Solo Top guide for beginners

Top lane guide for beginners from one of our authors.
Masteries, runes, itemization, match ups and roles for most popular top lane champions:
Irelia, Gnar, Riven, Rumble and Vladimir.
27 Jul 2015

League of Legends guide for top lane for beginners

The solo top is one of the most hard roles in a League of Legends game. However they are threats to the enemy damage dealers, but not only to them as they can play a split push heavy style that will destroy a lot of the enemy base if left unattended.

To do well on top lane there are important things that you have to look out for: champion picking, your role in the game, itemization, etc.

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In the current meta-game the most picked top lane champions are Riven, Irelia, Gnar and Shen, but there are also other picks such as Fizz, Rumble and Vladimir that are viable. Gangplank is also picked very often, but this might be because of his rework since he used to have less than 5% pick rate before and his win rate is awful at the moment having only 42.2% win percent.

The four champions named earlier are some of the best picks in Solo Queue because they have great laning phases, good split pushing and they do rather well in team fights. Even if a champion is mainly a split push threat such as Irelia is, she is still decent at team fighting since her damage might take out an enemy damage dealer or at least keep them away from the battle.

Knowing what champion to pick and when is great for your success. Analyzing the enemy team is imperative in knowing what you should choose since they might have answers for what you want to pick and you will have a hard time from the beginning of the game. For example, if you pick Riven without analyzing the enemy team and then you see that they had a Shen, you will probably not be able to take advantage of Riven’s great laning phase since Shen has a shield and great sustain while you only have the shield. Shen is going to play defensively and let the minion wave push into his tower so he can try to taunt you and then trade really effectively under tower. Another example is an Irelia pick versus a disengage heavy team. You might do well in the laning phase because Irelia is one of the strongest laners in the game, but team fights are going to happen in each game and if you aren’t able to get to the enemy carries then you might lose the fights and probably the game too. If the enemy team has a lot of disengage then you should pick very mobile champions such as Riven or Fizz because even if they can disengage from the fight, the huge mobility these champions have will let them get back to their enemies very quickly and keep dealing a lot of damage. Against poke compositions champions with engaging tools are great, champions that work well in these conditions are Irelia, Gnar and Rumble. Even if Rumble is not a melee champion with hard crowd control, he can still initiate fights very well with the use of Equalizer (R) which, if placed well, can slow down the whole enemy team while melting their health bars.



Runes and masteries are very important, no matter what lane you play on or what you do in the game. They are different depending on which top lane champion you are playing.

irelia and gnar masteries

Fighters such as Irelia, Riven and Gnar go for 21/9/0 masteries, taking Fury for Irelia and Gnar, while Riven takes Sorcery, Butcher and Feast, Brute Force, Martial Mastery, Executioner, Dangerous Game, Spell Weaving and Blade Weaving, one point in Warlord, Devastating Strikes and Havoc for the Offensive tree and Recovery, Block, Unyielding, Veteran’s Scars and Juggernaut for the defensive tree. These masteries help these champions that are heavily focused on split push to take advantage of their great laning phase by increasing their damage output as much as possible. Irelia and Gnar prefer Fury over Sorcery because their basic attacks are very important as Gnar needs three basic attacks for Hyper to activate and Irelia’s Hiten Style increases her damage per hit for a duration of time. Riven needs Sorcery because with it she makes better use of her passive ability, Runic Blade which increases the next basic attack’s damage by a flat amount each time she uses an ability.

While they use almost the same masteries, the runes they take are a bit different. Irelia uses Greater Marks of Attack Damage, 3 Greater Seals of Health, 6 Greater Seals of Armor, 5 Greater Glyphs of Magic Resist and 4 Greater Glyphs of Scaling Magic Resist and Greater Quintessences of Attack Speed. Riven uses Greater Marks of Attack Damage, Greater Seals of Armor, Greater Glyphs of Cooldown Reduction and Greater Quintessences of Attack Damage. Gnar’s preferred masteries are Greater Marks of Attack Damage, 5 Greater Seals of Health, 4 Greater Seals of Armor, Greater Glyphs of Magic Resist and Greater Quintessences of Attack Damage. As stated earlier, the runes are different to suit each champion’s needs. Riven uses flat armor runes because her shield adds the health already, while Irelia uses health runes because in the early game, until minute 14 or so, it’s the best defensive statistic.

Shen masteries for top laners guide

Shen, even if he’s a tank, can take any of the two mastery trees from above, but also has two viable trees which are 9/21/0. The defensive tree stays the same on both trees and it consists of Block, Recovery, Unyielding, Veteran’s Scars, Juggernaut, Hardiness, Resistance, Perseverance, two points in Enchanted Armor and Legendary Guardian. The offense tree consists of Sorcery or Fury, any of them works well, Brute Force, Double-edged Sword and Martial Mastery. The defensive masteries help Shen survive better early on and the offensive tree helps him farm in the early game. Because of the fact that his base Attack Damage is so low, he needs them to be able to kill minions under tower.

Shen’s runes are: Greater Marks of Attack Damage, Greater Seals of Armor, Greater Glyphs of Magic Resist and Greater Quintessences of Attack Speed. These runes favour Shen’s early game farming and sustain because each time he uses a basic attack on a target on which he used Vorpal Blade, he’ll gain an instant heal tick.

Rumble and Vladimir masteries for top laners

Vladimir and Rumble can use the same mastery page, both of them use 21/9/0 taking Sorcery, Butcher, Mental Force, Feast, Arcane Mastery, Executioner, Archmage, Dangerous Game, Devastating Strikes and Havoc. The defensive tree has the usual masteries: Block, Recovery, Unyielding, Veteran’s Scars and Juggernaut. These masteries increase the overall damage they can deal, but masteries such as Feast, Dangerous Game and Recovery also help their sustain.

These two champions use almost the same runes, with the exception of Glyphs. Both of them use Greater Marks of Magic Penetration, Greater Seals of Scaling Health and Greater Quintessences of Ability Power. Vladimir uses Greater Glyphs of Scaling Cooldown Reduction while Rumble uses Greater Glyphs of scaling Ability Power. Similarly to the fighter runes, these help them deal as much damage as they can early on.



To be able to perform well, you have to buy the most effective items for each slot in your inventory. Even if the champions play on the same lane, they are in need of different items.

Irelia’s core item is Trinity Force because it gives her everything she needs. Attack Damage, Health, Attack Speed, the unique passive and more. After this item Irelia either goes for Zephyr or Blade of the Ruined King if she’s very ahead or builds tanky items such as Randuin’s Omen, Frozen Heart, Spirit Visage or other items that suit the purpose of making you bulkier.

Riven is often built full damage with one defensive item, often being Guardian Angel. The first item Riven should build is Brutalizer, but she won’t finish it until later in the game because Youmuu’s Ghostblade isn’t that helpful to her. Other damage items that are good for Riven are Ravenous Hydra, which is probably the most important item on her, Last Whisper, The Black Cleaver and Maw of Malmortius if needed. In case the enemy team has a lot of crowd control Riven can go for Mercurial Scimitar and in case the enemy team doesn’t have much crowd control nor magic damage then Riven can buy The Bloodthirster. These items give Riven all the damage she needs and enough effective health to survive battles.

Gnar is a champion that is building very tanky items, often having only one item that benefits his damage, but if he’s ahead he can go for two. The only damage items Gnar makes use of are The Black Cleaver and Frozen Mallet. These two items make his split pushing great because the enemy laner has no chance of out-trading him since his damage is immense after three hits land. After building the damage item(s), Gnar goes full tank by building items appropriate to the damage threats on the enemy team.

Shen builds very tanky early on and often gets his only damage item between the last items if at all. In case Shen is against a physical damage threat he goes for Sunfire Cape as the first item because it also helps him split push. If Shen is against a magical damage threat then he buys Spirit Visage as first item. After he gets tanky enough, Shen can choose from Trinity Force and Blade of the Ruined King as damage items. These items help him split push and they also help him be more of a threat during team fights by increasing his damage.

Rumble’s core items are Liandry’s Torment and Rylai’s Crystal Scepter. Because of the crowd control he has and the way he deals damage, he makes full use of it. Abyssal Scepter and Zhonya’s Hourglass are other two very important items, often, if facing a team with a lot of magical damage, Rumble can build Abyssal Scepter early, before Rylai’s Crystal Scepter, and if the enemy team has much physical damage then he can build Zhonya’s Hourglass early. A little trick that Rumble can do with Zhonya’s Hourglass is that he can use Flamespitter and Zhonya’s Hourglass afterwards to keep spitting flames while being invulnerable. Another very important item for Rumble is Void Staff. Because of the huge amount of damage in his ability kit, it makes enemies take big amounts of it in a little amount of time. After building penetration and Zhonya’s Hourglass, Rumble can go for Rabadon’s Deathcap.

Vladimir, being a champion with a lot of self sustain from his abilities, makes great use of Will of the Ancients, especially after the changes to it which made the healing even better by calculating the healed amount before enemy resistances reduce the damage dealt. This is Vladimir’s core item which lets him split push a lot by not having to go back to base because of low health and it also saves him the gold which he would use on potions. In case Vladimir plays against heavy magical damage champions, then his second item should be Abyssal Scepter, else he buys Zhonya’s Hourglass. Void Staff and Rabadon’s Deathcap don’t have an order of buying because it depends on how much magic resist the enemy team itemizes.



Top lane champions have different roles. Some are assassins, some are tanks and others are mages. Most top laners are split pushers when team fights aren’t going on and that’s why every top laner uses Teleport besides Flash as summoner spell.

Irelia and Riven are dangerous split pushers that during team fights turn into assassins that try to take care of the enemy damage dealers as fast as possible. They are usually being stunned, knocked back, slowed or controlled in other kind of ways, but even if their job seems hard, they still have to at least try to do it because by doing this they keep away the enemy damage dealers and they help their team mates to come out on top. By keeping the enemies away they lower the potential damage they can deal and this can lead to objectives or even the game.

Gnar and Shen are split pushers that act as tanks during team fights. They are both champions that can be played reactively and proactively because of their kits. Gnar can try to use his ultimate, GNAR!, either when the enemy team engages onto his team, thus either disengaging from the fight or putting his enemies at disadvantage by starting the fight stunned or in a position that favors Gnar’s team, but he can also try to use Flash or Hop/Crunch to get close enough to the enemy team so that he can use GNAR! and initiate a fight. Shen is able to either use his ultimate, Stand United, to react to how the already began fight is going or he can use Shadow Dash to taunt key targets for his team to dispose of.

Rumble and Vladimir are champions who can deal huge amounts of damage, so the timing and position of their Teleport has to be perfect for them to do the best they can in a fight because even if they are being played with a fairly tanky build, they are still squishier than a tank and their ability kits aren’t made for tanking nor for escaping bad situations. As I said, positioning with these two is key. The perfect spot for them to be during a team fight is behind the front line, but at a range that’s close enough for their abilities to work. Rumble is able to initiate fights by using his ultimate, Equalizer, but without proper placement or without a team to follow it, it will be a wasted opportunity so I recommend pinging when you try to place an ultimate so that your team mates know that they should follow it if it’s a good one. While Rumble’s ultimate is a way of initiating a fight or slowing down opponents, Vladimir’s ultimate is great at dealing lots of damage and increasing the damage of his team mates. A well positioned ultimate combined with all the friendly abilities and basic attacks will ensure that a lot of damage is dealt during the timeframe in which enemies are infected by Hemoplague. Even if 12% doesn’t seem like a big deal, the total damage output is great.



Pushing a lane while being separated from your team doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it’s more than that to it. Being safe while doing so and making sure that your team mates know what to do while you are split pushing are very important things because if they aren’t respected then you will be at a disadvantage while doing so.

To split push safely you have to keep areas of the map near the lane you push warded. The easiest way to do this is by upgrading the Warding Totem to Greater Stealth Totem because it’s a miniature version of Sightstone that gives you access to two wards but doesn’t give you any health. Buying a pink ward and placing it somewhere the minions won’t go past is great because this way you have your back covered while pushing and the only areas you have to ward are the ones at the same level as you or deeper into enemy territory. These wards will make you and your team see the enemy team when they approach your position so that you can take advantage of their movement. While enemies come to your position, as split pusher you have to back off and wait for them to leave before you can push any longer, while your allies should take an objective, either a buff, a dragon, Nashor or a tower. To make sure that your allies know what to do when you are split pushing, you should tell them that you will be split pushing and that they shouldn’t try to fight or try to get an objective until the enemies leave towards your position. Even if this seems like common sense, even in the LCS there have been matches where teams wouldn’t be coordinated enough to take advantage of enemy movement.

Im more details you can read about it in our split pushing guide.



Even if split pushing is a very important thing for top laners, lane phase still exists and it determines which top laner is going to split push more effectively since the one that wins the laning phase will have an easier time while the one who loses will have to attract the enemy top laner out of lane by trying to make plays with their team.

There are different matchups, these can be winning matchups where your champion is at advantage, equal matchups where neither party can win, skill matchup where the winner is determined by their skill and losing matchup where your champion is at disadvantage.

Most top laners that are popular in today’s meta do well in a multitude of matchups, but all champions have downsides, even if for some of them these downsides aren’t well sketched in the laning phase.

Irelia, Gnar and Riven are champions whose skill determines all of their laning phase matchups, even the ones against champions such as Jax who are terrifying in 1 versus 1 scenarios. Their mobility, crowd control or range in Gnar’s situation are enough to make their enemies have a hard time trying to beat them.

Shen is great against champions whose early game and mid game is good because once he gets one or two items he almost won’t receive any damage, but if he’s against other tanks such as Maokai where he won’t be able to trade effectively nor scale better than them, he won’t be able to split push well.

Rumble and Vladimir are weak against champions that can get to them quickly because their defensive statistics are very bad early on and thus they won’t be able to resist the damage they take and they’ll have to stay safe for the whole laning phase, meaning that they will lose many minions and they won’t be able to split push well. They are very good against tanks because even if they can reach Rumble or Vladimir easily, they won’t have enough damage and they will lose the trades.


In conclusion, if you follow this guide and train with the champions stated above, you will be able to play top lane very well.


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  1. Seperty

    Very nice guide, however it’s a bit outdated, since season 6 brought a lot of changes, but basics are the same, so this guide is still useful!

  2. Pandemonium

    Interesting info, but a little outdated. Popular TOP champions were changed now, and now most popular top lane champions in lol are – Shen, Gangplank, Pantheon, Galio, Jax, Nasus, Yasuo, Tryndamere, Garen, Teemo, Renekton, Fiora, Darius, and Riven. And all of them are really great!

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