With the season done, let’s look back at the top players in North America and Europe at each position, starting with top lane! Top laners are supposed to establish a team’s consistency. In keeping with this, not a single team has changed their top laner. But what champions are they playing? Top laners largely play bruisers or tanks, although mages and melee carries have snuck in on the wave of the Doran’s Shield nerfs. To some degree, success in top lane is defined by mastery of these champions, especially Renekton and Trundle, with Shyvana and Dr. Mundo largely relegated to North America, and Dr. Mundo avoided by the most dominant laners at that — Dyrus as a notable exception. However, those are not the only champions played in top lane! The champions who have seen the most success are Renekton, Trundle, Aatrox, Irelia, and Warwick. Champions like Rumble or Heimerdinger have also done well, albeit with low sample sizes. Finally, Shyvana has performed well in North America, but not in Europe. With that in mind, let’s move on to analysis of players.
Who are the top 3 North American top laners? If you ask me, there’s no other possible ranking than the following: Balls is the sleeper hero of Cloud 9. He maintains a KDA of 6.26, nearly double the NA average of 3.25, and second only to Dyrus’ 6.30. He has stuck largely to Renekton and Shyvana, preferring to bully enemy laners early. However, he has also earned a reputation for his favorite champion, Rumble. Balls is an incredible playmaker who often roams down for early dragons (at least in standard 2v2 bot situations). As well, he is an incredibly stable top laner, with a league-low 2.75 deaths/loss. In fact, when Cloud 9 is losing, he is often the only stable element, upping his slice of the team gold to 23.51%, largely by farming almost75 cs more than average in losses (343 vs 274). This can be sensed especially in his Rumble games. In many Rumble games, Cloud 9 is behind until Balls lands the perfect Rumble ultimate to win the game. https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=hI2JK0KnRMY#t=3384 This game isn’t the perfect example, because Cloud 9 was already winning, but it gives a decent indication of the sheer impact Balls has compared to most top laners; can Renekton do something like that? Dyrus is second only to Balls. He has a slightly higher KDA (6.30 vs 6.26), but that is largely due to his 12.80 KDA in games TSM wins (compared to the league average of 8.17), and especially his ridiculous performance on Renekton (5-0; 51.00 KDA). Of course, he’s not slacking elsewhere, as he has also displayed dominance on Shyvana (7-3; 5.94 KDA) and Dr. Mundo (7-1; 6.07 KDA). He seems to struggle a bit when forced off of those 3 champions, going 3-2 with a KDA of 3.15. Dyrus is known for not losing lane and not dying, with .91 deaths/game, the lowest for any top laner in North America. However, when he falls behind, he underperforms heavily, with a second-highest 4.33 deaths/loss. Given that 3 of TSM’s 6 losses are against Cloud 9, it’s hard not to see Dyrus’ poor performance in losses as reflecting upon Balls’ dominance; Balls is 11-2-15 in their head to head matchup, while Dyrus is 1-11-15. Even in TSM’s win, Balls maintained a 2-1-2 score, while Dyrus is 1-10-3 in losses to Cloud 9. Quas is an unusual top laner. He has experimented with a lot of champions, being the only NA top laner to play Aatrox or Karthus top. Despite that, he is extremely stable, with the second-lowest KDA in wins (6.20) but the highest KDA (1.74) and highest kills (2.75) in losses, not to mention the second-lowest deaths in losses (3.18). He is what a top laner should be: consistent for his team. After that, it gets pretty fuzzy due to the huge win gap. Innox has played well despite his team’s general weakness, and he and Snoopeh carried EG through the super week. ZionSpartan and Innox are similar players, but ZionSpartan has Shiphtur to carry him, so it’s hard to judge his skill. He has shined in split-pushing in a few games, but who doesn’t become unstoppable 1v1 on late-game jax? Nien feels quite weak on CLG, perhaps because the team is made up of such superstars. Despite a strong winning record, his stats are disappointingly below average. Cruzerthebruzer doesn’t die, but it seems like that’s all he does, with minimal kills and assists. He seems to step it up whenever Dignitas is losing, but I’d like to see more consistent carries from him. I’d previously valued Benny quite highly, but he looked downright useless in super week, only performing well on Ryze, and only then because of how late the game went (dying 1v1 to Dyrus relatively early).
In Europe, my top 3 are: Kev1n? But that guy’s on Millenium! You ever heard of the concept of Elo Hell? Well Kev1n is living it. He’s on the worst team in Europe, hands down, going 9-19. So you’d bet he’s doing horribly, right? Nope. #2 in KDA/game (3.96), #1 in KDA/win (10.92), #1 in KDA/loss (2.02). #1 in kills/game (2.48), kills/win (3.67), and kills/loss (1.89) #4 in deaths/game (2.04), and #2 in deaths/loss(2.39). #3 in assists/game (5.59) and #1 in assists/win (10.89). Oh, and kills + assists? #3 overall (8.07), #1 in wins (14.56), and #2 in losses (4.83). And gold? He takes in more gold than any top laner but Darien in wins and Wickd in losses. If that doesn’t tell you why this guy is a badass, I don’t know what will. He wins lane, he gets big, and he joins teamfights when need be. Look at those rankings of sOAZ for awhile. Go on, I’ve got time. Did you find anything in KDA where he was ranked below 3rd? Didn’t think so. He’s a bit low on the gold, but sOAZ picks his laners for bully potential and team fights, not endless split-pushing and farming, and it shows from his stats. The only area where he’s really lacking is in gold, and who needs gold when you have xPeke and Rekkles? You need to be in fights keeping them alive so they can work their magic, not top farming 6 creeps. Not that his farm is bad; it’s only 3rd. That’s cheating, you say? Maybe it is. Wickd and Darien feel a bit like the same player sometimes. Always farming top? Check. Slippery and impossible to kill? Check. The main difference between the two? Darien plays for Gambit Gaming, which means “see champion, kill champion”. He tends to rake in the kills and the deaths early and often, taking in the second-most kills + assists (8.15/game) of EU top laners, and trying to draw as much pressure top as possible. Wickd, on the other hand, is often (especially on Irelia) simply trying to farm for the late game, and he does pull in the second-most farm (7.64/min) as a result. After that, I’m pulling for Xaxus. ROCCAT has always reminded me of Cloud 9, and Xaxus reminds me of Balls; understated, yet always dependable. He has the fewest deaths of any EU top laner (1.68/game), and that boosts his KDA despite his low Kills and Assists. From there on down, it’s pretty disappointing. Mimer, YoungBuck, and fredy122 all fail to be particularly impressive. That’s a bit more disappointing for fredy122, given the high standings of SK Gaming; he feels a bit like the EU Nien. Sure, he’s there, and sure, he’s not feeding, but wouldn’t a better top shift the team into overdrive?
And if I’m combining the regions?
I’ve never seen Kev1n and Balls face off, but I can’t put Kev1n in the #1 spot just on speculation. Balls is a proven, top-tier top laner, and as good as Kev1n is, we’ve yet to see him perform on a more solid team. So what do you think? Who are the strongest top laners in the LCS and why?
Mattias “Gentleman Gustaf” Lehman is a big time nerd-gamer who has been involved in both SC2 and LoL. He has ranked as high as Diamond 1 in solo queue and Diamond 3 in arranged 5s.
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