General Guide by ForgottenLight
Not Updated For Current Season
This guide has not yet been updated for the current season. Please keep this in mind while reading. You can see the most recently updated guides on the browse guides page.
DISCLAIMER: The guide is currently incomplete, not all 13 chapters are written so all the chapters are not in my preferred order. The final outcome will be much more organized so stay tune!
UPDATE: Thanks for the feedback! I appreciate the comments and upvotes :) I understand that the guide isn't very organized currently and there are grammar errors, I am just trying to brainstorm all my thoughts together first before I begin to edit for mistakes. The complete guide will be much better than what it currently is! I only chose to publish the guide early because I think it would help some people and the complete guide would take a while to finish.
This guide serves one purpose, to educate and share my knowledge of the game, specifically the Top Lane. This guide will highlight not only the knowledge of top lane but also the mentality required when playing top. I understand that many people would much rather play than read, however, please don’t make the same mistake as I did and skim through. To climb fast and efficiently, you must become better after each game. Spamming hundreds of ranked games WILL NOT make you a better player if you are not consciously making an effort to become better.
I currently own over 10 accounts ranged from Diamond 1 all the way to Bronze 4. This is from my experience and having played multiple games in every single Elo possible except Challenger.
All of the knowledge within this guide is not rocket science, in fact it's quite simple. On the contrary, reading this wont make you a better player, you must make a conscious effort to remember these as principles.
Rule 1 Winning Is Everything
Before you continue reading, ask yourself this question. You want to win, correct? You’re here to learn how to climb in the fewest possible number of games. If you answered yes, then remember that question. Keep asking yourself that question throughout your entire League of Legends journey because the minute you begin to question it, the game is entirely your fault. It doesn't matter if bot lane has a combined score of 3/15, the minute you choose to give up is the minute you lose. Everyone else is an uncontrollable factor except for you. You can’t control their actions but you can control your own.
Mid lane is Orianna vs Fizz, Orianna has a clear advantage. Your jungler has warded the bush near Baron and decided to go do his wolves. Orianna has an obvious lead over Fizz until the enemy Vi jungler appears through the warded bush and ganks Orianna. Orianna tunnel visions and doesn’t see the Vi gank and dies to Fizz, Fizz snowballs the lead by ganking other lanes and now he is out of control.
Normally a player will jump the gun saying it's Orianna’s fault for letting Fizz roam and not following. The jungler could have counter ganked as well. These are all wrong ways to look at this situation.
Let's analyze this situation now from the perspective of the top laner who wants to win this game. It was my fault. I want to consistently win games, I could have seen the Vi gank coming because there was a ward near baron spotting Vi. If I truly deserve to climb, I should have been pinging Orianna back multiple times. If it wasn't warded, I should ward there on my first back. This is the only way to consistently win games, being aware for every single player on your team and the enemy team.
Your jungler feeds bot lane, bot lane snowballs hard. Your mid lane begins to argue with the ADC and the ADC ragequits turning the game into a 4v5. It also doesn’t help that your jungler is Brand because he troll picked.
This situation is a tough one, your jungler is trolling and you're in a 4v5 situation. Unless you are already ridiculously fed, there isn't a possibility you can win this game. These are what I call unfortunate games. You we're unlucky and you queued into a game that is next to impossible to win. The key thing to remember is everybody gets games like these. How often do you get these games?
The players who respond "all the time" are liars. However, it’s not your fault. It’s human nature to remember the negative events and overlook the positive ones. It’s true, some games are not winnable. Even I lose some games in lower Elo because of teams such as the one mentioned above. Realize that your free wins will cancel out your unfortunate games. You flip a coin 100 times, the tallies will be very close to 50/50. In League of Legends, there are 5 uncontrollable enemy players, 4 uncontrollable teammates and you. These are better odds than 50/50, favoring you. If you are TRULY better than what your Elo says, you will climb. That’s the beauty of the Elo system, everyone gets put in their place.
Rule 2 Win As Soon As Possible
So in order to climb, you must need over a 50% win rate if we consider average LP gain. 15 for a win and -15 for a loss. This means you must try your best every single game.
If you’re the fed person on your team, you must make your gold count. Every gold you misuse and they use well is an advantage to them. This means you don’t build 5 Bloodthirsters because it’s “fun”. You must take into consideration a situation where your teammate disconnects. Play to win and end as soon as possible. Maximizing your gold efficiency helps to win earlier. The longer the game goes on, the more chances your teammates will throw the game. By always playing to win you are guaranteeing yourself consistent wins. Optimal builds require boots and at least one defensive item.
Objectives are your biggest priority. Towers, Dragons, Inhibitors, Barons are all essential to winning the game. Every game's priority is different however the priority should generally look something like this.
- Nexus Turrets
- Inhibitor Turrets (T1)
- Second Turret (T2)
- Outer Turret (T1)
- Enemy Red buff/Blue Buff
When is it better to take the Inhibitor Turret/Inhibitor vs Baron?
Look at where the minion wave is currently and the time it will take for them to reach the Inhibitor Turret. If they are too far, take Baron and fight again with Baron buff. Look at the outcome of the last fight. How close was the last fight? If it seemed like the last fight was a fluke, it is better to take Baron because you want to guarantee that your team will win the next fight. If your team is ever ahead by a lot or you don't need Baron to win a team fight, ignore Baron and go for the inhibitor turret. Ping a lot and guide your teammates, quite often they will make the incorrect call. It is your job to be the leader of your team.
When is it better to take the outer turret vs Dragon?
This will depend on your minion wave position. If you have a huge wave and you can destroy the turret and then finish Dragon, do that. The turret will open the map for your team and give them many more opportunities. If there is no minion wave ready, don't waste time dancing and ping the Dragon immediately. Most of the time it is better to take the turret first and then Dragon because it will take the enemy longer to regroup at Dragon than at their turret. This also gives you an opportunity to set up a trap for the enemy at Dragon because they will face check the dragon area most of the time.
Everyone Has Bad Games
One of my most commonly used lines is this, “Why does everyone always try to be superstars, if you’re **** just stfu and get carried.”
Too many times a player will complain that his lane is losing even when everyone else is winning. Your jungler isn't helping you but is helping everyone else. The losing lane is now very frustrated and continues to trade with his opponent l
osing the lane even further. Please realize if you are losing your lane you need to minimize your losses and just accept the fact that you need your team to carry you. Follow them and try to keep them alive as long as possible. They are more important than you. Everyone has bad games, you need to realize you can still win even if you performed bad. Don't argue with your jungler, they are avoiding your lane because they want to help get the other ones rolling.
Rule 3 You Need to Think to Win
Never Stop Thinking
After you finish your bad game, re-evaluate your game and yourself. There's a common phrase people use when they get frustrated after a bad beat called "going on tilt". This happens to the best of us, you play very poorly and you forget all the correct plays. Take a couple of deep breaths and try to think clearly, you can do this in the middle of your game as well. You need to always be thinking, you will lose the moment your mind starts going blank. League of Legends is very similar to RTS games, there are always correct plays and correct responses, it's your job to figure out what the correct move is.
Think back to a couple of games, you're pushing top farming while 3 of your teammates are grouped mid and the ADC is farming bot. Maybe you're grouped with your team, you pick off an enemy and secure the kill. Everybody recalls to spend the money they just earned. What was the point of that kill? Every kill has a purpose. Every kill opens an opportunity, it's your job to be the leader and guide your teammates. If you kill an enemy, your team has a numbers advantage and you can attempt to destroy a tower. Maybe Dragon is spawning soon, that kill allows you to clear all the wards the enemy has placed. Don't be one of those players who blindly kill and hope your minions will destroy towers. Go back to rule 2, the objective priority guideline is there.
If the enemy is taking Dragon and you are outnumbered or your team is weaker than they are, begin pushing mid. You might be able to take the tower while they finish Dragon, they might get thrown off at your play and get out positioned. They may decide for 2 members to slay the Dragon and 3 members to attempt to defend mid. Once you see an opportunity like this, engage on the 3 members and win the fight with your overwhelming numbers, then proceed to pick off the last 2 members of the enemy team. Every single game is winnable, no player is perfect so there will always be opportunities to outwit them.
Losing Lane Example
There are games when you play a champion such as Jayce vs Nidalee top. Both of you start Doran's Blade. Your lane is going pretty even, you're both level 3 and you both have an even amount of CS. Your jungler comes to gank but goes in a bit early and for some reason he dives her, gives her first blood and now Nidalee has double buffs as well. This is not an impossible lane, but it just got pretty damn hard. Alot of players would get very very frustrated and begin typing to the jungler about how he just lost your top lane because now Nidalee is a level ahead, has double buffs and has 400 extra gold. Don't waste your time and thoughts flaming your jungler. You need to quickly evaluate your situation, there is no time to put your jungler down. To win this lane, you need to evaluate how strong Nidalee is now compared to you. This evaluation should take less than 5 seconds. The next evaluation should take you around 10 seconds. Keep your head cool and play to win.
Okay so Nidalee just used Ignite, her Ignite is going to be back in 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Did she use Flash as well? No she didn't, so the only summoner you're ahead of her by is Ignite. Her 400 gold advantage isn't begin used yet since the lane is pushed to her side. You have a chance to go back and purchase an extra Doran's Blade and 2 Health Potions and a Sight Ward. Yes you get the Sight Ward even if your lane opponent has a gold advantage on you. DO NOT FORGET THE SIGHT WARD. The last thing you want is an enemy jungler to surprise you when you're planning to win this lane. You come back into lane and her double buffs are still on her, she has 1 level advantage on you.
Winning this lane
My goal is to hit level 5 as well, ward the bush to spot an incoming jungler. My ignite is still up, hers is still on cooldown. I know that buffs last for 2 mins and 30 seconds so there is a 1 minute opportunity after her red buff disappears for me to act before her Ignite is back up. Ignite deals 150 damage at level 5, it is very strong.. I must take the offense as soon as the red buff goes away. I know I am stronger than her because she hasn't backed, I have an extra Doran's Blade and 2 Health Potions. I also know that Jayce has as much all-in potential if not greater than Nidalee, the moment the opportunity arises, I jump in on her and kill her, the lane is back to normal.
This exact situation will not happen to you, but this did happen in one of my Diamond 1 solo queue games. My Kha'Zix dove the Nidalee and gave her the lead. I didn't complain, I didn't say anything, I just knew that I needed to find a way to win. Every player makes mistakes, it's up to you as a player to find out what mistakes they make. This Nidalee decided not to back because she had double buffs she did not want to waste. I snowballed the game afterwards.
Rule 4 Focus On Champions You are Good with
One of the biggest rookie mistakes I see when I look at a player's league profile is they have played every single champion in ranked. There is no way you can consistently win if you are playing champions you are unfamiliar with. Don't pick a champion because they are "counters". There is no such thing as a permanent counterpick. Usually counters have an edge over their opponent for a short period of time. Champions have their strengths and weaknesses throughout each level, some might be stronger during the beginning but there are always opportunities when you are stronger.
Nidalee is currently a very strong top laner. She is strong level 1 to 3 because she has a total of 6 abilities compared to the regular 3 most champions have. The opportunity to overpower her is levels 4 and 5 because her cougar form doesn't level as she levels Q,W,E. Her cougar form becomes stronger as she levels her R.
The ability to think of champion strengths and weaknesses through certain periods is what separates good and bad players. Good players focus on specific champions and learn everything about them, their match-ups, power spikes, item optimization. This knowledge should not use any thought, it should be common knowledge. Bad players will play multiple champions and be focused on those 3 things throughout the game.
The more time you waste thinking of match-ups, power spikes, item optimization, the more chances you will miss looking at more important things such as the minimap, buff timers, enemy jungler positions and objectives.
You first pick Riven top, the enemy picks Garen to counter you. You decide to run ignite, he runs teleport. Garen has a silence on his decisive strike (Q), a 3 second defensive buff of 30% (W) and a strong aoe spin (E). Normally he counters you because he can decisive strike you and silence you from casting abilities.
If you have never played Riven before you wouldn't know how to win this match-up. You look up
Riven counter and you see that Garen beats you hard.
An experienced Riven would play it out until level 3. You see your jungler has long finished his second buff so you place your trinket in the bush to see if the enemy jungler is approaching. You realize if Garen goes into you and Decisive Strikes, you stun immediately with W when he approaches, auto attack -> Q and E immediately for the shield. Garen's Q finally goes through and silences you and proceeds to spin. Since you have 2 more abilities of Q left, you continue and finish your combo. You win the trade because you were able to pull off your W and E before he began his attack and he approached you running into your wave of minions, taking at least 50 damage. You also trade with him because you have Ignite and he has Teleport, you are confident that you can win since he has no offensive summoner. This is the train of thought from an experienced Riven, he doesn't forget to place his trinket to see an approaching jungler because he is calm and knows Riven inside out. Inexperienced Rivens may follow the exact same trade and win but they might forget to place the trinket and get ganked because they are too focused with learning the champion.
Rule 5 Ward Placing in Top Lane
Warding is very crucial in the top lane. Efficient warding allows you to open opportunities to trade with your opponent, farm and even all-in. You can't safely trade with your opponent if you have no knowledge where the enemy jungler is, they could be camping you at any point in the game.
Your first ward
It is very simple to know when to use your first trinket. You see that your jungler is taking their second buff, it is very likely that the enemy jungler is also taking their second buff. Watch the minimap at 1:55 to see which lane has leashed for the jungler, that is the buff they started. If they started the buff that is on the opposite side of your jungle, use your trinket ward in the bush as soon as your jungler finishes their second buff.
Spend all your gold
Many times when a player is uncomfortable with their champion, they feel they need to save as much gold as possible to be ahead of their opponent. Spend all your gold. If you have 150 gold left over after buying your Long Sword, purchase 2 Health Potions and a Sight Ward. The Sight Ward will allow you to gain vision of the enemy jungler and the 2 Health Potions will help you sustain against your opponent. There is no point keeping the 150 gold in your inventory because it isn't helping you win your lane until your next recall.
The Pink Ward is one of the most powerful items you can purchase in League of Legends. If you place it in the brush beside Baron, it will grant you vision for a long period of time. For only 100 gold,
- It lasts forever until your opponent sees it
- It lets bot lane know they are safe
- It lets the mid lane know the enemy jungler can only surprise them on the other side.
- It lets your jungler set up for the countergank
- It watches for roam from the mid lane to you
- It takes 5 basic attacks to destroy it, giving you more than enough time to escape
If you are overwhelming your opponent hard, you have 2 choices after taking their outer turret. Split push into their T2 turret or roam and help your lanes out. Sometimes situations favor a split push. The goal of a split push is to pressure your opponents WITHOUT DYING. Since you know the enemy top lane cannot kill you 1v1, you must be careful of incoming ganks. Before you split push, you require 2-3 Sight Wards or 1-2 Sightwards and a Level 9 Trinket.
The red X represent the crucial wards needed if you are on purple team and the blue X represent the wards needed if you are on blue team. The red and blue X near the Baron is a ward that is useful but not crucial to both teams when split pushing.
Rule 6 Know Your Cooldowns and Enemy Cooldowns
Knowledge of champion cooldowns is what good players use to judge fights. Knowing your champion cooldowns as well as the enemy's allows a player to decide when he has a window of opportunity against his opponent. Many champions have utility skills which have a very long cooldown, such as Jax's Counter Strike, Renekton's Slice and Dice and Gragas' body slam. A player becomes vulnerable as soon as they use one of those abilities. It is ideal to engage on opponents who have these key abilities down as this is also how you play against counters.
Jax starts swinging his lamppost preparing his Counter Strike while moving close to you for a Leap Strike + Empower. You move backwards to disengage and his Counter Strike goes on an 18 second cooldown. Empower is around a 5 second cooldown and Leap Strike is 10 seconds. You currently have 5 seconds to engage and deal damage while he is waiting for Empower. You have up to 10 seconds to deal damage to him before he can jump away. You have up to 18 seconds to chase him before he has any CC to counter you.
Renekton's primary combo is his Slice - > auto - > Q - > W - > auto - > Dice out.
Your job is to get out of range from his auto - > Q - > W and re-engage when his Slice and Dice is on cooldown which can be up to 16 seconds. If he missed his Q and W skills he cannot even trade back for around 10 seconds, giving you an even bigger advantage for those 10 seconds.
Jayce is one of the hardest match-ups to face against in top lane. He is my main and favourite champion. Learning to lane against Jayce will teach you a lot about top lane. Jayce switches between his cannon and hammer form. He is similar to Nidalee because he has a total of 6 abilities which all require mana. His hammer form W is a built in mana sustain as long as he is hitting a target. Jayce has no real weakness versus any opponents and he out trades every champion in top lane. This is where understanding cooldowns is crucial. Never engage when he is in hammer form because he has bonus resistances and can leap onto you to fight you, then switch to cannon form to continue damaging you with range attacks. The key to beating Jayce is knowing that it takes 6 seconds to switch forms from hammer to cannon or vice versa. You must wait for Jayce to switch from hammer to cannon form. He may do this when he wants to farm with range attacks. This is Jayce's weakest form because he is vulnerable to a gap close and cannot switch to his stronger form for 6 seconds. You must deal as much damage within around 4 seconds then disengage before he has any time to retaliate. By understanding even a 6 second weakness you are able to overcome your opponent and show your dominance.
Rule 7 Item Optimization, Theory and Math
This is the most important rule. This is the rule you want to understand if you want to quickly improve your skill in League of Legends. Correct item optimization adds a HUGE value to both you and your team. Only the good items will be discussed, if I don't cover some items it is because they are not even worth giving a second thought.
All items in League of Legends have a price tag, 3800 for Infinity Edge for example. The items also have a statistical value, Infinity Edge being at least 4130 gold
On top of all this, there is also another value that isn't commonly used and it's what I like to call Item to Champion Value.(ICV) This value can be sometimes very hard to calculate but understanding it's estimate values can sometimes be all we need. For example, the Infinity Edge's value on a champion such as Caitlyn is much higher than it's value on a champion such as Renekton.
There are also a few stat in the game which has a gold value that is contingent. An example is lifesteal, it is valued at 440 gold per 8% lifesteal you gain. This is because the most basic lifesteal item, Vampiric Scepter, is up-gradable from Long Sword for 440g. However lifesteal is useful because auto attacking with it translates into effective health meaning that lifesteal has 0g value if you are not auto attacking. Effective health is valued at 2.67g per 1 point of health because of the most basic health item, Ruby Crystal. (400g/150health) So in order for Vampiric Scepter to be worth 440g, it must heal you for 165 health.
Attack Damage Items
Doran's Blade - This is one of the most fundamental top lane items in League of Legends. It offers 70 health, 7 attack and 3% lifesteal. Statistical value being 604g. The reason Doran's Blade is so powerful and players stack multiple is because it offers one of the highest cost efficiency in the game. Stacking 3 of these costs 1320g but is worth 1812g. Stacking them in top lane is a very powerful play style especially if you are dominating your lane. You are multiplying your gold advantage by 1.3 with every purchase of Dorans Blade.
The Brutalizer - This is a very common top lane item for many champions to purchase. The top lane uses armor penetration very effectively because many of the champions have skills which deal high physical damage. Typically if your champion deals high amounts of physical damage, armor penetration is a very strong choice. However, if your champion scales very well with flat physical damage, it may be preferred over armor penetration. Purchase this item if your champion has kill potential versus your opponent and you are looking to all-in.
A question you may come across is why purchase The Brutalizer for the 10 armor penetration when you can use 12 armor penetration marks over 8.5 attack damage. Couldn't you just skip The Brutalizer and buy something like Bildgewater Cutlass if you're running 12 armor penetration? Flat attack damage is actually more useful than armor penetration. The reason The Brutalizer is a popular purchase is because attack damage runes allows players to last hit minions easier. Armor penetration is more useful mid game because it deals more damage as you have more physical damage since it decreases the percentage of physical damage the enemy blocks. To summarize, The Brutalizer gives you a lot of all-in potential.
Hexdrinker - This is the most powerful weapon in the top lane vs AP opponents such as Ryze, Lissandra, Vladimir, Teemo, Akali, Lulu etc. Its cost efficiency is so great that you would want to rush this right after your starting Doran's Blade vs AP. Don't get extra Doran's Blades if you want to snowball or if you are losing the lane and looking for some extra power. The moment the magic shield pops, your opponent cannot attack you with spells for 5 seconds unless they want to waste their Mana and Cooldowns.
Rule 8 Predicting Your Lane Opponents Movements
In this rule I will discuss what high Elo opponents mean when they call their lane opponent bad, the correct moves you must make and how to get into your opponent's head.
Rule 9 Predicting The Enemy Jungler's Movements
In this rule I will explain to you how you can predict the enemy jungler's movements with minimal wards.
Rule 10 Making Your Team Follow You
This rule will discuss what makes your teammates follow you, what you can do to increase the chances of them following you.
Rule 11 Judging Good And Bad Calls
In this rule we will discuss, analyze and evaluate good decisions, bad decisions and the secrets to making correct split second decisions.
Rule 12 Split Push or Team Fight?
This rule will discuss what situations and team compositions favor you to play a split push top lane or to group up and push with your team.
The Final Rule Closing Out The Game
The final chapter will discuss ways and strategies to close out the game to victory.