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

  • #11 Nash19

    Irelia is broken in my opinion but what I really find overpowered about her and, besides her gapcloser, what makes her a strong teamfighter in my opinion is her passive. She absorbs so much cc's and yet still is practically impossible to kite.

    I main J4 and Lee but tbh I find them weak in teamfights (Jarvan is not imo) when compared to Irelia.

  • #4 DonYagamoth

    I can see where you are coming from, although I can't completely agree - you do have a point. 

    My main thought here is for the teamfights: If we go down the route you mentioned, for example 2 AD carries, then the enemy AD/AP carries would be free to do what they want after shredding your only (underequipped) tank (-jungler), since no one will "dive" and be a threat to him (unless you can catch him out of position)...

    Also, think a bit further, if the toplaners keep shifting towards ranged carries (AD or AP) - then suddenly a number of Champions will get played top lane again who normally wouldn't stand a chance against bruisers, but do really well against the ranged ones (even counter them). Assassins would make a comeback and soon enough we have the full circle of bruisers countering out the assassins.

    In short: I think there is way more to it than you currently consider (or mention). You keep it too simple ^^

  • #6 Hashinshin

    I actually specifically mentioned that I'm not recommending going blindly in to top lane with unsafe picks. 

    Two AD will always shred the opposing tank first, and then where is your team's defense? Tanks are tanky on their own due to base skills + people who are CC'd do 0% damage. Why do you think Kayle kept dominating in tournaments? You think her team was afraid of not having a punching bag in team fights? 

    Also note the current trend is to build AP champions tanky and as such you have probably noticed AP champions are being used more and more for the initiate -> hourglass. 

    Last edited by Hashinshin: 6/21/2012 4:18:34 AM
  • #3 Zentari2238

    What Servaan said.That's not to say that the entire post is incorrect,but it's not spot on or even close or else you would only be seeing double ap etc combos instead of the usual meta.Just because exceptions work,it doesn't mean the rule is broken.

    A few good points here and there but overall this post is just way too aggressive with way too much opinion in it , for me at least.

    Nightvving By that, I hope you mean the very late game, because at any point before that,a bruiser WILL melt your face.What makes ranked teams bat an eyelid is also irrelevant ; before a certain someone started playing gragas, what was the whole community's opinion of him again ?

     

  • #1 Servaan

    I had to make an account just for this. Are you on crack or something? Bruisers suck in teamfights? I don't know what game you're playing but it's not league of legends. Bruisers are tanky and they have high damage. Most of the time they can easily 1v1 an enemy carry, if a situaton like that arose. I really have no idea where you got this. They are also the strongest role lategame after AD carries, those "shitty" Riven and Jax you mentioned dominate anything lategame. Do you know why AD carries require positioning? So they don't stand next to bruiser fighting against them. If you can get into a good position as bruiser, their carry is practically dead. Bloothirster GA Riven flash stunning a carry, doesn't take much more than a few hits and ignite ult for 100% gib. I am not denouncing double AP either, that's a strong strategy as well. I especially like running Kennen top, since he can farm so easily and harass / kill easily kited enemies. I have also thought about running a double AD, but never actually tried it. I have no idea what's the point of this post. Why do people still play these then? Why is irelia so feared? Oh wait, because tanky hero with high damage, amazing farming tools and lategame, on top of her strong earlygame power. I understand it's your opinion, but I have to 100% disagree. 

  • #2 Nightvving

    Quote from Servaan »

    I had to make an account just for this. Are you on crack or something? Bruisers suck in teamfights? I don't know what game you're playing but it's not league of legends. Bruisers are tanky and they have high damage. Most of the time they can easily 1v1 an enemy carry, if a situaton like that arose. I really have no idea where you got this. They are also the strongest role lategame after AD carries, those "shitty" Riven and Jax you mentioned dominate anything lategame. Do you know why AD carries require positioning? So they don't stand next to bruiser fighting against them. If you can get into a good position as bruiser, their carry is practically dead. Bloothirster GA Riven flash stunning a carry, doesn't take much more than a few hits and ignite ult for 100% gib. I am not denouncing double AP either, that's a strong strategy as well. I especially like running Kennen top, since he can farm so easily and harass / kill easily kited enemies. I have also thought about running a double AD, but never actually tried it. I have no idea what's the point of this post. Why do people still play these then? Why is irelia so feared? Oh wait, because tanky hero with high damage, amazing farming tools and lategame, on top of her strong earlygame power. I understand it's your opinion, but I have to 100% disagree. 

    How does Riven get to the carry? She flashes in then uses her dash+broken wings? Are you blatantly assuming that the AD carry doesn't have an escape and/or flash of his/her own? And that the rest of the team won't CC Riven?

    No seriously Bruisers suck late game. Maybe not at your level of play, but at the top level they do (I say this knowing that bruisers still do well at my level, which is far from top level). Remember in early 2011 when the QQ about tanky DPS was strongest? They were owning pubs all day, and yet ranked teams didn't so much as bat an eye. Then of course EU style ad/support bottom rolled around during Dreamhack and crushed even harder. 

    Bruisers have never been a real problem for the top levels of play (which, the blog writer Hashinshin is playing at). It doesn't matter if you have 3000 HP and 150 armor/mr and deal a respectable 300 dps. A carry with IE/PD/LW will shred you in a few seconds. You'd much rather have a tank jungler who has low CS (ie, higher CS for the AP/AD carries) but better crowd control by then. Late game pretty much you either bring single target damage (mainly ranged AD carries), AOE damage (AP carries), or CC (support/tank). Tankiness can't stand up to the brutal effectiveness of last whisper and void staff. 

  • #5 Hashinshin

    Because it's easy to snowball a lane with a bruiser versus a non bruiser. That's why people play bruisers. I'm merely suggesting that if you can stave off letting the bruiser snowball that his own uselessness in team fights will drag his team down with him in team fights. 

    Bruisers get kited and die in team fights. It's a time proven thing. 

  • #13 Yaamahri

    Except for Renekton and Riven, they have too much mobility to be kited, and maybe bruiser Fizz, but that's kind of a LOLZ build anyways.

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