Now that I've gotten a lot of the basics of League of Legends explained and neatly filed away in the Introduction and Glossary (don't forget, you can always check the "Full Mug of Mead" tab for any articles you may have missed), it's time to turn our attention towards how to actually play different roles in lane. There isn't any particular order to these, save for the fact that they are written in the order that I personally learned the roles, and feel most comfortable explaining them. Which is a particular order, I suppose. Eh, blame my editor.
Solo Top --
I have not yet made a list of the Champions I feel play this role better than any other they can be forced into, so it's about time that I go ahead and do that. I've divided the Top Lane Champs into A, B, and C groups, based on three factors. First, can they sustain themselves in lane without help from the Jungler? Second, how easy are they to play? And third, how likely, in blind pick, are you to get hard countered by the enemy teams' composition?
Counter -- In Champion selection, a counter is any Champion whose playstyle, abilities, or base statistics work in such a way as to make playing your Champion against them very difficult. Skill is still important. However,a player with less skill than you might still be able to defeat you if they select a counter to your Champion. This is especially true of a hard counter, which identifies a counterpick that is completely unbeatable without support from other lanes or items.
A Champion in Group A is always a safe pick, and I strongly recommend becoming good with at least one of them to start. As you begin to play draft games and ranked matches, you will need to add a few more Champions to your repertoire, and at that point, I recommend picking up a few of the hard counters to make your options as flexible as possible. Namely, you'll have your main Champion, if the opposing team doesn't pick a Champion which counters you, you can just go with that, and you'll have a stable of counterpicks to work with if they do find someone randomly that hoses your strategy or playstyle.
Solo Top Group A -- Akali, Irelia, Jarvan IV, Jax, Kayle, Malphite, Nasus, Olaf, Rumble, Singed, Yorick.
Solo Top Group B -- Cho'Gath, Fiora, Dr. Mundo, Gangplank, Garen, Lee Sin, Pantheon, Riven, Renekton, Sion.
Solo Top Group C -- Cassiopeia, Galio, Katarina, Kennen, Mordekaiser, Nidalee, Poppy, Rengar.
Also, with this list, keep in mind that some of the Champions appear in a lower tier than you might expect, and your mileage may vary. Still, of the Group C options, only Poppy plays primarily in Top Lane, the others are all in Group C because, honestly, you should be playing them somewhere other than Solo Top, but they are options, and they do occasionally work as counterpicks.
Solo Top Objectives --
1) Farm (Early Game) -- As with any solo lane, farming is your most important objective. You should be aiming to complete your bigger items faster than any other lane aside from the AP Mid. From Level 1 to 10, shoot to have 55 CS (meaning, 55 last-hits on creep minions, earning you gold) by 10:00. 11-20, you need to be closer to 60 or 65, and from 21-30 you need to perfect earning 70-85 by 10:00 consistently.
Farming top lane is all about positioning. If you have vision on your opponent, staying above the creep, towards the top of the map, will make it much more difficult for the opposing jungler to gank you and chase you out of lane. Equally so, if you control the top side of the creep, then your jungler can come in for ganks much more effectively. If you can trade damage effectively with your enemy, zoning him out by standing between him and your allied minions will make it hard for him to hit his farm targets.
2) Push and Roam (Mid Game) -- Many top lane Champions will use the Summoner Spell Teleport to help out other lanes. The best way to do this is through lane ganks. To execute this strategy, if you can push your lane up (after chasing away or killing the enemy top lane champion) and return to the Fountain then you can purchase your items and head into mid or bot lanes along the same path your allies travel. Once there, you can hide in the brush and gank quickly, scoring a kill or a chase, and retreat to the brush to teleport back to the top lane. Done effectively, you will lose almost no gold, and barely any experience, and greatly contribute to your team's overall success.
I recommend attempting this every time you return to base and have Teleport off cooldown and available to get you back into lane.
3) Dominate the Team Fight (Late Game) -- Once you have broken a turret or even two in your lane, it's time to start grouping up. Most Solo Top Champions are either tanks (Singed, Cho'Gath, Garen, Malphite) or assassins (Akali, Fiora, Jarvan IV, Poppy) or both (Irelia, Jax, Olaf, Lee Sin). In Team Fights, then, your goal is to either keep the opposition away from your carries using your Crowd Control and bulky body, or keep your carries alive by slaying the enemy Champions that can threaten them. Each Solo Top Champion plays slightly differently, especially compared to the similarities between, say, Graves, Caitlyn, Ashe, and Vayne, so it is important to learn your Champions strengths.
For example, unless she is focused, Irelia can more or less wade into a team fight, using her Hiten Style ability to gain minor health back, and stun her target with Equilibrium Strike, and chase them down with Bladesurge if they try and retreat behind their tanks. Singed, instead, is going to prefer to circle and poison, attempting to chase and flip the enemy carry right into the thick of his team and poison stream while slowing the others with his super glue.
Solo Top is one of the most entertaining and rewarding roles to play on a League of Legends team, and this guide should help solidify your understanding of how to get into the role. If you have any further questions or would like to see this topic revisited in an Advanced Guide sooner rather than later, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, and tell me why or just head to the comments. Odds are, you can even be first!
Until next time, may all your ultimates end in kills and all your games with "Victory."