“Top Die”: The 2016 Worlds Toplane Meta

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Photo provided via Riot Games Flickr
Photo provided via Riot Games’ Flickr

As the second stage of the 2016 League of Legends World Championship comes close to an end, and we begin shifting into the Semi-finals, I’d like to take a look at the current state of the meta.

Throughout the last few weeks of pro-play we’ve seen the top teams from across the globe battle it out and as the different strategies and priorities spread out from the different regions clash, a new meta is born. Certain picks fade out and die as their role in the game becomes less impactful, certain picks become stronger because the pace of the game speeds up or slows down, and some picks just explode out of nowhere as months of scrimming and solo-queue practice come together and the best of the best weasel out which picks are strong and which aren’t. This is what we call The Worlds Meta. Let’s dive into things.

Top Lane: 

Rumble – Rumble’s return to the meta started at the beginning of the World Championship, rising in popularity because of his good match-ups and his ability to turn lategame teamfights in his team’s favor with his ultimate. Rumble’s raw damage gives him the versatility of being able to destroy his enemies backline or to zone the opposite team’s frontline off the rest of his allies. Rumble provides a strong magic damage threat that can fit into most team compositions. Toplaners like Smeb,  Cuvee, and Odoamne have all proven to be strong Rumble players so far in the tournament and have shown what this champion is capable of.

Kennen – Kennen joins Rumble as a pick that came up during worlds, and for good reason. Kennen’s safe laning gives him the time he needs to scale up, and become a force to be reckoned with later on in the game. Kennen’s aoe damage and ability to stun an entire team with the right flank can turn any game around. A great example of Kennen’s prowess in teamfights is shown by Smeb in the ROX Tigers’ match against G2. Other great Kennen players so far include Cuvee, Odoamne, and Impact.

Jayce – One of the big question marks of toplane, mostly due to the utter failure of Western teams to successfully pull off the Jayce pick in the toplane, Jayce has risen to power once again. Jayce is one of the only if not the only toplaner that fits into poke compositions from a damage perspective. His long range poke damage, and his ability to build full armor penetration items to keep up pressure vs. tanks in the toplane make Jayce a great pick if a team composition suits him. The strongest Jayce players as of now are Ziv and Duke.

Poppy – The yordle that never dies.  Poppy’s role in the meta is the same as it’s consistantly been since her rework earlier this year, she never goes down without a fight. Give her ~3 items, and she’ll become an unstoppable midget force. Poppy’s strengths don’t die with her excessive tankiness, her flanking and ability to sway a teamfight with her ult and cc are top notch and give her team an edge when used properly. CLG’s Darshan, ANX’s Smurf, and EDG’s Mouse have found the most success with the poppy pick. Poppy acts like a “band-aid” champion, and can cover a team’s weakness in the toplane if picked with the sheer tankiness and reliability of her kit.

Gnar – Gnar hasn’t been kicked out of the meta quite yet, and still remains one of the top picks. His safe laning and great synergy with Frozen Mallet / Black Cleaver make him an annoying and strong 1v1 fighter at any point in the game. In addition to this, his excellent team fighting in Mega Gnar form can turn the tides of a team fight nearly instantly with a good ultimate.

In the hands of an elite toplaner, perfectly timing your teleport with your rage-bar will secure an easy path to victory. SKT Duke put on a spectacular performance on Gnar in their match vs. Royal Never Give Up.

Honorable Mentions:

Ekko , Irelia and Trundle. These 3 champions are the “leftovers”. When nothing else is left, or a certain match-up is bad, these are the three A tier champions that don’t quite hit S tier like the rest, but still find their way to being played.

Conclusion: 

The meta at worlds is versatile. The toplane champion a team chooses dictates how the game is going to be played out. Strong teamfighting comps will run a Kennen or a Rumble, a comp that’s looking for a splitpusher will choose either Gnar or Jayce, and a team looking for peel and an invincible tank will run something like Poppy.

Side note : Another interesting topic I’d like to briefly bring up is the absence of priority on Rift Herald. Team’s just aren’t focusing on it as an important objective, and it could be a combination of it not being worth the time it takes for the small advantage it gives on meta toplaners besides Gnar and Jayce and also the lack of tanks being played that can actually tank the objective early game.

Early game pressure junglers like Lee Sin need to use the first 20 minutes of the game pressuring lanes and the enemy jungle, and with things like Rumble/Kennen being played there isn’t a reliable source to tank the damage from the Rift Harold either. Overall, the objective just doesn’t provide a big enough advantage for the toplaner to give up ~ a minute of wasted time spent taking it and basing afterwards for both the jungle and top.