[This guide has been updated for patch 10.3]
Top lane is arguably the most isolated part of Summoner’s Rift. However, they also have a big impact on the entire map courtesy of the summoner skill, Teleport. The threat of having an extra man in the team fight, as well as the sheer lane pressure that you can get from winning top lane, makes for one of the most interesting aspects of a typical game of League.
As the meta changes, some champs get better at playing in the top lane, so much so that you can expect to go up against one of them across dozens of games. That being said, it helps if you know how to counter them, which is why we have a quick rundown of how to keep these champs in check!
Important! – While there are plenty of top lane champs to keep an eye on, we’re focusing on the current cream of the crop. The three following champs sit at the top of the tier list because of the threat or utility they provide even if they get slightly behind in terms of level or gold. As the meta changes, we will update this list with the newest champs to take their place in S-tier.
A good Yasuo player will be very hard to face at the top lane. First, he has a free poke and wave clear every 4 seconds, thanks to his Steel Tempest (Q). Second, Yasuo is a melee champ that doesn’t suffer much from dealing with ranged enemies because of his Wind Wall (W) and Sweeping Blade (E). And in case you do manage to hit him, his Way of the Wanderer passive gives him a free shield that offers some degree of protection against burst. Last but not least, his Last Breath (R) works both as a way to set you up for a gank or as a finisher.
How do you counter him? – One of the best ways to deal with Yasuo is to exploit the cooldown of his abilities, especially his third cast of Q (the whirlwind version). As soon as you see him cast (and hopefully miss) with the whirlwind, you are safe from the burst provided by his ultimate. Forcing him away from your own minions will also take away his mobility since he needs enemy targets to dash. Yasuo is also weak at CC, since he has subpar durability, plus can’t move fast enough to build up his passive shield.
Who counters him? – Yasuo is weak against melee champs that can negate his kit either with burst damage, a CC, or a gap closer. Renekton is exceptionally good against Yasuo since he has all three of these tools, plus he can heal off any poke damage with his Q. Garen is also a good counter since his Q renders Yasuo completely helpless for 2.5 seconds – more than enough time to kill a relatively squishy duelist. Jax can also block most of Yasuo’s basic attack damage and counter with a stun with his E, plus he can easily close the distance with Q.
Dealing with Yasuo as a team – Yasuo is weakest when he is vulnerable to CC. During a team fight, try to bait out his Wind Wall since it has a very long cooldown. Remember that his dash always travels a fixed distance so you can anticipate where to throw your skill shot CCs. Yasuo isn’t as durable as some of the meta’s top brawlers; once you incapacitate him, he’s as good as dead. One thing that you should remember is that Yasuo players tend to be very inconsistent depending on your team because of his high skill cap. In some cases (especially in lower tiers), your team can get away with ignoring a Yasuo who can’t snowball during the early laning phase. In others, you have a nearly unkillable crit machine.
If Yasuo is all about finesse and burst damage, Darius is about brute strength and attrition. In a lane dominated by melee champs, few can stand up to a good Darius player. All of his abilities are especially designed to make sure he wins trades during the laning phase. If you get close to him, he’ll have the HP advantage because of the bleed and heal from his Decimate (Q). Apprehend (E) and Crippling Strike (W) not only deal heavy damage but also slows you to make sure you stay in melee range. With the stacking bleed and his raw attack damage, he has no trouble dropping your HP within execution range of his Noxian Guillotine (R).
How do you counter him? – Darius’ main weakness is lack of mobility and range. As long as he can’t reach you with his E, you’re safe from getting bled to death. If you’re going to engage him, you’d want to get as close as possible; forcing him to hit you with the weak part of his Q will greatly reduce his DPS while also preventing you from getting an extra bleed stack. Last but not least, Darius is extremely vulnerable to poke damage during the laning phase since his Q only heals him if it hits enemy champs.
Who counters him? – Ranged champs like Jayce, Kayle, and Teemo make for great counter picks against Darius. The three champs have the damage to wear him down and the disengage to keep at a safe distance. Surprisingly, champs that can fight at extremely close range like Renekton and Jax have a good chance at winning trades, provided they can get within Darius’ Q’s minimum range. Their stun also prevents Darius from building up enough stacks to win the trade.
Dealing with Darius as a Team – Darius will usually be leading the charge, trying to get in range. Once he starts wailing on your team’s front line, his DPS ramps up and he becomes a high-priority target because he can start chaining multiple executes. While Darius doesn’t have gap closers, his E can pull-in multiple targets, and his ultimate has a deceptively long range. Support players should focus on peeling for your team’s front line to prevent Darius from gaining stacks and bringing your teammates within execution range.
Mordekaiser is another champ that specializes in attrition and wins by snowballing his lane. Indestructible (W) gives Mordekaiser a shield and a heal, while his Obliterate (Q) and Darkness Rise passive gives him the necessary damage to keep his energy bar topped. Those trying to disengage from a fight with Mordekaiser risk getting dragged back to melee range with his Death Grasp (E). His Realm of Death (R) is a very dangerous ultimate, isolating an enemy target and stealing their stats, with a 4v5 nearly guaranteed every time.
How to counter him? – Just like when dealing with Darius, the best tactic against Mordekaiser is to stay away from him. The speed boost from his passive doesn’t kick in until the third successful attack, while his Death Grasp and Realm of Death have very long cooldowns. Unless he can deal damage, the shield from his W won’t be able to block or heal a lot of damage. In case you get banished to the Death Realm, you’re better off focusing on evasion and survival until Mordekaiser’s ultimate dissolves.
Who counters him? – The same ranged champs that counter Darius also work well against Mordekaiser. However, melee Darius counters won’t fare too well against him because he will almost always win trades. Darius himself is one of the few champs that can go toe-to-toe against Mordekaiser since his bleed stacks can do enough DPS to burn through Invulnerable’s shield and healing. Fiora’s ability to counter Mordekaiser’s Q and her true damage from her passive allows her to hurt Mordekaiser even when in the Death Realm.
Dealing with Mordekaiser as a team – There are two phases of team fighting when it comes to dealing with Mordekaiser. The first one starts with his ultimate up; he WILL try to get in range of a priority target. No matter what happens, Mordekaiser will turn a 5v5 into a 4v4 so you might as well force him to duel someone he can’t kill in 7 seconds. This changes when his skills are on cooldown, where Mordekaiser is reduced to a slow basic attack champ. Kite him, CC him, and then just turn your attention to their DPS or AP carry. Unless he has the level advantage, he won’t be that much of a threat. Last but not least, Quicksilver sash completely disables Mordekaiser’s ultimate (although you will have to give up an item slot for it).
This wraps up our discussion on how to counter the strongest top lane picks in the current meta. We’ll keep you updated with new S-tier counters should changes to the meta mix things up. Got other tips on dealing with these flavor-of-the-month champions? Let us know in the comments section!