to realize that they are both pretty bad top laners. Jarvan will do insufficent damage when building tanky and be too squishy with a dps build. Wukong is a weak laner that requires farm and gets shut down easily.

    I personally would always replace a bruiser with an AD if the team has sufficient cc without one.
    As an AD with an escape you'll have no problems usually at all to dominate your lane.

    Putting a melee who requires farm to be effective at top is risky and will most likely not work. It's just so easy to shut down a top lane like that. That's why people pick kennen, kayle, irelia, olaf etc that all can get away from a lot. You can't put a Wukong in lane because he's going to get ganked and if you get ganked top, Then your lane is lost.

    The easier and safer your lane is the better if you're going to be playing a melee top. You want to build gold items to scale into late game as good as possible as well as being tanky enough for early dragon fights.

    As an AD top you don't need gold items because your late game is always going to be good unless you get shutdown really hard. Build a few dorans early and you'll have 2 or 300 extra health as well as sustain and some damage.

  • #38 Hans9000

    I have a few problems with your post.

    First of all, it is realy hard to tell what you want to tell us, at some points it looks like you want that we pick non-bruisers, than it looks like you want bruisers to be better. It's not realy clear whats the meaning of this is. Who should read this, high elo player or low elo player.

    Second, there is no good deffinition of bruiser, it's the whole "There are no tanks in LoL"-discussion all over again. If you talk about bruisers, tell us who is and who isn't a bruiser in your opinion. Malphite is listed as a not bruiser pick in your post, but i'm pretty sure many would count him as a bruiser. Also many champions can fill multiple roles, like yorick who is a bruiser and a supporter, most of them can be tanks and/or jungler, and so on. That is also why they don't carry the game, because they aren't carries.

    Third, profesionalism, things like "Jax falls off in team fights because his gap closer is stupid as hell and his counter strike mechanics are also stupid as hell. " aren't helpfull at all. And the whole thing lacks of facts( this doesn't mean it isn't true, it's hard to understand why you think it is this way). A few numbers woudn't hurt either. Links to some games that show that you don't need a top-lane bruiser would be nice to.

    Most of the problems i have with this post are rooted in the 3 main problems. For example, not all bruisers are bad in teamfights, why is it important to have carry/support combo on the bottem lane, should we ask riot to buff or nerf bruisers, and so on.

  • #37 Kantuti

    Play Caitlyn top with scepter. Cant be pushed out of the lane, with good jungle cover you can push the turret before 10 minute mark.

  • #33 Niceguydan8

    Respectfully disagree on just a few small things.  I think most of the article is well thought out and well written though.  As with most Hashinshin posts(referring to GD), there is some good information/thoughts and then there are kind of dumb points that really bring down the post overall.  Most of the time they just sound stupidly thought out biased points. I'd suggest for future articles to maybe try to take that kind of stuff out

    Also, regarding champions being 500 "spaces" farther away.  It's actually closer to ~400, most bruisers auto range is 125 or 175.

    Jarvan and Wukong, both bruisers that if played properly, do not suck in teamfights.  I don't know why you say they all do when they all clearly don't.  Most of them do not have the impact that an AD or AP carry would in a teamfight, but to say that they "suck" in teamfights is yet again, kind of a stupid statement that really brings down the overall point of your whole post, which I generally like.

    And to be honest, you can pick Kayle and run into Darius because Kayle destroys Darius in lane. Another bad example l0l.

    Last edited by Niceguydan8: 6/21/2012 4:42:37 PM
  • #31 corallein

    TL;DR version: Bruisers are strong early and mid, but weaker late.

    It's wrong to say that bruisers are weak in teamfights. It's more accurate to say that they're weak in teamfights at 40+ minutes when the carries have full or near full builds. You still get teamfights at 20-30 minutes where bruisers can still be EXTREMELY potent.

    It's also wrong to say that the top lane is dominated by jungler. The top lane is dominated by jungler + top lane combinations, not just the jungler. A jungle gank isn't very effective when your top laner has no health. It also isn't very effective when you get counter-ganked and killed because the enemy laner is stronger than yours.

    And saying that "ranged is inherently safer than melee" is ignoring the fact that melee champions all have much higher movespeed than ranged champions, and also tend to have more mobility and CC abilities (or in other words, many melee champions are in actuality far safer than most ranged champions).

    And "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." is the most idiotic and incorrect argument ever. It's the same as saying, "No one can prove that God doesn't exist, so he must exist."

  • #27 lvl8psyduck

    I really don't believe this 

    Bruisers are not that bad in team fights actually they are better than the support and jungler in team fights

    Junglers are mostly bruisers too but with less farm so Why in the love of god you put them ahead of the top bruiser 

    Olaf , Irelia and Shyvana are the best examples of bruisers that are godlike team fighters they can shut down your AD carry easily if they are fed . however , there are a lot of bruisers that suck in team fights too (e.g AD nidalee , Garen , Lee sin

  • #28 Hashinshin

    Because tanks are the junglers, and tanks have massed AoE CC. Amumu, Nautilus, Maokai, Alistar. All tank junglers, all fantastic AoE CC and super tanky with very few/no items. 

    Bruisers do damage. And they don't do damage in team fights since they get kited. 

  • #35 corallein

    No, none of those are particularly tanky with few/no items. Not any more than, say, a Renekton with ult. Alistar WAS, but then his ult got massively nerfed. They may be tankier than average, but so are many bruisers. The real strength of THESE champions is that they're good at clearing jungle camps and they have great CC and initiation. Amumu is the weakest out of them all because he has drastically weaker no ult ganks and is far worse in terms of getting fed and feeding his teammates. Oh, and TheOddOne loves Nocturne, who isn't naturally tanky and doesn't have any AOE CC.

    And bruisers don't always just do damage. Malphite kills the DPS of the enemy AD carry and has an AOE knockup. Jarvan has an AOE knockup, armor aura, and TWO gap closers. Yorick has a zombie ult. Wukong has an AOE knockup that works great as an initiation. Galio has an AOE taunt. Jax has a dodge and stun. Renekton has a delayable double-dash and stun. Shen has a taunt and global shield+teleport. Olaf has a spammable slow (though HE'S mostly useful for his ability to tons of damage with 0 damage items through Reckless Swing, and his inability to be CC'd).

    Being kited by their AD carry isn't always a big deal, and that's IF they can kite you. If their "kiting" means that they're running for their life (remember, melee champions are nearly always faster than AP and AD carries), then they aren't doing any damage. You might not be either, but it's quite the wash when neither attacking, which turns the fight into a 4v4. And presumably if the bruiser is diving for the AD carry, his team is better positioned - otherwise he's probably making the wrong decision (or his team was forced into a bad team fight). 

  • #36 Niceguydan8

    Junglers are not always tanks.  Junglers are both tanks and bruisers, both of which somewhat depend on the comp.  Or, in solo queue's case, just whatever the jungler wants to play apparently.

    Last edited by Niceguydan8: 6/21/2012 4:51:15 PM
  • #46 Hashinshin

    ranged carries backing off/kiting are still dealing damage. Or are suggesting that in tournaments if people would just have played Jax and jumped on Kog'Maw that he'd have been useless. 

  • #26 Buddhakingpen

    change the title to "bruisers with no cc or gap closers" and it would be true...Jarvan no good in teamfights? lol. an aoe knockup, an aoe slow, and a ult that burns flashes left and right isnt useful to get ap and ad carries fed...ok. cho gath knockup/slow, silence....all aoe cc that sets a team up for failure. the mere presence of lee sin shuts down ad carries late game power and survvives to do damage if built correctly....poppy. nuff said. and maybe people will start learning to play karma in middle lane, since she's the support version of a hypercarry for offtanks.  

  • #25 Jesoy

    Well I've already tried out some ranged AD top and i would completely disagree that they are losing lane against a bruiser. For the first 5-6 Levels a ranged AD dominates the bruiser and i experienced usually advantages of 10-20 CS. At Level 6 with one/two times backed the Bruiser scales better, the AD has sometimes problems to build (saving for BF) and in general the laning at Level 6 starts to become very easy for the bruiser. But as you said, the AD Carry provides more damage in a team fight and even if some people tell bruiser can take AD Carry out. If you get a second AD the bruiser can't take both out Usually if you have 2 ADs they should be able to take the bruiser out before he can take one of them out. Europe is just too slow for getting that Double AD > Bruiser in quite some cases (not always), imo.

    In (SE) Asia AD Kennen is one of the most popular top laners, maybe the most popular. He maybe doesn't scale as good as other AD's but in top lane he is safe (lightning rush) and he has the CC that bruisers have and ADs usually haven't. Corki, Ezreal and Vayne are also situational top laners because they are pretty mobile as well.

    It also seems that this thread is a bit TPA inspired because their top lane is the most versatile top lane in competitive play. TPA Stanley is playing AP/AD/Bruiser. Sometimes he even goes for Hybrid Nidalee. He is just building what they want in their team comp and for me he is the pro player with the biggest champion pool atm.

    In NA double AD is maybe not as popular as in Asia but probably due to the influence of Asian pro players on their servers they also start to play more AD Carries in the top lane. And I feel like even double AP can come back for perferct team comps.

    I just hope that the top lane is getting more and more different and we can see all kinds of champions there, dependent on what fits to the team comp they want. Bruisers, Ranged AD's and AP Carries.

  • #41 DaMadTroller

    If ad top ever became the "new" meta, ppl would prolly start running jax a lot more, cuz of dat dodge, plus the gap closer and massive burst. Soooooo...... no, ad will not be as good as you say. also, yorick, maybe nasus cuz of wither. yeah, i dont think that shit will fly

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