First Minute: Top Lane

I thought the First Minute: Jungle thread was really helpful, so I wanted to start one for the other roles too. This one’s for top lane. :sunny_happy_2: :vgroles_carry_top: :sunny_happy_1: I don’t think there are that many openings that top laners use, but let’s list them and discuss a bit!

For me, I’ll usually start by hustling out of base up toward the healer camp, and if I don’t spot the enemy bot laner or enemy jungler nearby, I’ll start it (and take it if my jungler doesn’t show up, which they usually don’t), then head up to lane. If I spot the enemy jungler, I’ll leash my camp back toward top lane (away from the river) and cautiously take it. Sometimes this leads to a small skirmish or contest for it. If the enemy jungler is a very strong early game hero, like Koshka or Grumpjaw, and if they seem to focus me rather than the jungle camp, and especially if the enemy bot laner comes to help them, I might just retreat. The worst thing is to give up an early kill, so I’d rather play a bit safe and focus on lane farm, defending the top turret, and soaking up enemy pressure so my team can leverage some map control elsewhere.

If I’m top laning with a hero like Cath though, who benefits from cooldown and burst (i.e. Stormcrown), I’ll start with a stormguard banner and be a bit more aggressive in contesting those camps.

Some priority vision spots for me in the first minute are the enemy bush on the top side of the dragon pit (great for spotting the enemy jungler coming to steal your healer), although this gets cleared easily if both the enemy bot laner and jungler are nearby. Checking early gives your roam some warning, at least, to be aware of potential invasions. The other spots are dependent on how far I’ve pushed the lane. If I’m turtled under my turret, I don’t bother with vision for me - I’ll just play safe - but I might put a cam in the bush at the top lane/river junction, in case my teammates are rotating and need to be aware of possible ambushes. If I’m in normal farming position (midway in top lane), I’ll put that same cam down, but for me this time, to spot the enemy jungler or roam headed my way. If I’m way up, I’ll put one in the enemy bush separating top lane from jungle, but this is rare in the first minute, and usually not a cam I’ll place until later in the match.

95% of my top lane matches start this way; it will sometimes change to follow my teammates into a red buff invade. How about everyone else? Where are priority cams? What are your main objectives in the first minute as a top laner?


My openings have changed with time, but the one I do currently is pretty standard and I think is probably the best. Its really simple, actually. Just do the top side treant camp as soon as it spawns at 40 secs. Start with the small bear then kill the treant. The small bear dies faster and its less damage taken.

I don’t find myself getting invaded on this early, but if I do, I either ping my team to help if they can, contest the last hit, or try to kill my opponent if possible. The priority is to last hit the camp above all else. Or leash it for long enough that they lose interest and go back to lane. If they come with their jungler its not worth contesting at all. The gold from this camp isn’t what’s important, its the XP. It’s vital for the early levels that I try to keep some parity with my lane opponent in XP or risk falling really behind really fast and a 1 level lead can really snowball.

If my lane opponent starts in lane while I’m clearing the healer, then I play safe and let them push the wave. It’s not even worth freezing at this point, just cs when possible and avoid damage. My focus is on cs if it gets pushed under turret. More often than not, the jungler will show up and the botlaner may feel comfortable enough to stay. This is fine as long as I’m cs’ing well because staying as close to even as possible at this point is important. If my lane opponent starts their treant, I usually try to get lvl 2 ASAP and go for an early trade. If I lose the race to lvl 2 then I back off.

Priority cams are going to be the river bush if I’m getting pushed in, and the bush that separates the lane from the jungle if I’m past the river. My main goals in the first minute is securing that treant and avoiding as much damage as possible. Staying safe is how I avoid dives and ganks. Eventually I want to bounce the wave, recall, and attempt to freeze or slowpush while they’re recalling themselves.

What do I do if I’m getting camped or my lane opponent is being fed jungle? Play even safer. I don’t even bother putting down cams if I know the jungler is there. Its just gonna get cleared anyway. I don’t really play tanks anymore, but if I have to, my goal is to lose as little as possible, and above all else, don’t ever die.


You guys pretty much hit the nail on the head. Top doesn’t have much variety in the first few minutes. Generally you just want to place 1 cam - I usually place mine on the enemy side of the river - and wait a bit to see if enemy is going to rush your jungle and try to take your healer, or whether they’re going to contest the lane. The difference in top and other lanes is you have a few seconds before minions start fighting compared to other lanes so taking the small bear is usually a good idea, to avoid enemy last hitting the healing treant.

The most important thing in top is controlling the minion wave flow. It is less important to gank the enemy turret yourself and more important to let minion waves create pressure. It’s the safest way to actually take the turret, and creates pressure on the enemy bottom laners to distract from fighting you, or to leave other lanes/their jungle.

Also in top I usually go for items that will help my hero stay in the fight longer rather than going for raw power, so energy items on cp heroes that need it and defensive items on anyone else. The biggest thing to me is to be a constant wave clearing nuisance so the enemy can’t chip at my turret, rather than going for kills, as top is so unsafe.

As you guys stated, it’s really important to be conservative with your cams in top, as you need them more than any other lane. If you see the enemy has a habit of checking the bushes near river, just plant one at your jungle and be safe. It helps much more to save them and just not explore as much, than it does to try to push into anyone’s jungle and risk running out of cams when you really need them. This depends on your hero somewhat anyway, as tankier heroes benefit a lot more from risky pushes into enemy jungle, if not to actually get anything, just to distract the enemy and race back to your safe zone.

The best thing top can do is force enemy players to come help try to take that lane as the distance and effort they have to make can open other lanes up to lead to easy wins, but the thing about top is you have to be good at defending it.

One wrong move and your top gets taken first, you’ve gotta expend a lot of energy trying to make headway, and if the rest of your team has to help you defend it, it wastes valuable time for your teamates.

So in summary, just make sure you keep your minion waves clear and your turret protected until your teamates can make gains in other lanes, and only take the enemy turret if you can. Play defense as much as possible, and always keep cams on hand to cover you from jungle invades.

Another last tip is letting top fall if you need to. If you are struggling in top or see your ally struggling, sometimes it’s best to just let top go, at least first turret. It’s not worth the effort.

One thing I will add is if your first top turret gets taken, your primary goal is to take their first top lane turret, best through minions but if you have to be risky, sometimes it helps. The reasoning around this is that you do NOT want your second turret taken. Usually enemies will only take this out of opportunity, but if they make a concerted effort to take the second top turret, defend it at all costs -besides death-. This is because top is the easiest back door to your base and crystal -many access points from jungle- once your second turret is taken, and it’s not hard to take the second turret if multiple enemies are trying. This is why it’s so important to be good in top lane; once you start losing there, it drags down your whole team for the rest of the match, compared to other lanes, where you don’t have to travel as far to help.


I’m still getting used to 5v5 MOBA in general, what separates top lane strategy from bot lane strategy? Especially in terms of hero pick. I’ve had success with melee poke heroes like blackfeather and, to a very limited extent, joule. But it seems to be meta to pick a super bully like Baron or Vox and go for pure CS most of the time.

Well top lane is a longer and more dangerous route for you to try to take by yourself, usually played more defensively, while bottom lane is slightly less dangerous, has easier access to jungle farming with more gold, and rewards aggressive playing, so it’s naturally better for your jungler to help you in bot lane too at the start.

In top lane the goal isn’t really to push all the way down the enemy lane, it’s to stop your lane from being taken. This is because there are so many places for the enemy to come out and gank you in top, and because it’s harder to safely steal jungle farm from your enemies in top: it’s designed with easier access from the enemy side. The main thing you want to do is protect your first turret and take the enemy first turret if you can risk it, then move on to middle lane to help your team, coming back to stop minion waves or stop enemy pushes. Since protection is the main thing, tankier heroes or heroes that have a lot of ranged minion wave clear potential do better in top. This is because you’re going to often be facing a carry and a jungler at one time in top so being tanky or being able to stay far back and do lots of damage helps. It also helps to have a mobile hero because if you get trapped in top it’s hard to escape. Also in top lane you want to try to defend your first turret but you can let that one go if you have to. The main thing you have to worry about are your second and third turrets: they are close together and if the enemy takes those they can easily backdoor into your base.

In bot lane you want to try to take the opponents first turret as soon as possible, and you’ll find it easier to, as the route is a little safer and easier to escape in. You’ll usually have the help of your jungler unless other lanes are struggling, and you also have safer access to the healing buff. The way bot is set up, it benefits you a lot more to have an aggressively powerful hero that can kill other heroes and jungle monsters faster, rather than a tanky hero or a hero that can clear waves fast. You’re going to be spending more time trying to take turrets here because of two reasons: one it’s the easier route to take both the first and second enemy turrets without help, and two you don’t want to lose a single turret in bot. Usually losing bot lane turrets is the first sign your team is probably going to have a tough game, because your main ‘hero killers’ are usually there and if they’re losing it’s a bad sign. You want to get up to the second turret in bot and if you can, get the third, but usually once you get the second, it’s better to steal enemy jungle farm and go for objectives, and then sneak around to that last turret when possible. You don’t need as much mobility in bot but you do need some, at least boots. The main thing to focus on is power and dive abilities that let you jump on people and stay on them until they die, whether you range or melee.

So in summary the kind of heroes you want to pick in top are tanky heroes like grumpjaw, sang feng, joule. If you are extremely careful, you can find some success with heroes like baron, skaarf, and varya, but only defensively. Don’t push your luck with those without backup. Other heroes that are similar work as well, like leo, vox, etc.

In bot you want to have your gwens, kestrels, ringos, kinetics, range heroes that can really put a hurt on a single target, or in melee your tonys, baptistes, ronas, the kind of heroes that can jump on a target or force them to stay put. Same applies, similar heroes like joule, grumpjaw, and leo work here as well. You can also do surprisingly well with heroes like skaarf and celeste in the beginning in bot, but only up to a point. They can take and defend the the first turret fine and that frees up your jungler to jungle more aggressively or help top lane, but they will struggle with getting past the second turret and won’t be able to steal jungle themselves as easily.

A last quick note: some will suggest picking capts and using them in top. This is fine, but it’s better if they’re more damage oriented.

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Yes… And no. Remember that many captains, such as Catherine, Grace, Ardan, Adagio, and especially Lance pack quite the punch with their base stats, and can easily trade and out damage energy carries the first 5-10 minutes of the game. Captains are very good picks for top lane, in addition to the heroes you mentioned.

lol true. I had initially added ‘because late game it’s often better to have multiple damage dealing tanks with one or two support items rather than multiple heavy support oriented tanks’ or some variation of that but I deleted it because it was supposed to be a small add on and my post was already lengthy and wordy as is, as well as the fact that I figured it’d probably be a bit controversial as to whether people think having multiple heavy supports is better than having multiple damage dealing supports. I personally think if your team plays well the latter is better than the former but some might disagree.

This is extremely useful, just to clarify your top lane is the enemy bot lane correct?

I also want to say that being mobile and aggressive in top can be justified but only to out bully and allow yourself to grab say the healing or crystal treant.

Say I bully the hell out of enemy top laner and their stuck defending or healing. If I can make it to mid to support a push while the enemy top is still oblivious/pushing back minions, our team can grab an early kill advantage just by virtue of having more heroes in mid to gank. By the time enemy top arrives their jungler is probably wounded or dead and their mid carry is too nervous to push back. This super agressive strat requires a LOT of mobility and awareness, and also kind of requires that your enemy isn’t paying too much attention.

Glad you found it useful! Yes your top lane is enemy bot lane, so essentially the same strat you’re applying in bot is usually what you’ll be receiving in top.

Being aggressive in top is possible, but it comes highly unrecommended because you are far more likely to be double teamed in top as soon as you start crossing the river than not, possibly triple teamed, and you probably won’t see it coming, with how many bushes there are to hide in, but I definitely agree with grabbing the treants from your own jungle whenever possible! If you can bully in top then your best bet is to take that turret as fast as possible, then use minion waves to force the enemy to constantly have to wave clear to protect their second turret from a minion gank. During that time you can get in some mid lane pushes and still make it back to your turret to stop the enemy from taking it.

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bruh, i’m like at least 50% better top laner after reading this thread


The best way around this is simply checking the matchup.

In lower tiers, if the jungle is wp or cp, you can easily decide from that. If they’re CP, top lane can easily invade their jungle (though only if you’re going top tank).

Higher tiers is much harder to determine since tank/support jungle is still a thing (so junglers positioning is unknown) and the only way to invade is to group up to 3 peeps and invade.

Personally when the enemy jungler is CP, that is a massive game changer for top lane since they won’t consistently be pushing your lane but usually WP junglers are the reason why top lane is 1v2 or 1v3 including captain.

Also Im a top main. If that helps…

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Very true! I didn’t even think about that. When I play I usually use set builds and don’t really check the the matchup or anything but now that you mentioned that I have more reason to watch the builds!

I’m a mid main myself but if I don’t get mid I usually try to get top. I hate bot laning and jungling because I don’t usually like playing wp except for certain heroes. Find it way harder to actually do well. It surprises me how many inexperienced people pick up wp and think it’s easier than cp. It seems that way on the surface but your positioning and awareness to engage and disengage is soo much more important as wp. I find figuring out the best builds harder too.

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